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Parental Substitutes in live-action Films.


  • Part of what makes Aliens so touching is Ripley's 'adoption' of Newt. Ripley, being frozen for 50+ years, lost her daughter, and Newt's family were killed by the Xenomorphs, so the two fill the empty spaces in each other's lives. Newt actually calls Ripley "Mommy" by the end of the film.
  • Amazing Grace and Chuck features this trope swinging both ways to a degree. Chuck's father, Russell, at first fears that Amazing is this to his son, but he's more like a Big Brother Mentor in Chuck's eyes. Amazing on the other hand, admits that he's "jealous as hell" of Russell's family in general, his own wife and daughter having died in a car crash years earlier. Its even pointed out that his daughter would be just about Chuck's age if she hadn't died.
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  • Aside from Uncle Ben and Aunt May, Curt Connors acts as one for Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man. They share a love of science and it becomes clear that Peter desires Connors' approval, something he never really got from his dad.
  • Babe the pig is adopted by Fly, a sheepdog. When Fly's pups were put up for sale and she was heartbroken, Babe comforted her by asking if he could call her Mom, which she said yes.
  • Batman Begins:
  • Bedtime Stories (2008): Bobbi and Patrick's dad has left the family (why or where to isn't explained). At one point Bobbi plaintively asks if he'll ever come back, at which Skeeter says he doesn't know, but that their mom will always be there for them both (along with him).
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  • In Blade Runner 2049 Lieutenant Joshi can't help but be a mother figure to protagonist K despite the latter being a Replicant. When the Wallace Corporation comes hunting for K she protects him at the cost of her life.
  • Noni's hairdresser in Beyond the Lights is this to some degree. She's the first person to ever actually properly comb out Noni's hairnote  and she also proudly watches young Noni sing for the first time in contrast to Noni's disgruntled mother. She shows up later in the movie however to remind Noni that despite Macy's blind ambition and self-interest, Macy does actually love Noni.
  • Cloak and Dagger features super-spy Jack Flack, an imaginary mentor who amazingly enough looks like Davey Osborne's real dad.
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  • Vincent Lauria in The Color of Money eventually sees Eddie Felton as a father figure.
  • Rocky Baloba becomes this to Adonis Johnson Creed in Creed, the son of his former rival Apollo Creed.
  • In the film Dark City, Dr. Shrieber literally injects himself into protagonist John Murdoch's life via an "imprint", creating memories of a father figure who taught Murdoch the skills that he uses to fight the Strangers.
  • Dead Poets Society: Inspiring English teacher Mr. Keating seems to play this role for Neil, whose real father is cold, unsupportive and controlling. While Neil's father tells him he is not allowed to act in a play, Keating encourages Neil to pursue his dreams of being an actor.
  • Entre Nous (2021): Elodie's stepfather Roity is a loving dad to her, which is good given her mom's dead and her birth father's not brought up but apparently he's uninvolved in her life.
  • In ET The Extraterrestrial, E.T. himself (itself?) serves as a two-pronged parental substitute, offering fatherly advice and motherly attention simultaneously.
  • In Finding Neverland, the Llewelyn Davies boys increasingly look to James Barrie as a father figure.
  • In Fish Tank, Conor is the closest thing Mia and Tyler have to a potential father figure. Conor takes Joanne and the girls on a trip to the countryside and teaches Mia how to catch fish with her bare hands. He also encourages Mia’s dancing aspirations and lends her a camera so she can record a video for her dance audition.
  • In Hustle (2022), basketball coach Stanley Sugerman becomes a father figure for his trainee Bo Cruz over the course of the movie. This is best illustrated at the end: earlier in the movie, Bo had told Stanley's daughter that the tatoos on his right arm and torso were dedicated to his mother and daughter, while the empty space on his left arm was for his father (who he never met). At Bo's big game, he's seen with a tatoo on his left arm of his trainer's "Never Back Down" motto, showing he's come to see Stanley as his father.
  • In Irreconcilable Differences, Maria the housekeeper is this for Casey Brodsky, whose parents are too wrapped up in their own problems to pay any attention to her. Maria becomes Casey's legal guardian at the end of the movie.
