Coppola studied cinema at UCLA while making low-budget films, including pornographic ones. In the late 1960's, he started his professional career as an assistant to legendary B-Movies director, Roger Corman, and began writing several screenplays. Afterwards, in 1969, he founded the American Zoetrope Studios in San Francisco, along with friend and partner, George Lucas. Their first project was called THX 1138 (1970), directed by Lucas and starring Robert Duvall.
In 1971, Coppola won an Academy Award for his original screenplay for the movie Patton. In 1972, he won another screenplay award and several nominations for The Godfather. Next year, again, several nominations for The Godfather - Pat II. Both films were awarded as Best Picture. Until today, they remain as the only sequels to win a Best Picture Academy Award.
During this period, he wrote an adaptation for F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Though it's cast included such stars as Robert Redford, the film was a comercial disaster. After that, he produced George Lucas's second feature-film, American Graffiti, wich became a big hit, and a cult-classic.
Besides The Godfather films and Apocalypse Now, Coppola's filmography features artistically relevant pictures with comercial irregularity. The Conversation (1974), starring Gene Hackman, was acclaimed, but his big-budget production, One From The Heart (1982), failed deeply at the box-office, leading American Zoetrope to bankrupcy.
In 1983, Coppola made two low-budget films based on books by writer S.E. Hinton: The Outsiders and Rumble Fish.
The Outsiders became notorious for it's cast ensemble, wich included young future stars like Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Esteves and Rob Lowe.
Shot in black-and-white, Rumble Fish also starred young talents. Matt Dillon played Mickey Rourke's brother. Also in the cast, Diane Lane, Lawrence Fishburne, Chris Penn and Nicholas Cage. The original soundtrack was the first score composed by Stewart Copeland, former drummer for the pop-rock band, The Police.
In 1984, Coppola and Mario Puzzo reunited for Cotton Club, a gangster film with a strong musical background. Richard Gere and Diane Lane starred the film, but Broadway dancer and performer Gregory Hines, had the spotlight.
After Cotton Club, Coppola directed several studio pictures wich did not have any impact on the larger audiences until he returned to the Corleone Family Saga with The Godfather - Part III (1990) and later released his version of Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).