Top Five Fathers in Historical Costume Movies & TV


Father’s Day is coming up this weekend (at least the American observance), which makes me think about representation of fathers in historical costume movies and TV series. Admittedly, I don’t have much experience with fathers, since mine died when I was 3, so my choice of movie dads might not be the most traditional…


5. Rodrigo Borgia in The Borgias (2011–13)

The Borgias (2011–2013)

I know, I know, it’s a little bit oedipal since Jeremy Irons is SO HOT, but who’s your papa? He’s always looking out for the family’s best interests. In his own special way.


4. Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind (1936)

Gone With the Wind (1936)

Bonnie Blue had Daddy Rhett wrapped her around her little finger. And it’s Rhett who is truly devastated when she dies. Scarlett’s a stone-cold bitch of a mother, so you’d need him for a dad.


3. Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music (1965)

The Sound of Music (1965)

The whistle would wear me down, and he’s living in a freakin’ palace but can’t spring for play clothes for the kids? At least he has decent taste in governesses / step-moms.


2. Professor Henry Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

When you just have to shut up and realize that Dad is smarter than you. And he’s going to get his way. And the last word.


1. Mr. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

OK, he can’t provide for all those silly girls (and you have to wonder why he married such a dingbat like Mrs. Bennett), but he’s the sweetest, kindest fellow towards his eldest daughters.


Who’s your favorite frock flick dad?


About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

19 Responses

    • MoHub

      William Powell was magnificent, but Irene Dunne was the power in the Day family.

  1. Stephani

    Huzzah for dads! I love Henry Jones Sr. (Cuz Indie’s name isn’t really Indiana), and cynical Mr. Bennett (who, Austen says, chose a pretty but silly wife).

  2. Jill

    I’ve always liked Mr. Bennet in the 1995 P&P version. But you missed the line in the novel that explains EXACTLY why he married dingbat Mrs. B:

    In an aside early in Chapter 42, Jane Austen tells the reader that he fell for a pretty face: “…captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour…”

    At least he was smart enough to cherish the most sensible and perceptive of his daughters, so I forgive his otherwise bad parenting and patronizing attitude toward the rest of the family, including his wife.

  3. Anonymous

    Mr Bennet is number one????
    (It’s been a while since I’ve seen the 1995 series, so they might have changed his character from canon for all I remember, so I’ll mostly talk about his book self, since everyone always talks about how accurate the 90s version is)
    He had over 20 years to start saving money for his daughters, but he apparently thought he could just hand over the burden of caring for his daughters to a hypothetical son (who would have his own family, and would prioritise dowries for his own daughters, not his sisters). Even after it was clear that he should start saving for his daughters (about the the time Lydia was 5, so that would have given him 10 years) he didn’t.
    (I have to post the next part in a separate comment, because the posting button disappears when the post is longer)

  4. Anonymous

    He thought his wife silly, but let her do all the child rearing without help of a governess, he thought his children silly (no wonder, if you let your silly wife raise them alone!), but didn’t bother trying to help them out.
    He makes fun of his wife and children, even in public.
    And when Lydia ran away with Wickham he didn’t even bother to search for her longer than his anger lasted. How could a father just abandon a girl (because Lydia was a girl, no matter what she herself would like to think) to her fate? How could a father not try everything he could to avoid his child ending up somewhere like Madam Quigley’s?
    Sure he was an average father to Jane and Elizabeth, but he was negligent and mocking father to his 3 youngest.

    My favourite father in a period drama has to Jean Valjean (any adaption tbh)

    • Julia

      (Reply to both parts) I totally agree, I find Mr Bennet awful and neglecting as a father, actually, he is a far worse parent than Mrs Bennet, “silly” or not. I think, too, that this was a point Austen actually wanted to make: that Mr Bennet seems to be the reasonable part of the family (alongside Jane and Elizabeth), but as it turns out, he is a disappointment (when I remember correctly, this is the impression Elizabeth got during the elopement affair). He was definitely not a good father in the standard of the era.

