The 20 worst movie dads from Adam Sandler to Kevin Spacey
IT’S FATHER’S DAY!!
Hate it when your Dad embarrasses you in front of your friends?
Answers the door in his boxers? Drinks your beer? Makes you cut the lawn?
Could be worse, chum. You could have a bad movie dad, and that’s truly terrible, Hollywood being prone to hyperbole as it is.
Or you could have a bad movie stepdad, which is usually lethal.
Here, to help you appreciate your own dad on Father’s Day, are 20 truly toxic fathers, courtesy of tinseltown.
American Beauty (1999)
There are two lousy fathers in this movie: (1) Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) who is having a mid-life crisis and wants to sleep with his teenaged daughter’s girlfriend, Angela (Mena Suvari) and (2) homophobic nutcase disciplinarian Colonel Fitts (Chris Cooper) who is living a lie. Take your pick.
There Will Be Blood (2007)
Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) takes on a toddler after the child’s father is killed in a work accident. Plainview uses the boy to create a happy family facade — this allows him to acquire oil-rich land — and later abandons the child. Icy and calculating, Plainview is also a killer; he’s definitely not the guy you want to call Dad.
The Godfather III (1990)
Michael Corleone discovers the wages of sin is death when his daughter Mary (Sofia Coppola) is shot dead on the church stairs. The bullet was — of course — meant for Michael. That’s just bad parenting.
The Shining (1980)
Does it count if you’re Dad’s gone mad? Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) loses his grip on reality after he and his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) go to live in the isolated Overlook lodge in the off-season. Being alone too long and mingling with something malevolent can do that to a guy. Still, by the time Dad is hacking through a door with an axe to get at Mom, little Danny is a likely candidate for psychotherapy.
For the rest of his life.
It’s a toss-up as to which of Matilda’s (Mara Wilson) parents is worse, but let’s go with dad. Danny DeVito is hilarious as Mr. Wormwood, an over-the-top abusive father and general grouch who tells Matilda all the time how worthless she is. He is loud, rude, dishonest and shallow — and ditches the intelligent and kind Matilda with Miss Honey.
Theft, murder, land swindles, incest: Noah Cross (Jack Huston) really is the king of bad fathers in this neo-noir classic from Roman Polanski. That’s Jack Nicholson as the gumshoe and Faye Dunaway as the skirt in a crime drama about land and water wars that explains so much about what’s wrong with Los Angeles.
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
What kind of a Dad cuts off his son’s hand? So maybe it was Darth Vader (David Prowse/voice of James Earl Jones) using a light sabre on Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in a duel but still — that’s just bad manners, even in a galaxy far, far away. Nobody wants a mouth-breather dad.
The Hulk (2003)
Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) had an abusive father, David Banner (Nick Nolte), whose interest in altering DNA and creating super soldiers may have put The Hulk on the road to freaksville. Daddy dearest admits to killing Bruce’s mother and has plans to kill Bruce’s girlfriend, so yeah — no Father’s Day gift for this loser.
This Boy’s Life (1993)
Another lousy stepfather story. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a rebellious adolescent whose mom (Ellen Barkin) remarries. Dwight (Robert De Niro) seems such a sweet guy at first, but he’s a bully and an abuser. Fun fact: this movie and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape were both released in 1993 and launched DiCaprio’s journey to superstardom.
The Great Santini (1979)
Robert Duvall stars here as Marine Lt. Col. Bull Meechum, a tough s.o.b. who is relentless about discipline and achievement and who makes life hell for his children. Pat Conroy’s novel was the basis for this superb character study, with Michael O’Keefe as the oldest son in the family and Blythe Danner as the long-suffering Mrs. Meechum.
The Tree of Life (2011)
You can see Brad Pitt as a harsh father in Texas in the 1950s or you can see him as part of a bigger picture about duality in nature, but either way, he’s terrific in this remarkable Terrence Malick movie. And either way, he’s also a stern, nightmarish father figure, particularly in comparison to the kids’ loving mother (Jessica Chastain).
Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) is everybody’s favourite mobster, but just by going to work he puts his kids in danger every day of their lives. And who brings home that much coke?
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Who makes a deal with Satanists to have his wife (Mia Farrow) give birth to Lucifer? That’s John Cassavetes as Guy Woodhouse, creep extraordinaire, a failed actor willing to play stepdaddy to the devil in exchange for a big career. All that bad behaviour before E! Now or TMZ had even been invented!!!
Natural Born Killers (1994)
Remember Rodney Dangerfield in the role of Mallory’s (Juliette Lewis) mega-slimey father? Nothing like the kind of physically, sexually and verbally abusive parenting that leads your daughter to become a serial killer. Before they take on the world at large, at least Mallory and Mickey (Woody Harrelson) settle the score. It’s not just charity that begins at home …
Hell or High Water (2016)
In this movie about bank robbers determined to keep the family land, not much is said about Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner Howard’s (Ben Foster) father — just that one thing about how he was such an abusive monster that Tanner probably killed him.
That’s My Boy (2012)
Donny (Adam Sandler) is going to go to prison for tax evasion — unless he can get the money owed out of his long-estranged, successful son Todd (Andy Samberg). Todd hasn’t seen Donny for good reason: it’s almost impossible to imagine any parent being this completely neglectful and stupid. To sum up: Donny is worse as a parent than That’s My Boy is as a movie. That’s saying something.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Zip it! Shhh! How about Dr. Evil, a father who’s frozen for most of your life, and then later disappointed that you’re not evil enough? Scott Evil (Seth Green) often has better ideas for world domination than his father does, but if memory serves, Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) eventually tries to kill Scott. Even Fat Bastard would have been a better pater.
Daddy’s Home (2015)
It’s a tough pick — milquetoast but reliable wimp Brad (Will Ferrell) or vaguely criminal macho showoff Dusty (Mark Wahlberg). Brad’s the stepdad and Dusty is the biological father, but once the men start competing for the children’s affection, they’re both idiots. And bad for the kids.
The Simpsons Movie (2007)
Homer Simpson likes to heap humiliation on his children’s heads — nude skateboarding, anyone?— hurt dogs and pollute an entire town, so he’s one fun dad to avoid at all costs. You can’t help laughing, though.
Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
So much is memorable about this Michael Bay heap of scrap … but let’s focus on what a terrible father Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) really is. He endangers his daughter all the time, exposing her to killer metal monsters, not to mention the sort of eye-rolling dialogue and improbable plot points that likely constitute child abuse.
If you want to punish pops, you can take him to this week’s sequel – Transformers: The Last Knight.