I started writing a short history for each of the Top 100 films on the American Film Institutes list, and then I realized that the AFI list is problematic for a few different reasons. It only represents the opinions of film critics, it stays within the boundaries of Hollywood and American born films, and it tends to pander towards the classics with films that were extremely important but don’t necessarily represent the opinions of those that watch them, the movie going public.
So, I present the exact same project with the Top 100 movies from The Internet Movie Database’s Top 250 list. The IMDB list is a much greater tool, and one I’ve used in the past because it’s dynamic. Over the course of the years it has changed substantially adding new films, removing old films and generally reflecting the opinions of those that watch the films.
You may have read my short summary and history of the number one film on IMDB, The Godfather, so it’s probably no surprise to see at number three, the 1974 sequel, The Godfather II. It takes a truly epic franchise for the sequel to any film to ever surpass its origins. Star Wars pulled it off. So did The Lord of the Rings and a very small handful of others, but the original masterpiece sequel was The Godfather II. Made very shortly after the first film won a slew of awards and took home a decent chunk of change at the box office, The Godfather II takes off in telling the story of events immediately following the first film, while also delving deeper into the past of Vito Corleone and his rise to power.
The motives for Vito’s life in America, from the roots of his family’s history in Sicily and the ruthlessness of the mafia toward his father, to the emigration and subsequently finding his way hard in America as well due to organized crime. In the end, his solution is to join the procession, committing his first crime with Clemenza, stealing a rug.
All the while we’re learning of Vito’s past, we’re also learning of Michael Corleone’s struggle to keep the family and his business afloat among rivals and outside interests, most notably the government’s. The division between father and son, not only as a filming technique but in the final scene of the film layers an ironic commentary on the nature of the “family” where even the blood relatives are at each other’s throats, figuratively and metaphorically.
The script for The Godfather II was written by Puzo and Coppola after the success of the first film. The second is considered by many to be the greatest sequel ever filmed. Not only did it win the Academy Award for Best Picture as a sequel (Only The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King also did this), but it won alongside the first film, garnering two best pictures for the same series of films. Robert DeNiro also garnered fame for his win as best supporting actor for the same role that Marlon Brando won best actor two years prior, the only time that’s ever happened as well.
It’s list of awards and top 100 lists is long, but most notably, The Godfather II helped to place the pair of films at the top of the list of film franchises in history, defining a generation to come of pop culture and countless spinoffs. Any film where Al Pacino and Robert Deniro star and never even have to be on screen at the same time deserves to be in the upper echelons of American Film.