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The Godfather

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The Godfather

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Produced by Albert S. Ruddy
Written by Screenplay:
Mario Puzo
Francis Ford Coppola
Robert Towne (uncredited)
Mario Puzo
Starring Marlon Brando
Al Pacino
James Caan
Robert Duvall
Richard S. Castellano
Diane Keaton
Abe Vigoda
Sterling Hayden
Talia Shire
John Cazale
John Marley
Richard Conte
Gianni Russo
Al Lettieri
Music by Nino Rota
Carmine Coppola
Cinematography Gordon Willis
Editing by William H. Reynolds
Peter Zinner
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Alfran Productions
Release date(s)
  • March 15, 1972 (1972-03-15)
Running time 175 minutes
Language English
Budget $6.5 million
Box office $245,066,411

The Godfather is a 1972 American mob- film based on the novel of the same name by Mario Puzo and directed by Francis Ford Coppola from a screenplay by Puzo, Coppola, and Robert Towne (uncredited). It stars Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard S. Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte and Diane Keaton, and features John Cazale, Talia Shire, Al Martino, and Abe Vigoda. The story spans ten years from 1945 to 1955 and chronicles the fictional Italian American Corleone crime family. Two sequels followed: The Godfather Part II in 1974, and The Godfather Part III in 1990.

The Godfather received Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay, and has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. In addition, it is ranked third, behind Citizen Kane and Casablanca, on the AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies list by the American Film Institute. It was moved up to second when the list was published again in 2008.


In late August 1945, as the movie opens, Don Vito Corleone ( Marlon Brando) hears requests for favors during the Don's daughter Connie's wedding reception, while his adopted son Tom Hagen ( Robert Duvall) listens. Singer Johnny Fontane ( Al Martino), Corleone's godson, asks for help in landing a movie role that will revitalize his flagging career. Hagen is dispatched to California to meet with studio head Jack Woltz ( John Marley) to ensure Fontane gets his desired role. After initially refusing to cast Fontane, Woltz caves in when he finds the severed head of his prized racehorse "Khartoum" in his bed as he awakes in the morning.

Upon Hagen's return, the family leadership meets with "The Turk" Virgil Sollozzo ( Al Lettieri), who asks Don Corleone to protect the rival Tattaglia family's planned heroin business. Don Vito disapproves of drug trafficking and feels his political influence could be jeopardized, so he rejects the potentially lucrative proposal. He then sends his primary enforcer, Luca Brasi ( Lenny Montana), to find out more about Sollozzo's organization, but Brasi is stabbed in the hand by Sollozzo and garroted to death.

Don Corleone is shot five times in the back at a fruit stand in an assassination attempt. Sollozzo abducts Hagen and persuades him to offer Corleone's eldest son, Sonny ( James Caan), the deal previously offered to the Don. The youngest son, Michael (Al Pacino), whom the other Mafia families consider a "civilian" uninvolved in mob business, averts a second murder attempt at the hospital where his father is being treated, but his jaw is broken by corrupt Irish American police Captain McCluskey ( Sterling Hayden). Sonny retaliates by having Don Philip Tattaglia's son, Bruno, killed.

Sollozzo and McCluskey meet with Michael at a local Italian restaurant in an attempt to settle the dispute. Michael pretends he needs to use the bathroom, and following a plan he initiated, retrieves a gun hidden there. Michael returns to the table and kills both Sollozzo and McCluskey. He leaves the country and takes refuge in Sicily, where he soon marries a young local woman named Apollonia Vitelli ( Simonetta Stefanelli). The third Corleone brother, Fredo ( John Cazale), is sent to Las Vegas where he is sheltered by casino operators the Corleones financially back. Open warfare soon erupts between the Corleones and the other members of the Five Families, while the police and other authorities begin to clamp down on Mafia activity. Don Vito is particularly distressed when he learns of Michael's involvement, since he had planned for Michael to remain uninvolved in the "family business."

Sonny impulsively leaves the guarded family compound to confront Carlo ( Gianni Russo) who has been abusing Connie ( Talia Shire). Sonny beats Carlo on the street and threatens to kill him if he ever touches Connie again. Later, Carlo beats Connie again and upon getting her phone call, Sonny drives from the compound for her home. En route, he is ambushed and killed at a toll booth. Meanwhile, Michael narrowly escapes death in Sicily when his wife is killed by a car bomb.

