Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Screenwriter: Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola

The final few moments of Francis Ford Coppola's epic American gangster film serve as much as a summary of the 172 minutes that preceded them as it does a prologue to the film's sequel. The Godfather stars Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, the straight-and-narrow-walking son of a renowned New York mob boss (Marlon Brando) who, against his many protestations that he's nothing like his family, eventually ends up at the top of the mafia food chain. Unlike the gangster films that came before it, The Godfather's message went beyond the idea of trading violence for power. It's a deeply layered portrait of the ties that bind us and, in the case of the Corleones, the struggle between family and "family."

The final scene makes it clear that the latter will always triumph when Michael gives his wife Kay (Diane Keaton) one chance to ask him about his affairs: "Is it true?," she asks of sister Connie's claim that Michael killed his own brother-in-law. "No," he lies. She smiles, clearly relieved, and they embrace. As Kay leaves the room to pour them a drink, the camera's focus does not leave Michael, even though it's Kay who is in the immediate foreground. A few of Michael's cronies enter the room to kiss the hand of The Godfather. Kay looks on as the door closes her out. The end. —JW