Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The Godfather

After five decades, it’s safe to say that The Godfather is still the king of the mobster movie genre, and one of the most respected films in all of cinematic history.
The Godfather 50th anniversary

Often regarded as the best gangster flick of all time, if not the greatest film ever made overall, 1972’s classic mobster movie The Godfather celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022. Directed and co-written by the legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather stunned audiences when it was first released and continues to be a timeless tale of crime, power-lust, and family.

In a decade that contained cinematic masterpieces in all genres, ranging from Taxi Driver to The Exorcist, The Godfather is still considered to be the defining cinematic experience of the 1970s. To commemorate this illustrious film as it approaches its five-decade milestone, let’s take a closer look at The Godfather and what makes it such an unforgettable piece of Hollywood history.

Looking Back on The Godfather Story

The Godfather tells a nuanced and consistently engaging story of organized crime, based on the original 1969 novel by Mario Puzio. Set in 1945, the film begins with a beautiful wedding celebration, where the patriarch and leader of the Corleone crime family, Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), takes requests from his guests.

As Don of one of the most influential crime families in New York City, Vito is both immensely feared and respected, but his grip on the underworld has begun to loosen. However, his sons Santino (James Caan), Fredo (John Cazale), and Tom (Robert Duvall) are eager to help the family business thrive. On the other end of the spectrum, Vito’s son and US Marine Michael (Al Pacino) refuses to become ensnared in the life of a mobster.

This all changes when a rival family carries out an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Vito, forcing Michael’s hand in a lust for vengeance. Over its nearly three-hour runtime, The Godfather depicts the steady development of Michael from a law-abiding civilian into a merciless mob legend.

Despite the lengthy runtime, the movie is impeccably paced, drawing the audience in with surprising twists, emotional turmoil, and gripping drama. Every actor completely disappears in their role, providing fantastic performances with passion and fervor. While it’s plenty violent at times, The Godfather never feels excessive or cheap, immersing the viewer in a cinematic world that’s both believable and unpredictable.

The Making of The Godfather

While The Godfather was far from the first gangster movie ever made, it set the tone for the genre moving forward, establishing a high bar of quality and attention to detail. Like most wildly popular and influential projects, The Godfather was the result of risk-taking, as the movie’s production was littered with roadblocks and creative disagreements.

Although he’s now considered one of the best directors of his time, Francis Ford Coppola was never the first pick to helm the film. The studio executive at Paramount approached seven other directors before Coppola, and even Coppola was hesitant to lead the production.

Further disagreements were held over the film’s cast, specifically involving Marlon Brando in the leading role. These arguments upheld the project for several months, a trend that would continue long after shooting began. Studio executives insisted that the project would be shot and set in contemporary cities, while Coppola wanted the movie to be set in the 1940s and to be filmed in both New York City and Italy. Despite these disagreements and Coppola nearly being fired on several occasions, the movie was completed on schedule and was finally released in March of 1972.

How The Godfather Changed Cinema Forever

Right from the start, The Godfather took the cinematic world by storm, sending major waves through the industry. Audiences flocked to theaters in droves, which in turn caused cinemas to increase ticket prices several times during the movie’s theatrical run. The Godfather held the top spot in the box office for over five months, and was as well-received by critics as it was by the mainstream audience. The movie was nominated for a slew of awards, earning three Academy Awards in the process.

In one fell swoop, The Godfather sky-rocketed the careers of most of its cast, especially Al Pacino, who has become one of the most recognizable actors in the industry. The impact of the film on cinematic culture is indisputable, as hundreds of copycat films would follow, many of which were equally impressive in their own regard.

As expected with such a massive hit, The Godfather received two sequels, both of which rival the original in terms of intrigue and quality. As it celebrates its 50th anniversary, The Godfather is currently ranked as the second-best film of all time on IMDb (surpassed by The Shawshank Redemption) and holds a perfect rating of 100% on Metacritic.

Without The Godfather, the landscape of Hollywood in the 1970s would undoubtedly be different, with fewer studios taking risks in favor of safe bets. After five decades, it’s safe to say that The Godfather is still the king of the mobster movie genre, and one of the most respected films in all of cinematic history.

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