That was the essential question posed by writer Danielle Sepulveres in a tweet that amassed over 1,100 responses in just 24 hours. Well, she actually asked what film is “THE movie universally beloved by dads” but there almost certainly isn’t a correct answer to that question. (You just know there’s some contrarian dude out there has kids and hates Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid despite the incontrovertible fact that it rules.)
And anyway, most of the folks who replied to the original tweet simply shared the movies that their dads love, everything from O Brother, Where Art Thou? to Seven Samurai to Children of Men. These movies don’t have much, if anything, in common, but a few themes did emerge in the body of responses. From there, you can start to cobble together a taxonomy of dad movies.
The categories aren’t perfect — there’s definitely some overlap and some films that dads definitely love don’t fit neatly into any of them — but any insight into what makes a movie a dad movie would have to reckon with these specific genres.
Sports Movies with Feelings
The armchair psychologist in us would speculate that emotionally stunted dads see sports as a masculine enough arena for emotional catharsis. But whether or not that’s the real reason, sports movies that portray and engender strong emotional responses are definitely beloved by lots of dads.
Brian’s Song was definitely the biggest tearjerker mentioned, but Field of Dreams, a tear-inducing movie that’s explicitly about father-son relationships, was the most popular. Other oft-mentioned films include Hoosiers, Rudy, Rocky, and The Natural, and for a younger generation of dads, it looks like the seminal The Sandlot is indispensable.
Rugged Action Movies
When dads don’t especially feel like crying — sorry, getting something in both of their eyes simultaneously — action movies are a dependable choice. We’re talking classics like The Great Escape (Steve McQueen remains beloved by dads) and, of course, the Bond movies. What dad hasn’t fallen asleep in front of a holiday Bond marathon on cable?
Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October, Road House, and The Fugitive were also popular choices. Like all good action movies, these films have tense moments and impressive stunts, and they all evince a commitment to character and story that dads appreciate. There’s a place for dumber action movies, to be sure, but dads prefer the cream of the crop.
Caddyshack, as you might have expected, was a popular choice. The John Belushi classics Blues Brothers and Animal House, the latter possibly because it reminds dad of their pre-dad years, were as well.
Blazing Saddles, Coming to America, and My Cousin Vinny also popped up more than once. We’d wager that, in the years to come, Stepbrothers, Super Troopers, and Superbad will transition into the realm of the dad flick as the kids who grew up knowing every line of these movies have kids of their own, kids who roll their eyes every time dad demands to be called “Night Hawk.”
Sprawling Morality Tales
Dads like big movies and they like them to tell epic moral stories. The Shawshank Redemption was probably the most popular answer overall, and other mentioned films like A Few Good Men and Cool Hand Luke similarly grapple with big questions. It might be because being a dad is, in large part, an effort to teach kids right from wrong.
Of course, dads also appreciate films that focus on “bad guys” like Goodfellas and The Godfather that, in the end, are cautionary tales about what happens when you follow the wrong kind of code. The Irishman, which obviously shares personnel with both of those films, is a safe bet to become a future dad movie classic.
Tom Hanks Movies
You could put movies like The Green Mile and Saving Private Ryan easily into some of the other divisions on this list, but the thing that really sets them apart, especially to dads, is their Hanksness. Even the recently released Greyhound got a few shout-outs on Twitter, as people know a movie starring Tom Hanks is almost certainly a dad movie.
After all, he’s not called America’s Dad for nothing, and if Hanks ever makes a funny, action-packed, emotional sports movie about one man’s struggle to do right in a world gone wrong, then dad movies will have their Citizen Kane.