12 Best Movies About Fatherhood

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 17, 2011 · 274 comments

in Fatherhood, Relationships & Family

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A man’s relationship with his father is one of the most important relationships in his life. Dad is supposed to teach us the manly arts, to always be there as lifelong mentors who lovingly guide us into manhood. At least that’s what every boy hopes for. Of course in real life the relationship between father and son is rarely so simple. A son yearns for the love and respect of his dad and doesn’t always get it. Or he worships his father, only to find out later he wasn’t such a good guy. Or his dad is indeed the real deal, but he exits his son’s life too soon.

It’s no wonder that a relationship so fraught with hope and yearning, drama and resentment, joy and regret has often translated into cinematic gold. Men don’t typically cry at movies, but when we do, nine times out of ten the scene involves a father and his kids. Father-themed flicks are guaranteed to make us laugh, get misty-eyed, and feel a little introspective about our own dads, and if we have kids ourselves, how we measure up as fathers.

Father’s Day is this Sunday, so we thought it would be appropriate to highlight some of the very best movies about fatherhood that the world of cinema has to offer.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Atticus Finch is the man. Pillar of integrity, fighter of racial injustice, humble sharpshooter, and, of course, world’s greatest dad. As a widower he could have shipped his kids off to a relative, but he was absolutely devoted to them. He was kind, protective, and incredibly patient with his two kids, Jem and Scout. And most importantly, he taught his children by example. I find the relationship between Atticus and his daughter to be particularly endearing. If I ever have a daughter, I hope my relationship with her can be like the one Atticus had with his little girl. No wonder the American Film Institute called Atticus the “greatest movie hero of the 20th century.”

Of course you can’t top the book itself, but the film version measures up pretty well. Gregory Peck was given some very large shoes to fill, and he did so admirably.

Big Fish

Big Fish is a weird movie. Weird in a good way, though. It was directed by Tim Burton, hence the weirdness. Big Fish focuses on the strained relationship between a father and son–Ed and Will Bloom. Ed is a man who loves to tell (possibly fictitious) stories about his past. Ed’s son, Will, thinks his dad is full of it and can’t stand his tall tales. Will feels he cannot trust his father and eventually stops talking to him for several years. But when Will finds out his dad is dying, he returns home to begin a journey that will lead him to learn who is father really is, a process that allows him to come to peace with his dad.

The end of Big Fish is awesome. I won’t spoil it for you. Watch it.

The Godfather

At its core, The Godfather is about one man’s struggle to accept and eventually live up to the legacy his father has left him (even if that legacy isn’t the most noble and honorable one). You can gleam a lot of great insights about fatherhood from watching the entire trilogy. My favorite comes from Don Corleone: “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”

Be a man. Spend some time with those kiddos. And don’t forget the cannoli.

Field of Dreams

To what lengths would a man go for a chance at reconciliation? If it’s for your (dead) father, most of us would do anything. As a young man, Ray Kinsella had a strained relationship with his dad and had once refused to play catch with him, a decision he has regretted ever since. Now grown up, with his father passed away, Ray has become an Iowa farmer. A voice tells him, “If you build it, he will come,” and Ray obeys by building a baseball diamond in his cornfield. The voice continues to guide Ray, and after a series of mysterious and supernatural events, he is able to make amends by playing a simple game of catch with his dead father. Man. That catch scene gets me every time.

Father of the Bride

It’s the moment any man with a daughter looks forward to with both happiness and sadness: his little girl’s wedding. You’ve probably seen the 1991 re-make of Father of the Bride with Steve Martin. Sure, it’s funny, but it’s nowhere near as good as the 1950 original starring Spencer Tracy and a young and beautiful Elizabeth Taylor. At least, I don’t think so. There’s nothing profound or deep about this film. It’s just a fun, family comedy about the relationship between a man and his daughter. Spencer Tracy rocks it in this movie. One of his best performances.

