Which is the Better Best Picture: The Godfather or Lawrence of Arabia?

The readers of TIME.com are choosing the BEST Best Picture of All-TIME. Vote in today's semifinals.

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“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” The horse’s head under the bedsheets. “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.” The toll-booth slaughter of Sonny. And the immortal “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” From the opening wedding to the climactic baptism of gunfire, The Godfather provides three hours of greatest hits, while certifying the killer machismo of the Mafia and, by extension, of American business. Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel had been a sensational best-seller, but making a movie about organized crime was no sure thing in 1971. Wunderkind Francis Coppola cast Marlon Brando, box-office poison at the time, as Vito Corleone (Laurence Olivier was too ill to take the part) and launched dozens of movie careers (starting with Al Pacino as the Godfather II). The director made sure that this grand opera of family values was also a photo album of the Coppola family: Francis’ sister played Connie, his daughter Sofia was the baptized baby, his father Carmine is briefly seen playing piano and his mother Italia doubled for Mama Corleone in the casket. Nominated for 11 Oscars, The Godfather won for Picture, Screenplay and Brando. It was also one of two ’70s movies that defined a generation of boys-t0-men, who were either Godfather kids or Star Wars kids.



An epic for the ages, by a director who was in the midst of a trilogy of epics (Bridge on the River Kwai before, Doctor Zhivago after), Lawrence of Arabia finds its power in concepts of largeness — the massive desert in which so much of it is set, the booming, overwhelming Maurice Jarre score, the larger-than-life personality of T.E. Lawrence, so hypnotically portrayed by newcomer Peter O’Toole. Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, it won seven — Picture, Director, Cinematography, Score, Art Direction, Editing, Sound — though its two acting nominees, Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif, walked away empty-handed.