Once a month in the Top 5 column, we do a little something different. Moving down the IMDB (International Movie Database) Top 250 films, we’ll name the top five scenes (in my order) from films so good that our regular “My Favorite Scene” column can’t do them justice. You can see our first effort with #1 on the IMDB 250 – The Shawshank Redemption – by clicking here and our #2 – The Godfather by clicking here. Today, we tackle #3 – The Godfather Part II.
For a long time, The Godfather Part II and The Empire Strikes Back were held up as the only good sequels (largely because that was more or less true). Until The Return of the King, it was the only sequel to ever win Best Picture. It’s a very different film than Part I, and many people prefer it, though I am not one of them. The split narrative showing the rise of young Vito with the fall of Michael is a perfect study in contrast. Robert DeNiro managed to take a part Marlon Brando had made legendary and make it his own. Then there’s poor Fredo. As with all the films that are at this level, separating five scenes is excruciating. That’s why this column is so hard! So, in no particular order, here are my top 5 scenes from The Godfather Part II.
1. My Offer is Nothing
Right away, from the film’s beginning, we see Michael’s chilled to a cold control that veers away from the familial approach his father took (things don’t go well for this Senator).
2. The Murder of Don Fanucci
Again using religious iconography juxtaposed with murder, Coppola – with no words- creates a tense and pivotal scene in Vito Corleone’s rise to power.
3. You’re Nothing to Me Now
If Godfather I is about Michael’s rise, Godfather II is about the cost. Here Fredo lashes out about being passed over in the family hierarchy in response to an error. Michael listens, then surgically excises him from his world with a few sentences.
4. I Know It Was You, Fredo
This is the most famous scene from the film, obviously, but it’s famous for a reason. Michael, emotionless through most of the film, finally shows that the cost is getting to him. This is the scene where Fredo dies. The fishing trip was just the postscript.
5. Corleone Family Reunion
What a brilliant way to end a film where Michael is left with nothing of the life and world his father had cultivated than to flashback to happier times. It reminds us how few people at that table are still alive and how different a man Michael was at the beginning of the first film. Full circle. Genius.