A Dirty Dozen of Kick-Ass Movie Dads
Happy Belated-Father's Day everyone! Really tried to get this in before the holiday, but you it seems like you make plans sometimes just so they can be broken. Oh well!
As a parent of a 3 year old daughter, I try to do my best to instill in my kid what I think it takes to be a good person; kindness, understanding, patience, and a deep love of Star Wars. I also like to think that if someone messed with my kid, I'd be ready and spring into action and take care of business, even though I have no special training and I'm completely out of shape. Until that time that I'm called into action though, I'm still going to believe I'd wipe the floor with any person that was stupid enough to upset my child, and I can live vicariously through these awesome action dads until that happens!
As usual, be careful son, there looks to be SPOILERS ahead!
And now, it's clobberin' time...
12. Damon McCready/Big Daddy
Played by: Nicolas Cage
Movie: Kick-Ass (2010)
It feels appropriate to start with Cage's character from Kick-Ass, Matthew Vaughn's irreverent superhero comedy. In short, Damon McCready is a straight-up crazy person who raises his daughter to become spear-wielding vigilante named Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace-Moretz), but he obviously also loves his daughter and is constantly training her to be strong and adaptible to any situation.
This feels like the last time Nicolas Cage was truly awesome in a movie, and he's done around 18 movies since 2010 when this flick came out. He's by far my favorite part of Kick-Ass, as his Adam West impression when he's got the Big Daddy costume on is spot on. Also, he appropriately goes out screaming at the top of his lungs in order to save his daughter in one of the best death scenes in movie history.
Played by: Marlon Brando, Russell Crowe
Movie(s): Superman: The Movie (1978), Man of Steel (2013)
With not a ton of screen time, Jor-El makes a huge impression as Superman's dad in both of the major big screen versions of the destruction of Krypton. We all know his story; as Krypton's greatest scientist, he builds a rocket to save his son before his planet explodes, defying the laws of his people in order to save his baby boy from certain doom.
For gravitas, it's tough to beat Marlon Brando, but Crowe does an admirable job and brings more of a penchant for fisticuffs. His version of Supes' father gets to take down Zod and his soldiers before sending his son into the arms of the Kents. Both are excellent in this role and have some of the best moments in both movies. Hopefully we get to see Crowe help mentor his son in a future Superman movies down the road.
10. President James Marshall
Played by: Harrison Ford
Movie: Air Force One (1997)
Word of advice: if you're in a terrorist group that plans to take over Air Force Once, try to make sure the President doesn't look like Harrison Ford when you get there. Also, when tells you to "Get of my plane," then it's time to go, whether you're up 30,000 ft in the air or not. In the end, it's just going to save time.
You may have some grand scheme that involves endangering this great nation of ours, but if you decide to threaten President Marshall's family, you've stepped over the line. Forget Gun Control, you'll wish for Fist Control legislation. This President doesn't negotiate with terrorists, he destroys them.
9. Michael Sullivan
Played by: Tom Hanks
Movie: Road to Perdition (2002)
So when you think of badass, unstoppable dads, I'd say Tom Hanks isn't the first name that comes to mind, but here he is playing a hardened gangster on the run, saving his son from an army of mobsters. Road to Perdition goes to some dark places that you usually don't see from Hanks, but like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven he reaches down to find a man able to epitomize the vengeance he bestows upon those who would do wrong to him and those that he loves. Whether teaching his son to be a man or mowing down a whole gang with a Tommy gun, this is one of Hanks' finest performances.
8. Texas Ranger J.J. McQuade
Played by: Chuck Norris
Movie: Lone Wolf McQuade (1983)
Drug kingpin Rawley Wilkes (David Carradine) has a penchant for wearing colorful sweaters, running guns, and kidnapping the family of Texas Ranger J.J. McQuade, and Chuck Norris' "Lone Wolf" is out to put a stop to all of it! Whether it's roundhouse kicking his way through a warehouse of thugs or blowing up an entire Mexican village of even more thugs, McQuade means business. You'll come for the Karate and spaghetti western music, you'll stay to watch him pour beer on himself and blow up colorful sweaters.
7. Ogami Itto
Played by: Tomisaburo Wakayama
Movie(s): Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972), Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx (1972), Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades (1972), Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril (1972) Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Land of Demons (1973), Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell (1974)
So you're the official samurai executioner for the Japanese ruling government. Things are going pretty well, and you're eliminating the enemies of the Shogun in an official capacity. Then things goes south. You're framed for treason by Japan's most powerful ninja clan, and suddenly you and your son are marked for death. What do you do?
If you're Tomisaburō Wakayama's Ogami Itto you go on a massive killing spree, wiping out every ninja, samurai, yakuza, bodyguard, and outlaw in your path. You don't stop until they're all dead and your son is safe. Then you kill some more. If you love samurai flicks, martial arts movies, or grindhouse flicks this series and this badass dad is for you.
6. Police Chief Martin Brody
Played by: Roy Scheider
Movie(s): Jaws (1975), Jaws 2 (1978)
While there's a bunch of trained killers and assassins on this list, Chief Brody makes it onto this lineup for the complete opposite reason. He's just an ordinary small town Police Chief, having to deal with kids karate chopping picket fences and people parking illegally. That's when the biggest man-eating shark anyone has ever seen shows up to his island village, but instead of sitting it out Brody decides to get in a busted up old boat with a scientist and an insane sea captain to try and fight the monster on everyone's behalf.
