The Godfather Vs. The Godfather Part II

In this feature where we take two movies with similar themes (or an original and a remake) and pit them against each other in different film-making categories to see which comes out on top! This time we pay respectful tribute to the two Godfather films to see once and for all which one is better:

VS-matchup-Godfather

The Godfather trailer (I’ve never seen a trailer like this that spoils the entire movie)

The Godfather Part II trailer

Cast

The Godfather: Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, James Caan, Robert Duvall, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Abe Vigoda, Richard Castellano, Diane Keaton, Al Lettieri

The Godfather Part II: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton, Lee Strasberg, Michael Gazzo, Bruno Kirby, J.D. Spradlin

Brando was unquestionably iconic as Don Vito, and while De Niro did an outstanding job in Part II, it’s Brando’s Don Vito that everyone thinks of when they think The Godfather. James Caan was perfect as the short-tempered Sonny. Abe Vigoda gave the ladies in the audience some eye candy. And of course, Al Pacino was subtly great as Michael went from a humble war hero to the head of a criminal empire.

However, in Part II, Pacino was unbelievable, and gave one of the great performances in film history, in my opinion (so, of course, Art Carney won the Best Actor Oscar that year, because he deserved his “moment” or something. I hate the Oscars so much.) Also, Part II gave the great John Cazale more to do, as well as Diane Keaton. Lee Strasberg’s Hyman Roth made a better villain than Sollozzo in the first one, based on his “This is the business we’ve chosen!” speech alone. And Michael Gazzo was both funny and sad as Frank Pentangeli.

This is a virtual toss-up, but I think I have to give it to Pacino’s total awesomeness in Part II over Brando’s kind of over-the-top imitation acting.

Point: The Godfather Part II

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Directing

The Godfather: Francis Ford Coppola (Jack; Apocalypse Now; Dracula), lenses a nice little family tale where the family just so happens to run illegal activities and kill people. Did a magnificent job capturing 1940s-50s New York and 1950s Sicily which looks a lot like 2015 Sicily.

The Godfather Part II: Frank Cooperman (The Conversation; The Outsiders; Captain EO) covered a lot more ground in the sequel: from Lake Tahoe to Havana to New York to Miami to Sicily again to early-1900s New York and the rings of Uranus, giving the sequel a broader scope and a more epic feel.

Point: The Godfather Part II

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Story

The Godfather: A powerful crime family deals with death and transition and just the general problems of Italian people.

The Godfather Part II: Poor Don Michael Corleone is betrayed by, like, everybody. His brother, his wife, his business partner, his capo regime, Cuba, his dog, etc. But he works it all out in the end. Again, more epic in scope but the original was a little more focused and tighter.

Point: The Godfather

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Death Scenes

The Godfather: Luca Brasi getting strangled, Sonny getting riddled with bullets, Sollozzo and McCluskey getting the bill in the restaurant, and the heads of the five families going down are all classics and served as a blueprint for future mob hits. Even Vito blowing a valve in the orchard was brutal to watch.

The Godfather Part II: Don Ciccio’s death is pretty gruesome when Vito slices him up the gut, the slow stalking and shooting in the cheek of Don Fanucci by Vito is a classic scene, and Frankie’s slit wrists in the tub is wicked. But overall the deaths in this one are more subtle, with Johnny Ola getting strangled pretty much offscreen, Hyman Roth just getting one in the gut, and of course, Fredo catching one on the fishing boat offscreen, which is probably the most emotionally jarring death in both films. But despite that, the overall body of bodies in the first one is stronger.

Point: The Godfather

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Music

Both these movies essentially have the same score, but there are two performances that can be compared:

The Godfather: The 200-year-old mummy who delights everyone with his singing at Connie’s wedding. The perfect background music to bone your mistress to, according to Sonny.

The Godfather Part II: At the big communion bash, Frank Pentangeli tries to lead the non-Italian band into playing an Italian song, but they end up racistly making fun of Italian music. Good times.

Point: The Godfather Part II

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Quotes

The Godfather: Michael: Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract.

Clemenza: Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.

Clemenza: It’s a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.

Michael: Fredo, you’re my older brother, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever.

Don Corleone: Look how they massacred my boy…

Luca Brasi: Don Corleone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your daughter… ‘s wedding… on the day of your daughter’s wedding. And I hope their first child be a masculine child. I pledge my ever-ending loyalty.

Don Corleone: Tattaglia is a pimp. He never could have outfought Santino. But I didn’t know until this day that it was Barzini all along.

Sonny: Hey, listen, I want somebody good – and I mean very good – to plant that gun. I don’t want my brother coming out of that toilet with just his dick in his hands, alright?

Don Corleone: I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.

