One of Hollywood’s central myths – the definitive mafia epic. Violence is sanctioned in the hushed, dark corridors of the Corleone mansion by the seemingly beneficent Don Vito (Marlon Brando), then coldly carried out by his sons and underlings in restaurants or the back seats of cars. (The most valuable contribution from director Francis Ford Coppola is the way his camera lingers after a killing to create a still life of death.)
The Godfather deepens when Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), who previously avoided any dirty work, instinctively grabs the reigns after an attempt on his father’s life. The ensuing mafia war is his chance to shine, even if it snuffs out his soul. “The Sopranos” has evolved into a much more sophisticated mob enterprise than The Godfather films, yet this Best Picture winner still endures. I think this has less to do with the iconic violence and performances (including James Caan as Sonny) than with what the movie essentially is about: the running of a family business, legal or not. Handling competition, making deals, appointing successors – this all feels like life and death, even for the straightest, family-run operation. The Godfather is a metaphor for creating and protecting your own business in this country – only with the added glamour of guns.