What makes a good “Father’s Day movie?”

My daughter noted to me that there were a number of WWII movies on cable today, probably because that’s the TV industry’s idea of what Dads want. I like me a good WWII flick, but I think that having recently dragged out all the good ones for Memorial Day, the programmers were sort of scraping the bottom of the barrel today. The first one I ran across was the execrable “Pearl Harbor,” for instance. Boy I had really looked forward to that one, based on the preview where you see the kids playing baseball (an odd thing to be doing at 7:55 a.m. on a Sunday, but whatever) and the Japanese planes flying by at eye level. And it was visually impressive. Sort of the way “Top Gun” was visually impressive at the time. But even less well-written. And with Ben Affleck.

I saw that TCM was showing “Father of the Bride” (the Spencer Tracy version) which is the opposite end of the spectrum of TV’s concept of Dads and their tastes. I think that particular classic is more entertaining to daughters and  mothers than to Dads, though. I mean, Dad looks like an affectionate idiot, right? Now, I see, “A Few Good Men” is showing. Well, that’s a good flick, no doubt. But who is Dad? Jack Nicholson? Not a flattering picture… Oh, wait, doesn’t Tom Cruise have kind of a father issue in that? But it’s kind of backstory.

So I got to thinking: What WOULD be a good “Father’s Day movie?”

Well… Dads would enjoy “Tin Cup,” which was on today on TCM. Although it doesn’t actually have a fatherhood theme. Speaking of Kevin Costner, there’s always “Field of Dreams” — that certainly has a Dad theme (“Hey… Dad?… You wanna have a catch?” And everyone tears up.)

Speaking of WWII movies, I did record “Saving Private Ryan” on Memorial Day weekend, and watched it again a few days ago. Not exactly about fatherhood, but Capt. Miller does have a sort of model fatherly relationship with Ryan, and with his own men.

On the lighter side, “Overboard,” which TCM showed, is the sort of romantic comedy guys tend to enjoy, and the central character is a Dad, desperate for a Mom for his kids. Really desperate.

OK, it’s not a movie, but how about a “Sopranos” marathon? That’s definitely about being a Dad — and the “head of a family.” Of course, the kids can’t watch it with you. So let me see if I can come up with some better stuff:

  • “Raising Arizona.” ‘Nuff said.
  • “The Natural”… “”My Dad always wanted me to be a baseball player…”
  • “The Paper,” with Michael Keaton. A newspaper editor (whom I really identified with my younger self), struggling with balancing work and familial responsibilities in the 24 hours before his child is born.
  • “The Wind and the Lion.” The Raisuli becomes a surrogate Dad to the Pedicaris boy.
  • “Tender Mercies.” Awesome portrait of a failed Dad, trying to become a good stepdad.
  • Life is Beautiful.” This should probably top the list.
  • “Mr. Mom.” Which the whole family can enjoy.
  • “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Why must it only show at Christmas time?
  • “Hoosiers.” Surrogate-Dad stuff again.
  • “A Man for All Seasons.” An exemplary Dad and a saint.
  • “A River Runs Through It.” Very strong Dad figure in that one — little good it did the Brad Pitt character.
  • “Gran Torino.” Yeah, he’s a dysfunctional Dad, but… the plot’s about him making up for that with the Hmong kid.
  • “Air Force One.” A Dad who’s the president, and can kick bad guy butt!
  • “Say Anything.” Dad turns out to be a crook, but it’s still a strong father-daughter relationship.

That’s a good start for the networks for next year, don’t you think? Have anything to add?

41 thoughts on “What makes a good “Father’s Day movie?”

  1. Nick Nielsen

    Some movies this Dad enjoys (not that they necessarily have Dads in them):

    Blazing Saddles
    Young Frankenstein
    Valdez is Coming
    The Hallelujah Trail
    The Sorcerer (William Friedkin’s)
    The Secret of NIMH
    Cars (Doc Hudson could be a kind of father figure)
    2001, A Space Oddyssey
    A Clockwork Orange

    Let me watch the movies I like in peace. Throw in dinner at Carrabba’s and it’s a perfect day.

  2. Brad

    Sappy sentimentality? “Gran Torino?”

