Are you looking for a movie to watch with your father this Father’s Day? In celebration of father’s day this year we’re offering up a list of movies you and your dad can watch to experience the fragile often under estimated relationships between dads and their sons. From the animated, to the dramatic, these are movies we suggest you sit down with the man in your life to view and ponder on the love you share with the old man.
Happy Father’s Day to my dad, Felix Vasquez Sr.!
After the vicious death of his wife, it’s only natural that Marlin would be so protective of his only surviving child, the young and adventurous Nemo. But sometimes dads can be too protective of their children, and when Nemo seeks to stray from his overbearing and suffocating father, he is caught in a fishing trap and taken across the world with other helpless fish. Intent on finding and saving his son.
Marlin risks life and limb and goes through heaven and hell to find his son and bring him home going through sharks, and deep oceans and currents, and fighting the elements just to ensure the safety of his little boy. “Finding Nemo” is a wonderful tale of the extent many dads will go through to rescue their sons even if it means sacrificing their own lives in the process. Marlin is a grade A cinema father, flawed but ultimately a real dad. And Nemo finds out that having a parent care about you too much is not often a bad thing.
William Petersen is wonderful as the paternal figure of the Walker household, a man whose built his entire life around his career and fancies himself a pretty good father. In the end though he discovers that he knows almost nothing about his children and finds out the hard way when the sociopathic David McCall enters his life and forms a relationship with his daughter Nicole. The two form a passionate and intense romance with one another and David soon becomes very possessive, controlling and absolutely obsessed, and is intent on revealing to the family much of what they didn’t even know about each other.
As the story presses on in “Fear,” Peterson’s character Steve finds himself pushed in to a corner and now having to protect his family from the clutches of David’s manipulation and harassment. Things take a turn for the worse in the finale where David and his friends launch an all out assault on the Walker family, and dad Steve has to defend the brood from them using his wits, and quick thinking. In the end, David and Steve have an all out fist fight to the death where Steve shows that in spite of his past mistakes, he’ll do anything to protect his family from evil. Even kill.
Mel Gibson is wonderful as the ex-Reverend Graham Hess, who finds himself at odds with his faith and with life in general when we first meet him in “Signs.” He’s found very little to enjoy about life, even in spite of being left with his two children to care for. He has to muster up all the confidence and strength in the world when reality changes around him and the planet is invaded by mysterious entities from space.
What begins as a struggle to decide if fate had a hand in their delivery, Graham soon finds that his faith helps fuel his power as a father and is able to save his entire family as the forces from beyond desperately claw their way in to his sacred home to kidnap his family. The struggle to re-claim his faith and courage is powerful and ultimately Graham finds his place as a leader and a father once again while also reviving his belief in his holy father in the process. His trust in his faith and his trust in his family are what keep him a strong father.
Kramer vs. Kramer
Dustin Hoffman gives a remarkable performance as Ted Kramer, a workaholic father and advertising exec who finds himself obsessed with his work and almost a non-entity at his home. When he arrives one day, he finds his wife on the verge of leaving him and she confesses she has to find herself after so many years in a confining marriage. Leaving behind their son Billy, Ted must now find a way to balance out his life, and in the process re-discovers his love for his son and finds that being a father is what he does best in the world.
Much of “Kramer vs. Kramer” is a battle of wills between Ted and his son Billy as both wrestle with the new adjustment and the lack of female role models in their lives and it’s a tough road between the two of them who battle it out emotionally and mentally. In the end, Ted learns that he very much loves his son, and fights for him in court when wife Joanna returns to re-claim Billy. Ultimately we find that fatherhood changes Ted, and in the end he finds a purpose more important than business.
On Golden Pond
In Henry Fonda’s final role, Fonda plays an elderly and cantankerous man named Norman who retreats to Golden Pond with his wife Ethel every summer. In a bout of fate, Norman’s estranged daughter Chelsea arrives with her son hoping to keep him at the pond with her parents to allow her time to connect with her fiancé. While there, Chelsea’s son discovers his love for his long lost grandparents, and Chelsea tries to find out why Norman never seemed to love her as much as he does her own son.
Ultimately “On Golden Pond” served as a cathartic form of therapy for stars Henry and Jane Fonda allowing them to air their grievances during filming and re-connect as they never could when she was a child and he a workaholic actor. Meanwhile “On Golden Pond” sheds the light on some relationships that aren’t always cut and dry with our fathers. Sometimes in the process of life, they forget to be there, and it’s never too late to re-discover our love for them.