Road to Perdition

As we mentioned in the introduction, sometimes the relationship between father and son can be pretty complicated. That complexity is at the root of the dark, Depression-era gangster film, Road to Perdition. Every boy wants to grow up to be like his dad, but what if your dad isn’t such a good guy? Tom Hanks plays mob bodyguard and hitman, Michael Sullivan, who must protect his son from his former boss (with whom he had his own almost father/son relationship) and his boss’ son, who has killed the rest of Sullivan’s family. On a mission of revenge, Sullivan draws his son into a life of crime, but hopes he will take a different path in life. It’s a bloody, complicated, and father/son relationship-packed movie; as Hanks puts it, “If you’re a man, and you’ve got offspring…emotionally, it’s devastating.”

The Pursuit of Happyness

An uplifting film based on the true story of now multi-millionaire Chris Gardner’s one-year struggle with homelessness while raising his son by himself and working to land a full-time job. The Pursuit of Happyness shows the lengths a father will go for his children. What makes this movie even more emotionally captivating is that Chris Gardner and his son, little Chris, are played by real-life father and son, Will and Jaden Smith.

Parenthood

If you’re a fan of the ABC television comedy, Parenthood, then watch the movie that inspired the show. Like the show, Parenthood the movie focuses on different branch-offs of the same family. And like the show, the movie does a good job showcasing the (often humorous) struggles of being a parent in our crazy modern world. While it’s an ensemble film, Steve Martin’s character Gil Buckman takes center stage. Gil’s a father who’s driven to be the best dad he can be because of his dissatisfaction with his own childhood. Gil’s earnestness to be a good dad often crosses the line into neuroticism, but during the course of the film he learns to mellow out.

I really like this film (and the show). Unlike a lot of comedies built on outrageous setups and low-brow gags, Parenthood tries to stay as true to real life as possible. When you watch it, you laugh because you can relate with the characters and their problems.

Boyz ‘N the Hood

Laurence Fishburne plays Furious Styles (what an awesome name), a hard-nosed father trying to raise his rebellious son, Tre, on the mean streets of Los Angeles. Furious gives his son plenty of tough love but also provides him a good example of what it means to be a father, and more importantly, a good man. Boyz ‘N the Hood teaches us that there’s nothing like the influence of a father to mold a boy into a man who does the right thing.

Finding Nemo

A movie about fatherhood that you can watch with your kids. Marlin’s a widower father who loses his wife and 400 of his children (he’s a fish) in a vicious barracuda attack. His only child to survive is Nemo, a headstrong little clown fish who’s frustrated by his father’s neurotic over-protectiveness. Despite Marlin’s best efforts to look out for Nemo, he gets lost and the rest of the movie is dedicated to, well, finding Nemo. Marlin’s love for his son transcends species. Even us human dads can relate to this computer-animated fish.

Note: Esquire recently published a great article about John Lasseter, the head of Pixar, that illuminates why Pixar’s movies tend to focus on the relationship between father and son (Lasseter has five boys himself). Check it out.

Paper Moon

Starring real-life dad and daughter, Ryan and Tatum O’Neil, Paper Moon follows Moses and Addie Pray, a father-daughter duo who grift in Depression-Era Kansas. Moses isn’t really an ideal father-figure. He scams old widows out of money by pretending to be a Bible salesman who recently sold their deceased husband an expensive, personalized Bible. But the daddy-daughter relationship between Moses and Addie is awfully charming. Paper Moon is a fun, comedy-filled movie that you can watch with your own little partner-in-crime.

My Life

When I do these “Best of” posts, I usually don’t put the films or books in any particular order, but in this case I saved the best for last.  My Life is perhaps the best and most underrated movie about fatherhood ever made. Michael Keaton plays Bob Ivanovich, a man who discovers that he has terminal cancer soon after his wife gets pregnant. Knowing he won’t be around to raise his little boy, Bob makes home movies of himself that his son can watch as he grows up. In some of the videos, Bob reads bedtime stories and in others, which will be shown when his son is older, Bob teaches important man skills like how to shave and how to shake hands. As Bob approaches his death, he also begins to reconcile with his own father, with whom he has had a strained relationship.

Be warned, this movie is a tear-jerker. It’s Beaches for men. It’s the first movie I ever saw make my dad cry, and he wasn’t an emotional guy when I was growing up. I honestly get all teary-eyed just thinking about Bob’s little boy watching his dead father read him a bedtime story.

