For better or for worse, dads were an essential part of many of this year’s best movies. They weren’t always superheroes, but they did their best… and some did their worst. With the year coming to a close, take a look back at the best and worst movie dads of the year.
Everyone has a favorite movie dad, whether it’s Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire, Steve Martin in Father of the Bride, or even Albert Brooks as Marlin in Finding Nemo.
Of course, dads aren’t always perfect. In fact, some movie dads can be downright awful. Darth Vader was hardly a father figure worth looking up to. Kubrick’s The Shining featured one of the worst movie dads of all time.
So, in honor of these great and not-so-great movie dads, we decided to take a look back at the five best and worst dads in movies this year. Take a look below!
The worst movie dads
5. Woody Harrelson, ‘The Glass Castle’
Woody Harrelson’s character, Rex, in The Glass Castle rides the line between good dad and bad dad for much of the film. But ultimately, it’s difficult to make a case for him to be in the good dad list. His abusive and alcoholic tendencies combined with his carelessness and volatility as a father figure land him firmly on the bad dad list.
However, since the story is based on a true story, it’s not surprising that Rex is portrayed as such a complex character. As a dad with both serious faults and redeemable qualities, he is one of the more interesting additions to this list. While he is surely a bad dad, he’s definitely a compelling character.
4. Joel Edgerton, ‘It Comes at Night’
Director Trey Edward Schults’ second feature film It Comes at Night stars Joel Edgerton as Paul, one of the worst movie dads of the year. As an unnatural and mysterious threat wreaks havoc around the world, Paul protects his family by keeping them inside a secluded home in the woods. After a break in and an encounter with a nearby family, Paul makes certain decisions that lead to devastating conclusions. Despite his efforts to protect his family, Paul’s decisions put him squarely on the list of worst movie dads of the year.
3. Colin Farrell, ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’
If you’ve seen The Killing of a Sacred Deer, the new film from director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, Dogtooth), you know exactly why Steven Murphy (played by Colin Farrell) is on this list. If you haven’t seen it, we won’t spoil it for you – but don’t say you weren’t warned. Let’s just say, this movie shares something in common with Sophie’s Choice.
Steven Murphy is faced with an unstoppable force that threatens his entire family. The audience watches, in excruciating detail, as he comes to terms with how he will protect his family. Lanthimos’ films are known for their focus on the darker side of human nature and his newest film pushes that element to the limit, putting a truly terrible dad at the center of it all.
2. Bradley Whitford, ‘Get Out’
Chris is anxious about meeting his white girlfriend’s family for the first time. As a black man, he expects to encounter at the very least mild discomfort during the visit to Rose’s family’s country home. What he doesn’t expect is to walk into a trap set by her family, led by her father Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford).
Jordan Peele’s film Get Out, a social satire that crosses both comedy and horror genres, hit the zeitgeist in a big way this year. Its incisive take on race relations in America made it one of the timeliest films of the year. Bradley Whitford’s role as a white patriarch that leads a community of white individuals that use black bodies to secure immortality is one of the most disturbing in the film. He typifies a distinct archetype of racism and intolerance, easily landing him a spot as one of the worst movie dads of 2017.
1. Javier Bardem, ‘mother!’
Darren Aronofsky’s new film mother! inspired a lot of excitement and outrage when it premiered earlier this fall. Led by Jennifer Lawrence, mother! is a psychological horror film that features some of the most ambitious filmmaking and controversial storytelling on the big screen this year. Without giving too much away, Javier Bardem’s character – whose name we never learn (on IMDb he is listed as “Him”) – plays a tortured poet with a cult following. He’s also Jennifer Lawrence’s husband and the father of her child.
In one of the most grotesque and horrifying scenes in film this year, Javier hands over his newborn son to a raving crowd of his fans and the result is that of nightmares. Javier Bardem is, hands down, the worst movie dad of 2017.
The best movie dads
5. Ray Romano, ‘The Big Sick’
After his daughter Emily falls into coma as the result of a mysterious illness, her father Terry (played by Ray Romano) shows up to help oversee her care. Together with his wife Beth (Holly Hunter), Terry struggles to cope with Emily’s coma while getting to know her on-again, off-again boyfriend Kumail. The film follows these characters through Emily’s sickness, but all the while, Terry demonstrates a warmth and kindness – not just towards his daughter, but towards Kumail. Terry welcomes Kumail into the fold as a member of the family. Contrasted against Kumail’s own struggles with his parents, Terry’s actions make him one of the best movie dads of the year.
4. Hugh Jackman, ‘Logan’
Hugh Jackman has played Logan in the X-Men movies several times, but in this year’s film directed by James Mangold, he also played the role of a father. The film follows Logan in his attempt to protect a young mutant, Laura, from those tracking her down with intent to kill. Since mutants are almost entirely extinct, Laura’s existence is hugely significant and Logan puts himself in mortal danger to protect her. It helps, of course, that he is technically Laura’s father – as his DNA was used to create Laura in a lab. Over and over again, Logan makes difficult choices to protect Laura and care for her in ways that no one else can, easily making him one of the best movie dads of the year.
3. Tracy Letts, ‘Lady Bird’
Director Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age film about a girl desperately trying to leave her hometown of Sacramento has resonated with audiences in a big way. The film currently holds the record for the most positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes ever. Nestled into this story is one of the best movie dads of the year. Tracy Letts plays Larry McPherson, a down-on-his luck but happy-go-lucky dad that works hard to provide for his family. When Lady Bird expresses her desire to go to college out of state, her dad works to make it happen for her, even if it requires sacrifices on his part. His character demonstrates the remarkable generosity of fatherhood and it’s what makes him one of the best movie dads of the year.
2. Harrison Ford, ‘Blade Runner 2049’
In Blade Runner 2049, it’s revealed that Harrison Ford’s character Deckard put his daughter into hiding to protect her from those powers that sought to kill her. When explaining his relationship with her, or lack thereof, he says, “Sometimes to love someone, you got to be a stranger.” It’s a poignant statement that articulates up the extreme sacrifice he made to protect his daughter. His selflessness provided for her safety, landing him a spot on the list of best movie dads of the year.
1. Michael Stuhlbarg, ‘Call Me by Your Name’
Michael Stuhlbarg’s character in Call Me by Your Name is hands down the best movie dad of the year. Throughout the film, he demonstrates kindness, understanding, support, and empathy towards his son Elio. He reaches out to his son when he seems lost, he gives Elio the space he needs to discover himself, and he comforts him when he needs it. Stuhlbarg’s performance will leave audiences in tears – his fatherly portrayal is unlike anything that has been captured on film in recent memory. It is a character that acts from love, pure and unadulterated, and that will resonant with audiences for years to come.