Sure, we’re suckers for a female-led TV show, but we can’t deny that Danny Tanner from Full House taught us more than enough life lessons to qualify as our legal guardian. In fact, there are countless fictional patriarchs who will undoubtedly go down as the greatest father figures we never knew we needed. From Coach Taylor to Sandy Cohen, here are the 25 best TV dads of all time…just don’t tell our real dad, OK?
1. Phil Dunphy (‘Modern Family’)
Played by: Ty Burrell
He may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but he’s accepting, understanding and really, really good at pretending to know magic. This is the kind of goofy dad we all need, not only on our TV screens, but in our everyday lives.
2. Christopher ‘Julius’ Rock II (‘Everybody Hates Chris’)
Played by: Terry Crews
Introducing one of the most down-to-earth TV dads. His penny-pinching ways will make you think twice about turning on the air conditioner…or not.
3. Jack Pearson (‘This Is Us’)
Played by: Milo Ventimiglia
Jack Pearson is pretty much your quintessential television dad. Not only is he a selfless provider, but he loves his wife and children unconditionally (literally, his family is his whole world). He’s also one of the only fathers who can reduce us to a pool of tears with his pep talks and witty one-liners.
4. Philip Banks (‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’)
Played by: James Avery
He may be Uncle Phil to us (and to Will Smith), but to his kids, Hilary, Ashley, Carlton and Nicky, Philip is the best dad. He also plays the role of patriarch for Will, who, up until he moved to Bel-Air, never had a paternal figure in his life. At times Uncle Phil’s temper can get high, but how else are you going to keep a house full of kids and an eccentric nephew in line?
5. Ron Swanson (‘Parks and Recreation’)
Played by: Nick Offerman
For someone who famously hates kids, Swanson takes fairly quickly to his girlfriend Diane’s two daughters. On one occasion he even stays at the office to babysit the young girls, finding himself way in over his head. However, he eventually gets the hang of things and the couple ends up having their own child together.
6. Michael Kyle (‘My Wife and Kids’)
Played by: Damon Wayans
Michael Kyle was the ultimate early ’00s dad. From using reverse psychology to playing practical jokes, he handled real-life issues like a total breeze.
7. Fred Andrews (‘Riverdale’)
Played by: Luke Perry
We’ll try and not get too sentimental on you here. The late actor’s character is pretty much the only parental figure on the show with actual parenting skills and morals. While the others are galavanting around town and hiding secrets from their kids, Fred is the only one who’s actually there for his son and even (literally) takes a bullet for him.
8. Danny Tanner (‘Full House’)
Played by: Bob Saget
After losing his wife in an accident, this single dad had to figure out how to raise three young daughters (with the help of some of his loved ones), and that’s something we totally respect. Danny Tanner taught us that it’s perfectly acceptable to ask your guests to remove their shoes at the door. And although we hate to say it—we love his corny heart-to-hearts.
9. James Evans Sr. (‘Good Times’)
Played by: John Amos
James Evans Sr. goes above and beyond to provide for his family, even if it means working multiple jobs. Let us be clear: He didn’t deserve that fatal season four bombshell.
10. Walter White (‘Breaking Bad’)
Played by: Bryan Cranston
It’s not every day that a high school chemistry teacher (diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer) turns to selling methamphetamine in order to secure his family's future. But that’s not why he’s on this list. Yes, Walter White ends up destroying his family and (spoiler alert) ultimately dying a bitter death, but we believe his original intentions were good.
11. Steve Brady (‘Sex and the City’)
Played by: David Eigenberg
While we see many (emphasis on many) men throughout the series, Steve is one of the few fathers. And boy is he good with Brady. Miranda even knows how wonderful he is with their young son. In the franchise’s first movie, she writes down “Good father” as a “pro” to decide if she should take Steve back.
12. Cyrus Rose (‘Gossip Girl’)
Played by: Wallace Shawn
Sure, it took Blair a while to come around to her new stepdad, but Cyrus Rose has all the qualities you could ever want in a father figure. He quickly grew on everyone and offered some wholesome joy to the Waldorf clan. And in a world where parents were more concerned with their Prada bags and UES galas, Cyrus was the most attentive parent and gave some seriously great advice.
