From Jor-El’s baby-saving engineering to Bryan Mills’ daughter-rescuing-skills, we’ve been taking notes on child-rearing from our screen heroes since we were kids ourselves.
Who didn’t secretly want Darth Vader to breathe “I am your father…”, or have John Matrix wreck a mall and an entire villa complex just to save them from the bad guys? Now, you may soon be that dad – building stuff (probably flatpack furniture, rather than space-pods), keeping a keen eye (nanny cam first, full-blown MI5 monitoring later) and clearing all known threats (in the playground, at least). Here’s our guide to the teachings of film and TV’s greatest fathers.
17. Phil Dunphy (Modern Family)
Forever trying and failing to be the ultimate cool dad, you’ll know he’ll be there for you when you really need him, albeit with a slew of dad jokes in tow.
Fatherly advice: “Act like a parent, talk like a peer. I call it ‘peer-renting’.”
16. Hal Wilkerson (Malcolm in the Middle)
Look, Hal might not do things by the book, but let’s face it, he’s probably the most fun dad anyone could ever wish for.
Fatherly advice: Know your kids.
Reese: Hey, Dad? I have a little situation that maybe you can help me out with. There's this girl who...
Hal: I suggest that you leave her alone before she calls the police on you.
Reese: Okay, thanks.
15. Clark Griswold (National Lampoon’s Vacation)
Whether he’s accidentally eating sandwiches soaked in dog urine or facing down rude French waiters, Clark is the king of overcoming paternal adversity. And to think, this was all before low-budget air travel.
Fatherly advice: Be realistic about holidays. “When I was a boy, just about every summer we’d take a vacation. And you know, in 18 years, we never had fun.”
14. Noah Levenstein (American Pie)
Sporting untamed eyebrows and short-sleeved shirts, Jim’s dad harks back to his experiences to illustrate the ways of the world for his mortified son.
Fatherly advice: Make the effort to bond. “I did a fair bit of masturbating when I was a little younger. I used to call it stroking the salami.”
13. Big Daddy (Kick Ass)
With a superhero name and alpha papa status, wronged cop Macready is primed for a violent reprise, with his daughter Mindy as a most unexpected sidekick.
Fatherly advice: Prepare kids for nasty surprises. “At close range like this, the force is going to take you off your feet for sure, but it’s really no more painful than a punch in the chest.”
12. Michael Bluth (Arrested Development)
With his own dad locked up, sensible Michael exercises extreme self-restraint as the new man of the house for the insane Bluth rabble.
Fatherly advice: Protect them from danger. “This is a Bluth family celebration. It’s no place for children.”
11. Man (The Road)
Inhabits a ruined world, but the Man strives to keep his boy safe.
Fatherly advice: Use alternative bedtime stories. “When you dream about bad things happening, it means you’re fighting and you’re still alive. It’s when you start to dream about good things that you should start to worry.”
10. Furious Styles (Boyz N The Hood)
With his son given to him by his ex, this excellently named pa becomes a ball-breaking law enforcer.
Fatherly advice: Have ‘The Talk’. “How many times have I told you? If a girl says she’s on the pill, you use somethin’ anyway. Pill ain’t goin’ to keep your dick from falling off.”
9. Don Vito Corleone (The Godfather)
He’s mumbling patriarch of the powerful Mafia family, but it’s his children that are subject to the richest experience at the oft-kissed hands of Vito Corleone.
Fatherly advice: Put in some quality hours with the clan. “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”
8. Philip Banks (The Fresh Prince of Bel Air)
Poor Uncle Phil, constantly having to deal with his errant nephew Will, his cheeky son Carlton and two difficult daughters, yet he is the consumate dad, always there for all of them and never short of excellent advice.
Fatherly advice: Man up to your responsibilities: “I am your father. It is my job to protect you. It’s a job I refuse to quit, and at which I can’t afford to fail.”
7. Jor-El (Man of Steel)
Kindly Jor-El (Russell Crowe’s depiction, not Marlon Brando’s) is a moral educator, teaching his son right from wrong, keeping him safe. Even when saving his offspring from Krypton’s Armageddon, he’s kind enough to include an interactive dad programme.
Fatherly advice: A little bit of pressure is a good thing. “They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun.”
6. Ned Stark (Game of Thrones)
Clearly subscribing to ‘scare them straight’ parenting, Ned taught the Stark kids about honour by, erm, forcing them to watch him lop off a deserter’s head. Still, he’s the ultimate warrior dad. He’ll give you cute direwolf pups, and “Winter is coming” is basically a fancy phrase for “Put a coat on”.
Fatherly advice: Don’t be above hyperbole. “War was easier than daughters!”
5. Jack Byrnes (Meet the Parents)
His daughter-devotion and CIA monitoring make him a figurehead for forbidding father-in-laws.
Fatherly advice: Keep your eyes on the interloper. “I will be watching you, and if I find that you are trying to corrupt my first-born child, I will bring you down, baby. I will bring you down to Chinatown.”
4. John Matrix (Commando)
Big, bicep-y hugs, letting her smear Mr Whippy round your mush, fishing, teaching her kickboxing: great, hands-on parenting. Rescuing her from camp chainmail-donning bad guys? That’s next-level.
Fatherly advice: Let them twist your arm. Or shoot it off. “Let the girl go, it’s me that you want, I only have one arm, you can beat me!”
3. Bryan Mills (Taken)
The special-ops dad, often spotted frogmarching their teenage daughter home from a night on the WKDs, has some serious vigilante skills in a crisis. Luckily most won’t face their offspring being kidnapped on another continent, but Bryan’s ‘particular set of skills’ could come in handy for scaring the bejesus out of teenage suitors.
Fatherly advice: Stay focused. “I’m not trying to beat the state. I’m trying to save my daughter.”
2. Homer Simpson (The Simpsons)
Homer’s fathering is divisive, but the Maggie-inspired ‘Do it for her’ sign at his desk proves his generous heart.
Fatherly advice: Accept limitations. “The saddest day of my life was when I realised I could beat my dad at most things, and Bart experienced that at the age of four.”
1. Darth Vader (Star Wars)
Like any dad, he faces petulance from his offspring. Sure, his Forceful methods of chastisement and telekinetic chokeholds were a little hardline. But Lord Vader eventually killed his boss and saved the galaxy, all for the love of his son.
Fatherly advice: Bring them into the family business. “Luke, you can destroy the Emperor... Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.”