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8 Fantastic Films to Watch This Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day, so I wanted to highlight some fantastic movies that feature fatherhood in one form or the other. Most of these films portray complicated relationships, Hollywood’s favorite trope when it comes to Fathers, but how can you blame them when it creates fantastic pieces of media like this.

I tried my hardest to craft a list of films that weren’t too popular. Most of these aren’t quite niche but they’re not super popular either so I thought I would highlight some of them on this occasion. Here are those 8, and a bonus TV show.

A Bronx Tale (1993)

A Bronx Tale / Image Courtesy of TriBeCa Productions

A Bronx Tale is a coming-of-age film set in the Bronx with a major mob presence. Robert DeNiro stars as Lorenzo, an honest working man who strays away from the mob life. This film was also Robert Deniro’s directorial debut. It follows Calogero, Lorenzo’s son as he grows up being around the mafia life as Lorenzo tries his hardest to keep him away.

It’s a captivating film with a lot of heart, a fantastic script, and most importantly a damn good father-son conflict. Lorenzo gets involved with Sonny, a local mob boss who shows him a completely different life from the one his family is living which captivates him as Lorenzo tries to whisk him away. The best part about this film is that Lorenzo isn’t perfect–nobody in that film is. 

They’ve all got their flaws, they’ve all got their nuances. You can see exactly why Lorenzo is attracted to the life and warmth Sonny gives him, and why his father struggles so hard with it. It’s a complex film depicting a different side of the mob life and features some absolutely brilliant scenes.

October Sky (1999)

October Sky / Image Courtesy of Universal Pictures

October Sky is a biographic film based on the life of Homer Hickam, a former NASA engineer from the town of Coalwood, West Virginia. As the town’s name suggests, it’s filled with coal factories. Most of the men who work in the town are coal miners in some shape or form. After being enthused by Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite successfully placed in orbit around the Earth. Homer wants to build his very own rocket, which his father, John, disapproves of. John doesn’t see a career path there and instead wants Homer to work at the mine where John is the superintendent.

The film is a compelling story of the ups and downs of their relationship, and the others around them. It’s a fantastic feel-good film that maintains the balance of the central conflict convincingly. Oh, and did I mention Homer is played by Jake Gyllenhaal, and John is played by Chris Cooper.

Beautiful Boy (2018)

Beautiful Boy / Image Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Beautiful Boy is perhaps the darkest film on this list. The film revolves around David Sheff, and Nic Sheff and is based on the memoirs Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff.

It’s about the struggle of Nic’s addiction to hard drugs, and the toll it takes on David, their family, and most of all, the father-son relationship. It boasts an A+ performance from both Timothee Chalamet, and Steve Carrell, there’s an argument to be made that it could be their best performance as dramatic actors.

Paper Moon (1973)

Paper Moon / Image Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Paper Moon is a 1973 dramedy set during the great depression starring Ryan O’Neal as Moze, a con man who gets stuck with an orphaned little girl, Addie who joins in on his con. Moze has a feeling that there’s a chance Addie is his real-life daughter as he had a relationship with her mother around the same time and Addie doesn’t know her father.

The film is absolutely incredible at tugging at your heartstrings while making you laugh, and these two are at the center of that mastery. There’s a lot of depth to Moze, and Addie but the depth given to their dynamic is what powers through to the screen. The film flourishes when these two share the screen together.

Addie is played by Tatum O’Neal, the real-life daughter of Ryan O’Neal which adds another layer to this fantastic film suitable for a perfect Father’s Day watch.

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Kramer vs. Kramer / Image Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Kramer vs. Kramer is a best-picture-winning legal drama starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep. Joanna Kramer (Streep) leaves her workaholic husband Ted Kramer (Hoffman), and their 7-year-old son Billy. At first, Ted struggles with how to take care of Billy. He doesn’t know his routine, he doesn’t know exactly what to do. He also struggles with the balance of parenting and work, and is forced to re-evaluate his status as a workaholic.

Billy misses his mom, and isn’t able to come to grips with her leaving so Ted has to step up, and step up he does. He slowly but surely is able to become the father Billy deserves, and maybe even the husband Joanna should’ve deserved. Soon after, Joanna comes back and wants custody of Billy and a legal battle ensues.

This film really works as a father-son relationship. Ted is a flawed character, as is Joanna but you do get to see both sides of the coin but most of all, it’s a fantastic father and son story that touches the soul.