    Manly? Well first, what’s wrong with that for Dads? But does “Say Anything” seem macho to you?

    By the way, I’m a big fan of the “Pride and Prejudice” with Colin Firth. I see myself as Mr. Darcy, but my daughters see me quite logically as Mr. Bennet.

  3. Mike

    Some channels were running WWII movies and documentary-type stuff this weekend. Others were running John Wayne and other westerns. And others were running James Bond and action flicks.

    War, Westerns, and Action. THESE are Father’s Day movies.

  4. bud

    How about Kramer vs Kramer. A touching story of a dad struggling with Divorce. Pretty common in today’s world. Or Bad Santa. Billy Bad turned into a sort of father figure in the end. Then there’s Mama Mia. We had 3 dads in that one.

  5. bud

    I just watch golf and baseball and thoroughly enjoyed my Father’s Day. Movies require too much thinking.

  6. Matt Bohn

    “The Wind and the Lion” is worth watching just for Brian Keith as Teddy Roosevelt and John Huston as John Hay. The perfect Father’s Day movie would be “Man in the Wilderness” with Richard Harris. Talk about manly-mauled by a bear during the Ashley’s 100 fur trapping expedition and left for dead. He even walks off to find his son at the end when he rejoins the others. John Huston is also in it.

  7. Brad Warthen

    Someone today made a disparaging remark, in response to this, about Kevin Costner. Which is nothing new (and “Tin Cup” was definitely his best work; after that the list is short). And there was my somewhat dismissive remark above about Ben Affleck.

    Which makes me think it might be cool to compile a “Top Five Actors Whose Presence in a Movie Causes People to Avoid It” list.

    Just off the top of my head:
    — Pauly Shore
    — Keanu Reeves
    — Sean Penn
    — Ben Affleck
    — Kevin Costner

    I’m starting to think of others, but I wanted to stop at five…

  8. bud

    Is this limited to male actors? If not then anything with Jennifer Lopez or Fran Drescher would top my list. Since Deliverance every movie with Jon Voight would be something to avoid.

  9. Doug Ross


    Jon Voight was in Coming Home and Runaway Train after Deliverance. Coming Home is one of the best anti-Vietnam War movies made. He had a bit part in Heat which is always good for repeat viewing. And as Derek Zoolander’s dad (“I got the black lung, pops”) he was at his gritty best. 🙂

  10. Phillip

    That’s a shame about Sean Penn. I can understand your being annoyed with his inserting himself into various political causes, but I assume that meant you took a pass on Mystic River, which would be too bad if you avoided that tremendous movie just because of him.

    For me the avoid list would pretty much begin and end with Costner. Can’t think offhand of anybody else who would singlehandedly keep me from a movie. (Well, if Dennis Miller were ever to appear in one.) And yes, from my standpoint Jon Voight has gone off the deep end politically but I agree with Doug that he was brilliant in his small Zoolander role (“You’re dead to me, boy…”).

  11. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    Ben Affleck redeemed himself in The Town– a really good film….

    Sean Penn: Mystic River and Sweet and Lowdown….

  12. Brad

    Phillip, I have NOT seen Mystic River, and have meant to, just because that’s one recent Clint Eastwood movie I have not seen. Did you see “Gran Torino?” Wow. Wow. Wow.

    Not that everything he does is awesome. For instance, I thought “Letters from Iwo Jima” was much better than “Flags of Our Fathers.” But when he’s great, he’s great.

    I haven’t seen “Mystic River” for the same reason I avoided “Million Dollar Baby” for a long time. I find time to watch a movie, and I think, “Can I take that much stress tonight?” Of course, Million Dollar Baby was great once I forced myself through it.

    When I think of Sean Penn, I think more of “The Thin Red Line,” which was a terrible disappointment from start to finish. Having read the book, I expected much more. The film was cheesy.

    By the way, Dennis Miller played a cop in “Murder at 1600.” He was OK. It wasn’t very memorable.

    I had trouble watching Zoolander. The “Blue Steel” gag wore thin really fast. My daughter LOVED it, though, so what do I know?