Don Vito meets with the other Five Family dons and settles their dispute, withdrawing his opposition to the Tattaglias' heroin business. He deduces from the negotiations that the Tattaglias were acting on behalf of the more powerful Don Barzini ( Richard Conte). With his safety now guaranteed, Michael returns home. More than a year later, he marries his long time American girlfriend, Kay Adams (Diane Keaton). As his father withdraws from active control of the Corleone family, and as middle brother Fredo is seen as incapable of shouldering the Don's responsibilities, Michael takes control of the family and its business. He promises Kay he will legitimize its businesses within five years.

Biding his time, Michael allows rival families to pressure Corleone enterprises and eat away at their revenues, disturbing several of his caporegimes. He directs them not to retaliate, disclosing plans to move family operations to Nevada while spinning off New York operations to family members who stay behind. Michael chooses Carlo to go to Vegas and replaces Hagen with his father as his consigliere; Vito explains to the upset Hagen that he and Michael have longer-range plans for him and for the family.

Michael travels to Las Vegas, intending to buy out their casino partner, Moe Greene ( Alex Rocco). Greene angrily rejects the proposal, deriding the Corleones as a failing organization. Michael is particularly angered when Fredo, under the sway of Greene and his associates, warns his brother that Greene is too important to be treated in that fashion.

Vito Corleone collapses and dies while playing with his young grandson Anthony in his tomato garden. At the burial, caporegime Tessio ( Abe Vigoda) arranges a meeting between Michael and Don Barzini, now seen as the dominant figure in the New York families. As Vito had warned Michael, Tessio's involvement signals his shift of allegiance to the Barzini family; the planned meeting is intended to result in Michael's assassination. The meeting is set for the same day as the christening of Connie and Carlo's son, where Michael will stand as his godfather.

As the christening proceeds, Corleone assassins murder each of the dons heading the other New York families and Moe Greene in Las Vegas. After the christening, Tessio learns that Michael is aware of his betrayal, and is taken off to his death. Michael confronts Carlo over his presumed involvement in setting up Sonny's killing, saying he is out of the Family business and handing him a plane ticket to Las Vegas. After Carlo confesses he betrayed Sonny to Barzini, he is escorted to a waiting car only to be garroted from behind by Clemenza.

Later, Connie, accompanied by Kay, accuses Michael of murdering the vanished Carlo. When Kay confronts him privately he denies the accusation, an answer she appears to accept. As the film ends, Kay sees Michael receiving gestures of respect from other mafiosi, paralleling the treatment given his father, just before the door to his office is closed.


  • Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, the boss (the "don") of the Corleone family, formerly known as Vito Andolini. He is the father of Santino (Sonny), Federico (Fredo), Michele (Michael) and Constanzia (Connie) and adoptive father to Tom Hagen. Husband of Carmella Corleone. A native Sicilian.
  • Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, the don's and Carmella's youngest son, recently returned from military service following the end of World War II. The only college-educated member of the family (other than Tom Hagen), he initially wants nothing to do with the "family business". His evolution from doe-eyed outsider to ruthless boss is the key plotline of the film.
  • James Caan as Santino "Sonny" Corleone, Vito's and Carmella's hot-headed eldest son. As underboss, he is being groomed to succeed his father as head of the family.
  • Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen, an informally adopted son, he is the family lawyer and consigliere (counselor). He is German-Irish, not Sicilian.
  • Diane Keaton as Kay Adams-Corleone, Michael's girlfriend and, ultimately, his wife and mother to their children.
  • John Cazale as Fredo Corleone, the middle son. He is not very bright, a womanizer and appears to be the weakest of the brothers.
  • Talia Shire as Constanzia "Connie" Corleone, the youngest child and only daughter. She marries Carlo Rizzi.
  • Richard S. Castellano as Peter Clemenza, a caporegime for the family.
  • Abe Vigoda as Salvatore Tessio, a caporegime for the family.
  • Al Lettieri as Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo, a heroin dealer associated with the Tattaglia family.
  • Gianni Russo as Carlo Rizzi, Connie's husband. Becomes an associate of the Corleone family, and ultimately betrays Sonny to the Barzini family.
  • Sterling Hayden as Captain McCluskey, a corrupt police captain on Sollozzo's payroll.
  • Lenny Montana as Luca Brasi, an enforcer utilized by Vito Corleone.
  • Richard Conte as Emilio Barzini, Don of the Barzini family.
  • Al Martino as Johnny Fontane, a world-famous popular singer and godson of Vito.
  • John Marley as Jack Woltz, a powerful Hollywood producer.
  • Alex Rocco as Moe Greene, a longtime associate of the Corleone family who owns a Las Vegas hotel.
  • Morgana King as Carmela Corleone, Vito's wife and mother of Sonny, Fredo, Michael, and Connie, and adoptive mother to Tom Hagen.
  • Johnny Martino as Paulie Gatto, a soldier under Peter Clemenza and Vito's driver.
  • Victor Rendina as Philip Tattaglia, Don of the Tattaglia family.
  • Simonetta Stefanelli as Apollonia Vitelli-Corleone, a young girl Michael meets and marries while in Sicily.
  • Louis Guss as Don Zaluchi, Don of the Zaluchi family of Detroit.
  • Tom Rosqui as Rocco Lampone, a soldier under Clemenza who eventually becomes a caporegime in the Corleone family.
  • Joe Spinell as Willi Cicci, a soldier in the Corleone family.
  • Richard Bright as Al Neri, Michael Corleone's bodyguard. He eventually becomes a caporegime.
  • Julie Gregg as Sandra Corleone, wife of Sonny


Coppola and Paramount

Francis Ford Coppola was not the first choice to direct. Italian director Sergio Leone was offered the job first, but he declined in order to direct his own gangster opus, Once Upon a Time in America, which focused on Jewish-American gangsters. Peter Bogdanovich was then approached but he also declined the offer and made What's Up, Doc? instead. According to Robert Evans, head of Paramount Pictures at the time, Coppola also did not initially want to direct the film because he feared it would glorify the Mafia and violence, and thus reflect poorly on his Sicilian and Italian heritage; on the other hand, Evans specifically wanted an Italian-American to direct the film because his research had shown that previous films about the Mafia that were directed by non-Italians had fared dismally at the box office, and he wanted to, in his own words, "smell the spaghetti". When Coppola hit upon the idea of making it a metaphor for American capitalism, however, he eagerly agreed to take the helm. At the time, Coppola had directed five feature films, the most notable of which was the adaptation of the stage musical Finian's Rainbow–although he had also received an Academy Award for co-writing Patton in 1970. Coppola was in debt to Warner Bros. for $400,000 following budget overruns on George Lucas's THX 1138, which Coppola had produced, and he took The Godfather on Lucas's advice.

There was intense friction between Coppola and Paramount, and several times Coppola was almost replaced. Paramount maintains that its skepticism was due to a rocky start to production, though Coppola believes that the first week went extremely well. The studio thought that Coppola failed to stay on schedule, frequently made production and casting errors, and insisted on unnecessary expenses, and two top producers unsuccessfully tried to convince another filmmaker to take Coppola's place. The producers scapegoated the other filmmaker when their attempt to fire Coppola became known. Because the producers told him that the other filmmaker had attempted a coup, Coppola says he was shadowed by a replacement director, who was ready to take over if Coppola was fired, but despite such intense pressure, he managed to defend his decisions and avoid being replaced.

Paramount was in financial trouble at the time of production and was desperate for a "big hit" to boost business, hence the pressure Coppola faced during filming. They wanted The Godfather to appeal to a wide audience and threatened Coppola with a "violence coach" to make the film more exciting. Coppola added a few more violent scenes to keep the studio happy. The scene in which Connie breaks dishes after finding out that her husband is cheating was added for this reason.


Coppola's casting choices were unpopular with studio executives at Paramount Pictures, particularly Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone. Coppola's first two choices for the role were both Brando and Laurence Olivier, but Olivier's agent refused the role, saying, "Lord Olivier is not taking any jobs. He's very sick. He's gonna die soon and he's not interested" (Olivier lived 18 years after the refusal). Paramount, which wanted Ernest Borgnine, originally refused to allow Coppola to cast Brando in the role, citing difficulties Brando had on recent film sets. One studio executive proposed Danny Thomas for the role citing the fact that Don Corleone was a strong "family man." At one point, Coppola was told by the then-president of Paramount that "Marlon Brando will never appear in this motion picture". After pleading with the executives, Coppola was allowed to cast Brando only if he appeared in the film for much less salary than his previous films, perform a screen-test, and put up a bond saying that he would not cause a delay in the production (as he had done on previous film sets). Coppola chose Brando over Borgnine on the basis of his screen test, which also won over the Paramount leadership. Brando later won an Academy Award for his portrayal, which he refused to accept.

