Let’s be honest: Father’s Day can be stressful on Dads. Well, perhaps not the day itself — it is, after all, a holiday dedicated to them so they can take it as easy as they want without condemnation because that’s literally what it’s there for — but the run-up to it is primed for self-reflection and recrimination. Have you really been the best father you could be? Do you deserve the gifts and adoration you’re about to get? Couldn’t you have tried harder, when it really comes down to it?
Consider this list a viewpoint from the other side of that argument. Sure, you’ve probably screwed up a few times, made some bad decisions and been selfish at times. You’re only human, after all. But, when it comes down to it, you could’ve done worse. Just look at how bad these guys were when it came to making parenting decisions.
To go into why this movie belongs on the list is to go deep into spoiler territory, but suffice to say that there’s more to Noah Cross’ (John Huston) badness than just being a seedy businessman. Admittedly, this movie sets the “Well, at least I’m not that bad” bar pretty damn high to begin with, but it’s always good to start from a place where you know you’re not going to be disappointed.
FATAL ATTRACTION (1987)
Okay, so the fact that Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) had an affair isn’t the most spectacular moment of parenting prowess, but it could be worse, right? I mean, it’s not like he had an affair with a woman who will become so obsessed with him that she’ll end up killing his daughter’s rabbit or anything, is it? Oh. Oh, it is? That’s exactly what happens? Oh, okay, Never mind then.
TWIN PEAKS (1990)
How can you step things up from Noah Cross’ impressive lack of moral character? Why, by bringing in Leland Palmer (Ray Wise), a character who — major spoiler warning — is ultimately revealed to have been complicit in raping his daughter for years before ultimately killing her, all while being possessed by a supernatural entity called Bob, of course. Whether or not the possession part makes anything better isn’t exactly clear, but let’s go with “probably not.”
NATURAL BORN KILLERS: DIRECTOR’S CUT (1994)
Along similar lines to Leland Palmer is Ed Wilson, the sexually-abusive father of Mallory (Juliette Lewis) in the 1990s Tarantino-written movie Natural Born Killers, perhaps best remembered as the role that reinforced that queasy feeling you’d had about Rodney Dangerfield all along. (Yes, I know, he deserved more respect.)
KILL BILL (2003/2004)
David Carradine’s eponymous father figure targeted for revenge by Uma Thurman in the two-part, few-more-awesome action movie turned out to be more than just a stand-in father by the end of the movie, when it’s revealed that he’s actually the father of Thurman’s child, and yet still managed to order her death. In his defense, it’s certainly faster than custody hearings, but still.
IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA (2005-2014)
What changed between the first and second season of the FX comedy? The addition of Danny DeVito as Frank, worryingly morally-bankrupt father of Dee and Dennis. Compared with some of the other fathers on this list, he actually comes out pretty well… at least until you remember that he pimped out his son for sexual favors and almost has sex with his daughter while pretending to be someone else entirely. Then you remember that maybe he’s not so great after all.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007)
At some point in Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic about the Southern Californian oil boom of the late 19th century, you can almost believe that Daniel Day-Lewis’ Daniel Plainview genuinely loves his son. And then, when he sends his adopted son away after an accident leaves him deaf, you quickly realize that he just liked other people thinking that he was the fatherly type, instead of actually caring for his son at all.
BREAKING BAD (2008-2013)
Oh, Walter White. Maybe you really did have the best of intentions about being a good father and family man when you started that whole “making meth in a comic fashion in a van out in the desert” thing, but the way things ended…? Perhaps your attention has wandered elsewhere and standards had slipped. Just, you know, a friendly comment. Please don’t kill me.
WORLD’S GREATEST DAD (2009)
What kind of father would use the death of his child to his own end? Meet Lance Clayton (Robin Williams), a high school teacher who has discovered that his son’s suicide offered a once in a lifetime — well, once in a death, more literally — opportunity to showcase his writing, by pretending it was the work of his now-gone offspring. If that sounds a little too grim, then perhaps Bobcat Goldthwait’s dark comedy isn’t for you. (For everyone else, it’s pretty great.)
ROOM 237 (2012)
And now for something completely different: The Shining is doubtlessly one of the most famous “Bad Dad” movies of all time, and while that movie isn’t available on Netflix, this documentary about its creation is, and is highly recommended — not least because it might make you think that Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance was actually in far worse shape than you’d previously expected.