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“The Godfather” a Film by Francis Ford Coppola Essay



The Godfather (1972) reflects a complicated and superb saga of gangsters. The film has three parts. Gangster films were common in 1930s. The Godfather emerged as a new form of gangster films. It elevated the film and reflected a gangster figure who became a tragic hero. The film has a rich and excellent character development and acting techniques, which make it enthralling. One can observe choreography, good reflection of the period, romantic scenes, and the highest heights of gangster violence. The film has bleak and dark scenes alongside vivid scenes, which “reflect perfect works of cinematography as developed by Gordon Willis” (Dirks, n.d). The Godfather popularized phrases like “My father made him an offer he couldn’t refuse” (Dirks, n.d).


The Godfather is a film that offers an insight into society, social structures, and social relations of supremacy, violence, honor, crime, justice, corruption, and other forms of evils in America society in the 1930s. The first part of the film reflects Corleone’s crime. It is Don or the Godfather (Marlon Brando) who controls the city in the mid 1940s. However, the Italian immigrants arrive and run a drug crime syndicate in the city. There are also ‘honorable crime family’ who cannot join the gang because of social exclusion and prejudice. This is a metaphor, which reflects different ways of pursuing the elusive American dream. It shows capitalism, profit strategies, and government agencies’ failed systems.

The Godfather reflects how the Mafia organization runs, both within and outside the family. One can also note that the rising wave of crime threatens the dominance of Corleone. The Mafia consists of drug lords, who run modern crime syndicates. Michael, a US Marine Corps in WWII, takes over and becomes the brutal leader. While the film portrays family loyalty and blood relations in such a cruel society, it also reflects how vengeance, brutality, and killings lead to the ultimate downfall of the family. Domestic, family, and home life captures romantic scenes in the lives of family members. These elements of family life become intertwined with other dreadful acts of murder and violence. So many murders occur in the film, as well as scenes of food and drinks (Ebert, 1997).

The story captures Mafia life from within. It shows that the Mafia has a secret, allure, and spell. These elements have contributed to give the Mafia a different perception among the public. The Mafia exudes elements of a real power and become an authoritarian power. Power and honor are critical and revolve around the Godfather. The only known traitors are villains. The family adheres to a simple rule as Michael puts it, “Don’t ever take sides against the family” (Dirks, n.d).

It is imperative to note that the initial location is in a bleak, closed room. The day is significant in the life of the family because Vito Corleone’s daughter is wedding, and on such a day, a Sicilian cannot refuse any sensible appeal. At that moment, a man comes for help from Vito, and Vito asks why he failed to come straight away to him. The response captures the failed criminal justice of America and the power and honor of the Godfather. “I went to the police, like a good American,” the man says. The Godfather’s response will highlight the whole film: “Why did you go to the police? Why didn’t you come to me first? What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully?” (Dirks, n.d).

The Godfather offers instant and alternative solution to the public. No one wants to go against Vito. As time moves on, other scenes emerge and reflect darkness of the situation. They intertwine with the ongoing wedding. One can now note that the wedding is critical because several major characters shall have been introduced by the end of it. Viewers also learn critical roles and character traits of these characters. This is a skillful way of filmmaking as the director introduces his characters and brings viewers to the reality of the Godfather’s world.

The film lacks a fixed formula, but one can notice that power retains its traditional elements in which it goes from one generation to the next. The film script sets scenes for events, which will take place later on in the film. For instance, Johnny Fontane is the miserable entertainer who becomes the Hollywood star. The scene with the undertaker also captures this “someday, and that day may never come, I will ask a favor of you” (Ebert, 1997). When the day comes, it surprises viewers because Don Vito does not ask for violence, but requests the undertaker to spare the woman from seeing their murdered son’s corpse. The erroneous phone calls of a woman that leads to the murder of Sonny. Viewers must reflect these events in the film in order to relate them together and understand the relations between scenes.

One may wonder about the role of Vito’s wife in the film or even about her real name. The film reflects her case as insignificant character. She is a fat old woman whose role is to pose for pictures with Vito in the wedding, but lacks any significant role in events that shape her husband’s world. Women have extremely limited roles in this film. Sonny is a character who has perfected the habit of using and discarding women and shows no regard for his wife. Connie, the Godfather’s daughter has no significant role and is unnoticed in the family. In fact, her husband is not even accepted in the family business. This happens even when Connie’s husband is killed in a scene where Michael callously tells lies about the death.

