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Well Done Son Guy / Live-Action Films

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People seeking parental approval in live-action movies.

  • Boiler Room revolves entirely around Seth going to work at a brokerage firm (which he later finds out is, in fact, an illegal operation) to earn enough money to impress his Supreme Court Judge father Marty. It actually endangers his father's career when the FBI's Financial Crimes unit catches wind of it.
  • In Kick-Ass, Red Mist wants desperately to prove he can be as much of a gangster as his father.
  • In The Breakfast Club, Andy explains in his breakdown scene that he hates wrestling but is into it to get his very competitive father's approval.
    • Brian studies so much because his parents refuse to accept anything less than perfect grades.
    • Bender lives down to his parents' expectations.
  • The Master is this to Chang Lee in Doctor Who: The Movie, although this was more apparent in the novelisation than the film.
  • Emperor Commodus in Gladiator is a very odd example of this. He murders his father to become Emperor — and he wants to become Emperor in order to prove to his father that he's a worthy son.
  • In Big Game, Oskari has shades of this - his main motivation behind the hunt is not proving that he's a man, but impressing his father.
  • Greg Focker in the Meet the Parents movies spends all three films kissing up to Jack and desperately seeking his approval. Although Jack is his father-in-law - his actual father is way more easygoing.
  • In Hamlet 2, most of protagonist Dana Marschz's hang-ups and neuroses (which are presented in a not-at-all-subtle fashion in the titular play) can seemingly be directly traced back to his difficult relationship with his father. Curiously, in this example the father doesn't actually appear; as such, Dana appears to have adopted the tight-ass principal of the high school where he teaches as something of a warped substitute, going so far as to screech "You never believed in me, Daddy, I hate you!!!" in the middle of an argument with him completely out of the blue, and then having the principal kidnapped and forcibly made to watch the play so that he can get his approval.
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  • In Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Kumar isn't interested in being a doctor like his father is, despite having perfect MCATs. He even uses his medical textbooks as paper to make joints. He has an epiphany at the end of the first film and decides to give it a shot anyway.
  • Indiana Jones:
    • Indy and Short Round trade hats in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Trust me, it's way more important in context.
    • Indy's relationship with his own father, Henry Jones Sr., as shown in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Papa Jones always made Indy feel like, to use his own words, people who had been dead for centuries were more important to him than his own son. By the end of the adventure, however, Indy knows for sure just how much his dad loves him and how proud of him he is.
  • Toyed with in Austin Powers in Goldmember. Austin is partially wrong in his assumptions about his father, Nigel- he does respect Austin and loves him, but he spent Austin's childhood trying too hard to be Austin's best friend when he should have been trying to be a father. He even sings a song about it: "Daddy Wasn't There."
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  • Used straight in The Karate Kid (1984). In this film, Mr. Miyagi is so well-developed as a father figure for Daniel that in the final scene, the thronging crowds or the trophy pale against the sight of the Old Master's face, beaming with pride at his student's triumph.
  • Faramir and Denethor in The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, especially The Return of the King. Even though Denethor clearly doesn't deserve his son's respect, it obviously breaks Faramir's heart when his father tells him he wishes he had died instead of his older brother Boromir. Somewhat improved when he thinks his son is dead and proceeds to suffer an emotional breakdown...though still played rather dark as Faramir was clearly just unconscious, but he's too messed up to acknowledge this and tries to cremate himself and the "body" while Gondor is in the middle of an orcish invasion. Then played more nicely when Faramir opens his eyes and he is visibly shocked, but relieved, that his son really was okay (but catches fire and dies himself anyway). Still, Faramir seems more cheerful for the rest of the movie, perhaps partly knowing that his dad- while crazy and dead- in the end really did love him.
    • This was visible in the books, too, but much less so, as Denethor was considerably less of a scumbag and more of a tragic figure whose pride allowed Sauron to destroy him.
    • This is made even more pronounced in the extended editions of the film, with an extended scene in The Two Towers devoted to Faramir trying and failing, to win his father's approval.
