With Father's Day coming soon, there are lots of lists published of the BEST fictional Dads from television and movies. I received the idea of changing this up a little from one of the best 80s blogs out there, Stuck in the 80s, and make my list of the WORST Dads from 80s Movies and TV. It is easy to come up with a list headed by "Cliff Huxtable" from The Cosby Show and all of the other good sit-com Dads. Recognizing the bad father characters seemed a little more interesting to me.
I narrowed it down to my list of the 15 fictional Dads from 80s that I thought deserved to be called out as the worst. This was not as easy as you would think. There are a lot of Dads with lots of bad traits that also have some redeeming qualities or moments. In some cases I made the call that the bad outweighed the good or that the good was too little or too late.
So with that, let's get right to OLD SCHOOL'S TOP 10 WORST DADS FROM 80s MOVIES & TV (+ Bonus 5):
15. "Rev. Shaw Moore" played by John Lithgow in Footloose (1984) - Sure, he comes around at the very end of the movie, but any Dad who leads a town to ban dancing and rock music has some issues. He lost his son and in trying to protect his daughter, he prevents her from enjoying life.
14. "George McFly" played by Crispin Glover in Back to the Future (1985) - At the start of the film, "George" is a weak-willed and nerdy father who does not stand up to "Biff" who has been a bully to him since high school. Though the kids all seem relatively well-adjusted, he does not set a good example to his children. "Marty" does not have the truck to take on his camping trip because his Dad let "Biff" borrow it and proceed to wreck it. Then to make it worse, his weak backbone almost eliminates his children from existence after "Marty" travels back in time.
13. "Sanford Babbitt" unseen in Rain Man (1988) - It is one thing that he leaves almost none of his multi-million dollar estate to his estranged son "Charlie" (played excellently by Tom Cruise), but the fact that he never told "Charlie" that he had a brother is enough for me to land him on this list. The two brothers lost so many years of family and those they can never get back.
12. "Jim Court (Diane's Dad)" played by John Mahoney in Say Anything (1989) - He seems like a well-meaning single father just trying to give his daughter everything he can and helping her to excel. Then it turns out he has been committing tax fraud at his nursing home and on top of that, he tries to keep "Diane" from being with her true love. Just because he does these things under the guise of trying to give her the best, it does not make it right. Mahoney would later go on to be a good Dad on the sit-com Frasier.
11. "Albert" played by George Segal in Look Who's Talking (1989) - He is a sleazy married man who seduces Kirstie Alley's character into an affair. He promises to leave his wife for her, but never does. Then he becomes the illegitimate father of "Mikey" and still does not do the right thing. So he makes this list more for what he doesn't do rather than anything terribly bad that he does do.
10. "Homer J. Simpson" voiced by Dan Castellaneta on The Simpsons (1987-present) - This is a controversial character that actually appears on some Best Dads lists as well as some Worst Dads lists. Though at the core, "Homer" loves his family, he often sets a very bad example for his children. His exploits are too numerous to name all of them here, but the fact he often resorts to choking "Bart" and often does not even remember his third child "Maggie" is enough to put him on this list for me.
9. "Al Bundy" played by Ed. O'Neill on Married With Children (1987-97) - I consider "Al" to be the "Archie Bunker" of the late-80s and 90s. He is much less racist, but a little more sexist. I debated including him on this list because, actually, he is one of my favorite TV characters of all time. On the good side, he stays with his family and does what he can to support them. On the bad side, he often demeans his children and, like "Homer," often participates in that which does not set a good example for them. When it comes down to it, he is entertaining, but not a very strong father figure.
8. "Mr. Frye (Cameron's Dad)" unseen in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) - At one point in the film, Matthew Broderick's character says this, "Pardon my French, but Cameron is so tight that if you stuck a lump of coal up his ass, in two weeks you'd have a diamond." A big reason for that is his parents and particularly his Dad who it is inferred loves his car more than his son. "Cameron" makes a monologue toward the end of the movie which ranks on my Best Inspirational Speeches from 80s Movies list. I suggest you go to that list to see a prime example of why "Cam's" Dad makes my list.
7. "Francis L. (The Kid's Dad)" played by Clarence Williams III in Purple Rain (1984) - He would have ranked much higher if it was not for the fact that Prince's character seemed to have inherited his musical gift from his father. This guy was physically and emotionally abusive to both his son and his wife. Then he commits suicide and leaves his son to deal with that tragedy.
6. "Mr. LaChance (Gordie's Dad)" played by Marshall Bell in Stand By Me (1986) - "Gordie's" older brother "Denny" was his pride and joy and after he dies, "Gordie" becomes the invisible man at home. Instead of appreciating the son he still has left, he almost completely ignores "Gordie." Is there anything worse than that? "Gordie" really misses his brother, but his father's treatment makes everything even worse. To summarize his feelings, "Gordie" is having a dream at his brother's funeral which his Dad turns and looks at him to say, "It should've been you, Gordie." Enough said.
5. "Brad Whitewood Sr." played by Christopher Walken in At Close Range (1986) - What a piece of work this guy is. "Brad Sr." is the leader of an organized crime family which his sons become part of. When he becomes concerned that his sons will choose to inform the authorities, he rapes his one son's girlfriend as a warning. Once his name is given to a grand jury by his own son, "Brad Sr." goes on a killing spree which includes his murdering one of his sons and ordering a hit on his other son and his girlfriend. Whenever you intentionally murder your own son, that will get you on a worst Dad list every time. This character was so dark that it is reported that Robert DeNiro turned the role down for that reason.
