Celebrating Father Figures in Film & TV


Written by Amanda Lederle


The title of father can be a crown to wear with pride, yet it can weigh heavy on a person’s head. The following examples of father figures are all only humans, trying to do the best they can with what they know and have been taught. We are introduced to grown men who find new ways to take care of their families, make amends, learn what it means to be a leader, and seek to find their personal identities.



This film is about Oliver (played by Ewan McGreggor) reflecting on his life after his father’s death, while also trying to define the future of a new relationship. Oliver’s constant need for definition stems from his desire to find purpose and love. 

After years of marriage to Oliver’s mother, Hal (Christopher Plummer) is in his 70s when he comes out as gay to his son. We see how Oliver’s relationship with his father changes afterward, up until Hal’s eventual death. This film is a wonderful example of how fathers may not always be who we think they are, and how it’s never too late to reveal one’s truth. 

Christopher Plummer received an Academy Award for this role as Best Supporting Actor in 2011. 


Morris From America

In the first minute of the film, Morris (Markees Christmas, in his first feature film) and his father Curtis (Craig Robinson) analyze what they think is good hip-hop music.

Right off the top, you see the strong bond between these two. Father and son then go out for ice cream, and we realize that these two African-American males in their matching New York Yankee hats are in Germany, very far from their American norms.

While Morris struggles to fit into the culture and the local adolescent community, he is also in search of his rapping identity. Meanwhile, Curtis finds himself struggling as well. This father figure is trying to deal with his grief after the passing of his wife, at the same time as he is learning to be a single father and trying to find his own way in German society. Seeing Robinson as a father is a refreshing change from the carefree, troublemaking characters he typically plays. Morris in America is a great story about finding your authentic voice and identity in a foreign place, no matter what age you are.

This film won two prizes at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival: the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, and for Craig Robinson, the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Individual Performance.


Whale Rider

Traditions are important to maintaining culture. But how long should we continue to uphold a tradition if it no longer serves its purpose?

This is a story about a Maori tradition of training the first-born grandson of the chiefs to be the next leaders of a tribe. When the first-born grandson in a local Maori tribe dies at birth, his twin sister Pai seems to have the potential to be the future chief but is brushed off as a possible candidate.

However, as a strong female character, Pai does everything in her power to show her grandfather that she is capable of leading their tribe. After several challenges and with the support of other male tribe members, she eventually proves herself worthy of the position. A beautiful tale about how traditional male roles can be upheld by any gender, and that a community needs to support its members for the group to succeed.  

Pai is played by thirteen-year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes, who in 2003 became the youngest nominee for the Academy Award for Best Actress.


The Royal Tenenbaums

What’s a list about fathers without Royal Tenenbaum? The father of three struggles to find his way back into his quirky family after years of questionable parenting. This story is about him making amends with his children and, as a result, how they come to terms with themselves. 

Anderson’s films famously portray the experience of coming-of-age and people’s relationships with their fathers, and this film about adult children is no different. No matter how old we become, we still look for approval from our loved ones, as a father or as children.

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Amanda is a film enthusiast that has dedicated their life to mental health awareness, CreateBeing.com. Amanda has a background in Film Studies and lives with their partner and their chinchilla, Chewbacca in Toronto, Canada. They are also a visual artist, you can find more on Instagram @amandalederle and @createbeing.