  • In The Quick and the Dead, all The Kid wants is the respect of his evil bastard father. As such, he enters a gunfighting competition, eventually facing his father down. The father tries to talk him out of the duel. It doesn't work, and the father shoots him dead.
  • Star Wars:
    • Obi-Wan and Anakin share such a moment in Revenge of the Sith, where Anakin expresses his anger over being allowed on the Jedi Council while not being advanced to being a Jedi Master. Obi-Wan expresses that his skill and talent is what got him on the Council in the first place, and not to be distraught over the disapproval of the other Jedi. Unfortunately, this doesn't help.
    • The Phantom Menace had a scene where Obi-Wan apologized Qui-Gon for criticizing his sometimes peculiar actions (taking Jar Jar with them and betting their ship on Anakin winning the Pod Race). Qui-Gon quickly praised Obi-Wan for his willingness to learn and told him he would someday become a greater Jedi than Qui-Gon himself ever was. The novelization added other moments where Qui-Gon was critical of Obi-Wan's callousness (making jokes during combat) and lack of foresight (forgetting to turn his lightsaber battery off before jumping into swamp water), as well as the fact that Qui-Gon was known for seeking the "will of the force" over the immediate issues.
    • In The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren wants to live up to Supreme Leader Snoke's expectations, and desperately wants to live up to the legacy of his grandfather, Darth Vader. However, this is not the case for his actual father, Han Solo, whom Kylo describes as "a disappointment". Furthermore, Kylo kills him in order to assert his allegiance to the Dark Side and his loyalty to Snoke.
  • In Son of the Mask, Loki, the Norse god of mischief, is hunting down the Mask because his dad, Odin the All-Father, thinks it has caused too much trouble in the human world. Odin and Loki hate each other, but at the end of the movie, they are taught An Aesop by the main character about the importance of getting along with your family.
  • Spock gets one of these in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home when Sarek admits he was wrong to disapprove of Spock's decision to join Starfleet.
  • Emphasized in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, where it seems like every failure or achievement Johnny experiences, he challenges his father about it. This is a bit of Flanderization though if you compare the source material The Man in Black.
  • Spoofed in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, in which Dewey's father's response to anything his son does since accidentally cutting his brother in half with a machete is to growl "Wrong kid died!" He ends up engaging in an attempt at Offing the Offspring.
  • X-Men Film Series
    • X2: X-Men United:
      • Bobby Drake. As his visit to his parents' shows.
      • One of Stryker's commands for Jason was "make me proud." In turn, Jason's illusory self can be heard whimpering, "He's going to be so mad at me!" when Storm disrupts his control of Xavier.
    • In X-Men: The Last Stand, Angel wanted to take the cure to please his father. Later gets his respect by saving daddy from falling to death.
    • In The Wolverine, when Yashida's obsession with obtaining immortality nearly drove the company to bankruptcy, Shingen assured stockholders and investors to continue supporting them. Though trying to be a good son and hoping to be rewarded, he was still passed over Mariko to run the company.
  • James Bond:
    • There is a quasi-mother/son dynamic between M and Pierce Brosnan's 007 (who is more of a Manchild than the other versions of the character). She frequently scolds him for one thing or another, yet there's an underlying affection between the two of them. In GoldenEye, they both share an Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other moment after M delivers a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to him. In Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond is somewhat mortified when he discovers that M knows about his past sexual encounters (almost like a naughty boy who has been caught by his stern mother), and he even tries to defend his promiscuous behaviour with, "That was a long time ago, M, before [Paris] was married." In The World Is Not Enough, M mentions to Elektra that Bond is her best agent, but she'd never tell him that in person. In Die Another Day, Bond's delivery of "You burn me, and now you want my help" is petulant and resentful, and the hurt he feels towards M for not trusting him earlier is more personal than professional.
    • The reboot of the franchise (Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) subtly implies the same relationship. M is constantly berating Bond and, in the first movie, severely doubts his abilities while doubting his sanity in the second. However, in Casino Royale (2006), he mutters to himself while alone in his car, "I love you, too, M," after he receives forwarded documents from her office. In Quantum of Solace, Bond himself says that the Big Bad tried to kill someone very close to him (the attempted murder of M at the beginning of the movie), to which Camille asks if it was his mother. Bond replies "She likes to think so." Then, at the very end of the movie, M tells Bond that they need him at MI6.