4. "Bender's Dad" unseen in The Breakfast Club (1985) - All we know about "Bender's" Dad is what we get from a scene in the film where "Bender" gives an example of a conversation with him. I wanted to find a video of this scene so you would get the full effect, but I surprisingly could not find one. Here instead is the quote, "Stupid, worthless, no good, goddamn, freeloading son of a bitch. Retarded, big mouth, know-it-all, asshole, jerk. You forgot ugly, lazy and disrespectful. Shut up bitch. Go fix me a turkey pot pie. No dad, what about you? F**k you. No dad, what about you? F**k you. Dad, what about you? F**k you." Saying those things to your child will get you a high spot on this list even if you did not actually appear in the movie. Later, "Bender" gives a little more insight into his Dad when he says, "You know what I got for Christmas? Oh, it was a banner f**king year at the old Bender family. I got a carton of cigarettes. The old man grabbed me and said, Hey, smoke up Johnny." Enough said.
3. "Mr. Perry (Neil's Dad)" played by Kurtwood Smith in Dead Poets Society (1989) - He is best known now as father "Red Foreman" from That 70s Show, but Kurtwood Smith does a great job making you really have disdain for his character in this movie. He is a parent who wants his child to excel so badly that he loses site of what is really important. He pushes and pushes "Neil" who does everything he can to make his parents proud of him. Unfortunately, he pushes "Neil" so hard that he chooses to take his own life rather than live in the world that his father is trying to force him to. There are not too many actions more reprehensible than that. Here is a video of one scene from the film which really shows how unreasonable "Mr. Perry" has become...
2. "Darth Vader" voiced by James Earl Jones in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) - In the first part of the Trilogy (technically from the 70s), he blows up his daughter's home planet although he did not know that it was his daughter at the time. Then in the second part of the trilogy, he slices off his son's hand while trying to turn him to the dark side. These actions alone make "Vader" deserving of this high ranking. Yes, in the final part of the trilogy he does partially redeem himself by saving "Luke's" life and helping to defeat the Emperor, but you cannot forget everything he did prior to that. The pain in "Luke's" face when he is told that "Vader" is his father let's you know how bad of a feeling that surely was. Here is a video of the scene where "Darth Vader" chops off his son's hand and nearly kills him before telling him that he is his father...
1. "Jack Torrance" played by Jack Nicholson in The Shining (1980) - The film is based on a story by Stephen King, so that should give you an idea of what kind of character this is. "Jack" is driven mad by ghosts in a hotel after getting snowbound there. He then attempts to murder his wife and son. As I mentioned earlier, attempting to murder your own child automatically gets you a spot on this list. The role became one of Nicholson's most memorable and here is a video of the scene which really put it over the top for him...
That's my list. Please tell me if you strongly disagree with any of my choices or if I missed anyone that you think should have been included. Only two of the fifteen were from television, though there might be more from shows that I did not watch. Since I mostly watched sit-coms during that decade and most sit-coms from the 80s have good Dads on them, it is natural to have more from movies. If we were looking at more recent television, I think I could have come up with quite a few worst Dads to put on the list, but not from the 80s.
Here's to the GOOD Dads, both fictional and real. A truly happy Father's Day to you all!
That'll put an end to this issue of Kickin' it Old School. Thanks so much for reading. If you are interested in reading more of my 80s related issues, please click there for a summary of those. If you are interested in reading more of my Top 10 lists, please click there for a summary. You can also always click on the Archives in the upper left hand column or use the Google Search Box at the top of the right hand column to find any other issues you may have missed. If you are a fan of Kickin' it, PLEASE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK LOGO in the upper right hand column. This will take you to the Fan Page where I ask you to then click on "Become a Fan". Even if you are not a Facebook member yet, please consider joining and registering as a fan at that page. Let other 80s fans know about it as well! Peace and much love.
Check this out: To stick with the Dad theme of this issue, here is a video which would contradict my #2 choice on the list above. This video shows you what the real Darth Vader might have been like when he was at home (sorry there is a short ad before it starts)...
Quote of the day: "Any man can be a Father but it takes someone special to be a Dad." -Anne Geddes + here are a couple bonus quotes for Father's Day... "He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it." -Clarence Budington Kelland
"My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me." -Jim Valvano
thanks for all your work ~ you do a great job!
posted by: bawdy (reply)
post date: 06.22.09 (11:22 pm)
Yet another interesting list, but I probably would exclude characters who were merely mentioned onscreen. Jack Torrance had the excuse of cabin fever, so I don't know about being worse than Darth Vader...they don't get much more evil than that!
Reply to: bawdy
At least Darth Vader died trying to save his son's life. That has to count for something.
posted by: Marissa (reply)
post date: 06.23.09 (7:52 pm)
Hope you had a GREAT Father's Day! I liked the Vader video. LOL "Why aren't the shoes in the cubby?!"
posted by: bawdy (reply)
post date: 06.24.09 (12:02 am)
Reply to: OldSchool
It still brings him up short in the father of the year competition. heh
posted by: Harry (reply)
post date: 08.17.11 (6:36 pm)
Francis L attempted suicide but he later recovered nicely in the hospital.
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