Black fatherhood is a beautiful thing. While certain narratives would have us believe that good black fathers don’t exist, the fact of the matter is that they are out there, even if pop culture chooses to ignore it. We’ve seen great black dads on the small screen, from James Evans on “Good Times” to Uncle Phil on “Will Smith.”
But there have been some great black father’s on the big screen, too. Whether it’s Christopher Gardner’s message of determination in “The Pursuit of Happyness,” or the wisdom of Furious Styles in “Boyz n the Hood,” here are nine moves that perfectly highlight the many sides of black fatherhood.
In “Friday,” John Witherspoon plays Willie Jones, the father of perpetual slacker Craig (Ice Cube). It’s a character played mostly for laughs, but in one powerful moment when he discovers his son with a gun, he gives some profound advice on what it means to be a man:
“You kids today are nothing but punks... so quick to pick up a gun. Scared to take an ass-whooping. This [holding up fists] is what makes you a man. When I was growing up, this was all the protection you needed. You win some, you lose some. But you live to fight another day.”
In “Daddy’s Little Girls” Idris Elba plays a single father trying desperately to keep custody of his three daughters. It may not be a movie classic, but it’s a heartfelt and important representation of black fatherhood.
As Elba’s character Monty puts it in one scene: “The world will have you thinking that brothers in the hood don’t take care of their kids, but I do.”
In the cult classic film, “Boyz n the Hood,” Laurence Fishburne plays Furious Styles, the father of teenager Tre Styles. Having dodged a life on the streets, himself, he’s desperate to save his son from going down the wrong path. In this scene, he explains to 10-year-old Tre what it means to be a father:
“Remember this: any fool with a d*ck can make a baby but only a real man can raise his children.”
James Earl Jones as King Jaffe Joffer in “Coming to America” is one of the few positive depictions of Africans on screen (even if Zamunda was a fictional country). King Jaffe may not have always made the best decisions for his son, Akeem, in this ‘80s classic (starring Eddie Murphy), but at the very least he was willing to accept his son’s need to find his own way in the end.
Will Smith starred opposite real-life son Jaden Smith in the 2006 drama “The Pursuit of Happyness.” The movie tells the true story of Christopher Gardner, an entrepreneur who struggled to make it on Wall Street and raise his young son while homeless. Here, he teaches his son an important lesson about dreams:
“Don’t ever let somebody tell you you can’t do something. Not even me.”
If you want to see the ultimate example of a father who will do anything for his child, look no further than Denzel Washington in “John Q.” Here, with his son badly in need of a heart transplant and on the edge of death, John Quincy Archibald volunteers to give up his own heart and life for his child.
Sometimes, fathers and daughters find themselves in unexpected ways. Quevenzhane Wallis and Jamie Foxx play an unlikely father-daughter pair in this remake of the classic “Annie” musical.
In “He Got Game,” Jake Shuttlesworth (Denzel Washington) must repair a broken relationship with his son, after being away in prison. In this scene, the father and son play an emotional game of basketball where, even as his son mocks him, Jake reminds him: “I’m teaching you, son. I’m teaching like I always taught you.”
OK. Yes. So, technically, Mufasa is a lion father, not a black father — he was just voiced by the great black actor James Earl Jones. And yet, it’s impossible not to include this heartfelt scene between Mufasa and his young son, Simba.