    You know, I almost mentioned “The Town” above. Surprisingly good. Maybe ol’ Ben should always play Southies, as in “Good Will Hunting.” And never, ever do anything as awful as “The Sum of All Fears.” Or “Pearl Harbor.” Or “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” (those guys should really have quit after “Clerks.”)

  13. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    I saw Zoolander at the Russell House cinema, which greatly enhanced the enjoyment of the humor. I also covet a Zoolander phone—none of your big, fancy smart phones for me….

    Affleck produced The Town, as he did with Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, if I am not mistaken. I think he can produce good art–he just can’t pick scripts..

  14. bud

    Not sure how in the 21st century a movie as awful as Pearl Harbor ever got made. It was simply inexcusable to spend so much money on a movie and to clearly show modern US warships in the background. And that scene where Voight played FDR attempting to stand was beyond cheesy.

    As for Voight in Coming Home I just didn’t care for it that much. Somehow most of the anti-war movies of the late 70s just kind of left me cold just like the pro-war ones did. (Apocolypse Now was an exception). The Green Beret with John Wayne was simply the worst war movie ever made hands down. Wayne was slipping by then and not much he did after that was very good. Didn’t even care for his critically acclaimed True Grit.

  15. Doug Ross

    Just watched The Company men starring Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Costner (with a really bad Bahstan accent) this weekend. It was really good and captured the angst of a laid off middle management guy really well.

    Also a big fan of Mystic River (it’s on my top 10 list)… and Penn in 21 Grams was also very good. He gets a lot of slack just off of Spicoli alone.

    My can’t watch list: Leo DiCaprio (except in Catch Me If You Can), Johnny Depp, Matthew McConaghy.

  16. Brad

    Oh, yeah — Johnny Depp makes my list, if I get to expand it.

    Leonardo DID make my list, but he got back into my good graces with “The Departed.” Oh, and before that “The Aviator” was impressive. Scorcese gets good work out of him. Although “Gangs of New York” is not a fave.

    Also sort of liked “Catch Me If You Can.”

  17. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    Loved “Catch Me If You Can”!!!!–and The Departed…

    Also I love David Mamet films (House of Games, The Spanish Prisoner, etc.) and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels….I love me a good scam, I guess.

  18. Doug Ross


    Glengarry Glen Ross (no relation) is also very high on my list of top films. Mamet wrote that one.

    “Coffee is for closers”

    And another he wrote, The Edge (Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin), is one I will always stop and watch if I’m channel flipping.

  19. Bart

    Until I read Brad’s list, I thought I was perhaps one of a very few who watched “The Wind and the Lion”. Good movie unless you happen to see a photo of the actual Raisuli and compare him with Connery. Hollywood casting, what can you say?

    Kevin Kostner is a bore and his movies are at least an hour too long. The movies I actually like he made are “Dances With Wolves”, don’t laugh and “Open Range” with Robert Duvall.

    Mamet – “The Edge” – great movie. Actually liked Baldwin in it, especially the ending :).

    Redford – “Jeremiah Johnson” – hands down one of the best ever of its genre along with “Man in the Wilderness” with Richard Harris, great actor in the right role.

    Agree with bud on “Pearl Harbor”. Far cry from “Tora, Tora, Tora”, an excellent movie. Have never watched “The Green Berets” and never will.

    Best movie ever made – “High Noon” with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. One of the best examples of character study, politics, and human nature ever put on the screen. The director for “Once Upon a Time in the West” studied “High Noon” and used many of the same techniques in his movie. “High Noon” was very controversial because of the way Hollywood typically portrayed lawmen in the old West. Standing alone, facing down the bad guys, refusing help, and ending up either kissing the girl and riding off in the sunset. Will Kane was not the prototype character and Cooper played the part to perfection. He was sick with the flu during filming and the director, Fred Zinnemann, used his condition to enhance the character’s appearance on the screen. The best shot in the movie was when the camera pulled away while Cooper/Kane was standing alone in the middle of the street in the middle of the town while Tex Ritter was singing, “Do Not Forsake Me”.

    Agree with Brad’s list. Could add a few myself but the movie review by Bart is at an end for today.

