He may be the bloodthirsty, black-clad lapdog of the universe’s most feared dictator, but old Darth Vader shows his cuddly side in the end when he reverts to plain old Anakin Skywalker. Faced with the thought of losing his only son just when they were starting to get to know each other, Anakin grabs his master and dumps him down a big hole. He sacrifices his life and inadvertently saves the galaxy in the process.
Freudian jealousy takes on an inhuman form in this interplanetary sci-fi classic. Have you ever turned up at your girlfriend’s place only to find her father eyeing you up, hawk-like, wondering what indignities you’re about to visit on his little girl? Well, now imagine that same father had access to an ancient alien technology that he could use to create a rampaging electric id-beast and flatten you and your crewmates.
Vengeance is a key fatherly trend, as proven in many Charles Bronson movies. But the daddy of them all is Swedish master Ingmar Bergman’s peerless tragedy. When Max von Sydow’s Tore and his distraught wife discover that their innocent daughter has been murdered by outlaws, they catch the wrongdoers and slaughter them, in certain knowledge that they’ll be damned for all eternity as a result. Now that’s commitment.
It’s hard to imagine a dad more devoted to his baby boy than Frank Davis. The infant at the centre of Larry Cohen’s satirical shocker may be a mutant mass murderer with a string of corpses behind it (not to mention an attempt on the life of the Davis family’s innocent firstborn), but still Frank clings on, determined to protect his little bundle of death from the vengeful authorities.
Some dads are born great, others have greatness thrust upon them. Duke Leto in David Lynch’s ‘Dune’ is in the latter camp. He would have been happy mooching about his windswept planet and staying right out of the ongoing galactic conflict. But fate has other ideas, forcing Leto to move to a bloody great desert, where his noble urge to protect his kin can only lead to disaster in the form of a poison tooth. And dammit, that sand gets right into everything…
Stubbornness is another big dad trait, and they don’t come more intractable than the unsinkable anti-hero of Peter Weir’s jungle drama. Harrison Ford’s Allie is a visionary, an inventor, a conquistador, and a general hard-ass. His family are his possessions, and if he feels like dragging them down the Amazon to bring civilisation to the natives, then dammit they better snap to! His plan goes south when the whole gang try to re-enact ‘Aguirre: Wrath of God’ on a houseboat, but hey, it still beats suburbia.
‘You wanna see fings get really dark?’ In Shane Meadows’s Brit-indie charmer, Cockney beefcake Joe Brass is what they call a deadbeat: an absentee father who pops up, years late, and tries to worm his way back into his family’s affections. They’re rightly suspicious, but when son Romeo makes friends with an oddball drifter and starts to swerve off the straight and narrow, the stage is set for a titanic showdown on the front lawn. Joe shows his true fatherly colours and gives poor old Paddy ‘just touch it!’ Considine an old-school going over.
He’s best known for yelling cynical witticisms in the face of certain annihilation, but ‘Aliens’ star Bill Paxton is a man of many talents, as proven by this cracking directorial debut. He stars as Dad Meiks, a man who stretches paternalism to its limits by being a merciless serial killer. Still, all the people he murders are demons (he reckons), so they probably deserve it. And at least he loves his boys…
‘This is my son and partner, HW Plainview...’. Or, as he might have said, this is my cynical tool for shilling the rubes. For steely oil man Daniel, his adopted son HW is just another marketing ploy, a way to convince backwoods suckers that he’s a decent sort at heart. But when the boy loses his hearing in a derrick explosion, Pop Plainview quickly loses interest, turning to his other interests: pipeline-building, mansion-loitering, milkshake-drinking and rival-bludgeoning.
Here, at last, is a properly decent dad: Lance (Robin Williams) listens, cares and tries desperately to understand why his son is such a miserable, snotty little self-abusing shitbag. So we can’t exactly blame him when – spoiler alert! – he uses the little bastard’s accidental death as a springboard to further his own literary ambitions. It may seem contradictory to refer to any cardigan-wearing jazz fan as ‘extreme’, but we reckon this morally slippery anti-hero fits the bill.
The arrival in cinemas of ‘World War Z’ (June 21) – not to mention Father’s Day (June 16) – got us thinking about memorable movie dads. In ‘World War Z’, Brad Pitt is fatherhood incarnate, tackling a zombie uprising while defending his family. But what about those dads whose path isn’t quite so righteous? The guys who try their best under difficult circumstances, however extreme and wrongheaded their behaviour might seem. They deserve to be celebrated too! So here goes…
Read our review of 'World War Z'
The film is adapted from Max Brooks’s novel, and Pitt stars as a UN investigator on a global mission to find patient zero in a zombie epidemic. That eye-popping budget buys some mindblowing scenes, but $200 million should have stretched to a third act that doesn’t look like something you’d watch on BBC4 in the wee hours. And by the end, the pulse of ‘World War Z’ is pretty weak.