The Best Movies Featuring Authoritarian Parenting | Ultimate Guide

There are four widely- and psychologist-recognized parenting styles: Permissive, Authoritative, and Neglectful, and the style we’ll discuss here, Authoritarian.

Authoritarian parents are often seen in film, and their demands or restrictions placed on their child are typically a catalyst to launch the movie into its main story.

In this Authoritarian Parenting In Film Guide, we’ll dive into what authoritarian parenting is and provide our list of the best examples of authoritarian parenting in movies.

Questions We’ll Answer About Authoritarian Parenting In Movies:

  • What Is Authoritarian Parenting?
  • What Are The Best Examples Of Authoritarian Parenting In Film?


What Is Authoritarian Parenting?

Parenting styles are differentiated by the level of parents’ demand from their children and their level of responsiveness to their children’s wants and needs.

Authoritarian parents, in particular, have high demands from their children yet low (or poor) responses to their children’s wants and needs. They are more popularly referred to as the “old-school parents.”

Authoritarian parents have high standards for their children regarding achievements and behavior. They focus on the awards and accomplishments and tend to overlook the effort exerted by their children.

They also set firm limits to keep their kids from trouble; hence, any misbehavior is punished. Because of strict discipline, the children may no longer feel any warmth and connection from their authoritarian parents.

On the other hand, children of authoritarian parents may succeed, especially in their education, because they are goal-oriented and tend to be very disciplined. Children of authoritarian parents also tend to be more well-behaved, but this is often more due to fear of punishment from their parents than anything else.

However, none of this is exclusive to just children of authoritarian parents; children who are well-behaved and succeed in their education can come from any parenting style!

We also want to note that there’s nothing wrong with authoritarian parenting; it’s often just the easiest to criticize  – especially by the parent’s children!

The Best Examples of Authoritarian Parenting In Movies



Captain Georg Von Trapp in the musical film The Sound of Music is a classic example of an authoritarian parent.

As a widowed naval officer, he raised his seven children the only way he knew how – like men and women in the military. Unsurprisingly, his home is strict and ruled by established routines, but unbeknownst to Georg, his children are actually quite naughty.

As a naval officer, Georg is often away and hires a governess (or a nanny) to look after the kids.  When their father leaves, it’s quickly revealed just how mischievous his children are and even, at times, very hostile to their governesses.

Their newest nanny, a nun named Maria, changes all of this – but you’ll have to watch the film to see how Maria handles the children.

While Georg is a classic example of an authoritarian parent, it’s pretty funny to see how his parenting style backfired and has created mischievous children who only behave when under the watchful eye of their father! 




Another outstanding example of authoritarian parenting in film can be seen in the beloved 80’s classic Footloose!

The film follows Ren McCormack, who has just moved into a small town with an unusual ban on dancing.

The town’s local minister, Reverend Shaw Moore, an overly strict and legalist father, primarily influenced the ban.

We see his daughter Ariel constantly feeling confined by his rules and growing rebellious of her father, which drives her to Ren in a significant attempt to stand up against her father.

In a massive stand against her father, Ariel and Ren attempt to convince the town council to remove the ban on dancing, one of her father’s most significant achievements. 




Pixar films are known to portray a lot of different family dynamics, and Finding Nemo is no exception to this.

Marlin is a single father, and it might be surprising to hear that he also falls into the category of being an authoritarian parent.

Marlin is authoritarian in a different way than what we typically think of with this parenting style – he’s overly strict and hard on his son, Nemo, because of his fear of danger and the unknown.

While Marlin is well intentioned, it’s important to point out he is authoritarian and not authoritative because he hardly sympathizes with Nemo until later in the film.

Despite being well intentioned and just wanting Nemo to be safe, he’s placed rules on Nemo’s life that don’t allow him to grow and experience the world around him. Nemo can hardly do anything without being under the watchful eye of Marlin.

Even someone with good intentions acting out of love can be an authoritative parent!



Matilda is based on Roald Dahl’s novel with the same title, and of course, follows the character of Matilda.

Matilda Wormwood is intellectually gifted and has psychokinetic abilities, but her relationship with her parents are difficult.

Matilda’s mother Zinnia is neglectful and her father Harry is strict and rude to her making for an especially tough time as a child.

While Matild uses her powers to make the best of her tough situation with her family (typically in the form of outsmarting them), her father is still incredibly oppressive and authoritarian.

We see Harry’s authoritarian (borderline abusive!) parenting style front and center when, in one scene, he asks Matilda a question and even though Matilda gave him the right answer, he responds with a threat and say, “when a person is bad, that person has to be taught a lesson.”


10 Things I Hate About You (1999)


10 Things I Hate About You portrays Walter Stratford, a single father of two daughters, as an authorative parent with endless strict rules especially when it comes to his daughter’s dating lives.

While Bianca is ready to start dating, Walter forces her to wait until her older sister, Kat, starts dating. It’s clear in the film he uses this as a way to maintain order in his family as well as control on what his daughters are doing and where they’re going.

Some may sympathize with Walter and certainly agree with his approach, but nevertheless this is still considered an authoritative parenting style wether you like it or not!

However we do learn that Walter does try to strike a balance between discipline and understanding – he does want to best for his daughters and has a need to ensure they make responsible choices, which requires him to impose tough restrictions.

He slowly begins to make the shift from an authoritarian parent to authoritative, similar to Marlin in finding Nemo!

While he is somewhat of an authoritarian parent, Walter isn’t a bad person at all, and he’s very relatable and easy to sympathize with.

Remember, authoritative parents aren’t bad – it’s just the easiest parenting style to criticize!