’90s Dad Thrillers: A List

Dad Thrillers share certain thematic and narrative concerns. They are generally stories of men, often with families, professional degrees, and successful careers, who find themselves unexpectedly battling bureaucracyconspiracyirrational violenceimminent natural disaster, or some combination of the above as they confront an existential threat to their, their family, their country, or their planet’s safety.

’90s Dad Thrillers: a List
Notes toward a theory of the Dad Thriller

Max Read

I have to admit that I do carry a secret torch what the above author terms as ’90s Dad Thrillers and, in some ways, mourn their passing. I’ve have, over the past few years or so, had the chance to dip back into some of the movies he references – films like The Hunt for Red October, Enemy of the State and Dante’s Peak, films that have just enough ersatz smarts to make you feel like your not watching mind-rotting trash, but dumb and kinetic enough that the eternal twin distractions of a beer and a laptop don’t feel like they’d overwhelm the entire story.

Perhaps – once Covid and the MCU and influence of China have all faded – one glorious day they’ll see a resurgence and a renewal. I think I’m probably already ready for that day.

Recent Films

Notes on films I’ve recently watched.


Seen at the cinema. Very good but not quite on a par with 2017’s Dunkirk. Like all of these faux-low-cut films, I found myself distracted by looking for the seams between shots. Oddly, I found Cumberbatch’s depressed and nihilistic ‘Colonel Mackenzie’ the most affecting character; what must have it been like to know that you were going to order a good number of the men under your command to their deaths and that the only uncertainly was if it was going to be this week or next?

Bladerunner 2049

A home rewatch. Still very good and, out of the two Bladerunner films, my preferred one. The Harrison Ford segment still creeps up and surprises me by its presence. Better on a huge screen.


Seen at the cinema. A terrible film – disjointed, oddly paced and full of mushy, uncanny-valley visuals. If I squint really hard I can just about understand why someone might enjoy the stage musical but, having seen the film version, I am in no hurry to see it on the boards.

Jojo rabbit

Seen at the cinema. A well constructed dark comedy with a number of brave turns. As with ‘Under the Skin’ and ‘Lost in Translation’, Scarlett Johansson shows she can do far more than just stand around in a catsuit. It’s probably one that would survive the transition to a small screen without much loss.

Flash Gordon

A home rewatch of a cult classic. Still campy, cheesy fun with an excellent soundtrack. This is probably the first time I’ve seen it sober this millennium.

Masters of the Universe

A home rewatch. Better than I expected but still very much a product of it’s time – it’s certainly not high art. Both Dolph Lundgren and Frank Langella ham it up well. I suspect that there’s a fun drinking game to be paired with it.