The Great Debates: The Godfather vs. The Godfather Part II

Howdy Everybody!   I’m throwing another feature into the mix. We’ll see how quickly I run out of these, or if it degenerates into just a movie poll thread eventually or something…   But my intention, at least at the onset here, is to give us a spot to discuss and debate some of the great movie questions of our time.

To start us off? I thought… lets lead with the big one. This is a debate and a discussion that I’ve had several times personally, and I know that people actively take sides. It’s one of the best movie debates ever, because they’re both incredible, incredible movies. Well, I want to hear which side YOU stand on… and why.

Which movie is better, Godfather I or Godfather II?  Click through to read the “Tale of the Tape”.

The Godfather

Stars: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Richard S. Castellano, Diane Keaton, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Abe Vigoda, Al Lettieri, Gianni Russo, Sterling Hayden, Lenny Montana, Richard Conte, Al Martino, John Marley, Alex Rocco, Morgana King, Corrado Gaipa, Johnny Martino, Victor Rendina, Simonetta Stefanelli, Tom Rosqui, Joe Spinell, Richard Bright

Acclaim: AFI #2 Greatest Film of all time, BFI #4 (Tied with Part II), National Film Registry 1990, #2 on IMDb’s Top 250, #1 on Metacritic, 100% fresh Rotten Tomatoes

Academy Awards:

Won: Best Actor (Brando), Best Picture, Best Screenplay (Puzo/Coppola)

Nominated For: Best Supporting Actor: (Duvall, Caan, Pacino), Best Director (Coppola) Best Costumes, Best Editing, Best Score, Best Sound

What’s in its favor?  Closer to the tommy-gun toting mafia wars period that Americans romanticize. Michael’s character arc. Brando creating an indelible character. Apollonia. “Bada-BING!” The Horse’s head. The family (both relatives and crime) has affection for each other, and loyalty. “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”.

The Godfather is a fantastic period piece epic that feels completely authentic. Mixed throughout its tale of Mafia succession and supremacy is the story of a Father and his sons, and how they pay for his sins.

The Godfather: Part II

Stars: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Lee Strasberg, Michael V. Gazzo, Morgana King, G. D. Spradlin, Richard Bright, Gastone Moschin, Troy Donahue, Dominic Chianese, Joe Spinell, Bruno Kirby, Al Martino, James Caan

Acclaim: AFI #32 Greatest Film of All Time, BFI #4 (Tied with Part II), National Film Registry 1993, #3 on IMDb’s Top 250, 98% on Rotten Tomatoes

Academy Awards

Won: Best Picture, Best Director (Coppola), Best Supporting Actor (DeNiro), Best Score, Best Art Direction, Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominated For: Best Actor (Pacino), Best Supporting Actor (Gazzo, Strasberg) Best Actress (Shire) Best Costumes

What’s in its favor? Frankie Pentangeli. Hymen Roth. “This *nght* is the business *nght* we’ve chosen!” Michael’s spider senses. The final shot on the park bench. The silhouette of the fishing boat. “I know it was you Fredo!” John Cazale’s performance. Robert De Niro making us believe he’s a young Marlon Brando. The haunting final shot.

The Godfather: Part II is a cold-hearted killer of a film. An unflinching look at the cost of selling your soul. Michael’s ends not only fail to justify his means, he’s lost track of what the ends are.

_______________________________________________________________________

These are two of the most acclaimed films of all time. A legendary film, followed by what is undeniably one of the greatest sequels ever. So what do you think? Which gets your vote? And perhaps more importantly, WHY? Whose family are you with, I or II?

“Senator… you can have my answer now, if you like.”

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66 thoughts on “The Great Debates: The Godfather vs. The Godfather Part II

  1. Speaking to what’s objective, I think The Godfather has ingrained itself in pop culture consciousness in a way that The Godfather Pt. II just hasn’t. Bang out a list of moments from either film referenced in other spheres of pop culture, and I guarantee that 90% of them will end up being from the first film. It’s iconic in a much bigger way.

    That doesn’t necessarily make it “better”– in fact I’d argue that the second film has superior craftsmanship– but those elements make it stick, which is why I prefer it to the second movie.

    • Thinking… mulling that… Yeah. You’re right pretty much, right?

      “I know it was you Fredo” might be the big pop culture moment from II, whereas I has tons of them, from “Bada Bing” and “Sleeps with the fishes” to the horses head to “Make him an offer he can’t refuse”

      Good point, Andy, I think you’re on to something. Pop culture HAS latched on to I more…

      • And I think for a number of people that’s going to single out Part I as the winner by default. Frankly, you can’t really go wrong with either of them (though if I had one objective argument in favor of the first over the second installment, it’d be that The Godfather works better as a standalone film), but everyone here knows that. They’re both great. But Part I is almost definitely more widely remembered and respected than Part II.

  2. You might as well ask me which one of my sons I love more. Can’t do it. Both are great. Brando and the rise of Michael in the first one. DeNiro and the rise of Vito in the second. Sonny, Fredo. Dammit man, I love both of my kids the same. And that’s how I feel about these movies. I will watch either one of them whenever they are on. So, you ask me which one I like better? No answer for you. Keep up the great work Fogs.

    Diggs

  3. Part II is a masterpiece, no doubt about that. But it’s not a self-sufficient film: you can only appreciate it if you saw the first one. I.E. “The Godfather” is The Movie, it’s so original and iconic. In short, you have to love part I in order to enjoy and love pt. II even more.

