15 Great Father and Son Pairs in Film
When you get right down to it, the issues of relationships and how they ebb and flow are a big feature in Hollywood films. In fact, one of the most heart-wrenching scenes I have ever seen occurred between a father, his young son, and their familial matriarch who had since been turned into a member of the Walking Dead. As the little boy peered out the window and recognized his mother’s shambling form, he was immediately reduced to tears and fled into his father’s arms. Later, as dad’s picking off the zombies one by one from the second story window, he hesitates when his wife appears, unable to end her — and his — misery.
Relationships are a powerful thing, and often there is no tighter bond than that between a father and son. Many movies focus on this coupling, but these fifteen examples truly exemplify just how strong that bond can be even when complicated by extreme circumstances.
Sometimes a father’s love for his son is so strong and runs so deep that only the most extreme of circumstances can both seal its roots forever, and render their partnership asunder. Krypton is being destroyed. Jor-El has a hopelessness about him as he makes preparations that will not only complete the circle of life on his planet, but begin it anew on Earth. He locks his infant son, Kal-El in space pod and, with emotion, sends him away to be the champion for other fathers and sons. And so begins the new journey for The Man of Tomorrow.
14) The Wolfman
Having a tainted and potentially dangerous bloodline can be a horrible secret to cling to, but sometimes one just doesn’t have a choice. When Sir John Talbot learns of his prodigal son’s return, he already knows that trouble is off the horizon. Soon, Lawrence Talbot is attacked just as his brother and countless towns people before him, and it’s only a matter of time before he begins to realize his true familial inheritance. Though his loving father does his best to suppress the beast within him, it takes an act from his son to release it fully, and suddenly two commonalities butt their ugly heads.
13) The Sandlot
It’s never easy losing half of your parental team, but sometimes it’s made all the more awkward when a new face — like a stepparent — enters the relationship. A child can be confused, even feel pangs of guilt that the family unit he was used to is now broken because of him. In the case of Scotty Smalls and his new stepfather, Bill, their relationship had never been particularly strong; different likes, little time together, and a wide communication gap. But when baseball enters the picture and Scotty sees how cool Bill might be, especially with his signed Babe Ruth baseball, the silver lining begins to look a little brighter after all.
12) The Rookie
The story of Jim Morris is truly one of legend, yet it happened just the same. Jimmy was a young baseball pitcher who wanted nothing more than to work his way to the big leagues, but as these stories go, it wasn’t meant to be when his father moved them to a military base where a lack of a baseball junior league was the least of its problems. Jimmy suffered a debilitating injury and his promising future looked bleak. Years later, Jim is now the coach of the local high school team and his kids are nearing their first championship. Jim makes them all a promise that if they earn their trophy, he’ll try out for the majors even at the age of 35. Of course his dad is anything but thrilled and tells him that old dreams are best left unfulfilled. Well, Jim tries out, and eventually plays two seasons for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Sometimes even dads can be taught a lesson.
11) The Godfather
Living up to your father’s expectations is the bane of every son. Spending your life hoping that one day your old man will be proud of your accomplishments, be them in the family way or not, can eat at a boy like a blight. Couple all of this with the fact the father is the head of one of the greatest and most powerful mafia families in the world, and you, son, have your work cut out for you both protecting yourself and your father. Don Corleone wants the best for his kids, even going so far as to keep his youngest son, Michael, out of the business. But in the mean time, Sonny and Fredo are in hiding and trying desperately to hang on to their family business. It’s tough with a mob, sometimes.
When you’re $3000 short of a poker tourney entry fee, and you’re a Maverick with connections from the Mississippi to the Pacific, trouble instinctively follows you everywhere. And it doesn’t help getting in cahoots with a swindling woman, a dirty lawman, and a conniving Indian Chief. But all the same, these are the very trials and missteps Maverick must survive in order to prove he’s the best at what he does. After a series of unfortunate events, Maverick finally arrives at his game and, after a deftly dealt hand, wins the pot, but not the affection of the other players, and guns come out blazing. But Maverick, being who he is, escapes and we’re all treated to the final surprise that the dirty lawman is dear old dad.
9) The Pursuit of Happiness
Sometimes when the potential (however slim) for a lucrative business opportunity comes along, we take it, damning the consequences. Chris Gardner was a man in those shoes, who decided to gamble away his savings and his family on the idea that he might be able to sell very high-end bone density scanners. Sadly, not all gambles bear fruit, and Chris and his son are forced to fight for survival after the mother leaves, the IRS seizes the bank account, and a new job opportunity proves to be unpaid. But this pursuit does end in happiness when Chris, taking matter into his own hands, finds a way to drag himself and his son out of the gutter and acquires a far better position in life.
Judging by the film first released by Sam Raimi, there were some serious personal father/son issues floating around in his life. First, we have the father figure set forth by Ben Parker, Peter’s uncle; a doting man who wants absolutely nothing more than to make sure Peter is on the right track, what with all that power and responsibility yammering going on. Secondly, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, we’re offered the case study of Norman and Harry Osborne, a father/son connection so frayed and sparking that we’re almost surprised when it doesn’t actually come to a flaming head. This film is every psychoanalyst’s dream and riding Peter’s sense of loss with Harry’s sense of loathing is almost too much to bear. Wasn’t Spider-Man in this, too?