  5. Jennie Gist

    Off the top of my head? Joss Ackland as D’Artagnan’s father, giving his son one last lesson in swordplay before sending him off to the perils of Paris, in The Three Musketeers (1973).

  6. Susan Pola Staples

    What about Clifton Webb in Cheaper by the Dozen? It’s based on a real family and both he and his wife were motion study engineers or something like that – science/math is not my forte- And this was in the 1920s.

  7. Lauren Elizabeth

    Yeahhhhhhh Mr Bennet is no where near number one in my books. Mrs Bennet may be silly but she at least has her priorities straight – if they don’t find suitable husbands for at least some of their children, when he dies they will be penniless. That thought alone would make anyone a bit highly strung. But what does Mr Bennet do? Does he get the girls a decent education? No. Jane and lizzie could potentially support themselves as governesses but the others haven’t been given enough education to at least do that if the worst passes. If he was a good father he would have ensured his children were educated and would’ve been making connections and husband hunting for them for long before the book starts. But no, as far as I can tell, he avoids putting in any parenting effort, is happy to leave them to the streets when he dies and presumably spends all his time smoking pot in his study. Mr Bennet is an irresponsible father at best.

  8. Lady Hermina De Pagan

    Captain Von Trapp?! So the man who is so cold and repressed that he raised his motherless children like a military unit is a good father. He threatened to fire Maria for encouraging the children to play and be creative. He treated the Baroness dreadfully. Instead of manning up and saying this was a financial arrangement and I have decided to marry elsewhere. You can really see why Christopher Plummer did not want to play this role and had to be forced into it contractually.
    At Least Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls was and engaged and loving father. He loved and respected his wife, encouraged his children, opened his home to those in need even when he was not wealthy, and had no problem fighting for what he believed in.

  9. Lyn Robb

    Sorry, Atticus Finch will always be my perfect father. While not a costume movie, it qualifies for historical drama doesn’t it?

    I always loved Von Trapp/Christopher Plummer because he was so HOT, not because he was a wonderful Dad :)

  10. Erica

    I absolutely LOVE Mr. Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. So sweet and warm; everything you expect from a father. I’m glad he’s number 1.

    I think I’ll count Dido’s father from Belle. Her actual father Sir John Lindsay, who made sure she was provided for. And her great-uncle William Murray for taking her in despite the attitudes and social pressures of the time.

  11. Janette

    Dr Gibson, Who also like Mr Bennett marries unwisely but he does so in part at least for Molly’s sake.”Lover verses father, Lover wins”. And my other favourite fictional Dad is Mr Hale played to perfection by Tim Piggott-Smith. Mr Tulliver in Mill on the Floss is also worthy of a mention. Not too many good Dads in fiction however that I can think of. Atticus Finch of course is perhaps one of the best.

  12. Nora

    Well i do understand why some would argue that Mr. Bennet isnt a very good father, but what really shines for me is when lets Elizabeth to decline Mr. Collins proposal and advises her in the end of the book not to marry a man she cannot respect even when Darcy is outrageously rich. Mr and Mrs Bennet were both true parents in their own ways.

  13. Cheryl

    +1 for pa ingalls! You should do a little house review!!

  14. Northcountrygal

    I love James Dunn in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. He is hopeless and a drunk of course and his wife is the strong one, but he is the one who recognizes that the little neighbor girl who is dying has a new dress – nobody else sees that or realizes what it means to her. It is one of the great father-daughter films of all time. I’m always in floods of tears when I watch it.

  15. Decorus

    Honestly, I really think rhett should have been the first. I’ve seen the movie and read the books (there is a continuation to what happens after the ending of the movie) and if you read the books you will realize so. And regardless even if it is only based on the movie, I never saw anyone as loving, in none of the other movies, but that is only my opinion. And continuing it, the books truly show Rhett’s depth of love for Bonnie.