The Top Ten Worst Movie Dads For Father’s Day
Looking back at our Top Ten Mother’s Day list, you’d get the impression that Hollywood had a very troubling childhood. Finding 10 memorably malevolent mothers was easier than shooting fish in a barrel. Which would be pretty easy, if you were completely psychotic…like most of the moms on our list. But Dad’s must have it equally bad, right?
Nope. Nearly every film about fatherhood I could come up with features a dopey, out of his league, sympathetic dad. Apparently Mom did all of the spanking and grounding in the household.
Well, that blatant sexism will not stand here at Deluxe Video Online. If we could find 10 absolutely deplorable women for Mother’s Day, you can be damn sure we’ll leave no stone unturned to bring you 10 deliciously devilish dads for Father’s Day. So pop a cold one with the old man and fire up some of these films about fatherhood gone wrong. I’m sure he’ll appreciate the effort, like when he pretended to enjoy all those awful bottles of after-shave you gave him as a child.
#10. Vito Corleone, The Godfather.
The outer-most circle of Fatherhood Hell is reserved for dads who really need to make a career transition before raising a family. Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, seems like an attentive father: He throws a lavish wedding for his only daughter, takes an active interest in his two sons, Michael and Sonny, and even helps his godson advance his career in the film industry…by sending the severed head of a racing horse to the executive producer of the studio who was a tad slow to add him to the production. Vito tries to shelter his children from the dangers of his trade (said trade being running the largest crime family in New York) by sending them out of state when things get hairy, but the chickens eventually come home to roost. Mob violence claims the life of his eldest boy, Sonny, and his son Michael’s wife is blown to smithereens by a bomb intended for him. Even when Michael tries to take the family legit, he ends up becoming his father’s son and brutally murdering the rival mobsters, securing for himself the title of Godfather.
#9. Michael Sullivan, Road to Perdition.
Tom Hanks likewise makes a poor role model for his young son in Road to Perdition. This time the setting is the Irish mafia in Illinois, which is one place I did not expect to find a lot of Irish people. Go figure. Michael Sullivan is an enforcer for the mob, and has grown up under the guidance of family head John Rooney (Paul Newman) who himself has an unstable and violent natural son, Connor. This family tradition inspires one of the worst cases of “bring your son to work day” on record as Connor drags Michael into an ill-conceived shake-down, where Michael has to murder several men while his own son witnesses the deed from the car. Connor then betrays Michael, kills his wife and other son, and forces the two Sullivans to flee to Chicago. There, Michael has a change of heart, teaches his son to shun violence, and takes a steady job in an office…Just kidding. He totally makes his 12 year-old son drive the get-away car as he recklessly robs banks full of Al Capone’s money. Brilliant. After murdering a full regiment of armed men in order to get his pyrrhic revenge, Michael again brings his work home with him, in the form of a very persistent assassin played by Jude Law. Good work, Dad.
#8. H.I. McDunnough, Raising Arizona.
Whereas Vito and Michael were cagey criminals whose families became collateral damage, H.I. McDunnough (Nicolas Cage) is a perennial screw-up and two-bit criminal who actively courts ruining his family. Married to a policewoman whom he met at a mugshot session (Holly Hunter), Cage has dreams of settling down and raising a family. The only problem is that the couple cannot conceive. Despite everything he touches turning to shit, McDunnough decides the best course of action is to kidnap a baby from quintet of children who belong to a very rich businessman, Nathan Arizona. That’s strike one: probably don’t steal from a man with every means in his possession to hunt you down and make your life hell. The luckless couple are then visited by escaped convicts who attempt to draw Cage back into the life of crime. Strike two: don’t harbor fugitives, when you yourself are trying to live a low-key life of kidnapping and wedded bliss. When word of the child’s rich sire becomes known, pretty much everyone who knows the couple attempt to re-kidnap the child in hopes of a big bounty. Hilarity ensues…unless you work for Child Protective Services, in which case you’ve already chewed through your own fists over all of the idiocy on display by these would-be parents. Oh, and strike three? Don’t have a marital blowout while attempting to steal diapers for the child you’ve kidnapped. I mean, come on, that ones pretty obvious.
#7. Royal Tenenbaum, The Royal Tenenbaums.
Here we’ve arrived at the inner circles of Fatherhood Hell: These fathers aren’t just negligent, they’re actively awful individuals. Royal, played with characteristic charisma and deviousness by Gene Hackman, is about the worst candidate for father in the world: he’s selfish, a grandiose liar, and has a penchant for betting on dog fights…which he takes his son Richie to. Despite being raised by an inveterate charlatan, the Tenenbaum children are spectacularly gifted, and seem poised to become successful adults. Until Royal casually drops the news of his separation from from their mother Etheline (the always wonderful Angelica Houston) and then proceeds to disappear for the next two decades.
Fast forward to a family on the edge of self-destruction. All three children have nearly succumbed to a host of neurotic behaviors, mostly attributable to Royal’s unique parenting style, and Royal is himself on the verge of destitution. Into this toxic mix comes news of Etheline’s impending nuptials, and a hair-brained scheme by Royal to fake a fatal illness in order to “unite” his family around him one last time. That goes about as well as one would imagine. Despite stealing from his children, shooting them with BB guns, and taking them to illegal dog fights (oh, and faking CANCER), Royal manages to even botch being a bad dad: eventually, his family turns out alright. Except for the dog. The dog gets run over by a car…in the living room. You had to be there.
#6. Harry Wormwood, Matilda.
