Spotlight: The 9 Oscars Won by The Godfather Trilogy

The Godfather is among the greatest trilogies of all-time. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the first of the three films was released in 1972 to rave reviews. It won three Oscars and was nominated in another eight categories. The Godfather: Part II (1974), meanwhile, is one of the few sequels deemed superior to its original.

The iconic second film also garnered 11 Academy Award nominations but won six Oscars. While the final film in the trilogy, released 16 years later in 1990, didn’t win an Oscar, it received seven nominations, including for Best Picture and Best Director. Below is a look at each of the nine Oscars awarded to The Godfather series.

Marlon Brando The Godfather
Image courtesy Mrgeret Guilory | Flickr

The Godfather won Best Picture at the 1973 Academy Awards ahead of other nominated films Cabaret, Deliverance, Sounder, and The Emigrants. Best Picture was one of only two of the 10 awards for which Cabaret was nominated that it didn’t win.

Distinction for the award went to Albert S. Ruddy, who produced the film. Ruddy is also known for creating TV series Hogan’s Heroes and Walker, Texas Ranger as well as producing Million Dollar Baby (2004) and The Longest Yard (1974).

Nearly two decades after winning his first Best Actor Oscar for On the Waterfront (1954), Marlon Brando won his second and final award for his portrayal of Vito Corleone in The Godfather. Brando won the award out of a field that included Laurence Olivier (Sleuth), Michael Caine (Sleuth), Paul Winfield (Sounder), and Peter O’Toole (The Ruling Class).

However, he chose not to attend the award ceremony in protest of the entertainment industries poor treatment of Native Americans. He instead selected Sacheen Littlefeather, AKA Maria Cruz, to represent him and accept the award in his place.

Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. Like Brando, Puzo wasn’t present at the ceremony and had his daughter, Dorothy Ann Puzo, accept the award on his behalf.

Puzo originally wrote The Godfather as a crime novel detailing the life of Corleone and his New York City Mafia family. The book was published in 1969 and was on The New York Times Best Seller list for more than a year.

The Godfather: Part II is considered a cinematic masterpiece and this is reflected in the Academy Awards it won. To start, the film became the first-ever sequel to win Best Picture. It won ahead of Chinatown, Lenny, The Towering Inferno, and The Conversation, the latter of which was also directed by Ford Coppola. Part III was nominated for Best Picture in 1991, but lost to Dances with Wolves.

Robert De Niro has won two Best Actor Oscars, the first of which he received for his portrayal of a young Vito Corleone in Part II. Ford Coppola accepted the award on his behalf. De Niro also won Best Actor for Raging Bull (1980) and received acting nominations in five other films including Taxi Driver (1976), Cape Fear (1991), and Silver Linings Playbook (2012).

A five-time Oscar winner, Ford Coppola won his only Best Director Oscar for Part II ahead of Bob Fosse (Lenny), François Truffaut (Day for Night), John Cassavetes (A Woman Under the Influence), and Roman Polanski (Chinatown). He was also nominated for Best Director for Part III in 1991 and received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award from the Academy in 2011.

Similar to the original film, Part II relied largely on The Godfather novel as its source material. Puzo, who authored the novel, also contributed to writing the screenplay. Both Puzo and Ford Coppola shared the Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted from Other Material. The other films nominated in this category were Lenny, Murder on the Orient Express, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, and Young Frankenstein.

Beyond the direction and on-screen performances, the set contributes greatly to the aesthetic of a film. The team of Dean Tavoularis, Angelo P. Graham, and George R. Nelson received recognition for their work on putting together sets for Part II. Chinatown, Earthquake, The Island at the Top of the World, and The Towering Inferno were also nominated in this category.

Lastly, Part II won the Oscar for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score. Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola, the father of director Francis Ford, scored the film. Coppola composed music for all three films in The Godfather trilogy and even had small uncredited on-screen roles in Part I and Part III. He died as a result of a heart failure in 1991.

Jeff Sica is a regular guest on Fox Business and has also provided commentary for CNBC and Bloomberg.