Hollywood has no shortage of moving and emotional stories about fathers, sons, daughters and families perfect for this special day. And there are also plenty that are, uh, not. So to help pick wisely, here are nine Father's Day streaming picks to help you win child of the year – as well as nine to avoid unless you want grilling hot dogs for Father's Day lunch to turn into a grilling on a family therapist's couch the next day.
"A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood"
Now streaming on: DirecTV and Spectrum On Demand
Tom Hanks' kindly take on Mister Rogers got all of the press and awards season attention, but the true heart of director Marielle Heller's 2019 drama is healing the troubled father-son relationship between a jaded journalist (Matthew Rhys, "The Americans") and his aggressive alcoholic father (Oscar winner Chris Cooper). The result is a touching and lovely tribute to forgiveness and kindness – all centered around a father and son finally learning to put their past resentments behind them and care for each other again. Plus, it's all put in motion by America's Dad playing America's Grandpa! So much paternal appreciation!
Now streaming on: Tubi and Spectrum On Demand
The time-traveling love story between Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams is the featured attraction in this sweet and clever romance from the creator of "Love Actually." But while that's all nice and cute and charming, what'll really get your tear ducts to turn on the faucet is the relationship between Gleeson's Tim and his fellow time-traveler father who teaches him about their peculiar timeline-hopping family gift and eventually teaches him about the value of life and living in each moment. Sure, it's a love story, but the most lovely material in "About Time," the stuff that'll really hit the heart, is about these two.
Now streaming on: Netflix
Ewan McGregor plays the young idealistic version of Edward Bloom in Tim Burton's fantastical fable about a son (Billy Crudup) finally learning about his father's unusual life and adventures – which include, but are not limited to, meeting a legitimate witch, joining a circus run by a werewolf and going on a road trip with a giant. The stories may sound preposterous – just ask Edward Bloom's son, jaded after years upon years of hearing what he assumes to be lies – but the beating oddball heart is very real and, by the end, will have you crying about a son finally understanding and learning to love his very different father and the unusual, unbelievable life he led.
"Field of Dreams"
Now streaming on: Amazon Prime Video, Fubo TV, DirecTV and Spectrum On Demand
You can't make a list of the ultimate Father's Day movies without this ultimate father-son weepie – one so powerful, it rode a tidal wave of heartwarming emotional tears to a Best Picture nomination in 1990. Played with impeccable everyman charm by Kevin Costner at his peak, Ray Kinsella's quest to turn his Iowa farm into a baseball diamond at the command of some mysterious voices (huh, this almost sounds like the plot to a horror movie now that I'm writing it all down) is sentimental and sappy in the best way as he learns more about his father and is healed by the power of baseball and family. Sure, it's corny – it takes place in an Iowa cornfield, for god's sake; how could it not be? – but by the end, there's no doubt you'll want to call your dad up, wherever he may be, and ask to have a catch. If you build it, they will come – and if you watch it, you will cry.
Now streaming on: Disney+
Pixar went back to the father-son relationship well this year with the fun fantasy "Onward," but if you want Pixar taking on the topic at its tear-inducing finest, you gotta go under the sea with 2003's "Finding Nemo." Even at almost 20 years old, the movie is still gorgeous – but not as beautiful as the key relationship between the worried Marlin (Albert Brooks) and his lost son Nemo. They only share a few scenes on screen together, but watching as Marlin learns to love life again after losing his wife and seeing these two reunite again after a long journey across the ocean, gaining a new appreciation for one another in the process, is so sweet and touching you and dad might cry yourselves a new body of water by the end. (And if you're not feeling fish for Father's Day, "How to Train Your Dragon" is another lovely animated movie about fathers and sons perfect for this special day – and available to stream on Netflix.)
