21 times real-life fathers and sons played family on-screen

21 times real-life fathers and sons played family on-screen
  • Before his death on June 20, Donald Sutherland only worked with his son Kiefer once.

  • They played an estranged father and son in the film "Forsaken."

  • Here are 20 other examples of father-and-son duos teaming up on-screen.

It feels like nepo babies are everywhere — and sometimes, when both a parent and a child are actors, they work together. But playing a father-and-son duo on screen takes the relationship to a whole new level.

Before his death on June 20, Donald Sutherland worked with his son Kiefer on the Western film "Forsaken." Kiefer played an outlaw trying to change his ways, while his father played a stern reverend.

"Working with him is something I have wanted to do for 30 years," Kiefer told People in 2016. Donald, in turn, called Kiefer a "wonderful actor."

Here are some of Hollywood's most famous fathers and sons who also played father and son on-screen.

Donald and Kiefer Sutherland starred in 2016's "Forsaken" as father and son.

forsaken kiefer and donald sutherland
"Forsaken."Momentum Pictures

In "Forsaken," Kiefer Sutherland played a retired criminal and quick-draw killer John Henry Clayton in the late 1800s. After abandoning his old ways, he returns home to try and repair his relationship with his estranged father, Reverend Samuel Clayton, played by Kiefer's real father, Donald.

"As much as I planned as an actor that this is what I want to do with the character, I was not expecting how powerful it was going to be when I looked into my father's eyes," Kiefer told the Los Angeles Times in 2016.

Dominic West joined the cast of "The Crown" for season five as Prince Charles. West's real son, Senan West, played Prince William.

senan west dominic west the crown
"The Crown."Netflix

Dominic replaced Josh O'Connor as Prince Charles in seasons five and six of Netflix's royal drama "The Crown," which concluded its run in 2023.

Charles, of course, has two sons: Prince William and Prince Harry. And there was no more perfect person to play Prince William than Dominic's real-life son Senan, 14, who was in three episodes of season five, according to IMDb.

"It was very moving actually, he'd never acted before because COVID stopped any school plays or anything so I'd never seen him act," Dominic told Yahoo UK in November 2022 of working with his son. "He had this amazing innocence to him that was extraordinary to watch as well as the fact that obviously he's my boy. It's very difficult when you act with children to have a physical intimacy, but with him that's obviously not a question which made it much easier."

Tom and Colin Hanks played father and son in "The Great Buck Howard" in 2008.

the great buck howard
"The Great Buck Howard."Magnolia Pictures

"The Great Buck Howard" follows John Malkovich as Buck Howard, a mentalist who is at the tail end of his career. His assistant, Troy, is played by Colin, who goes against the wishes of his father, Mr. Gable (played by Tom), who wants him to become a lawyer.

"He has always been really supportive of everything that I've done," Colin told NPR's Terry Gross of his father in 2009.

Will and Jaden Smith have played father and son twice. First, in 2006's "The Pursuit of Happyness."

pursuit of happyness
"The Pursuit of Happyness."Columbia Pictures Corporation

In "The Pursuit of Happyness," a true story, Smith starred as Chris Gardner, a homeless medical salesman turned wildly successful stockbroker. His son, Jaden, played Gardner's son, Christopher Gardner Jr.

"Little Jaden is a chip off the old block, uncommonly at ease before the cameras. Their real-life bond is an inestimable asset to the onscreen characters' relationship," wrote Steve Persall of the St. Petersburg Times.

They teamed up again seven years later in "After Earth."

after earth
"After Earth."Sony Pictures

"After Earth" takes place in a future in which humans had to evacuate Earth after a cataclysmic event — 1,000 years later, Kitai and his father, Cypher, are marooned on the planet after their spaceship collapses. When Cypher's legs are broken, he instructs his teenage son on how to contact their home planet and get them home via a communicator while Kitai journeys through the now-perilous Earth.

The movie got disastrous reviews, and the elder Smith has discussed how "After Earth" strained his relationship with his son.

"'After Earth' was an abysmal box office and critical failure," Smith wrote in his 2021 memoir, "Will." "And what was worse was that Jaden took the hit. Fans and the press were absolutely vicious; they said and printed things about Jaden that I refuse to repeat. Jaden had faithfully done everything that I'd instructed him to do, and I had coached him into the worst public mauling he'd ever experienced."

"He felt misled, and he lost his trust in my leadership," Smith wrote. "At 15 years old, when Jaden asked about being an emancipated minor, my heart shattered. He ultimately decided against it, but it sucks to feel like you've hurt your kids," he added.