It is ironical that the title, The Godfather refers to Michael rather than his father, Don. When the film starts, Michael is not involved in “the family business and he has other plans of getting married to Kay Adams” (Ebert, 1997). However, this changes when Michael saves Don at the hospital and tells him, “I’m with you now” (Ebert, 1997).

The cop in this film is corrupt, and Michael kills him. Michael is ruthless, but acts as the Godfather during the christening of Connie’s child. One cannot fail to notice the brilliant nature of juxtaposition used in these scenes. Michael cleverly arranges the murder of rival gang leaders while at the church listening to priest’s recitation. These are vicious and cruel acts of murder, which allow Michael to confirm his new title as the Godfather.

Family loyalty is a critical theme in this film. While trust is also present in the film, loyalty overrides it. Michael cannot trust any other person with his intentions of murdering rival gang leaders. The baptism massacre is clearly developed to reflect skilful art of filmmaking. The baptism period provides a perfect alibi for Michael. At the same time, it makes Michael a Godfather of the child and the gang.

Vito Corleone serves as the honorable figure in The Godfather. He is old and opposes drug business. Vito notes that the society does not care about drug, liquor, women, or gambling. He considers drugs as dirty business and the Mafia would not allow drugs into its world. Instead, there would be victimless crimes with swift sense of justice.

The director cleverly presents The Godfather in a manner that makes viewers sympathetic. One can observe that the gang is not so caring and not so compassionate, and the Vito family is not any good than the rest in society. However, when the old man suffers heart attack and dies, viewers feel that the era has ended.

Viewers should not fail to appreciate cinematography techniques of darkness, which is rich and highly expressive. The characters’ faces support this dark setting. For instance, major characters like Duvall, Brando, and Pacino appeal to viewers in different manners. On the other hand, other characters who associate with these major characters display striking fleshy bodies, thick lined hard faces, deep-set eyes, and protruding jaws. For instance, Tessio, the frightening enforcer dances with a child during the wedding. Tessio’s presence creates fear and exudes a possibility of violence. However, toward the end of the film, viewers can see Tessio in bright light as he pleads for mercy, which makes him vulnerable. This is ironical given his appearance and body.

Don has become old and wise, and he realizes the failed justice system and the way of men. Viewers recognize Brando (Don) with his characteristically props, a cat on his lap, padded cheeks, and a bulldog look. He is the godfather who has enormous dangerous power, which requires swift dispensation of ‘real’ justice. Don controls who is punished or protected. As a result, Michael learns from him that he should never trust words of men, speak in front of other strangers, and take the advice but make his own judgment. The rich and motivating film has several superior acts and characters with deep personalities. Nina Rota brings romantic elements to the film, although women play insignificant roles in The Godfather.

At the end of the film, family henchmen come to congratulate Michael because of all the successful brutal murders of other gang leaders, traitors, and enemies. These henchmen elevate Michael to the position of a gang leader as they shake and kiss his hand. This transforms Michael to a godfather, just like his father, something he had attempted to escape previously. Symbolically, the role of women remains passive as the door shut on Kay.

The door blocks and eliminates Kay from the scene, from Michael, and separates their worlds. Overall, The Godfather is a film that reflects a closed society of gangs, failed criminal justice system, and illegitimate attempts to fix it. Hence, the film wants viewers to evaluate the Mafia as a distinct organization that can only thrive in a failed society and run on its own. This makes viewers to sympathize with Don and make him admirable character, and viewers feel sad upon his sudden death. A great deal goes on in the office of Don. Many people seek help from him rather than the government.


Dirks, T. (n.d). (1972). Web.

Ebert, R. (1997). . Web.

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"“The Godfather” a Film by Francis Ford Coppola." IvyPanda, 30 May 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/the-godfather-a-film-by-francis-ford-coppola/.

1. IvyPanda. "“The Godfather” a Film by Francis Ford Coppola." May 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-godfather-a-film-by-francis-ford-coppola/.


IvyPanda. "“The Godfather” a Film by Francis Ford Coppola." May 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-godfather-a-film-by-francis-ford-coppola/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "“The Godfather” a Film by Francis Ford Coppola." May 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-godfather-a-film-by-francis-ford-coppola/.


IvyPanda. (2020) '“The Godfather” a Film by Francis Ford Coppola'. 30 May.

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