Godfather: Part I, The

Critics poll
21 st
Directors poll
7 th

Godfather: Part I, The

Year: 1972 Country: USA
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Featuring Marlon Brando / Al Pacino / James Caan


The first of Francis Ford Coppola’s epic trilogy about the Corleone crime family is the disturbing story of a son drawn inexorably into his father’s Mafia affairs.

“Certainly it is a masterpiece of the gangster genre, but The Godfather has the force that it does because it is the story of a father and sons.”
James Monaco, American Film Now, 1984

Adapting a bestseller by Mario Puzo, young Italian-American director Francis Ford Coppola – then known primarily for low-budget countercultural films such as The Rain People – fashioned one of New Hollywood’s signature works, for a few years the most commercially successful film ever made.

Starring Marlon Brando as Don Corleone, an ageing Mafia ‘Godfather’, and Al Pacino as Michael, the youngest son who takes up the mantle despite his better intentions, The Godfather is a vast fresco of family life that is also a compelling account of the ruthless machinations of a criminal empire.

Revisiting the 1930s Hollywood trend for gangster movies, Coppola moved the genre in a grandiose, near-operatic new direction, assisted by Nino Rota’s lilting score and cinematography by Gordon Willis that’s full of inky darknesses.

Another grandly conceived portrait of a leonine patriarch – Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard (1963), starring Burt Lancaster – was an important influence on Coppola’s classic.