I’ve always been a fan of the first two Godfather films, the Puzo book, and pretty much all things mafia. For any fan of mafia movies, I would expect that the Godfather Part I, more than the second, should have a place in the top 3 ever made. For the purposes of this entry however, I’ll try as much as I can to avoid simply going on and on about how much I love this movie.
I’ve seen the movie a couple of times and have read and seen a lot of other resources on it. Nothing gets me quite like the very first appearance of Don Corleone in the first few scenes of this film. Perfectly put by Jonathan Rosenbaum in his article, it is this worship of power that is so appealing about this film and about organized crime families in general. From the very beginning, Don Corleone is shown to be somewhat compassionate and helpful towards the fellow Italian-American man asking him for favor. He is immediately depicted as a man of power, shown by how the man pleads for his help. He is also shown to be generously helpful with the power that he has, making him appear as though he is the good guy, disregarding the fact that he is the head of a major crime family. Also perfectly stated by Jonathan Rosenbaum, this sets the tone for the entire movie as it gives us a look at corruption from the inside. I think the appeal of The Godfather franchise can be attributed to this fact, seeing how mafia families are so secretive and that not much is really known about their workings.
Another good thing about this movie is the incredible performances from Marlon Brando and a very young Al Pacino. I remember watching a documentary about the making of the film, wherein Francis Ford Coppola explained that he really wanted an unknown actor to play the role of Michael Corleone. I remember reading that this caused the crew to be skeptical about what he would bring to the table, but were instantly blown away after shooting one of his killing scenes. And of course the unforgettable portrayal of Don Vito by Marlon Brando, with his puffed cheeks and raspy, soft-spoken voice.
Though the plot structure of the first Godfather film is much simpler than that of the second, I still always liked this one a little bit more. It may simply just be one of those things as when a cover song is made but can never be better than the original, absolutely puristic I admit, but there’s just so much more to it. The controversy surrounding this film makes it seem all the more credible as the team had actual run-ins with the New York mafia during the filming of this movie. Mostly, this will always just have a special place in my list simply because it will always be THE mafia movie. It will always be the movie that laid down the foundations and set the bar for the next two Godfather films and for many other mafia films that followed.