The Legacy of “The Godfather”

“The Godfather” turns 50 years old.


Staff Graphic by Justin G. Belmonte

The epic crime film known as ¨The Godfather¨ turns 50 years old on March 24. (Original Photo Adapted from Steve Troughton)

On March 24, 1972, one of the greatest movies of all time, The Godfather, was released in theaters. 50 years later, it is still remembered and regarded as an iconic masterpiece in film history. The epic crime film has been referenced countless times for many different reasons. The movie´s iconic lines, which people still quote to this day, the performances, which have become a staple of parody and praise, and cinematography, which has been recreated multiple times through many types of media.

The Godfather was directed by Francis Ford Coppola who co-wrote the film with Mario Puzo, the author of the 1969 original novel. The movie follows the leader of an Italian-American crime family in New York City during the 1940s. Don Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, gives his power of the crime family to his youngest son Michael, played by Al Pacino, who is reluctant to join the family business but is soon drawn deeper into it. For his performance, Brando won his second Oscar for best actor and Pacino´s performance has been regarded as one of his greatest in all of his work.

The Godfather was a box office success that grossed over $243 million worldwide, at a time when movies making just $100 million were extremely rare. The film was met with universal acclaim from critics and audiences, praising every aspect of the movie such as Coppola’s directing, screenplay, scoring, cinematography, the performances of Brando, Pacino, and the supporting cast, realistic portrayal of the mafia, and so much more. The Godfather launched the careers of Coppola, Pacino, and any other newcomers who were a part of the movie´s cast and crew, as well as revitalized Brando´s career after a series of critical and commercial flops during the 1960s. The success of the film led to a trilogy with two sequels, one in 1974 called The Godfather: Part II, which has been regarded as one of the greatest sequels ever made with some calling it superior to the first film. The other, released in 1990, is called The Godfather: Part III which was met with mostly positive reviews, but some criticisms towards the plot and performance of newcomer Sofia Coppola.

The film had a lasting major effect on pop culture and the film industry. In 2012, author Tom Santopietro wrote a study about the influence of the crime film called The Godfather Effect describing how the film managed to help ¨Italianize¨ American culture at a time when Hollywood would depict Italians as stereotypes and not fully realized people in a film. However, it also created the concept that Italian-Americans are associated with the mafia.

The film´s effect on the film industry influenced mainly the crime and gangster genre.  Some famous films like GoodFellas, Infernal Affairs, New Jack City, and more were a result of the movie. The film not only influenced the creation of other crime-related movies but also the crime drama television series, The Sopranos, a show that also focuses on the mafia and that has been regarded as one of the greatest and most influential shows in television history. 

The Godfather is a movie that is forever remembered by audiences and film critics and has been broken down by fans, critics, literary analysts, and more for its acting, character development, writing, and directing. In 1990, it was inducted to be preserved in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for being ¨culturally, historically, or aesthetically, significant,¨ illustrating how important and impactful this film has been on American culture.