Happy Father’s Day: 5 Of The Worst Movie Dads

by The Playlist Staff
June 16, 2013 2:15 PM
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Dylan Baker -- "Happiness" (1998)
"Divisive" is as good a word as any when talking about Todd Solondz's multi-stranded ensemble picture. "Happiness" won the FIPRESCI prize at Cannes, but Sundance refused to show it. Quentin Crisp dismissed it as "quite absurd," but Roger Ebert named it his number five film of the year. The film is notable for many reasons; the critical and commercial high point of Solondz's career, bringing Phillip Seymour Hoffman to wider attention (along with "Magnolia," which he made directly afterwards) and as being one of the last truly daring movies of the Indie new wave of the 1990s, but it is one story that really sticks in the mind. Dylan Baker plays a suburban father who develops an obsession with a classmate of his son. When Johnny comes for a sleepover, Bill drugs Johnny and then sodomizes him while he is unconscious. Later he learns of another boy whose parents have left him home alone and drives over to rape him too, expressing no remorse for his actions. As it unfolds, seemingly out of nowhere, it’s utterly, utterly horrifying and it’s hard to believe that the movie you were just enjoying has taken such a sickening turn. One of the most blood-chilling aspects is the way Dylan Baker anchors the performance so resolutely in a kind of suburban, middle-management, sad-sack normalcy, so much so that many fans have never forgotten it, as the actor himself has acknowledged in subsequent interviews. There is no doubt that this Dad is a monster of the most horrendous kind but perhaps what is most troubling about him is the fact that this is not a man who stands out from the crowd, this is a guy who looks and sounds like your Dad’s friends or your work colleagues, and therefore you’d never see him coming.

Jack Nicholson -- "The Shining" (1980)
Fancy a jaunt to the countryside with Dad? Oh, and you have the whole hotel to yourself? Nifty. What could possibly go wrong? An alcoholic with anger issues, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) was never going to win father of the year, especially after he somewhat-inadvertently broke his son Danny's arm. But at least at the start of "The Shining," Jack is trying to rehabilitate himself by giving up drinking, accepting a caretaker position at an empty, out-of-season resort, and tackling that book that he's always wanted to write, all without outside distractions. Unfortunately, Jack didn't account for the inside influences at the Overlook Hotel and its otherworldly inhabitants in particular. After a little too much time to himself, Jack take up drinking again, gets nowhere with that novel ("All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"), and goes on an attempted killing spree with an axe (apparently the croquet mallet in Stephen King's original novel wasn’t threatening enough). After chasing down his wife (Shelley Duvall), he stumbles on his son (Danny Lloyd), who screams, as any kid in his right mind would do at seeing a crazed axe-wielding Jack Nicholson. Rather than snapping out of it at the sight of his terrified son, Jack chases him down too, axe and all, only to be thwarted by getting stuck in the outdoor maze and freezing to death. Breaking his son's arm, dragging his family to nowhere Colorado, trying to kill said family with an axe – yeah, he's earned his place on this list, demons and all. In regards to your own Father's Day -- all emails and no phone calls make Dad a disappointed father.

Darth Vader -- "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)
"No, I am your father," (almost always misquoted as "Luke, I am your father") is one of the most famous lines in cinematic history for so many reasons, which we won't go into for fear of upsetting our I.T. friends with inaccuracies. Suffice it to say that after 'New Hope' in which Darth Vader is the epitome of all that is dark in the force, no one saw it coming that he and the protagonist Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) were father and son. In the second installment of the first trilogy “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back,” the pair have a big lightsaber showdown. Finally, Luke has his chance to confront the man he believes to have killed his father. Unfortunately for him and for anyone with a heart condition, Darth Vader thinks that this would be the most appropriate time to tell him that he is indeed his father, remember this is just after he had sliced off Luke's hand. No other time in Luke's 20-odd years did Darth Vader think to himself, "Hey, maybe I should check in on him," or wait, even just let him know that that Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is his sister, so maybe he should keep his hands off of her. With this lack of involvement, the scenario was a Greek tragedy in space, and made even creepier when the siblings kissed in that same episode. It wasn't until "Return of the Jedi" that we discovered the unconventional family dynamic in the Skywalker household (or lack thereof). Even in a galaxy far far away, there are dads much much crappier than yours. -- Diana Drumm, Rodrigo Perez, Kieran McMahon

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  • JD | June 17, 2013 3:25 AMReply

    Happiness, one of the greatest films ever made.

  • Kate | June 16, 2013 7:22 PMReply

    What, no Great Santini?

  • pontingricky | June 16, 2013 6:25 PMReply

    what Cynthia said I'm stunned that you able to make $4530 in 4 weeks on the internet. have you seen this webpage....rush64.com

  • bblackmoor | June 16, 2013 5:25 PMReply

    "... no one saw it coming that he and the protagonist Luke Skywalker (Mark Hammill) were father and son." That's because in the first movie, they *weren't*. Darth Vader *killed* Luke's father. People complain about Jar-Jar Binks and midichlorians, but the real start of the downhill slide on Star Wars started with the phrase, "I am your father".

  • Jake | June 16, 2013 4:13 PMReply

    Noah Cross in Chinatown is my #1. Solid list though.

  • 21xc | June 17, 2013 3:16 AM


  • michael | June 16, 2013 4:07 PMReply

    Jeff Daniels in The Squid and the Whale?

  • hank | June 16, 2013 2:52 PMReply

    Hey, lets be fair to Darth Vader. He didn't even know Luke existed until Luke blew up the death star at the battle of Yavin. Otherwise, I'm sure he would have came calling. Obi Wan hid the twins from Vader for a reason. As for Leia, Vader wasn't even aware of her until moments before his death at the hands of his own son. "Your thoughts betray you." You see, he read Luke's mind and discovered the twin sister.

  • Zack | June 16, 2013 7:34 PM

    I question the badass credentials of anyone who couldn't find his kid on his home planet, under his real name.

  • hazzno | June 16, 2013 2:35 PMReply

    Ya no kidding about happiness, I cant see that guys face ever without thinking of child abuse,

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