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5 (Not So) Model Fathers From Your Favorite Movies

It’s Father’s Day, that one day out of the entire year where we stop and appreciate the men who very literally made us who we are today. Thankfully, cinema is filled with paternal role models – Here are five of our favorites, accompanied with the varied lessons they can teach you.

Marlin (Finding Nemo)
On the face of it, Marlin is a great father – Loving, kind and willing to do whatever it takes to protect his child. But, as anyone who’s seen the start of the movie knows, he’s also overprotective and smothering, which leads to Nemo acting out in dangerous ways, and angry – His argument with Nemo before Nemo is captured is what drives his guilt throughout the start of the film. Clearly, then, Marlin is a warning of the dangers of being too attentive a parent, and the ways in which that can harbor resentment in children… resentment that can lead to fishnappings and extraordinary adventures that involve Ellen Degeneres. And who, really, wants that?

Jor-El (Superman)
Jor-El, also, has a reputation for being a loving father who sacrificed everything for his child. But think about the origin of Superman for a second: I don’t care how great of a scientist Jor-El was, he put his only child in an untried rocket and sent him out into the great unknown. Does that really sound like the actions of a reasonable man, never mind a good parent? I have no doubt that Jor-El had good intentions, but clearly, he needed someone to tell him when something is okay, and when something is as ludicrous as shooting your baby off into space and hoping that everything turns out okay. Consider Jor-El as the sci-fi version of Phil from Modern Family, and proceed from that point on, I think.

Henry Jones, Sr. (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)
I think everyone would agree that having Sean Connery as your father would be kind of cool. Having Connery as Henry Jones, Sr., however… Maybe not so much. Emotionally distant, frequently entirely absent from his son’s life, Henry Jones was not the kind of man likely to play catch with his kids – Well, unless the object to be caught happened to be an artifact of major historical significance, of course – but was, however, the kind of man who would happily ask his son (or any other friends who happened to get themselves involved) to save him from Nazis if the situation demanded it. Yes, he may have been stylish, and yes, he may have realized that family is more important than the Holy Grail in the end, but still: Henry Jones is a pretty good example of the father that you should really try not to be.

Odin (Thor)
For a mythological being (or, if you must, an ancient alien who just so happens to have inspired a human belief system in the past, because, of course, we can’t have Thor and Odin be the actual Norse gods for some reason), Odin is remarkably similar to the stereotypical cranky sitcom dad: He’s huffy, plays favorites with his children, and really just wants a good night’s sleep. If you look at Thor that way, the whole “banishing to Earth” thing seems a little less dramatic – Just think of it as Odin throwing Thor and his rowdy friends out so he can take a nice nap. Suddenly, Odin seems less scary and/or impressive, and more like a cantankerous neighbor that you can’t help but like. As a model for parenting, you could do worse – as long as you maybe cut back on the sleeping.

Darth Vader (Star Wars)
The story of Dad Vader is a tragic one – Yes, he was an absent father, but that’s because he didn’t even know his children were alive until they were grown, at which point they’d already been taught to hate him. He reached out to them – think of the tenderness in his voice as he tells Luke that he’s his father! – but was rebuffed not just with words, but with lightsabers and X-Wing Fighters. Even an invitation to join the family business went horribly, horribly wrong, with his son literally cutting off his hand instead of responding favorably. Is there really a lesson for fathers to learn from Darth’s plight? Definitely: Tread softly when approaching emotionally distant children, and if they seem angry, try to get them to channel that anger into less violent, more productive ways of resolution.


  • Russell Dady

    1. Jor-El was a man acting in unique circumstances out of desperation.  His actions were reckless, but there was less risk to the child in being sent into space in an untested rocket than there was to remaining on a planet Jor-El knew was about to be destroyed. He acted not from recklessness as to danger but from a desire to preserve his child from danger; he is the definition of a responsible parent.

    2.  The reason why they can’t be the actual Norse gods is because that would not make any sense whatsoever within the context of actual Norse mythology, which has an actual foretold and fixed ending to the stories and it’s own internal consistency and continuity which would not allow for the telling of superhero stories as an aside. The option the movie chose, with them as hyper-advanced alien beings, was far more interesting and had a lot more in common with Jack Kirby’s conception of the Norse Gods within the Marvel Universe back in the 60s.

