Daggy-dad films are somewhat of a rare breed.

This is despite the sub-genre’s classics being among some of the most rewatchable films ever made.

A popular pejorative, the word ‘dag’ is uniquely Australian, meaning untidy, dishevelled, and eccentric.

Expanding on this, Urban Dictionary describes a ‘dag’ as someone who has no style, or sense of fashion.

A daggy dad is not particularly trendy, or avant-garde. He’s often portrayed as aloof, believing the trends of his youth can still cut it in a more contemporary scene.

In spite of this uncool baggage, the daggy-dad film enjoys a sub-genre of comedy cool all of its own.

There’s a clumsy authenticity at the heart of daggy-dad protagonists that keeps those films alive.

These are fashion-challenged, lovable fatherhood figures who hit the right tone with audiences almost every time.

Here are 15 timeless examples:

  1. Summer Rental (1985)

John Candy is the undisputable champion when it comes to daggy-dad cool. His mid-80s Paramount film about a stressed dad who takes his family on vacation taps into the importance of dads being present in the moment. Rotton Tomatoes’ (RT’s) audience score: 51%

  1. Captain Ron (1992)

The sea-going comedy adventure which put Kurt Russell alongside Martin Short, summarises the punch of daggy-dad films. An inattentive, uptight workaholic meets a laidback mariner, who helps Short turn daggy-dad into daddy cool. RT’s audience score: 52%.

  1. The Great Outdoors (1988)

The Great Outdoors helped establish the sub-genre. Paired together as brothers, John Candy and Dan Ackroyd navigate daggy dad awkward with comedic flair. RT audience score: 70%.

  1. Lampoons Vacation (1983-2003)

Chevy Chase’s loopy Lampoons tenure put the fashion-challenged dad on the map. Vacation, European, and Christmas vacation all bring together their own spin on what makes dads daggy. Chase presents a dad determined to spend quality time with his family. Even when nothing goes to plan. RT audience score: 85%.

  1. The Castle (1997)

Australian actor Michael Caton made daggy-dad cool. His quirky, working-class character battles bureaucratic overreach. All in order to keep his family together by saving his family home. RT audience score: 92%.

  1. Cheaper by the Dozen (2003/2005)

Steve Martin is the daggy-dad package. His ability to do awkward comedic roles, coupled with a traditional story arc, kept the sub-genre breathing. Martin’s Cheaper by the Dozen remake helped make the daggy dad sub-genre cool. RT audience score: 56%.

  1. Finding Nemo (2003)

Before Disney moved away from traditional family values and slid into pushing political movements, they had a good grasp on what makes fatherhood great. Finding Nemo turns a neurotic dag of a dad into a hero who braves an entire ocean to save his son.


  1. Daddy Day Care (2003)

Eddie Murphy’s portrayal of a dad doing daycare kicked the daggy dad film category up a few notches. Jeff Garlin’s dagginess, interlocked with Murphy’s “Dr. Dolittle” dad approach, is unmatched in its contribution to the sub-genre. RT audience score: 48%.

  1. Hook (1991)

Alongside John Candy, Williams was the quintessential daggy-dad. His Steven Spielberg rendition of Peter Pan best illustrates how this is so. A list of cool daggy-dads would not be complete without a Robin Williams mention. RT audience score: 76%.

  1. Commando (1985)

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tale of rescue and revenge is full of tacky one-liners. This is a daggy-dad leading the charge to bring back his kidnapped daughter. Commando is Finding Nemo with more bang for your buck. RT audience score: 67%.

  1. Swing Vote (2008)

Touchstone’s Kevin Costner production fits the sub-genre, even though it doesn’t follow the daggy-dad formula. For Costner, this deadbeat dad role is redeemed by the civics lessons he learns, and teaches along the way. RT audience score: 41%.

  1. Daddy’s Home I/II (2015/2017)

These Wahlberg/Ferrell dad films bounce Wahlberg cool off of Ferrell’s dagginess. They capitalise on the elements which make the sub-genre great. These Sean Anders films slam home the point that “cool” or “daggy” ultimately resides in eyes of the beholder. RT audience score: 49%.

  1. The Volcano (2013)

This French film proves France is outperforming the LA socialist scene. Where Hollywood has lost its passion for wholesome storytelling and original ideas, French comedic cinema is thriving. The Volcano stars Dany Boon (Daniel Hamidou), a daggy dad who travels cross-country with his ex-wife to get to his daughter’s wedding on time. RT audience rating: N/A.

  1. Jungle 2 Jungle (1997)

Underrated, Tim Allen and Martin Short’s father-son film deserves revisiting. Add the TV series Tool Time to Last Man Standing, and Tim Allen is the current king of daggy-dad cool. RT audience score: 33%.

  1. Dunston Checks In (1996)

In 1996, Jason Alexander broke out of his Costanza box, breaking with the self-centred Seinfeld character he made famous. A hotel manager, Alexander is thrown from left to right as he seeks to keep his kids and their monkey onside. As well as try to win the hotel an extra star for excellence. RT audience score: 40%.

Special mentions:

  • Father of the Bride 1 & 2.
  • Uncle Buck
  • Mr Poppers Penguins
  • Meet the Fockers

Daggy-dad films really are some of the most rewatchable movies ever made.

The sub-genre is a powerhouse.

There’s also no lack of talent, or willingness from audiences to support fatherhood on the big screen.

That “strapped for ideas” filmmakers are not better invested in this cinematic cash cow, is an indictment of our culture’s abandonment of dads, through its demonisation of masculinity.


Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko.

Published On: March 9th, 20230 CommentsTags: , , , , ,

About the Author: Rod Lampard

Rod, his wife Jonda, and their five kids are homeschooling veterans. Rod spent 12 years in management at Koorong, has a Bachelor’s Degree in Ministry & Theology, and is a writer for the theological, politically edgy news site Caldron Pool. Rod also writes for the Spectator. Find his personal blog here.

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