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10 Dads From ‘80s Movies I Wanted to Be My Dad

Katy Clark

With just two sentences, I fell in love. I was watching Sixteen Candles. I didn’t fall in love with Jake Ryan, though. Nope, with two lines uttered by Jim Baker, Samantha’s dad (played by Paul Dooley), I fell in love with the ideal father for my teenage angst. “That’s why they call them crushes,” he said. “If they were easy, they’d call them something else.”

Paul Dooley played Jim Baker in Sixteen Candles
Image: Universal Pictures

What teen doesn’t want to hear such sage advice from her dad?

It’s not that I didn’t hear advice from my own dad. A burly, loveable man with a Magnum P.I. mustache, my dad was the kind of dad who carried a briefcase and drove a Chevy Impala to work every day. He counseled my two sisters and me with adages like, “Walk it off,” and “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” And I loved him for it.

In honor of Father’s Day and all things ’80s, I’m celebrating not only Jim Baker, but also nine other dads from ’80s movies whose heartfelt or silly qualities I wanted in a dad.

Dr. Jake Houseman, Dirty Dancing (1987)

Jerry Orbach played Jake Houseman in Dirty Dancing
Image: Vestron Pictures


OK, OK. So Dr. Houseman (played by Jerry Orbach) put Baby in a corner. However, he helped Baby when she needed it, clearly loved his girls and admitted he was wrong about Johnny.

Clark Griswold, National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

Chevy Chase played Clark Griswold in National Lampoon's Vacation
Image: Warner Bros.


This well-intentioned goofball (played by Chevy Chase) wanted to give his family a Wally World vacation. And five thousand mishaps aside, he did. What perseverance!

Thornton Melon, Back to School (1986)

Rodney Dangerfield played Thornton Melon in Back to School
Image: Orion Pictures


With this millionaire for a dad (played by Rodney Dangerfield), I would have had a sweet dorm room. His joie de vivre would rub off on me too.

David Miller, Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)

Dennis Dugan played David Miller in Can't Buy Me Love
Image: Buena Vista Pictures


David Miller (played by Dennis Dugan) offered Donald/Ronald the old tic-tac-tile station wagon for his big date. That’s considerate.

Steve Richman, Valley Girl (1983)

Frederick Forest played Steve Richman in Valley Girl
Image: Atlantic Releasing Corporation


Mr. Richman (played by Frederic Forrest) made his daughter Julie work in the family’s health food store. This encouraged a good work ethic. Plus, he did not enforce a curfew. Like, totally.

Chet Ripley, The Great Outdoors (1988)

John Candy played Chet Ripley in The Great Outdoors
Image: Universal Pictures


First, it’s John Candy. Second, it’s John Candy as Chet Ripley, a dad who fought a bear, ate a 96-ounce steak to earn a free dinner, treated his family to a north woods vacation and rescued children from an abandoned mine. Those are impressive paternal skills.

Arthur Willis, The Flamingo Kid (1984)

Hector Elizondo played Arthur Willis in The Flamingo Kid
Image: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation


When his son Jeffrey shirked an office job to work as a cabana boy at the El Flamingo Club, Arthur Miller (played by Héctor Elizondo) was disappointed. He stayed true to his honest, hardworking ways, though, and Jeffrey learned to appreciate him.

Harold Howard, Teen Wolf (1985)

James Hampton played Harold Howard in Teen Wolf
Image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.


When you grow hair everywhere during puberty, you would want this dad — who lived through and embraced his hairiness — to guide you.

Tom Bueller, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Lyman Ward played Tom Bueller in Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Image: Paramount Pictures


I wanted Ferris’ dad (played by Lyman Ward) as my father just for the health tips alone:

Ferris: Dad, all this talking has made me kinda light-headed, I think I oughta lie down.

Tom Bueller: Take a bath. Then wrap a hot towel around your head.

Ferris: Wrap a hot towel around my head?

Tom Bueller: And then make yourself some soup, get a nap.

Honorable mentions for dads from ’80s movies that I wanted to be my dad include all the guys from Three Men and a Baby and Neil from Planes, Trains & Automobiles.

Now it’s your turn. Which dad from an ’80s movie had qualities you wanted in a dad?

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