Only a handful of film makers have made their mark in the industry the way Francis Ford Coppola has. The acclaimed director, who turns 80 years old, has a wide filmography filled with mediocre movies – but the ones that stand out rank among the best that have been ever made, including a small franchise called The Godfather trilogy.
Coppola’s family originated from Italy before migrating to the United States, very much like the Corleone family from The Godfather series. As a child he was bedridden with polio, during this time he started to have a fascination for theater and eventually films. Eager to learn he pursued film making as a director and writer in UCLA Film School.
The Godfather trilogy
Amongst all his films, none have come close to success and cultural impact as The Godfather (1972). Based on the novel by Mario Puzo, the film centers around the Corleone crime family led by Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) and the dark turn of his youngest son Michael (Al Pacino). The movie sparked the popularity of gangster films, won numerous awards (including three Academy Awards, which Coppola took home), and continues to be among in everyone’s Top 10 lists.
Coppola carried the success with The Godfather Part II (1974) where he continued Michael’s story, while also revealing the past of a young Vito (Robert De Niro). Mirroring the success of the original in all aspects, it remains the only sequel to win the Oscar for Best Picture. The third installment in the trilogy was not as critically acclaimed, but it brought in at the box office and closed one of the best storylines in film ever.
Patton and Apocalypse Now
Prior to The Godfather, Coppola’s first major outing was 1970’s Patton based on the American World War II general as a screenwriter; the film won him his first ever Academy Award for its original screenplay, and its opening monologue has remained one of the most iconic scenes in movie history.
Before the end of the decade, Coppola also directed Apocalypse Now based on Joseph Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness” set during the Vietnam War. Production of the film took place in the Philippines, but was marred by typhoons, medical conditions, and martial law; the movie still went on to be one of the best war films ever made.
Over the years Coppola’s future films could not hold up to the standard of his groundbreaking features, with a few bright spots like 1984’s The Cotton Club, 1986’s Peggy Sue Got Married, 1988’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream, 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and 1997’s The Rainmaker. His three films since The Rainmaker were both box office bombs and panned by critics.
Though his film career declined over the year, his relatives have become stars in the industry – some of them even participated in his movies like his sister Talia Shire and daughter Sofia Coppola. Talia also starred in the Rocky franchise, while Sofia followed in his footsteps as an award-winning director and screenwriter. Francis Ford Coppola’s glory days may be over, but we’ll never forget his legacy, and also his birthday.
Check out our other Birthday Milestone pieces below:
- Birthday Milestone: Jane Goodall
- Birthday Milestone: Diana Ross
- Birthday Milestone: Ron Howard
- Birthday Milestone: John Travolta
- Birthday Milestone: Oprah Winfrey