Ever since Gus came into my life, I keep thinking about this movie. What lessons would I impart to my boy from beyond the grave? And then I start thinking about how sad I’d be knowing that I’d miss out on big events in his life: his first day at school, his first shave, his first date, etc. Makes me want to treasure my moments with him even more. Man, I’m getting all misty eyed… Excuse me…

OK, now it’s your turn. You know, the point where you leave a comment saying, “I can’t believe you left out  ____________!” What are your favorite movies about fatherhood? Share them with us in the comments.

{ 274 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kruderand June 17, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Life is Beautiful is my pick.

2 Thomas Black June 17, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Just wait till this September when “Courageous” the movie comes out. I saw a pre-viewing of it in Chicago this spring (May) and it’s going to step into this list with ease.

3 Browncoat June 17, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Completely agree with Kruderand. That movie gets me every time.

4 Fillum June 17, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Recently saw “Everybody’s Fine” with Robert De Niro – very slow, huge tear-jerker, but just spot on about dads and their grown up kids.

5 Bryan June 17, 2011 at 5:17 pm

@Kruderand – Great choice and can’t believe that it didn’t make the list. The first thing that I did when I saw the title was scroll through to find it. Definitely a must see!

6 Dave June 17, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Great list!
I agree about “Courageous”. It looks like a winner.
How about adding “The Road”?

7 Boar June 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm

The Pixar movie I’d pick for best fatherhood animation would be The Incredibles, hands down.

8 david June 17, 2011 at 5:24 pm

great list.I was definately happy to see Boyz n the hood on there. But, could we perhaps consider Walt Kowalski from Gran Torino in there? The way he mentored that “little zipperhead” was dutifully father like. Although I understand that may stray too far from this post.

9 Jason June 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Good pull on Life is Beautiful, Kruderland. It should certainly have made the list.

10 Eric June 17, 2011 at 5:30 pm

“Click” is by far one of the greatest!!!

11 Drew Danburry June 17, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Looks like Kruderand beat everybody to it. Life is Beautiful is a great suggestion. But even more so. What a great list of movies!

12 yosh June 17, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Taken with Liam Neeson

13 Ronald Squire June 17, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Amen to Kruderand. “Life Is Beautiful” made me lose it. If you don’t cry or at least feel your throat/chest tighten during that movie, there’s something wrong with you!

14 Paul Parkinson June 17, 2011 at 5:51 pm

My pick? “Frequency” starring Dennis Quaid.

It’s about “An accidental cross-time radio link connects father and son across 30 years. The son tries to save his father’s life, but then must fix the consequences.”

It’s not often a film “gets” to me but this one did.

15 james June 17, 2011 at 5:55 pm

You forgot Dad with Jack Lemmon.

16 Marty W. June 17, 2011 at 5:55 pm

“The War”

17 Dan Smith June 17, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Winds of War and War and Remembrance are favorites of mine. The books and movies are about WWII, but they detail the awkward workings of a father and his sons in that generation.

I agree with the rest of the group though, Life is Beautiful is amazing.

18 Nick June 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm

“The life aquatic with steve zissou” gets me everytime

19 Patrick June 17, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Secondhand Lions. By technicality Robert Duvall and Michael Caine are uncles but since they’re father figures I say it counts. Books could be written about Hub McCann’s “What every boy needs to know to be a man” speech!
“Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love… true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in.”

20 Pete Zefo June 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm

A River Runs Through It

21 Karl June 17, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Kruderand is spot on, “Life is Beautiful” is spectacular – one of the few movies I got misty-eyed over. Also “The Road” should be considered, great movie.

22 Greg June 17, 2011 at 6:11 pm

I agree with Boar. The Incredibles should make this list long before Finding Nemo. The Nemo dad was dedicated but too much of a whiner.

I am so sick of the way dads and husbands are portrayed on TV, in the movies, and even in commercials. They are always too stupid to do anything and they know nothing. They always need their wife or kids to bail them out. Yeah, that’s real life. Just a shout for Boyz ‘N the Hood. I think that deserves to be alone at the top of this list. Furious was the difference in the life of all those kids. He is the reason his kid made it. Good dads are so important to kids.

