In my personal list of greatest films of all time, The Godfather is in second place. I could perhaps say it’s the greatest fictional (not based on a true story) film of all time. It is also #2 in my list of personal favorites, though it used to be first.
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The Godfather was the highest grossing film of all time when it was in theaters. I think was the original Star Wars that surpassed it. Of course, when you adjust for inflation, Gone With the Wind was and still is the most successful movie ever, thirty years before The Godfather was released. You won’t see that kind of success again with a movie like this, though. The general public has become too adjusted to mindless action flicks that insert a dumb gag every ten minutes. This movie is too smart for today’s audience.
It’s a drama about how a good person becomes evil. When I first saw the movie, I assumed it would be about Don Corleone, the man who is featured on every cover of this movie, but the movie is actually about his son. The famous Don Corleone is the most powerful mob boss in the country, but his influence is threatened in the mid-1940s with the rise of the narcotics trade, which is an enterprise he wants nothing to do with.
The Don’s refusal to participate in the narcotics trade ultimately gets him shot. He survives being shot, but while he’s hospitalized, his reckless hot-headed son, Santino, makes the situation worse by ordering people killed left and right in revenge. This results in Santino getting killed himself. Even though Don Corleone recovers and chooses to end the mob war his son started with a peace treaty, it becomes apparent to him that he can’t stop the narcotics trade from happening, but he also can’t willingly participate in it. So, to secure his family’s safety from the other mob families, he has his son, the main character of the movie, become head of the family and wipe out the heads of the other families.
We see Michael, the Godfather’s son, start as a war hero coming home from WWII, who wants nothing to do with his family’s business, transform into a man who will do literally anything it takes to keep his family safe. After his father is shot, and his older brother is massacred, it becomes apparent to Michael that he can’t stay out of his family’s affairs if he cares about their safety. In the process, he becomes a far more brutal mob boss than his father ever was.
Not only is The Godfather a well-crafted film, but the subject matter alone really makes one think about morality and where we as individuals draw the line. I’ve seen the movie over a dozen times, and I personally get the feeling it’s asking me, “Is it evil to do anything it takes to protect your family?” That’s kind of a hard question to answer. If there are people out there who are coming for your family, is it entirely wrong to go after them first? A lot of street thugs will say this is easy to answer, but civilized people must think about it more deeply. Also, I feel the movie asks the question, “Is it ever a good idea to blend family with business?”
I could talk all day about what this film makes me think about. That’s why I love it so much. For a fictional story, it’s very believable. I actually feel like this could have been a true story, just filmed in a 70s-Hollywood fashion. A film that makes you think is a great film, regardless of the subject matter.
The Godfather was a large inspiration for my novel Remnant. If you’d like to read a sample of the novel, click here: