Dads are good guys. They put together our complicated toys, they taught us to drive, and they took us camping. But we've always considered him to be a total dork, or the big bad guy who Mom would call on to deliver the harshest punishments.
We wanted a father who was more like ones in movies. Why didn't we have a dad who built a magical baseball field, was fabulously wealthy, and who greeted crises with jokes, hugs, or lethal force instead of groundings?
We know our dads were cool, always there for us, and making us better people. We love them dearly. But in honor of Father's Day, here are 13 movie dads we still find ourselves admiring for their humor, cuddliness, special talents, and in some cases, bank vaults full of money.
13. Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks), 'Sleepless in Seattle' (1993)
Tom Hanks is the very definition of calm, cool, and lovable. He can always be counted on to play a great dad, but his sad widower in "Sleepless in Seattle" tops the list for us. Instead of remaining distant from his son, Jonah, he clings to him so hard that Jonah decides he needs to start dating. When he calls a radio talk show on his dad's behalf, it kicks off a frenzy. Sam handles it all with surprising calm, good humor, and honesty. When Jonah flies all the way across the country to meet Annie, Sam freaks, but not so badly that he doesn't give Jonah the biggest and most tearful hug instead of a lecture. That's when we decided we wanted him to adopt us.
12. Jim's Dad (Eugene Levy), 'American Pie' (1999)
There comes a time in every kid's life that they start locking the bedroom or bathroom door behind them. We don't want our parents to know what's going on there. We don't want to have that discussion. Jim (Jason Biggs) not only has that discussion, he has his dad walk in on him as he's getting intimate with a pie. Jim's Dad (Eugene Levy) -- that's all we know him by throughout the series -- actually helps him dispose of the incriminating pastry, buys him some dirty magazines, and tries to offer a little, er, technical advice. Once the humiliation passes, it's a relief to know you've got a dad who recognizes you're all grown up, and even in need of sexual relief.
11. Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), 'Field of Dreams' (1989)
There are practical dads, and there are dads who throw caution to the wind and embrace the supernatural. Ray (Costner) receives an insistent whisper to "build it" so "he will come," and happily plows over his cornfield and builds a baseball field. When the ghosts of baseball greats turn up, Ray isn't in the least bit surprised. He fights to keep his mystical field despite a shrinking bank account and threats from his brother-in-law. We'd love a dad who could tap into the astral plane of baseball, and who never wavered in his belief that having Shoeless Joe Jackson over to play was worth a few acres of corn. If he believed they would come, so would we.
10. Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli), 'The Twilight Saga' (2008-2012)
We wouldn't want Dracula as a dad, but Carlisle Cullen? Yes, please. His enhanced ability is compassion, for heaven's sake, and he has a penchant for adopting lost and lonely souls. Anyone you love, he'll love. (He may even offer to transform them.) His capacity for kindness means he won't spend the centuries lecturing you, reminding you of that one time you scratched his car. He'll probably just give you a big hug, and remind you that time washes everything away, and the material is immaterial. Oh, and he's loaded (Forbes estimates his fortune to be $34.5 billion). If you have to pick a dad to spend centuries with, Carlisle is the one to choose.
9. Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams), 'Mrs. Doubtfire' (1993)
We'd love a dad who, despite his unemployment, hires the zoo to throw us a birthday party. But Daniel (Williams) really goes the distance. Guilty over the breakup of his marriage and desperate to spend time with his kids, he willingly dresses up as a plump English nanny. We won't lie and say the big reveal wouldn't be a little traumatizing, but the sheer audacity of the scheme is just too adorable and sweet to be too upsetting. Besides, he cooks, cleans and sews even better than Mom!
8. Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), 'Taken' (2008)
Any dad would happily risk his life for his child. But if we're in trouble – serious trouble, spanning numerous borders, languages, and laws – we want a dad with a very particular set of skills. We want Bryan Mills, who can build torture devices out of common items, rig telephones with walkie-talkies, and find us no matter how far off the grid we've strayed. He's a distant dad, but great in a pinch, and at least conscientious enough to encourage your singing career, and introduce you to his famous clients.
