We all love our parents. Either through genuine affection, familial blood-tie forcedness, or some combination of the two, we wouldn’t be who we are without them, and we (literally) owe them our lives. Of course, there are times when they annoy us. When no matter what age you are, you revert to some kind of mopey teen and/or tyrannical toddler, and feel misunderstood, pissed off and that life is so unfair.
While looking at cinematic mums and dads trying to come up with this list, I came across scores of examples of parents from hell. You have your psychopathic parents, nagging parents, soul-crushing parents — it’s clear that bad parents are the source of many a movie or plot point. But I thought “A list of bad movie parents? That’s too easy! Such choice, such variety!” Because the truth is, bad parents are a relatively easy source of material. It’s almost too easy to chuck in a bad parent to move a story along (or even create a story to begin with). You ask anyone to name some bad movie parents and they’ll have at least one on the tip of their tongue. So instead of taking the easy way out, like the quintessential writer who suffers through their existence rather than enjoys life, here are our picks for Movie Parents We’d Like to Have.
Honourable mention: Claire and Cliff Huxtable (Phylicia Rashad and Bill Cosby) — The Cosby Show
The only reason these awsome parents aren’t on my list is a matter of technicality — they’re from TV. Growing up watching this, I always thought Bill Cosby was hilarious and Phylicia Rashad was above-it-all cool. They always seemed to be cracking jokes, and none of the shenanigans their kids got up to seemed to faze them. In fact, it only made them crack even more jokes, and be even more cool about it. Of course, every now and then there would be A Serious Issue, where no jokes were, um, cracked, but they still seemed to handle it in a way that even as a kid I thought to myself “Well, that seems fair.”
5. Morticia and Gomez Addams (Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia) — The Addams Family
Maybe a bit of a weird one, but tell me it wouldn’t be kind of cool to live in that haunted/monster house, with strange goth relatives, animate (and useful!) dismembered body parts, and basically a range of spooky things that would treat you to Halloween all year round. As anyone who has at least one sibling can tell you, part of the fun of having siblings is fighting and torturing each other. Morticia and Gomez consider this regular family activity, along with playing with your food and conducting dangerous experiments. The cool thing about this family as well though, is that for all their fascination with morbidity and the macabre, they all get along and love each other, and are much more functional than a lot of other fictional (and real!) families.
4. Steve and Josie Stronghold aka The Commander and Jetstream (Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston) — Sky High
Superhero Parents; kind of a no-brainer. But one of the awesome things about this is that through biology alone, it automatically grants YOU superhero status as well! Superhuman strength, power of flight, invulnerability — all pretty sweet powers that you could possibly inherit. So it may not come in handy to have parents who can quite easily track you down if you pass your curfew, and it’s hard to argue with someone who can theoretically crush you with his bare hands (did he not love you), but it still would be undeniably cool to claim these parentals. Plus it would be kind of douchey-yet-awesome to go around saying “Well, my parents saved the world today. What do yours do?”
3. Calvin and Helen Weber (Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek) — Blast from the Past
Do you ever just wish for a simpler time? Where Mum cooks a meatloaf, Dad teaches you German, then you all sit down for some G-rated comedy stylings of The Honeymooners? OK, maybe not that specific, but Calvin and Helen are the parents that a lot of us should’ve had. They will nearly guarantee you will become a polite, kind and knowledgable (but probably socially awkward) person. Encouraging, providing for all your needs (well, most of your needs), and to be honest, doing extremely well keeping the family normal under the circumstances. OK, so they do go a little stir-crazy towards the end of the 35 years being locked in a bomb shelter, but at least Christopher Walken doesn’t take an axe to Sissy Spacek and drive her out into the “toxic wasteland”.
2. Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) — To Kill a Mockingbird
Voted Greatest Movie Hero of the 20th Century by the American Film Institute (plus featuring on countless other Movie Hero lists), and despite having neither superpowers nor a large supply of weapons and ammunition — and actually discouraging violence! — you could do much worse than to have this guy as your dad. It’s not always a walk in the park to make a lawyer come across as a good guy (let alone become one of cinema’s most-loved characters), but Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch effortlessly paints the picture of decency, honour, wisdom and morality. I really don’t need to explain this one too much — it’s just so obvious. The only thing is, I would be constantly smug around other people and their parents (out of pride, you understand).
