Irrespective of genre, and the anti-John Wayne ideology erasing any semblance of authentic masculinity from Hollywood, there have been some serious wins for dads in the father-son category over the years.
These films buck the “woke” trend, and carry audiences beyond sloppy stereotypes to a truer representation of dads who are for their sons, and others. Men who raise up their sons. Men who fight for, and alongside their sons, not against them.
These movies offer a great opportunity to work in some downtime with the family. Revisit a selection of the best father-son films ever made.
Jungle-2-Jungle (PG – 1997)
Most famous for his TV sitcom ‘Home Improvement’ — and in recent years, the 9-season masterpiece ‘Last Man Standing’ — Tim Allen’s ability to communicate the grit of dad-life without too much compromise, is the stuff of ballsy, comedic genius.
Although Rotten Tomatoes call Jungle-2-Jungle a ‘witless comedy,’ that ‘annoyed most audiences,’ the father-son redemptive plot gives this film the 15th slot.
We Bought a Zoo (PG – 2011)
Minus the Bourne saga, I consider Matt Damon to be at his best when flying solo. Such as he is in The Adjustment Bureau and The Martian.
While ‘We Bought a Zoo’ is not specifically father-son themed, the film contains a father-son recount of recovery from tragic loss.
The (creative licenced) true-story adaptation shows how one dad’s ‘leap of faith,’ helped him nurture his kids through the murky, unpredictable waters of the grieving process.
Catch Me If You Can (PG – 2002)
Leonard DiCaprio’s Spielberg-directed film rated 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the movie critic site stating: the film was ‘stylish, sweet’ and ‘entertaining.’
I’d call that fair, and ditch the ‘sweet’ adjective. There’s nothing ‘sweet’ about a ‘confidence man’ trying to impress his father. The gripping power of Catch Me If You Can is its raw, redemptive insight into the life-directing influence men have on their children, whether they are absent, or otherwise engaged.
Blue Fin (PG – 1978)
Based on the book by Australian writer Colin Thiele, Blue Fin is an oceanic adventure where the son saves his father
The 1978 film of the 1969 novel is a hard-hitting drama about tuna fishermen, whose boat is wrecked by a waterspout. The captain reluctantly allows his ‘clumsy’ son to take the journey with him and his crew for the first time. When the boat is wrecked, both are forced to work together to survive.
The Road (R – 2009) & Hotel Rwanda (M – 2004)
These films are not for the whole family, but they tied for the 11th spot because both films share a similar familial apocalyptic context.
Their big differences: The Road is fiction, whereas Hotel Rwanda retells the experiences of Paul Rusesabagina, as he attempts to shelter his family and other victims from the bloody genocidal fever which swept through the country of Rwanda in 1994.
Viggo Mortensen’s The Road is suspense/horror imagining set in a post-apocalyptic world, where a father does everything he can to help his son survive.
Hook (PG – 1991) & Bedtime Stories (G – 2008)
These films are worlds apart, as far as storyline, and the comedic prowess of Robin Williams and Adam Sandler go. Nevertheless, each film ties at 10.
Easy, family-friendly and multi-age appropriate, Hook and Bedtime Stories continue the masculine theme fast eroding in the Imagineering halls of Western entertainment industrial complex.
Each film reflects the father-son relationship as they explore man’s redemption in the face of adversity.
Iron Eagle (PG – 1986)
As well as its accompanying epic soundtrack (a quality sorely lacking in most post-80s films), has one of the best, and yet, one of the most under-rated of 80s actors, Louis Gossett Jr.
Iron Eagle is a coming-of-age story with a son employing a sympathetic Air-Force reserve pilot in plotting to commandeer two F-16s in order to save his father (a prisoner of war) from execution.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the film only a 20% rating — ignore it. This is one of Louis Gossett Jr’s coolest.
Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade (PG – 1989)
The massive popularity of the Indiana Jones series means the father-son plot of the 3rd in the Jones saga doesn’t need explaining.
Teaming up Sean Connery and Harrison Ford as father and son taking on German National Socialists in another quest to obtain the power of God, was always going to win the hearts of critics.
Real Steel (PG – 2011)
Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of a dad learning to get to know his young son received a surprising 60% rating from RT. Especially after the movie critic site called the film’s futuristic robot boxing plot a ‘silly premise.’
A dismissible criticism. Yet another sign that there are some in Hollywood who hate hard-hitting masculine roles played by strong male leads.
Without the strength of the films which follow, Real Steel would definitely make the top 5 father-son themed films of all time.
Charlie & Boots (PG – 2009)
The Paul Hogan and Shane Jacobson film is one of Australia’s best dramedy films. Mourning the loss of his wife, Charlie (Hogan) is dragged on a road trip with his estranged son Boots (Jacobson).
Charlie & Boots taps into the popular narrative of sons rescuing their fathers, as their fathers struggle to navigate the requirements of fatherhood.
Made in Italy (R – 2020)
Excluding Star Wars, like most of Liam Neeson’s range, Made in Italy isn’t for the whole family. Neeson plays the role of a grieving widower and artist, who has long been disconnected from his Italian home, and son.
In an attempt to reconnect, the unstable father-son team agree to do up and sell their family home. They come face to face with their respective grief. Then rediscover a love for what they were ready to give up on, which helps them save what they would have lost.
It’s a good film let down by the laziness of the scriptwriter, who chooses to fill in gaps with over-the-top language, giving the film its R-rating.
Frequency (PG – 2000)
The RT film aficionadas gave this, Dennis Quaid, Jim Caviezel science-fiction epic a well-deserved 70%. It should have been higher.
Basic run-down: a son working with a HAM radio connects with his long since departed father decades apart.
The father and son dynamic culminates in a story unlike any other.
Star Wars Ep. IV:Return of the Jedi (PG – 1983)
A son’s connection with his father makes the original Skywalker saga what it is. There would be no Star Wars without this fatherlessness theme resonating across cultures and societies today.
As the latter extensions prove, had Lucas abandoned the major father and son subplot, it is probable the Star Wars universe would have died with Darth Vader.
Lucas’ genius was plugging the Skywalker saga into the real-world problem of fatherlessness, and the power of redemption.
These real-world themes gave the original Skywalker saga its timelessness. A quality mauled to death by the subsequent superficial “woke” Disney reimagining.
Life is Beautiful (PG – 1997)
When considering the world of father and son relationships, very few films dig as deep as Life is Beautiful.
In short, a father and son land in a National Socialist concentration camp, where the father fights to keep his son alive, while being surrounded by death.
The Pursuit of Happyness (PG – 2006)
Will Smith’s rendition of Chris Gardner’s true story rides in at number 1.
Both a father and son act in the recount of a single dad who challenges men to be check on where their choices are taking them.
“The first and most important decision that I ever made in my life was that, my children would always know who their father was. The second most important decision that I ever made in my life was that I would become WORLD CLASS at whatever I did in my life.”
‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ is a testimony to hard work, faith in the face of adversity, and the importance of having a contrite sense of self-awareness — as opposed to self-importance.
Daddy Day Care.
Mall Cop 1 & 2.
How to Train Your Dragon.
Falling Skies (TV)
The Neighbourhood (TV)
Duck Dynasty (TV)
*Some content in these films may disturb young children. Viewer discretion is advised.
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.
The Fatherhood Foundation Incorporated trading as Dads4Kids is a Harm Prevention Charity listed under Subdivision 30_EA of the Australian Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 with Tax Deductible Status (DGR) for donations
Dads4Kids – Building Men. Growing Fathers. Changing Generations.