Great Father Figures From the Movies

Jasmine Williams

TIE: Mr. Miyagi (Nuriyuki"Pat" Morita) and Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) in either version of The Karate Kid-- This is my choice for top film father-figure and I can't separate the two. While Morita might have been nominated for an Academy Award for the role, Jackie Chan could have been even better from the remake. Who can forget their lessons. A great deal of dads or father-figures teach kids to defend themselves, but few make them better people from the process.

THEIR LESSON: FATHERS AND FATHER-FIGURES ARE TEACHERS-- It does not matter what the program is (karate, kung-fu, swimming, school, etc.), all children, not just boys, need to see male role models as teachers and good examples in whatever craft, especially when a father is not present. Honorable mention in this category goes out to all those influential movie teachers like Morgan Freeman at Lean on Me and Robin Williams at Dead Poets Society.

Both Caine and Gough offer unforgettable calm and brevity sanity to the tormented child he cares for in adulthood. Alfred keeps the dark and hopeless Batman grounded.

It was not dear, old dad. Imagine what it'd be like if he remained with papa.

THEIR LESSON: A CHILD IS NEVER ALONE OR AWAY FROM WISDOM AND GUIDANCE-- "The Force will be with you... always." Putting it a different way, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. What both Obi-Wan and Yoda instill in Luke (especially after the both leave him) is that the capability to do the ideal thing comes from inside, though the lessons and wisdom they taught sticks with him.

TIE: Dumbledore (Richard Harris and Michael Gambon) and Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) in the Harry Potter series-- The two of Harry Potter's biological magician parents were killed by Voldemort as a baby, leaving Harry with his horrible and sheltering"muggle" Dursley family. When he learns he too is a wizard at the age of 11, the world opens up to him and he sets out on a pursuit that is parallel to not defeat evil, but find out about his parents.

THEIR LESSON: THERE ARE WATCHFUL EYES THAT CARE ABOUT YOU BEHIND THE SCENES-- While neither Dumbledore or Sirius are Harry's dad, they have watched him and protected him from afar (not unlike Obi-Wan Kenobi too). Both have helped Harry learn the truth about his parents and his significance in the scheme of things. Both have been willing to give their lives for his security.

Glenn Ford (type of outdone in the past few years by John Schneider on TV's Smallville) and Cliff Robertson embody adoptive parents to boys who will grow up to become powerful men. Their mutual early passings are the catalyst to both guys stepping up to their destinies and their loving upbringings give them the worth they instill and possess as heroes.

THEIR LESSON: WITH GREAT POWER COME GREAT RESPONSIBILITY-- Obviously, the movie says it best. Both fathers believe that the young men they care for are destined for something great, yet both wisely and impressionably warn that with that greatness comes a duty.

Leon (Jean Reno) in The expert -- When you haven't seen the 1995 thriller where Jean Reno's hitman takes on a young Natalie Portman as an apprentice, you are missing a great father-figure role. Take Mr. Miyagi and add deadly firepower. Yet, just like in both Karate Kid films, the student can teach the teacher a few things also.

HIS LESSON: INSTILLING THE ABILITY OF SELF-DEFENSE-- This lesson could easily match up the the #1 spot on this list inhabited by the Karate Kid films, but it fits more sharply here. We had that father or father-figure that pulls us aside to teach us have a punch, throw a punch, or how to beat a bully. Nonviolent or not, self-defense or self-preservation is a major part of growing up that someone should help with.

Lt. Stephen McCaffrey (Kurt Russell) at Backdraft-- If you believe this is an odd name for this list, allow me to explain. It was the brother who took over caring for little brother when Stephen and Brian's father was tragically killed in a fire when they were kids. With the help of a home security systems they were safe. Though not a father, Stephen was significant father-figure that little brother emulated, competed with, and looked up to in the absence of the real thing.

HIS LESSON: BIG BROTHERS ARE FATHERS IN TRAINING-- For some younger siblings whose father isn't in the picture or off a lot, large brother emerges to meet the obligation and responsibility to take care of them. More than just playing watchdog and babysitter, in many cases, they must grow and play with the father-figure until they're a father. Like fathers, they want a life for them that is far better than their own.

TIE: Walt Kowalski and Frankie Dunn (both Clint Eastwood) in Gran Torino and Million Dollar Baby-- I couldn't decide between these two great older roles for Clint Eastwood. Both his characters, Frankie and Walt, very reluctantly, yet thankfully, take unlikely individuals . They are treated by clint to a school values, how to be tough for yourself, and shows them the ropes. Heck, we all know he's gotta be this guy in real life.

HIS LESSON: YOU NEVER STOP BEING A FATHER OR FATHER-FIGURE-- Both of Clint Eastwood's masterful performances in Gran Torino and his Oscar-winning Million Dollar Baby reveal that, even at old age, you never stop being a significant father-figure. The job doesn't end. Even if his own children are out of the home, you can't unprogram a father from mentality and the discipline he puts in generations and other people.

He is the man. One his finest and most endearing roles is the real-life coach that bonded a formerly segregated football team and took them to the state championship. As a high school supervisor and waterboy, I can attest to the father-figure power of good coaches in young mens' lives. They are motivators and invaluable examples.

HIS LESSON: COACHES ARE FATHER-FIGURES FOR YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN-- Athletic coaches inspire, push, instruct, and guide their players to heights and levels that real parents can't take them. Their supportive tutelage and aggressive drive work on young men and women, whether they are the Vince Lombardi kind where"winning is not everything, it is the only thing" or the small city little league coach who only wants you to"have fun out there." Honorable mention in this category goes out from Gene Hackman to Burgess Meredith, to the list of movie coaches.

Capt. John Miller (Tom Hanks) in Saving Private Ryan-- The last father on my list is just another improbable one, but well-suited into the tag. In Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks's Capt. Miller must be elder leader among young men who can't handle war. A just and decent one at that, although he has to show them how to not just be a soldier. His background revelation scene says it all.

HIS LESSON: THE NEED FOR AND EXAMPLE OF MATURITY-- Two things a fantastic father or father-figure should instill is decency and maturity. For providing support, they also have to direct the young to take care of themselves and how to grow up. That instilling figure must also show them how to be a fantastic adult, so that, someday, they can be for their kids what he had been for them.