23 Gary V June 17, 2011 at 6:17 pm

This list made me think a little. And it seems that movies seem to do men and fathers a little more justice than TV. Its rare to see a heroic or strong father figure on TV anymore. Instead all the men are just big (literally) dopes who only exist for comic relief and are subservient to their always correct and wise wife.

24 Jeff B June 17, 2011 at 6:39 pm

“Frequency.” That movie gets me every damn time.

25 Ian Toltz June 17, 2011 at 6:45 pm

The ending of Big Fish makes me cry, even just thinking about it… and that was before my father passed away.

I haven’t had the courage to watch it since. One of these days…

26 Natasha June 17, 2011 at 6:49 pm

While the subject matter isn’t specifically about fatherhood, I think “The Road” is another good example (as a few have mentioned already.) Viggo Mortensen plays a fiercely protective father trying to teach his son how to survive in grim, post-apocalyptic conditions.

27 Jason June 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm

What about National Lampoon’s Vacation? Especially Christmas Vacation. That movie gets me sometimes because when Clark is talking to his dad about the family vacations and how he got through it, it gets to me. Yeah it’s a funny movie, but Clark is actually a pretty well developed character. You can see how much he idolizes his dad and wants to recreate those family moments from his youth.

28 Nick June 17, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Catch Me If You Can
indiana Jones-Last Crusade
A Man For All Seasons
Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Wall Street
Up

29 albert joe June 17, 2011 at 7:25 pm

John Q-Densel Washington… Thumbs up

30 Josh Vick June 17, 2011 at 7:37 pm

A River Runs Through It. Great pic of father/sons relationship. Very insightful and real.

31 Octane Joe June 17, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Life as a House–Kevin Kline, Hayden Christensen

32 Gregorio June 17, 2011 at 7:59 pm

A Bronx Tale with Robert DeNiro. Excellent, much overlooked movie about a father trying to raise his son to be a man in an old Italian neighborhood run by the mob. Instant classic.

33 Joey E June 17, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Return of the Jedi. Come on! He threw the emperor into outer space!

34 sasha June 17, 2011 at 8:21 pm

The Family Man…just about the only movie with Nick Cage I can watch…but it’s pretty dang awesome…

35 Shawn June 17, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Over the Top!

36 Nick June 17, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Agree with Sasha about Family Man. Also Dan in Real Life. “You are the murderer of love!”

37 Joe J. June 17, 2011 at 8:59 pm

I read the list and kept waiting for Life is Beautiful to appear. Everything he does as a father in the 2nd half of the movie to shield his son from the horrors of the concentration camp. I could only watch this movie once.

38 Steve Cianca June 17, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Brett,

Thanks for another great post building up to Father’s Day. As far as I’m concerned, fatherhood is the essence of manhood. Whether you sire any children or not, every man is called to be a father in some way. That fatherhood is so ridiculed in contemporary pop culture is a sad and damning commentary on our times. But enough of the soapbox.

I second (third? fourth? fifth?) Life is Beautiful: it portrays the essence of fatherhood in all its poignant beauty (and humor).

I also second The Incredibles. Another great Pixar pro-family, pro-father movie.

Another great movie about fatherhood is It’s a Wonderful Life. I would add that to the list.

39 Jeff June 17, 2011 at 9:25 pm

“The Great Santini” was my first “Father/Son” movie that really got me. My relationship with my own Father reminds me the relationship with Devall’s character and his son. There was so much I thank him for now, wish he was here to hear it.

40 Phil Troy June 17, 2011 at 9:25 pm

“Something Wicked This Way Comes”. ‘Nuff said.

41 Tom June 17, 2011 at 9:37 pm

“Frequency” is a great father son movie. I was away at college and watched it with a buddy of mine; I cried and called my dad right after it was finished. Then he watched it at home a few weeks later and did the same.

42 Jack June 17, 2011 at 9:39 pm

I can’t believe The Road is not on this list.

43 David G. Johnson June 17, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Blood Diamond, Frequency, Magnum Opus

44 David G. Johnson June 17, 2011 at 9:45 pm

and by Magnum Opus, i meant Mr. Holland’s Opus. :)

45 Abraham Beltran June 17, 2011 at 10:01 pm

The Barbarian Invasions. A beautiful portrait of a father and son reviewing life’s ever-changing landscape as the father nears death.