  • Linus Caldwell in the Ocean's Eleven trilogy: Danny hooks him in the first movie by promising that after this heist "dad'll be trading on his name"; in the second movie he's upset that his mom helps to bust him out of prison and that his dad knows this, as he will never let Linus live it down and in the third movie he finally gets a part in on one of his dad's schemes after being doubted by him through the whole movie. Then again, it's pretty hard to outdo an experienced thief who's legitimate/cover job is an FBI agent.
  • In The Thin Man Goes Home, Detective Nick Charles seems to have a casual (almost indifferent) relationship with his critical father, Dr. Charles, who has never forgiven Nick for not going into the family business. Nick is obviously downhearted by the fact that the old man has never been proud of him, so his wife, Nora, schemes to shake up the neighborhood in hopes of uncovering a mystery that Nick can solve in front of his father, and so gain the praise he silently longs for.
  • A female version is Casey Seeger from An Officer and a Gentleman. She pushes herself to be the Navy's first female aviator because she wants to win the approval of her father, who had wanted a son. She suffers a Heroic BSoD when Drill Sergeant Nasty Foley calls her out on it during training.
  • The catalyst for the plot in Hot Rod is that Rod has to earn the money for his stepfather's heart transplant so that he can defeat him in a fight in order to win the man's love and respect.
  • George W. Bush is desperate for "Poppy's" approval in W. (the political life was apparently meant for brother Jeb), and a nightmare shows how terrified W is:
    Dream!Poppy: A hundred years it took to build up the Bush name and you single-handedly destroyed it!
  • In The Greatest Game Ever Played, Francis Ouimet wants to prove to his disapproving coal-mining father that he's able to play and win the U.S. Open against all the upper-class golfers, even though he wouldn't get any money for winning since he's an amateur. Results in a major Tear Jerker when Francis wins the U.S. Open and his father shows up in the crowd to wordlessly congratulate him.
  • In Babe, the relationship between Pig and his owner has shades of this. "That'll do, pig. That'll do."
    • On the animal side, Babe with Rex. Because of his mother-son relationship with Fly, Babe tries to ingratiate himself to a very testy Rex, only to be rebuffed more and more harshly each time as Rex projects his own feelings of inadequacy and failure towards Babe. He does a Heel–Face Turn near the end of the movie, which is never fully explained.
  • In Amadeus, Mozart felt tremendously guilty for living a life that his father disapproved of. Mozart's rival, Salieri, was able to use that guilt to "haunt" Mozart to death by dressing up in a costume his late father had worn and then goading him into composing a requiem mass (a mass which Salieri hoped to steal and take credit for).
  • Blank Check has Preston seeking the approval from his capitalist father, who looks down upon him for not having a job. The kid is around ten years old. His father does get the message, late in the movie, and Preston forgives him.
  • Robert Fischer of Inception, giving him full woobie qualifications from the get-go. Made worse in that his father expressed his disappointment with his dying breath. Naturally, the plot relies on exploiting his Daddy-related insecurities mercilessly.
  • In Ever After ("Cinderella" remade as a historical drama), Drew Barrymore played Danielle, who desperately tried to win the approval and love of her Wicked Stepmother, the Well Done Daughter Gal Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent, the only mother she'd ever had. After she destroys any hope of Danielle being with her prince, Rodmilla taunts her relentlessly until finally, Danielle asks if she had ever loved her at all. De Ghent cruelly replied, "How can anyone love a pebble in their shoe?" before selling Danielle into slavery. The next time they meet, Danielle is betrothed to her Prince Charming, while de Ghent and her equally nasty older daughter are stripped of their status and forced to work as servants in the castle. Danielle happily announces at that point, "I want you to know that I will forget you after this moment, and never think of you again. But you, I am quite certain, will think about me every single day for the rest of your life."
