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The Movie “The Godfather” by Francis Ford Coppola

The Godfather released in 1972 is a classic film of the crime and mafia genre, based on the novel of the same name by Mario Puzo. It is directed by the director Francis Ford Coppola and stars well-known and talented actors including Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duval, and many others. The film was both a critical and commercial success, going on to win three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. The movie is widely recognized as one of the best of all time and redefined the genre of film about crime and gangsters by presenting psychological depth to criminals as well as portraying the stories of immigrants in America. The film holds tremendous cultural influence known as the “Godfather effect,”, inspiring other well-known films in the genre such as Goodfellas and introducing a wide variety of cultural gags and phrases that have been used in media since (Gambino).

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The plot centers around the Corleone Italian-American crime family based in New York. Its leader is the revered Godfather Vito Corleone that manages the family business and does favors for associates and members of the community. Vito has two sons, the oldest Sonny who is reckless but is being groomed to become the next head of the family, and Michael which is an ex-marine and civilian. The Corleone family is entangled into a conflict with other mafia families, which leads to a failed assassination of Vito, beginning a crime war. Sonny takes leadership, and Michael, realizing he must revenge his father murders the head of the rival mafia family and a corrupt police chief, then forced to flee the country. Eventually, the recovered Vito steps down as Godfather, realizing he is too old, with Michael returning to the country to take his place as Sonny is brutally murdered. Michael assumes control of the family and orchestrating a synchronous cold-blooded murder of all his enemies and traitors. At the end of the movie as capos of the Godfather gather, it is evident, to the horror of his civilian wife and sister, that Michael has become the very person he swore to never be, the new Godfather of the Corleone crime family (The Godfather).

There are several recurrent themes present in the film. Family and loyalty are the primary element as the Corleones are not just an extended biological family, but a crime family. Even the hitmen and capos of the organization are seen as members of the family and demonstrate great love and care for each other and the Godfather. The family values loyalty of its members, rewarding those who choose to dedicate or sacrifice themselves for the Godfather, while harshly punishing any dissenters. The family theme is deeply ingrained in the culture of the Italian Americans, which is an underlying but important thematic of the film as well, since crime families stem from decades of historical rivalries both in Italy and the U.S. and are essentially an important social unit and connection for many characters in the film.

Another important theme in The Godfather is organized crime in which the Corelones are involved. The film presents these gangsters as highly civil and honorable, with the criminal enterprise functioning as a business. Violence and revenge are executed precisely, and there are both acceptable and unacceptable practices that the Godfather can take without tarnishing the family’s reputation. There is a line in the movie, “I don’t like violence… I’m a businessman. Murder’s a big expense” (The Godfather). Organized crime is greatly shown to be involved with politics and legitimate business, which present important questions about the morality of various societal institutions which are meant to be legal and transparent.

Works Cited

Gambino, Megan. “What is The Godfather Effect?” Smithsonian Magazine, 2012, Web.

The Godfather. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, performance by Marlon Brando et al., Paramount Pictures, 1972.

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