  • The role M plays as a surrogate mother to the orphaned James Bond is lampshaded repeatedly in the Daniel Craig films, and is a central theme in Skyfall. The Big Bad is a former MI6 agent that M handed over to the Chinese after he turned Rogue Agent; he's now seeking revenge on his 'mother' for having betrayed him.
  • Even Kaiju can be subject to this. Godzilla Junior from the 1990s series was raised by humans for a time in the institute he hatched at, seeing biologist Azusa Gozo as his mother because she was the first thing he saw when he hatched. This turned him into a Gentle Giant towards humans when he got older.
  • The Karate Kid movies has Mr. Miyagi act as a father figure to main character Daniel LaRusso. This is especially evident in the Distant Sequel series Cobra Kai, where it's shown that Daniel developed a love of Japanese culture and cuisine from Miyagi (who had passed away before the series begins). Daniel is also seen wondering what his late master would do in his situation and wishing the man was still alive to give him advice.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe
    • Obadiah Stane acted as a father figure to Tony Stark aka Iron Man after his parents died in a "car crash", giving him advice and support... so it was all the more shocking for Tony when it turned out Obadiah had paid terrorists to kill him in Afghanistan and was pretending to a Nice Guy just to seize Stark Industries.
    • Dr. Abraham Erskine to Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger. The good doctor notably is the emotional and guiding anchor for Cap in his early steps to becoming the living legend. Erskine the saw the greatness in Steve despite the military writing him off as a feeble weakling and is responsible for putting him up for the Super Soldier project, so when Erskine is killed by a HYDRA agent, Steve looks completely gutted and flies off after the assassin.
    • In The Avengers, and more so in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we see that Maria Hill and Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Black Widow sees Nick Fury as a father figure and they are the two agents who are most loyal to him in S.H.I.E.L.D. When Nick Fury seemly dies in Winter Soldier, both Widow and Hill become uncharacteristically stricken with sadness to the point of crying. Also, during the Final Battle when Natasha electrocutes herself, Fury runs over to her with concern, showing care goes both ways.
    • Harley Keener from Iron Man 3 begins to see Tony in this light since his own father left to go to a 7-Eleven to get scratchers and never came home. Tony tries to act aloof around the kid but is fooling nobody as he goes Papa Wolf when The Dragon Eric Savin dares to try and hold Harley hostage in front of him. At the end of the movie, Tony leaves a huge present at Harley's house as thanks for his help. In Avengers: Endgame, Harley even makes an appearance at Tony's funeral.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy: Yondu Udonta adopted Peter Quill instead of handing him over to his biological father, who Yondu calls a jackass. And despite his trollish behavior, Yondu admits that he's glad he adopted Peter and does genuinely care for him... in his own bizarre way. This comes to a head in the second film, when it turns out the real reason Yondu kept Peter around all those years was to keep him safe from his father. We see a brief flashback of Yondu teaching him to shoot, and Peter belatedly realizes that Yondu is exactly the Action Dad he always dreamed of before he was abducted.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: The entire crew acts like this to Baby Groot to various degrees. Groot and Peter listen to music together, while Gamora looks out for Groot's safety ("Put your seatbelt on!") and takes a moment out of a fierce battle to acknowledge his wave. In the same movie, Drax becomes a father figure to Mantis as she reminds him of his deceased daughter.
    • Ant-Man: Downplayed compared to other examples, but Scott Lang comes to view Hank Pym in this light, especially when Scott points out he and Hank aren't that different when it comes to their respective daughters. Hell, Scott and Hank's connection is still enough to inspire burning jealously from the movie's antagonist Darren Cross a.k.a. Yellowjacket, who tries to murder Scott just for being accepted by Hank in the way he wasn't.
      • In the sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp, Bill Foster adopted Ava Starr after the Freak Lab Accident that killed her parents and turned her into a ghost. He frequently acts as her mentor and father figure and tries as hard as he can to cure her condition, while Ava in turn comes to view Bill as her father as well. He even has a Papa Wolf moment in the end, refusing to leave Ava in spite of everything she's done.
