Top Five: Bad Fathers in Films

Atticus in To Kill A Mockingbird. Transformers Dad in Transformers. Bryan Cranston in Malcolm in the Middle. (But not so much in his other show). James Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. Fiction has plenty of good fathers to pick from, and what better day to celebrate them than on Father’s Day, which this year is a time of drinking beer and watching three football matches back to back to back. Below are five movie dads whose examples you are strongly advised not to follow.


5. Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Magioranni) from Bicycle Thieves (1948)


Antonio seems a good man at first, but he has one off day and turns into an abusive monster. He slaps his eight year old son in the face; he plies him with alcohol to drown out his whining; he allows him to get out of sight in crowded city places multiple times; he scraps in the street; he even tries to make his son go home by himself all the way across Rome while he nicks a bike. Luckily that last time he’s apprehended, and an angry mob of excitable football fans slap him in the face and admonish his thieving ways: ‘What kind of example are you setting for your boy?’, they cry. Perhaps worse than all these crimes is Antonio’s long term exploitation of his son; by forcing him to work at a pump station on non-school days he earns an extra bit of cash on the side, which he promptly blows on fortune telling of all things.


4. Mufasa (James Earl Jones) from The Lion King (1994)



Mane man Mufasa is on the list for bringing his son, Simba, up to be a pompous fool that ‘can’t wait to be king’ (aka can’t wait for his dad, the current king, to be dead) but then who then gets all sad and regretful when his wish is granted. On top of encouraging his son to be a power-grubbing tyrant of the flat lands, Mufasa hasn’t even bothered to tell him not to get in the car with strangers: Simba barely blinks before agreeing to tag along with a flee ridden rodent and a greasy pig with a Mohawk, both of whom are unemployed and get their food from the forest floor equivalent of a skip in an alley. Come to think of it, James Earl Jones – who voiced Mufasa- has a knack for poor parenting. You might call him a bit of a DARK horse… a little too FORCEFUL in his teachings, perhaps.


3. Denethor (John Noble) from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)


In his omnipotent obtuseness, the Steward of Gondor not only wishes to trade the places of his dead son with his living, but he even says it out loud to the only kin he has left.

This video is crushing. Look at poor Faramir, he’s on the verge of tear(ith)s.


2. The Lieutenant (Harvey Keitel) from Bad Lieutenant (1990)



To be a father all you really have to do is watch this film and do the exact opposite of everything that Harvey Keitel does – you’ll be a paragon of honest, liberal parenting in no time. Number one to avoid from Bad Lieutenant is the threat of physical violence when anything doesn’t go your way – that’s a bad one for dads to teach, and unless you’re the offspring of a tyrant or pre-1700s monarch then it never works out. Snorting cocaine on the school run is another one to steer clear of.


1. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) from The Shining (1980)


 ‘A momentary loss of muscular coordination. A few extra footpounds of energy per second, per second’. – Jack Torrance, explaining to a ghost how he ‘accidentally’ broke his son’s arm.

Jack is an ill-tempered man at the best of times and he barely conceals the contempt he holds for his child, who gets to do all the play while he does all the work (even though it’s Wendy who does all the practical jobs in the hotel including maintaining the boiler, cleaning, cooking and so forth). As Stephen King’s follow up novel Doctor Sleep reveals, filthy Jacky even had a drunken affair and produced a child outside of wedlock. Then there’s also the time where he tried to kill his son and his son’s mother with a fire axe.

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