The Godfather. End of story.

A select group of movie critics ó online, newspaper, magazine, TV ó name their best of Oscar’s best pictures:
Tim Gordon, publisher,
The Godfather. “The quintessential American Mob movie. Here is a movie that I can (and have) watched probably more than any DVD in my collection. The film, which is the ultimate Greek tragedy and the pinnacle of director Francis Ford Coppola’s career, features some outstanding performances from its young, brilliant ensemble. Coppola’s crime story is so strong that every film within the genre since has loomed in its large, deep footprints. Plus, what can you say about a movie (and a series) that launched the careers of James Caan, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall and Talia Shire; inspired directors such as Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and David Chase; and revived the mighty career of film icon Marlon Brando? In my opinion, the most dominant film of the last half of the 20th century and the piece of work that Coppola will most be remembered for.”
Mike Clark, USA TODAY
All Quiet on the Western Front. “Being more recent and having more tempered acting, The Godfather and Schindler’s List have built-in advantages over director Lewis Milestone’s movie milestone, adapted from Erich Maria Remarque’s famed novel. But it amazes me that a film that got a best-picture award 73-plus years ago can still look like the right choice. The still-potent result has rarely been equaled as an anti-war statement. The story is told from a German viewpoint that gets progressively downbeat: The evolution of an enthusiastically combative schoolboy (Lew Ayres) into a disillusioned veteran who finally tries to deter others, during the first portion of the powerful two-part finale, from following his course. The trench-warfare scenes are still so gritty that even Stanley Kubrick couldn’t surpass them in 1957’s Paths of Glory, and Ayres was so shaken by the experience that he jeopardized a career by becoming a conscientious objector in World War II. For its part, France banned the movie until 1963. All Quiet never really loses its topicality, because there are always new wars and worries over whether the leaders’ war rationales are justified.”
Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Godfather. “The very first words we hear are, ‘I believe in America.’ And, in its own cracked-mirror way, Francis Ford Coppola’s magnificent gangster opera does. It portrays the Mafia as business, but, more importantly, as a family. The ultimate family. The Corleones’ courtly yet ruthless patriarch (Marlon Brando) is King Lear ó with a taste for cannolis and killing off his enemies. Like Lear, he must bequeath his kingdom to one of three children. Pathetic Fredo (John Cazale) is out of the question and hotheaded Sonny (James Caan) is ultimately out of the picture. That leaves Michael (Al Pacino), the war-hero son Don Corleone had groomed for better things than the blood-drenched family business. Thus, The Godfather is the American Dream ó in its respect for family values (no matter how perverse), for tradition (no matter how bloody) and for upward mobility (no matter how violent). It’s ironic that it was released in 1972, a time when the nation was reeling from the anarchic excesses of the ’60s and the painful fallout of Vietnam. America may have been going to hell, but the Mafia still had its act together. It reassured us that, somehow, somewhere, the center still held. And that we could all still believe in America.”
Roger Ebert, TV’s Ebert & Roeper and Chicago Sun-Times
Casablanca. “Because the subject of making moral choices in an immoral world is more timely now than ever. Because it argues that idealism is more important than love. Because it is perfectly cast even in the smallest roles. Because lines of its dialogue have entered into our lives. Because it happened by accident ó it wasn’t even supposed to be a great film and became one. Because the times and the turmoil, the talent and the opportunity, created an inspired alchemy. I have never met anyone who has seen Casablanca and not loved it.”
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
The Godfather. “For me, it’s a no-brainer. The Godfather is the best movie to ever win the Oscar for best picture. It’s art and commerce in one hugely entertaining package. Want to make Hollywood and the academy an offer they can’t refuse? Show them how to create something of lasting value and get rich doing it. The Godfather not only retains the elegance and rude vitality that writer/director Francis Ford Coppola gave it back in 1972, the film (like one of Coppola’s Napa Valley wines) also gets better with age. Mario Puzo’s best seller was basic pulp. But Coppola and a note-perfect cast, from Brando, Pacino, Duvall, Caan and Cazale, right down to Lenny Montana’s Luca Brasi (“And I hope that their first child be a masculine child”), stamped that pulp into our collective subconscious. All gangster movies before and since ó that means you, too, Sopranosó must kiss the ring of the Corleones.”