Now streaming on: Hoopla
Most people have forgotten this 2000 Dennis Quaid-Jim Caviezel drama, which goes from a sweet and sentimental fantasy about a reunited father and son to ... a murder mystery riff on "Back to the Future," saving his father from a deadly fire but then accidentally changing the future and now having to save the family matriarch from getting murdered by a serial killer in the past. And somehow it works? But we're not going to talk about that strangely intense second half of the movie. I want to focus on that first, pre-murderous part, which follows father and son as they magically reconnect 30 years apart over ham radio, telling each other about their lives and even just getting to bond over baseball again. It's an odd movie – but also oddly moving.
"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"
Now streaming on: Paramount+
You would think taking the hero's aging dad along for his final globe-trotting adventure ("Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"? What "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"? *plugs ears, starts humming*) would be a drag, but "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" is anything but. Sean Connery's grumbly patriarch fits right into Indy's adventures, charmingly bickering together but also aiding on the quest and bringing a new competitive yet caring side out of our hero as they seek out the Holy Grail before those pesky Nazis get their hands on it. They also sleep with the same woman BUT LET'S NOT THINK ABOUT THAT PART, SHALL WE! Instead, I'm going to think about the part near the end where the two solve the puzzles of the Holy Grail's deadly traps together yet separate, connected by their mutual love of history and, eventually, their love for one another.
Now streaming on: Fubo TV, Kanopy, Showtime, DirecTV and Spectrum On Demand
The mother-daughter subplot in Greta Gerwig's Oscar-nominated coming-of-age dramedy is the featured familial story, but don't overlook Tracy Letts' underrated turn as the dad in the McPherson clan. A dynamic that'll feel all too real to many families watching, as Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf bicker and passively aggressively snipe, going from friendly to fighting so much the only escape is jumping out of a moving car, Letts' dad quietly serves as peacekeeper, moderator and translator between the two women he loves. And as with everyone in "Lady Bird," Letts and Gerwig give this seemingly minor character a full life, soul and specificity so much so that you'll feel like you deeply know him even with just a few lines, moments and scenes – enough that, by the end, you'll want to rage-eat through a bag of Doritos in a car with Larry too.
"Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"
Now streaming on: Fubo TV, DirecTV and Spectrum On Demand
"Into the Spider-Verse" is arguably the best superhero movie ever made, a visual marvel where every single shot in the film is fascinating and thrilling to behold and the script is as clever, colorful and sharp as its bold and beautiful comic book look. But perhaps the most under-appreciated and under-heralded aspect of "Spider-Verse" is the emotional connection between young teen hero Miles Morales and his strict but caring cop father. The scene where the father unknowingly opens up to Miles, separated by a dorm door, finally connecting with his son and giving him a heartening pep talk without even knowing it, is just as powerful as one of the movie's bombastic action sequences and just as beamingly bright as one of its splashy animated images. It's a key part of why "Spider-Verse" is easily the best, most emotionally satisfying film to ever star a superhero pig that floats when he smells a delicious pie.
Now streaming on: Hoopla
Even before we found out about Kevin Spacey's awful off-screen activities, his Lester Burnham was already not exactly Parent of the Year material. The guy's going through a childish midlife crisis that has him committing blackmail, throwing dishes around the house, laying around doing nothing, wasting money he's no longer making on cars and condescending to everyone in his life – oh, and that's all before we mention him creepily obsessing over his high school daughter's cheerleader best friend. And that's just ONE of the bad dads in this Best Picture winner, lest we forget Chris Cooper's repressed, homophobic, brutal disciplinarian and future murderer next door. You're better off watching Wes Bentley's stupid grocery bag student film than this on Father's Day.
Now streaming on: HBO Max, Hoopla, Kanopy, DirecTV and Spectrum On Demand
"Chinatown" is one of the all-time greatest movies Hollywood's ever made – and features one of the all-time worst movie dads ever put to screen: powerful L.A. bigwig Noah Cross (played with diabolical folksy evil by Hollywood icon John Huston) who, when he's not commissioning murders in the hopes of covering up a massive water scheme and land annexation in the middle of a draught, is an incestuous trash human who plots to keep his daughter and her secret daughter under his repulsive thumb. Even Darth Vader would be like, "Someone should call social services." But speaking of which ...
