MOTW: What Makes "The Godfather" One of the Best Films of All Time?

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures
April 1st, 2013

What Makes "The Godfather" One of the Best Films of All Time?


Love it or hate it, it's hard to deny "The Godfather" is a classic. This film has entertained several generations of moviegoers since its release in 1972. In addition to being extremely popular with viewers, "The Godfather" has won over many critics. It has graced the top spot in several awards shows, earning Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards as well as Golden Globes for Best Screenplay and Best Picture - Drama.


The film may have won the aforementioned awards in the early 1970s, but it continues to draw great acclaim today. Currently, "The Godfather" is at the top of Metacritic's Top 100 list and has also earned an incredible 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. "Entertainment Weekly" named "The Godfather" the best film of all time, and based on a survey at "Empire Magazine," the public agrees with that first-place ranking.


So, what exactly is it about "The Godfather" that continues to draw in audiences over forty years after its release? The answer to that question depends on who you ask. The film's versatile nature has made it a favorite among a wide range of demographics, and several elements have proven especially popular among viewers.


Amazing Soundtrack


Audiences often fail to realize the extent to which a soundtrack can make or break a movie. This is certainly the case with "The Godfather," which would not have been nearly as effective a film without the inclusion of Nino Rota's unforgettable score. There is only one vocal song on the track, but it is a strong one. The remainder of the soundtrack consists of classical songs influenced by a dark, jazzy sound. The music coincides perfectly with the development of the plot, adding suspense and excitement throughout the film. For this reason, the soundtrack for "The Godfather" won several distinctive awards.


Great Lines


The screenplay for "The Godfather" is wonderful not only for its perfect timing and depth of characters but also for the many clever and humorous lines it includes. These quotes have been repeated again and again for four decades now, in addition to being lampooned in multiple parodies. Perhaps the best thing about the amazing lines included in the screenplay for "The Godfather" is the constant sense of irony. The perfect example of this involves the Don explaining that he's not a murderer while smelling a flower. This quote encapsulates the irony of what a mafioso considers justice while breaking through stereotypes related to the way in which members of the mafia are supposed to act.


Setup for Sequels


Sequels have an unfortunate stereotype of being created just to net a profit, as opposed to creating a second work of art. While the sequels to "The Godfather" were certainly profitable, they broke the mold by actually being great films in and of themselves. For those who can't bear to see each movie end, succeeding installments allow the excitement to continue for a bit longer. Of course, the epic tale has to come to an end at some point, but at least that time can be stalled with the inclusion of two excellent sequels.




There's a reason "The Godfather" remains popular after four decades. Yes, the plot is good, and the acting is even better. However, the appeal extends beyond these two important elements. The quality that really makes this film endearing is its timelessness, which stems, in part, from many issues to which today's viewers can relate. For example, there's the conflict between being loyal to one's family versus doing what's right. Even in an age of mobile technology and social media, people still experience this sense of conflict. Beyond this basic theme, many foreign policy buffs have theorized that the film serves as a great parable for foreign policy in the twenty-first century. This theory points to the Don's aging as parallel to the slow decline of America as a superpower, fighting for prominence in a world that is changing faster than people can comprehend.


"The Godfather" combines all the best that great filmmakers, screenwriters, and actors can provide with their talents. In addition to entertaining millions of viewers, the film laid the groundwork for several other wonderful movies that followed. Lauded by critics and audience members alike, it's clear "The Godfather" will continue to be highly influential for years to come.