The 10 Best Francis Ford Coppola movies
Raja Sen lists his favourite Francis Ford Coppola movies, on the filmmaker's 75th birthday.
It’s hard to rank a true master.
Francis Ford Coppola turns 75 today, April 7, and his extraordinary filmmaking legacy is one to cherish.
We all have our favourites, and here are my top 10 picks from his cinematic vineyard:
10. The Cotton Club
Ostensibly just another film about a jazz singer in the 1930s, this film, complete with gangsters and much, much dramatic tension, is a more riveting watch than the genre often provides.
The period detailing is sumptuous and Coppola’s storytelling is characteristically solid.
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Image: Richard Gere and Diane Lane in The Cotton Club
9. Bram Stoker's Dracula
Leaving aside Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker (and assuming he was cast for all the acting range of a wooden stake), this staggeringly gothic take on the original text holds many a joy, not least the wonderful art direction and Gary Oldman’s haunting performance as Count Dracula.
Image: Winona Ryder and Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker's Dracula
8. Tucker: The Man And His Dream
A wonderfully structured biopic that, in many ways, influenced the very form of the biopic narrative -- there are many Tucker echoes in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator, for example -- this Coppola film tells the story of Preston Tucker and his uphill battle to build and market his own car.
Jeff Bridges is terrific as Tucker, and while Coppola might consider this 'feel-good movie' somewhat minor, it remains a very pleasing film.
Image: Jeff Bridges in Tucker: The Man And His Dream
7. Peggy Sue Got Married
Another genre-tweaking film, this take on the high-school reunion stars Kathleen Turner in a career-best performance as a woman going to her 25th reunion with her daughter for company.
Turner is excellent and the film -- with early roles by a very young Jim Carrey, Helen Hunt and, most memorably, Coppola’s nephew Nicolas Cage -- often provides a quirky, Coen-influencing kinda whimsy.
Image: Nicolas Cage and Kathleen Turner in Peggy Sue Got Married
6. The Outsiders
Coppola didn’t consider teenage angst his forte but a schoolteacher from California wrote to him regarding an SE Hinton novel her students loved, and urged him to make it into a movie.
The result is a wonderfully engaging film with a stunning cast of youngsters -- Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise -- and a film with more grit that teenaged-movies were usually given.
Image: Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, C Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze in The Outsiders
5. The Rainmaker
One might not have imagined a truly good film to come out of a John Grisham novel, but Coppola’s exquisite mastery of the form ensures that this strong underdog story is always affecting and never cloying.
Coppola imbues the film with nuance and lovely little details, and the great ensemble cast is consistently in form.
Image: Matt Damon in The Rainmaker
4. Apocalypse Now
Filled with immortal imagery, performances and dialogue, Apocalypse Now, in both original and recut (redux) editions, remains a psychologically searing and intense war film whose horrors go far beyond Vietnam, or any one war.
It is a striking film, with Marlon Brando, Rubert Duvall, Martin Sheen and the Eliot-quoting Dennis Hopper, all at the height of their powers, and yet another example of Coppola throwing out the rulebook.
Image: Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now
3. The Conversation
A devastatingly intelligent thriller, this Coppola gem is a study in structure and formalism.
Gene Hackman stars as an increasingly paranoid surveillance expert, and the film -- which Coppola has called a homage to Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup -- was so damned clever it foreshadowed Watergate.
Image: Gene Hackman in The Conversation
2. The Godfather Part II
The first film to use the words 'Part II' in its title, this was a film that redefined every bit of conventional wisdom.
In the most enthralling origin saga of them all, Coppola treated us to Don Corleone’s youth and rise through the rungs of power in a gorgeously cinematic and immaculately acted film.
Robert De Niro shone brighter even than Marlon Brando in the original, and the film’s parallel-timeline narrative is so compelling it still leaves us breathless.
Image: Robert De Niro in The Godfather Part II
1. The Godfather
What can be said about this great film that we haven’t said already?
The cart of oranges, the kicked-in fire hydrant, the cat, the piano wire, the reluctance, the Thunderbolt, the wedding, the over-endowed, the feeble, the slap, the restaurant, the liar, the counsellor, the wife, the cannoli, the offer.
Every single bit of The Godfather is immortal. As it should be.
Image: Marlon Brando (right) in The Godfather