The Best Dads In Action Movies

Yes, I’m well aware that Father’s Day is still a ways off. But, as a father myself, and as somebody who is enamored with the best action movies of all time (and projecting myself into said movies), I’m always a sucker for good dads in action flicks.

Unsurprisingly, I’m not alone, as there are a multitude of fighting fathers at the multiplexes, which just proves that ass-kicking daddy is a popular sub-genre, and definitely wish fulfillment. 

Sure, it’s cool to imagine yourself on the big screen (or in an action movie that went right to streaming), being an ass kicking ladies man, a la all those James Bond movies. But, it’s even cooler imagining yourself as a papa who could also whoop some ass. So, here are some of the best dads in action movies. Oh, and son. Hold my beer.  

Bruce Willis in Die Hard with a Vengeance

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

John McClane (Die Hard Series) 

We don’t learn much about John McClane’s children until Parts 4 and 5, which are Live Free or Die Hard, and A Good Day to Die Hard, respectively. But, they’re very interesting relationships, nonetheless. 

His daughter, Lucy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), is not a fan of her father in Part 4, even going so far as to change her last name. But, when she gets taken hostage by a cyberterrorist, you know Papa John is coming to the rescue. And rescue her he does! They’re back on speaking terms after these heroic events. 

In Part 5, which is my LEAST favorite movie of the Die Hard series, we get introduced to his son, John, or Jack, played by Jai Courtney. John is actually as badass as his father, who fights with him in Russia. But, one thing is certain about John McClane, played by the incomparable Bruce Willis (Who our very own Sean O’Connell wrote a whole book about!): Whoever you are, you do not mess with his kids.  

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

John Matrix (Commando) 

In the greatest action movie of all time (I said what I said), Arnold Schwarzenegger plays John Matrix, a mountain of a man who will stop at nothing to rescue his daughter, Jenny (Alyssa Milano). Here’s the plot: A dictator wants to use John in order to get back into power, and he’s going to kidnap Matrix’s daughter as a means to fulfill his goal. But, he messed with the wrong dude.

Because you just can’t stop John Matrix! Sure, you can try to take him hostage on an airplane, but he’s the kind of man who will break the guy’s neck next to him, and then get off the plane from the wheel compartment. Hell, you’re going to need a small army to keep him from his daughter, and not even that will help you.  

Liam Neeson in Taken

(Image credit: Disney/Fox)

Bryan Mills (Taken Series)  

We all know this, but Bryan Mills’ victims might not be aware that he has “a very particular set of skills.”  But, they soon learn as such when they kidnap his daughter, Kim, played by Maggie Grace. It sets Mills (Liam Neeson) off on a trek to kill the people who kidnapped her.

Mills is the kind of dad you don’t want to bring your boyfriend home to. He seems pleasant enough, but he’s also so protective of his daughter, that you would be walking on eggshells anytime you’re around him, especially if you’re in a kitchen full of knives. Funnily (or stupidly) enough, another bad guy attempted to take his daughter in Taken 3. But, we all know how that ended, and it definitely wasn’t in the bad guy’s favor.  

Harrison Ford in Air Force One

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

President James Marshall (Air Force One) 

You wanna talk about fathers? Well, how about our founding fathers, with one of them being George Washington. Known for his bravery and cunning, many Americans consider Washington to be one of America’s greatest presidents, and (check out this segue), one could argue that James Marshall, played by Harrison Ford, is one of America’s greatest movie presidents. 

Quite frankly, Marshall does not negotiate with terrorists. Which is bad news for Egor Korshunov (Gary Oldman), as Marshall isn’t just some pushover president. Nah. He fought in Vietnam and even won the Medal of Honor for his duties. So, mistake #1 was hijacking the plane, but mistake #2 (and this was the even bigger mistake), was taking his wife and daughter hostage. Because that’s what really set him off. Of course the bad guys lose and the good guy wins, because America. Amirite?  

Nicolas Cage in Con Air

(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

Cameron Poe (Con Air) 

Since we’re already on the topic of planes, let’s talk about Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage), in the awesome (but sometimes nonsensical) ‘90s movie, Con Air. Poe, who went to jail for defending his wife, is the kind of father who will make sure you die if you even dare tamper with the bunny (Just put it back in the box!) that he got for his daughter. 

In a lot of ways, everything he does here is to be back home with his family. Because he was locked up for eight years, he’s going to be coming home to a daughter he didn’t really get to watch grow up. So, that’s why there’s nobody on earth (Or in the air!) who’s going to stop him from seeing his daughter.  

John Travolta and Nicolas Cage in Face/Off

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Sean Archer (Face/Off)  

Since we’re on the topic of Nicolas Cage, who I’m always happy to talk about, why not transition over to another ‘90s classic, Face/Off, starring Nic Cage and John Travolta? 

Now, this is going to be a tricky one to describe if you’ve never seen the movie, but John Travolta plays Sean Archer, whose son dies early on, due to Castor Troy, a terrorist played by Cage. Due to a series of events, though, Travolta’s face gets swapped with Cage’s so their roles flip. Now, Cage becomes “the good guy,” and Travolta is bad.

No matter whose face he has, Sean is a good dad (even though he’d been neglecting his wife and daughter while going after Troy). When he realizes how he’s been so single-minded in his pursuit, he learns the true value of being a parent. So much so, that he’s even willing to adopt his rival’s son just to keep him from a life of crime. What a mensch! 

Danny Glover smiles while Mel Gibson laughs at the wheel in Lethal Weapon 4.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Roger Murtaugh (Lethal Weapon Series)  

Okay, enough of the ‘90s. Let’s talk about the ‘80s, and Lethal Weapon! Roger Murtaugh, played by Danny Glover, is a family man, through-and-through. He’s a Vietnam vet, and will do anything for his kids, such as try to rescue his daughter, Rianne (Traci Wolfe), who gets kidnapped in the first movie by a cartel.

Or, how about how awful he feels in Lethal Weapon 3, when he kills his son’s friend, and then declines mentally due to his guilt? In every way, Murtaugh is the kind of dad who isn’t perfect, but tries his damn best each and every day. And, I can relate as a parent. Because just like Murtaugh, I’m getting too old for this ish.  

Tomisaburou Wakayama in Shogun Assassin

(Image credit: New World Pictures)

Ogami Itto (Lone Wolf And Cub Series) 

On the surface, Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama) seems like he might actually be a bad parent. I mean, what kind of dad brings his child into combat where he could die at any point? But, Itto actually presented his baby with an ultimatum: Choose the sword, and he could come with him. Choose the ball, and he would die at his father’s hand. 

Yeah, that still sounds pretty bad, but at the same time, bringing a baby carriage into combat is certainly a hindrance. Itto is ride or die now that he’s committed to taking his son along on his quest for vengeance. Hey, his kid even contributes, killing along the way as well. You know what they say! The family that slays together, stays together. That is what they say, don’t they? 

Harrison Ford and Sean Connery in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Dr. Henry Jones Sr. (Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade)  

While I’ll debate with you all day which is the better Indy sequel–Last Crusade or Temple (It’s Temple!), what I won’t debate with you is what a fascinating father Dr. Henry Jones (Sean Connery) is to Indy (Which was the dog’s name!). At first, he seems aloof to his child, as they don’t quite see eye-to-eye. But, throughout their journey together for the Holy Grail, we learn just how similar they actually are to each other. 

It’s also worth noting that Senior truly loves his son, and that it was hard for him to deal with his wife’s death. In turn, Indy truly loves his dad. But, like many contentious families, they’re more alike than they’re ever willing to admit. 

 Who’s your favorite dad in an action movie?  

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