Affliction. Paul Schrader's stunning exploration of family dysfunction, about a taciturn middle-aged man unable to move beyond the menacing shadow of his abusive, violent father. Nick Nolte and James Coburn act up a storm in this powerful drama.
Cape Fear. The Martin Scorsese remake starring Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange and Juliette Lewis offers a harrowing picture of a family man trying to protect his wife and rebellious daughter from a vengeful psychopath. Terrific physical tension, as opposed to the more sinister, Hitchcockian original that starred Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum.
Dad. Heartfelt drama about a busy executive (Ted Danson) coming home to take care of sickly parents, while also sorting out tangled relations with his distant son (Ethan Hawke). Jack Lemmon as the patriarch is excellent, playing off beautifully with Danson, Hawke and Olympia Dukakis as his wife. Based on the acclaimed novel by William Wharton.
Father of the Bride. Steve Martin's ruefully funny turn as the befuddled father coming to terms with his daughter's impending wedding is the best reason to see this warm Disney remake. But if it's old-fashioned family nostalgia you want, check out the original movie with Spencer Tracy and a young, very beautiful Elizabeth Taylor as his daughter. The scene where he first sees her in a wedding dress remains a priceless shot.
The Godfather. Simply the best film there is on fathers and sons living with family legacies marked by pride and perdition. Benevolence, deceit, loyalty and tragedy come to the fore as the reluctant son (Al Pacino) ponders whether to take the reins of the shadowy empire his father (Marlon Brando) has left him. Epic, operatic, Francis Ford Coppola's film is both an ode to family and a dirge over the bloody lengths to which some would go to protect it.
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? Spencer Tracy’s last film has him playing an irascible WASP father who must learn to overcome his prejudices when his daughter comes home with a black man for a fiance. This movie tackles the issue of racism with cold logic, but the emotions run true thanks to the powerhouse cast, which includes Katharine Hepburn, Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton.
Kramer vs. Kramer. Meryl Streep leaves Dustin Hoffman to take care of their young son, then reappears to get the boy back. Robert Benton's exceptionally sensitive film (winner of five Oscars including the 1979 Best Picture) treats its subjects with sympathy and grace, allowing the material to transcend its contours as a simple child custody fight to one that examines the rigors of marriage, parenthood and careers in contemporary society.
Late Spring. Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu’s quiet, delicate tale of a widowed father trying to marry off his only daughter touches on many issues: guilt, dependence, obligation, conformity and tradition, social flux. The triumph of this film is how it looks at these complex realities of post-war Japanese society and frames the father-daughter dynamic with compassionate sobriety and exactitude. An unconditional masterpiece.
The Son's Room. A Cannes Film Festival winner, Nanni Moretti’s illuminating film traces the disintegration of an Italian middle-class family devastated by the accidental death of a young son. As the father tries to come to grips with the loss, the quotidian details of his family life emerge with poignant clarity and purposefulness, leading to the possibility of healing.
To Kill a Mockingbird. Gregory Peck embodies the stalwart goodness, decency and bravery of fathers in this classic film based on Harper Lee's novel. Playing a lawyer who defends a black man against a small town's virulent hatred, Peck's Atticus Finch offers his children lifelong lessons in quiet heroism and exemplary parenthood.
They asked only for 10 titles, but I could have added 10 more:
American Beauty. Kevin Spacey as a washed-up suburban dad on his way to unlikely redemption, directed with stylish flair by Sam Mendes.
The Champ. The classic three-hankie weeper, with Jon Voight as a broken boxer reconnecting with his terminally cute son (Ricky Schroeder).
Father and Son. From the Russian director Alexander Sokurov, a slow, meditative film on the unnerving complexities of paternal bonds.
The Incredibles. That rarity--a Disney cartoon that blends youthful sass with a darker undertow touching on mid-life malaise and other very real adult concerns.
In the Name of the Father. Terrific rapport between Daniel Day-Lewis and Pete Postlethwaite as Irish victims of English injustice, in Jim Sheridan's angry film.
October Sky. Rousing true-life story about dreams coming true in a dead-end town, starring a pre-"Brokeback Mountain" Jake Gyllenhaal.
Ordinary People. Corrosive domestic drama from first-time director Robert Redford, with Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland and Timothy Hutton all in top form.
Paper Moon. Real-life father-and-daughter Ryan and Tatum O'Neal's appealing crime caper, effervescently directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
Pelle the Conqueror. Achingly beautiful film from Sweden's Bille August, starring Max Von Sydow as a flinty, half-drunk father leading his brood through hardscabble times.
Ran. Akira Kurosawa's towering twilight achievement, based on Shakespeare's "King Lear." The last word in period magnificence.
Samurai Rebellion. Toshiro Mifune rising in splendid fury to defend his family's honor, from another Japanese master, Masaki Kobayashi.
You! What's your favorite Daddy Movie?