The studio originally wanted Robert Redford or Ryan O'Neal to play Michael Corleone, but Coppola wanted an unknown who looked like an Italian-American, whom he found in Al Pacino. Pacino was not well known at the time, having appeared in only two minor films, and the studio did not consider him right for the part, in part because of his height. Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Warren Beatty, Martin Sheen, and James Caan also auditioned. At one point, Caan was the first choice to play Michael, while Carmine Caridi was signed as elder brother Sonny. Pacino was given the role only after Coppola threatened to quit the production; Caan stated that Coppola envisioned Michael to be the Sicilian-looking one and Sonny was the Americanized version. The studio agreed to Pacino on the condition that Caan was cast as Sonny instead of Caridi, despite the former's Jewish heritage and the latter closely matching the character in the novel (a six-foot-four, black-haired Italian-American bull). Coppola and Puzo would subsequently create a role for Caridi in the sequels.

Bruce Dern, Paul Newman, and Steve McQueen were considered for the role of Tom Hagen that eventually went to Robert Duvall. Sylvester Stallone auditioned for Carlo Rizzi and Paulie Gatto, Anthony Perkins for Sonny, and Mia Farrow auditioned for Kay. William Devane was seen for the role of Moe Greene. Mario Adorf was approached for a role as well. A then-unknown Robert De Niro auditioned for the roles of Michael, Sonny, Carlo, and Paulie Gatto. He was cast as Paulie, but Coppola arranged a "trade" with The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight to get Al Pacino from that film. De Niro later played the young Vito Corleone in Part II, winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role.

To some extent, the film was a family affair for Francis Ford Coppola. Carmine Coppola, his father, who had a distinguished career as a composer, conductor and arranger, wrote additional music for the film and appeared in a bit part as a piano player, and Carmine's wife, Italia Coppola, was an extra. The director's sister, Talia Shire, was cast as Connie Corleone, and his infant daughter, Sofia, played Connie's and Carlo's newborn son, Michael Francis Rizzi, in the climactic baptism scene near the movie's end. Coppola also cast his sons as Tom Hagen's sons, Frank and Andrew. They are seen in the Sonny-Carlo street fight scene and behind Pacino and Duvall during the funeral scene.

Star salaries

Al Pacino, James Caan and Diane Keaton each received $35,000 for their work on The Godfather, and Robert Duvall got $36,000 for eight weeks of work. Marlon Brando was paid $50,000 for six weeks and weekly expenses of $1,000, plus 5% of the film, capped at $1.5 million. Brando later sold his points back to Paramount for $300,000.


Most of the principal photography took place from March 29, 1971 to August 6, 1971, although a scene with Pacino and Keaton was shot in the autumn—there were a total of 77 days of shooting, fewer than the 83 for which the production had budgeted.

One of the movie's most shocking moments involved the real severed head of a horse. Animal rights groups protested the inclusion of the scene. Coppola later stated that the horse's head was delivered to him from a dog food company; a horse had not been killed specifically for the movie. This scene was shot in Port Washington, New York.

In the novel, Jack Woltz, the movie producer whose horse's head is put in his bed, is also shown to be a pedophile as Tom Hagen sees a young girl (presumably one of Woltz's child stars) crying while walking out of Woltz's room. This scene was cut from the theatrical release but can be found on the DVD (though Woltz can still briefly be seen kissing the girl on the cheek in his studio in the film).

The shooting of Moe Greene through the eye was inspired by the death of gangster Bugsy Siegel. To achieve the effect, actor Alex Rocco's glasses had two tubes hidden in their frames. One had fake blood in it, and the other had a BB and compressed air. When the gun was shot, the compressed air shot the BB through the glasses, shattering them from the inside. The other tube then released the fake blood.

The equally startling scene of McCluskey's shooting was accomplished by building up a fake forehead on top of actor Sterling Hayden. A gap was cut in the centre, filled with fake blood, and capped off with a plug of prosthetic flesh. During filming, the plug was quickly yanked out with monofilament fishing line, making a bloody hole suddenly appear in Hayden's head.

The opening scene of The Godfather is a long, slow zoom, starting with a close-up of the undertaker, Bonasera, who is petitioning Don Corleone, and ending with the Godfather, seen from behind, framing the scene. This zoom, which lasts for about three minutes, was shot with a computer-controlled zoom lens designed by Tony Karp. The lens was also used in the making of Silent Running.

The scene with Michael driving with McCluskey and Sollozzo avoided the use of back-projection because of cost. Technicians moved lights behind the car to create the illusion.

The cat in the opening scene used to hang around the studio, and was simply dropped in Brando's lap by the propman at the last minute.


Locations around New York City and its environs were used for the film, including the then-closed flagship store of Best & Company on Fifth Avenue, which was dressed up and used for the scene in which Pacino and Keaton are Christmas shopping. At least one location in Los Angeles was used also (for the exterior of Woltz's mansion), for which neither Robert Duvall nor John Marley were available; in some shots, it is possible to see that extras are standing in for the two actors. A scene with Pacino and Keaton was filmed in the town of Ross, California. The Sicilian towns of Savoca and Forza d'Agrò outside of Taormina were also used for exterior locations. Interiors were shot at Filmways Studio in New York.