    • Beginning in Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker a.k.a. Spider-Man gradually starts to view Tony Stark as a father figure, having admiration for him since Tony saved him as a kid in Iron Man 2, with Tony, in turn, becoming protective of him — telling Peter to leave the battlefield after Giant-Man knocks him down. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Tony lets it slip he wants to be there for Peter since his own father Howard didn't give him the support he craved. But Tony understands his own flaws, and when Spidey tries "I just wanna be like you" after nearly endangering civilians, Tony retorts, "I wanted you to be better." By the time of Infinity War, all pretense has been thrown away and when Peter starts disintegrating, he desperately clings onto to Tony as the man hugs him in comfort. When he disappears completely, Tony looks down at his own hands and when he sees he isn't going with Peter as well, he breaks down weeping. In Avengers: Endgame, the shoe is on the other foot.
      • In Spider-Man: Far From Home despite Tony having a daughter, he explicitly makes Peter his successor in his will and gives him the global weapon system, which becomes too much for Spidey to handle.
    • Black Widow: Melina Volstokoff and Alexei Shostakov a.k.a Red Guardian acted as surrogate parents for their ophaned daughter Natasha Romanoff and Yelena Belova. While at first they only pretended to be a family as a cover for a three-year mission in Ohio, they eventually grew to love and care for each other as a real family. Cue the climax where Melina and Alexei go Mama Bear and Papa Wolf respectively to save their daughters from Dreykov and atone for their past.
    • Avengers: Infinity War also gives a twisted example in the form of Thanos who is the kidnapper/adoptive father of Ebony Maw, Obsidian Cull, Corvus Glaive, Promixa Midnight, Nebula and Gamora. Thanos has the closest relationship with Gamora ever since she was a girl to an extent where she can’t help but have emotions towards him though Thanos is still emotionally abusive and manipulative to her. Fans have noted Thanos seems to want to invoke this with everyone who encounters him as according to Ebony Maw during multiple massacres “you are all the children of Thanos” (even in death). Thanos also calls complete strangers e.g Scarlet Witch “my child” and he even brushes her hair in a Pet the Dog moment... after she just been forced to destroy her lover Vision in an attempt to stop Thanos getting the Stone.
  • In Highlander, Connor MacLeod is this to his assistant Rachel, who he adopted as a child. However, since Connor is an ageless Immortal and Rachel was orphaned in World War II, this means an outwardly thirty-something man is a father figure to an elderly woman.
  • In The Innocent (1994), the caseworker Pamela has been working with the orphaned autistic child Gregory for five years. She's the only adult in his life who really cares about him, and she admits that he's the closest thing to a child she'll ever have.
  • In Jurassic World, Owen Grady is this too, shockingly enough, four Velociraptors. It's mentioned in The Lost World by Malcolm that the main reason why Jurassic Park's dinosaurs are so violent and sociopathic is that they had no parents to model their behavior off of, which led to them acting purely on instinct. Owen solves this issue (to an extent) by raising the raptors himself and providing them with a framework for healthy, effective pack behaviors. He's both their alpha and their father-figure, in a sense, and the only person they won't kill on sight.
  • In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Owen and Claire develop strong parental feelings towards Maisie as they try to escape from the Lockwood mansion, a feeling that Maisie seems to reciprocate, given that her only living family member is dead at this point. Following their escape, they've taken her under their care and have essentially adopted her. Jurassic World Dominion confirms that they're her parents in all but blood, as they've been raising her and keeping her safe for the past two years, and stop at nothing to get her back after she gets kidnapped.
  • Done rather subtly with Hart and Eggsy in Kingsman: The Secret Service. Hart coaxes Eggsy into joining the Kingsman to follow in his father's footsteps, but over the course of the film, it shows that it's Hart to whom Eggsy looks for approval. The ending even implies that Eggsy ultimately inherits Hart's codename, Galahad, not his father's would-be codename of Lancelot (which was claimed by Roxy). After all, in the legends, Galahad was Lancelot's son...
  • Tom Sawyer acquires one of these in Allan Quatermain during the course of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
  • Siblings Éomer and Éowyn from The Lord of the Rings look at their uncle Théoden as this. Frodo has his Uncle Bilbo and Gandalf, too.
  • The Hobbit has Thorin and his nephews, Fíli and Kíli.
