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Film Review: The Godfather

Updated on January 12, 2018
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Jason Wheeler is the Senior Writer and Editor at Film Frenzy. He reviews films from across the cinematic landscape.


In 1972, Francis Ford Coppola released The Godfather, based on the 1969 novel of the same name by Mario Puzo. Starring Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte, and Diane Keaton, the film grossed between $245.1 million at the box office.



Vito Corleone, Don of the Corleone family, begins grooming his first son, Sonny, to succeed him. Soon though, Sonny is killed which means that the youngest son, Michael is next in line, despite him not even wanting any part of the family business.


Once the highest grossing films ever made, The Godfather is a fantastic film, especially with how it portrays the mafia. Up until this point, most films that focused on crime and the mafia portray the criminal element as pitch black. Instead, this film shows them as humans that have their strengths and weaknesses. Don Vito might be the feared head of a ruthless crime family, but he’s also a caring family man who believes that a man who doesn’t spend time with his family isn’t really a man and actually wants something better than a life of crime for Michael. While he orders horse heads to be placed in men’s beds because they refuse offers, he refuses to allow drugs to be sold to children. Thought it’s stated that it isn’t out of moral opposition, but fear of destroying political connections, it could be read as an excuse he gave the other families who don’t have an opposition to drugs. He also didn’t die due to anything crime related; he keeled over after playing with his grandson. Sonny is also a good example of the characters not being completely black. He may be a shameless cheat and a violent hothead that can shift into a near unstoppable rage when provoked, but his violence is usually centered at those who hurt his family, seen when his big brother instinct kicks in beating up his brother-in-law who gave Connie a black eye. This leads to his downfall though as another family uses that to ambush and kill him.

Further, with Sonny out of the way, that leads to Michael going through his full character arc, which involves him taking a slow slide down the slippery slope. At the beginning of the film, he was a college boy who had joined the marines and didn’t want any part of being in the family business. Yet, his desire to protect his family comes into play after a hit is attempted on Vito, causing him to get more involved with family affairs. It really only gets worse after Sonny is ambushed and his wife is killed in Sicily. After his return from Sicily, he eventually does take over as the head of the family and succeeds in taking out the heads of the other families, establishing his dominance. This entrenches him into a hole he cannot escape because even though he only got in the business in the first place to protect his family, he winds up just terrible as his enemies. Interestingly enough, the shifts in his character arc can be seen in his hair. At the beginning of the film his hair is shorter and parted. But after getting involved and returning from Sicily, it’s slicked back like the classic mafia stereotype.

The film also presents a deconstruction of the American Dream. the five mafia families are living said dream and embodying the ideas that were treasured in America at the time, such as capitalism, gender roles and family values. However, they're clearly taking the dream and manipulating it for their own gains and abusing the system in order to perpetuate the dream. This is seen during the meeting of the Five Families inside the Federal Reserve Bank. Barzini states that Don Corleone is entitled to profits from sharing his network of political corruption, immediately followed by a joke that they're not communists.

5 stars for The Godfather

Awards & Recognitions

bold indicates reception of award/recognition

Academy Awards

  • Best Picture
  • Best Actor in a Leading Role (Marlon Brando)
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (James Caan)
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Robert Duvall)
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Al Pacino)
  • Best Director
  • Best Costume Design
  • Best Sound
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Music, Original Dramatic Score

American Cinema Editors, USA - Eddie Awards

  • Best Edited Feature Film

BAFTA Awards

  • Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music (Nino Rota)
  • Best Costume Design
  • Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles (Al Pacino)
  • Best Supporting Actor (Robert Duvall)
  • Best Actor (Marlon Brando)

David di Donatello Awards

  • Best Foreign Film
  • Special David - Al Pacino (for his acting)

Directors Guild of America, USA Awards

  • Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures

DVD Exclusive Video Premiere Awards

  • Best Audio Commentary

Golden Globe Awards

  • Best Motion Picture - Drama
  • Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama (Marlon Brando)
  • Best Director - Motion Picture
  • Best Screenplay - Motion Picture
  • Best Original Score - Motion Picture
  • Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama (Al Pacino)
  • Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture (James Caan)

Golden Schmoes Awards

  • Best DVD of the Year (The Godfather Trilogy)

Golden Screen Awards

  • Golden Screen

Grammy Awards

  • Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or TV Special

Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards

  • Best Actor (Marlon Brando)
  • Best Director

Las Vegas Film Critics Society Sierra Awards

  • Best DVD

National Board of Review, USA Awards

  • Best Supporting Actor (Al Pacino)
  • Top Ten Films

National Film Preservation Board, USA

  • National Film Registry

National Society of Film Critics, USA Awards

  • Best Actor (Al Pacino)
  • Second Place - Best Film
  • Second Place - Best Actor (Marlon Brando)
  • Third Place - Best Director
  • Third Place - Best Supporting Actor (Robert Duvall)
  • Third Place - Best Cinematography
  • Best Screenplay

New York Film Critics Circle Awards

  • Best Supporting Actor (Robert Duvall)
  • Second Place - Best Film
  • Second Place - Best Director
  • Second Place - Best Actor (Marlon Brando)

Online Film & Television Association Awards

  • OFTA Film Hall of Fame - Motion Picture

Online Film Critics Society Awards

  • Best Overall DVD (The Godfather Collection)

Satellite Awards

  • Best Classic DVD (The Godfather Collection - The Coppola Restoration)
  • Best Overall Blu-Ray Disc (The Godfather Collection - The Coppola Restoration)

Writers Guild of America, USA Awards

  • Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium


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