22. “Apocalypse Now”, Francis Ford Coppola (1979)

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


Apocalypse Now

dir. Francis Ford Coppola scr. John Milius and Francis Ford Coppola based on the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad cin. Vittorio Storaro with Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall, Sam Bottoms, Larry Fishburne, Dennis Hopper

In 100 words: War has never looked as ravaging or as epically filmed as this, Coppola’s greatest accomplishment. Apocalypse is a terrifying beast, locating the scary instinctive cruelty within human psyche while portraying the dehumanization of men fighting in a war that’s wrecking with their physical and mental states. Coppola and Storaro’s images and his sounds are breathtaking but also quite frighteningly realistic, managing to put its audience in the headspace of these soldiers dwarfed by the jungle’s vastness and nature’s unforgiving elements. Stirring, thought-provoking, and definitely awe-inspiring, this is the greatest of all war films, and a grand statement on its miseries.

Other Movies for Context: The Vietnam War is a subject of a great many films. Some of them are tremendous like The Deer Hunter (1978), which preceded this by a year or Full-Metal Jacket (1987) by Kubrick. Others got preachy, like Platoon (1986) or God-forbid, icky Forrest Gump (1994). Nevertheless, Apocalypse Now stands as the most astonishing of its genre, one that has never been reached again.


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.