A side entrance to Bellevue Hospital was used for Michael's confrontation with police Captain McCluskey. As of 2007, the steps and gate to the hospital were still there but victim to neglect.

The hospital interiors, when Michael visits his father there, were filmed at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary on 14th Street, in Manhattan, New York City.

The scene in which Don Barzini was assassinated was filmed on the steps of the New York State Supreme Court building on Foley Square in Manhattan, New York City.

The wedding scene (and the Corleone family compound) was shot at 110 Longfellow Avenue in the Todt Hill section of Staten Island. The numerous Tudor homes on the block gave the impression that they were part of the same "compound." Paramount built a Plexiglas "stone wall" which traversed the street — the same wall where Sonny smashed the camera.

The wedding scenes were filmed on an open backyard at Longfellow Avenue,Staten Island, NY. Many of the extras were local Italian-Americans who were asked by Francis Ford Coppola to drink homemade wine, enjoy the traditional Italian food, and participate in the scene as though it were an actual wedding. Food was catered by "Demyan's Hofbrau" a restaurant on Van Duzer Street (which is no longer in existence). The wedding cake was prepared by a bakery on Port Richmond Avenue.

Two churches were used to film the baptism scene. The interior shots were filmed at Old St. Patrick's in New York. For the baptism, Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582 was used, as were other Bach works for the pipe organ. The exterior scenes following the baptism were filmed at The Church of St. Joachim and St. Anne in the Pleasant Plains section of Staten Island, New York. In 1973 much of the church was destroyed in a fire. Only the façade and steeple of the original church remained, and were later incorporated into a new structure.

The funeral scene was filmed at Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens.

Critical reception

The film is greatly respected among international critics and the public and is routinely listed as one of the greatest films ever made. It was voted greatest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly, and is now ranked as the second greatest film in American cinematic history–behind Citizen Kane–by the American Film Institute. In the 2002 Sight & Sound poll of international critics, The Godfather (along with The Godfather Part II) was ranked as the fourth best film of all time. Both The Godfather and The Godfather Part II were selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1990 and 1993, respectively.

The Godfather has a 100% "Certified Fresh Rating" on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 9/10 based on 66 reviews. It is one of only a handful of movies to achieve a 100% rating.

The soundtrack's main theme by Nino Rota was also critically acclaimed; the main theme (" Speak Softly Love") is well-known and widely used (see Score Controversy for more information).

Director Stanley Kubrick believed that The Godfather was possibly the greatest movie ever made, and had without question the best cast.

Previous gangster movies had looked at the gangs from the perspective of an outraged outsider. In contrast, The Godfather presents the gangster's perspective of the Mafia as a response to corrupt society. Although the Corleone family is presented as immensely rich and powerful, no scenes depict prostitution, gambling, loan sharking or other forms of racketeering. Some critics argue that the setting of a criminal counterculture allows for unapologetic gender stereotyping, and is an important part of the film's appeal. ("You can act like a man!", Don Vito tells a weepy Johnny Fontane.)

Real-life gangsters responded enthusiastically to the film. Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, the former Underboss in the Gambino crime family, stated: "I left the movie stunned... I mean I floated out of the theatre. Maybe it was fiction, but for me, then, that was our life. It was incredible. I remember talking to a multitude of guys, made guys, who felt exactly the same way." According to Anthony Fiato after seeing the film, Patriarca crime family members Paulie Intiso and Nicky Giso altered their speech patterns closer to that of Vito Corleone's. Intiso would frequently swear and use poor grammar; but after the movie came out, he started to articulate and philosophize more.

Differences from the novel

One of the primary parts of Puzo's novel which was not used for the movie was the flashback story of Vito Corleone's earlier life, including the circumstances of his emigration to America, his early family life, his murder of Don Fanucci, and his rise in importance in the Mafia, all of which were later used in The Godfather Part II.

