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25 Most Memorable Movie Fathers of The 21st Century

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The relationship between a father and his kids is strangely beautiful. Unlike the relationship you share with your mother, this is a pretty complex one. In one lifetime, the dynamics between you and your father keeps changing. Sometimes he plays an Authoritarian Teacher, on other days, he is a pal who is throwing balls at you. When you grow up, you two start behaving like acquaintances with little exchange of words until one day you see the wrinkles on your old man’s face and realize that now is the time for role reversals. The Child becomes the father and the father becomes the child. Here’s to the wonderful fathers, listing down 25 Most Memorable Movie Fathers of The 21st Century:




Paddy Conlon | Warrior [2011] | Played by Nick Nolte

In Gavin O’Connor’s ‘Warrior’ Nick Nolte plays Paddy Conlon. An alcoholic, abusive father of two ex-fighters, seeking for some kind of forgiveness and salvation. The role is specifically strong and powerful because it echoes real close to what Nolte experienced in his real life. The raw, real energy that he brought to the screen made you vouch for him in spite of all the wrongs he might have done in the past.

Matt King | The Descendants [2011] | Played by George Clooney

Alexander Payne’s ‘The Descendents’ would be a sad story of grief if it wasn’t for his witty writing and George Clooney brilliant central performance as Matt King, a land baron trying to reconnect with his two daughters after a tragic loss hits them. The Movie Father, Matt King is about a man trying to understand all the feelings that run through his head. The feelings that could make him a good father and a better human being.

Karim | The Song Of The Sparrows [2008] | Played by Mohammad Amir Naji

Majid Majidi’s The Song Of The Sparrows is an unforgettable film for me. A father running through a field with a blue door is probably one my favorite images in cinema history, ever. Majidi’s film is about Karim, an Ostrich-rancher who is fired from his job and had to go back and forth from his village home to the city of chaos in order to get his daughter a new hearing-aid.




Marlin | Finding Nemo [2003] | Voice by Albert Brooks

Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich’s ‘Finding Nemo’ is a story about a father’s journey to find his lost son. Marlin is a loving father, one who is too overprotective at times for his son who’s curiosity to know the world gets the better of him. The film was about Marlin’s struggle to investigate new and dangerous water to find his son. A beautifully animated ode to fatherhood.

Similar to Finding Nemo: The 15 Best Studio Ghibli Movies

Mr. Perlman | Call Me By Your Name [2017] | Played by Michael Stuhlbarg

Image result for call me by your name Michael Stuhlbarg

If you were not moved by Michael Stuhlbarg’s little pep talk in the 2017 coming-of-age charmer Call Me By Your Name, I have only one question for you – Are you even human? Playing a historian who takes up a summer intern every year in his vacation home in Italy, Stulhbarg was calm, composed and incredibly mesmerizing while playing the dad to a confused 17-year-old on the cusp of understanding heartbreaks and all the simplicities and complications of first love. In doing so, he gave us one of the most amazing on-screen dads in any film ever.




Big Daddy/ Damon Macready | Kick-Ass [2010] | Played by Nicholas Cage

Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass features one of the better roles that Nic Cage has played in recent times. This time playing the movie father to the amazing ‘Hit-Girl’, Big Daddy was not the usual daddies in the town. He was overprotective of his kid, neither did he care to tell her wrongs if they were any. Big Daddy is memorable because he is exactly the opposite of all the superhero movie dads.

Mike Sullivan | Road to Perdition [2002] | Played by Tom Hanks


Sam Mendes’s Road To Perdition, was about Mike Sullivan, a loyal hitman who starts questioning his job, loyalty, and duty as a father when his son witnesses one of his killings. Featuring one of the best Tom Hanks performances till date, Mike Sullivan’s transformation in this tragic tale is one of the high points as to why he makes it to this list.




Bryan Mills | Taken [2008] | Played by Liam Neeson

Memorable enough just for the sake of one famous phone call, Pierre Morel’s Taken was about Bryan Mills, a retired special agent who gets mixed in a transfixing situation when his estranged 17-year-old daughter gets abducted. Using his very special set of skills Bryan tracks down the abductors and what goes down can be called nothing less than a father’s rage-storm.

Chris Gardner | The Pursuit Of Happyness [2006] | Played by Will Smith


Gabriele Muccino’s The Pursuit Of Happyness has been accused of portraying Chris Gardner wrongly, though, to audiences like us, Chris Gardner was an epitome of hard work and dedication while trying his best to be a feeding hand and a guide of profoundness to his young son.

Mr. O’Brian | The Tree Of Life [2011] | Played by Brad Pitt.

It’s hard to point out a memorable character in a Terrence Malik film but Mr. O’Brain remains a secured spot because he isn’t necessarily the ‘good dad’ that’s shown in most of the films. The grief-stricken Mr. O’Brian more than once moves between the boundaries of good and bad making his character even more authentic than it should be.




Cooper | Interstellar [2014] | Played by Matthew McConaughey

Behind all the sci-fi jargon, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar was about a father transcendent love for his daughter. Defying time and space, Cooper’s struggle to find a way to get to his daughter as the world seems to end is high on melodrama but keen on emotional relevance.