  • This is what King Stefan intended the fairies to be for his daughter in Maleficent. Unfortunately, the three of them were terrible caretakers. So who were the ones who actually fed, played with, and watched over Aurora? Maleficent and Diaval. Yes, the good guys were so incompetent, the villains had to take care of the baby for them. This actually ends up being plot-important, as their paternal love for Aurora is what starts their Heel–Face Turn and allows Maleficent to break the curse.
  • Margarita: Margarita is more of a parent to Mali than her actual parents since both are very focused on their careers. They hired her to be their nanny as a result. Mali is far closer to Margarita than either of them, pointedly calling both by their first names and not "Mom" or "Dad".
  • Mermaids: Lou slowly starts growing into a surrogate father for both Flax girls, particularly Kate (whose real fathers are absent). Rachel resents it, feeling jealousy and thinking he's doing this solely to get close with her.
  • In Midwinter Night's Dream, Lazar becomes a father figure to Jovana, the daughter of the woman he loves. He even tells his family she's his daughter.
  • Million Dollar Arm: Once he actually begins to take care of them, JB becomes the closest thing that Dinesh and Rinku have to a parent while they're overseas in America. His girlfriend, Brenda, also becomes something of a mother figure to them, taking the time to listen to them and offer them some company.
  • Ray, of Off the Black, starts to take on the role of father to David.
  • Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo are this to Paddington having raised him since his parents died, before the Browns take on the role.
  • The Professional: Leon becomes an adoptive father figure to Mathilda, taking her in after the death of her family, mentoring her in assassination and protecting her from Stansfield.
  • In Second Hand Lions, young Walter ends up getting raised by his two great uncles, Hub and Garth.
  • Stephanie in A Simple Favor acts very maternally towards her best friend's son, especially after her friend disappears. She's more than willing to take care of him while his father works, and essentially accepts him as a second son. When the boy's mother appears to have died, she slips into this role even more, culminating in his father asking her to move in. Despite all this, she tries to assure the kid that she's not trying to replace his mom. Whether or not she means it is unclear, but her intentions are (mostly) good.
  • Sleepers: Father Bobby acts as a positive, paternal figure to the four boys both before and after they are sent to juvie. Especially since one of them has an emotionally neglectful father and another one has a Disappeared Dad and an abusive stepfather.
  • Lilli in Snow White A Taleof Terror was raised by a nurse, who was an acceptable substitute for her mother. Lilli holds Nannau's death against her stepmother.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Tom and Maddie gradually become parental figures to Sonic and adopt him at the end, and in the sequel they outright refer to him as their kid while Sonic acknowledges that Tom is his father. It's also heavily implied that they've adopted Tails and Knuckles as well.
  • Maria Kutschera from The Sound of Music in became one of these towards the von Trapp children and officially became their mother once she married their father.
  • The Stake Land films find the vampire hunter, Mister, taking the orphaned teenager, Martin, under his wing as they travel through a post-apocalyptic America. Mister is gruff and surly but ultimately devoted to caring for his young charge, teaching how to survive in their new world and doing his best to ensure teenager's safety.
  • Star Wars:
    • In The Phantom Menace, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn fills this role in the life of young Anakin Skywalker. Then Qui-Gon dies at the end, leaving Obi-Wan Kenobi to step in as a substitute Parental Substitute. Later, Obi-Wan and Anakin become more like brothers. Though, it's worth noting that perhaps in a strange, twisted way, Watto was also almost akin to a father-figure to Anakin. Almost.
    • In The Force Awakens, Rey has lived most of her life alone, so when she meets Han Solo—an older male who is decent to her, she seems to hold him up as a father figure. However, this relationship was never given the chance to develop because Han dies at the hands of Kylo Ren/Ben Solo—who is Han's biological son.
  • Uncle Ben is this to Peter Parker in the Spider-man films.
  • In St. Vincent (2014), Vincent becomes a father-figure to Oliver, whose own father isn't exactly a nice guy.
  • In The Sword of Doom, Shichibei tries to be this to Omatsu after Ryunosuke cuts down her first Substitute, her pilgrim grandfather. His efforts are hindered somewhat though by the fact that Shichibei's job is that of a wide-traveling thief.
