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Hollywood Dads: 15 Most Iconic Father Figures From Television and Movies

With Father’s Day just around the corner (June 16th), we’re about to embark on a journey through the world of on-screen fatherhood. Get ready to meet some of the best, worst, funniest, and most intense dads depicted on television and in movies.

From the inspiring resilience of Will Smith’s Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness to the comical chaos of Homer Simpson in The Simpsons, these fathers, each with unique traits, have something to teach us, whether it is a valuable lesson or a cautionary tale. 

Let us know in the comments which TV or movie dad you think is the best.

1. Gomez Addams– The Addams Family

addams family
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Gomez Addams is one of the best representations of a great father ever to be depicted on screen. He sets a beautiful example for his children by showcasing his love and devotion to their mother, Morticia. 

He constantly supports each of his children’s endeavors without ever breaking their spirit or making them feel like they are not good enough. He loves his brother despite his flaws and constant screw-ups and takes care of the elderly family members in their lives. 

2. Tony Soprano– The Sopranos

tony soprano family
Image Credit: Home Box Office (HBO).

The late actor, James Gandolfini, did an excellent job portraying the tough mob boss Tony Soprano in HBO’s hit series The Sopranos, but he wasn’t always the best father figure to his children Anthony Jr. and Meadow.

Although he tried to show his children love and support, he often missed the mark due to his criminal enterprises and multiple affairs, which prevented him from being a decent family man.

3. Chris Gardner– The Pursuit of Happyness

the pursuit of happyness
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

In 2006, Will Smith took us on an emotional rollercoaster as he portrayed the real-life character Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness. This heartwarming and inspiring story of a single dad of a little boy battling against all odds to provide the life he and his son deserve will leave you deeply moved.

Gardner faced significant challenges in finding work, securing enough food, and providing shelter. Yet, his unwavering resilience and focus on his goal of being a good provider, even in the face of such hardships, are testaments to the human spirit and will inspire you. 

4. Bryan Mills–Taken

taken liam neeson
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone unfamiliar with Liam Neeson’s character Bryan Mills in the hit film Taken. The iconic quote, “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have is a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career” has resonated with many parents over the years.

Neeson’s portrayal of a father taking revenge on every person involved in the kidnapping and exploitation of his daughter is how I imagine any father would react.

5. Homer Simpson– The Simpsons

homer simpson
Image Credit: Haelen Haagen/Shutterstock.

Everyone knows the lovable yet infuriating cartoon character dad, Homer Simpson. He might be a buffoon who spends most nights after work hanging at a dive bar and annoying Marge, but he loves his family despite frequently wringing Bart’s neck and often forgetting Maggie even exists. 

However, you can’t forget that time he took a second job at the Kwik-E-Mart to buy Lisa the pony she always wanted or when he dressed up as a robot and took several beatings to put a smile on Bart’s face, and when he let Maggie keep her beloved Bobo, the dirty and falling apart teddy bear. 

6. Danny Tanner– Full House

danny tanner full house
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.

Television history is filled with memorable fathers, particularly since the rise of family-oriented sitcoms. However, the late Bob Saget’s portrayal of Danny Tanner, the patriarch of the Tanner family in Full House, may be the epitome of the ideal sitcom father.

He always made it a point to tell his daughters how much he loved them, wasn’t afraid to act silly and play games with them, and ensured they knew they were important and mattered.

7. Daniel Hillard– Mrs. Doubtfire

mrs doubtfire
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Robin Williams’s portrayal of Daniel Hillard in the hit film Mrs. Doubtfire is one of my favorite bits to this day. Hillard loved his kids so much that he was willing to go to elaborate lengths, dressing in drag, inventing a new persona, and getting hired as their nanny to spend more time with them.

I’m sure there were much better approaches to his cause; however, they definitely would not have been as hilarious or memorable.  

8. Phillip Banks– The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

fresh prince belair james avery
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Philip Banks, portrayed by James Avery, stands out as one of TV’s greatest fathers. His character resonated deeply with both viewers and co-stars. Even thirty years after its initial broadcast, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air remains popular, and Avery’s depiction of the Banks family patriarch remains iconic.

He might not have been Will Smith’s father, but he was an excellent father figure who took Smith’s fat jokes in stride, always taught his kids to own up to their mistakes, spent quality time with each of them, and made sure that he always supported them. You can’t ask for a better dad than that. 

