This Was Francis Ford Coppola's Favorite Movie To Film

There's not always a correlation between a filmmaker's best movie and the one that was their favorite to make, and Francis Ford Coppola's career is living proof of that. "Apocalypse Now" and "The Godfather" are the two Coppola films that most frequently top lists of the greatest movies of all time. In Sight & Sound's once-a-decade poll, the directors of the world ranked those two films at #6 and #7, respectively, making Coppola the only filmmaker with two titles in the top 10. Yet he made both of those movies under difficult circumstances. Producers almost fired him from "The Godfather," while "Apocalypse Now" nearly broke him, even as it capped his four-movie run of '70s classics ("The Godfather," "The Conversation," "The Godfather Part II," and "Apocalypse Now.")

"The Godfather Part II," on the other hand, provided a much smoother production experience for Coppola. No longer an unproven director, he was coming off the triumph of "The Godfather," which won Best Picture and won him Best Adapted Screenplay at the 45th Academy Awards. He told Vulture:

"It was the most complicated movie, but it was a production dream. It took 103 days, but it had scenes in Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, the Dominican Republic, Italy, and in period New York. It was less frantic because I was in control of the production so firmly. We went to Sicily, and the sun never came out. Well, why would you want to shoot Sicily if there's no sun? For many days, we just sort of said, 'Well, there's no sun. Let's go home.' It was a very complicated movie — much more complicated than the first Godfather, but there was no interference. I was the producer, and it went very smoothly."

From The Godfather Part II to Apocalypse Now

Some cinephiles might actually rate "The Godfather Part II" ahead of "The Godfather," and without a doubt, it's one of the greatest — if not the single greatest — movie sequel of all time. It came at a moment when Coppola was at the height of his success, leading the vanguard of New Hollywood "movie brats" like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and William Friedkin. Yet he followed it up with the most challenging production of his life, and perhaps that is part of the reason why he holds such fond memories of "The Godfather Part II:" because he was still riding high and it preceded the troubles that came next.

The documentary, "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse," chronicled Coppola's struggles making "Apocalypse Now." He was shooting in the Philippines, and as he told Vulture, "it was a style of movie that [he] had no experience with," one that required him to film elaborate helicopter sequences and deal with typhoons and other issues. The movie put him at a career crossroads and he would never enjoy the same level of critical and commercial favor after that.

By contrast, the production of "The Godfather Part II" almost sounds like a vacation. Ultimately, both films came out equally great, and Coppola's experience with "The Godfather Part II" just goes to show not every movie masterpiece has to be forged by the fires of production difficulties.