The 10 Best 'Bad Dad' Movies to Make You Even More Grateful This Father's Day

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Humor us for a moment. When’s the last time you watched a family movie or (important distinction here) a movie with a family in it, and thought afterwards, “Man, I wish I had a dad like that.” Of course, superdads are in the movies, too. But with no slight to Atticus Finch, Maverick Carter, Gomez Addams, Marlin from Finding Nemo, and a short stack of other celluloid menches who remind us all what fatherhood can and should be, that list is smoked by a far longer list of classic movies starring egregiously and often hilariously flawed men setting a far less stellar example for their kids.

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Looking for an entertaining reminder to be glad your old man isn’t Clark Griswold, The Great Santini, or a possessed caretaker ferociously typing his one-line novel over and over again at the Overlook Hotel?

The best "bad dad" movies are just the ticket—starring everything from dysfunctional fatherly behavior to merely foolishness, selfishness, and total ineptitude.

Spoiler alert: If you still haven’t seen these movies and don’t want any climactic plot points wrecked before watching them, here’s your one warning.

10 Best “Bad Dad” Movies

<p>Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images</p>

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In the first of five vacation-themed iterations of this popular franchise that debuted in the ’80s, it’s hard to beat Chevy Chase for paternal ineptitude and silly hilarity. Mishap after mishap befalls Chase’s arrogant moron and his long-suffering family on this extended road trip, which has as its dubious destination the second-rate Walley World theme park. An early example of Clark’s fecklessness comes when he forgets that he’s tied a dog to the car bumper, killing it. Then there is the problem of the dog’s cranky owner, Aunt Edna (Imogene Coca), who is along for the ride—and promptly dies in the back seat. As rigor mortis takes hold, Clark has the inspiration to strap her to the hood of the car.

<p>Warner Brothers/Getty Images</p>

Warner Brothers/Getty Images

In this terrifying 1980 adaptation of the iconic Stephen King novel, Jack Nicholson gives a legendary performance as one of life’s losers who drags his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and adorably watchful (and telepathic) son Danny (Danny Lloyd) to the remote, haunted Overlook Hotel for an off-season caretaking gig. The hotel’s gruesome history exerts an increasingly ominous hold on the wannabe author, especially after the ghost of the hotel’s former caretaker advises Jack that Wendy and “naughty” Danny just might need to be “corrected.” The climax of this indelibly creepy Stanley Kubrick horror classic has Jack menacing his family with an axe, which leads him to utter the film’s most oddly memorable phrase, “Here’s Johnny!”

<p>Lions Gate Films/Getty Images</p>

Lions Gate Films/Getty Images

In this brutal 2001 melodrama mostly remembered for winning Halle Berry a Best Actress Oscar, Hank (Billy Bob Thornton) and Sonny Grotowski (Heath Ledger) play father and son corrections officers in a local penitentiary. After Sonny proves too sensitive for his job—he collapses while accompanying a death row inmate to his execution—Hank beats the hell out of Sonny and tells him he never loved him, driving Sonny to commit suicide. This tragedy softens Hank somewhat, especially when he becomes romantically involved with the executed man’s wife (Berry). But that’s still too little, too late for a Father’s Day card.

<p>CBS/Getty Images</p>

CBS/Getty Images

Years before her infamous turn as Hollywood’s worst mother in Mommie Dearest, Faye Dunaway, as the mysterious Evelyn Mulwray, didn’t exactly hit the father jackpot in Roman Polanski’s 1974 noir masterpiece. In a malevolent dad role for the ages, John Huston—as millionaire powerbroker Noah Cross—raped and impregnated Evelyn when she was a minor, kills her husband during a business dispute, and ends the movie by making off with his daughter/granddaughter, presumably to repeat the incestuous pattern. As he chillingly explains to Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson), the private detective who’s hot on his trail, “Most people never have to face the fact at the right time and the right place. They’re capable of anything.”

