29 movies to stream with dad for Father's Day
It’s nearly Father’s Day, which means it’s time to celebrate and remember the dads in our lives. From fathers and sons to fathers and daughters to untraditional father figures, there’s no shortage of movie dads and fatherly relationships in the cinematic world.
Some screen dads are lovable, others are sources of tension for their children; some fathers are not the ones we’re given, but the ones we find along the way. No matter how you feel about your dad, you can find a cinematic choice that satisfies and probes the father-child relationship as it exists in your life. Here are 29 great flicks from the last 25 years to stream right now.
Based on the real-life story of director Mike Mills’ father coming out at the age of 75, this film won Christopher Plummer the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Though the movie deals with an older man discovering his sexuality, it also more broadly examines father-child kinships and the importance of honesty and openness for successful relationships, romantic or otherwise.
Available on: iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon
While Sofia Coppola is known for making films about women who are struggling to grow up or feel trapped by their surroundings, her moody drama Somewhere gives that treatment to a dad. Stephen Dorff plays a movie star who has had great success and lives at the glamorous Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, but struggles to find meaning in his life. Luckily, some is delivered to him in the form of his preteen daughter (Elle Fanning), who visits him at the hotel. Reconnecting with her, and rediscovering himself as a father, helps him break the cycle of his Hollywood ennui.
Finding Nemo (2003)
Everybody loves Finding Nemo’s stunning computer animation, bringing the Great Barrier Reef to vivid life; children love its (literally) colorful characters and exciting adventure story in which a clownfish, Marlin (Albert Brooks), tries to track down his son, Nemo (Alexander Gould), with the assistance of a forgetful but unfailingly positive blue tang, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres). But where the Pixar classic really gets grown-ups is in its infinite wisdom about fatherhood, growing up, and letting go. By the end of Finding Nemo, your eyes will be about as dry as the movie’s gorgeous setting.
Definitely, Maybe (2008)
In this delightful rom-com, Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds) recounts his romantic history to his daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin) on the eve of his divorce — forcing her to guess which of three women from his past ended up being her mother. In their delightful back-and-forth, we watch Maya shift from her parent-trap motives to a deeper understanding of the complexities of love. Can his daughter help Will find love again? Definitely, maybe.
Available on: Netflix,Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu
A River Runs Through It (1992)
Based on a semi-autobiographical novella of the same name, this coming-of-age drama follows two brothers, one studious and the other rebellious, as they grow up under the strict eye of their Presbyterian minister father. Directed and narrated by Robert Redford, it’s often referenced in pop culture as the ultimate tale of father-son angst and reconciliation.
Available on: Amazon, Google Play, Vudu
Pierre Morel’s Taken begins when Kim (Maggie Grace) goes to Europe with her friend, and the girls are promptly abducted. Their kidnappers, however, picked the wrong American tourists: Kim’s dad is a former CIA field agent (but more importantly, he’s played by Liam Neeson). He has a very particular set of skills. Skills he has acquired over a very long career. Skills that make him a nightmare for people like whatever idiots decided to abduct any onscreen daughter of Liam Neeson’s. He will look for those sorry morons, he will find them, and he will kill them.
Stressed about attending a work meeting that conflicts with a pre-planned family vacation, Bob Munro (Robin Williams) tries to convince his family that an RV road trip will make a better family vacation than a trip to Hawaii. The film features some hilarious improvisational riffs from Williams, and its message of rediscovering the value of familial bonds is a pertinent one on Father’s Day.
Available on: Netflix, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning August Wilson play of the same name, this film marked Denzel Washington’s first entry in his attempts to bring all 10 of Wilson’s Pittsburgh-cycle plays to the screen. Doing double duty as director and lead character Troy, Washington brings to life a man whose seething jealousy and rage at his own circumstances in life drives a rift between him and his son. The film grapples with the specter of racism and its impact on a family and how one man’s regrets and failures can haunt not only his own life, but his son’s as well.
Available on: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu
Trouble with the Curve (2012)
Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams star in Robert Lorenz’s sports drama as a curmudgeonly old baseball scout who is losing his eyesight and his estranged daughter, who joins her father on one last scouting trip to help him complete his work even with his failing vision (metaphor alert!). Along the way, they repair their relationship and she falls in love with a former ballplayer (Justin Timberlake) her father once scouted.