13. Gomez Adams (‘The Addams Family’)
Played by: John Astin
Look—we’re not saying we want to drop our lives and be a part of the spooky clan (although, it would be cool), but the head of the Addams family is no doubt a loving father. A little unorthodox at times? Sure. But no one can rock a dad-stache quite like he can.
14. Adam Braverman (‘Parenthood’)
Played by: Peter Krause
We’ll admit that he has his cheesy moments, but Adam Braverman is all about making sure his son Max (who suffers from Asperger syndrome) remained happy and healthy. Even if that means impromptu hiking trips for some bonding time. Overall, Adam wants to support his family and make sure they know that they are loved and cared for at all times.
15. Eric Taylor (‘Friday Night Lights’)
Played by: Kyle Chandler
Coach Taylor was a father both on and off of the field. Not only was he there for his players, many of which lacked a stable home, but he also was an attentive father to his teenage daughter Julie. And let’s face it, at times she was a handful. The real reason we love coach so much? He taught us our life motto: “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”
16. William Hill (‘This Is Us’)
Played by: Ron Cephas Jones
He might not have raised Randall, but William Hill deserves an honorable mention. In the short time he knew his son, William did what he could to make up for lost time. *Cue the waterworks*
17. Al Bundy (‘Married with Children’)
Played by: Ed O’Neill
Yup, way before O’Neill got his gig on Modern Family, the actor portrayed one of the ’80s most lovable dads. While Al faced many struggles throughout his life, he manages to get by and provide for his wife, Peg, and his two kids, Kelly and Bud. He also makes sure to teach his children not to expect handouts from anyone and to put their all into everything they do.
18. Bob Belcher (‘Bob’s Burgers’)
Voiced by: H. Jon Benjamin
Bob Belcher is not only tolerant, supportive, loving, principled and grounded, but the father of three is also impressively hard-working when it comes to the family restaurant. Honestly, the Belcher family does a great job of depicting the real-life dynamics of the modern American family.
19. Sandy Cohen (‘The O.C.’)
Played by: Peter Gallagher
Not only does Sandy have a wonderful relationship with his biological son Seth, but he also didn’t miss a beat taking in—as one of his own—a juvenile teen from (gasp!) Chino, who everyone else abandoned. Not to mention, his sandwiching-making skills are top notch.
20. Tony Soprano (‘The Sopranos’)
Played by: James Gandolfini
We know what you’re thinking, “How could a dangerous Jersey mob boss possibly make it on this list?” Well, as it turns out, Tony will do absolutely anything for his children (yes, even physically harm someone if he has to). From the outset of the series, Soprano makes sure his kids are taken care of and although we question some (OK, a lot) of his life choices, we still think he earns some major dad points.
21. Frank Costanza (‘Seinfeld’)
Played by: Jerry Stiller
Let’s face it—George was definitely a mama’s boy. However, at times he was also a papa’s boy (if that’s even a thing). And while Frank, also known as Mr. Costanza, tends to be on the angrier side, he definitely cares about his son and made for some pretty memorable moments in the hit sitcom. Might we remind you of the time he fought Elaine at the police station for saying George wasn’t “clever?”
22. Homer Simpson (‘The Simpsons’)
Voiced by: Dan Castellaneta
Don’t scroll—hear us out. If you can get beyond the fact that he’s a fictional cartoon character, you’ll realize that Homer is a totally a hands-on dad. While he may not be able to give his three kids everything they want (take Bart and his video games for example), he does give them something more important: time and attention.
23. Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark (‘Game of Thrones’)
Played by: Sean Bean
Sure, his head was ceremonially chopped off (RIP) in season one, but he still managed to raise six badass children. Before he died, he was able to teach them to be loyal, kind and to never give up. Even if that means (spoiler!) killing your own Aunt to save the seven kingdoms.
24. Dan Conner (‘Roseanne’)
Played by: John Goodman
Perhaps more than anyone on this list, Dan Conner embodies the typical dad. Like the majority of off-screen patriarchs, he isn’t perfect, but he always tries his best when it came to his kids. Not to mention, he’s the only one this list that actually came back from the dead (ahem, The Conners spinoff).
25. Jason Seaver (‘Growing Pains’)
Played by: Alan Thicke
First of all, Dr. Seaver makes sure to have a home office so he could always be around his family (now that’s dedication). Second, he serves as a great moderator for the bickerings between his three children, and third, the man has a killer head of hair. Of course he deserves to make this list!