There’s no shortage of dads in the movies. But all too often, it seems that filmmakers fall back on the stereotypically goofy, bumbling dad—the kind who inspires head shaking and eye rolling from his wife and kids (not to mention everyone watching at home).
Although that breed of clueless patriarch certainly can be funny (see Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Vacation), the dads we really love are the ones who are thoughtful, caring, and truly committed to working hard at fatherhood. They’re not perfect, but that makes them all the more realistic and appealing—not to mention worthy role models.
Meet our top seven movie dads:
Dad: Marlin (Albert Brooks)
Movie: Finding Nemo (5+)
Why we love him: Not only does Marlin go way, way beyond his comfort zone to rescue his beloved son, Nemo, but he learns that one of the most important (and hardest) parts of being a parent is giving your child the opportunity to be independent.
Dad: Tom Alden (Jeff Daniels)
Movie: Fly Away Home (8+)
Why we love him: It takes Tom awhile to figure out how to reach his grieving teenage daughter, Amy (Anna Paquin). But he keeps at it, and, once they find common ground in teaching Amy’s geese how to fly, he encourages her to spread her own wings.
Dad: George Banks (Steve Martin)
Movie: Father of the Bride (11+)
Why we love him: George may not be ready for his little girl to be grown up enough to get married, but he does everything in his power to give her the day of her dreams—and to be there for her when she needs advice and a shoulder to cry on. (An honorable mention goes to Martin’s Gil Buckman in Parenthood, who realistically shows how hard, confusing, and ultimately rewarding it is to be a parent.)
Dad: Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck)
Movie: To Kill a Mockingbird (12+)
Why we love him: Atticus never shies away from doing the right thing, no matter how difficult it might be. In doing so, he sets an important example for his kids, Scout and Jem, whom he always treats with love and respect.
Dad: Chris Gardner (Will Smith)
Movie: The Pursuit of Happyness (12+)
Why we love him: A single father struggling through difficult times, Chris works hard to make a better life for himself and his son (played by Smith’s own son, Jaden). He occasionally loses his cool, but his son never doubts that his father will take care of him.
Dad: Guido (Roberto Benigni)
Movie: Life Is Beautiful (13+)
Why we love him: Faced with the unimaginable task of keeping his son safe during the Holocaust, Guido constructs an elaborate fantasy around their life in a concentration camp. His devotion never flags, and his belief in hope and magic never wavers.
Dad: Daniel (Liam Neeson)
Movie: Love Actually (16+)
Why we love him: Grieving the loss of his wife, Daniel never forgets that his stepson, Sam, is suffering, too. Instead of distancing himself from the boy, he draws him closer, talking to him honestly and encouraging him to take risks in the name of love.