  • Terminator
    • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the T-800 Terminator serves as a father-figure for John Connor. Lampshaded when Sarah Conner notes that the killing machine is a better father for John than any of her old "boyfriends".
    • In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the grown-up John admits as much to the T-850 (a different model with the same appearance.) Having become rather bitter and strung-out by this point, he adds, "How pathetic is that?"
    • In Terminator Genisys, the "Pops" Terminator becomes a father figure to Sarah herself.
  • Agammenon in Time Bandits. Unlike Kevin's slothful, stupid, greedy parents, he watches out for Kevin and instructs him.
  • Transformers Film Series: Optimus Prime is implied to have this relationship with Bumblebee, notably in Age of Extinction, when Cade is reflecting on parenting his daughter and the difficulties he is experiencing Optimus notes having gone through similar things with Bumblebee. While Cybertronian culture doesn't really include such concepts as "parents", he's more or less the closest thing to a father that Bumblebee has.
  • Tree Man (2015): Some of the people who help Francois in selling trees mention how he's like a father to them.
  • In TRON: Legacy, Alan took over as father figure to Sam after Kevin Flynn disappears. In one of the clips in the news montage on Kevin's disappearance, it looks like he's about to go Papa Wolf on some hounding reporters harassing young Sam.
  • Waves: Catherine is Emily and Tyler's stepmother technically, but is the only mom Emily's really ever known, serving as a good one to both of them. When Tyler angrily yells how Catherine's not his real mom, she's very hurt and his dad's outraged.
  • We Too Together: After his mother's death from cancer, Rob was raised mostly by his aunt Sarah, who was like a mother to him.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • Charles Xavier plays this role to all of the X-Men, but it's most notable in X-Men: First Class with a young Hank and the teenaged Alex and Sean, all of whom remain loyal to him before and after Cuba. The mere mention of Sean's death in X-Men: Days of Future Past makes Charles visibly distraught, which is in direct contrast to all of the other names that Erik throws at him. Being a father figure to Jean Grey is explored in more detail in X-Men: Apocalypse, and Quicksilver decides to stay with the Professor instead of getting to know his estranged father.
      • There is one exception. In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Charles claims he had raised Raven, and Erik corrects him—they grew up together. He is not her father. This ties into the end of the film, when he stops trying to control her and lets her make her own choice.
      • Downplayed in the scene where 1973 Charles interacts with Peter Maximoff before the former departs for Paris. Xavier instinctively behaves in a paternal manner when he's around a young mutant, especially one who doesn't have much of a direction in his life (in Quicksilver's case, he's a juvenile delinquent who grew up without a father). Peter's smile at the end indicates that he appreciates the sentiment.
    • X-Men:
      • Wolverine promises that he'll take of Rogue and shows it.
      • Scott Summers invokes this while Professor X is in a coma.
      "You taught me everything in my life that was ever worth knowing."
    • The Wolverine: Ichirō Yashida for Mariko, as Shingen, her actual parent, is not a nice man.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse: McCoy is a teacher at the school, and he has a paternal relationship with the younger mutants. He begins to form a bond with Scott.
    • Played straightest between Wolverine and Professor X in Logan. Justified this as at a point in the Bad Future all the aforementioned X-Men are dead and Charles the man who accepted Logan giving a home, a family and a cause is the only thing he gives a shit about, seriously Wolverine in this movie is willing to drive away and abandon a 11 year old girl to a pack military murderers because -so long as Charles is safe- he simply doesn't care. When Charles is killed in some horrific irony by Logan's Evil Twin X-24 Wolverine despairs and cradles the dying Charles repeating that "it wasn't him" and then goes ballistic on his clone, after that X-23 has to drag Logan around since losing the Professor has made him lose all will to live. Also prior to Charles's death Logan kept the secret the fact Charles accidentally killed all the X-Men and he let amnesic Charles blame him for their misfortunes simply but regardless of happened Charles is the only family Logan had at that point.
    • Perhaps Logan does this trope too well between the Professor and Wolverine as it makes poor Scott's bond with Charles in the previous movies look like a joke in comparison.

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