Throwback Thursday: The Godfather
The Godfather (1972) movie review
So the Godfather just turned fifty. And we got to go see it in Dolby at AMC, which is- awesome! This is one of those films that I feel gets lumped into the ‘probably greatest movies ever but I haven’t seen it’ category,’ but I absolutely love it! For the very few of you (probably none?) who don’t know this iconic film, The Godfather stars Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, the son of a powerful Italian mafia don played by Marlon Brando. While Michael, a WWII veteran, aims to have a life apart from his crime family, an attack on his father draws him into a feud between the Corleone family and two rival families trying to expand in New York City. The film was written by Mario Puzo, based his the novel and directed by the great Francis Ford Coppola. on only a budget of $6 million, The Godfather made a worldwide gross of over $240 million, won four Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, currently holds a 97% critic score and 98% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, and is the second highest rated film of all time on IMDb.
Simply put, if the Godfather is still on your watch list, pop it on! I am obviously not going to cover new ground here, but I do want to talk about my experiences watching this film, as this was my third time watching The Godfather. (Also don’t to watch all three? Skip the third. Or honestly, skip the second if you want. That film is a slower, more mature pacing, and I personally don’t think it holds a candle too the first. It is great, but still.)
The first time I watched The Godfather was on TV with my mother. (We also watched the second that day, but that’s beside the point.) And we both thought it was great! While I appreciated the filmmaking quality (more on that later), I really just loved the story and the characters! The performances are all just perfect, and this is a careful film. The characters are meticulous and you really pick up on mannerisms and the drives of each the more you really lean into what each actor brings to each character. For example, the first time I watched the film I knew Pacino and Brando were great, but I didn’t expect James Caan’s Sonny to stick so much as a character.
While the characters are complex and critical to the story, the story itself is a heavy hitter. The mob family plot is simply a backdrop for Michael, a character who starts the film as more of an outsider accepted by the family but never a part of it, so (well I suppose I need to talk spoilers?) Okay I’ll keep this fifty year old classic vague, but he ends up being a very important part of the family business. And that is no small character arc!
On a second viewing (The Coppola Restoration Blu-Ray set), I really leaned into the cinematography. I also fell in love with the music, but more with just how groundbreaking this film looks. I am not saying this was the first film to pioneer every technique and angle they use, but gosh if this film isn’t a textbook on filmmaking! Seriously watch this film, take notes on the editing and framing and choices made here, and I bet you can make a competently shot film. The way Gordon Willis’s camerawork really dances around a room and keeps characters in and out of frame- you know what watch the opening scene on YouTube. Also sound? The scene in the restaurant? Just perfect.
Then we saw it in theaters. Of course everything still stuck. The story, the characters, the music, the editing, the cinematography- heck I didn’t even talk about the sharp costumes or the fantastic pacing and act structure! But what I really leaned into this time around were the themes. The Godfather is a fairly deep film when you really dig in. Not only to we have themes regarding post-war America and Italy, revenge, loyalty, love, and many more, but The Godfather is really a film about family. I bet if you subbed the mobster story out for a normal family drama, much of this film would keep the same weight. (Maybe not like death or anything…) Anyway yeah, I really love the way the other themes weave in and out, but they essentially all answer to family. This works its way into the cinematography, the supporting themes, the pacing- Yeah you get the idea…
So look would I watch this film once a year? No. It’s not one of my all time favorites or anything. But I have watched this three hour movie three times, and in a few years, I intend to watch it again. Watch the second one or don’t, but this film is fantastic. Near perfection even. I have The Godfather currently at a 9/10 because I don’t give 10’s often. I’m a bit bias that way, but this movie is pretty perfect regardless of my rating. Watch it if you haven’t, because this movie is one that you absolutely must at least once.
So yeah, The Godfather? Like one of the greatest films ever? Have you seen it? What do you think of it? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you like these Throwback Thursdays, let us know what we should talk about next! Thanks for reading!
-review by Ryan Prince