46 Konrad Sjoblom June 17, 2011 at 10:04 pm

A River Runs Through It is another one that should also make this list.

47 JoshuaM June 17, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Two I can think of off-hand are The Road and The Last Crusade.

48 Dave June 17, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Big Daddy!
I cant believe no one mentioned it yet. Its got everything- comedy, drama, Jon Stewart.
The court room scene at the end- a great dialouge on what it means to be a father.

49 Daddy by Default June 17, 2011 at 10:35 pm

If you can watch the michael keaton movie “My Life’ without getting choked up at least once, you are a hard soul indeed.

50 Brian H June 17, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Although not his dad in the movie… Dutch. Frequency is a tear jerker too. The end gets me every time!

51 Xavier Francisco June 17, 2011 at 10:51 pm

La vita è bella
It is a damn good movie, which at the second part of it, shows the incoditional love of a father for his son. Read the plot at Wikipedia ;-). And yes, is not only worth watching, is also quite an experience.

52 Robert W June 17, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Since you included animated movies. How about The Lion King?

53 Bob June 17, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Kramer versus Kramer, great movie. And we cannot forget Bill Cosby’s Classic Ghost Dad. Happy Father’s Day!

54 Clayton June 17, 2011 at 10:57 pm

“Evelyn,” with Pierce Brosnan. A powerful movie about fathers’ rights and a father’s love for his children.

55 Mark Petersen June 17, 2011 at 11:11 pm

The Cowboys starring John Wayne. Yeah I know that it wasn’t their father but Wayne did play a fatherly figure and taught them to be men like their own fathers would have.

56 Logan Moody June 17, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Secondhand Lions for me. This flick has plenty of male role models; both good and bad. And, even though Walter’s hermitic Uncles Hub and Garth aren’t his father, they more than make up for the absence of his unmentioned dad and abuser-attracting mom by teaching him “everything a boy needs to know about being a man”.

57 Mark June 17, 2011 at 11:42 pm

Forest Gump
The scene when he learns he is a father is heartbreaking and uplifting.

58 Derek June 18, 2011 at 12:26 am

INK, directed by Jamin Wynans. “Trapped between dreams and nightmares, a father fights to recover his soul and his daughter in this dark modern fairy tale.”
http://www.jaminwinans.com/

59 Abigail June 18, 2011 at 12:59 am

The Cowboys with John Wayne. I know it’s not a real father-son movie, but he was a father figure and there are some great teaching moments for these boys whose own fathers are gone to war. His hard line on lying is especially refreshing.

60 Cliff June 18, 2011 at 1:02 am

Even though not directly his son, in A Perfect World, Kevin Costner’s character treats the boy he kidnaps as his own and fiercely protects him, even when the boy busts in on some strange moments, he is forgiven. their relationship is slightly complicated but extremely meaningful. It makes you wonder about Costner’s character’s past. The ending is particularly powerful. One of the best. Also, on a side note, Clint Eastwood’s character is totally awesome and worth watching with some amazing, gravelly voice delivered lines.

61 Cliff June 18, 2011 at 1:22 am

MOST. The toughest and hardest man will cry at the end of MOST. Guaranteed. It’s beautiful.

62 Rodrigo June 18, 2011 at 1:40 am

La vita è bella!
The Road!

63 Glenn Bernard June 18, 2011 at 1:55 am

You’ve outdone yourself. Amazing post.

64 David June 18, 2011 at 2:13 am

Nothing in Common, Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason
Life is Beautiful (though I think that’s what Rodrigo said “La Vita e bella)

65 Marc June 18, 2011 at 3:55 am

What about The Road??
Not as heartwarming as ‘Father of The Bride’ I suppose…but explores a side of Fatherhood not seen in any of the above. Would Nemo’s dad have taught him how to kill himself in a post-apocalyptic situation? I think not.

