Rarely can a director ever create a masterpiece and acclaimed filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola ends up creating two, namely The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II. A pioneering figure in the New Hollywood movement in the 1960s and ’70s, the director’s creative genius is enunciated by five Academy Awards, six Golden Globes, a BAFTA and two Palme d’Or.
Coppola is regarded as having paved the way for the gangster genre with his The Godfather trilogy and has left an unimaginable impact on the landscape of cinema. While Coppola entered the industry during its lowest, he managed to carve out a place for his legacy, leaving film-goers in awe of his brilliant vision and creative genius.
Coppola falls in rhythm with a crop of trailblazing filmmakers of his time who redefined the meaning of cinema, namely Martin Scorsese, Brian de Palma, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and William Friedkin.
A UCLA alum, Coppola had initially directed a short horror film. From shooting erotic productions to stop living from paycheck to paycheck to becoming a domineering presence in the filmmaking realm, he had indeed come a long way. While Coppola made some films in the ’60s, the ’70s turned out to be his Golden Age.
1972 was a major milestone in his life with the release of the 3-hour-long epic The Godfather Although the studio was apprehensive of hiring Coppola and not supportive of his decision to rope in Marlon Brando as the titular Godfather, Coppola braved all difficulties to create a film that has cemented its name as one of the best made and well-cast films of all time.
Following The Godfather, Coppola whipped out several other classics, including The Godfather: Part II, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, Rumble Fish etc. Some of his best classics are now available for streaming on Netflix.
On the auteur’s 83rd birthday, let us celebrate his illustrious career by ranking his five best films on Netflix:
Ranking the 5 best Francis Ford Coppola films on Netflix
5. Bram Stoker’s Dracula – 1992
Adapted from Bram Stoker’s legendary 1987 gothic novel Dracula, Coppola’s film is an operatic saga that revolves around the most enigmatic and mystical vampires in the history of literature. Dracula chances upon a look-alike of his dead wife and decides to pursue her, going to great lengths to fulfil his mission. Her engagement to a young lawyer, however, stands as an obstacle in his blood-soaked warpath.
With Anthony Hopkins’ voice narration adding to the goosebumps induced by the generally claustrophobic film, the star-studded ensemble includes Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves. While Reeves received a lot of flak for his strange English accent, Oldman’s monumental performance as the menacing Count and his vile expression of undying love make Coppola’s odyssey one of the finest Dracula adaptations.
4. The Outsiders – 1983
Based on S.E. Hinton’s eponymous 1967 novel, Coppola’s coming-of-age drama is notable for including an array of up-and-coming stars who went on to become big names in Hollywood, namely Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Ralph Macchio, Diane Lane etc. Macchio, in particular, was praised for his performance. Nicolas Cage, Melanie Griffith and Flea, too, made uncredited cameos in the film.
Coppola included real-life experiences of teenagers and offered a more realistic look at the lives of those who have been failed by their parents. Set in the 1960s, the film revolves around two rival gangs, namely the rich Socs and the poor Greasers, who are always at loggerheads with one another. Tension arises when one member ends up killing someone from the opposite gang. The film is indeed touching as it emphasises the social and financial imbalance and examines the meaning of friendship, social hierarchy and youth.
3. Apocalypse Now – 1979
Loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novel Heart of Darkness which examined questions about race, colonialism, existentialism and isolation, Coppola’s magnum opus is a harrowing nightmare. Instead of basing the film in Congo, Coppola chooses the Vietnam War as his backdrop, deftly including the horrors of war in his film through the vivid imageries and the constant mentions of napalm. The film chronicles a river journey into Cambodia where the Captain is assigned the secret mission to assassinate the rebellious and elusive Colonel Kurtz who has reportedly gone insane.
Starring Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen and others, the film is indeed terrifying with the picturesque locations, mystic images and ominous setting which is imbued by unforgettable dialogic exchanges Brando, in particular, leaves an indelible imprint with his surreal portrayal of the rogue Colonel Kurtz. This visionary and hallucinatory epic is the creative epitome of Kurtz’s final words from Conrad’s novel: “The horror! The horror!”
2. The Godfather – 1972
Mario Puzo wrote the titular best-seller but Coppola outdid him to make a masterpiece film that still reigns supreme in the heart of cinephiles nearly five decades since its release. With the duo putting their heads together for the script, the film heightened the violence and tension that exists in the Sicilian mafioso paterfamilias as they engage in conflicts with one another to assert their dominance in the world. Rising bloodshed and brutal violence bring forth other elements of friendship, betrayal, loyalty, vengeance, love and the meaning of family.
With a star-studded ensemble cast that comprised the likes of Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan, Diane Keaton and others, the film is listed by one and all as one of the best-made films of all time. Martin Scorsese even listed Coppola’s classic as one of the 131 essential films one must watch. The Godfather has become a defining phenomenon whose reputation far exceeds the genre elements and it continues to revel in the glory of its luminous legacy.
1. The Godfather: Part II – 1974
The finest sequel in the history of cinema which is arguably even better than the original film, the sequel serves both as a sequel and prequel to The Godfather as it oscillates between tracing the trajectory of Vito Corleone’s rise to the stature of the Godfather, besides recording Michael Corleone’s new exploits as the new Don of the Corleone family who is still reeling under the aftershock of attempted murder. The film also traces Michael’s ambitious expansion of their family business into Cuba, Hollywood and Las Vegas.
One of the most influential films in its genre, the film made history by becoming the first-ever sequel to bag the Best Picture Award. Starring Robert De Niro as a young Vito Corleone, the film marked the return of surviving characters from the first part, including Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire etc. The cinematography is phenomenal and the overall haunting affair leaves a great impact on the minds of viewers.