Wholesome TV Dads Who Played Cold-Blooded Movie Villains
Part of the fun of watching family-friendly sitcoms is feeling like you're a member of said family. You get to relate to the kids, you get to laugh at the hijinks, and you get to compare the parents to your own! So much fun to be had, all-around! Throughout the years, actors like Andy Griffith and John Goodman have become synonymous with “wholesome TV dad” while also having diverse careers that go directly against this kind of image.
Think of Kurtwood Smith of That '70s Show fame starring as a murderer in RoboCop. Or William Russ, the middle-class dad from Boy Meets World, as a racist fireman in American History X. What about Milo Ventimiglia from This is Us as a character named “Rick Rape” in Gamer? Get ready to shatter the wholesome images you have of sitcom dads as we run through the ones who have convincingly played cold-blooded movie villains as well.
- 1579 VOTESPhoto: Orion Pictures
While Kurtwood Smith has had a long and storied career in both film and television, there is no doubt he is best remembered for his role as Reginald “Red” Forman on Fox's long-running sitcom, That ‘70s Show. Smith had been acting in Hollywood for nearly two decades when That ’70s Show first aired in 1998, but the man found a new level of success during his eight years as the grouchy-yet-lovable Red. He's even going to be returning for the role in Netflix's spinoff series That '90s Show!
Smith was a successful character actor for years before That ‘70s Show, though, appearing in everything from Rambo III and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country to Dead Poets Society and A Time to Kill. However, if there is one pre-sitcom fame role that stands out in Smith’s filmography, it is his portrayal of the villainous Clarence Boddicker in 1987's RoboCop. Did you ever think you'd get to see Red Forman fondle the pin of a grenade with his tongue? Well, you can if you want! Dressed in black from head to toe, Smith clearly relishes his chance to play a deranged murderer. It's quite a memorable sight.
- 2493 VOTESPhoto: Paramount Pictures
John Goodman really tiptoes the line between “character actor” and “A-list actor” quite deftly. The man's career has been filled with projects so varied, one could get whiplash from the excessive swings in genre and budget alone. How many actors are frequent Coen brothers' collaborators, regular Disney actors, and multiple-time Saturday Night Live hosts all at the same time? Throw in arguably his most famous role as Dan Conners on Roseanne and The Conners as well as everything from The Flintstones and Argo to Treme and The Righteous Gemstones and, by gum, you've got one heck of a diverse career.
Goodman's talent is so vast that you can genuinely buy him both as Fred Flintstone and The Big Lewbowski's Walter Sobchak. You can also definitely buy him as Howard Stambler, the villain from 10 Cloverfield Lane. The 2016 entry into the Cloverfield franchise is well worth a watch so we're going spoiler-free here, but suffice it to say, he is quite the menacing man. Also, chaining someone to a wall is a terrible way to make a first impression… and that's all we'll say about that.
- Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
The fantastic Craig T. Nelson essentially built a storied acting career out of playing various father figures. He was Hayden Fox, the titular coach on Coach! He was Steve Freeling, the dad from 1982's Poltergeist! He was Zeke Braverman, father and grandfather on Parenthood! He was Bob Parr, AKA Mr. Incredible of The Incredibles fame! Yeah, Nelson has had plenty of non-dad acting roles over the decades, but we all just kind of see him as a dad… don't we?
Well, if you've never seen Craig T. Nelson in anything but The Devil's Advocate, you probably don't see him as anything more than a corrupt rich guy with a penchant for murder. Nelson's role in The Devil's Advocate is Alexander Cullen, a billionaire on trial for a triple homicide, and it isn't the kind of part he became famous for playing. Still, he's pretty convincing in the role of an aggrieved rich guy who definitely was guilty.
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Jason Bateman's lengthy career as a staple of television sitcom viewing has seen him become somewhat typecast over the years. Thanks to shows like Little House on the Prairie, Silver Spoons, and Arrested Development, Bateman has essentially been on TV in one form or another since he was in middle school. More often than not, he has played the affable straight-man, but post-Arrested success has let him branch out a bit more, something Ozark fans certainly can attest to. He's also played against type in films like Juno, State of Play, and Smokin' Aces. And we can't forget about Pepper Brooks, can we?
In 2015, Bateman really got to shed his nice-guy persona and go full-on baddie in The Gift. The plausible psychological thriller became a minor sleeper hit that year on the back of great performances by Bateman, Rebecca Hall, and Joel Edgerton. Bateman, in particular, shines as a former high school bully being confronted by the sins of his past in the form of Edgerton's Gordo. Spoiling this one would take away all the suspense, so do yourself a favor and check it out if you enjoy twisty dramas.
- 5279 VOTESPhoto: Lionsgate Films
Chances are you'd remember the late, great Peter Boyle from something even if you don't recognize the name. Perhaps you recall his face from one of his early projects in the ‘70s, like Young Frankenstein, The Candidate, or Taxi Driver. Maybe you remember him from a late-career period that saw him star in family-friendly movies like 1998’s Dr. Dolittle or two of the Santa Clause films. You've probably turned on a television at some point over the last three decades to at least a snippet of one of the 200+ Everybody Loves Raymond episodes where he played the stereotypically grumpy Frank Barone.
Over a career that spanned five decades, it makes sense Boyle would end up playing a few nasty figures at one point or another. There aren't many figures nastier in early-2000s filmmaking than Buck Grotowski from Monster's Ball. Boyle's nasty, decrepit, racist old man says so many revolting things in a few minutes of screentime that it'll shock you. It'll also make rewatching Everybody Loves Raymond a bit harder as Monster's Ball was filmed right in the middle of its nine-year run. Is Frank Barone too far removed from Buck Grotowski, or can you see a little bit of both in each of Boyle's performances?
- 6237 VOTESPhoto: Warner Bros. Pictures
In many ways, Andy Griffith is the quintessential television father. If there are two things the man remains famous for to this very day, it is starring in both The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock, a pair of successful shows that banked on Griffith's folksy, easy-going charm and remain popular in syndication decades after they went off the air. Andy Taylor and Ben Matlock, the protagonists played by Griffith on these shows, were both widowed fathers who took raising their children seriously. Griffith's legacy as a TV dad is unquestionable.
But the man had a career before The Andy Griffith Show turned him into a bonafide household name, and his feature film debut showcases an actor playing very much against the type he'd become best known for. Griffith's first onscreen role was in 1957's A Face in the Crowd as a duplicitous, power-hungry drifter named Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes. Get a load of this tagline from the theatrical poster: “Power! He loved it! He took it raw in big gulpfuls… he liked the taste, the way it mixed with the bourbon and the sin in his blood!” Does that sound like Andy Griffith to you?