The Godfather Part II: Michael Corleone: There are many things my father taught me here in this room. He taught me: keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

Michael Corleone: I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!

Michael Corleone: I don’t feel I have to wipe everybody out, Tom. Just my enemies.

Michael Corleone: If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone.

Michael Corleone: Senator? You can have my answer now, if you like. My final offer is this: nothing. Not even the fee for the gaming license, which I would appreciate if you would put up personally.

Vito Corleone: My father’s name was Antonio Andolini… and this is for you. [stabs Don Ciccio]

Fredo Corleone: It ain’t the way I wanted it! I can handle things! I’m smart! Not like everybody says… like dumb… I’m smart and I want respect!

Hyman Roth: Michael, we’re bigger than U.S. Steel.

Vito Corleone: [in Italian] Do me this favor. I won’t forget it. Ask your friends in the neighborhood about me. They’ll tell you I know how to return a favor.

Michael Corleone: Fredo, you’re nothing to me now. You’re not a brother, you’re not a friend. I don’t want to know you or what you do. I don’t want to see you at the hotels, I don’t want you near my house. When you see our mother, I want to know a day in advance, so I won’t be there. You understand?

Hyman Roth: I’m going in to take a nap. When I wake, if the money’s on the table, I’ll know I have a partner. If it isn’t, I’ll know I don’t.

Frank Pentangeli: Hey, what’s with the food around here? A kid comes up to me in a white jacket, gives me a Ritz cracker, and uh, chopped liver, he says, ‘Canapes’. I said, uh, ‘can of peas, my ass, that’s a Ritz cracker and chopped liver!’

Willi Cici: Oh yeah, a buffer. The family had a lot of buffers!

Hyman Roth: This is the business we’ve chosen!

Point: Kind of a toss-up, but I think most of the general public could quote the original more, so The Godfather.

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Awards

The Godfather: Won: Best Picture; Best Actor (Marlon Brando, who famously sent Sacheen Littlefeather to reject it); Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated: Best Supporting Actor (James Caan); Best Supporting Actor (Robert Duvall); Best Supporting Actor (Al Pacino); Best Director; Best Costume Design; Best Sound; Best Editing; Best Score

The Godfather Part II: Won: Best Picture; Best Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro); Best Director; Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration; Best Score Nominated: Best Actor (Al Pacino); Best Supporting Actor (Michael V. Gazzo); Best Supporting Actor (Lee Strasberg); Best Supporting Actress (Talia Shire); Best Costume Design

Point: The Godfather, but it has sent out Hyapatia Lee to reject the point, so The Godfather Part II

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Legacy

The Godfather: One of the most quotable dramatic movies ever. Was one of the first movies ever to portray the mafia as actual people instead of snarling, James Cagney stereotypes. Rocket-boosted the careers of Al Pacino, James Caan, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall, Talia Shire, John Cazale, Abe Vigoda, and Francis Ford Coppola. Is considered the best movie of all time by many respectable people. Is in a virtual tie with The Shawshank Redemption at #1 on IMDB’s Top 250.

The Godfather Part II: Gave Robert De Niro’s career a real kick in the pants. Francis Ford Coppola won his only Best Director Oscar (because Kramer Vs. Kramer was so much-better directed than Apocalypse Now; aren’t the Oscars just great?). Made kissing your brother more socially acceptable.

Point: The Godfather

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We settled… nothing! Honestly, both movies are among the finest ever made, and they both deserve to stand side-by-side. You may have a personal preference of one over the other (I like Part II a donkey’s whisker better), but they’re both outstanding. The Godfather III, on the other hand, is really as horrendous as everyone says and should be avoided at all costs. If you buy a Godfather Trilogy Blu-ray set, just take the third disc out and use it to make an earring stand or a clock with Al Pacino’s face on it.

What do you think? Did we score the fight fair? Which movie won on your scorecard?

Posted in VS

14 thoughts on “The Godfather Vs. The Godfather Part II

  1. I like that earring stand. Good idea! I have yet to watch Part III. Doubt I’ll ever bother… I like Part I slightly more than II but it’s close. Or, I think Part I is the better FILM but I suppose II is more enjoyable.

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  2. Oooh nice choice for showdown! Personally, I’m always gonna be Team Part 1 because I just like that story better…but I’m also a little obsessed with Brando so there’s that, too.

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  3. I think Part I definitely has the most near-perfect (if not totally perfect!) story. Sometimes, Part II feels a little slow for me, I felt they could’ve done more with the story there. But I love the flashback scenes, they are quite beautiful. And I agree, Al Pacino really knocks it out of the park in Part II. The scene where Kay reveals that it was an abortion…just the way he looks at her!! What amazing acting.

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