One of my great joys in life is being a father. It’s a blessing that is beyond expression. As with many wonderful things in life, the movies have a way of capturing them and reminding us of their beauty. On the flip side cinema can also show us darker things. When it comes to fathers movies have shown us the good and the bad. This list looks at some of the more abominable fathers of the big screen. There have been a number of detestable movie dads over the years so I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. But I have no problem calling these five movie fathers phenomenally horrible.
#5 – Royal Tenenbaum (“The Royal Tenenbaums”)
Over the years Wes Anderson has come up with a wide assortment of characters. One of them is a father who is right at home on this list. Royal Tenenbaum (played by Gene Hackman) has all of the characteristics of a horrible dad plus a few. He steals money from his kids, shows obvious favoritism, belittles them, and always thinks of himself first. If that doesn’t convince you how about faking stomach cancer in order to get back in their good graces? Yep, Royal Tenenbaum definitely belongs on this list.
#4 – Wade (“Joe”)
I had a very unique impulse while watching Wade in David Gordon Green’s “Joe”. I wanted to jump through the screen and strangle the guy myself. Wade is a vile and detestable drunk who abuses his family both mentally and physically. And this only scratches the surface of his sickening behavior. I won’t spoil it, but lets just say he does some things that will make you cringe. Wade was played by Gary Poulter, a real life homeless man who was found dead before the film was ever released. It was a sad development for someone who gave a great performance.
#3 – Jack Torrance (“The Shining”)
It’s really a shame that Jack Torrance had to make this list. He has a loving wife and a sweet (but unique) little boy. They get a gorgeous mountain resort all to themselves for the winter which is a perfect place for Jack to continue his writing. But there is something about chasing your son around the hotel with an axe that will get you on this particular list. You know the story, Jack goes insane. We see his mental slide reveal itself in his relationship to his family but once he reaches the point of murdering them…well, lets just say he won’t be winning any “Father of the Year” awards.
#2 – Daniel Plainview (“There Will Be Blood”)
I think Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in “There Will Be Blood” is one of the greatest single acting performances of all time. That’s pretty high praise, right? Well I think it is earned. His Daniel Plainview is a self-centered and unscrupulous businessman who uses his young son H.W. as a tool to persuade land owners to allow him to drill for oil on their property. We get vague signs that Daniel has some form of affection for the boy. But ultimately his negligence and business approach to his son is a most devious form of abuse. It all comes to the surface in a final confrontation between the two close to the end. Daniel Plainview is a fascinating but ultimately horrible father.
#1 – Darth Vader (“Star Wars” trilogy)
I’ve offered up an assortment of terrible fathers who have a number of detestable vices, but none of them can be called a galactic tyrant. Well, not until now. It could be said that Darth Vader (aka Anakin Skywalker) gets a little pass because he didn’t know Luke and Leia were his children. I object. Just look what he did after he uttered those famous words “I am your father”. He tortured his son’s best friend and sent him off with a bounty hunter. He chopped off his son’s hand. Upon finding out about Leia’s existence he thinks it’s a good idea to kidnap her and turn her to the dark side. Add his murderous past to the equation and you have one rotten father. But thank goodness for those great moments of redemption.
So there are five pretty crummy movie fathers. What say you? Do you have a bad dad to add to this list? Please head to the comments section below and share your choices or thoughts on mine!