  20. bud

    While we’re on the subject of movies here’s my second installment of oscar winners vs bud’s best picture choice – 1975-1979:

    1975 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
    1976 Rocky Network
    1977 Annie Hall Annie Hall
    1978 The Deer Hunter Animal House
    1979 Kramer vs. Kramer Breaking Away

  21. Brad

    Yes, Bud, absolutely — “Breaking Away!”

    And I also preferred “Animal House” to “The Deer Hunter.” Although the latter DID introduce us to Christopher Walken…

  22. Doug Ross

    Have you watched Animal House lately? It doesn’t hold up over time in my opinion. The acting is pretty bad, the production is pretty cheap. It was good fun for the time but it’s really not much higher on the film food chain than Porkys.

  23. Brad

    I think it holds up well, Doug — if you don’t expect too much.

    As for flicks that don’t hold up — avoid Billy Jack, or The Dirty Dozen.

  24. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    Don’t know The Edge–queued it up on Netflix!

    Nic Cage ftw! Is there a more annoying example of nepotism–this side of Gwyneth Paltrow or Kate Hudson?

  25. Steven Davis

    I agree with Doug, I watched Animal House a few weeks ago and commented on it at work about how different it has become. When it came out it was the greatest movie ever, now it’s kind of lame and looks like a low budget movie. I watched the whole thing through, but have probably watched it for the last time.

  26. Steven Davis

    Nicholas Cage couldn’t act in Valley Girl, and has gotten worse since then. Watching him in a movie is like watching someone read a teleprompter unrehearsed. Same monotone voice regardless of the scene.

  27. bud

    Doug, I disagree. Watched Animal House with my kids recently and we all thought it was hillarious. It stands up very well over time. Of course the acting is cheesy. That’s part of it’s appeal.

  28. Brad

    Yeah, it depends on what you expect. It also helps to have been an adult when it came out. That way you remember it as what it was, instead of as something bigger. I saw “The Dirty Dozen,” and “Billy Jack,” when I was a kid, and had no idea how bad they were.

    “Animal House” is like “Stripes,” or “Old School.” Actually, I suppose I should say “Old School” is like “Animal House.” AH launched a genre, and silly as it is, it is one very funny now-classic bit after another. No one had ever held up a mirror to frat life and shown it to be as absurd as it is. Same deal with “Stripes.” It was the first treatment of Army life using the SNL/National Lampoon type of college-boy irony. As goofy, as unrealistic, as silly as it is, the bits are now classic, because of the ground it broke.

  29. Brad

    Just got an idea for a new category — Top Five Redeeming Performances by Actors You Otherwise Can’t Stand:

    — Ben Affleck: The Town
    — Nicholas Cage: Raising Arizona
    — Sean Penn: Taps (OK, this is a stretch, but I’m trying here. Not really an impressive role. Maybe if I’d seen Mystic River…)
    — Kevin Costner: Tin Cup (I’m pretty sure he was playing himself, which would explain it. I also suspect that Tim Robbins was playing himself in “High Fidelity.”)
    — Tom Cruise: Risky Business (Sad, huh? The thing that brought him to most people’s attention being his best work… and it really wasn’t him. It was Rebecca de Mornay… and Joe Pantoliano.)

    OK, so that wasn’t as good an idea as I thought.

    I have to think about it more. I know there are instances where I’ve seen somebody do a good job, and it surprised me. I just haven’t kept a list…

  30. bud

    My candidate for redeeming performance – Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I guess he was decent in The Truman Show. Otherwise Jim Carrey is terrible.

  31. Doug Ross

    Tom Cruise paid me back for all the lousy movies he’s ever done by playing studio head Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder.

    Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas is brilliant.

    Keanu Reaves in Point Break was a career pinnacle.

    It’s too bad Pacino, Nicholson, and DeNiro have basically been mailing it in for the last decade. I can’t accept that the guy who played Raging Bull could be in Meet the Fokkers.

  32. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    Fair enough on Leaving Las Vegas…

    Brad–have you seen Sweet and Lowdown? Penn does an excellent job, and it’s one of Woody Allen’s few recent films I like….

    Most definitely Tom Cruise in Risky Business….


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