Daddy Dearest: 20 Scary Horror Movie Fathers

Jack Nicholson street art

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Dads can be scary, with their booming voices and their ability to grow facial hair, but these 20 cinematic fathers are scarier than most and represent some of the most frightening, creepiest, and just plain weirdest ever seen on the big screen.

Night of the Hunter (1955)

In several movies on this list, it's a stepfather who turns out to be evil, and sham preacher Harry Powell is about as evil as they come. Wearing the words "LOVE" and "HATE" emblazoned across his knuckles and spitting fire 'n brimstone, Harry charms his way into the home (and bed) of a widow, just so he can figure out where her dead husband hid a wad of cash. The two young kids in the home know and Harry resorts to murder and mayhem to get the secret out of them in this edgy children-in-peril thriller.

Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Is there any father scarier than Satan? In Rosemary's Baby, we catch only a glimpse of the Devil, but his presence is felt through a series of bizarre occurrences and strange coincidences as Rosemary comes to realize that Satan slipped her a mickey. After she gives birth to the Devil's spawn, he goes on to lend a similar helping hand (or claw) to his son Damien in 1976's The Omen.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The patriarch of the cannibalistic Sawyer family, Grandpa isn't as strong or as agile as he used to be when he swung a sledgehammer for the ol' slaughterhouse. In fact, he can't even brain a woman when she's laid out right in front of him. So sad. But he'll always be evil in our eyes, and he passed those evil genes onto a capable litter of psychopaths who kill in his name.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

The family of hill-dwelling cannibals in The Hills Have Eyes is headed by the burly Jupiter, who guides his clan's efforts to kidnap, rape, murder, and eat anything that crosses their inbred path.

The Sentinel (1977)

Alison's recently deceased father was a particularly reprehensible fellow: abusive and prone to taking part in cake-filled sexual orgies. Even worse, he keeps showing up even after death, looking worse for the wear—pasty, shirtless, cloudy-eyed, and undoubtedly stinky.

The Amityville Horror (1979)

The Lutz family gets a sweet deal on a lakeside house, and with good reason: it was the site of a mass murder the year before. That would explain the bleeding walls and the disembodied voice telling them to "Get out!" The spirits possess father George and try to convince him that killing his family would be a good idea. Maybe, but it won't help the property value.

The Shining (1980)

Like The Amityville Horror, a father's mind is warped by ghosts trying to get him to murder his family. But in his defense, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy...

Scream for Help (1984)

Michael Winner, director of The Sentinel, obviously has father issues, because he followed that film up with Scream for Help, a tale of a teenaged girl whose stepfather is trying to kill her and her wealthy mother.

The Stepfather (1987)

This stepfather seems like a harmless enough guy—an idealistic family man in a "Stepford husband" sort of way—until you realize that he makes a habit of starting families and then "disposing of them" when things go sour.

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)

He isn't generally thought of as a father figure, but in this "final" Nightmare on Elm Street film (or not), Freddy Krueger is revealed to have a daughter named Katherine. Like most kids, though, she's ungrateful (perhaps having something to do with him killing her mother in front of her eyes), and she ends up hoisting him by his own petard. That means his glove.

The People Under the Stairs (1991)

The "daddy" in this twisted fairy tale isn't the biological father of the kids in his house; he and his sister just kidnap them as needed for their demented household. And woe be unto them who try to escape, because you don't want Daddy running around with a shotgun, dressed head-to-toe in his leather S&M outfit.

Frailty (2002)

Bill Paxton plays an unnamed single father in this twisty thriller. He loves his two boys dearly, but his idea of "playing catch" involves teaching them to catch strangers and chop them up with an ​ax.

Big Bad Wolf (2006)

Dereck's stepfather isn't just wicked; he's a werewolf! On top of that, he delivers corny lines like, "Gooooaal!" after punting the head of one of his decapitated victims.

Sheitan (2006)

This gleefully perverse French offering features Joseph, your average murderous Satanic hillbilly and father-to-be, whose monstrous mate must be seen to be believed.​

28 Weeks Later (2007)

Don means well, but he's pretty incompetent as a father and even worse as a husband. First, he abandons his wife in the midst of a zombie attack. Then, when she's found alive, he kisses her and becomes infected. Now zombified, Don goes after his son as if the little whippersnapper gave him lip and refused to clean up his room.

Frontier(s) (2008)

I'll put the hotel-owning, pig farming Nazi cannibal Von Geisler family up against any backwoods cinematic clan, and at its head is Le Von Geisler, a real-life German Nazi veteran seeking to spread the master race by any means necessary.

Storm Warning (2007)

Yet another backwoods patriarchal family—this time on an Australian island—with an old man and his two sons. When Poppy isn't abusing his kids, he's busy orchestrating the kidnapping and torture of any yuppies who happen to sail on by.

The Woman (2012)

In this sequel to Jack Ketchum's Offspring, a feral cannibal woman is found living in the wilderness by a local family man. A seemingly upstanding member of the community, Chris is, in fact, an abusive tyrant to his wife and kids, and the discovery of this woman brings out his own animalistic side even more, as he keeps her captive in his cellar in an attempt to forcibly "civilize" her, intimidating his clan into going along with the plan.

Axed (2012)

In this British film, a recently fired businessman decides to take his wife and children on a trip to the countryside. What his family doesn't realize is this is one of those euphemistic "trips to the country" that parents tell their kids the family dog took before it disappeared forever. You see, Dad has snapped and has a heaping helping of murder-suicide on the menu.

The Loved Ones (2012)

In this Australian fare, teenager Lola's father is, in some ways, a good dad. He takes great interest in participating in his daughter's hobbies—chief amongst them kidnapping and torturing boys who spurn her love.