Life Is Beautiful (1997)
This moving Italian comedy-drama won the Grand Prix at Cannes and Best Foreign Film, Best Actor, and Best Original Score at the Oscars (among four other nominations). Writer-director Roberto Benigni stars as Guido, a Jewish-Italian bookseller who is taken, along with his young son, to a concentration camp during WWII. Even in such a horrific place, Guido’s powerful imagination does not fail him, and he uses it to tell stories and make up games in order to protect his son from the disturbing truth and the terrible danger surrounding them.
Available on: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play
The Family Man (2000)
Think It’s a Wonderful Life in reverse — Nicolas Cage’s Jack Campbell loves his life as a successful (and single) investment broker, but when a chance encounter on Christmas Eve finds him waking up in an alternative universe with a wife and kids, he slowly learns that family, not money, is the greatest treasure of all.
Available on: Cinemax, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu
Manchester by the Sea (2016)
In this quiet drama from acclaimed writer-director Kenneth Lonergan, Casey Affleck’s Lee Chandler grapples with a tragedy from his past and the loss of his brother in an Oscar-winning performance. Lee must attempt to put aside his own turmoil to find a way to be a guardian to his teenage nephew. This heartbreaking drama paints a picture of the imperfect process of learning to be a father in the face of shattering tragedy.
Available on: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
While The Royal Tenenbaums owes its status as one of the most Halloween-ready entries in Wes Anderson’s visually quotable oeuvre to the tracksuit-wearing Chas and eyeliner-happy Margot, it’s the family’s eccentric patriarch, Royal Tenenbaum himself (Gene Hackman), who brings them all together with his deceptions and manipulations — but all in the name of reconciling his dysfunctional family. Sure, he may have been selfish and thoughtless and even cruel with his children, but how can we call anyone a bad father who died tragically rescuing his family from the wreckage of a destroyed sinking battleship?
Fly Away Home (1996)
When Amy (Anna Paquin) is sent to live with her estranged father, played by Jeff Daniels, after her mother dies, she’s miserable until she finds a nest of goose eggs that she begins to raise. Amy and her dad finally begin to connect as she plays “mother goose” to the hatchlings, and he helps teach her to fly ultralight airplanes so she can teach the flock their migratory patterns.
Available on: Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Will Smith was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Chris Gardner in Gabriele Muccino’s The Pursuit of Happyness, which chronicles an episode from the entrepreneur’s life during which he had to take care of his young son soon after losing his home and his livelihood. The true and inspiring family tale would be enough to earn the movie a spot on our Father’s Day list, but the cherry on top? Christopher Jr. is played by the star’s own son, Jaden Smith. There’s no faking that kind of chemistry!
Available on: Starz, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play
Alexander Payne’s funny and touching Nebraska stars Bruce Dern as an elderly man who believes he has won a million-dollar sweepstakes and embarks on a journey to Nebraska to claim his prize. His son (Will Forte) sees that his father has fallen prey to a scam, but agrees to accompany him on his trip. The comedy-drama, shot in black and white, picked up six Oscar nominations, and Dern took home the honor for Best Actor at Cannes in 2013.
Meet the Parents (2000)
When it comes to meeting your girlfriend’s parents, it doesn’t get much worse than Robert De Niro’s Jack Brynes, a former CIA agent with his own lie detector. Much humor is derived from Jack’s attempts to prove Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) is unworthy of his daughter, but Jack redeems himself when he learns to put his daughter’s feelings above his own misgivings.
Big Fish (2003)
Tim Burton’s father-son comedy-drama Big Fish, based on Daniel Wallace’s novel of the same name, stars Albert Finney as Edward Bloom, an old man on his deathbed, telling the fantastical stories of his life (depicted in flashback, with Ewan McGregor as the young Edward) to his estranged adult son (Billy Crudup), who is skeptical of his father’s tall tales. The passion and conviction in Edward’s storytelling is enough to make his son a believer; the touching reconciliation between the two men has the same effect on the audience.
