Which Is The Better Best Picture: The Godfather: Part II or Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King?

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Francis Ford Coppola may have been catapulted to stardom thanks to the 1972 mega-hit The Godfather – which yesterday won the first round of our Best Best Picture bracket – but it would be his next three films that would elevate the filmmaker to the upper echelon of cinematic visionaries. Five years before he completed his hallucinogenic war epic Apocalypse Now, Coppola unveiled two best picture nominees in 1974: The Conversation and The Godfather: Part II, arguably the greatest sequel ever made. Far more rigorous in plotting, and complex in characterizations, this second Godfather charts both the rise of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in the present as well as the emergence of his father Vito (Robert De Niro) via flashback. The two separate timelines are used to juxtapose one immigrant’s illicit strategy to provide for his wife and child with his son’s hunger for power, a desire that eventually destroys the family. Coppola was given near-complete control over the production, which he later said allowed him to more smoothly manage the multiple plot lines and intricate shooting schedule. Nominated for 11 Oscars, the film ultimately won a half-dozen: Best picture, director, supporting actor (De Niro), adapted screenplay, original score and art direction. It also stood as the only sequel to win the Academy’s top prize until The Return of the King in 2003.



Few Oscar contenders have enjoyed the aura of inevitability that surrounded The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003. Nominated for 11 awards, the Middle Earth epic scored a rare clean sweep: Best picture, director, adapted screenplay, original score, original song, visual effects, art direction, costume design, make-up, sound mixing and film editing. And long before director Peter Jackson took to the podium to a rousing ovation, there seemed to be a collective understanding that the night’s awards went far beyond the third Lord of the Rings installment, which found Frodo (Elijah Wood) ascending Mount Doom and overcoming his internal demons to destroy the Ring of Power once and for all. It was widely understood that this Oscar celebration was less about a singular achievement than the commemoration of one of the most audacious, and adept, trilogies in cinematic history. Filmed in one extensive shoot, commissioned by New Line Cinema in a colossal financial gamble and entrusted to a single filmmaker who was empowered to mold his singular and distinctive vision, the Lord of the Rings films were works of fantasy that transcended the genre, entrancing both mainstream audiences and Hollywood heavyweights.

See the results of yesterday’s faceoff—The Godfather v. Terms of Endearment