Film Review: The Godfather

Enko and I start our movie nights with an epic entry from 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. 

Titled as a “pulp fiction gangster opera” by Quintessence, this film completely lives up to the hype.

Film: The Godfather
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Release Date: 1971

The True

Here’s something that is definitely true: this film exposes the truth about the life of a gangster. The movie opens with a scene of opulence and celebration. Don Corleone is certainly treated with respect–almost as a messianic representative for all of his “godchildren.”  The wedding is but one scene that depicts opulence and stately surroundings. However, each circumstance is always sort of placed on the edge of a knife. For example, Don Corleone can’t even seem to get a day off for his daughter’s wedding…though, when thinking about his character, I don’t know that he would even take the day off if he could. It doesn’t seem that he can be Don Corleone without also being the Godfather. The feeling of certainty of power leads directly to Sonny’s complete and gruesome slaughter. Even the peace of playing in the garden brings with it the presence of death. The truth behind this lifestyle is that it is a very beautiful path towards total annihilation.

The Good

Coppola does a fantastic job presenting characters whose obvious only saving grace is the love they feel for their families. With characters who all have internal struggles between good and evil, and a clear dialogue of where that morality line really lies (like with Don Corleone’s refusal to get into the drug business), it is clear that the familial love shared by the characters may well be the only thing that they like about themselves at all. This love certainly gets mishandled at times, but it is an element of good that balances the dark in this film.

Don Corleone and Michael Corleone in a hospital scene, with the symbolism of the I.V. showing light and dark. This could represent quite literally Don Corleone’s internal struggle between good and evil. Image retrieved from:

The Beautiful

Just like the juxtapositions of life and death in the scenery, and the balance of good and evil within the characters, the elements of beauty are similarly treated within this film. The most opulence, power, and amount of possessions all belong to those who are the worst criminals. A beautiful plate of food can be the centerpiece of a discussion of mutiny. A prize horse becomes a verdict by a new jury that matters most. Beauty is always countered by criminal activity, and the two never exist side-by-side forever. One always wins out, because of the choices the characters make: going back to criminal activity instead of leaving the game. Beauty is always the price to pay.

Putting it All Together

This film is beautiful, pulling intimate interactions between characters and larger-than-life circumstances together. The result is a cautionary tale with fairy tale or legend-like qualities, and should not be missed by anyone who enjoys a rich movie experience.


Do you agree with my assessment? Or disagree? Let me know in the comments! Until next time, happy watching!



Source for adventurous reading:
Quintessence. 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. New York, NY: Universe Publishing. 2016. Print.

Featured film:
The Godfather. Francis Ford Coppola. Paramount, 1972.

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”
-Ernest Hemingway


  • Mitch Wagner says:

    Maybe the book by Mario Puzo should be put in the L.A.B.

    • Margaret Nelson says:

      I completely agree!! Of course, the next question becomes: What sort of adventures does one have after reading Puzo? It could be anything from wine-tasting to a ticket to Sicily…I see no downsides here!

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