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In the name of the father: 16 top TV daddies

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James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano

The Sopranos

The Sopranos

Adam Driver is expected to play a villain 'similar to Darth Vader'

Adam Driver is expected to play a villain 'similar to Darth Vader'

 National Lampoon's Vacation

National Lampoon's Vacation

Homer Simpson

Homer Simpson

Liam Neeson in Taken; the movie has helped make the Ballymena native one of the highest-paid actors in the world

Liam Neeson in Taken; the movie has helped make the Ballymena native one of the highest-paid actors in the world

Bryan Cranston combines lovable father-figure with a Mr Magoo persona in Malcolm in the Middle

Bryan Cranston combines lovable father-figure with a Mr Magoo persona in Malcolm in the Middle

Steve Martin in Father of the Bride

Steve Martin in Father of the Bride

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James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano

What makes a good father? In real life, well that's easy: provide for your son or daughter, teach them the meaning of right and wrong and the value of things; teach them to be respectful of those around them and send them on their way to a prosperous life.

On screen though, the valuable life lessons it falls on fictional fathers to administer can be quite different. So rather than your kid coming to you with the hand out looking for money, fictional fathers often have a responsibility to teach some quite unusual life lessons. Sometimes they teach nothing but are of such memorable stuff that they've entered the lexicon as some of the best made-up dads we've ever seen on screen.

Walter White (Breaking Bad)

"I did it all for my family," Walter White claims in the opening episode of the genre-shattering, world-conquering Breaking Bad.

Much, much later in the series it becomes clear that maybe he wasn't being completely truthful when he said that, but Walter's relationship with his Walter Jr (before it all came crashing down at least) was always a cornerstone of the drama. Now, what's for breakfast?

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Tony Soprano (The Sopranos)

One of the most masterful elements of storytelling in The Sopranos was that with some tiny exceptions, Tony's professional life as a mob boss never encroached on his family life. Instead, throughout the six seasons of the show we witnessed Tony endure the struggles of parenthood as though it were the most important thing in the world to him. Of the many scenes that illustrate this, one near the very end between Tony and son Anthony Jr (Robert Iler), after AJ's suicide attempt is the most poignant. RIP James Gandolfini.

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James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano

Homer Simpson (The Simpsons)

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One of the most famous TV dads of them all, there's really nothing Homer ever did to deserve a father of the year award. But whenever his dedication to his children does surface, it's heartfelt and as genuine as the yellow cartoon buffoon can get. Who could forget the classic early episode that ended with the message: "Do it for her."

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Homer Simpson

Homer Simpson

Homer Simpson

Frank Gallagher (Shameless)

He's a deadbeat dad, sure, but Frank Gallagher is the glue that holds that family together and even when he's legless and out of his mind on drugs down the local boozer, Frank's seven children were trying to make a better life for them and for him. Is that his influence, or lack thereof? Who knows, but in terms of TV dads, Frank Gallagher is larger than life. We feel William H Macy was a little bit miscast in the US remake, but there you go.

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Rev. Eric Camden (7th Heaven)

OK, we're taking the mickey slightly with this one, but just because you're ultra-conservative doesn't mean you can't be a good father. 7th Heaven was an American TV drama that focused on the Camden family who, on a weekly basis, faced quite a few moral and ethical dilemmas. Thankfully, the good reverend "Dad" was always on hand to give them some guidance. It was a little creepy in its message sometimes, but Eric is a worthy inclusion on this list. Mike Brady had nothing on him.

Mike Brady (The Brady Bunch)

The Brady Bunch 1970s TV series is only a vague memory, but the 1995 movie starring Gary Cole was an underrated comedy gem. That version lampooned the all-American values of the Bradys by transplanting them in to selfish, paranoid USA of the modern day, which made Mike's meandering speeches on the importance of family all the funnier. It may have been a send-up, but there was nothing wrong with Mike's message at the end of the day.

Jed Bartlett (The West Wing)

If your dad was President of the USA, would you be able to have anything approaching a normal life? Of course not, but who needs normal when you've got your own secret service detail. Several sub-plots of the endlessly entertaining West Wing's early seasons focused on Jed's relationship with youngest daughter Zoe (Elizabeth Moss). It could have been twee and annoying, but Martin Sheen's performance along with Aaron Sorkin's writing made him a realistic (ie head-wrecking) dad.

Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker (Star Wars)

OK, when we first meet Vader he's more machine than man, twisted and evil, and it's only halfway through the Star Wars trilogy that we discover his role as Luke's father. But he comes good in the end in one of the greatest face-turns in cinema history. And there's that classic moment at the end of Jedi, where Luke helps take his mask off. Well it doesn't get more father-son than that.

