By A.B. Chesler, author and blogger
In the spirit of summer ending, let us reflect on the movies that have helped us tolerate our children a bit more easily these past couple months. Whether the parents in these movies inspire us with their infinite wisdom and guidance, or they show us exactly what not to do, they’re the ones we think of as our most memorable movie moms and dads.
If you’ve never seen the movie Parenthood, stop what you’re doing and add it to your queue right now. Not only does it have an all-star cast that will leave you spouting quotes indefinitely, but it will change the way you see family life forever. I mean, “you need a license to catch a fish! But they'll let any butt-reaming a**hole be a father” (thanks, Keanu).
Mr. Jones from Friday (played by the fabulous John Witherspoon) isn’t quite who you’d think of first as the typical dad, but he is undoubtedly not without wisdom. When his misguided son is caught with contraband, he taunts him (in his crass but fatherly way): “You win some, you lose some, but you live. You live to fight another day.” Boom, mic drop.
Of all the scenes I watched as a child, the sit-down between father and son in Teen Wolf will remain to be one of the most tender movie moments of all time. Plus, "the talk" was nowhere near as painful as it could have been, and one must be thankful for that. Mr. Howard, you’re one hell of a guy, er– werewolf.
As if Michael Keaton wasn’t amazing enough already for being Batman and Beetlejuice, he also brought us the 1983 hit Mr. Mom. In it, he sheds light on just how tough parenthood can be via a whole ton of humor and even more dirty diapers. Thank you, Mr. Keaton, for showing that dads are tough enough to hold down the fort, too. It’s just a little messier when they do. 😉
If I brought home a quiet, scissor-wielding man, my husband would surely think me crazy. But Alan Arkin and Diane Weist are the picture of marital and parental perfection in Edward Scissorhands. I’m not sure I’ll ever be as understanding if one of my kids sneaks out in the middle of the night. So, to The Boggs, I honor your infinite patience and kindness. You’re better than I am; I’m still pissed my four year old Sharpied the wall.
The often over-looked Danny Glover played an epically supportive dad and partner in Lethal Weapon. In fact, when his teenage daughter made her TV debut in a condom commercial, he still kept his cool. Talk about understanding. He also acts as the perfect balance for his loose-cannon partner, keeping it real and his partner calm at the same time. Thanks for the lesson in patience, Captain Murtaugh.
Look Who’s Talking took single mother Kirstie Alley and playboy Jon Travolta, threw them together via hilarious hijinks, and gave the audience a bonus: the baby’s perspective, in Bruce Willis’s voice. Kirstie was the perfect representative of the '80s single working Mom (before her knight-in-shining taxi showed up, that is). It was hard not to fall in love with the makeshift trio and this modern take on "Happily Ever After." It sweetly taught us to to take leaps of faith, and also a grain of salt with every dose of reality.
Another all-star film dad is the man, the myth, the legend: Forrest Gump. Despite his limited resources, Forrest (played by legendary Tom Hanks) provides for and loves his son intensely. Private Gump, you are a true testament to bravery and fortitude, even in the realm of parenthood. We salute you.
Now that Adam Sandler is a father, we’ve seen a big switch in his comedy. Family films are his groove, and I’m more than OK with that. However, the lesson that we can draw from That’s My Boy is to wait to have children until you’re ready (and not when you fall in love with your middle school English teacher). On the flip side, we can also draw that it’s never too late to step up and be a parent (plus, this movie’s got a whole ton of celebrity cameos, which are always fun).
Clark W. Griswold, winner of the 1983 Father of the Year award (and played by Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Vacation) represents the parent we’ve all had to become at some point. All ideals of a perfect family vacation are false – we know that – but the papa or mama bear in all of us has come out when our kids’ joy is threatened. And for that, Clark, we give you a big, cheesy 80’s thumbs up.
Kathleen Turner in Serial Mom will always be the most die-hard parent ever (pun intended). In this wickedly perfect dark comedy, Turner goes on a murderous rampage in defense of her children’s reputations, reminding us there is a line and it can be crossed. Also maybe, let your kids figure their own stuff out, and try to avoid prison?
No list of parental units would be complete without Atticus Finch (played by the impeccable Gregory Peck). In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus teaches us that being a good parent is more than keeping their activity schedule full, or getting them into the best pre-school. It’s about teaching your kids the difference between right and wrong, and standing up for what you believe in, no matter the odds. Maycomb (and the world) is a better place because of you, Mr. Finch.
There are few parental units like Morticia and Gomez Addams. Their children could be torturing each other – quite literally – and they’d offer them a pat on the back. But hey, it works for them! If my child ever burns down a summer camp, let me take a page from the Addams’s book, and summon enough patience to applaud their preceding political activism instead of burying my head in my hands. Plus, #maritalgoals
Daniel Hillard may be eccentric, but he sure does make one hell of a nanny. Mrs. Doubtfire (played by the late and incredible Robin Williams) is the tale of a bumbling dad who just can’t seem to get his act together. His wife tells him she’s no longer interested in him, and he takes it upon himself to concoct a character that will leave a lasting impression on not just his family, but also the world. Mr. Hillard, thank you for showing us that the conventional path isn’t the only one to take. It’s often the parent who can think outside the box that is most successful.
Home Alone epitomizes every parent’s nightmare. And when we think of the McCallisters, it’s almost a given that you shake your heads at them (c’mon! they forgot their kid at home and didn’t notice he was gone until mid-flight to Paris). But, at least they taught us a valuable lesson: we all make mistakes, and our boo-boo’s probably aren’t that bad.
I’d write more, but my kids are about to launch themselves off the couch with a homemade catapult.
“Hey, guys, wanna watch a movie? You loooove Finding Nemo!”
Amy Chesler is an author, content creator, blogger, and family woman from Los Angeles, California. Her most recent publications include four different contributions in six different Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, as well as her first solo children’s book, A Man and His Books. Follow her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/abchesler), Twitter (@abcauthor), or Instagram (@abc_author) for updates, giveaways, and much more!