C’mon C’mon (2021)

C’mon C’mon / Image Courtesy of A24

C’mon C’mon is a black-and-white film written and directed by Mike Mills and starring Joaquin Phoenix.  This tale isn’t quite a father-son story, it’s an uncle-nephew one but Johnny is a massive father-like presence in this film to Jesse. Johnny is a radio journalist who travels around the country to interview teens about their current lives and what they think about the future.

This film is magical in its ability to mix in those interviews while building around and adding to the central relationship between Johnny and Jesse and coming to terms with their circumstances. Those interviews feel so real, and they juxtapose Johnny and Jesse’s life perfectly. It’s such a natural story and film. Did I mention that the black-and-white cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. Johnny also might be the most normal character Joaquin Phoenix has ever played and it’s absolutely perfect.

Somewhere (2010)

Somewhere / Image Courtesy of Focus Features

Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere is a drama film about a passionless Hollywood actor, Johnny Marco. Johnny is a famous Hollywood star who doesn’t really care for the work he does at this point in his life. He’s lonely, he’s withdrawn from a social life for the most part as his day-to-day activities are filled with various degenerate activities.

That is, until his 11-year-old daughter, Cleo makes an unexpected visit. Cleo makes Johnny re-evaluate his life. He still can be a pretty lousy father but we see the attempts he makes, and how much he really cares for her. They travel to Milan, and Las Vegas to promote Johnny’s film, and on the way they really bond with each other. You can see how much his relationship with Cleo positively affects Johnny and gives him much needed meaning in life.

Nebraska (2013)

Nebraska / Image Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Alexander Payne has had multiple films that deal with fatherhood in some form, Nebraska, The Descendants, and About Schmidt. The Descendants is also an impeccable watch on this occasion but I chose Nebraska because it does something more unique, at least compared to the others on this list. It’s about an older father. The rest of these are mostly middle-aged fathers dealing with kids, teens, and young adults but Nebraska is about the relationship of an elderly man, Woody, and his middle-aged son, David.

It highlights the estranged relationship between Woody and David as they reconnect on a road trip from Monatana to Nebraska to claim what he believes to be a million-dollar sweepstakes prize. David learns a lot about his father through this road trip, mainly about his life before moving to Montana.

The beauty of what Alexander Payne creates, not only in this but most of his films is the simplicity of life. He makes his stories so easy to digest, they’re funny films but the humor is never up in your face. It’s both a relatable tale, with relatable characters, but most of all it feels so real. These protagonists all have a fatal flaw but that’s what make them great. Woody is an alcoholic who cared more for booze than being a father to David but on this road trip, it’s hard not to connect with these characters which makes the relationship so much easier to connect with.

Bonus: Shrinking (2023)

Shrinking / Image Courtesy of Apple TV+

Shrinking is a TV show I wanted to highlight in its relation to the idea of fatherhood. It’s a comedy show on Apple TV+ starring Jason Segel and Harrison Ford created by Bill Lawrence, and Segel surrounded by a fantastic ensemble of characters. It has intersecting storylines for both Segel and Ford as they deal with fatherhood in varying capacities.

Jason Segel plays Jimmy, a therapist dealing with the recent death of his wife. His daughter, Alice is dealing with the grief of losing her mother, and Jimmy not being the best father in recent times. His grief starts to affect his work as he starts giving out advice that’s too honest which results in his patients making major life changes far too quickly.

Harrison Ford plays Paul who is Jimmy’s boss, who is left to deal with the consequences of Jimmy’s unethical actions. Paul himself has a tough relationship with his own estranged daughter. Paul has Parkinson’s disease and is struggling to come to grips with the relationship they have as he withholds that information.

It’s a hilarious show that might just be the funniest on air right now. In its purest form, it’s a dramedy, and a brilliant one at that. It knows exactly when to be comedic, and when to pull at your heartstrings.

The fantastic part of all of this is that these relationships both progress wonderfully. The 10-episode season allows us to see a slow but smooth progression as both Jimmy and Paul have to grow as people through their relationship with each other and other members of the ensemble in order to be better fathers to their daughters.

Shrinking also features a killer performance from Harrison Ford who is a comedic genius in this. He also happens to give a fantastic dramatic performance when required. Both of these put together make for Ford’s best acting in a long, long time.

It only has one season so far so it should be a quick watch. Season 2 is expected to drop later this year according to Apple so stay tuned for that if you enjoy this show.

Thanks for reading!

An aspiring screenwriter based in California obsessed with the inner and outer workings of Film and TV. Vishu serves as an editorial writer for Film, Music and TV.