72. “The Godfather”, Francis Ford Coppola (1972)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.


The Godfather

dir. Francis Ford Coppola (1972) scr. Mario Puzo & Francis Ford Coppola based on Puzo’s novel of the same name cin. Gordon Willis with Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte, Diane Keaton

In 100 words: Few films are as iconic or influential as this towering accomplishment of the American New Wave. Coppola’s richly detailed film is beautifully coated by Willis in golden hues and blanketed with shadows that threaten to swallow characters whole. His characters are all deeply sketched and specific, that despite the sprawl, they hardly feel anonymous. Ace editing, scene construction, and score help build a menacing atmosphere, even without the constant eruption of violence. But at its heart is a layered father and son film: lessons pass on from the elder to the younger, just as a new world replaces the old.

Other Movies for Context: Coppola’s film is so influential, that it’s often imitated but never duplicated. Such is the fate of his two sequels: The Godfather Pt II (1974) and The Godfather III (1991). But the series also spawned similar pictures, like Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990), a stellar film that captures some of the danger of the series, but infused with Scorsese’s sensibilities. Obviously, The Sopranos, the HBO TV series that basically gave rise to the peak-TV era we live in now, pays homage to The Godfather in many way than the obvious Italian mafia commonality.

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