These are both incredible films, and we all love and worship them.  But which one is superior and why?  It may feel like picking children, but that’s what responsible movie parenthood is all about.

 

 

Why do I love GF 1?

  • Meeting the characters: Every character is incredibly interesting.  You want to know the back story of every person, whether it is Paulie and his deep desire to rip off someone’s else’s wedding, or the details of Solozzo’s skills with a knife or the future of Enzo’s American Dream.  I could on and on about so many characters.  Luckily, reading and re-reading the book allows for some additional context on select characters.
  • Acting Performances: Multiple nominations, with Brando winning.  It’s too hard to pick acting scenes.  Everyone is fantastic.  We all probably know Michael’s scene at the restaurant was critical for gaining studio credibility for a film shoot that had many concerns.
  • Production Value: Music, Design, Costumes, Cinematography.
  • Story Romanticism: In this movie, people want to be a Corleone.  How man lines can you quote from The Godfather 1?  But how many lines can you quote from Godfather 2?  Certainly the first carries greater weight in pop culture.

 Why do I love GF 2?

  • More character depth: I love the Vito Corleone story line.  For me, this is my favorite part of the entire trilogy.  I really wish that the rumored GF 4 came to life with the rise of Vito Corleone (the prohibition years).
  • Acting Performances: DeNiro’s brilliant performance.  How do you follow Brando’s footsteps?  Easy – and DeNiro won the Academy Award.  The dialect and the mannerisms are all so fluid and believable.  The brutality of killing Don Tomassino – classic.
  • Production Value: Music, Design, Costumes, Cinematography.
  • Story Arc: Michael’s falling from grace (that might not be the right description) is really powerful here.  3 scenes I love: Seeing Vito waive Michael’s arm on the train away from Sicily, Michael sitting at the dining room table when his family is singing Happy Birthday to Vito and Michael sitting in his lawn chair at the end of the film.  This story feels richer and more complex than the first.  Which is even more impressive considering that much of the movie was not based on a book.

 How can we choose one over the other?

People will keep asking the question, so I want to challenge the process for delivering an answer.  Both movies are brilliant with plenty of reasons for support.  But in the end, I choose the first Godfather.  Why?  Because for me, the romanticism of the first movie outweighs the gravitas of the second movie.  What do I mean exactly?

First, I love the experience of meeting the characters and entering this foreign underworld for the first time (particularly pre-Goodfellas, Sopranos, etc.) in Godfather 1.

Second, I prefer the more positive outlook of the first film than the second film.  I usually want to take a shower and cleanse myself after watching GF 2.  Cleansing examples: Fredo saying the Hail Mary on the boat, or thinking about life in the Senator Geary household post brothel incident.

After the first movie, anything is possible with the Corleone family in clear control of the underworld.  Michael cordially lies to his wife about “his business”.  Clemenza and Rocco kiss pinky rings.  I presume Fredo goes back to sleeping with 2 waitresses at once.  And then I know everything is alright in the world and the future is bright.

I’m sure people may disagree, particularly those who will choose the substance over underworld romanticism.  But I’ll just put it out there that I also prefer Star Wars to Empire and Fellowship of the Ring vs. Two Towers for similar reasons.

What do you guys think?  Are there arguments missing to support either side?  Or do naysayers just pick opposite sides of the arguments that I already laid out?  Is there overwhelming support for GF 1?  Let’s hear it.

9 Responses to Godfather 1 vs. Godfather 2: Which is better?

  1. Kenzo says:

    Why is Godfather Part 1 the superior film? Two words…James Caan.

  2. Ray Sugar says:

    Yes i totally agree. Godfather one was y far better than part two for me. Part two has me missing everyone from part one. I miss old vito, sonny, clemenza, luca. Its not the same for me. And by the way it was Don Fanucci not Don Tommassino that young vito killed in part 2.

    • Ray Sugar says:

      He also kills Don Cicci, but not Tommassino, Tommassino was the one who hid Michael in italy when he killed Sollozzo and Captain Mclusky.

      • John says:

        Great catch. I always got Don Cicci mixed up with Willi Cicci. That scene where Vito takes out Don Cicci is awesome. I always wondered if that was why Michael’s wife (Apollonia) got taken out in GF1.

    • John says:

      I hear you, those are such great characters in GF1. And I can’t say that Pentangeli makes up for any of them. What I loved about GF2 is the backstory on Vito and also the suspense of the whole Roth thing. It also shows how much of your humanity the life of a gangster requires – when we see Michael order the assassination of his own brother. Lutz is more in GF1, and as much as I love Gf1 – I still go Gf2. It’s tough to call it.

  3. Jerry says:

    2 words for GF 2, De Niro

  4. Eric says:

    I love both movies, one quick point before I give my choice. It was a shame that Francis and Mario could not fit Brando into the movie more. But choosing is very difficult the first movie is more of a story about loyalty and family, while the second was a sweeping epic longer than the first but was it better. One thing about the second movie is you have to see the first to fully enjoy the second, Make no mistake about it I love both these classics, but while he had a smallish part in the first movie, Don Vito to me is one of the best characters in movies and I am referring to Brando, Marlin Brando is the reason that I say the first movie is better than the second, but two of the best movies ever made in a three year span amazing. But my vote goes for the first, the pacing was a tad better and it was just great.

    • John says:

      Eric – thanks for the comment. I think you make an excellent point, GF2 does not stand on it’s own as much as GFI does. You really do appreciate 2 more because of 1 and the investment that you have in the characters (Michael, Tommy, Fredo, etc…). Marlon’s presence was missing in 1, but De Niro and Pacino were pretty amazing in 2. Awesome comment thanks.

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