7) Road to Perdition
Vengeance can be a family’s weakest leg, or else the foundation on which solid relationships can rise. In this case, after the rest of their family is ruthlessly gunned down in cold blood, Michael Sullivan, Sr., and his son, Michael, Jr. begin taking matters into their own hands. When turned down by mob boss Frank Nitti for a revenge job, Michael and his son decide the best course of action is to dismantle the Capone fortune from the inside and begin robbing banks. Eventually the mob leaders catch up to the Sullivans, but they do well to dispatch their enemies, save for one who ends up killing the elder Michael. Michael, Jr. discovers one last secret as he rides away: sometimes a father wants what’s best for his son, even when what’s best is the exact opposite of himself.
6) The Lion King
The entire core of this movie is built around the loving relationship between pride king, Mufasa, and would-be future king, Simba. Mufasa tries desperately to keep his young, innocent child away from the bumps and bruises of the savanna; hyenas, stampedes, and most of all, his nefarious uncle Scar. But try as he might, his ultimate failure forces Simba to grow up far too quickly, and fear sets in as the prodigal son flees from his responsibilities. Soon, after doing a little maturing on his own time, Simba realizes that in order for his rightful pride to survive, he must reclaim his position atop the order. In the end, the son truly becomes the father.
5) Back To School
Having a dad like Thornton Melon is already a pretty solid foundation for embarrassment; he’s the owner of a national chain of large men’s clothing stores called “Tall and Fat” featuring ads that ask, “Are you fat? Do you look at a menu and say, ‘Okay’? When you go jogging, do you leave potholes?” But Thornton’s love for his son drives him to enroll at Great Lakes College after he discovers Jason has been hiding things from him, including the fact that he is not a member of the dive team, but just a lowly towel boy. Though Thornton possesses no High School diploma or SAT scores, his admission is sealed once he throws money at the college and buys a business school. He soon gets the diving coach to give Jason a second look, and all ends up right with the world. As it should when Rodney Dangerfield is your dad.
4) The Road
When the world has suffered an all-encompassing cataclysmic event that has destroyed life as we know it, the only bond left is family. A man and his son are travelers, always reluctant to stay too long in one spot for fear that whatever is out there could ultimately present a downfall to their fragile existence. The world is now overrun by cannibals who appear at every turn and threaten those still left alive in the bleakness. But the man and his son trek on, even going so far as to use up their remaining ammunition saving themselves, and befriending a stranger who is not who he seems. The man begins to fall prey to illness, and the boy realizes that it’s always humanity and self-preservation that carries us onward.
3) The Empire Strikes Back
It’s a pretty simple assumption that your dad isn’t the most reviled creature and dictator — ruling with a iron Force-amplified fist — in the entire galaxy, but if he were, would you want to know about it or, worse yet, admit it? Luke Skywalker, sadly, has little choice. When first called upon to be a champion for the Force and fight for good in the galaxy, Luke is blissfully unaware that out there, reaping a path of utter destruction, is his father: Darth Vader. But innocence is soon broken asunder when Vader and Luke face off, only to end with the admission that he is, by all incredible coincidences and impossibilities, Luke’s father. The realization and the weight of the situation suddenly impales Luke like a bolt from the Heavens, and his twisted, distorted grimace shows us, the audience, just how a nightmare can literally come true: you can become your father, if you’re not careful.
2) Finding Nemo
All a father wants (well, a good father, at any rate) is to protect his family from the snarling voracity of the outside world. But even he, the man from whom bullets deflect and to whom mountains crumble, can’t always prevent every catastrophe. Marlin has a brood, and he and his wife are loving parents for them. But evil comes in the form of a predator and soon, all of that is taken away in an instant, save for one. One last bastion of hope rests on the colorful shoulders of his remaining child: Nemo. Marlin blankets his son in security and nearly smothers him in protection, but sometimes it’s those overdone safety nets that push us away the fastest, and Nemo tests his father’s reach. But the undying love of a father can weather any storm and take on all comers, and when his son is in danger, he will stop at nothing to end it and bring him home. Finding Nemo is an exercise in the desire a father has to protect his boy, and one of the greatest stories about it in a long time.
1) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Henry Jones, Jr. hates his name. Though he is named after his prominent archaeologist father, Henry, Sr., he hates it just the same. In fact, he loathes it so much he has chosen to adopt the moniker of a beloved pet, his dog, Indiana. And when Indiana finds out that his father is in some serious hot water with the Nazis, it’ll take more than just a name to break him free. Henry, Sr. is stubborn, but to his favor rather than his fault, and much of that self-preservation has rubbed off on Indiana, and thus the two are always at odds with each other especially when it comes to diffusing potentially disastrous situations. But bloodlines run deep, and the Jones’ boys not only find peace within their relationship, but the true key to everlasting life.