Each week, this column will cover one film on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest American films of all time, covering my thoughts on the film and whether or not I think it belongs on the list. You can also see my personal ranking here. This week’s film is #2 on the list: The Godfather (1972).
As much as I’d love to offer up a counterargument to Henry’s Best Picture column from yesterday, I have to admit that—unlike my previous AFI column for The Godfather Part II—I love The Godfather. Sure, I could quibble with my biggest reservation: the pacing in the film’s midsection where Michael takes a narrative detour to Italy, but in some ways, I find that the flaws improve the film overall. Instead of being an “objectively perfect” piece of cinema (e.g. Citizen Kane—the only film placed higher on the AFI list), The Godfather has rougher edges and doesn’t feel timeless in the way a lot of films on the list do, but this imperfect quality brings a sense of personality and approachability to a film that’s earned a reputation for being a legendary monolith. Every element is astounding on its own—the script is packed with quotable lines (most notably, “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse”), the score is notorious, and the performances (especially Brando’s) are often cited as career bests for everyone involved—but put together, they form one of the most culturally significant films ever made, and for good reason.
Does It Belong on the List?
I may have axed Part II, to the dismay of many, but The Godfather more than earns its place on the list (even if #2 is much too high for me, personally).