If Father’s Day reminds us to do anything besides send a card, it’s to look back at the movie dads of yesteryear to see just how awful they really were. So, pretending Atticus Finch never existed, we bring you a list of bad dads, counting them down from Pretty Bad to Worst. Father. Ever.
10. Daniel Hillard/Euphegenia Doubtfire in Mrs. Doubtfire
Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) is generally regarded as a good dad who would do absolutely anything to be around his kids. But let’s not forget what got him into this cross-dressing predicament in the first place: Sally Field was divorcing him for being a bad dad who couldn’t hold down a job or keep from messing up his kids’ birthday parties. Yes, he spent hours getting into makeup and creating a new persona just to be able to spend time with his kids as their new babysitter, but does anyone ever think of the poor little girl who had to sit back and watch her nanny’s face peel off at the dinner table, only to reveal her absentee dad underneath, obviously eaten alive? And what about the son who had to find out his dad’s secret by watching a granny pee standing up? No kid should have to end up in therapy through these traumatic experiences.
9. Jack Byrnes in Meet the Parents, etc.
In Meet the Parents, Ben Stiller plays Greg, a guy with the worst luck in the world (his given name is Gaylord, after all). But that would just be an unfortunate circumstance if it wasn’t for the watchful eye of his future father-in-law, Jack (Robert DeNiro), a former CIA operative who is dangerously protective of his daughter and already highly suspicious of Greg. Jack puts Greg through a lie detector test, gives him a hard time about being a male nurse and argues with him about milking anything with nipples. Greg goes from being a guy with the worst luck in the world to a guy with the worst luck in the world and the worst father-in-law.
8. Dr. Evil in Austin Powers
Having to grow up in a lair would make any kid angry. But Scott Evil (Seth Green) has an especially large bone to pick with his dad. No matter how diabolical Scott tries to be, he’ll never live up to his father’s expectations of him. Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) names Mini-Me as his heir and, after having to fight the little guy for his dad’s affection, he even goes on Jerry Springer in an episode entitled “My Dad is Evil and Wants to Take Over the World!” Also, Dr. Evil consistently tells him to “zip it” when Scott’s got a logical idea to voice (which could get annoying to Scott, but is pretty funny for us).
7. Royal Tenenbaum in The Royal Tenenbaums
Even though he raised three genius children, Mr. Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) is still a failure as a father. He singles one son out as his obvious favorite, constantly introduces his adopted daughter as his “adopted daughter” and steals from, intentionally shoots and gets sued by his third child. Having pushed his children into greatness only to be disappointed by them, Royal fakes a bout of stomach cancer to get back into his now-estranged children’s lives. By movie’s end, Royal is redeemed; his kids, however, are still screwed up.
6. Wayne Szalinski in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
I’m pretty sure the title of the movie says it all. But just in case you haven’t seen the hit 1989 flick, lets elaborate: Wayne Szalinski is a “wacky” inventor who apparently doesn’t know any better than to not leave his ridiculously unsafe inventions lying around the house. When the neighbor’s kid’s ball crashes through his window (as neighbor’s kid’s balls often do), the kids get caught in the shrink ray’s way and shrink to tiny, ant-sized things. Wayne not only takes them out with the trash, he nearly eats them for breakfast. In the 1992 sequel to the movie, Rick Moranis learns from his mistakes and this time succeeds in blowing up his toddler. Hilarious family films, or alarming cause for a call to child services? You decide.
5. Darth Vader in Star Wars
It’d be tough for any iconic movie villain to squeeze in some quality family time. But it’s especially hard for Darth Vader, who had the bad luck of spawning two semi-incestuous Galactic Empire-fighting Dark-Side haters. Vader makes his kids’ lives hell for three movies straight, even going so far as to sever Luke’s hand during a light saber battle in The Empire Strikes Back. But he gets his due punishment soon enough, when he’s played by a pretty boy named Hayden Christensen in two less-than-stellar prequel films.
4. Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood
There were lots of things that made There Will Be Blood great: Daniel Day-Lewis; a look at America’s shady oil history in the early 20th century; something about milkshakes. But one of the best aspects of it was the convoluted relationship between Daniel Plainview and his “son and partner” H.W. Daniel “adopts” H.W. for his own professional gains, but when the boy, who becomes deaf as a result of dad’s chosen profession, gets to be too much to handle, Daniel puts him on a train to San Fran and sends him off into the distance. By movie’s end, Daniel finally tells H.W. the truth about where he came from, and as a general rule, you don’t want to break the news to your adopted child by telling him he was a “bastard from a basket!”
3. Bill Maplewood in Happiness
In Happiness, Dylan Baker plays a shrink who really needs a shrink. He may be living the American Dream as a successful psychiatrist in the suburbs, but Bill Maplewood is still an uber-creepy father. Married with three kids, the mild-mannered dad harbors a secret life as a pedophile, using his 11 year-old son as a means to be around little boys. When he isn’t lacing tuna sandwiches with sedatives to use on unsuspecting pre-teens, he’s trolling the neighborhood, looking for the address of his next victim. But the number one reason he’s a bad dad is because the only one he’ll confess his crimes to is his son, who’s at just the right impressionable age to be seriously messed up by what he hears.
2. George Miller in The Butterfly Effect
If you were still after Eric Stoltz since his Some Kind of Wonderful days, that all came to an abrupt end with his turn as George Miller, a character who couldn’t differentiate between father and child pornographer. After seeing what the future holds for the Miller kids since suffering the abuse of their father, Ashton Kutcher spends the movie traveling through time trying to get them as far away from their dad as possible. Noble, but it kind of ruins his life, too.
1. Captain Vidal in Pan’s Labyrinth
There can’t exist a princess without a monster out to make her life a living hell, and for Ofelia, the heroine of Guillermo del Toro’s dark fairytale, that monster comes in the form of her stepfather, the fascist military leader Captain Vidal (Sergi López i Ayats.) Ofelia has to struggle to rescue her baby brother and get away from her stepfather lest she suffer the fate that befalls all the poor souls who are caught in his clutches (mainly torture and death). But by movie’s end (SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO HAVE KEPT THIS MOVIE CRIMINALLY UNSEEN), Vidal skips the torture altogether and murders his young stepdaughter with a single gunshot wound. But it’s cool, ’cause he dies in the end and Ofelia gets to finally enter her real fairytale. And we’re all glad that happened, because otherwise that would’ve been a really bad ending.