By now it’s all become a part of our collective cultural memory — the horse’s head showing up in the bed, the making of an offer that can’t be refused, and that haunting score by Nino Rota. What some don’t remember, after all the plotting, double-dealing and bloodshed, is that The Godfather, released four decades ago back in 1972, was one of the great family dramas ever filmed. And not just crime family either. The dynamics of the Corleone clan would be worthy of study in advanced courses in psychology, not to mention undertaking.
What is most astonishing about The Godfather, which won Oscars for best picture, lead actor (Marlon Brando) and screenplay adaptation (Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola), is that two years later The Godfather, Part II topped it with another slew of Academy Awards, including best picture. Coppola, who won that year for director and earned another statue with Puzo for adaptation, delved even deeper into the family story, setting up a multi-generational saga as deep and satisfying as anything in modern literature.
All of this pretty much qualifies the second film as the unquestioned best sequel of all time. And, of course, it triggers a Smackdown to find out which of these two extraordinary films is the best. […]