“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”
And by god when Liam Neeson’s character Bryan Mills spouts these very words on a cellular phone as his estranged daughter is being carried away by kidnappers, he means every single word of it. There isn’t a single force of nature on the planet that stands in the way of Bryan’s quest to find his kidnapped daughter. Spending most of the movie on foot, Bryan uses his skills as a CIA Agent to discover who took his daughter and why, and in the process inflicts sadistic cruel punishment on all who seek to thwart his mission. In the end Bryan proves to his estranged wife and once estranged daughter that love is more powerful than anything on Earth, and he scores one for fathers everywhere.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back/Return of the Jedi
During the finale of “The Empire Strikes Back,” Luke Skywalker’s quest to stop the evil Darth Vader ends in a shocking revelation. After years of being stifled by his uncle and aunt for reasons unknown Luke finally finds out why they wanted to prevent him from becoming too much of a powerful warrior. In the end of “The Empire Strikes Back,” the evil Darth Vader reveals to Luke that he is his long lost father. Luke’s faced with that revelation in the end of “Empire,” and by the time “Return of the Jedi” rolls around Luke has aged and gained wisdom in the force, becoming a full fledged Jedi knight.
In the end he seeks to undo most of his damage and face his father down. But first he must come to grips with the fact that if he turns to the dark side he will become a dark lord just like his own father and master the dark side. Can he fight inevitability, in the end? The final battle of wills in “Return of the Jedi” shines the light on a man whose lost his way, and a son who will lose his way if he doesn’t step lively, and the two come to an understanding as Vader’s own instincts and love outweigh his dark core, and gives his life for good to thrive in the galaxy once more.
The Lion King
James Earl Jones went on to voice yet another iconic father after “Star Wars,” this time voicing the role of the paternal king of the jungle, the lion king Mufasa. As Mufasa, he is a wise and humble ruler of the kingdom who watches over his pride with courage and strength. In the mean time he finds the chance to bond with his son Simba, an adventurous and courageous little cub who wants to emulate his father in every way possible.
The two’s relationship through the first half of “The Lion King” is touching and absolutely gripping as they share an unspoken connection that is often compelling. When Mufasa is murdered by his jealous brother Skar, Simba is blamed and runs away from his mistakes as long as he can. But as he gets older, he realizes he has to rule the kingdom and free it from the clutches of his evil uncle and the ravenous Hyenas. With the strength of his father’s words from beyond the grave, and the truth that Skar committed the horrible crime, Simba re-claims the throne and lives to father his own cub.
Road to Perdition
In the history of cinematic fathers, Michael Sullivan is an awful one. By day he’s a humble and loving man, but by night he’s a stone cold killer for the mob who makes his life around lying to his family and revealing to his son that he will kill whom ever he feels compelled to, if it means living up to his duties to his friend and boss John Rooney. Though Michael sold his soul many years ago in exchange for “the good life,” he finds that he must go on a quest to save his son’s soul, a young life that’s seen bloodshed and is about to corrupt his own innocence in a bid to protect himself. After his wife and son are brutally murdered, Michael flees with his oldest son Michael Jr. to find a place where he can live without harm from the mob. On the way Michael murders everyone far and near and brings down the entire crime infrastructure laying down his own soul in an attempt to ensure that his son never knows what it’s like to shed the blood of another human being. Even when being sought out by the dastardly Harlen Maguire, Michael does whatever it takes, and in the end see that his son is given a pass in to heaven, even though he may very well be on the path to hell.
A Bronx Tale
Robert DeNiro takes a chance to work outside of his comfort zone in film, this time leading the charge as an everyday working man in New York who is forced to watch his only son come under the influence of local mob boss Sonny. When son C seeks out a direction in life, he finds he’s torn between two father figures in his life pulling him in to two different directions. Meanwhile the two father figures are battling it out for the soul of C who is trying to decide who he ultimately relies on for answers, and where he wants to go in his life.
Should he be a hard working man in a thankless job like his dad, or live on easy street like Sonny? The fight for C’s heart is gripping and DeNiro gives a rousing performance as a man simply trying to help his son and keep him out of trouble. But as C finds himself tangled up in crime, trouble continues finding him and may continue doing so until it’s too late. In the end he finds that there are no real answers to his dilemma and that sometimes our dad’s don’t always know how to steer us in to the right directions. But if we listen to them at the right times and takes small bits of their wisdom we can become men of our own and form our own answers to life’s biggest questions and dilemmas.
