#27. The Godfather (1972)
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Written by: Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola (based on The Godfather by Mario Puzo)
Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, Richard Castellano, Diane Keaton, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Gianna Russo
The Godfather has been parodied and paid tribute to time and time again, in various mediums and to varying degrees of success – its immediate influence on popular culture and media in general is undeniable. Francis Ford Coppola’s Best Picture-winning film follows crime syndicate Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) and his children Michael (Al Pacino), Sonny (James Caan), Fredo (John Cazale), and Connie (Talia Shire), detailing their relationships with the syndicate, with each other, and the power held by the Corleone family and its individual members. After Vito is shot in an assassination attempt and subsequently hospitalized, his sons Michael and Sonny do what they must to maintain power in the dark and dirty world of organized crime. Coppola’s The Godfather helped to once again popularize the gangster drama, as it had fallen on hard times after the 1940’s. It did this by featuring some of the most iconic characters to ever be featured in a Hollywood film, most notably Marlon Brando’s incredible take on Vito Corleone, the wise, calm and collected Don and patriarch of the Corleone family. Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone is also introduced in the film, starting out as a kind-hearted and ambitious young man and quickly climbing the ranks of the syndicate after the hospitalization of his father. Pacino’s Michael would go on to be further developed in Coppola’s later two films in the Godfather trilogy, turning him into the complex anti-hero we would eventually know him to be. Also noteworthy is Robert Duvall’s Tom Hagen, the right-hand man or consigliere of Vito – his quiet, sensible nature makes him stand out from the pack. The Godfather features incredible cinematography from Gordon Willis, who plays a great deal with light, creating a dark, murky, natural atmosphere that makes The Godfather feel genuine. Nino Rota’s musical score also helps to set the tone of the film, using many stereotypically Italian compositions and a heck of a main theme to set the scene. Francis Ford Coppola’s up close and personal look at the Italian mob changed films forever, and would inspire many subsequent crime films with dark, violent, and natural tones – an effect we’re still feeling today. My favorite moment of the film comes in the form of a violent montage at the end of the film – it showed a younger me just how powerful and exhilarating classic cinema can be. Though The Godfather clocks in at nearly three hours in length, its tight pacing, incredible script, and powerhouse performances makes the time absolutely fly by – by the time it’s over, you’re thanking yourself that you still have two more films in the series. The Godfather is a must-see for anybody interested in film, and is endlessly entertaining and influential.