7. Daddy Warbucks, 'Annie'
It's a hard knock life and a really bad economy, so we could really use a father like Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks, whose fortune is estimated to be "ten zillion dollars," making him the richest fictional character ever. But money doesn't make the man! Daddy Warbucks is also charitable (he comes from a poor background which keeps him grounded), loves kids and dogs, enjoys globetrotting and adventure, and is a sharp dresser. He's a bit of a curmudgeon, but so is every parent, and you always have the household staff to mingle with if he's in a bad mood. And we did mention the"ten zillion dollars" in the vault, right?
6. Dill Penderghast (Stanley Tucci), 'Easy A' (2010)
We love the Penderghast family so much that we couldn't just wish for Mommy Penderghast ... we had to wish for Dad, too. Dill may have cheesy taste in Netflix rentals (We didn't have "The Bucket List" on our bucket list!), but he has a great sense of humor and an open mind about teenage sex. Neither Mom or Dad Penderghast would lecture us about what they saw on our Facebook or video blog, and even if Daddy Dill disapproves of your wardrobe, he'll temper it by saying you look like a high-end stripper. We feel our self-esteem soaring already!
5. Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), The ‘Vacation’ Series (1983-2010)
Clark Griswold may be the most disaster-prone man on the planet, but you have to admire his guts and determination. This is a dad who will get you to Disney – er, Walley World at any cost, even if it means holding up a security guard with a BB gun. He will put on a pig suit to win a trip to Europe, and bravely drive on the right side of the road, even if that means taking you around Big Ben and Parliament all day. Finally, he'll plan a fun, old-fashioned family Christmas (which includes the ultimate gift of a backyard pool) and pursue it with manic ferocity, no matter how high the cost.
4. Mac MacGuff (J.K. Simmons), 'Juno' (2007)
Yes, Mac's other half made our Mom List too, but you just can't have one MacGuff parent without the other. A pregnant teenage daughter would probably make most dads get out a shotgun, and go on the hunt for the offending male. Mac merely expresses bewilderment, then dismay and criticism (he was hoping for hard drugs or a DWI) before switching to full sympathy and support. He can even manage to crack a few jokes about the situation. It's exactly how you hope your dad would react to unplanned grandparency.
3. Steve Martin in ANYTHING
Steve Martin is legendary for his snarky and sarcastic comedy. So why does he have a resume that's full of superdad roles? We don't know. We don't care. We just want him to be our dad. We'll take him in "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," "Parenthood," "Father of the Bride" (I & II!), or "Cheaper by the Dozen." Sure, he can be uptight and anxious (he's an absolute wreck in "Parenthood"), but he's always a man willing to do whatever it takes to make his family safe, secure, and happy. Oh, and he tells really good jokes, even if he's covered in vomit. If dad has to be a comedian, he should at least be one like Steve Martin.
2. Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), 'To Kill a Mockingbird' (1962)
Atticus Finch is one hell of a father figure. He's stern and serious, but he's also gentle, compassionate, and determined. No, he doesn't crack jokes. He doesn't engage in slick hand-to-hand combat. He doesn't have ten zillion dollars, and he's not big on playing games or hatching up zany parties. But Atticus is a hero, trying to single-handedly reverse the hideous racism of his town, and save an innocent man's life. Forget Superman; Finch is the real defender of truth, justice, and the American way. Other dads may be more fun, but Finch is the one you'd be proud to introduce to your friends or significant others.
1. Chris Gardner (Will Smith), 'The Pursuit of Happyness' (2006)
How does one dad emerge ahead of a pack of really awesome dads? By being Chris Gardner, who suffered setbacks that would have broken just about everyone (except maybe Liam Neeson or Atticus Finch) on the list. Gardner lost his savings and his wife thanks to a poor investment, hit rock bottom, and was forced to climb back out to provide for his son. The two wind up on the streets and in a homeless shelter before Gardner's hard work pays off, landing him a posh job as a stockbroker. The best part of the story? It's true. Gardner and his son went from being homeless to being multi-millionaires, and to a movie deal with Will Smith. And you thought awesome dads existed only in the movies.
Originally published June 17, 2011.