Father’s Day may have been contrived to mimic the financial success of Mother’s Day, but it is still a real holiday. In fact, it’s something that will take place on Sunday. We thought it would be an excellent occasion to explore one of cinema’s most enduring themes: fatherhood.
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Steven Spielberg was troubled by the absence of his father in his early works; revelations about parents are at the heart of many of our most popular franchises, from Star Wars to Iron Man. ‘Dads’ and ‘fatherhood’ have long been a motif in the work of numerous filmmakers. It doesn’t matter if you’re interested in human nature or just plain old daddy concerns; filmmakers have often done their greatest work when dealing with father-daughter relationships.
Because of this and in conjunction with our previous essay on the finest movie mothers, we’ve selected 25 terrific or great films that deal with fatherhood in various ways. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
1. Beginners (2010)
Mike Mills’ own experience as a father is the inspiration for “Beginners,” a film about an honest father-son connection. Christopher Plummer plays a widower who comes out to his son Oliver (Ewan McGregor) as gay and falls in love with a younger man when his wife dies. “I’d like to take action”). With Hal’s newfound openness regarding his true identity, he gains a deeper relationship with his son. As a result of Oliver’s honesty, he decides to take a risk on a new love interest (French actress Melanie Laurent). Unconventional in its approach, Mills’ take on the family drama has an almost Lubitschian lightness to it that flirts but never quite goes over the edge into tweeness. Even so, it has a strong emotional core and a heart that beats much faster than any cleverness on the surface. In this film, McGregor is at his most endearing, while Plummer gives one of his best performances, for which he was properly awarded an Oscar (the oldest man ever to do so).
2. Bicycle Thieves (1948)
Vittorio De Sica’s “Bicycle Thieves” was one of the most important films of the first half of the 20th century, transforming the face of cinema and influencing generations to come. The film (based on a novel by Luigi Bartolini) depicts the harsh realities and struggles of life in post-war Rome and stars Lamberto Maggiorani (a non-pro when cast) as Antonio, a father of two children who needs a bike to get work to support his family. Neo-realism emerged in Italy after Mussolini’s death and the defeat of fascism in the country. This man (Enzo Staiola), together with his oldest son Bruno (Lianella Carell), pawn their bedsheets to earn the money they need to get their bicycle out of foreclosure. However, their bicycle is shortly stolen. Even though it’s bleak and depressing (especially when Antonio resorts to thievery, as the film’s title suggests), “Bicycle Thieves” is incredibly watchable and beautiful, thanks to the close and convincing bond between Maggiorani and Staiola that makes you wonder if they’re really father and son at the end of the film. It may be more than 60 years old, but its influence can still be seen in a wide range of films today, from American indies to Iranian masterpieces.
3. The Descendants(2011)
Movies portraying father-son relationships are more common than those with father-daughter relationships because of the inherent gender bias in the industry. Alexander Payne’s acclaimed “The Descendants” is a good example of how things have changed recently. Clooney plays a rich Hawaiian lawyer whose wife is seriously injured in a boating accident and is left paralyzed in this film adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings’ novel. This leaves him on his own to raise his difficult teenager and younger child, while he discovers that his wife has been cheating on him with another man. Payne’s occasional condescension to his characters is evident in this film, and the score is a little too obnoxious. However, the film is still an enjoyable experience. This film is better than most at conveying the divide that may develop between a father and a daughter because of some sharp writing and a surprising debut from Woodley. When Clooney reads a rapprochement with his children and eats ice cream with them, he is rarely better, schlubbier, and more wounded than normal.
4. East Of Eden (1955)
The emotional fabric and texture of Elia Kazan’s films were always “intense, visceral, terribly bare, frightening, nasty, and almost invariably tragic,” as we highlighted in our article on the seminal filmmaker. “East of Eden,” Kazan’s emotionally devastating drama about fathers and sons, and the love and acceptance patriarchs may give or withhold, is a good example of this. In the years leading up to World War I, a pair of Cain and Abel-like siblings find themselves in the Salinas Valley in “Eden.” Cal Trask (James Dean), the black sheep, believes he must fight with his brother Aron (Richard Davalos) for their father Adam’s affections despite overwhelming odds (Raymond Massey). At times, Cal is angry and vulnerable because he can’t seem to do anything right in an effort to win his father’s love and approval (or stay out of trouble). His father’s scorn only deepens as he works harder to earn his father’s love; Cal learns the hard way that money can’t buy his father’s love. This is made worse by the discovery of a long-hidden family secret concerning their mother, which leads to devastating consequences. When it comes to fathers and sons’ dissension and unreconcilable problems, this film delivers with a dark intensity that earned it four Academy Awards, including James Dean’s first for Best Actor.
5. Father Of The Bride (1950)
This movie isn’t the greatest thing its director and star have ever created, but it’s still an effortlessly delightful and unexpectedly substantial comedy, despite the film’s association with the milquetoast Steve Martin adaptation from the ’90s. A well-to-do suburban dad’s happy life is upended when his daughter (Elizabeth Taylor, rarely more radiant) announces her engagement in this Vincente Minnelli film adaptation of Edward Streeter’s novel. The picture is situated in a cosy and pleasant world, a proto-sitcom that avoids any provocative impulse. Minnelli, on the other hand, maintains something akin to psychological reality by focusing so intently on Tracy. The star’s portrayal during the farce-like developments is one of his best. For him, it fits well with his character—tired and heavy drinker—and the timing of his jokes is rarely better. Traces of sorrow and poignancy can be seen in Tracy’s portrayal of a man who is reminded that everything changes and that his own mortality cannot be ignored. “Father’s Little Dividend” was released the next year, following the success of the original and several Oscar nominations, but the original is the best.