Brody is like the local lawman in a western that has to face down the gang of outlaws, with Quint and Hooper as his ragtag posse. It's that Everyman quality that makes you believe in him, and makes his triumph that much more amazing. No matter how many sharks show up to Amity, he has to go out there and kill them.
5. Ip Man
Played by: Donnie Yen
Movie(s): Ip Man (2008), Ip Man 2 (2010), Ip Man 3 (2015)
Whether it’s facing off against Japanese soldiers or other Kung Fu masters trying to make a name for themselves, Ip Man is a soft-spoken man of humility and grace, until you mess with his wife and kid. Historically, Ip Man’s great contribution to the world was that he was the Wing Chun master who initially instructed Bruce Lee, but what the Ip Man Trilogy gets across is that he was an important hero in his own right; fighting for the pride of his nation as well as to protect those he loves. In Donnie Yen’s most iconic role, Master Ip is a man of peace, often seen teaching his son to be gracious and patient, but villains always have to push him to see if they’re better at combat than he is. This never turns out to be the case.
4. Detective Roger Murtaugh
Played by: Danny Glover
Movie(s): Lethal Weapon (1987), Lethal Weapon 2 (1989), Lethal Weapon 3 (1992), Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)
Roger Murtaugh is turning 50. He's got gray in his beard, he's worried about the boys who date his daughter, and he's days away from retirement. He's also got a suicidal partner, houses blowing up in front of him, and a group of ex-CIA agent drug kingpins who are trying to kill him. In other words, he's getting too old for this shit.
There's probably an alternate universe version where the "straight man" Murtaugh dies early on in favor of his crazy partner (Mel Gibson's awesome Martin Riggs), but without the two of them to balance the movie out the dynamic of this team doesn't work at all. Murtaugh is there to pull Riggs back from the edge, and let him know there's still good out the world. All the while, he's out there with his trusty revolver taking care of business, whether it's facing down a squad of thugs or playing chicken on foot with a car. Mess with him and his partner? Fine. Try to hurt his family? Then there's no way you live. No way.
3. Bryan Mills
Played by: Liam Neeson
Movie(s): Taken (2008), Taken 2 (2012), Taken 3 (2014)
If there was a poster child for this list, then it would have to be Bryan Mills. He's a guy just trying to get his life together and spend some time with his estranged family. Then human traffickers kidnap his daughter, and it turns out this sad sack security guard is really an ex-secret agent ready to kill half of Europe to get his child back.
Taken transformed Liam Neeson in THE action star for dads everywhere, and Bryan Mills the ultimate unloved father fantasy. Sure you're underestimated and ignored every day, but when push comes to shove, you're ready to save your family and become the hero you were always meant to be. Neeson's got a particular set of skills, but the love dads had for these films was very universal.
2. Detective John McClane
Played by: Bruce Willis
Movie(s): Die Hard (1988), Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990), Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995), Live Free or Die Hard (2007), A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
If there's an action hero Mt. Rushmore, then Bruce Willis' Detective John McClane is most certainly on it. John isn't a superhero; he's just a guy wanting to reconnect with his wife and see his family on Christmas. The only thing that could stop him from having a great holiday would be getting in a fight with his ex, or maybe a group of terrorists taking over the local Christmas Party, and either would really piss him off.
There's just no discounting the importance of Die Hard as a movie; the formula, the action scenes, and the humor all showed us something that felt fresh at the time and launched the whole "Die Hard on a ______" trend that spawned tons of imitators. At the center of it though, was a man who used his quick wit as much as he used his fists or guns. He was smart and quippy, and if the rest of us couldn't fight bad guys and terrorists, being a smartaleck was still right up our alley. If Bryan Mills was the unobtainable fantasy, the John McClane was someone to really aspire to.
1. John Matrix
Played by: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Movie: Commando (1985)
As badass as all these guys are, if you locked them all in a room and told them to fight, John Matrix would be sitting on a bloody pile when you opened the door. As a fan of action movies, it is my sworn duty to also be a fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I've been watching his films since I was way younger than I should have been, but late night HBO introduced me to The Terminator, Predator and others, and I absolutely ate it up. With bullet barrages and ripped muscles galore, Schwarzenegger's flicks gave me the adrenaline rushes I'm still chasing today.
Commando is not my favorite vehicle for the "Austrian Oak" (that would be Conan the Barbarian), but when I hear the phrase "quintissental 80s action movie" this is the movie that always pops up in my head. It is huge, loud, funny, insanely ridiculous, and has a gigantic body count. Matrix is a superhero that wears camo instead of tights; he can smell enemies up wind, lift up cars and fight an army of men singlehanded.
Sure, Matrix is a "One Man Army", but also a single father, retired from military life to raise his daughter, Jenny (a pre-Who's the Boss? Alyssa Milano). That is, until a dictator from a small island nation wants Matrix to perform a political assassination and kidnaps Jenny. Unfortunately for the bad guys, Matrix has other ideas. What follows is 90 minutes of mayhem and destruction, with Matrix fighting Green Berets, assassins, security guards and mercenaries. The bodycount for the film is one of the biggest of the decade, with Schwarzenegger using machine guns, shotguns, rocket launchers, knives, machetes, saw blades, and finally a lead pipe to kill everyone in his path who is trying to stop him from getting his daughter back. This dad isn't just a badass, he's a force of nature.