<p>CBS/Getty Images</p>

CBS/Getty Images

Director Peter Bogdanovich scored his third hit in a row (after The Last Picture Show and What’s Up, Doc?) with this 1973 comic road movie starring Ryan O’Neal and his real-life daughter Tatum as Depression-era con-artist Moses Pray and a recently orphaned nine-year-old named Addie (who may or may not be Moses’ actual daughter). Moses, who hustles, lies, steals and cheats, manages to pass on his talents to Addie, who quickly graduates from prodigy to Moses’ partner—and equal—in crime.

<p>Ron Galella, Ltd./Bettman/Getty Images</p>

Ron Galella, Ltd./Bettman/Getty Images

In this classic 1980 Goldie Hawn vehicle, after her new husband (Albert Brooks) dies while having sex with her, Judy Benjamin (Hawn) makes an impulsive, misguided decision to join the army. But when the military turns out to be more challenging than this pampered princess can handle, her dad (Sam Wanamaker) turns up to rescue her with a cocktail of guilt and humiliation. He blames Judy for her mother’s nervous breakdown and tells her, “You were never a smart girl—we’re all going to stop pretending now. You are obviously incapable of making your own decisions.” The tongue-lashing propels Judy straight back to the barracks, with the realization that it’s better to be a miserable adult than a perpetual child.

<p>Universal/Getty Images</p>

Universal/Getty Images

“I have nipples, Greg, could you milk me?” And with that devastating retort that Jack Byrnes (Robert DeNiro) delivers to his future son-in-law Greg Focker (Ben Stiller)—who bizarrely claims he’d once milked a cat—a comedy franchise was born. In this Jay Roach-directed sleeper comedy that did blockbuster box office in 2000, DeNiro plays Jack as an intimidating and relentless interrogator determined to destroy the budding relationship between Focker and Jack’s daughter Pam (Teri Polo). Jack submits Focker to a polygraph test to learn if he’s ever watched porn, and goes to great lengths to find out if Greg is actually a “male nurse” as he says. Jack gets his comeuppance when his efforts fail to derail his daughter’s marriage and he has to spend two more films with Greg and his Focker folks (Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand), who advise Jack to emote more.

<p>Warner Brothers/Getty Images</p>

Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Audiences in 1980 preferred the good father (Donald Sutherland) in Ordinary People to the horrific dad of Robert Duvall in The Great Santini; the two films competed at the 1981 Oscars as well as at the multiplex. The Robert Redford-directed drama won Best Picture and brought in $90 million, while The Great Santini barely recouped its $4 million budget. Nevertheless, Duvall’s chilling characterization of Lieutenant Colonel Wilbur "Bull" P. Meechum (aka The Great Santini) defined what it meant to be a bullying ogre for generations of sons.

<p>CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images</p>

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

This gut-wrenching 1997 adaption of Jane Smiley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name was inspired by the worst behaviors of Shakespeare’s King Lear—and more. Iowa patriarch Larry Cook, a wealthy widowed farmer, dominates the lives of his three daughters, Ginny (Jessica Lange), Rose (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Caroline (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who are analogous to the trio of daughters in Lear—Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. As in the play, the father tests their love for him, pitting them against each other, until finally it's revealed that he had physically and sexually abused Ginny and Rose as children. When the inevitable estrangement comes, Larry rages at Rose, a breast cancer survivor: “Your children will laugh when you die!” A real peach.

<p>Robyn Beck/Getty Images</p>

Robyn Beck/Getty Images

Albert Brooks isn’t the main dad in this Judd Apatow hit comedy from 2012; that would be Paul Rudd as Pete. Brooks, as Pete’s father Larry, is merely the worst dad in the movie. When Pete’s record label is struggling and he pays a visit to his father, you expect that Pete is going hat in hand for a loan. But actually, it’s Pete who’s been subsidizing Larry, who has embarked upon a second fatherhood in his elder years. “I can’t tell them apart,” he says of his three blond toddlers. “I swear to God, I need tattoos.”