66 Marc June 18, 2011 at 3:56 am

What about The Road??
Not as heartwarming as ‘Father of The Bride’ I suppose…but explores a side of Fatherhood not seen in any of the above. Would Nemo’s dad have taught him how to kill himself in a post-apocalyptic situation? I think not.
Also how about movies with gay dads?

67 nic June 18, 2011 at 4:11 am

the road…a love letter from father to son…a strong man trying to teach his son to live right in extreme times…made me cry

68 Evan June 18, 2011 at 4:26 am

“October Sky” is a great movie about a young man raised in a coal mining town who becomes obsessed with rockets and winning a science scholarship so he can leave the town. This brings him into conflict with his down to earth, coal-miner father. There’s a moment when the father says something about his son’s meeting with Wherner von Braun to which Homer replies:

“Dad, I may not be the best, but I come to believe that I got it in me to be somebody in this world. And it’s not because I’m so different from you either, it’s because I’m the same. I mean, I can be just as hard-headed, and just as tough. I only hope I can be as good a man as you. Sure, Wernher von Braun is a great scientist? but he isn’t my hero.”

69 Daniel June 18, 2011 at 4:57 am

Cinderella Man – great movie about a father fighting to take care of his family during the Great Depression.

70 Rick June 18, 2011 at 5:50 am

Though seasonal, one of my favorites has always been ‘A Christmas Story.’ Darren McGavin played the quintessential 1940s father. The biographical voice-over describing him as a ‘feared furnace fighter,’ and ‘Oldsmobile man’ were spot on.

71 Bob Iger June 18, 2011 at 5:52 am

“A Simple Twist of Fate”, a 1994 movie by and starring Steve Martin. The screenplay is loosely based on the 19th century novel “Silas Marner”. The way the main character raises his adopted daughter and becomes a better, socialized person in the process is something I find very endearing.

72 Frank June 18, 2011 at 5:58 am

Life as a House.

Kevin Kline is estranged from his son, Hayden Chirstianson. The dad has cancer, the son’s current situation (drugs, questionable activities in Porches) directly related to not having the dad around. Over the course of the movie they build a house together, changing the lives of everyone around them, to atone for mistakes of Kevin Kline’s father.

Now that my own father has passed (unexpectedly) and the birth of my son (now 6 months old) I am not sure I can even sit through it any more.

73 Dan @ BestParking June 18, 2011 at 6:28 am

“To Kill A Mocking Bird” is my favorite on this list, I’ll be watching it with my two boys when they grow up a little bit to understand a little of what it all means. Hey, thanks for compiling this great list.

74 Chris C June 18, 2011 at 6:36 am

Family Man would have been on my list, but my favourite would have to be Lion King. I’ve had to explain a couple of times why I still own a copy when my kids are grown.

75 Andreas June 18, 2011 at 7:17 am

I believe Billy Elliot shows very well how a father can struggle with the choices their children make, but still be able to sacrifice his own morals for their benefit.

76 Brian June 18, 2011 at 7:33 am

Great list. Two I would have added would have been Liar Liar and The Patriot. Liar Liar is very funny and shows how we, as fathers, can disappoint and hurt our kids. Although he is out of his mind now, Mel Gibson’s character is the model or moral behavior and hard work for his boys, as well as the idea that he wages war against an entire country, because one of their soldiers killed two of his boys.

77 Brian June 18, 2011 at 9:28 am

“After the Promise” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092519/ … haven’t been able to find it on DVD, but a great film about a father’s commitment. I was maybe fourteen when it aired on TV; now 35 with three boys three and under and that movie still stays with me.

78 Paul June 18, 2011 at 9:48 am

A River Runs Through It.

Although the movie is rich with themes, one involves the the rich, and sometimes strained, relationship between two boys and their father in Montana, who teaches them to fish and instills in them a life-long love of fly fishing. In the beginning of the movie, the boys simply seek to become competent fisherman, implementing the fishing lessons of their father (such as casting on a four-count rhythm, set by a metronome). At the same time, they learn from their father how to become men, both personally and professionally, from the sermons he delivers in church, his lessons in writing, and by his own example in the home.

