Very few filmmakers have had a more successful and influential career than Francis Ford Coppola. In a career that spanned five decades, Coppola directed some of the greatest and most celebrated films to ever grace the big screen. Very few directors were as visionary and brilliant behind the camera as Coppola was and his dedication and commitment to the craft of directing made him what he his. During this time, he racked up a whopping fourteen oscar nominations and five wins. Coppola was one of the pioneers of the New Hollywood movement that in many ways changed Hollywood forever. While it’s fair to say that his career deteriorated during the 80’s and 90’s and pretty much fell apart during the 2000’s, his legacy is everlasting. These are what I believe to be his finest films.
The Rainmaker (1997)
5. The Conversation (1974)
It’s fair to say that The Conversation was overshadowed by The Godfather Part II, which came out the same year as it did, but nothing can deny the brilliance of this film. The Conversation follows the story of Harry Caul, a paranoid surveillance expert who suspects the people he is spying on are about to be murdered. . The Conversation is an excellent and suspenseful thriller that is led by a stellar performance by Gene Hackman. The film holds special significance in Coppola’s filmography because it’s the first film that earned him the coveted Palme d’Or. Coppola could have bagged a couple of oscars for this film as well, had he not been beaten by himself.
4. Dracula (1992)
Dating from 1921’s Nosferatu up till last year’s Dracula Untold, Dracula movies are something that may be made quite possibly till the end of time. In 1992, Francis Ford Coppola set out to make his version of the Bram Stoker classic and the result was a positive one. Not only is Coppola’s film faithful to its source material but it’s a film that’s stylishly made, excellently acted (barring Keanu Reeves) and one that evokes genuine horror. Gary Oldman is chilling as the titular character, Anthony Hopkins and Winona Ryder are both great as well, Keanu Reeves is actually the only one that holds the film back, but in Coppola’s defense, he wanted an actor that was easy with the ladies. What’s more, the film’s commercial success helped Coppola escape a decade’s worth of financial worries.
3. The Godfather (1972)
What can I say about this film that hasn’t been said by everyone else on this planet? The Godfather is everything people say it to be, it is immensely absorbing, marvelously acted- Marlon Brando’s performance is one of the greatest and most iconic performances ever put on screen- Coppola’s direction is truly exceptional, while the script from him, adapted from Mario Puzo’s novel is an immensely engrossing one. The Godfather can also be seen as the film that revived the career of Marlon Brando, solidified those of James Caan and Robert Duvall and launched the career of Al Pacino. The Godfather’s influence is eternal and many people consider it to be the greatest film ever made, do I think so? no. But I do believe it’s a phenomenal film nonetheless.
2. The Godfather: Part II (1974)
Very rarely do we get to see a sequel that transcends it’s predecessor but The Godfather: Part II is such a film that does so. The scope is far more broader as compared to the first film, Al Pacino in the best performance of his career, is nothing short of riveting as Michael Corleone, Robert De Niro delivers a gem of a performance playing a younger version of Vito Corleone, in an entirely different story told in flashbacks. Once again, Coppola’s direction is immaculate, but I think he deserves special praise simply for crafting this wonderful, compelling story. The Godfather: Part II is a gripping film, and in my opinion one that surpasses it’s predecessor.
1. Apocalypse Now (1979)
Of everything that Coppola has done, Apocalypse Now, in my opinion stands out as his greatest achievement. In 1976 Francis Ford Coppola retreated to the jungles of Baler, Phillipines to shoot what would be his allegory of the Vietnam war. What followed was a disastrous three-year shoot plagued with problems, like star Martin Sheen suffering a heart attack, complete sets being destroyed by a hurricane, Marlon Brando arriving late, being overweight and not knowing any of his lines yet through it all, Coppola managed to not just complete the film but provide us with one of the greatest, most haunting representations of war. Apocalypse Now is a work of undeniable genius and ingenuity and a monumental achievement in the field of film making.
I’d also like to recommend Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, a documentary that chronicles the Apocalypse Now shoot. It’s an extremely gripping film that shows exactly how Coppola made his Vietnam War masterpiece.