    • The step-mother is given some rationale for her hatred/resentment of Danielle. As her beloved husband lay on his deathbed, he all but pushed her aside in favor of his daughter from his previous wife. You can see the hurt and pain on her face turn into anger and resentment for the little girl.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Thor, Loki's motive behind the villainous acts he committed (bringing Laufey to Asgard to assassinate Odin, but then killing him to make it look as if he had saved Odin) was solely to gain his father's pride and affection. Tragically, Odin was already very proud of his son, although he was dreadful at communicating this fact.
      Loki: I never wanted the throne! I only ever wanted to be your (Thor's) equal!
    • Explored in Iron Man 2, as Tony has some shades of this. He finally gets his "well done" from Howard in the video he left behind...even as he begins to realize just how brilliant his dad was.
      • Captain America: Civil War explores this further. Tony relates a memory (to an audience, no less!) of the last time he spoke his to his father before he died, implying that they had an awful fight along the lines of this very topic. It reveals that this event in the earlier film didn't bring Tony much closure or comfort after all. Furthermore, when Tony learns Bucky is responsible for his parents' death at the end of the film, he justifies his desire to kill Bucky with the line, "He killed my mom." Apparently, Howard hasn't been forgiven yet.
      • Resolved in Avengers: Endgame as Tony, thanks to Time Travel is able to see eye to eye with Howard and talk with him while disguised. Howard says he's nervous about his unborn's son's future but claims there's "nothing he wouldn't do for him", at which Tony hugs his father for the last time and leaves. Later on Tony concedes how he always made Howard out to be worse than he actually was and is grateful for being able to talk to him again.
    • Funnily enough Peter Parker aka Spider-Man becomes to Tony in Spider-Man: Homecoming as he desperately wants to prove himself to Tony who in turn wants to be there for Spidey in the way his father Howard wasn't, however Tony still admonishes Peter's reckless attempts at heroism. Though Tony is humble enough to acknowledge he sounds like Howard while giving Spidey the third degree, it’s just that he wants best for Peter.
    Peter: I just want to be like you.
    Tony: I want you to be better.
    • In Ant-Man, Darren Cross sees himself as Hank's surrogate son and is motivated by a desire to prove to Hank that he's better than him after years of being pushed aside.
    • T’challa aka Black Panther adored his father T’chaka wanting to live up to his legacy as King, as well as going on a Unstoppable Rage after Bucky when he thought the latter was responsible for T’chaka’s death. In his solo movie T’challa due to looking up his father so much was stricken to learn that T’chaka was responsible for his uncle’s death and he rips into his dad and forebears in the astral plane for their xenophobia and isolationism swearing to be a better ruler and he makes good on his word.
    • As seen in Avengers: Endgame Nebula truly did want Thanos's approval and thus became more and more embittered and vengeful when she fell short of Gamora (the favorite daughter). When 2014 Nebula becomes vital for Thanos's schemes, she jumps at the chance to prove herself to him.
  • The King's Speech, being a bit of a Jerkass towards his own children when they were young. However, unlike most instances of this case, he does approve of the adult Albert (though still frustrated by his speech problems), much more than his oldest son. In real life, he expressed a preference for Albert and his nine-year-old granddaughter Elizabeth over Edward for the throne near the end of his life.
  • October Sky has Homer Hickam, who does want his father's approval, and his mounting frustration when his father fails to see the worth of his achievements until the last rocket is launched. He also earns it when he goes to work in the mine to support the family, but loses it when he quits.
  • Billy in Buffalo 66 hates both of his parents but still thrives to impress them, going so far as to kidnap a beautiful woman so he can pretend she's his wife.
  • In The Guardian, rescue swimmer trainee keeps trying to earn the respect of the class instructor, Ben Randall.
  • Zoolander — the title character's father, being from a long line of miners, doesn't know what to make of Derek's job as a male model at first, but once Derek unveils the ultimate look "Magnum", he's more than proud to tell everyone "that's my son!"
  • In Pusher 2, Tonny's motivation for most of the film is to make his father proud of him. It doesn't happen.
