Best Pictures: The 1970s

 The problem with ranking films based on their endurability is that the issue of popularity comes up. In other words, does a film endure based on its popularity?

I raise these issues because my choice for more timeless Best Picture winner of the 1970s is also one of the most popular: The Godfather.

Director Francis Ford Coppola’s epic film about a mafia family in the 1940s helped launch what Jaws and Star Wars would later expand: the blockbuster. Moreover, the American Film Institute’s 2007 list of best films of all time ranked The Godfather at Number 2. Considering the critical and commercial success of 1973 plus the continued success up to present day, I have to consider why the film has endured.

How does the film relate to its era? How timeless is the film’s topic/plot/theme? When Coppola first accepted the director job, he told producer Robert Evans he wanted to expand on the novel’s mafia stories by turning the Corleone family into a metaphor for capitalism. While this theme is hidden behind the operatic style and violence, I can see what Coppola meant. The characters carry on the tradition of antiheroes from the 1960s. While their criminal behavior makes them less than sympathetic, I find myself rooting for Don Corleone, specifically when he denounces drug-dealing, revealing he has a moral code, however warped it might be. The capitalism metaphor carries over more in The Godfather II, in the young Corleone’s (Robert De Niro’s) subplot. As we watch Vito descend into his mobster persona, we have to wonder, “What other professions could uneducated immigrants get at the time?”

How enduring is the craft of the picture? The Godfather inspired the 1970s’ took the epic saga to new heights – so high that Heaven’s Gate killed the genre for close to a decade. As I stated in my previous post, gangster films, period films, and epic family films had all been done before and have been done since. What sets The Godfather apart is difficult to describe. But I can say that I cannot start this film without finishing it; I can’t say the same thing about many other three-hour-plus films.


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