A Look Back at The Godfather Series

The gangster film has been a staple of American cinema since the inception of the moving picture. The dramatization of the criminal underworld has been used in many dramas, action films and even comedies. While there are many depictions of what is called “La Cosa Nostra”, there are a few that truly stand; In fact, there is one franchise that won the Academy Award for Best Picture twice.

The Godfather trilogy is considered one of the greatest sagas in the history of cinema. The life and times of a young Michael Corleone who later becomes Don Corleone, has brought many wonderful scenes in cinema. The Best Actor winning performance of Marlon Brando as the first Don is considered legendary and the model for cinematic mob bosses.

Why is this trilogy that is directed by Francis Ford Coppola considered one of the greatest film series of all time? It was released in the early 1970’s, at the time the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War were major issues in American society. Crime, deceit at all levels of society and institutions was a theme in many movies. The Godfather and its sequel glorified it and presented it in an artistic light -- crime, deceit and murder made a good narrative.

The family aspect of the film series is a constant throughout the film. In The Godfather, Marlon Brando was a doting father to Michael; he was brooding and sorrowful when Sonny was assassinated -- he played many parts thus deserving his Academy Award. Throughout the series, the relationships Michael has with his wife, Kay, his brother, Fredo and his daughter, Mary, became more important than the crime aspect of the films.

The violence of The Godfather really put the films on the map. With the advent of the rating system, adult content (ie. violent content, language) became more rampant in film. The films Midnight Cowboy, The Graduate and MASH ushered in a movement of postmodern, darker and adult-themed films, taking the place of more classically presented ones. The opening murder of the series featuring the garroting of henchman Luca Brasi and the killing spree of the bosses at the end of film truly let the film watching world that The Godfather was taking things over the top.

The Godfather series contains possibly the greatest ensemble of actors ever brought together. Headed by legends Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and Robert Duvall -- the series became a springboard for some of the most well regarded actors and actresses in film. Diane Keaton was just a fresh face in The Godfather before starring in many Woody Allen films and James Caan was first the quick-tempered Sonny Corleone before playing a variety of quick-tempered characters.

The Godfather series is an epic mafia themed trilogy that features an all-star cast. But more than just a film about gangsters and violence, it is the story of an American family. Certainly, the history of the Corleones is stained and built on blood, violence and crime -- nonetheless, it is still the story of a family rising up from nothing to the heights of power.

Image credit: Badders1977 on Flickr


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