With Father's Day upon us, we here at The Wire have decided to take stock of those moments we've spent with our dads. Fishing. Hunting. Barbecuing on the ol' charcoal grill. No, obviously none of those things. We're talking about the movies we watched with our dads when we were younger. Those formative experiences when your dad tried to instill a proper appreciation for Animal House and The Blues Brothers and Hoosiers. Some of our choices weren't nearly that cliche, thank goodness. (Some of ours were. Hey, Dad.)
Helicopters and Jam
Growing up in Kiev when I was little, we had some really weird movies/shows and I remember one we watched together. It's called Karlsson on the Roof, it is a little man in overalls who has a helicopter propeller attached to his back. He flies all over the USSR with his friend. He spends a lot of time trying to track down and eat jam. Eastern Europe isn't so great at kids movies. — Polly Mosendz
"You Wanna Have a Catch?"
A few years ago, my dad and I watched Field of Dreams during one of its many replays on Saturday afternoon TNT. It's an overly sappy movie, one that I'd usually mock or giggle about for being corny and too-obviously trying to get an emotional rise out of me. But in one of the last scenes, a choked-up Kevin Costner talks to a past version of his loving dad. "Dad? You wanna have a catch?" he says as the orchestra rises and they toss back and forth. Tears were shed, I admit. My dad and I were so moved and inspired that we dug out an old ball and glove from the closet and tossed a baseball around for a while. That was a beautiful day, just a father and son having a catch. Thanks pops! — Eric Levenson
Mickey and Mallory and Dad
One of the joys of moving to America from the U.K. when I was eight-years-old was all the films I was suddenly allowed to watch, and all the mysterious and hidden worlds I now had access to. My love of film is absolutely my dad’s fault — throughout my childhood, a giant poster for A Clockwork Orange, featuring Alex’s eye, hung on the wall outside my room and scared me to death at night — but the classification system in the U.K. means that even if you’re with an adult, you actually have to be 12, 15, or 18 to watch a film with those ratings. In America, you just have to be with a grown-up, and in this great nation, you can take a baby to see American Psycho (which I also saw in the cinema).
My mum cringes now when I remind her that she took me to Magnolia when I was nine — Tom Cruise is in it, so off we went, no questions asked — but I saw all sorts of age-inappropriate movies with my dad. When I was ten, we went to see The Royal Tenenbaums at a suburban New Jersey theater. For reasons I still don’t understand, it had a profound effect on me and remains my favorite movie to this day. When we returned to the U.K., Dad used to make me, and quite often my friends, sit with him and watch Natural Born Killers, namely for the frenzied montage at the end of the film. While the film itself isn’t that great, the disturbing splicing up of news footage from notorious ‘90s crimes like the Waco siege and trials of O.J. Simpson and the Menendez brothers, followed by Woody Harrelson wearing John Lennon glasses and drenched in fake blood, is now forever ingrained in my film-watching memory. —Lucy Westcott
37 Dicks in a Row? And Other Questions Dad Won't Be Answering
Lacking the siblings all you well-adjusted individuals had growing up, I watched a lot of ill-advised movies with my father growing up – R-rated raunch-fests like Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and The 40 Year Old Virgin that made sitting on the couch next to dad rather awkward. But the one that sticks out is Clerks, mostly because I was probably too young (12ish, I think) to watch it when I did. We rented it from the library and I don’t think either of us had any clue what it was about, but oh boy did we find out. All the lovely jokes about snowballing, necrophilia, and fellating your own self left me with a) a lot of questions and b) an absolute certainty that I should not ask my dad those questions. My father never said anything about the sex stuff during the movie, mercifully, and I think he fell asleep part way through the movie, missing some of the cruder moments. So thanks, dad, for being cool about dick jokes. —Ben Cosman
Paul Newman: An American Man
My dad made me watch all the Paul Newman classics: Cool Hand Luke, Hombre, Hud, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, etc. They're great, I'm so glad I've seen them. But I think they gave me some unrealistic expectations about American masculinity. —Elspeth Reeve
Uh-Oh, Here's Some Feelings
Movies have kinda always been our thing. Since as far back as I can remember, my dad and I have been watching movies together — at the local multiplex, or at the one room art house theater in our small town, or at my grandfather's house storm-stayed and armed with enough snacks and VHSs to last us days, just in case the plows couldn't reach us. (We secretly hoped they weren't coming.) That time, the one storm-stayed at my grandfather's house, was the first time I saw Mad Max. There was the time when I was way, way, way too young and too sheltered to be watching the South Park movie in theaters. (I was 10 years old, maybe 11 when it came out.) He took me to see Ridley Scott's Gladiator, the first time I realized leaving the theater that I had just finished watching a Great Movie, one that would probably win the Oscar for Best Picture that year. We went through our routine on the way to the car, digesting the movie and volleying reactions to each other, and I think he realized this was the culmination of years of work. I knew what the heck was going on. I could sense that he was proud of me. We never played basketball in the driveway or anything like that; we had movies.