You may need this: Interstellar Explained

Mason Sr. | Boyhood [2014] | Played by Ethan Hawke


Mason. Sr from Richard Linklater’s Boyhood was the typical cool-dad each one of us wishes to have. One who gives you heart-breaking life lessons while also letting you onto the little-shared secret of the long lost ‘The Beatles’ album.

Dae-Su Oh | Oldboy [2003] | Played by Min-Sik Choi

The ones who have seen Chan-wook Park’s ‘Oldboy’, would either applaud or hate me for putting this on the list. However, there’s no denying the fact that Dae-Su Oh, who is kept captive for 15 years only to be released into a world of puzzles remains an unforgettable character.




Ryota Nonomiya | Like Father, Like Son [2013] | Played by Masaharu Fukuyama

Hirokazu Koreeda’s ‘Like Father, Like Son’ is a poetic ode to fatherhood. Masaharu Fukuyama plays Ryota, a career driven man who slowly gets to understand the real compassion and necessity behind the beautiful and understate bond between a father and a son.




Daya | Hotel Salvation [2016] | Played by Lalit Behl

Shubhashish Bhutiani’s Hotel Salvation was about a stubborn father reconnecting with his son while he is on the brinks of ultimate death. Featuring a wonderful performance by Lalit Behl, the film explored the necessity of bondage the widely misunderstood value of death. We are delighted to include an indian movie father in this list.

Woody Grant | Nebraska [2013] | Played by Bruce Dern.


In this list of movie fathers, we have two entries by Alexander Payne. Payne’s Nebraska was a bitter-sweet tale about an aging father who makes a trip to Nebraska claiming to have won a Million Dollar prize. Featuring one of the best performances by Bruce Dern, Woody Grant remains memorable for his constant brawls, long unaided walks and the innocent and adorable anger when told about his drinking problem.




Daniel Plainview | There Will Be Blood [2007] | Played by Daniel Day-Lewis

Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood features Daniel Day-Lewis channeling the Satan himself. A protective father is seen auctioning his acquired son for business, for power, and for wealth. The whole spectrum of selfishness shown by the father in one of the most intense sequences of the decade just goes to show how self-driven people are mostly hollow from the inside. Here is Daniel Plainview, who is pretty much an anti-hero in the realm of movie fathers.

Related Read: A Study on ‘There Will Be Blood’

Winfried | Toni Erdmann [2016] | Played by Peter Simonischek

Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann was about Winfried whose whole life is a series of practical jokes. Trying to connect with his workaholic daughter Winfried creates an alter ego and gets himself and his daughter in hilarious, absurd, yet soul-touching moments of emotional togetherness.

Roy | Midnight Special [2016] | Played by Michael Shannon

Movie Fathers Midnight Special
Jeff Nichols’s Midnight Special was about Roy trying to understand and get his son to the safest possible place before the world tries to destroy him. Unable to decide and understand what his son truly is, Roy shows compassion and love that any usual father would.

Riggan Thomson | Birdman [2014] | Played by Michael Keaton

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ‘Birdman’ was about an artist in his decaying age. But the climax hints us towards the grand realization that Riggan Thomas’s greatest achievement was, in fact, those last few moments of serene understanding that he shares with his daughter. The understanding that he has forgotten during all the chaos.




Bernard Berkman | The Squid and The Whale [2005] | Played by Jeff Daniels

Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and The Whale features one of the most not-so-ideal fathers ever. Even though he is an intellect with incomparable knowledge and insights of the world, he has zero sympathies for anyone except himself. Daniels plays Bernard as an intellectual, self-praising asshole.

Royal Tenenbaum | The Royal Tenenbaums [2001] | Played by Gene Hackman

Movie Fathers The Royal Tenenbaums
After leaving his family full of child prodigies and a wife to live life on their own, Royal Tenenbaum returns home in Wes Anderson’s joyous ‘The Royal Tenenbaums.’ Filled with slapstick, absurd and whimsical humor, Royal tries to reconnect with a family that he had abandoned long ago.

Neville Love | Starred Up [2013] | Played by Ben Mendelsohn.

Like Good Will Hunting inside a prison but with grim, brutal and devastating results, David Mackenzie’s Starred Up saw Neville facing his estranged and ultra-violent son behind closed bars. As he tries to theraupize him under his command, we also find out where the darkness actually comes from.




Sam Dawson | I Am Sam [2009] | Played by Sean Penn

Though narratively inept and overtly manipulative, Jessie Nelson’s I Am Sam is still memorable for Sean Penn’s brilliant turn as a father who is a child, quite literally.

Keller Dover | Prisoners [2013] | Played by Hugh Jackman

Movie Fathers Prisoners
Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners was about Keller Dover, a grieving, a confused and angry movie father who decides to take matters into his own hands when the police fail to get to any conclusion relating his daughter’s kidnap. Jackman managed to embody Keller Dover who would go to any extent to protect his family.

Checkout this list by Elle Magazine




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