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En español | I can't count the number of times that my father and I sat down together to watch The Godfather when I was growing up. And while we managed to steer clear of organized crime as a family business, movies remain one of our common languages to this day — a way to bond without, you know, talking about how we were bonding. Which is why I can think of no better way to celebrate Father's Day (June 21) than by streaming — with Dad if possible — one of these 15 father-forward films.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Has there ever been a wiser, kinder and more morally upright on-screen father than Gregory Peck's small-town Southern lawyer Atticus Finch? Never mind that this film (adapted from Harper Lee's novel) is a masterpiece regardless when you watch it, Peck's open-hearted love for his two pint-sized kids, Scout and Jem, is a timeless primer for doing the right thing and a blueprint for parenting through deeds rather than words.
Father of the Bride (1950)
The 1991 Steve Martin remake is excellent, but if forced to choose we'll tilt toward the Spencer Tracy original about an overwhelmed, overextended and overprotective father wrestling with the emotional and financial anxiety of planning the wedding of his young daughter (Elizabeth Taylor). It's a comedy — and a darn good one — but Tracy makes his character's sense of loss both bittersweet and palpable.
Ron Howard's multigenerational dysfunctional family comedy is very much an ensemble movie. But the more you watch it (or, as a father, the more I watch it), the more I can't take my eyes off the performance of Steve Martin, now 74, as an overwhelmed father of three (soon to be four) who constantly doubts his abilities as a dad. Afraid of repeating the mistake of his own distant father, Martin's Gil steals the movie (and my heart) after a cowboy performer fails to show up at his son's birthday party and he turns a bath mat into a pair of chaps and improvises a Wild West routine to wow the kids and save the day.
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Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
After the disappointing and surprisingly dark Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, director Steven Spielberg, 73, put the Raiders franchise back on track with this fun and fizzy third installment, which soars thanks to the addition of a perfectly cast Sean Connery, 89, as Indy's bookish and stubborn archaeologist dad. The globe-trotting quest for the Holy Grail is almost beside the point. After all, the movie is really about a son trying to win the approval of his father and that father finally giving it to him.
Three Men and a Baby (1987)
The only-in-the-'80s trio of Tom Selleck, 75, Ted Danson, 72, and Steve Guttenberg, 61, play three bachelor pals who join clueless forces to take care of a baby left by one of their former lovers. Which one does the baby actually belong to? It doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of this light comedy directed by Leonard Nimoy. What makes the film outlast its decade is that they all become better and less selfish men when confronted with the unexpected challenge of caring for someone other than themselves.
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Made in an era when the divorce rate in America was going through the roof, this best picture Oscar winner stars a note-perfect Dustin Hoffman, 82, as a divorced ad exec father (his ex is played by Meryl Streep) forced to become a loving, caring single dad to his young son (Justin Henry) overnight. What at first seems like a burden soon becomes a poignant, three-hankie drama about how two heartbroken souls manage to navigate loss and fix one another.
You don't mess with 68-year-old Liam Neeson's family! That's the brutal, bone-crunching lesson that Albanian thugs learn the hard way after abducting the former government operative's 17-year-old daughter (Maggie Grace) in Paris. Thank goodness Neeson's Bryan Mills has a “very particular set of skills.” Taken is a semi-ludicrous exercise of Hollywood action sadism that was also the unlikely catalyst for a second act in Neeson's career as a vigilante hero, but it's also an escapist gas. And despite all of the bloody payback, no one can argue that its family-values heart isn't in the right place.
Paper Moon (1973)
Real-life father and daughter Ryan, 79, and Tatum O'Neal, 56, costar in director Peter Bogdanovich's charmingly barbed black-and-white road movie about a pair of con artists who banter and bicker while fleecing unsuspecting bumpkins in Depression-era Kansas. As you might expect, the pair's feisty chemistry is a delight, especially when their love for one another manages to peek through. Still, it's the sassy, sour-faced 9-year-old Tatum who steals the show, nabbing a best supporting actress Oscar for the role.