  • Storm Shadow was this as a boy.
  • A large chunk of the plot in Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins is that successful TV talk show host Roscoe (Martin Lawrence), The Unfavorite, still can't get his father (James Earl Jones) — or anyone in his family except for his mother - to recognize and/or congratulate him for his accomplishments while still showering love and praise on his cousin Clyde (Cedric the Entertainer) for his car dealerships.
  • Role reversed in 3:10 to Yuma (2007) in which Dan Evans (Christian Bale) desperately wants to earn the love and respect of his bratty, ungrateful son William (Logan Lerman), thus inspiring him to take criminal Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) to the train that will take him to prison (which will also provide him with some extra cash as a reward).
  • In Mr. Brooks, Tracy Atwood inherited millions, but is still devoted to her career as a hard-working homicide detective, all because her father was very disappointed that she was born a girl, and he let her know it, so she has spent her whole life trying to prove him wrong.
  • In a World......: Carol is this to father Sam Soto, a Straw Misogynist who feels there is no market for female voice-over in movie trailers. At least part of her drive to say the titular phrase in a professional movie trailer is to prove him wrong.
  • The Green Hornet Serials: Britt Reid starts out with this motivation — he and Kato build the super-car that will become the Black Beauty simply to show Britt's dad that Britt isn't just a playboy. This vanishes as soon as he adopts the role of the Hornet. (Dad probably would have been happy with his son taking an active role running " The Sentinel", which also happens at that time.)
  • Trouble with the Curve: Mickey has spent her life trying to prove herself to her father due to a lingering fear that he left her because she wasn't good enough for him.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Eggsy wants to be recruited in order to not disappoint Harry almost as much as he does it to prove to himself that he's more than a Lower-Class Lout.
  • Kenau: Don Fadrique, the commander of the Spanish forces besieging Haarlem, visibly turns into a little boy when his father General Alba makes an unexpected visit to berate him for failing to subdue the city.
  • In The Jungle Book (2016)', Mowgli wants Bagheera's approval of him using human tools to survive among the wolves. But Bagheera's stern attitude and disapproval of these "tricks", wanting to keep things between Man and the jungle separated to the point of near dogmatism, puts a bit of strain on their relationship. Fortunately, Bagheera does learn to appreciate these "tricks" after Mowgli saves an elephant calf with these tools and even encourages him to use these tools during the final battle with Shere Khan.
  • It Runs in the Family: Set in the summer months circa 1940 and taken from Jean Shepherd's "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash" (the same source material as A Christmas Story). During the movie, Ralphie and the Old Man (Charles Grodin) go fishing every weekend but fail to catch anything. Until one day when Ralphie is hauling in one huge fish after another, while his father, who didn't get a nibble, looks on in genuine surprise. After a while, other boats on the lake start to crowd Ralphie and his dad. Jean Shepherd narrates at this point: "My old man never said in so many words, 'I'm proud of you, Ralphie,' but somehow he always let me know that he was proud of me." The Old Man then stands up and shouts to the other boats, "Hey, get lost, we've got a fisherman at work here, give him some room!"
  • Rio Grande: Jeff Yorke flunks out of West Point and enlists in the army as a private to earn the respect of and to get to know his estranged father. They'd been separated since Jeff was a baby, as Colonel Yorke's duties during The American Civil War led to his being ordered to burn down his wife's family plantation. It's somewhat different in that Colonel Yorke clearly cares for his son, but can only show/do so much due to his position as commanding officer and both his and Jeff's desire that the young private succeed on his own merit. After proving himself by undertaking a dangerous mission to rescue kidnapped children, Jeff earned his father's praise in three ways. His father trusts him to pull an arrow out of his shoulder, asks his son to help him to his horse, and finally stating to his now reconciled wife that "Our boy did well."
  • In White Frog, Nick's therapist remembers that her mother wanted her to become a doctor, didn't think therapists were "real" doctors, and spent so much time hounding her about it that she still hears her mother's voice criticizing her.
    Dr. King: Dead people, they come and go like they own you.


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