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Dad's dozen: best films for Father's Day PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Peter Bradshaw   

Peter Bradshaw: Daddy dearest needs some attention on 19 June, so why not watch one (or all) of these 12 fatherhood-themed films together


In honour of Father's Day – on 19 June – Amazon is beginning a special promotion on certain films, including Invictus and Kelly's Heroes. These seem to me only vaguely connected with the theme of fatherhood. Here, on the other hand, is a list of 12 Father's Day films, a dad's dozen that you can experience on DVD or at the cinema with your dad, or perhaps your son, on Sunday week.

Finding Nemo (2003, dirs Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich)

Marlin, voiced by Albert Brooks in this classic DreamWorks animation, is a widower clownfish who becomes a neurotically over-protective dad. His smothering attitude so infuriates his little son, Nemo, that the little fish swims defiantly away and is captured by divers. The father must then go on an epic journey to rescue the son.

Hamlet (1948, dir Laurence Olivier)

Olivier's movie version of Shakespeare's great tragedy turns, like any production, on the hero's agonised memory of his father's greatness. Freudians find in his antipathy to Claudius a rage-filled acknowledgement that his step-father has done something that all males subconsciously wish to do: kill their fathers and marry their mothers. And speaking of Freudian angst …

Back to the Future (1985, dir Robert Zemeckis)

… Zemeckis's classic comedy is about as freaky as it gets. Marty McFly, played by Michael J Fox, travels back in time to the 1950s, where he comes face to face with his nerdy dad, played by Crispin Glover, and has to engineer this poor sap's successful wooing of his mum, who turns out to be super-hot and more than a little enamoured of him.

The Tree of Life (2011, dir Terrence Malick)

Malick's latest movie is not yet out in the UK in cinemas or DVD, but why not take your dad on a Eurostar trip to Paris, where it is now on release? Brad Pitt plays O'Brien, the 1950s Texas dad whose disciplinarian violence, and complex self-doubt, encourage his sons to think of fear and love as the same emotion. Maybe not a very feelgood Father's Day film.

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980, dir Irwin Kershner)

In this episode, Darth Vader becomes obsessed with finding his young enemy Luke Skywalker, who, as he battles the forces of darkness, has at least gained some help and instruction from the quasi-paternal mentors in his life: Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi. But sadly, just as you can choose your friends but not your relatives, you can choose your father figures but not your actual father.

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006, dir Gabriele Muccino)

This is a real tear-jerker, and not a very cool film to like, but it's still very heartfelt. Will Smith plays Chris Gardner, a struggling salesman and single dad, on the very brink of homelessness and poverty, who battles to get a job and be a real dad to his little boy.

Bicycle Thieves (1948, dir Vittorio De Sica)

You must have a heart of stone not to be moved by this classic neorealist story of a poor man and his young son, as they search the streets of Rome to find his stolen bicycle, which he needs for his job – putting up movie posters. As their odyssey continues, the audience becomes aware of something that perhaps eludes the desperate man: his real treasure is not the bike, but his boy.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962, dir Robert Mulligan)

Gregory Peck gives a performance of granite decency and integrity as Atticus Finch, the widower and Alabama lawyer who defends a black man against a wrongful charge of rape. This is one of the most highly charged depictions of fatherhood in Hollywood history.

Kramer vs Kramer (1979, dir Robert Benton)

Many consider this Dustin Hoffman's finest hour; others consider it an exercise in male self-pity. Hoffman plays the divorced dad who must care for his son on his own, and must then battle for custody in the divorce courts. One must have a heart of stone to remain dry-eyed for the scene in which he has to explain to his son the judge's verdict.

The Son's Room (2001, dir Nanni Moretti)

Commenters on this blog are sick of me going on about this film, so I will only say that it's a deeply moving study of a psychotherapist and easygoing paterfamilias, played by Moretti, and how he and his family respond to a terrible calamity.

Late Spring (1949, dir Yasujiro Ozu)

Father's Day discussions tend to centre on a father's relationship with his son – here is something about a father and daughter. Chishu Ryu plays an elderly widower who is cared for by his beautiful, shy daughter, played by Setsuku Hara. He is concerned that she should get married, but she is not particularly keen to leave him. He resorts to subterfuge to marry her off: is this a kind of betrayal?

Paper Moon (1973, dir Peter Bogdanovich)

This is another daddy-daughter movie and the one film that stars a real-life father and child team. Ryan and Tatum O'Neal play Moses and Addie, a con team who travel around the US during the Great Depression preying on the vulnerable and credulous.


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