Eugene and Dan Levy played father and son Johnny and David Rose on "Schitt's Creek" for six seasons from 2015 to 2020.

schitt's creek
"Schitt's Creek."ITV Studios Global Entertainment

The Levys also co-created "Schitt's Creek," so it was a no-brainer that they would play two of the leads: patriarch Johnny, a former video store tycoon, and his spoiled (yet lovable) son, David.

By the end of the series' six seasons, both Levys would take home Emmys for their acting and for producing, as the show won outstanding comedy series — they became the first father-son duo to win Emmys in the same year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"I think what I learned from [my dad], just from a comedy standpoint, is that … there's so much generosity, I think, to great comedy," Levy told the "Today" show in 2021. "You have to just give people space. There's just such a joy in knowing that you have each other's back."

Jerry and Ben Stiller played father and son in 2007's "The Heartbreak Kid."

ben stiller and jerry stiller in the heartbreak kid
"The Heartbreak Kid."Paramount Pictures

The Stillers are one of the most legendary father-and-son duos in Hollywood. They acted together quite a bit before Jerry's death in 2020, although they didn't always play relatives.

In the 2007 remake of "The Heartbreak Kid," Ben played a commitment-phobic man named Eddie who decides to propose to a woman he barely knows to get her to stay in the US. Jerry played his father, Doc.

"My dad is so funny. Like, I've never, ever thought I was funny like my dad. Or as funny as my dad. I've never really felt a competition, because I would lose, hands down," Stiller told The New Yorker after his father's death in May 2020.

Twenty years earlier, they also played father and son in 1987's "Hot Pursuit."

hot pursuit
"Hot Pursuit."Paramount Pictures

In "Hot Pursuit," they played Victor and Chris Honeywell, two side characters in the film.

The Stillers also both appeared in "Zoolander" and "Heavyweights," though not as father and son.

Kirk Douglas, his son Michael, and his grandson Cameron all appeared in "It Runs in the Family" as three generations of the Gromberg family in 2003.

it runs in the family
"It Runs in the Family."MGM Distribution Co.

In "It Runs in the Family," each generation of Gromberg men is dealing with their own issues — Kirk's character, Mitchell, is struggling with health complications after a stroke; his son Michael's character, Alex, is trying to manage marital issues and career doubts; and his son Cameron's character, Asher, is feeling lost while away at college.

To add even more Douglas genes to the film, Michael's mother and Kirk's ex-wife, Diana, also appeared in the film as Mitchell's wife, Evelyn.

Diana died in 2015, while Kirk died in 2021. After his father's death, Michael posted a tribute on Instagram, "To the world he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to."

"But to me and my brothers Joel and Peter he was simply Dad, to Catherine, a wonderful father-in-law, to his grandchildren and great grandchild their loving grandfather, and to his wife Anne, a wonderful husband," he continued.

Brian Gleeson plays the teenage son of his father Brendan's character in the 2006 film "The Tiger's Tail."

brendan and brian gleeson
Brendan and Brian Gleeson in 2014.NurPhoto/Corbis via Getty Images

The Gleesons have acted together multiple times in various permutations — for example, Brian played the younger version of his father Brendan's character in "Assassin's Creed."

But in "The Tiger's Tail," Brian plays the son of his father Brendan's character Liam, as Liam deals with his life heading in a downward spiral.

Brendan also plays Brian's dad in a sitcom Brian co-created with his real-life brother Domnhall: "Frank of Ireland" in 2021.

brendan brian domnhall gleeson
"Frank of Ireland."Amazon

Both of Brendan's sons appear in "Frank of Ireland," though they do not play brothers — so, when Brendan shows up, he's only the father of Brian's character, Frank.

"Dad was amazing and brought an incredible energy on set," Domhnall told What to Watch. "He was so up for it and so willing to be stupid. It was brilliant!"

Domnhall and Brendan also starred in the "Harry Potter" films, albeit not as relatives (Domnhall played the eldest son of the Weasley family, Bill, while Brendan played the legendary auror Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody).

Emilio Estevez played the deceased son of his father Martin Sheen's character in "The Way" in 2010.

martin sheen and emilio estevez
"The Way."Producers Distribution Agency

Since Estevez wrote and directed the film, of course he'd make it a family affair by casting his Emmy-winning father.

In the film, Sheen's character, Thomas, grieves the death of his son, Daniel, played by Estevez, in flashbacks and at the beginning of the film by continuing Daniel's journey of walking the Camino de Santiago (or The Way) in Europe.

"I had to keep reminding [my dad] that his character was not a friendly man, that he was suspicious of people, because that is not his nature," Estevez told The New York Times in 2011 when describing what it was like to work with his father.

Martin has acted with another of his sons, Charlie, too. In 1987's "Wall Street," Charlie played Bud Fox, while his dad played Carl Fox.

wall street martin sheen charlie sheen
"Wall Street."20th Century Fox

In one of the biggest roles of Charlie's early career, he played stockbroker-in-training Bud Fox, who idolizes the sleazy (yet powerful) Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas. But his actual father in the film is played by his real dad.

