The greatest movie dads we can't get enough of

by Jenna Busch
Jun 8, 2016 at 12:55 p.m. ET
Image: Disney

Because that bumbling dad stereotype has gone out with the '90s sitcom, we've rounded up a list of our favorite movie dads who make our hearts a little warmer every time we see them on the big screen.

Maybe some of these leading men remind you of your own dad, or maybe you too wish you were raised by Clark Griswold — either way, these standout movie dads show us just how meaningful fatherhood can be.

1 /14: Mufasa, 'The Lion King'

Image: Disney

1/14 :Mufasa, 'The Lion King'

"Nobody messes with your dad!" The king of the jungle loves his son and gives him guidance, even after he's gone. And we're still in therapy over that tear-jerking scene. 

2 /14: Jor-El, 'Superman'

Image: Warner Bros.

2/14 :Jor-El, 'Superman'

This super dad (played by Marlon Brando) sacrifices himself to save his son from a planet about to explode. Like Mufasa, he continues to help his son long after his own death in the Fortress of Solitude. His advice and love help Kal-El to become the man who will save the world and fight for truth, justice and the American way.

3 /14: Chris Gardner, 'The Pursuit of Happyness'

Image: Robert Zuckerman/Columbia Pictures

3/14 :Chris Gardner, 'The Pursuit of Happyness'

Will Smith plays this unsuccessful father who turns his life around to provide for and teach his son. If you do not sob during this film, you are made of stone. Stone, I tell you!

4 /14: Bryan Mills, 'Taken'

Image: 20th Century Fox

4/14 :Bryan Mills, 'Taken'

Now this is a dad (played by Liam Neeson) who will do anything for his daughter. He may not have been there in the beginning, but boy, oh boy, does he step up when she's kidnapped. He uses his "very special set of skills" to bring her home again. Do not mess with this man!

5 /14: Atticus Finch, 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

5/14 :Atticus Finch, 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

One of the greatest performances of all time — Gregory Peck's defining role. In the film version of the classic novel, Finch takes the moral high ground and teaches his children about empathy, despite the cost. Check out this classic quote: "If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."

6 /14: Mr. Levenstein, 'American Pie'

Image: Universal Pictures

6/14 :Mr. Levenstein, 'American Pie'

Now this is a supportive dad! You show up to find your kid doing that with a dessert item... well, I doubt many people out there would handle it quite so well. Eugene Levy knocks it out of the park.

7 /14: Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible, 'The Incredibles'

Image: Disney

7/14 :Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible, 'The Incredibles'

This dad is actually the superhero most kids believe their dad to be. But that's not what makes him great. He's got powers, sure, but it's how you teach your kids that makes you truly super.

8 /14: Guido Orefice, 'Life is Beautiful'

Image: Miramax

8/14 :Guido Orefice, 'Life is Beautiful'

Horrible things sometimes happen in life, but we have the power of choice — the choice of how to live with what life throws at us. During one of the worst times in world history, Guido makes it all a game, giving his son a way to cope and the ability to remain an innocent for just a little bit longer.

9 /14: Clark Griswold, 'National Lampoon's Vacation'

9/14 :Clark Griswold, 'National Lampoon's Vacation'

Chevy Chase plays this dad who will stop at nothing to give his family the vacation of their dreams. Sure, he's embarrassing and his methods are extreme, but he won't let a little thing like the law keep his kids from having a good time.

10 /14: Michael Sullivan, 'Road to Perdition'

Image: DreamWorks SKG

10/14 :Michael Sullivan, 'Road to Perdition'

While this movie may be a little grittier than your usual feel-good-dad fare, there’s something so heart-warming — and so badass — about how mobster Michael Sullivan will go to any length to protect his son. Be prepared to shed some tears as this riveting movie comes to an unexpected end.

11 /14: Daniel Hillard, 'Mrs. Doubtfire'

11/14 :Daniel Hillard, 'Mrs. Doubtfire'

Dressing up as a woman to spend more time with your kids definitely earns you the award of Father of the Year. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire is a sheer work of comedic genius. (Bonus points for watching this sweet flick with your dad this Father’s Day.)

12 /14: Matt King, 'The Descendants'

Image: Fox Searchlight Pictures

12/14 :Matt King, 'The Descendants'

If you’re looking for a real movie with a real dad who is doing real things with his kids, George Clooney nails it as Matt King, a father who is thrown into the deep end of parenting when his ex-wife goes into a coma after a boating accident. The dark comedy will make you appreciate all that it takes to be a single dad.

13 /14: Richard Hoover, 'Little Miss Sunshine'

13/14 :Richard Hoover, 'Little Miss Sunshine'

Dysfunctional families, rejoice! There is a dad who represents the weird and the wonderful blended families among us, and his name is Richard Hoover, played by Greg Kinnear. Kinnear makes the tougher parts of fatherhood look a little more manageable — like driving across the country in an old VW van with a family who is falling apart at the seams (plus a suicidal brother-in-law played by Steve Carell).

14 /14: Darth Vader, The 'Star Wars' Trilogy

14/14 :Darth Vader, The 'Star Wars' Trilogy

Yes, it's true. Sometimes we lead by example. Sometimes the lesson is in what not to do. Without Darth, how would Luke have become a hero? And in the end, Anakin Skywalker sacrifices himself to protect his son. May the force be with you, dads!

Originally published June 2011. Updated June 2016.