One of the most extraordinary things about Stranger Things is the way that one of its main characters, Hopper, becomes a surrogate father for El. In fact, in many ways, he is an idealized father figure, for those he’s overprotective at times, but he’s also not afraid to tell her and show her that he loves and cares about her.
He joins a long line of father figures, particularly in the movies, who do a good job of modeling positive masculinity. The users of Reddit have helpfully identified a number of the most important and influential of these famous fathers.
10 Tom Bueller
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is often seen as one of the best movies of the 1980s. Though its title character is obviously the center of the story, Redditors have also pointed out how important his father is. Treesandapples is particularly effusive, writing: “Tom Bueller (Ferris’ dad) probably has the most positive relationship I have ever seen between a teenage son and his dad in a movie.”
Given that this was the 1980s, a period marked by its investment in machismo, the tenderness Tom shows toward his son is all the more remarkable and laudatory. It shows that, even when a dominant ideology dictates that masculinity should appear in a certain way, it is possible for movies, like Ferris Bueller, to work against the grain.
9 Gomez Addams
The Addams Family movies are, it is safe to say, as strange as their television predecessor, focusing as they do on the various macabre members of the title family, including Gomez. However, though Gomez is as morbid as the rest of his clan, the truth is that he is actually a very good father, showing open affection toward both his children and his wife.
Vance_Petrol agrees wholeheartedly, writing, “Gomez Addams is the best onscreen dad. He loves his wife unendingly and is nothing but supportive and loving to his children and family.” In fact, throughout the movies, and the TV series before it, Gomez is an ideal portrait of masculinity. Most importantly, he is demonstrative in his affection, making it clear just how much he cares about and loves both his wife and his children.
8 Atticus Finch
To Kill a Mockingbird is widely regarded as a classic and one of the best courtroom dramas. It is also a searing indictment of racism in America. What’s more, it also features Atticus Finch, a powerful role from Gregory Peck and a strong example of what a kind and loving father can look like on the big screen.
No-Known-Alias has strong praise for Peck’s performance, writing: “Gregory Peck nailed it, Atticus is epic af.” Indeed, Peck excels at creating a man who is firm in his principles and yet also willing to show tenderness and love toward his daughter. It’s to Peck’s credit that he was able to bring out the remarkable warmth and sophistication of this beloved literary character, which helps to explain why Atticus has become so beloved for so long.
Goofy is, of course, one of the most beloved and iconic of the many characters created by Disney. And, in A Goofy Movie, he also shows that he is one of the best dads in the history of that studio. Though he can be a bit smothering when it comes to his son, Max, the truth is that he is simply afraid of losing him and wants to cherish the time they have left before the latter goes off to college.
Many Redditors showed themselves willing to come to his defense, including kormer, who argues: “Goofy is the best movie dad and I’m tired of pretending he’s not.” Indeed, throughout the movie Goofy shows just how much he cares about and loves Max. This is all the more remarkable considering how reluctant Max is to accept his father’s affections.
6 Mr. Perlman
Call Me By Your Name is one of the best pieces of LGBTQ+ moviemaking of the 21st century. Though the romance between Elio and Oliver is the centerpiece of the movie, it also features a stirring speech from the former’s father, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, who essentially tells his son that he will always love him, regardless of his sexuality and understands his grief at losing Oliver.
Sylalbun writes eloquently of Mr. Perlman: “His talk with his son, near the end of the movie, about love and life is one of the kindest things I’ve ever seen and it almost puts the movie in fairytale genre with father’s absolutely perfect behavior.” In that sense, Mr. Perlman’s unquestioning acceptance of Elio is something that strikes a chord with many viewers, who see in him the paragon of what non-toxic paternal masculinity can and should look like.
The Lion King is widely regarded as one of the best Disney movies. There are many reasons for this, but there’s no question that Mufasa is part of it. A wise and benevolent king, he is also tender and loving toward his son, though not afraid to tell him in no uncertain terms when he is wrong.
Unsurprisingly, he has become very beloved among the Disney fan base, who see him as a paragon of positive masculinity. Blueshirt-69 says he is “Always giving sage advice and loving his son while enforcing and providing boundaries. All the while doing a great job of running a d*amn good kingdom.” Of all the parents who appear in Disney movies, Mufasa is arguably one of the best, and it’s for this reason that his death at the hands of his villainous brother Scar is all the more wrenching, and devastating, for those who love the movie.
4 Eddie Darko
Donnie Darko is a strange and haunting movie, focusing as it does on a young man who is tortured by visions of a potential end of the world. His father is one of those kindly figures who nevertheless treats his son with respect, love, and kindness.
As throwitpretty far points out, “He talks frankly and openly with his son.” Given how rare it is sometimes to see two men, let alone a father and a son, speak to one another in these respectful and tender terms, this is truly a good thing. Just as importantly, it is also a powerful reminder of how popular culture representations of fatherhood can be a positive model toward which others can aspire, particularly when it comes to how parents respond to their children’s emotional and mental struggles.
3 Jim’s Dad
American Pie is one of the funniest movies from the late 1990s, and though the adolescents and their various erotic antics are the centers of the movie, it has to be said that Jim’s dad is also a fine character in his own right.
As portrayed by Eugene Levy, he is the type of father who takes his son’s various misbehaviors in stride. In fact, he is endlessly supportive which, given how much trouble Jim gets into, is no small thing. Fiendo13 puts it this way: “I think the dad in American pie is probably the most supporting, loving, and understanding father to a teenage boy I’ve ever seen in a movie. Eugene levy ftw.” What is especially notable about Jim’s dad is how he manages to overcome his own obvious awkwardness to speak openly with his son about sexuality. There’s a reason that he has become one of the most beloved characters in the franchise.
2 Great Prince Of The Forest
Though it might be one of the more underappreciated Disney movies, there is still much to recommend Bambi. In particular, Bambi’s father shows himself to be a model of positive masculinity, in that he takes the young deer under his wing after the unfortunate death of his mother. It’s a remarkable moment, the rich emotions captured in the movie’s subtle animation.
Revlis-TK421 says: “They started off rocky but given the context of deer society and the death of Bambi’s mom, I can’t really overly fault him. And the end he’s a pretty good dad.” Bambi’s father, and the positive way in which he is depicted, is all the more remarkable considering how frequently parents in Disney movies, particularly fathers, are absent altogether.
1 Calvin Jarrett
Donald Sutherland has repeatedly shown that he is one of the greatest actors working in Hollywood. One of his most notable roles is as Calvin Jarrett in Ordinary People, in which he plays a father whose son struggles with mental illness. He brings out tremendous humanity and richness inherent in the role, and his appearance particularly resonated with Reddit user chudsworth.
They write, “I think Donald Sutherland is such a good and realistic depiction of a father seeing his son struggle mentally. I saw it recently and his performance moved me a lot because it reminded me of my own dad.” Clearly, what makes Sutherland’s performance, and the character more generally, so compelling is its rich and raw intesity and authenticity, one which clearly echoes the experiences many have had in their own lives.
NEXT: The Best Dads in Television History