Godfather: Part II [1974]

Francis Ford Coppola took some of the deep background from the life of Mafia chief Vito Corleone--the patriarch of Mario Puzo's bestselling novel The Godfather--and built around it a stunning sequel to his Oscar-winning, 1972 hit film. Robert De Niro plays Vito as a young Sicilian immigrant in turn-of-the-century New York City's Little Italy. Coppola weaves in and out of the story of Vito's transformation into a powerful crime figure, contrasting that evolution against efforts by son Michael Corleone to spread the family's business into pre-Castro Cuba. As memorable as the first film is, The Godfather II is an amazingly intricate, symmetrical tragedy that touches upon several chapters of 20th-century history and makes a strong case that our destinies are written long before we're born. This was De Niro's first introduction to a lot of filmgoers, and he makes an enormous impression. But even with him and a number of truly brilliant actors (including maestro Lee Strasberg), this is ultimately Pacino's film and a masterful performance. --Tom Keogh

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