"The Empire Strikes Back"
Now streaming on: Disney+
Now streaming on: Amazon Prime Video and Kanopy
In this excellent Swedish dark comedy, a family trip to the Alps goes horribly awry when an avalanche threatens their happy lunch at the ski lodge. Disaster is seemingly averted when the avalanche peters out before hitting the hotel – but actually, the disaster's just begun as, in the midst of the panic, the husband ran away and abandoned his wife and children to be crushed by the snow ... and now has to try and return to them pretending nothing happened despite the fact that he's outed himself as a coward who will totally bail on his family if things get tough. And Clark Griswold thought HIS family vacation was going wrong.
"Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2"
Now streaming on: Disney+
Marvel movies: They're the perfect entertainment for just about any occasion ... except maybe Father's Day in the case of this massive blockbuster sequel. After all, the movie's about Peter Quill discovering his absentee dad is a space god plotting to destroy the universe and remake it in his image with his son by his side – whether he chooses to be or not – and also gave his mom her deadly tumor when she turned into too much of a distraction for him. I don't care handsome you are, Kurt Russell, or how cool your little space chariot is – not great! So maybe just stick with the first "Guardians" movie ... which introduces viewers to Gamora and Nebula, the abused daughters of their space murderer dad Thanos. Uuhhhhh, so how about "Infinity War" instead this Father's Day ... a movie in which Thanos murders his daughter so he can turn half of existence into literal dust. OK, maybe try the DC universe this particular day.
"The Lion King"
Now streaming on: Disney+ (for either the original or the remake)
What better way to celebrate fathers than by watching probably the most traumatic on-screen dad death in cinematic history? The only way this could be a worse Father's Day pick is if you decided to watch the utterly useless and soulless "live-action" remake instead of the animated original. At least the original doesn't have a long montage about poop.
Now streaming on: Peacock, Fubo TV, Hoopla, Kanopy and Shudder
Moms have a whole plethora of traumatic horror movies about them. Dads? Less so. Feel free to make your own assumptions about what that says about Hollywood here. But there is "The Stepfather," starring Locke from "Lost" (Terry O'Quinn) as a serial killer who charms his way into a new family – only to try and murder them when they don't turn out to be perfect. Director Joseph Ruben would go on to make the '90s domestic thrillers "Sleeping with the Enemy" and "The Good Son" after this, so that feels like something that needs to be unpacked in therapy.
Now streaming on: HBO Max
Sure, Liam Neeson's Bryan Mills saves his daughter from a kidnapping in the first "Taken" film, which I think we can all agree is an impressive dad move. But we all know the famous phrase: Kidnap my family once, shame on you; kidnap my family twice, shame on me. Indeed, Mills' daughter AND his wife both end up in trouble in the crappy sequel AND in "Fugitive"-esque third film, which hinges on Mills' ex-wife getting not merely taken but murdered. He may have a certain set of skills, but keeping his family healthy and out of harm's way is not one of them. He does teach his daughter, though, how to toss grenades around Istanbul without getting arrested, so that's ... something.
"There Will Be Blood"
Now streaming on: Hoopla
Daniel Day-Lewis may deliver one of the great cinematic performances in this great oilman epic, but there's nothing great about his character's parenting skills in "There Will Be Blood." Actually the son of a worker killed in an accident at Daniel Plainview's not-OSHA-approved oil well, H.W. is adopted by the ruthless businessman, who proceeds to use him for branding purposes, accidentally causes him to lose his hearing, ships him away to school when he gets tired of him and then drunken mocks him later in life when H.W. asks permission to create his own oil company. That's not very Midwestern nice of the Fond du Lac native!
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.