Happy Father’s Day! We’re celebrating the holiday by taking a look at our favorite cult film fathers. These movie dads are flawed as can be, but their dysfunctional parenting, bizarre personality quirks, and quotable lines are meant to entertain us. Let’s just ignore the fact that their kids don’t stand a chance. Head past the break for a look at 10 loving, but demented dads from cult cinema. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments section.
The weird world of David Lynch developed when the director made his first feature film, Eraserhead. Lynch’s time in gritty Philadelphia during the seedy 1970s, his experience of becoming a young father (and the birth defects his daughter Jennifer struggled with), and a spiritual crisis were all inspirations for his surrealist story about a man and his mutant child.
Lost star Terry O’Quinn has a knack for playing creepy characters. The actor played a murderous father figure in The Stepfather, but we’ve chosen a more obscure role for our list. Canadian cult film Pin is so incredibly bizarre, it has to be seen to be believed. O’Quinn plays a kinder, gentler dad in the movie — except his parenting skills still lean heavily on the spooky side. Dr. Liden (O’Quinn) teaches his children about the facts of life using a life-size, anatomically correct medical dummy, using ventriloquism. The eerie mannequin is named Pin. Things take a turn for the scary when the doctor’s unstable son starts to believe that Pin is real.
Japanese manga Lone Wolf and Cub spawned a series of films, which then got adapted for the American market. The 1980 remake combined the first two movies in the series. Shogun Assassin finds a fierce samurai warrior avenging the death of his wife with the help of his toddler son. Yes, a man and his baby travel Japan with a stroller loaded with weapons, hunting down ninjas. In case you had any doubts, it’s amazing. The dubbed dialogue and synth score adds to the fun.
If you haven’t seen the 1990 film Troll 2, known for being the “best worst movie” in cinema (ok, maybe just the worst), you’re seriously missing out. A family heads to the town of Nilbog (goblin spelled backward) for summer vacation, but they’re attacked by a gang of vegetarian goblins who try to transform them into edible plants. The cult favorite was made by Italian director Claudio Fragasso who spoke little English, which explains the hilariously awful script. Amateur actor George Hardy plays the father in the film. He was a small-town dentist who showed up at a casting call to play an extra and wound up being one of the movie’s major stars. Witness his stern fatherly advice in the below clip: “You can’t piss on hospitality!”
Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down is an underrated gem that developed a cult following after its 1993 release. Michael Douglas plays divorced dad William Foster, who is fed up with the world. He goes on a violent rampage across Los Angeles to vent his frustrations. The unemployed defense engineer has one goal in mind: he wants to see his daughter on her birthday and won’t let his ex-wife’s restraining order prevent him from doing it. Some crazy, sad stuff happens to poor Foster, but his sardonic observations are darkly humorous.
The Shining didn’t find its cult following upon initial release. Later in-depth essays and the film’s home video audience helped change opinions — except writer Stephen King, who wrote the novel that inspired Stanley Kubrick’s movie and despised it during its debut. The author was opposed to Kubrick casting wild-eyed Jack Nicholson in the part of Jack Torrance — a family man fighting his own demons who descends into madness during his tenure as caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel. Kubrick’s take on the character isn’t nearly as sympathetic as King’s, but everyone loves a good villain.
Never forget that Sidney Poitier directed the supernatural comedy Ghost Dad, starring Bill Cobsy as a deceased father who raises his kids from the other side.
Unpopular high school student Scott Howard wants to win friends, get girls, and become the star of his basketball team. When he discovers that a family curse turns him from a mild-mannered teen into a self-assured werewolf, things start looking up. Scott’s father wants him to rein in his powers before things get out of control — and he would know since he’s a wolf, too. James Hampton plays the understanding, gray-haired beast of a dad who supports his son no matter what in Teen Wolf.
We can forgive James Brolin’s George Lutz in The Amityville Horror for that whole demonic possession and attempted murder thing, but only because of his enviable beard.
Lance Henriksen is a unique actor in that he can convincingly play the baddie or earnest protagonist. By the time he made Stan Winston’s Pumpkinhead in 1988, audiences had already watched the genre star in the role of a kindly android (Alien) and the leader of a vicious vampire gang (Near Dark). Winston’s film saw Henriksen as a hard-working father, Ed Harley, shattered by his son’s murder. Striken with grief, he makes a deal with a local witch to get revenge. When a bloodbath ensues, and Harley comes to his senses, he makes the ultimate sacrifice to put a stop to the killings. Pumpkinhead is a surprisingly emotional tale of loss thanks to Henriksen’s portrayal.