    Plus… The horse head! That’s popular culture right now, anyone can quote that scene and be sure that everyone is going to understand. Not that sure about “The Godfather pt. II”.

    • It’s still crazy to me… do you know that’s a REAL horse’s head? LOL. Coppola would get KILLED for that nowadays. He had it shipped up from Mexico in ice, I believe the story goes.

      I definitely has a higher place in pop culture, no doubt.

      And it definitely adds a LOT to II to have seen I, but I’ve defended II as a stand alone film a couple of times here… would you get the same impact without having seen I? Obviously not. Hell no. But I think it would still have value to someone who hadn’t seen I. Of course, I’ll never know, I’ve seen them both, and saw them in order… so. Just my theory I guess. :D

  4. Fogs, I know you’ve been waiting on pins and needles for my side on the debate, so I have good news. In about two minutes, I’ll be watching The Godfather Part II, and then will come back and chime in my two cents.

  5. Alright…epic decision time…..both are masterpieces and among my all time favourites….but if I have to pick…I’m going Part II.

    Why? Well, three main reasons. The first is I really like where Michael’s character goes in the second film. Yes, he begins his descent in Part One, but it isn’t until Part II where he becomes truly evil. And like others have pointed out, it’s all the more interesting because he genuinely believes he’s doing the right thing. It isn’t until near the end where you finally realize just how far Michael has gone. I think the scenes that really make it clear how evil Michael is is when Kay tells Michael he’s leaving and the flashback scene to Vito’s birthday. Not to mention Pacino is phenomenal in the role. It’s such subtle performance, yet you feel every emotion.

    Second, I love Fredo. John Cazale is great as the weak and pathetic brother who betrays Michael. It’s impossible not to pity this character. His relationship with Michael is fascinating and I actually found myself understanding why he did what he did to Michael. “I’m your older brother Mike and I was stepped over!” Hard not to sympathize with a character like that. He and Michael’s relationship is really complex and tragic.

    Finally, Robert De Niro. Now, De Niro is my favourite actor, so I have no doubt that it influences why I prefer Part II to Part I, but man De Niro is fantastic in the film. I don’t know how he did it, but De Niro perfectly captures Brando’s Vito Corleone while still making it his own. The flashbacks also demonstrate the fundamental difference between Vito and Michael. Vito held power through influence and respect. Michael held power through fear and violence. Not to mention the young Vito scenes are among the best scenes in the series.

    So, in a nutshell, that’s why I prefer Part II. There other things I wanna talk about, but this is already running too long for a comment. Anyway, great series idea, though it’ll be tough to follow. For my money, this is the ultimate “great debate” in cinema.

    • “For my money, this is the ultimate “great debate” in cinema.”

      Agreed. That’s why I led with it. :)

      It’s a tough debate though because – well, now that the thread has settled, I can reveal my hand fully – I’m a I Guy myself. And yet, I cant “argue” any of those points you make. What am I, supposed to say Fredo isn’t great? Or DeNiro isnt ridiculously good as a young Brando? Cmon…

      I would point out that I has Brando’s greatest role and greatest character. That’s a primary argument for I. That’s a big one.

      If I were going to nitpick anything, I think Michael is probably already evil in I, he just loses his way, and his soul in II. But I got your point, you got it across, I knew what you meant.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, PG, I appreciate your contribution here!

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  8. Interesting debate as both films are amazing. But if I had to choose it would be The Godfather. It set the whole template for what was to come and featured many memorable moments.

    • Definitely did! That’s how I voted too, I believe. :D

      Totally did have those memorable moments, didnt it? From the wedding to the horses head to Sonny being shot on the causeway to the Baptism scene… it was just loaded.

      Thanks for stopping by Vinnie. :D

      • Totally agree with you, I wrote a review on the Godfather and Godfather part II, you should check them out when you get the chance.

  9. OK, I’m a year behind everybody but that is only here. I saw both of these films in their original theatrical runs. I was 14 and sitting next to my father when Michael and Apollonia celebrate their wedding night. It may have been one of the most uncomfortable moments in my life, starring at the screen trying to avoid catching my Dad’s eye. I saw Part ll in the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, a real palace of an old school theater. The audience was so enraptured, you could hear popcorn hitting the carpeted floor.
    I go with Godfather ll, despite the advantages of the cultural references that the original has and despite the essential place the original takes in the second one’s story.
    The parallel stories showing how one man built his family as his son is decimating it is brilliant. The material from Michael and Havana is all original to this movie. Godfather is a straight incredibly well told narrative. Godfather ll is an ingenious act of will to try to match the first and add something to it. The structure and characters in Part ll are molded to work with the material we already had, but then attempt to turn it into something original. It is that extra flash of originality that tips me ever so slightly to my choice.

    • That’s great that you got to see both of these in the theatres man. Thats so awesome. I can kind of relate to the Apolonia scenes with your Dad in the room. Dad showed me both of these for the first time when I was really young, I’m not even sure how old…. My Dad was the coolest like that! ;)

      II does deserve a lot of credit for climbing that impossible mountain. I mean, I was an incredibly hard act to top, and they put forth another all time classic. Still the best sequel ever made.

      Personally I still lean towards I, due to Brando and the more frequent moments of warmth. Love ‘em both, but in this debate, I lean towards the first!

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