1. Rosemary and Dill Penderghast (Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci) — Easy A
A bit of a newbie and, to be honest, my inspiration for coming up with this list. Possibly one of the best elements of the film, Rosemary and Dill are The Cool Parents. They are basically the most normal out of my list, and yet manage to be so outstanding as well. Jokey quips, comfortable home environment, laid-back coolness, and a few pep talks here and there — the reason they are number one is because they are the most realistic in the unrealistic world of cinema. And weird-cool or superheroes aside, when it comes right down to it, we just want Solid Parents. Hopefully to remind us of the solid parents we already have in real life.
5. Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) — Friday the 13th
So right now you’re thinking “Why would anybody ever want Mrs Voorhees, essentially a crazed mass-murderer, for a parent?” Well let me tell you why, friends. I happen to be of the belief that Mrs Voorhees, Pamela to her friends, happens to be a kind, loving Mother. So what if she murdered a few teens along the way? She only did it out of love for her poor son. And besides, they had it coming. Damn camp counselors, all they care about are drugs, alcohol and premarital sex. Meanwhile here’s Mrs Voorhees trying to perform a kind deed in memory of her deceased son and she’s the one labelled a psychopath? Talk about injustice! She’s just a misunderstood victim in this situation. The real criminal here is that one girl who cuts Mrs Voorhees’ head off with that oar. Bitch should be locked up. And also more importantly, I’m of the mindset that Mrs Voorhees’ undying love for her poor dead son was the important factor in bringing Jason back from his watery grave. I just made that up, but the moral of the story is, if I’m ever drowned in a lake by a bunch of punk-ass kids, I want to come back to life as an invincible zombie too.
4. John McClane (Bruce Willis) — Die Hard 4
OK, scenario time. You’re being held captive by a group of violent, tech-savvy terrorists, who wouldn’t think twice about filling you with lead, courtesy of automatic firepower. But don’t fret yet, because your dad is on his way to rescue you. But in this imaginary, alternate universe, your dad is John friggen McClane. And you know that everything is going to work out fine because not only is he a badass cop, but he’s also managed to kill about thirty thousand terrorists over the course of his career. Sure, he may not be the best Father material, but at least nobody would ever mess with you. Plus he would have a bevy of catchphrases at his disposal to throw out there anytime. He might be ordering takeaway for the family: ‘Hey lady, does it sound like I’m ordering a fucking pizza!?…. Well I am.’ And every time he exits a room, ‘Yippi-Ki-Yay motherfucker!’ That would be cool.
3. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) — Terminator 1 & 2
What defines a ‘good’ parent? Well the ability to protect her son from not just one, but two killer robots from the future pretty much sends Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor to the head of this list. She may have appeared weak and feeble for the majority of the first Terminator film, but she still manages to find her inner strength by the end. Come T2 however, and you better recognise, because Sarah Connor ain’t taking shit from no man… or robot. She still manages to express her sincere love for her son while simultaneously proving why she’s the one you want around when those pesky cyborgs finally come for you. And mark my words, they WILL come.
2. Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) — True Lies
Why does every single one of my choices have to contain at least one parent who kills people in one way or another? I think I’m starting to uncover some sort of deep-seeded problem buried within me here. Ah well. Harry Tasker may appear to be your average, insanely muscular dad, but unbeknownst to his family he’s actually an international super spy. Saving the world from nuclear terrorism by night, and trying to keep his family together by day. And that’s what makes him so likeable — here is a guy trying to bring in a buck to support his family, even if that means machine-gunning a bunch of bad guys to death, meanwhile his wife is off gallivanting with strangers. Does Harry get mad? Well yeah he does actually, but more importantly, he puts that behind him and goes to any length to work out his marital problems, even if these methods are slightly unsavoury. Also, come time to rescue his daughter from crazed terrorists, Harry has no qualms about flying a harrier jet into a busy downtown area and blowing away anything in his path, killing dozens of people in the process and causing millions of dollars in property damage. Give this man Father of the Year right now!
1. Bob and Helen Parr aka Mr Incredible and Elastigirl (Craig T Nelson and Holly Hunter) — The Incredibles
What’s so special about Bob and Helen Parr for them to top my favourite cinematic parents list? Because they’re freaking superheroes! What more of a reason could you possibly need? Well it also helps that they’re kind-hearted and loving parents, but more importantly, if they were my parents, then through the miracle of genetics, these incredible super powers they possess would be biologically passed down to me. Allowing me to team up with my badass super-parents, fly around town and take down bad guys. That would be awesome.