Many subplots were trimmed in the transition from the printed page to the screen, including:

  • singer Johnny Fontane's misfortunes with women and his problems with his voice (Johnny is a major character in the book);
  • a teenaged Sonny's impulsive dabbling in street crime and his utterly lacking the tact and coolheadedness possessed in such abundance by his father;
  • Sonny's mistress, Lucy Mancini, was a substantial character in the novel, but only appears briefly in the film. Additionally, the novel states that Lucy Mancini was not pregnant by Sonny when she moved to Las Vegas, thus leaving no room for her son, Vincent Mancini of The Godfather Part III.
  • Dr. Jules Segal, who was excised entirely from the film.
  • Jack Woltz's pedophilia although in scenes shown in The Godfather Saga, the pedophilia is explicitly shown and mentioned by Hagen to Don Corleone;
  • Kay Adams' home life and her brief separation from Michael;
  • Luca Brasi's demonic past;
  • the Corleone family's victorious rise to power in earlier New York gang wars in which Don Corleone survives a previous assassination attempt and Al Capone sends triggermen from Chicago in an unsuccessful attempt to aid a rival gang;
  • disgraced former police officer Al Neri's recruitment as a Corleone hit man;
  • Don Corleone's ingenious plan to bring Michael out of exile in Sicily;
  • the detailed savage attack on the two men who assaulted the undertaker Bonasera's daughter, which was led by Paulie Gatto and involved retainer thugs (which was only alluded to in the film).

Connie's confrontation with Michael over Carlo's death is also portrayed somewhat differently. Although she is initially distraught, accusing Michael of executing her husband as revenge for Sonny's brutal murder, in the book she apologizes to Michael a few days later, claiming she was mistaken, apparently glad to be rid of the abusive Carlo and that Sonny has been avenged. She also marries again less than a year later.

Characters with smaller roles in the film than in the novel include Johnny Fontane, Lucy Mancini, Rocco Lampone, and Al Neri (the last two are reduced to non-speaking roles). Characters dropped in the film adaptation besides Dr. Segal include Vito's terminally-ill consigliere, Genco Abbandando (only spoken of, he appears in a deleted scene featured in The Godfather Saga; he first appears on film in The Godfather II), family friend Nino Valenti, and Dr. Taza from Sicily. Also, in the book, Michael and Kay have two sons, but in the movies they have a son and a daughter.

The novel and film also differ on the fates of Michael's bodyguards in Sicily, Fabrizio and Calo. The film has them both surviving (Calo, in fact, appears in the third installment). In the book, however, it is stated that Calo dies along with Apollonia in the car explosion, and Fabrizio, implicated as an accomplice in the bombing, is shot and killed as one more victim in the famous "baptism scene" after he is tracked down running a pizza parlor in Buffalo. Fabrizio's murder was deleted from the film but publicity photos of the scene exist. (He is later killed in a completely different scene in The Godfather Saga which was deleted from The Godfather Part II.)

The book's ending differs from the movie: whereas in the film Kay suddenly realizes that Michael has become "like his family", the drama is toned down in the book. She leaves Michael and goes to stay with her parents. When Tom Hagen visits her there, he lets her in on family secrets for which, according to him, he would be killed should Michael find out what he has revealed. Kay returns to Michael in an uneasy compromise; she loves him, holds herself apart from the details of his work and attends Catholic mass daily with Mama Corleone to pray for Michael's soul, just as Mama had done for Vito.

Awards and honours

Academy Awards
1. Best Actor, Marlon Brando
2. Best Picture, Albert S. Ruddy
3. Best Adapted Screenplay, Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola
Golden Globe Awards
1. Best Picture — Drama
2. Best Director, Francis Ford Coppola
3. Best Actor — Drama, Marlon Brando
4. Best Original Score, Nino Rota
5. Best Screenplay, Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola
BAFTA Awards
1. Best Music, Nino Rota

The Godfather won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Writing (adapted screenplay) for Francis Coppola and Mario Puzo, and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Marlon Brando, who declined to collect the award and sent Native American actress Sacheen Littlefeather to the Oscars in his place to explain his reasons. The film had been nominated for eight other Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Al Pacino, James Caan, and Robert Duvall, Best Director, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. The film also had a Best Original Score nomination but was disqualified when found out that Nino Rota used another score. Despite having three nominees of Best Supporting Actor award, they all lost to Joel Grey in Cabaret. It also lost the Best Director, Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing to Cabaret.

The film won five Golden Globes, one Grammy, and numerous other awards.

Score controversy

Nino Rota's score was removed at the last minute from the list of 1973 Academy Award nominees when it was discovered that he had used the theme in Eduardo De Filippo's 1958 comedy Fortunella. Although in the earlier film the theme was played in a brisk, staccato and comedic style, the melody was the same as the love theme from The Godfather, and for that reason was deemed ineligible for an Oscar. Despite this, The Godfather Part II won a 1974 Oscar for Best Original Score, although it featured the same love theme that made the 1972 score ineligible.

