Robert Duvall (left) and Al Pacino in The Godfather

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The Godfather

The Godfather is a film adaptation of the novel of the same name (see The Godfather (novel)) written by Mario Puzo, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. The film's story spans ten years from late 1945 to 1955. more...

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This movie is regarded by many as being the definitive Mafia film; some consider it the greatest film ever made. It is consistently ranked amongst the finest movies of all time.

Main characters and plot

The film begins at the wedding of Don Vito Corleone's (Marlon Brando) daughter, Connie, to Carlo Rizzi. According to tradition, no Sicilian can refuse a request on his daughter's wedding day, so the Don is meeting people and granting various favors. One of the favors is asked by Johnny Fontane, a crooner who wants Corleone's influence to break into the movie business, more specifically, with a movie he'd be perfect in, but can't land the lead role as it is being produced by Jack Woltz, with whom Johnny had a falling-out in the past.

After Don Corleone tells Johnny to rest and let him take care of everything, he reassures him by saying that he's "gonna make him an offer he can't refuse." The family consigliere Tom Hagen (Duvall) "persuades" Woltz to cast Fontane in the movie by leaving the head of the producer's prize racehorse (named Khartoum) in his bed.

Meanwhile, Don Corleone's younger son Michael (Al Pacino) has returned from service in World War II. While Vito Corleone is receiving requests on his daughter's wedding day, Michael is telling his girlfriend Kay about the kinds of things his father does. He tells her, "That's my family, Kay. It's not me."

After the wedding and the famous scene with the horse's head, narcotics man Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo asks Don Corleone for his help in selling narcotics. Don Corleone refuses, though his oldest son (Santino, or "Sonny") expresses interest in the deal. Luca Brasi, Don Corleone's unfailingly loyal bodyguard, is sent to obtain information from Sollozzo's apparent backers, the Tattaglia family, who kill him as part of a previous plan to get to Don Corleone.

Because Don Corleone is opposed but his eldest son (next in line to run the family business) favors the narcotics deal, Solozzo and company attempt (almost successfully) to assassinate Don Corleone. In response to the crisis, Michael (previously uninvolved in the family business) volunteers to kill Solozzo and his bodyguard, the corrupt police captain McClusky, during a meeting to end the conflict regarding Sollozzo's business proposal. After shooting them both in a Bronx restaurant, Michael flees to Sicily to avoid attention. There, he meets and marries Apollonia, who is later murdered by a duplicitous bodyguard's car bomb meant for Michael. Back in America, Don Corleone returns home from the hospital and is heartbroken to learn that Michael was the one who killed Solozzo and McClusky.

In New York, the temperamental Sonny (James Caan) prepares to deal with Carlo, who is abusing his wife (Sonny's sister Connie). Sonny is set up and murdered. Instead of perpetuating the revenge cycle, Don Corleone (now more or less recovered from the assassination attempt) seeks peace with the warring Five Families so his youngest son can return home. Don Corleone realizes that it was Don Barzini, not Philip Tattaglia, who was behind most of the war and Sonny's death. Michael returns from Sicily and marries former girlfriend Kay (Diane Keaton).

The ailing Don Corleone places Michael in charge of the Family, since the next oldest brother Fredo is the weakest and least intelligent of the brothers. While advising Michael about important details such as how his enemies will attempt to come after him, Vito Corleone reveals that he had hoped his youngest son wouldn't have to work in the family business. He had hoped Michael would one day be "the one pulling the strings...Governor Corleone or Senator Corleone," but unfortunately things didn't work out that way. Michael has plans to leave behind the family's cover (olive oil importing) and "go legit" in the Las Vegas casino business. His offers to buy out casino owner Moe Greene (based partly on Bugsy Siegel) are rebuffed. While playing with his grandson, Don Corleone dies from a heart attack.


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