“Don’t tell me you’re innocent. Because it insults my intelligence and makes me very angry.”
Truth be told, I’m a little nervous about reviewing The Godfather. What more can I say about one of the most famous movies of all time? Directed by Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now, and, come on, he directed The Godfather) and starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, this is considered not only the best crime movie of all time, but it’s also in the top three picks for best movie of all time (along with Citizen Kane and Casablanca). It’s so iconic and classic that it’s been referenced and parodied countless times, and phrases like “sleeping with the fishes” are now part of the common lexicon. And I had never seen it until this week. Did it live up to the hype? Yes, absolutely.
The plot centers on the Corleone family, a powerful crime family that has most of New York City in its pocket. The godfather himself, Vito Corleone, provides stern but fair leadership for the family, while his son Michael has distanced himself from the rest of the family in search of a more honorable life. When conflict erupts between the five crime families, the family is pushed to its limit and Michael is drawn into family affairs whether he likes it or not. As tensions mount and the stakes get higher and higher, both Michael and Vito have to decide how far they’re willing to go for family, and it’s neither easy nor glamorous.
A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.
Being a story about a powerful crime family, you’d expect The Godfather to be larger than life and foreign, but that’s not at all the case. I was amazed how relatable and familiar all of the characters seemed to be. This is a testament not only to the terrific script, but also the superb acting and directing. The subtleties of human emotion are brilliantly captured: we see the characters struggle to keep their status and agonize over their decisions. There are no one-dimensional characters here—everyone feels real and alive.
Though the Corleone family deals with some very corrupt things, the movie is very careful to walk the line of not painting them as evil or good. They have very strict morals that they adhere to, but their code of ethics allows them to murder people who get in their way. The family is respectful, and at times admirable. It allows viewers to feel sympathy for the characters without asking them to condone their actions. It’s a fascinating character study presented in the best way possible.
The Godfather is a truly essential movie that everyone needs to see at least once. It’s brilliant, it’s entertaining, and it’s iconic. If you haven’t seen it, you need to make plans to see it. You don’t need to eat Italian food while you do so, but that would be a huge missed opportunity. The point is, watch it.
Winner: Best Picture (Albert S. Ruddy), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Marlon Brando), Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola)
Nominations: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (James Caan), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Robert Duvall), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Al Pacino), Best Director (Francis Ford Coppola), Best Costume Design (Anna Hill Johnstone), Best Sound (Charles Grenzbach, Richard Portman, Christopher Newman), Best Film Editing (William Reynolds, Peter Zinner), Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (Nino Rota)
View my complete list of classic, essential, or just plain good movies!
Director: Francis Ford Coppola