Later, Norman returns to Montana as an adult, after spending six years Dartmouth, where he has not been fishing (hard to believe, since any fisherman who lives in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire/Vermont knows how rich these chalk streams can be). Metaphorically, he has followed a path different from the lessons of his father, and is awkward and unsure of himself. As he begins to fish again, however, and spend time with his father, receiving gentle guidance from him, Norman becomes more confident about his personal (meets and courts his future wife)and professional life (accepts a teaching position at the U of Chicago) and becomes his own man. As this happens, his brother and friends stop calling him “preacher,” his father’s profession, and begin calling him “professor,” the profession he has chosen.

Paul, meanwhile, has remained in Montana where he has continued to fish, but has moved away from his childhood home and has become a reporter at a nearby paper, implementing his father’s early lessons in how to write succinctly. But he has become an alcoholic and a gambler. Although he has followed and implemented what he learned about fly fishing from his father, he has rejected his father’s influence in other matters and fallen prey to destructive appetites.

At the end of the movie, the young men and their father go fishing one last time. While hiking down to the banks of the Blackfoot River, their father tells them he will take the high road, and he sits down to read, rather than fish. We understand that he has finished teaching his sons, and the young men must now go out on their own and implement what they have learned from him. Norman catches a fish competently. Paul’s fishing experience is dramatic, terrifying and beautiful. He is shadow casting, using a new technique far beyond the methods shown him by his father. He also catches a monster fish after fighting him while being pushed for what seems a half-mile through a treacherous stretch of river, where he could easily have drowned. When he returns proudly with the trophy fish, his father tells him he is a beautiful fisherman.

In the next scene, however, he is dead, and Norman, narrating, tells us that fly fishing couldn’t save him. We infer that Paul strayed too far from the influence of his father in all other matters.

79 Rad Father June 18, 2011 at 9:54 am

Cool Runnings! The one bobsledder, Junior Bevill, has to stand up to his father to stay on the Jamaican bobsled team and then at the end, the father comes around and when Junior shows amazing courage by carrying the bobsled across the finish line, the father rips open his coat and shows a Jamaican bobsled TShirt. I am starting to tear thinking about it.
“Father, when you look at me, what do you see?”
“I see a scared little boy who is lucky to have a father to show him the way”
“No father, I am not a little boy, I am a man! I am an Olympian!”

80 Sean Glass June 18, 2011 at 10:00 am

Some great stuff there, and a great topic.

I would have included “the Yearling,” 1946, with Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman, before “finding nemo” though- haha. Yes, Gregory Peck was great at portraying a good Dad and I love that in “The Yearling” he not only has to struggle mightily to make a living (on a small homestead in post-Civil-War-Florida) but he also has to deal with his wife (Wyman) who is basically a wonderful person but rather hardened and hard to live with, mostly because of the difficulty of their life and especially the death of a number of their children, either in childbirth or shortly after. Their only son, Jody, is a sweet and flighty kid who always wanted ‘something to call his own’ and becomes attached to a baby deer whose mother was killed in order to save his Dad’s life- leading to some extremely difficult consequences. Really an awesome film. :)

81 Matthew Gross June 18, 2011 at 10:21 am

Field of Dreams was my favorite pick above.

Glad to see Billy Elliot mentioned in the comments.

I would add Searching for Bobby Fischer and The Family Man.

Honorable Mentions: Myth of Fingerprints, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Love Actually, Les Miserables, Karate Kid, Quiz Show, Dexter, Frailty, Duets

82 Matthew Gross June 18, 2011 at 10:26 am

Also, It’s a Wonderful Life.

83 Buddy Shepherd June 18, 2011 at 10:42 am

3 Godfathers (western with John Wayne)

84 Clint June 18, 2011 at 11:04 am

Check out THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIES’S FATHER starring Glenn Ford and a young Ron Howard… you won’t know what hit you.

85 Nick Welch June 18, 2011 at 11:06 am

All great movies but I can’t believe “A River Runs Through It” wasn’t mentioned. What an incredible story! Honorable mention: The Patriot with Mel Gibson. Come to think of it, the first 20 min of Braveheart, (another Gibson movie) has a couple great father-son moments. I love it dad’s quote, “I know you can fight…but it’s our wits that make us men.”

86 Nick Welch June 18, 2011 at 11:09 am

Let me clarify: I was referring to A River Runs Through It not being mentioned in the post. Good to see it in the comments.