Harry Wormwood (Danny DeVito) is about the slimiest dad you could imagine: he sells faulty (and deadly) used cars, constantly belittles his daughter Matilda for reading, forgets her name (and age), and even keeps her out of school so somebody is around to sign for packages. These are all pretty awful, but his biggest crime is right under his nose: he sports the world’s worst Dick Dastardly mustache. I mean, just look at that sinister cookie duster. No good ever came from somebody with a hairy caterpillar like that on his face. Sure, he ends up sending his daughter to a reformatory school that’s headed by what looks like the unholy spawn of the Church Lady and Attila the Hun, but I’m pretty sure you can trace all Matilda’s woes back to that dirt squirrel residing on DeVito’s upper lip.
#5. Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood.
Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day Lewis) takes his work a touch seriously. So seriously that he constantly endangers the life of his workers and adopted son working on rickety oil derricks. Eventually his cavalier attitude towards danger leads to his son losing his hearing in an explosion at an unsafe well. Rather than create tenderness towards to boy, this impairment enrages Daniel, who we eventually learn had only taken the boy in as a prop so he could dupe investors as a family man. He forces the boy out of his life, and when he returns as a grown man, looking to end his partnership in the “family business” and to preserve his relationship with Daniel as a father, Daniel goes off on an epic tirade, calling him less than a bastard and pretty much devastating him. Through fraud, deception, theft, and even murder, Daniel has built his thriving empire, and he’s not about to let something like human decency or familial ties scuttle his dreams…of cutting every other human being out his life. Who’s the bastard, now?
#4. Ed Wilson, Natural Born Killers.
Rodney Dangerfield’s performance as the abusive father to serial psychopath Mallory Knox (Juliette Lewis) is a revelation. Of course, the book at the end of the Bible where the world ends and people get tossed into hell is a Revelation, too. Watching Dangerfield turn his usual amiable gruffness into a cesspit of rage, abuse, and perversion is mesmerizing. It’s like watching Ralph Kramdem from The Honeymooners threaten to send Alice to the moon…and then actually start working her over. Sure, Mallory becomes a twisted serial murderer on a thrill-kill spree, but after watching this, you can hardly blame her.
#3. Jack Torrence, The Shining.
Jack Torrence has some issues that prevent him from being an attentive father. He’s at a sensitive spot in his career, and has taken the family away from civilization (way away from civilization) in order to overcome his writer’s block. So young Danny Torrence is going to have to spend a winter in a secluded hotel, miles from the nearest neighbor, with some…questionable housemates. Sure, seeing the ghosts of two murdered children every day while you idle away the time completely isolated from humanity is rough. But it’s not like his life is in danger…
Oops, did I forget to mention Jack’s other issue? Yeah, turns out he is a washed out alcoholic with a history of domestic violence, who would literally shake the devil’s hand for a drink. Add to this that the demons living in the hotel have an apparent problem with unattended children, which Jack happily agrees to fix…by attempting to murder his family. At least Danny has a wise old protector looking out for him…
Oh. Wait. Scratch that.
Yup, Danny’s screwed.
#2. Darth Vader, Star Wars Trilogy.
What Annakin Skywalker lacks in parental skill, he more than makes up for with style. Goose stepping around in his giant black respirator/power armor, Vader is the ultimate imposing father figure. This dramatic persona would no doubt help him to keep a well disciplined family…had he not choked his wife to her apparent death, ordered his daughter to be tortured before making her watch him blow up her home planet, and then embarked on a galaxy wide manhunt to find (and murder) his son, Luke. So, I don’t think the Skywalkers are going to be fans of Darth’s version of Father Knows Best. Also, chopping of your son’s arm in order to “persuade” him into the family line of work is probably frowned upon. You should also not follow this tactic by threatening to do the same to his sister unless he agrees to fight you to the death in order to win a job promotion. A bit on the heavy handed side, you know?
Surely, this makes Darth Vader the galaxy’s worst dad, right?
#1. God, The Passion of the Christ et al.
Old pizza-face Skywalker has nothing on the original tough-love father: God. According to the New Testament, Yahweh decides he’s tired of his adoptive children making a bloody mess of the world, and he’s going to send his true son to show them how much he loves them…by making a bloody mess of him. Or Him. Honestly, the capitalization gets a bit hard to follow when you’re dealing with all of these Thees and Thous.
Unfortunately, in order to get JC off the bench and into the game, the Alpha and Omega is going to have to screw over his earthly dad. You know, kind of like Marlon Brando did to Pa Kent in Superman (see it all comes together.) Once the hanky panky with Mary is over, Joseph is going to have to raise God’s child for him, knowing that messing up his education is probably going to have some nasty consequences. Holy smoke, Maury Povich would have a field day with this stuff.
Now, when a Greek god gets up to no good with a mortal woman, at least the resulting offspring was blessed with amazing talents. Sure, Hercules had some step-mother issues that led to…unpleasantness…but at the end of the day he got to be, well, Hercules. Not a bad gig. So obviously, Jesus is going to get some kick ass powers, and live a totally heroic life, right.
Eh…not so much. I mean, I can really get behind free wine and endless fish sandwiches, but that’s less of a super-power and more of a great weekend promotion at The Sizzler. And as far as the downside to Jesus’ mission…lets just say that the 30 years of anonymity, poverty, and ridicule by his friends and countrymen are the high point of the experience.
So, for kicking the Ever Loving crap out of his son in order to make history’s most definitive point, the Award for Worst Movie Dad has to go to God the Father. Though, technically, he was beating himself up there…Oh well, that crap with Jacob and Issac was pretty ludicrous too, so he still wins.