My dad introduced me to movies and taught me to think critically about what I saw on screen. As I grew older and learned to form my own opinions and developed tastes that don't necessarily line up with his, we agreed less and our trips weren't as frequent. Not because of some cinematic ideological fight with my dad, but because that's what you do when you grow up in a small town — you go to the movies with your friends, a lot. It set off a balancing act, but one I'm happy to keep up to this very day. I still love watching movies with my dad, even if he is a little ornery now. That just means I'm even more right, more often. Movies will always be the one thing my dad and I agree on, no matter what. —Connor Simpson
Dad and the Desert Planet
My dad and I have a lot of overlap in the Venn diagram of our taste in movies, one that was cultivated in no small part by my dad's channel surfing. As soon as a commercial break came on whatever sitcom we were watching at night, off he'd go, channel after channel. If we came across a movie he loved, the remote went down, and that's what we'd watch for the rest of the evening. One particularly beloved movie I saw for the first time in this way? Dune. Yes, the 1984 beautiful mess of a film with Sting as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. And I loved it. The atmospheric voiceovers, the flying dude, all of it. I don't remember exactly how old I was, but it was definitely before I read the Herbert novel. In fact, I probably read the Herbert because of how weird and epic Lynch's sprawling adaptation was. I mean come on:
Movie nights always happened organically when I was growing up. Basically, if all three members of my family were home on any given night when I didn't have a lot of homework we would watch a movie. Though we would sometimes watch new releases on DVD—or on LaserDisc, back in the really old days—these gatherings were primarily a chance for my parents to educate me on the classics. But as much as I loved these nights, there was often a battle between me and my dad.
My favorite movies were Bringing Up Baby, Roman Holiday, and The Court Jester, and I was always eager to watch something along those lines. While my dad was a fan of '40s and '50s romantic comedies and musicals—one summer we worked our way through a Preston Sturges box set—he always wanted to push me out of my comfort zone. Specifically, he wanted me to watch Bridge on the River Kwai. There were other movies that he would continually push, but for some reason Bridge on the River Kwai made the greatest impression. He would suggest it, and I would whine: "But I want to watch a comedy. I'm tired and it's already late and I don't want something too long." I can't remember when I caved, but I eventually did, and we watched it and it was great. I was sorry for being such a pain in the ass. —Esther Zuckerman
Dad Movies Defined
I tend to classify all the movies that I remember watching with my dad as Dad Movies. Not the ones we went and saw at the movie theater — for whatever reason, those are less memorable, save for the one time we nearly fell out of our seats laughing at Home Alone (I think we're on the right side of history with that one). No, the Dad Movies I think of are the ones we watched on the sofa in front of the TV. When I'd be ambling all over the house and he'd pull me over to make me watch whatever Dad Classic was on that afternoon. Dad Movies crossed all sorts of genres: comedies like Stripes or Innerspace, sci-fi like Tron, fantasy like Clash of the Titans, old-fashioned suspense/drama like No Way Out. Obviously we'd watch Field of Dreams. That was a given. The one I remember most clearly, most consistently was The Last Waltz, that Scorsese-directed film of The Band's last concert. Growing up, my dad was the all-time greatest at the Who's Singing This Song car-radio game, and The Last Waltz was basically a parade of all his classic rock staples. Dad Movie and Dad Rock fused into one. — Joe Reid