My Favorite Movies – The Godfather, Part II

“There are many things my father taught me here in this room. He taught me: keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” – Al Pacino as Michael Corleone

My Favorite Movies

The Godfather, Part II (1974)

There is no bigger movie list cliché than including The Godfather in your top ten. It’s the ultimate movie list movie – a spectacular film that just so happened to be a box office and critical success, winning numerous Oscars and kicking off one of the most revered trilogies in the history of film. Putting The Godfather in your top ten movies is like listing The Bible as a favorite book: predictable, easy and, in most cases, completely justified.

The Godfather, Part IIAn equally damning cliché, I’m sure, is shunning the easy choice of The Godfather and instead choosing its sequel, The Godfather Part II. This is classic list psychology – like knowing that Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the obvious (and justifiable) choice and choosing The White Album or Revolver instead. It shows that you’re smart enough to love the trilogy, but smart enough not to follow the party line.

I’m guilty. But it’s not just list aesthetics that causes me to choose the sequel. I just like The Godfather Part II much more than I like the original.

It’s better. It’s just better.

First of all, while I love Marlon Brando in the original, I think putting Al Pacino on his own helped to steer attention away from the old guard and into a more unpredictable, unrefined character – a man who was out on his own for the first time, unknowingly leading a bloody and dangerous group, struggling to right the wrongs committed by his father while at the same time committing the same wrongs, both unknowingly and knowingly.

Second, it’s more real. What makes the movie more spectacular than the original (a sequel better than an original? Unheard of!) is that it’s even more complex than its predecessor. It’s got more angles, more stories and more moments of moral clarity. Michael slaps Kay for having an abortion (originally described as a miscarriage) so that another child isn’t born into a murderous, horrible family. Fredo tries to exact revenge on Michael – a revenge that nearly ends in murder itself. And the ultimate in immoral movie decisions, Michael orders his own brother killed on Lake Tahoe for betraying his family and himself.

And that’s just the main storyline! The Godfather Part II is made brilliant by its flashbacks. We’re talking about Robert DeNiro, here – playing Vito, learning Sicilian for the part and setting the stage for every waking moment throughout all three movies.

The flashbacks were present in the Mario Puzo’s The Godfather (a novel I read and enjoyed quite a bit, thanks) and are crucial to the story. And while the film was wonderful, the flashbacks clarify the motives and history. Never has one actor been so crucial in explaining a pop culture phenomenon as Robert DeNiro as Vito Corleone.

The Godfather Part II is one of the few movies on my list I don’t own. Don’t ask me why – I’ve just never gotten around to purchasing it. That’s probably for the best – it will be quite a while until I can comfortably watch the movie with Sierra in the room. The Godfather trilogy is not sanitized by any means, and the violence – while crucial to the story – isn’t for young children.

But for those nights that Sierra heads to bed early and I have an extra three hours to spend watching a family more dysfunctional than any I’ve ever seen, I can always rest assured that I’ll be able to find it somewhere on television. Ready to introduce itself to a new generation of clichéd list makers. And ready to introduce itself to a new generation of film lovers.

Top Five Movies that Sierra Can’t Watch Until She’s 15.

1. The Godfather Trilogy – See above for a general description. This trilogy didn’t make my previous “Trilogy list” because of the weakness (relatively) of the third.

2. Glengarry, Glen Ross (1992) – I saw this at a young age. My mom and I made a game of counting the times that one of the actors dropped the “F-bomb.” Oh, to be young again.

3. The Departed – (2006) A great mix of cursing and violence, The Departed took sensibly spaced blood and gore and mixed it with a phenomenal story.

4. American Beauty (1999) – Let’s not give her any ideas, please.

5. Trainspotting (1996) – See American Beauty.

This was lovingly handwritten on February 21st, 2008