Francis Ford Coppola signed on to direct The Godfather when he was just 29 years old. The film centers on a fictional Sicilian crime family in New York City and Coppola knew nothing about the Mafia, but he did understand Italian-American culture and tradition — and he was determined to avoid stereotypes.
Released in 1972, The Godfather went on to become an iconic American film. It won three Academy Awards — including for best picture and best adapted screenplay — and its sequel, The Godfather: Part II, won six. Coppola was nominated for another Academy Award in 1991 for his work on The Godfather: Part III.