Martin Sheen played Carl Fox, an airline employee and union leader.

"I adore him," Martin Sheen said of his son in 2021, according to People. "I've always, always adored him. His recovery and his life is a miracle and he's an extraordinary man."

Martin and Charlie also played father and son in 1998 crime thriller "No Code of Conduct."

martin sheen charlie sheen no code of conduct
"No Code of Conduct."Nu Image Films

In "No Code of Conduct," the Sheens played Bill and Jake Peterson, a father-and-son duo who are both police officers. They uncover a huge drug-running operation from Mexico into Arizona while investigating the death of their coworker.

The two also acted together in "Hot Shots! Part Deux," but not as father and son.

Scott and James Caan played father and son in 1995's "A Boy Called Hate."

james caan and scott caan in 2003
James Caan and Scott Caan.Chris Polk/Getty Images

Scott is the star of "A Boy Called Hate," in which he plays teenager Steve, who renames himself Hate. He ends up witnessing an attempted rape committed by an assistant district attorney.

His real dad, James, played Steve's father, who is too busy running a workers' compensation fraud scheme to really help his son in any meaningful way.

Fourteen years later, the Caans teamed up again for "Mercy" in 2009.

james caan and scott caan in 2010
James Caan and Scott Caan in 2010.Jonathan Leibson/FilmMagic/Getty Images

The younger Caan also wrote the film, in which he plays Johnny Ryan, a novelist who doesn't know exactly what he wants to do with his life. James plays Johnny's father, Gerry.

"You don't want to fail for your kid. United Artists or Warner Bros. or Coppola, I can mess up. I don't want to do it, but for your kid, that's the worst thing," James told the Los Angeles Times in 2010.

The two reunited on-screen for an episode of "Hawaii Five-O" in 2012, but James didn't play Scott's character's father. This was their last on-screen collaboration before James' death in 2022.

Father and son Dustin and Jake Hoffman actually played grandfather and son in "Barney's Version" in 2010.

dustin hoffman and jake hoffman in 2016
Jake and Dustin Hoffman.Andrew Toth/FilmMagic/Getty Images

In "Barney's Version," based on the 1997 novel of the same name, Paul Giamatti plays the main character, Barney. Dustin plays Barney's eccentric father, while Jake plays the older version of Barney's son.

They acted together again in the 2022 film "Sam & Kate."

In "Rocky V," Sylvester Stallone cast his real-life son Sage to play Rocky's son, Rocky Jr.

rocky v
"Rocky V."MGM/UA Communications Company

Sylvester cast his son Sage, who died in 2012, to play the son of his iconic boxing creation, Rocky Balboa, in the fifth film of the series.

For the 2006 film "Rocky Balboa" and the 2018 film "Creed II," the character of Rocky Jr. was taken over by Milo Ventimiglia.

Patrick Stewart's son, Daniel, played the son of Captain Jean-Luc Picard in a 1992 episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

patrick stewart daniel stewart star trek the next generation
"Star Trek: The Next Generation."Paramount Domestic Television

In "The Inner Light," one of the best episodes of "The Next Generation," an energy beam strikes Picard (Patrick Stewart), which allows him to live an entire lifetime while just minutes pass for the rest of the crew.

In the episode, his son, Daniel, played Batai, the son of Picard who exists in this reality.

"It was a spec script, you know. That's something that not many people know: It was a spec script. One of the tiny few that actually got made. And, of course, my son was in it, and it was the first time I'd ever worked professionally with my son, so that's another reason why it's special to me," the legendary actor told Bullz Eye in 2010.

The Stewarts once again played father and son during the Starz series "Blunt Talk" in 2015.

patrick stewart and daniel stewart on blunt talk
"Blunt Talk."Starz Distribution

Daniel appeared in the first season of "Blunt Talk," which saw his father star as Walter Blunt, a cable news journalist. Daniel played Walter's son Rafe, a professional boxer.

"Daniel has a wonderful talent for comedy, particularly wacky comedy. So we shared an episode. Hopefully we'll be sharing many more," the "Star Trek" star told USA Today in 2015. "I think it's a great thing that we're both in the same profession. It has so brought so much into both our lives that we can share and enjoy talking about. It's terrific."

In 1978, Jake Busey had a small role in "Straight Time" as the son of his real-life father, Gary Busey's character.

jake busey and gary busey in 1983
Jake and Gary Busey in 1983.Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

In "Straight Time," Gary played Willy, a heroin addict and friend of the main character Max (Dustin Hoffman), who also acted as an accomplice to Max's crimes. Jake had a small part as Willy's son, Darin.

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