The Four Greatest Movies Of All Time (at least to me)
#1 - The Godfather
The Godfather is on almost every list of "best movies of all time" and for good reason. Released in 1972, The Godfather had an amazing cast featuring Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, James Caan,Talia Shire and a young Al Pacino and Diane Keaton. And of course, Abe Vigoda, how can you go wrong. (He was really good as Tessio) The Godfather won three Oscars and five Golden Globes.
The Godfather tells the story of of the Corleone family, a powerful New York mafia family whose partriarch (Marlon Brando) is trying to hang on to his power in a new world. Don Corleone has three sons, the last of which he hopes can become part of the legitimate power structure one day. After the Don is shot, the youngest son Michael (Pacino) joins his father both to protect him and take over the family business.
The Godfather is a classic movie that has become part of the American Tradition. Scenes from the movie have become a part of American culture from the horse's head to the scene when Michael Corleone kills Salatso and the Police Captain. Lines from the movie have become a part of the "American" language, from "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse" and "keep your friends close but your enemies closer." Movies, television shows and comedians have used scenes from the Godfather to enhance a joke or help tell a story. My favorite Godfather parody comes from Saturday Night Live when Dana Carvey plays the first George Bush. The skit reinacts the famous restaurant scene where Michael Corleone kills the drug dealer who tried to kill his father and the police captain paid to protect him. In the skit, George Bush is meeting Saddam Hussein and Bush comes out of the bathroom to kill him. (This skit aired right before the First Iraq War.)
Besides the great acting, I like many of the subtle aspects of this movie. Take for instance the lighting. If you watch it closely, the lighting takes on a life of its own. All the figures in the movie that are part of the "Family" appear to be in shadows throughout the movie. The other characters, including the Pacino and Keaton characters are in the beginning appear much lighter. When Michael joins his father, he himself becomes dark.
To me, this is the greatest movie ever made. The story draws you in and the actors allow you to love the characters despite some of the horrible things they do. The book by Mario Puzo, from which the movie is based, is excellent as well.
The Godfather Part II
The silver medalist on my list of best movies of all time is the Godfather Part II. The Godfather Part II is both a sequal and prequal to the original. There are many that will argue that this movie is better than the original. I cannot argue with this. I honestly cannot rank them on their merits as I think both are amazing and the top two of all time. But the original is the original and that is enough for me to place it first.
Released in 1974, the Godfather Part II was nominated for 11 Oscars, winning six. The Godfather Part II tells two stories. The first takes up from where the first movie left off. Michael Corleone has moved the "family" to Nevada and is trying to regain his family's power while also trying to involve himself with legitimate deals that will make the family legitimate. This story line shows that there is corruption in both the underworld and the legitimate world and ends with Michael killing his brother Fredo who turned against the family.
The second story line are flashbacks that show the rise of Vito Corleone and how he began his "family." This is actually part of the original book written by Mario Puzo. The young Vito is played by Robert Deniro who does amazing job picking up on the mannerisms of the Brando character but also making the soon to be mafia boss likealbe and respectable. The movie also shows how Itialian immigrants lived in New York in the early twentieth century.
Like the original, it is the subtle aspects of this movie that make it great. Yes, Pacino and Deniro are amazing. But it is the supporting charactersthat make the movie amazing. For example, Bruno Kirby plays a young Clemenza who at the time that he meets Vito is a common thug. He is the likeable villain everyone likes to cheer for.
These two movies make for some of the best six hours ever put on screen. I do not include the third movie on this list. It was good, but did not live up to the standards set by the first two.
Released in 1994, Forrest Gump was nomited for thirteen Oscars, winning six. It stars Tom Hanks, who plays Forrest Gump, a slow witted man with a heart of gold. The movies tells the story of Forrest's life from growing up in rural Alabama, college, the army and as an adult. Even though Forrest is a bit slow, he finds himself as a part of the some of the most important events of the twentieth century. This includes the March on Washington, the Watergate Scandal and the Vietnam War.
This is really a great movie. I love the way the movie inserts Forrest Gump into old news reals and video footage so he becomes a part of history. I also thought Robin Wright Penn was very good in this movie playing Forest's beloved Jenny. The movie really tells two stories, one of the straight and narrow path taken by Forrest Gump. The other, the story of American Rebellion told through Penn's character.
Released in 1978, Animal House tells the story of Delta Fraternity. Not the normal fraternity, Delta Fraternity is a group of "misfit" collegians who take on Faber College's administration and infamous Dean Wormer.
That is the official plot summary, but in reality, Animal House is just a raunchy (for its time) classic starring John Belushi, Tim Matheson, Karen Allen, Donald Sutherland and Kevin Bacon (thank you sir may I have another) The movie plot is simple, Delta Fraternity is filled with a bunch of underachievers who are hated by the school's dean who decides to rid the campus of this fraternal trash. Instead, the underachievers pull off one of the best fraternity pranks ever put on film and win in the end. Animal House is first on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies.
This movie is a classic. How can you go wrong with John Belushi as a drunk college student and Donald Sutherland as a pot smoking professor. For me, this movie is personal. Harold Ramis was one of the writers and much of the storyline comes from his time in a fraternity, which happens to be the same fraternity I joined in college. Throughout the movie, there are little signs and jokes that only members of our fraternity can recognize which makes the movie more fun for me. My favorite scene, of course, is the Toga Party.
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