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The Godfather (1972): An Epic in Family, Decisions, and Duality of Power

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CHRIS SAAVEDRA ‘26
An offer you can’t refuse.

This is a film that needs no introduction. Arguably no other movie has been more ingrained in popular culture and consistently rated as a cinematic classic than Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 iconic film The Godfather.

An adaptation of Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel of the same name, The Godfather was co-written between Puzo and Coppola. It stars an ensemble cast of Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, and many others in the stories and escapades of the Corleone crime family. From its compelling storytelling and the brilliant and iconic performances by its cast, it has certainly made its mark in cinematic history, constantly being celebrated as one of the greatest films ever made. Beyond its memorable lines and scenes, the movie offers profound insight into the dynamics of powers, family relationships, and complexities of the human condition and experience.

The movie follows the criminal empire of Vito Corleone. Vito is the respected leader of one of the most ruthless and powerful mafia families in New York. Vito has four children: Sonny, Fredo, Michael, and their sister Connie. The family also utilizes their lawyer, consigliere, and adopted son Tom Hagen. Michael is reluctant to follow in his father’s footsteps and actively distances himself from the family business. He is a young decorated World War II hero, attends college, and has an American girlfriend, Kay. Then, sudden attacks and tragedies begin to fall on the family: Vito is injured in an assassination attempt and Sonny is brutally killed in a setup by the families’ rivals. Not long after, Michael is sent into hiding in Sicily for his safety.

After Vito secures a peace deal with the other mafia families, Michael safely returns to New York. He rekindles his relationship with Kay and marries her, all the while working to cement himself and realize his destiny as the new head of the Corleone family.

At the heart of the film, The Godfather is a story of family. The Corleones, while deeply involved in the criminal underworld, emphasize the importance of familial bonds and connections.

Vito, for however ruthless and heartless he may be to his enemies, always knows that family is essential in life. His remark, “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man,” encourages audiences to reflect on the enduring importance of family, a key point even in varying modern family dynamics. More often than not, your family knows you better than anyone will ever know, and will love you unconditionally with no strings attached. They are your friends for life, friends you can be sure will have your back and bear with you through thick and thin. Thus, the film exemplifies the guiding force and love of family, and the importance to protect those you love and care for.

Furthermore, every character in the film is defined by the choices they make. Ranging from Michael’s reluctant decision to become the new don or Sonny’s uncontrolled rage, each decision they make resonates throughout the rest of the story. Michael’s calculated and calm approach to problems helps him get far in the world in the mafia, while Sonny’s impulsive anger and spontaneous thinking leads to his demise. Through their actions, the film implores the audience to consider the consequences of the choices we make in our day-to-day lives. When we make decisions, it’s important to think of the effect it’ll have on ourselves and others. It might not affect us now—not for weeks or even years— but there’s no telling that it will never come back to haunt you. What goes around comes around, and you should consider all the outcomes and possible consequences of your decisions before acting on them.

The film also explores the complex duality of power and force. On one hand, once Michael succeeds his father to become the don of the family, he is elevated as one of the most powerful mob leaders in the country. On the other hand, he is now forced to defend the family against rival families and groups who work to bring upon their downfall. Michael’s capacity to assume leadership underscores the necessity of resilience and adaptability in navigating life’s challenges. If you intend to overcome adversity or obstacles, you must be ready to adapt to the circumstances of challenges, or you’ll be swept away and succumb to defeat. You must be resourceful and assertive, utilizing all the elements and resources at your disposal to reach your goals and objectives. With great power comes great responsibility, and it’s what you will do with such power that will determine your future and destiny.

For over half a century, The Godfather remains a celebrated and iconic magnum opus in the public psyche. It has become immortalized in cinema and popular culture, with countless memorable scenes, characters, and lines. Its exploration of themes ranging from power dynamics and family bonds to the consequences of choices and the complexities of responsibility provide a profound discernment into the human experience. Viewers are invited to an experience that extracts valuable insights that transcend the cinematic realm, offering timeless wisdom for navigating the intricate experiences that we face.

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About the Contributor
CHRIS SAAVEDRA ‘26, Staff Writer
Chris Saavedra is a staff writer for the Eagle's Eye and is in his sophomore year. He is an intense movie buff and has a deep admiration and interests in movies and cinema, and is a member of the Paranormal Society. He loves to spend time and play with his dog. Whenever he has his free time, he loves to watch action, comedy, and crime films. He is also a major fan of the Backstreet Boys and OneRepublic.
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