As these movies suggest, fatherhood isn't easy, and it certainly isn't cheap. To be a good dad requires dedication, hard work and, yes, sacrifice.
There were perks to being a dad back in the day. My grandpa (who I’m told was a dad once, too) had his special easy chair that no one else sat in. He could pick the best piece of fried chicken. He drove my grandma everywhere she went — and in those days before I could drive, that seemed as big a perk as I could imagine.
What I didn’t understand back then was how hard he worked and how much he sacrificed for his family — the long hours, the anxious nights, the stresses that come with being a dad. I’m sure he would have sold even his easy chair if it could have helped one of his daughters.
Most dads sacrifice a great deal for the people they love. What that sacrifice looks like, and how much it hurts, varies from family to family. Even in our entertainment, we occasionally see that sacrifice run the gamut, too.
Streaming services are offering a handful of movies that provide a glimpse of some fathers who give a lot (and maybe one or two who just
think they do) to their families. A couple are new online. Most are free (if you subscribe to a given service). All come with a caveat or two. But they do eloquently speak about what it means, and what you give, to be a father. Cinderella Man (2005, PG-13)
New to Hulu this month, this Oscar-nominated film takes viewers into the teeth of the Great Depression. Everyone’s hurting, but James Braddock (Russell Crowe) and his family hurt worse than most. The former boxer broke his hand in the ring, apparently ending his career. His injured hand makes it difficult to work as a longshoreman, too, but he doesn’t have a choice. As the family slips deeper into debt and he refuses to let his three children be taken in by wealthier relatives, Braddock gets another break — this one a lucky one. Due to a last-minute cancellation, Braddock’s old manager is in need of a quick, one-night replacement. He asks Braddock if he’s interested. And when Braddock says yes — despite the threat of further injury — he begins one of the most inspirational stories in sports history. If you don’t have Hulu, have no fear: This gritty-but-inspirational film (based on a remarkable true story) is available to rent elsewhere beginning at $2.99.
The Croods (2013, PG)
For the prehistoric, cave-dwelling Crood family, the phrase “eat or be eaten” is no mere hyperbole. Most everything outside their cave walls seems to want them dead, which has made family patriarch, Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage), a mite over-protective. When their precious cave is destroyed by an earthquake, Grug knows that it’s his responsibility to lead his family to safety. For him, though, the mortal dangers are the least of his worries: What really concerns him is this new guy (named Guy) who’s tagging along, and how he seems to be losing his headstrong daughter, Eep, to him. For much of the movie, Grug comes across to the audience much as he does to Eep: an out-of-touch, stumbling buffoon. But by the end of the film, he’s revealed as the movie’s real hero, showing his love in the sweetest, most sacrificial of ways. The film isn’t available for free anywhere, but you can rent it on a variety of platforms, including YouTube and Amazon Prime, for $2.99.
Daddy Day Care (2003, PG) Columbia Pictures | Fair Use
Recessions are just the worst. And when marketing executive Charlie Hinton (Eddie Murphy) loses his job in the early 2000s when one hits, he finds that he and his family are in a serious bind. He can’t find a new job without sending his son, Ben, to daycare. But he can’t send Ben to daycare (an expensive preschool, really) without a job. What’s a dad to do? Open up his own daycare center, apparently. It’s a purely pragmatic, and arguably selfish, move at first. But in the process of running the daycare, where he spends quality time with Ben and a bunch of other kids, Charlie realizes that his new gig isn’t just a job: It’s a calling.
Daddy Day Care admittedly doesn’t have the gravitas of some of the other films on our list, but it’s a fun diversion with a worthwhile message. And, by the way, as of this month it’s free with a subscription to Hulu. Fiddler on the Roof (1971, G)
It’s not easy to raise three headstrong daughters, especially when you’re just a poor Jewish milkman living in Imperial Russia. Tevye (the milkman, played by Topol) has some definite ideas about who they should marry, and given the traditions of the day, he feels like he has the right to enforce them. But when his oldest wants to marry her childhood sweetheart and his middle daughter starts dancing with a Marxist, Tevye’s heart softens. In the end, he only wants what his daughters want — with, perhaps, a caveat or two. And if you think that sacrificing a little tradition is a relatively easy thing to give up … well, you clearly don’t know Tevye.
Fiddler on the Roof is a cinematic classic, with three Oscars (and five more nominations) to its credit. It’s available for free with an Amazon Prime membership. Fences (2016, PG-13) Paramount Pictures | Fair Use
Troy Maxson collects garbage for a living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 1950s. He’s been doing it most of his life, raising two boys along the way. He’s been a good husband and a good father in the way the times — and Troy — define it: by being a good provider. When his youngest son, Cory, asks Troy why he never liked him, Troy outlines what he sees as his fatherly responsibility in a scathing speech: “A man is supposed to take care of his family. You live in my house, feed your belly with my food, put your behind on my bed because you’re my son. It’s my duty to take care of you, I owe a responsibility to you, I ain’t
got to like you! Now, I gave everything I got to give you! I gave you your life!” While Troy won’t take home any father of the year awards, the movie has sure collected its share of trophies. This drama is as unforgettable as it is unforgiving, and you can watch it for free with Amazon Prime. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006, PG-13) Columbia Pictures | Fair Use
A lot of the fathers on our list have worked and sacrificed to make sure their children have a roof over their heads. But for Chris Gardner (Will Smith), the roof’s already gone. Kicked out of his apartment with just $22 in his pocket and his 5-year-old son in tow, Gardner is homeless in San Francisco, and he remains that way for a year. Based on a true story,
The Pursuit of Happyness isn’t always easy to watch. But the love we see between a father and son, and the dogged determination that Chris displays in trying to find a better life for the two of them, is beautiful. You can watch Pursuit for free if you have a STARZ subscription, and it’s available to rent on other streaming platforms beginning at $2.99. Read more: Dads: Here’s how to be a good father to a baby who isn’t even born yet