The relationship between a father and a son is just as important as the relationship between a mother and a son. A father helps mold their boys to become men, and when the relationship is fractured or just downright broken, the men we become are dysfunctional and often times distraught individuals looking for a purpose in their life. Brendan and Tommy Conlon were pitted against each other as kids by a ruthless alcoholic father, and years later they barely know one another.
Brendon is a struggling family man trying to do right by his children who has learned the error of his father’s ways and vows not to repeat those mistakes, while Tommy is a self-destructive anti-social individual who seeks to compete and prove himself in the ring and unleash his own personal demons on his competitors in front of the world. Much of “Warrior” is spent by dad Paddy to re-connect with his sons and atone for his sins, but sometimes there is just no taking back the horrible things we’ve done to our children and finds the journey to forgiveness absolutely taxing both mentally and physically. The conflict between the two sons and their dad is hard to resolve and is not finished by the time “Warrior” comes to a close, but we do view how important a male role model is and how they can decide who we turn in to, in the end.
When we meet Rocky in the beginning of “Rocky Balboa” he’s nothing but a shell of the man he once was. He owns a restaurant in the city of Philadelphia where he regails customers with stories of his fighting history time and time again to where even the customers finish his tales, and he has very little friends left. The love of his life has passed away, and he finds that his own son Robert doesn’t want anything to do with him. He’s built a life for himself out of the spotlight of the great Rocky Balboa and prefers to keep it that way.
But when Rocky finds fate banging down his doorstep, he learns that he has one last chance to prove himself and show the world that he’s anything but a decrepit dinosaur. Through the struggles to be taken seriously and find a way to box the champ Mason “The Line” Dixon, Robert re-unites with his dad and comes to his corner to aid him in his training and support him, gaining a new found respect for his father who refuses to let the world tell him he’s too old to matter.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Indiana and his father Henry have a complicated and unusual relationship. Indiana spent much of his life under the guidance of a father who refused to share much emotion with him, and valued knowledge over affection when all was said and done. When Henry is kidnapped by the nazis, Indiana must find him and rescue him from their clutches. Along the way the re-connect and find out that there is some genuine love and respect between the two as they find out how far they’re willing to go to protect one another.
In one of the funniest yet gut wrenching sequences, Henry is convinced Indiana went off a cliff with an enemy tank and died in a ball of flames. Mourning his son, Indiana appears hanging from the ledge and Henry reveals his true feelings through his sense of relief and utter amazement. It’s a short and sweet but truly remarkable scene between a father and a son who find through a perilous journey that there is love shared between two stubborn old men.
If you can sit through “Dad” without breaking in to sobs or tears at least once, then I’ve given up all hope on humanity. Sons in particular will find it hard to make it through “Dad,” a very gripping and absolutely gut wrenching melodrama about a young son who returns home to his estranged family when his mother suffers a heart attack. Tasked with caring for his feeble father, son John finds he must care for his dad while his mother recuperates, and gains a newfound love for his father in the midst of the suffering and stress.
Along the way, John’s dad discovers he’s been diagnosed with Cancer, and in the midst of his recuperation finds himself in a state of delirium where he wants to live life to the fullest in spite of his wife Bette’s disbelief about his sudden burst of happiness. “Dad” features many a compelling scenes that demonstrate the power of the father and son relationship. As one of Jack Lemmon’s best films ever, this is a must see for any father and son to discuss and bond over. As we often learn, we don’t usually appreciate the people in our lives until they’re truly gone from us.
The Fighting Sullivans
Though this is defined as a biographical drama, in a sense it’s less formulaic than a biography and more a dramedy about family and the power of it. “The Fighting Sullivans” spotlights the five Sullivan boys, a group of brothers so tight knit they can’t stand being apart from one another for too long. Throughout the first half of “The Fighting Sullivans” we watch their trials and tribulations growing up in their world where they learn about meeting girls, fighting, almost drowning, school, and a real lesson when they try smoking for the first time. What keeps the family unit together is their father Thomas Sullivan.
Played brilliantly by Thomas Mitchell, Mr. Sullivan keeps his boys under his wing throughout the proceedings of the film where he teaches them valuable lessons and they show their loyalty by climbing the water tower in their town everyday to greet him as he rides in to town on his train. “The Fighting Sullivans” may be melodramatic in some respects, but it still holds up as an excellent and gripping movie about family and love, and the power of father’s and sons. The final scene where Thomas Sullivan salutes his group of military sons in the water tower always gets me.