The kids of Stranger Things may be some of the best characters on TV but their excellence is only matched by the incompetence of their fathers. But Stranger Things is so beholden to the ’80s that it makes sense that the father figures are not very involved: they’re continuing the grand tradition of terrible movie dads from the ’80s.
In a decade where families were still feeling the effects of the divorce boom of the ’70s, many films of the ’80s reflected that social change through terrible dads. Remember the dad from E.T.? Or what about Daniel’s dad in The Karate Kid? You can’t remember them because they never show up onscreen. Those that manage to make an onscreen appearance are either caricatures or hapless scolders. It’s not their fault; it’s the writing. But, in any case, here are nine of the worst movie dads from a decade that had a lot of them.
Footloose: Reverend Shaw Moore
To be clear, no parent should have to outlive their child and it is understandable that the death of his son Bobby has had a profound effect on Reverend Moore. That being said, Moore decides the only way to protect the kids of Bomont (and more specifically, his daughter) is to ban dancing. The fact that this is hokey ’80s screenwriting at its finest (“How about we have a town where dancing is illegal!!”), how was Moore able to convince anyone else in town that this was a good idea? Given the extreme nature of this law, the fact that his daughter will even acknowledge his presence is nothing short of a miracle. There’s strict parenting and then there’s Reverend Moore’s style.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Every Invisible Dad
In Fast Times, every single parent is mysteriously absent while their kids revel in drinking, drugs, and all the other standard forms of teen debauchery. Seriously, where the hell are the parents of Ridgemont High? The only adults that show up at all are the idiot teachers who are easily outwitted or overmatched by the likes of Spicoli. Sure, it makes for a fun time, but this town needs to be investigated to figure out if they are living in some sort of drug-fueled episode of the Twilight Zone.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: Mr. Bueller
It’s hard to judge Mr. Bueller because his son is simply so damn charming. To us, Ferris may be a lovable rogue who simply wants to break out of his mundane suburban existence to experience one beautiful day in Chicago but his dad is naive enough to believe that his sweet boy really is sick at home. He doesn’t even recognize his son’s longtime girlfriend when she brilliantly disguises herself with a pair of sunglasses. For any dad to get manipulated this openly and shamelessly really does not reflect well on his overall skills as a parent.
Back to the Future: George McFly
Now, you might be wondering, do you mean the original George McFly or the George McFly we meet after Marty alters the timeline and conveniently steals the invention of rock n roll from black people? But the truth is, both of these dudes are not great dads. The original George is a spineless creep who’s clearly hated by his wife and kids while the new George is a gross horndog who seems fine with his wife’s attempted rapist acting as the family butler. Neither of these make for a father of the year candidate.
Plus, as John Mulaney pointed out, why is nobody concerned that Marty, a high schooler, is best friends with Doc Brown, a mad scientist who may very well be 150 years old? George! This is not normal shit and it’s your job to deal with it! Use your head, McFly.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: Wayne Szalinski
Rick Moranis is so fantastic in any role that it is easy to overlook the fact that he’s so cavalier with his scientific experiments that this guy shrinks his damn kids. What if he couldn’t get them back to normal size? What if they had been eaten by those ants or stepped on by the pet cat? If Dr. Szalinski is going to make inventions that will forever alter humanity’s understanding of existence, he really needs to stop doing them out of his own house. Otherwise, the next direct-to-DVD sequel will be Honey, the Kids Called Child Protective Services.
The Vacation Franchise: Clark Griswold
He may be a hilarious klutz but over the course of four movies, Clark manages to nearly cheat on his wife (The only reason he didn’t go through with it? He ended up getting caught skinny dipping with his almost mistress by his entire family), gambling away all of their money, and essentially doing whatever he can to avoid spending any actual time with his wife or kids. Sorry man, no amount of vacations are going to hide the fact that you clearly don’t give a shit about your family.
The Little Mermaid: King Triton
Hey, man, maybe if you would have taken the time to sit down with Ariel and explain the danger of trying to make the leap from merworld to human world, she would have understood the risks and avoided selling her voice to a sea witch. Instead, you screamed at her and destroyed all of her whozits and whatzits for no reason, basically encouraging her to do the opposite of whatever you just said.
The Shining: Jack Torrance
All murder and no emotional intelligence makes Jack a very bad dad.
The Breakfast Club: All the Dads
It’s no coincidence that a nerd, a princess, a jock, a basket case, and a criminal began to bond the minute they started comparing their shitty parents. Whether it’s putting too much pressure on them to live up to unrealistic expectations, abusing them for spilling a can of paint, or straight up ignoring them, these dads have all failed their kids in a major way.