Current rankings

  • The film is ranked as first on Metacritic's top 100 list, and in the top 10 on Rotten Tomatoes' all-time best list (100% "Freshness").
  • In 2002, The Godfather and The Godfather Part II reached #2 on Film4's list of The 100 Greatest Films of All Time.
  • Entertainment Weekly named The Godfather the greatest film ever made.
  • The Godfather was voted in at #1 on Empire magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time in November 2008.

American Film Institute

  • 1998 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies #3
  • 2001 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills #11
  • 2005 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes:
    • "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse," #2
  • 2005 AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores #5
  • 2007 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) #2
  • 2008 AFI's 10 Top 10 #1 gangster film

Cinematic influence

Although many films about gangsters had been made before The Godfather, Coppola's sympathetic treatment of the Corleone family and their associates, and his portrayal of mobsters as characters of considerable psychological depth and complexity was hardly usual in the genre. This was even more the case with The Godfather Part II, and the success of those two films, critically, artistically and financially, opened the doors for more and varied depictions of mobster life, including films such as Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas and TV series such as David Chase's The Sopranos.

The image of the Mafia as being a feudal organization with the Don being both the protector of the small fry and the collector of obligations from them to repay his services, which The Godfather helped to popularize, is now an easily recognizable cultural trope, as is that of the Don's family as a "royal family". (This has spread into the real world as well– cf. John Gotti – the "Dapper Don", and his celebritized family.) This portrayal stands in contrast to the more sordid reality of lower level Mafia "familial" entanglements, as depicted in various post-Godfather Mafia fare, such as Scorsese's Mean Streets and Casino, and also to the grittier hard-boiled pre-Godfather films.

In the 1999 film Analyze This, which starred Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal, many references are made both directly and indirectly to The Godfather. One dream scene is almost a shot by shot replica of the attempted assassination of Vito Corleone (Crystal playing the Don and De Niro playing Fredo). In the 1990 comedy The Freshman, Marlon Brando plays a role reminiscent of Don Corleone. And one of those most unlikely homages to this film came in 2004, when the PG-rated, animated family film Shark Tale was released with a storyline that nodded at this and other movies about the Mafia. Similarly, Rugrats in Paris, based on a Nickelodeon children's show, began with an extended parody of The Godfather.

The 2005 Indian film Sarkar, directed by Ram Gopal Varma, with Amitabh Bachan in the lead role as a "Don" and his son Abhishek Bachchan as the equivalent of Michael, is modeled on The Godfather with due credits appearing at the beginning of the film.

In the DVD commentary for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas stated that the interwoven scenes of Anakin Skywalker slaying separatist leaders and Palpatine announcing the beginning of the Galactic Empire was an homage to the christening and assassination sequence in The Godfather.


Chronological versions

In 1975, Coppola edited The Godfather and The Godfather Part II together for TV, putting the scenes in chronological order and adding some previously unseen footage, but also toning down the violence, sex, and profanity. It is rated TV-14. This version of the story was called The Godfather Saga. In 1981, Paramount released the Godfather Epic box set which combined parts I & II in chronological order, again with additional scenes not shown in theaters. In 1992, Coppola would again re-edit all three Godfather movies (The Godfather, The Godfather Part II and The Godfather Part III) in chronological order dubbed The Godfather Trilogy 1901-1980. It was released on VHS and laserdisc in 1993 but has yet (as of 2008) to appear on DVD. The total run time for this version is 583 minutes (9 hours, 43 minutes). This version spanned five VHS tapes and incorporated new previously deleted scenes that had not been seen in The Godfather Saga. This set also included a sixth VHS tape: "The Godfather Family: A Look Inside" a making-of documentary.

Additional scenes

None of these releases contains all the additional scenes in one package. The Saga contains scenes not in the Epic or Trilogy, the Epic contains scenes not in the Saga or Trilogy, and the Trilogy contains scenes not in the Saga or the Epic. Fans have longed for a complete release of the entire series though Francis Ford Coppola has stated that the films were meant to be seen in their original form and has not agreed (as of 2008) to a chronological release.

2001 DVD release

The Godfather was released on DVD for the first time on October 9, 2001 as part of a DVD package called The Godfather DVD Collection. The collection contained all three films with commentary from Francis Ford Coppola and a bonus disc that featured a 73-minute documentary from 1991 titled The Godfather Family: A Look Inside, plus a 1971 documentary. The package also contained deleted footage, including the additional scenes originally contained in The Godfather Saga; "Francis Coppola's Notebook" a look inside a notebook the director kept with him at all times during the production of the film; rehearsal footage; and video segments on Gordon Willis's cinematography, Nino Rota's and Carmine Coppola's music, Francis Ford Coppola, locations and Mario Puzo's screenplays. The DVD also held a Corleone family tree, a "Godfather" timeline, and footage of the Academy Award acceptance speeches.