9. Al Bundy– Married… With Children

married with children
Image Credit: Fox Network.

Al Bundy is definitely an iconic TV dad, but it’s not because he was a decent father or even husband. He exemplified slothfulness, sexism, and misogyny; however, Married… with Children remains one of the most popular sitcoms ever to be created. 

Despite poor ratings when it was first released, the series has become a cult classic with a dedicated fanbase who adores the hilariously irreverent Bundy brood led by their patriarch, Al.   

10. Ignacio Suarez– Ugly Betty

ignacio ugly betty
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment/ABC Studios.

ABC’s hit Ugly Betty was the endearing story of a young woman from Queens trying to make it in Manhattan at a notable magazine. Without the unwavering support of her father, Ignacio Suarez, Betty, her sister, and her nephew wouldn’t be who they are.

Ignacio was a great father who understood the meaning of sacrifice. He had fled his home country of Mexico to make a better life in New York. A fabulous chef, he showed his love by cooking for his children and making sure he would always be there for them.   

11. Atticus Finch– To Kill a Mockingbird

gregory peck atticus finch
Image Credit: Public Domain/WikiComms.

To Kill a Mockingbird is an American classic novel later made into a film. Atticus Finch, played by Gregory Peck, is one of the most moral characters in film history. From an early age, he instilled in his children, Scout and Jem, essential values like treating people fairly, turning the other cheek, and standing up for their beliefs. 

These weren’t merely words for Atticus; he consistently led by example, especially in his role as a defense attorney representing his unpopular (but likely innocent) client, Tom Robinson. Although things didn’t go as planned, Finch’s unwavering morality earned him respect and demonstrated what a true role model should be.

12. Clark Griswold– National Lampoon Vacation Franchise

chevy chase national lampoon vacation
Image Credit: Warner Bros Pictures.

The whirlwind of adventures that Clark Griswold, portrayed by Chevy Chase, embarked on during various National Lampoon Vacations—Wally World, Europe, Christmas, Las Vegas—were all for the sake of his children’s joy. His greatest wish was for them to have a blast, experience different cultures, and understand the significance of family.

Nothing could deter him from achieving that goal, whether dealing with a deceased aunt and her dog, navigating an endless roundabout, handling a greedy boss, or facing bad luck at the casino.

13. Darth Vader– Star Wars

darth vader star wars
Image Credit: Stefano Buttafoco and Shutterstock.

“Luke, I am your father” might be one of the most iconic lines in any film, and Star Wars fans were shocked by the revelation. Darth Vader might have been a super-evil authoritarian maniac capable of strangling people with his mind, but could he still be a good father? Unfortunately, no.

However, Vader had a profoundly troubled upbringing (making any awkward adolescence seem mild in comparison). Ultimately, he redeemed himself by saving his son Luke and defeating the Emperor. Better late than never, right?

14. Gil Buckman– Parenthood

steve martin parenthood
Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Steve Martin’s character, Gil Buckman, in Parenthood, perfectly captures a father’s concerns at different stages of their lives, particularly those with complicated relationships with their fathers. Questions like, “Am I raising my kids correctly? Do I work too much? Can I handle another child?” plague him. 

However, it’s clear to the audience that Gil is an excellent parent and has no reason to worry. After all, how many dads would dress up as a cowboy when the birthday entertainer cancels at the last minute?

15. Dan Conner– Roseanne

john goodman dan conner
Image Credit: The Carsey-Werner Company/ABC Studios.

John Goodman’s portrayal of Dan Conner in the 1980s-90s sitcom Roseanne is a relatable depiction of a loving but firm father. Conner was a different type of dad to each of his three kids, Becky, Darlene, and DJ. A blue-collar father who worked extra hard to make ends meet, Conner didn’t tolerate backtalking and always expected his kids to do their best. 

He was a caring and devoted husband and dad who found joy in life’s simple pleasures, often seen sipping an ice-cold beer, cracking jokes on his wife, and playing poker with his buddies. 

With a passion for travel, great food, and beautiful art, Julie put aside her 15-year career in the tech industry and dove head-first into a more creative sphere. Utilizing her degree in Communications, she is pursuing freelance writing. An avid traveler, Julie has experience writing and documenting the amazing spots she has visited and explored, the delicious food she has tasted, and the incredible art she has admired and purchased! When she’s not writing, she can be spotted around Austin, TX, at various art gallery openings, having a delicious meal with her husband and friends, and playing with her two dogs.