40th Anniversary of 'The Godfather'

Paramount Pictures/The Picture Desk

Today marks the 40th anniversary of what many consider to be one of the greatest films ever made: "The Godfather."

Based on the book of the same name by author Mario Puzo, the film, originally released March 15, 1972, starred Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone, a leader of a Mafia family in 1940s New York. It was his character that uttered the famous line, "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse."

Al Pacino joined Brando as Vito's son Michael, the godfather-in-waiting who seeks revenge on his family's enemies.

The Francis Ford Coppola-directed film, which also starred James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire and Abe Vigoda, was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, winning for best picture, best actor for Brando, and best adapted screenplay. It spawned two sequels, released in 1974 and 1990.

Film critic Jeffrey Lyons declares "The Godfather" to be a time capsule of sorts that takes moviegoers back to a different era. He says, "'The Godfather' is a work of art. It's the greatest gangster movie ever made, just as 'Gone with the Wind' will always be the greatest Civil War movie ever made."

Lyons isn't the only one who feels that way. In 2010, "The Godfather" and its 1974 sequel ranked first and second on a Zagat Survey list of the top 20 movies of all time.

Incidentally, "The Godfather" franchise is currently the subject of a legal battle between Paramount Pictures, which released the films, and Puzo's estate. Paramount has claimed "The Godfather" legacy was "tarnished" by the release of a book sequel not approved by the studio. Puzo's estate recently countersued.