The Godfather (1972)
Is Marlon Brando's Don Corleone a good father? By any traditional metric, of course not. But if you squint hard enough and strip away all of the mob violence and bloody horse-head threats, you'll find a very American saga about an immigrant parent wanting a better life for his children — especially 80-year-old Al Pacino's Michael. Sure, Father's Day is a great excuse to throw on this Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece, but honestly it's a perfect movie to watch (or rewatch) any day of the year. My dad will be happy you did.
RELATED: How well do you know this and the other great films of the 1970s? Take our brand-new quiz: How Well Do You Know Your Movies From the 1970s?
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
A story about the lengths that loving fathers will go to to stay connected to their children, director Chris Columbus’ suspend-your-disbelief comedy stars Robin Williams as a divorced dad who hatches an elaborate plan to disguise himself as an elderly British woman and get hired by his ex (Sally Field, 73) to be his children's nanny. Think of it as Mary Poppins meets Tootsie. The movie is crammed with hilarious slapstick, but by the end you'll be choking back tears as Williams learns how to be a better dad.
Finding Nemo (2003)
Most of the best animated movies wrestle with the relationship between kids and their parents in one way or another. But few do it with as much heart, humor and sheer eye-popping creativity as this deep-sea Pixar gem about a young clown fish named Nemo who's separated from his nervous, overprotective father, Marlin (Albert Brooks, 72). Under the surface, Finding Nemo taps into every parent's worst fear. And the emotion would be too much to bear were it not for Marlin's forgetful, comic-relief partner on his quest, 62-year-old Ellen DeGeneres’ Dory. What may seem like a harmless kiddie adventure on its surface turns out to be deceptively deep.
Mr. Mom (1983)
After being fired from his job as a manager in an auto factory, Michael Keaton, 68, becomes a stay-at-home dad while his wife (Teri Garr, 75) goes back to work. With three wild kids at home, Keaton fights a losing battle with laundry, diaper duty and putting dinner on the table (not to mention the addictive nature of daytime soap operas on TV). As his sanity slowly begins to slip away, Keaton's Jack discovers how lucky he really is. Beyond that, it's also a giddy reminder of the pre-Batman Keaton's chops as a whirling dervish comic actor.
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
It's rare to see Will Smith, 51, play a character who isn't cool, confident and completely in charge. Maybe that's why The Pursuit of Happyness isn't better known. Well, it deserves to be. Smith plays a single father who, with his young son (played by Smith's real-life son Jaden) is evicted from his apartment and has nowhere to go. Living in a shelter and unable to make ends meet after taking a job as an intern at a financial firm, Smith's Chris Gardner is proof that there is no sacrifice too big for a father to make to provide a better life for his child. Be warned: Have a box of Kleenex nearby.
Trouble With the Curve (2012)
Throwing on a Clint Eastwood, 90, movie on Father's Day is as close as you can get to a sure bet. So why not go with one of his lesser-known deep cuts? This time out, Eastwood plays an aging baseball scout who's in danger of becoming an analog fossil in a digital, stats-driven world. Fighting his pride, he accepts help from his estranged daughter (Amy Adams) to assess a hot prospect and in the process manage to connect in a way they've never been able to, thankfully before it's too late. We know that we don't need to sell you on Eastwood's appeal to dads, but trust us when we say this one is an unsung keeper.
RELATED: Love Clint like we do? Check out our critics’ list of The Coolest Clint Eastwood Movies Ever, Ranked!
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Yes, the conventional wisdom puts this Frank Capra classic firmly in the Christmas movie camp. But it goes down just as well on Father's Day. After all, Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey is a tidy symbol of a certain strand of Greatest Generation dadhood that proves that the choices we make in our lives — and the sacrifices we make — live on as examples in the hearts of the next generation. It's a Wonderful Life earns its wings thanks to its message of selflessness and doing what's right. And what better lesson could you possibly ask for on Father's Day?