Available on: HBO, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play
Road to Perdition (2002)
For Michael Sullivan Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), it doesn’t matter whether his father was a good man or a bad man, only that he was his father. When he witnesses his dad, Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks), at work at his job as a mob enforcer, he unwittingly endangers his family and causes the murder of his mother and siblings. Both Sullivans go on the run in a bid for safety, while the elder Sullivan also seeks vengeance on his own boss and adoptive father, John Rooney (Paul Newman in a great late-career performance). The dark film leaves audiences asking, what sins of the father are we willing to forgive?
Available on: Cinemax, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon
After helming a pair of Iron Man movies and the big-budget sci-fi Western Cowboys & Aliens, Jon Favreau returned to his indie roots with this charming foodie flick. In a plot that echoes the writer-director’s own back-to-basics approach, Favreau stars as Carl Casper, a celebrated chef who loses his job at a chic restaurant and buys a food truck. Driving his new business across the country with his young son (Emjay Anthony), while adding to the menu as he becomes inspired by America’s local cuisines, Carl reconnects with his son and remembers why he loves cooking in the first place.
He Got Game (1998)
Directed by Spike Lee, this film features Denzel Washington in a story that again finds professional sports playing a direct role in his father-son relationship. Washington is Jake Shuttlesworth, a convicted murderer who is granted parole to try to convince his promising basketball-playing son (played by real NBA player Ray Allen) to play for the governor’s alma mater in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Available on: YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon
It’s hard to describe how the bond between father and daughter is crucial to the plot of Interstellar without spoiling the plot of Interstellar (and for that matter, it’s hard to describe anything about Interstellar without spoiling the plot of Interstellar, and it’s also just hard to describe Interstellar, period). In short: Matthew McConaughey stars in Christopher Nolan’s space odyssey as an astronaut searching for a habitable planet on which to continue the human race, which is struggling to survive in a dystopian future. The astronaut is also a devoted father — which, it turns out, is much more important than being an astronaut.
Available on: Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, YouTube
Captain Fantastic (2016)
Viggo Mortensen was nominated for Best Actor this year for his performance in Matt Ross’ comedy-drama, which debuted at Sundance in 2016. He plays a father who has trained his six children in survivalist skills and raised them in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, away from civilization. When he loses his wife, he must take his children with him out of this self-imposed isolation and reenter society to attend their mother’s funeral.
Available on: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, Amazon
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
As Richard Hoover, Greg Kinnear shepherds the motley crew that is his family from Albuquerque, NM to California in a VW van in an effort to help his daughter Olive enter the “Little Miss Sunshine” beauty pageant. Amidst his own failures as a self-help guru, Richard learns that the best way to support his family is to just allow them to be themselves.
The Road (2009)
Filmmaker John Hillcoat brought Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2006 novel to life, with Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee playing father and son as they scavenge a desolate environment following a mass extinction. The bond between father and son takes the spotlight (especially considering that, in this post-apocalyptic wasteland, there are too few other people and things to take up the screen).
Available on: Showtime, Amazon
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
After a bitter custody battle, Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) disguises himself as a Scottish housekeeper, Mrs. Doubtfire, to spend more time with his kids. Williams employs his mix of comedic gifts, improvisational skills, and soulful vulnerability with aplomb, making us all wish we had our own Mrs. Doubtfire in our lives.
Billy Elliot (2000)
Stephen Daldry’s inspiring drama, which was adapted into a stage musical in 2005, follows its title character (Jamie Bell), a preteen boy living in a poor Irish town during the miners’ strike of 1984, who wants to become a ballet dancer. His father (Gary Lewis), one of the miners on strike, disapproves of Billy’s dream — that is, until he realizes the depth of his son’s talent and passion.
Available on: Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
It doesn’t matter that Ned (Owen Wilson) only might be the son of famed oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray); Wes Anderson’s idiosyncratic The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou still counts as a fatherhood film because with or without confirmation of his patriarchal status, having to confront that possibility is what finally makes Murray’s title character grow up and come to terms with his existence.
The Descendants (2011)
Matt King (George Clooney) struggles to reconnect with his two daughters in the wake of his wife’s death and simultaneous discovery of her infidelity in Alexander Payne’s comedy-drama, which was based on Kaui Hart Hemmings’ novel of the same name and won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, also picking up four other nominations. As secrets are uncovered, Matt struggles to do right by his family and himself.
Available on: Amazon, YouTube, Vudu, Google Play, iTunes