The Godfather

Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola

Starring: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard S. Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Cazale, and Diane Keaton

"Bonasera, Bonasera, what have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully? If you'd come to me in friendship, this scum who ruined your daughter would be suffering this very day. And if by some chance an honest man like yourself made enemies they would become my enemies. And then, they would fear you. "
-Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando)

Mob movies are often films that teach life lessons.  They emphasize family values, smart business management, and the real meaning of respect.  I know that the notion of learning valuable lessons from movies about criminals sounds crazy.  Nonetheless, it's true.  Whether through good examples or bad ones, you'll always learn something.  Frank Lucas shows us how to take care of family in American Gangster.  Tony Montana shows us how to make the world ours in Scarface and how to compete in a tough marketplace.  Vito Corleone teaches us the true meaning of respect in The Godfather.  With all this in mind, there is no mob movie that teaches more life lessons than Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather.  This all-time classic is the measuring stick for any other mob movie, past or present.

Vito Corleone (Brando) is the don of a powerful crime family in New York.  Today, his only daughter Connie (Talia Shire) is getting married to a man by the name of Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Russo).  His son Michael (Al Pacino) returns home from military service and introduces his family to his girlfriend Kay Adams (Diane Keaton).  His other sons Sonny (James Caan) and Fredo (John Cazale) are simply enjoying the festivities.  Meanwhile, the don himself is hearing requests from his friend Bonasera (Salvatore Corsitto) and his godson Johnny Fontane (Al Martino) along with his consigliere Tom (Robert Duvall).

There are headwinds in the crime world that don't stand well for the Corleone family.  Solozzo (Al Lettieri), a drug dealer from the Tattaglia family headed by Don Tattaglia (Victor Rendina), wants to enter the drug business.  To do so, he needs the connections — the politicians, the judges, and the cops — that Don Corleone holds in his back pocket.  Believing that drugs are a dirty business, the don refuses.  Unfortunately, Solozzo doesn't like taking no for an answer.  He has Don Corleone shot by his men at a later date.  The don survives however.  With Don Corleone's eldest son Sonny stepping up to the plate, the Five Families are on the verge of all-out war.  Michael, the don’s youngest son and his only child with prospects of having a decent, normal life away from this world of crime, also steps up to the plate and is ready to get blood on his hands, the blood of anyone trying to hurt his father.

It's hard to argue against the notion that The Godfather is the greatest film of all time.  Francis Ford Coppola brings Mario Puzo's novel of the same name to life in an incredibly authentic way.  Marlon Brando gives one of the smoothest and most iconic performances in all of film history.  Most importantly, the world is introduced to a young actor by the name of Al Pacino.  I doubt I need to elaborate further.  The accomplishments and influence of The Godfather on filmmaking and pop culture are immeasurable.  I could write all day long on it.

Director Francis Ford Coppola gives us a depiction of mafia life like no other.  He shows us the mob culture of the old days and its ties back to the old country (Italy).  Every meal, every custom, and every sign of respect highlight this.  His depiction of this world is operatic yet vicious and brutal.  In a way, it elevates crime movies to new heights.  The Godfather is not a film of cops and crooks.  It's a world where morality is subverted and respect is the ultimate currency.  There's no film that depicts mob life quite like The Godfather, and I don't think there ever will be again.

As Don Vito Corleone, Marlon Brando gives one of the greatest performances of all time.  His performance as the wise, authoritative mob boss is nothing short of mesmerizing.  With cotton balls in his mouth, Brando makes Corleone a smooth, sharp character who knows how to manipulate situations to his liking.  With frequent grunts and mumbled words, he gives Don Corleone a manly yet animalistic charm and once again proves why he is considered by many to be the greatest actor of all time.  Brando's performance as the don is absolutely iconic and undeniably unforgettable.

While Brando was able to reintroduce himself to the masses as Vito Corleone, a young actor by the name of Al Pacino got to introduce himself to the world for the first time as Michael Corleone.  Pacino had arrived in The Godfather and let the world know that he was here to stay.  One of the world's all-time greats steps up to the plate in this one.  As Michael Corleone, Pacino gives moviegoers a lesson in character development.  His portrayal of Corleone is initially carefree and innocent.  He eventually turns his character into a cold, calculating menace who embraces some devilish tendencies.  Of all his performances as mobsters in a career spanning more than four decades, Pacino arguably gives us the greatest movie mobster of all time in his first time up at bat as Michael Corleone.

The other cast members in this all-star crime drama also deliver some outstanding performances.  James Caan is perfect as the hothead Sonny Corleone.  Though he was originally cast as Michael, he makes Sonny the impatient, trigger-happy eldest son he needs to be in the wake of the don's shooting.  The late great John Cazale makes Fredo Corleone a slimy bugger.  Although his character is clearly a loser, it's interesting to watch what Cazale does with this black sheep of the Corleone family.  As Tom Hagen, Robert Duvall brings a lot of common sense to the film.  I also have to show some love for Al Lettieri's Virgil Solozzo and Alex Rocco’s Moe Greene.  Solozzo is just one badass dude, and Greene has gotta kick some asses to keep his business running.

The Godfather is one of the greatest films of all time.  Since 2012 marks its 40th anniversary, there is no way that I was going to miss my chance to revisit this all-time classic this year.  Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece stands as one of the most beloved and influential films of all time.  Personally, it might just be my favorite film (except for maybe The Godfather: Part II).  The Godfather undoubtedly gets a sober rating.  This film is the benchmark for this rating and is the definition of greatness on the big screen.