No matter your relationship (or lack thereof) with your dad, Father's Day always proves to be an…interesting holiday to celebrate. I thought I’d put my two daddy-issue-plagued brain cells together to compile a list of six films that deal with father-daughter relationships, perfect to laugh (or cry) to this Father’s Day!
While this list is ranked based on how much I personally loved each film, all of these movies are certified father-daughter bangers that I highly recommend.
From tearjerkers to feel-good films, this list has it all, so I hope it’ll provide a form of escapism this Father’s Day. LGBTQ+ gals with daddy issues…this one’s for you!
6. Hearts Beat Loud (2018) dir. Brett Haley
Starting off warm and fuzzy, American film director Brett Haley’s 2018 film Hearts Beat Loud tells the feel-good story about single father, Frank (Nick Offerman), and his daughter, Sam (Kiersey Clemons), reconnecting over their shared love of music the summer before Sam is slated to move out for college. Part family drama, part rom-com and part musical, this film touches on themes of love, coming-of-age in a tight-knit community and discovering one’s passion, all the while crafting a story that can be rewatched again and again – all in under 100 minutes! Not only do Offerman and Clemons have incredible on-screen presences, but watching Clemons and Sasha Lane live out a summer of love (surprise, this movie is gay!) was enough to make my little queer heart a little happier.
If you’re a fan of goofy dads, secret sapphic romances or surprisingly-good father-daughter jam sessions, this movie might be the perfect Father’s Day watch for you!
5. Alice Júnior (2019) dir. Gil Baroni
Brazilian film director Gil Baroni’s 2019 film Alice Júnior follows teenage trans girl Alice (Anne Celestino) who strives to stand out after moving to a small conservative town in rural Brazil. Whimsical in its cinematography and heartfelt in its script, this under-90-minute film discusses themes of transness, coming-of-age in a repressive Catholic community and found family, all the while starring the relationship between a (rightfully) angsty daughter and her endlessly-supportive father (Emmanuel Rosset).
While this is not a perfect own-voices story of a trans girl growing up in south Brazil, it still manages to capture the heart of what it means to be teenage and different, all the while having a loving father by your side every step of the way. This is a severely under-watched film, so if this synopsis interests you, I highly recommend checking it out on Netflix or Kanopy!
TW: This film depicts pretty blatant scenes of misgendering and transphobia, so please be cautious!
4. The Whale (2022) dir. Darren Aronofsky
Moving into darker territory, American director Darren Aronofsky, famous for his melodramatic and disturbing filmography, most recently came out with his 2x Oscar-winning film The Whale. The story follows Charlie, a morbidly obese English teacher (Brendan Fraser) striving to make amends with Ellie, his estranged teenage daughter (Sadie Sink).
Melancholic in its tone, yet heartfelt in its character relations, The Whale seeks to underscore the importance of human relationships before we leave this earthly plane for good. Not only does this film deal with extremely heavy subject matter (including but not limited to: disordered eating, depression, suicide and death), but like much of Aronofsky's filmography, this is also quite a controversial work. My own personal critiques hinge on its over-the-top dramatization of Charlie’s weight as well as Ellie’s stereotypical “I’m not like other girls” persona.
In spite of these lukewarm takes, however, I still value this film, both for what it was attempting to achieve and what it ultimately did (spoiler: I cried at the end). If you’re looking for an acclaimed tearjerker that’ll make your stomach drop and your head hurt, this is the Father’s Day watch for you.
TW: Deals with heavy subject matter including disordered eating, depression, suicide, and death.
3. Don’t Make Me Go (2022) dir. Hannah Marks
Going a little less grim, American actress, writer and director (and, sadly, only female director on this list) Hannah Marks’s 2022 film Don’t Make Me Go follows Max, a terminally-ill single father (John Cho) and Wally, his teenage daughter (Mia Isaac) as they embark on a road trip across America to attend Max’s 20th college reunion — and (secretly) reunite with the wife and mother that left the two of them long ago.
Not only does this film feature a star-studded cast with incredible performances, but the cinematography, writing, and direction perfectly encapsulate complex father-daughter relations and the frustration that comes with a sheltered adolescence (AKA yours truly in a nutshell!).
In spite of its comedic moments, this film does deal heavily with serious subject matter such as divorce and death, as well as contains one of the most shocking endings I’ve ever watched (spoiler: I, once again, cried at the end). However, I still believe it to be an incredible (and criminally underrated) film that leans less controversial and more heartfelt than a certain aforementioned work, so I highly recommend you give Don’t Make Me Go a watch over on Amazon Prime this Father’s Day!
TW: Contains serious subject matter including divorce and death.
2. After Yang (2021) dir. Kogonada
Entering into the sci-fi zone, Korean-American director Kogonada’s 2021 science-fiction family drama After Yang tells the story of Jake (Colin Farrell), a father in the not-so-distant future who attempts to connect his young daughter (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) to a heritage that isn’t his via an android companion named Yang (Justin H. Min). However, after Yang malfunctions, Jake must choose between repairing the android or facing the distance between himself and his daughter head-on.
Everything from the worldbuilding to the cinematography to the heartfelt performances earns After Yang the title of “quiet masterpiece.” Not only is this film technically stunning, it also deals with nuanced themes of death, identity, family, memory and the ultimate meaning of life. Maybe not your everyday feel-good film, but a must-watch nonetheless!
If you’re looking for a cozy, fantastical, oh-so-human film with a hot cast (excuse my vanity) that may or may not make you ugly-cry, I highly recommend you give it a watch (for free!) this Father’s Day.
1. The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021) dir. Michael Rianda
Last but certainly not least, American cartoonist, voice actor, and director Michael Rianda’s 2021 animated directorial debut The Mitchells vs. The Machines is not only the silliest movie on this list, it’s also my personal favorite!
This film follows the quirky, dysfunctional-as-all-hell Mitchell family as their road trip collides with the robot apocalypse and the unorthodox nuclear family is forced to become humanity's last hope. Centered around aspiring filmmaker Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson), the (queer-coded) teenage daughter, and her complex relationship with her unsupportive father (Danny McBride), this movie is not only a family-friendly adventure story, it also tells a heartfelt story of a father and daughter reconciling the summer before she’s slated to move to college…in the middle of the AI apocalypse no less!
Timely and witty, The Mitchells vs. The Machines is my highest-rated recommendation from this list and the only film I suggest watching alongside your actual father (seriously, do not watch The Whale with your dad – you will regret it).
Have a happy Father’s Day!