87 Lawrence Lujan June 18, 2011 at 11:11 am

***A Bronx Tale***
An awesome coming of age movie that deals with many timely topics–love, youth uncertainty, moral/ethical issues, and making the right decisions that doesn’t get mushy and which shares its message in an AOM way. The tale is about a young boys travel from youth through late teens, and the temptations between the “working man’s” (Robert De Niro) way of life and the street/mafia life of a local Don (Chazz Palminteri) and the ensuing struggle to father the boy. There are many gems and discussion points from this movie that make it a must watch for both fathers and sons. Here is a quote from the film:

“my father always said that when I get older I would understand. Well, I finally did. I learned something from these two men. I learned to give love and get love unconditionally. You just have to accept people for what they are, and I learned the greatest gift of all. The saddest thing in life is wasted talent, and the choices that you make will shape your life forever.”

88 Tim M June 18, 2011 at 11:17 am

How about Gran Torino? Not actually a biological Dad, but Clint delivers fatherly knowledge from the Greatest Generation better than anyone.

89 Joe @ Not Your Average Joe June 18, 2011 at 11:32 am

Never having the courage to watch My Life as of yet, my picks are already reflected in the posts and comments:

Field of Dreams – The greatest father and son scene of all time, bar none
Cinderella Man – Possibly the most inspirational movie I’ve seen other than Rocky
A Bronx Tale – One of DeNiro’s best performances. As stated before, a Classic

Thanks Brett. Enjoy all of your time with Gus. As a father of a 16 year old and 11 year old, I can tell you the years fly by far too quickly. Be present in every moment.

90 Hugo Stiglitz June 18, 2011 at 11:36 am

I second Lawrence Lujan’s vote for “A Bronx Tale.” It is probably one of the most overlooked films of the past 20 years, but probably one of the best.

91 Dan June 18, 2011 at 11:37 am

Life as a House with Kevin Kline. Funnyand moving. Surprised it hasn’t received greater acclaim or a spot on lists such as this.

92 Dave Sharp June 18, 2011 at 11:40 am

“Curly Sue”. Homeless and Destitute Belushi and daughter. He puts his little girl before the chance for $$ and a ‘better’ life for her (adoption by rich woman). Best line is when his girl tells the lady who wants to adopt her how she knows her Dad loves her… “he always lets me eat first”…

As a divorced single Dad who raised my daughter, we had an esp good time watching this over the years. What a great journey we had.

93 Dan June 18, 2011 at 11:43 am

Oh, and “Prince of Tides”

94 Richard Slagle June 18, 2011 at 11:47 am

I can’t believe you left out: The Courtship of Eddie’s Father…

95 Kevin Schroeder June 18, 2011 at 11:58 am

A recent one comes to mind……. “TRON: Legacy”… my grown son and I can’t get enough of this movie!
On another like note……. I’m really enjoyin’ your “The 5 Switches of Manliness” articles, including the last on Legacy!

96 eric June 18, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Very happy to see Road to Perdition on here. It is my personal favorite of any movie as Sam Mended does a great job directing and setting the mood, as well as the great soundtrack. Very underrated but wonderful movie.

97 Chris June 18, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Life with Father.
Classic, fun, thought-provoking, quotable (my kids do all the time) and includes a teenage Elizabeth Taylor, too.

98 Carrie June 18, 2011 at 12:37 pm

From the above, I love Field of Dreams. It’s quotable and cry-able. I’d also include Family Man and Cinderella Man. And finally, not a movie… but anything with Pa Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie is fantastic. (However, I’m a girl so that influences my choices.)

99 melica June 18, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Late Spring by Ozu or the Bicycle Thief by Vittorio De Sica – Incredible classics of cinema… Beautiful, wonderful movies.

Other than Life is Beautiful there isn’t a single other foreign movie on here :(

100 Dan F June 18, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Definitely The Road! Although, I guess you covered the book in a previous post, but the movie was done so well, it certainly qualifies as a great Father-Son movie, where the father is trying to teach his son how to be good in the face of a crap-sack world full of evil. Certainly a tear-jerker.

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