The Godfather (I & II): Why are they so well regarded?

I just re-watched “The Godfather” (I & II) and I am hard pressed to see why these movies are considered some of the best movies ever made.

They are good, to be sure, but I can only think they are considered so amazing only if you view them in the time they were made and what came before. When viewed in light of movies that have come since I am not seeing it.

The acting was hit and miss. Some great performances and some really bad ones too (e.g. Michael Corleones’ sister being a drama queen as an example of bad acting).

The cinematography was excellent.

The story itself…eh. Not superb, not bad.

So why the acclaim? Somebody school me on this.

Cinematography: lighting, aperture, camera zooms enhanced the dramatic effect, so there’s that.

The story line was compelling.

The acting wasn’t perfect, but pretty damn good. Lots of climaxes. Talia Shire was actually not bad. The juxtaposition of characters is what needs to be considered here. The context. Sonny, the hothead. Fredo, the ambitious moron. Michael, the reluctant family guy who then discovers his purpose while protecting his father.

If you think about it, it wasn’t a gangster story. It was the story of a family whose patriarch immigrated from Sicily. The setting was by and large early 20th century which in itself was a unique time in American history, given the latest wave of immigrants from Europe. If those things, and the coincidental growth of organized crime don’t grab you, you’ll be better off watching simpler gangster stories that sharply focus on the two sides of law enforcement.

Acting in GF I was considered better than most gangster movies before it, that’s why they say it is the standard from which other movies are measured.

Her histrionics at the end of “The Godfather” was not good acting although it seemed normal acting for “upset women” for that time. (Something that has always bugged me…seems around the 80’s actresses got a lot better at being pissed off on screen.)

Talia’s acting wasn’t so much worse than Diane Keaton’s “It was an abortion, Michael” line. I saw that scene as one of the lows of the anthology. The others were anytime Sophia Coppola had a speaking part.

Godfather II bounced back and forth a bit showing the origin story for Vito Corleone but most of the two movies is late 40’s and 50’s.

It insists upon itself.

For the record I did not like “The Money Pit”.

I am not Peter. :o


That’s how you can tell when a movie is amazing - when it’s better than anything that came before it.:smack:

Isn’t that how all movies are judged? If they aren’t, they should be :).

I’ll always stop and watch the first two Godfather films, so I guess I can’t agree. There is something powerfully mythopoetic about them that I still find compelling. They hold up for me a lot more than many/most of their contemporaries.

The issue is that they are still considered a high water mark in film making decades after they were released.

In other words, we do not judge them solely by what went before them.

If you did then you could consider the first film ever made as the best film ever made since there was nothing better before it. :smack:

One of the things that make a piece of art significant is its influence on what comes after. A movie that copies a revolutionary movie and maybe adds something could be fund to watch but won’t be great.
Otherwise you have the “Shakespeare is overrating because the plays are full of overly familiar lines” problem.

It’s uneven but I do like the scene where Shelley Long gets attacked by the raccoon.

That’s right on point. Whenever there’s a poll among film critics and historians listing the greatest American films, The Godfather (parts I and II) and Citizen Kane almost always rank at or near the top which is not surprising since these movies are both an evocation and critique of the “American Dream”. The protagonists of **Godfather **I and Citizen Kane begin in humble–if not destitute–circumstances but through ambition, astuteness, hard work, and a bit of luck rise through the ranks and gain wealth and power. Of course, Vito Corleone achieves this through unlawful and often violent means and Charles Foster Kane becomes so corrupt and power-hungry that he alienates everyone around him and dies a lonely death in his mansion. Still, the “rags to riches” element of these movies seems almost uniquely American. It would be harder to imagine them coming from the old class-ridden societies of Europe.

This is always important to remember.

One big thing about GFI was the “heroes” of the movie were very bad people. This just wasn’t a common thing back then. But it kicked off a ton of that sort of thing.

Ebert loved to break it down and show how amazing it was. Just too many things to discuss here.

E.g., the very beginning of the film, the wedding. In a fairly short period of time almost all the major players are introduced, their personalities are established, their relationships are developed, etc. Hardly any “Thank you, Dr. Expositor.” bits. (There was the bit with Michael telling Kay about Luca Brasi.)

And it was a huge cast. And it included minor details that are important later. For example, Sonny getting it on with Lucy.

This is something very few directors could possibly pull off.

For GFII, it’s not just the double storyline, but how they intertwined and paralleled neatly. It also has Uncle Junior!

The Luca Brasi story was genius, though, in that it tells the audience so much about things and people other than Luca Brasi. The scene quite cleverly tells you quite a lot about Michael Corleone, even though the story doesn’t involve him at all. It’s insightful into Vito Corleone and helps the viewer understand the subsequent scene with Don Vito and Johnny. It provides a cold, shocking atmospheric contrast to the happy wedding setting. It’s just fabulous.

If you read the book, the Luca Brasi story is even more compelling. Luca was the only man the Godfather feared and conversely, the Godfather was the only man Luca feared.

I don’t think this is true at all, at least not for me. I only saw the Godfather for the first time within the last ten years. It was on late at night, like 1 or 2 a.m., and I caught it right at the beginning with the wedding scene. So I decided to watch to the end of the scene, and the plan was to call it a night, as I had to be at work in the morning. And this was one of those stupid interrupted broadcast TV version, so the run time was something like four hours.

Even edited for TV with constant commercial breaks, I just could not stop watching. Next thing I know, it’s 5 a.m. and I watched the whole thing. I was so absolutely captivated and drawn in by the story. I didn’t think I was going to like it, and I barely have the attention span to last me a movie these days (I rarely watch anything beyond about 40 minute shows nowadays), but hold my attention it did. I wish I could tell you exactly what it was that spoke to me; I was drawn in by the characters and just had to find out what happened to them.

And I have yet to see the sequel, which I’ve heard from many is even better, which to me seems impossible.

I have no problem with Talia’s performance. I do think that line reading of Keaton’s is the worst part of two nearly flawless movies.

One thing the movies did was show what an amazingly subtle performer Al Pacino was. He could do more with silence and a look than any other actor could do with 10 pages of dialogue. Then someone killed him and replaced him with a scenery crewing ham.

It is an interesting movie because it explores tribal morality and shows both its appeal and horrible consequences.
It also has a dual structure in that it shows the ultimate triumph of the Micheal Corleone defeating all his enemies and making the Corleone family the most powerful crime family, but at the cost of the destruction of his actual family.