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Adam Driver is expected to play a villain 'similar to Darth Vader'

Adam Driver is expected to play a villain 'similar to Darth Vader'

Adam Driver is expected to play a villain 'similar to Darth Vader'

Vito Corleone (The Godfather)

Was Vito a good father? He may have raised his sons to enter a life of corruption and crime, but it's a later scene in The Godfather (1972) that reveals the Mafia was never what he wanted for his sons. "Senator Corleone ... Governor Corleone," he allows himself to dream. Maybe the fact that it never happened is a black mark on his track record (and the in-fighting between his sons that came after his death), but when your nickname is Godfather, then your paternal instinct has got to stand for something.

Ned Stark (Game of Thrones)

They say Sean Bean is a walking spoiler alert, so we'll say nothing if you're one of the five people not obsessed with Game of Thrones by now and want to enjoy the series outright. But regardless of his actions in the lust and politics of Westeros, Ned's real strength as a character was his total devotion to his five children. In particular, the scenes in season one where he used very different tactics to help daughters Arya and Sansa through emotional turmoil was beautifully written and acted by all involved.

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Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)

The life lessons from all fathers are important, but when it comes to Atticus Finch, we ALL learned something from him. Those of us that studied To Kill a Mockingbird for the Leaving Cert, anyway. First published in 1960 and still taught around the world today, Atticus is the moral compass that instilled in us all a sense of racial tolerance; when it comes to being a father to his own fictional children, Scout and Jem, he teaches them that and countless other valuable life lessons.

Bryan Mills (Taken)

Anyone who is a father will probably tell you, there's very little you wouldn't do for your child if they were in need, but Taken's Bryan Mills (played by Liam Neeson in a career-swerving performance) really goes above and beyond when it comes to daddy duties. OK, very few fathers have to deal with the trauma of their daughter being kidnapped, but it would be prudent to take a leaf out of Bryan's book: fly halfway around the world at a moment's notice, beat the absolute shite out of every single person you meet until they tell you where your daughter is. Now that's a very particular set of skills.

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Liam Neeson in Taken; the movie has helped make the Ballymena native one of the highest-paid actors in the world

Liam Neeson in Taken; the movie has helped make the Ballymena native one of the highest-paid actors in the world

Liam Neeson in Taken; the movie has helped make the Ballymena native one of the highest-paid actors in the world

Clark Griswold (National Lampoon's Vacation)

His role in Community aside, it's hard to separate Chevy Chase from the character of Clark Griswold in National Lampoon's Vacation. Determined to show his kids a good time on a road trip to Wally World, Clark pulls out all the stops and despite the trip (and its sequels) being a total and utter disaster, his heart is in the right place. Good man Clark.

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 National Lampoon's Vacation

National Lampoon's Vacation

National Lampoon's Vacation

 

George Banks (Father of the Bride)

We were going to include Steve Martin in Parenthood (1989) in this list but the wonderfully witty George Banks just beat him to it. George is a wonderful father to both of his children, but his strong, loving relationship with daughter Annie makes it very difficult for him to say goodbye when she announces she's getting married. The basketball scene between father and daughter tells us everything we need to know.

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Steve Martin in Father of the Bride

Steve Martin in Father of the Bride

Steve Martin in Father of the Bride

Ted Kramer (Kramer vs Kramer)

The wonder of Ted Kramer's parenting skills is he had to learn them on the fly after his wife suddenly leaves him. And learn them he does, so when it finally transpires that Billy is to go and live with his mother (Meryl Streep) after more than a year of it just being the two of them, it's a heartbreaking time. The scene near the end of the movie where Ted and Billy make eggs together is so perfectly measured (not to mention rehearsed) that it might be one of the single most touching moments of parenting ever committed to the screen.

Hal Wilkerson (Malcolm in the Middle)

Wilkerson? We actually had to look that up, as it turns out the surname of the Malcolm in the Middle family was intended to be something of a mystery and only revealed through clues during the run of the series. We've kept Hal until the very end as not only is he one of the funniest TV dads there has ever been, he's also fundamentally opposite to Walter White. Any chaos or mischief in the family home was often attributable to him ... which in a way makes him a brilliant dad, no?

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Bryan Cranston combines lovable father-figure with a Mr Magoo persona in Malcolm in the Middle

Bryan Cranston combines lovable father-figure with a Mr Magoo persona in Malcolm in the Middle

Bryan Cranston combines lovable father-figure with a Mr Magoo persona in Malcolm in the Middle


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