5. Darth Vader (James Earl Jones/David Prowse) — Star Wars
Darth Vader: If you only knew the power of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
Luke Skywalker: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
Darth Vader: No. I am your father.
Luke Skywalker: No… that’s not true! That’s impossible!
Darth Vader: Search your feelings. You know it to be true.
Luke Skywalker: NOOOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOOO!
Seriously? When we think movie parents this has to be the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind. Not only was the revelation that our hero’s father was also his evil arch nemesis a massive shock to audiences when Empire Strikes Back was first released in 1983, the (misquoted) line “Luke, I’m your father” has become so deeply ingrained in pop culture that even those who haven’t seen the film recognise the scene. Okay, so maybe Darth isn’t father of the year, leaving his dying, pregnant wife to take over the known universe, and sure he’s a stickler for discipline, cutting off Luke’s arm when he refused to join the dark side (kids need to know that there are boundaries), but hey, when it mattered he threw it all away and took a bullet for Luke, saving him from the Emperor. Nothing like a split-second of redemption to make up for the millions of people you slaughtered.
4. Damon Macready aka Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) — Kick-Ass
Big Daddy is tied to a chair. He has just spent the last five minutes having the shit beaten out of him while it was broadcast live on the internet. He’s also on fire. And yet somewhere, in his hellish pain-filled existence, he has a single thought that occupies his consciousness. Save Mindy.
Big Daddy: Take cover, child! Now switch to KryptoNIIITTTTEEEE!!!
Of course it helps that Mindy, his 8 year old daughter, is also a trained ninja assassin that goes by the name of Hit Girl. He’s taught her everything from how to take a bullet (taught by actually shooting her…in the chest… with a gun), to the titles of John Woo’s early movies. A first-class education of course, and her graduation gift? Killing the F-er who killed mummy. What more could a little girl want?
3. Marlin (Albert Brooks) — Finding Nemo
So it turns out not all of my favourite movie parents are deranged psychopaths. Marlin is an unfunny clownfish who, after losing his wife in a freak monster fish attack, promises to his only son that he will never let anything hurt him. Of course then the evil humans show up and place little Nemo in captivity. Most parents would give up at this stage but not Marlin. He teams up with a loose Alzheimer’s patient and travels down to Sydney (which just quietly is a really long friggen way to swim even with a helpful current), battling sharks, seagulls and more evil humans. And does he get Nemo back?
(Spoilers, Spoilers, Spoilers).
It’s a Disney movie — what do you think?
2. Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) — Spy Kids
I think I speak for everyone when I say that there is nothing film fans love more than hearing Robert Rodriguez is delaying another project so he can make a Spy Kids movie. Nothing is more exciting than watching the adventures of little Alex and Carmen Cortez on the big screen… except maybe watching those adventures in mind-blowing 3D. Spy Kids should have won 7 Oscars, and anyone who didn’t make Spy Kids should be exiled from Hollywood forever. Okay maybe not. Spy Kids isn’t really for me these days. But there was a time when it was. There was a time when for me, Spy Kids was the coolest shit out. I mean you’re a kid, right, just living an ordinary life and then BAM! Your parents, who turn out to be the world’s coolest spies, have been kidnapped by giant thumbs and you — now decked out with some spy gear given to you by Uncle Machete (I kid you not, Danny Trejo plays the same character in Spy Kids that he does in the Grindhouse film Machete — check IMDB if you don’t believe me) — are the only person who can save them. You then go on to travel to the evil lair of the host of an evil children’s show, fight him, and save the day. How many kids who have accountants for parents have adventures like this? Not many.
1. Beatrix Kiddo aka The Bride (Uma Thurman) — Kill Bill 1 & 2
Seriously? He’s including The Bride in this? I mean, we see her kid for like 5 seconds. She’s hardly a parent… Dear Sceptical Reader — What is it that defines a parent? The amount of screen time the kid gets with the parent? Or is it whether or not the character has a kid in the first place (scientific option)? How about a third option; is it when the parent, so outraged by the murder of her unborn baby, goes on a murderous rampage in order to avenge her. I think we know the answer to that question. Bloody, murderous rampage wins every time. The Bride isn’t just an awesome parent — she’s the coolest parent on my list. Because we all know that if we were murdered, we wouldn’t want our mother to grieve for us, to go to the police, or pray for justice. We’d want her to pick up a samurai sword and start making a mess. An eye for an eye, bitches (as Elle Driver quickly discovers).
Got a different Movie Parent you’d trade yours in for? Comments below!
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