The restoration was confirmed by Francis Ford Coppola during a question-and-answer session for The Godfather Part III, when he said that he had just seen the new transfer and it was "terrific".

The Coppola Restoration

After a careful restoration of the aging first two movies, The Godfather movies were released on DVD and Blu-ray on September 23, 2008 under the title The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration. The work was done by Robert A. Harris of the Film Preserve. The Blu-ray box set (four discs) includes high-definition extra features on the restoration and film. They are included on disc 5 of the DVD box set (five discs).

Other extras are ported over from Paramount's 2001 DVD release. There are slight differences between the repurposed extras on the DVD and Blu-ray sets, with the HD box having more content.

Paramount lists the new (HD) extra features as:

  • Godfather World
  • The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't
  • ...when the shooting stopped
  • Emulsional Rescue Revealing The Godfather
  • The Godfather on the Red Carpet
  • Four Short Films on The Godfather
    • The Godfather vs. The Godfather, Part II
    • Cannoli
    • Riffing on the Riffing
    • Clemenza

The new DVD boxset was released on June 2, 2008 in Europe. It has been rerated as a "15" by the BBFC.

In the Coppola restoration on Blu-ray (2008), the end credit theme music for The Godfather Part II is missing the final chord (approximately 10 seconds) from the film proper. This missing chord would be located immediately before the restoration credit music begins. Robert A. Harris has not publicly commented about this.

In popular culture

The Godfather, along with the other films in the trilogy, had a strong impact on the public at large. Don Vito Corleone's line "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse" was voted as the second most memorable line in cinema history in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes by the American Film Institute. The line actually originates in the French novel Le Père Goriot, by Honouré de Balzac, where Vautrin tells Eugène that he is "making him an offer that he cannot refuse".

An indication of the continuing influence of The Godfather and its sequels can be gleaned from the many references to it which have appeared in every medium of popular culture in the decades since the film's initial release. That these homages, quotations, visual references, satires and parodies continue to pop up even now shows clearly the film's enduring impact. In the television show The Sopranos, Tony Soprano's topless bar is named Bada Bing after the line in The Godfather when Sonny says, "You've gotta get up close like this and bada-bing! You blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit."

Several television shows have contained references to the film, including the 1997 British film Twin Town, Arrested Development, Yes Dear, Seinfeld, The King of Queens, Mr. Show with Bob and David, That '70s Show, and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, and even the popular kids' shows Hannah Montana, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Animaniacs and Rugrats. The Simpsons in particular makes numerous references to The Godfather, including one scene in the episode " Strong Arms of the Ma" that parodies the Sonny-Carlo streetfight scene, with Marge Simpson beating a mugger in front of an animated version of the same New York streetscape, including using the lid of a trash can during the fight.

On the final season of Martin, Cole imitates the Godfather says "Martino, Gino, where the bambino?". The Warner Bros. animated show Animaniacs featured several segments called " Goodfeathers," with pigeons spoofing characters from various gangster films. One of the characters is "The Godpigeon", an obvious parody of Brando's portrayal of the Godfather; however, he speaks in complete elderly gibberish.

John Belushi appeared in a Saturday Night Live sketch as Vito Corleone in a therapy session trying to properly express his inner feelings towards the Tattaglia Family, who, in addition to muscling in on his territory, "also, they shot my son Santino 56 times."

In You've Got Mail, Tom Hanks' character makes frequent use of quotes from The Godfather, positing:

The Godfather is the I-ching. The Godfather is the sum of all wisdom. The Godfather is the answer to any question. What should I pack for my summer vacation? "Leave the gun, take the cannoli." What day of the week is it? "Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday."

Video game

In March 2006, a video game version of The Godfather was released by Electronic Arts. Before his death, Marlon Brando provided voice work for Vito; however, owing to poor sound quality from Brando's failing health, only parts of the recordings could be used. A sound-alike's voice had to be used in the "missing parts". James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Abe Vigoda lent their voices and likenesses as well, and several other Godfather cast members had their likeness in the game. However, Al Pacino's likeness and voice ( Michael Corleone) was not in the game as Al Pacino sold his likeness and voice exclusively for use in the Scarface video game. Francis Ford Coppola said in April 2005 that he was not informed and did not approve of Paramount allowing the game's production, and openly criticized the move.

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