As we near Father’s Day weekend, we’d like to pay tribute to the lesser-known dads and dad-like figures in film. While there are tons of articles out there with the obvious dads who’ve graced us with great parenting, stoic advice, and endless laughs— from Atticus Finch to Marlin the Clownfish to Clark Griswald—this list isn’t exactly about these characters. We’re here to celebrate the dad-type figures, the unsung heroes, and those who have somehow changed the life of fictional kids in film. Happy Father’s Day y’all.
Mr. Thornton aka Helen Hunt’s dad (Richard Lineback) – Twister
He saves his entire family from a catastrophic Oklahoma tornado. His bravery is unmatched. And his screen time is less than five minutes in length.
Nick Parker (Dennis Quaid) – The Parent Trap
Sure, he and his ex-wife separate their identical twins at birth- and yes, he decides to remarry Meredith Blake, turning a blind eye to her witchy ways; but he did raise a great kid (Team Hallie), owns that gorgeous ranch, and hired Chessy.
Roger Perron (Ron Livingstone) – The Conjuring
The classic tale of a family moving into a haunted house. We’ve seen it before, but Ron’s character is something to admire in the horror genre. He doesn’t leave his wife during her possession, and he almost instantly believes her and the kids when they tell him spooky things are happening in their house and acts on them immediately. Oh, and he looks great in a pair of classic Levi’s.
Wilbur Turnblad (Jerry Stiller) – Hairspray
We’re talking OG Hairspray here, friends. This simple-minded, loving guy runs a joke shop, embraces Tracy’s natural beauty and creativity, and goes toe-to-toe with the effervescent, albeit grumpy, Edna Turnblad.
Dave Hooch (Eddie Jones) – A League of their Own
Speaking of fathers who support and encourage their kid’s natural beauty and talents, we give you Dave Hooch, father of Marla Hooch. When Daves takes his daughter to her tryouts, she knocks it out of the park (or gym, rather), but is rejected by the scout because of her looks. Not happy with that outcome, Dave pleads his daughter’s case, delivering a short yet tear-filled monologue that makes her a Rockford Peach.
Jack Walsh (Harry Dean Stanton) – Pretty in Pink
He’s such a pathetic character in theory, but Jack understands both Andy’s position and the position he’s put her in. He tries his best in a difficult situation and ultimately wants her to be happy. Andy is seen as an outcast in school, the girl from the other side of the tracks, but at least she has her dad who is always a sympathetic and supportive pal to her.
Sydney (Phillip Baker Hall) – Hard Eight
Certainly, the most unapologetic (and potentially most corrupt of the bunch), Sydney’s main purpose is to foster John, whose own father’s life was taken by Sydney himself. Sydney sure has his faults, bestowing such knowledge as how to card count and scam casinos out of their own money, but it comes from a good place. He does everything in his power to provide John and Clementine with both a good life and a fresh start.
Mark Day (Josh Hamilton) – Eighth Grade
Mark is given the difficult task of raising an awkward teenager in modern society. He has no clue how to parent or understand a teenage girl, but he checks in, asks questions, and gives Kayla her space, which is what she needs to navigate her teenage angst. Also, bonus points for not bringing up the banana-blow job incident.
Bobby (Willem Dafoe) – The Florida Project
The loveable, good-hearted manager truly loves all the children that reside in his motel, The Magic Castle. Bobby makes sure they’re safe and turns a blind eye in judgment to the parent’s questionable motives. He makes a pretty bleak situation into an imaginary playground for these kids, patiently watching them live through a horrible living situation. And let’s not forget about the soda scene.
Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang Ho) – Parasite
Trying to make ends meet for his family, Kim makes a living folding pizza boxes and other thankless jobs, but as his children get more creative in how the family makes a living, he continues to support them without question. No matter how far they veer ethically, he just wants them to have a better shot than he did. Plus, he sacrifices his freedom for the sake of his family at the end of the film.
Hector Faulkner (Sam Neil) – Hunt for the WilderPeople
Hector and his wife take in troublemaker Ricky. After Hector’s wife suddenly dies, he reluctantly embarks on a five-week-long saga in the bush with Ricky running from the law. He understands what being an outcast feels like, and does everything he can to ensure Ricky gets a fair chance at life.
Juan (Mahershala Ali) – Moonlight
One of the most tender bonds in recent film history, the love, and magnetism between Juan and Chiron is undeniable. Juan takes Chiron in, saves him from his bullies and his drug-addicted mother, while giving him guidance and teaching him good graces, never once judging or coiling away from Chiron’s true self. Juan acts as a mentor to Chiron on his path to accepting himself, which is one of the most important values a parent can teach a child.
*This is a great reminder that not all of us may have fathers in our lives. What’s important is that we keep ourselves safe and put up boundaries that are necessary for our well-being. With that, we give a major shout-out to those who may not be fathers, but have taught, changed, or mentored an idea, circumstance, or situation in another person’s life. And to all the parents out there kicking ass and doing their part, we tip our metaphorical hat off to you.