  • Mythos

    Is there really a lesson for fathers to learn from Darth’s plight?
    Definitely: Tread softly when approaching emotionally distant children,
    and if they seem angry, try to get them to channel that anger into less
    violent, more productive ways of resolution.

    Or just tell them to embace that anger and f*** the Jedi way. Dark side win!

  • Shomy092

    I don’t agree with Jor-El… If you had a choice: letting your kid die in agony with the rest of your people, or send him in space, where he might reach Earth, and LIVE, what would you do? Well yeah kill little devile…. Who cares, right?

  • Mars

    I find it funny that Odin is on this list when the movie version was leaps better than Marvel’s original. Odin had a point in this movie, marvel Odin is just a prejudiced, scheming, near evil b*****d.

  • Carl

    Add to Darth Vader: Don’t kill the mother of your children.

  • Elias Algorithm

    This list is completely stupid. I’ve give you Henry Jones Sr, but the others had well thought out reasons, particularly Jor-El.

    Marlin dropped everything to save his kid and he’s a fish.

  • Scott Steubing

    Loved that synopsis of THOR.

  • afrocarter

    I whole-heartedly and completely disagree with your take on Odin.

  • Elias Algorithm

    In a couple versions the ship was big enough to carry Lara too, but she wouldn’t do it. She was terrified for her son, but more for her husband, And if he was wrong after all, if Krypton was merely shifting its orbit, it would have been easy to get the baby back.

  • Mr. M.

    As I was reading this article I was formulating my rebuff about Jor-El, then I see several others beat me to it. He was facing certain death for his child, and (if I remember the earlier versions of Superman’s origin correctly), his timetable was drastically shortened, plus he wanted Lara to go with the baby although she ultimately refused.  So, good parenting and tough choices for Jor-El. 

  • Ryanc561

    Yeah, that was the worst synopsis of Thor ever. Quit being so surly

  • Kal-El Fan

    Relax people.  It was supposed to be a humorous article.  Stop taking everything so seriously.

  • Mr. M.

    Don’t know if this is a case of taking things so seriously. Even humor can be off-base and/or flawed

  • Rodney TMB

    As evidenced in the crystals he painstakingly created to send along with little Kal, Earth was the intended destination and he sent along a history of the earth to prepare his infant son.  He also chose earth because there his lone son would have powers that would make him impervious to any harm that might befall him.  This wasn’t reckless but rather a well thought out plan to save his son.

    The only thing that wasn’t well thought out was staying behind.  That made no sense.  There was NO reason for JorEl to stay behind.  All the laws and moral restrictions of his culture that may have made him stay blew up with the planet.  As noble an act as it was to send his son to safety while his planet died, if I was capable of making a rocket that can support life and traverse the stars to a planet where my kind would be considered gods… there would be more than one seat.

  • Mxtxg

    5 stars that was Hilarius 


    Odin of the film was far more likeable and sympathetic than Odin of the comics ever was.  Hopkins’/Branagh’s Odin is a mighty and wise figure, so acutely aware of his responsibilities it actually shackles his power.  His major problem, apparently, was in teaching his sons the wrong lessons.

    Marvel’s Odin, on the other hand, vacillated between being a deus ex machina and an obstacle for Thor’s adventures.  Constantly cranky, he was forever kicking Thor out of the house, wrecking his love life, snatching his powers away, or yanking him home in forced service.  So manipulative was the four-color All-Father, one has to wonder if Loki turned out so bad on his own account, or because he was he receiving lessons from adopted-daddy-dearest.

    Cinema’s Odin was a flawed father deserving of respect.  Comic’s Odin was a flawed father deserving of a Mjolnir upside the helmet.

  • Zor-El of Argo

    It’s about time someone got that point.

  • maths

    Humour does tend to work better when it’s funny though.

  • Ryan

    @twitter-19424313:disqus , that’s how the Norse defined it. When the Gods declined, the Norse needed to create a story that would explain their gods disappearing. That didn’t mean that version of Ragnorak actually happened. Secondly, in the Thor movie, they only expressed that as a possibility.

  • Horatio Postlethwaite

    Star Wars sucks ass.