Papa Don’t Take No Mess: 5 Films That Show Black Fathers Doing Whatever It Takes

Top: Idris Elba in Daddy’s Little Girls. Bottom row: Laurence Fishburne in Boyz n the Hood; Denzel Washington in He Got Game.
IMDb. YouTube screenshots

On Sunday we celebrate all the contributions of our fathers. And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably still figuring out what to get your own dad for Father’s Day. But after you’re done signing your name on that last-minute Hallmark card while your father stands in the other room, sit back on the couch with Pops and check out these five films that show black fathers defying the odds to keep their kids from harm, raise them with love and show them the right way to go.

1. South Central (1992)


Most kids have heard the saying, “Do what I say, not what I do.” Well, after being released from prison after serving 10 years for murder, Bobby Johnson (Glenn Plummer) comes back to South Central Los Angeles to save his son, Jimmie (Christian Coleman), before it’s too late. Bobby pulls Jimmie out of a situation in which he almost commits his first murder at no more than 12 years of age. “The court will give you back to me. Then we’re going to start this whole thing over again, and we’re going to do it the right way,” Bobby promises.

2. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Sometimes you have to struggle before you make it, and that was the case for Chris Gardner (Will Smith). Stuck with less than $22, Chris and his son, Christopher (Jaden Smith), were trapped with nowhere to turn. But even if they were staying in gas stations or homeless shelters or sneaking their way into a hotel, the father-son duo knew their bond was more valuable than anything money could buy.

3. Daddy’s Little Girls (2007)


Sometimes the most precious things a father has are his little girls. Monty (Idris Elba) is the main provider for his three girls, but he’s also battling custody issues and a false conviction just to be able to bring them home every night. Although the family faces problems, the love between the father and his daughters overshadows all of their struggles, bringing them even closer together.

4. Boyz n the Hood (1991)

“Wise,” “intelligent” and “stern” are just a few words that describe Furious Styles. Furious (Laurence Fishburne) schools his son, Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.), on the ups and downs of life, whether it’s about his relationship with his girlfriend or the economic and social status of blacks in impoverished neighborhoods. Shooting off the “Papa don’t take no mess” persona, Furious tells Tre, “I don’t know why you insist on learning things the hard way, but you gon’ learn. Oh yeah, you gon’ learn.”


5. He Got Game (1998)

Sometimes, rebuilding your relationship with your child can be difficult, and this was the case for Jake Shuttlesworth (Denzel Washington). He battles trying to regain his son’s respect and trust while also working to beat the system that wants to keep him in prison. While his daughter (Zelda Harris) accepts her father, his son, Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen), shuns him. But over time, the two end up getting reacquainted despite the conflict. “I’m teaching, son. I’m teaching like I always taught you,” Jake says.


Phillip Jackson is The Root’s summer intern and will be a junior at Hampton University in the fall. Follow him on Twitter.

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