Picture from A Dozen Films for Father’s Day
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A Dozen Films for Father’s Day

Once a year we take a day to honor fathers, those men who lead, guide and provide for the family. Theirs is a tough job—and often an unappreciated one. So if you are looking for a way to say thanks to the ordinary hero who lives at your house, you might want to share with Dad some of these movie titles, which explore the many roles of fatherhood.

Bringing Home the Bacon

Attesting to the weight of being the breadwinner, The Pursuit of Happyness recounts the true story of Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith), a salesman who is literally down to his last dollar. When his wife (Thandie Newton) deserts him, he and his son (Jaden Smith—Will’s real-life boy) are left to live on the streets of San Francisco. Wanting to build a more secure future, the dedicated dad faces countless obstacles while trying to improve his employment opportunities and provide for his child.

In To Kill a Mockingbird, lawyer Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) has a hard time explaining to his two children why he has agreed to defend a black handyman named Tom Robinson (Brock Peters) against the charge of assaulting a white woman. But as the youngsters watch their father withstand the storm of racial prejudice that thunders through their small Alabama community, they come to understand and admire their father’s quiet strength.

The classic mid-life crisis is humorously examined in The Incredibles, the tale of a superhero (voice of Craig T. Nelson) who was forced into hiding and retirement because of legal and liability issues. Now a frustrated cubical worker, he leaps at an unexpected chance to don his mask and Spandex suit once more. But his reckless desire for adventure threatens to expose his cover and put his family members (who also have "incredible" capabilities) into harm’s way.

In the movie On a Clear Day, workaholic Frank Redmond (Peter Mullan) has the opposite problem. After loosing his job at a Glasgow shipyard, the fifty-year-old man tries to find his identity and self worth by taking on the ultimate physical challenge: swimming the English Channel. Plunging into this personal quest, Frank unexpectedly changes the lives of his friends, wife and grown son, who find themselves caught in the wake of his illogical pursuit.

Fathers and Sons

When sentenced to a Jewish concentration camp, Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni) uses his unusual perspective and sense of humor to shield his five-year-old son (Giorgio Cantarini) from the terror that surrounds them. While the audience can still see the tragedy of the situation, this Italian movie (which has been re-voiced in English) also points out how love and one’s own attitudes are what really determine whether or not Life is Beautiful.

However, some dads have trouble expressing their feelings for their children, like Vic Davis (Randy Quaid). Still grieving over the death of his wife, the mechanic and former champion Kart Racer, has shut out his son Watts (Will Rothhaar). Consequently, the neglected boy starts to get attention by becoming a troublemaker—until a caring law officer (Jennifer Wigmore) intervenes. She suggests the two fine-tune their relationship by working together to enter a kart racing competition.

Then there are kids who don’t have fathers—like the one in Secondhand Lions. When his single mom (Kyra Sedgwick) abandons him on the rundown farm of his elderly and grumpy great uncles (Michael Caine and Robert Duvall), young Walter (Haley Joel Osment) has no choice but to make the best of the hostile relationship. While the two men have little sympathy for the "sissy boy," Walter’s meek yet no-nonsense candor is soon matching wits with the old codgers. Slowly stepping into the role of father figure, the great uncles begin to teach him "what every boy needs to know about being a man."

Dads and Daughters

In Fly Away Home, Amy Alden (Anna Paquin) reluctantly comes to live with her estranged father (Jeff Daniels) after the death of her mother. Adjusting to this new arrangement is difficult for both of them, until the ten-year-old girl finds a nest of orphaned Canada Geese. As they care for the goslings together, teaching the birds to fly and even piloting the flock on their first migratory journey (using ultra-light aircraft), their father/daughter relationship also takes flight.

Nor is building family bonds strictly for the birds. In the case of Flicka, Flicka 2 and Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story, it’s a passion for horses that creates a common interest between dads and daughters. In both stories the headstrong parent discovers when you try to tame a filly, she’s apt to gallop away with your heart.

Walking Down the Isle

Perhaps the hardest thing a father will ever do is give his daughter away in marriage. The bittersweet struggle of hanging on while letting go is comically and sensitively addressed in Father of the Bride. Both a possessive parent and a tightwad, George Banks (Steve Martin) discovers the expense of the nuptials is almost as painful as the emotional toll of losing his daughter (Kimberly Williams).

Matthew and Christina Drayton (Spencer Tracey and Katharine Hepburn) have to search their inner prejudices when their daughter (Katharine Houghton) announces her engagement in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. A well-mannered, handsome and highly educated man, Dr. John Prentice (Sidney Poitier) would be the perfect groom—if it weren’t for his color.

In the classic movie musical Fiddler On the Roof, a poor dairy farmer named Tevye (played by Topol) tries to keep his balance by clinging to his Jewish traditions while finding husbands for his five daughters. Moving from light-hearted to heart breaking as his family faces religious persecution in pre-revolutionary Russia, the story celebrates the tenacity of the human spirit and pays tribute to the many challenges of fatherhood.

More details about the movies mentioned in this post…