Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Francis Ford Coppola|
|Produced by||Albert S. Ruddy|
|Based on||The Godfather
by Mario Puzo
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||175 minutes|
|Box office||$245–286 million|
The film stars Marlon Brando and Al Pacino as the leaders of a fictional New York crime family. The story, spanning the years 1945-55, centers on the transformation of Michael Corleone from reluctant family outsider to ruthless Mafia boss while also chronicling the family under the patriarch Vito Corleone.
Based on Puzo's best-selling novel of the same name, The Godfather is widely regarded as one of the greatest films in world cinema—and as one of the most influential, especially in the gangster genre. Ranked second to Citizen Kane by the American Film Institute in 2007, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1990.
The film was for a time the highest grossing picture ever made, and remains the box office leader for 1972. It won three Oscars that year: for Best Picture, for Best Actor (Brando) and in the category Best Adapted Screenplay for Puzo and Coppola. Its nominations in seven other categories included Pacino, James Caan and Robert Duvall for Best Supporting Actor and Coppola for Best Director. The success spawned two sequels: The Godfather Part II in 1974, and The Godfather Part III in 1990.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Release
- 5 Cinematic influence
- 6 Releases for television and video
- 7 References
- 8 External links
On the day of his only daughter's wedding, Vito Corleone hears requests in his role as the Godfather, the Don of a New York crime family. Vito's youngest son, Michael, in a Marine Corps uniform, introduces his girlfriend, Kay Adams, to his family at the sprawling reception. Vito's godson Johnny Fontane, a popular singer, pleads for help in securing a coveted movie role, so Vito dispatches his consigliere, Tom Hagen, to the abrasive studio head, Jack Woltz, to secure the casting. Woltz is unmoved until the morning he wakes up in bed with the severed head of his prized stallion.
Shortly before Christmas 1945, drug baron Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo, backed by the Corleones' rivals, the Tattaglias, asks Vito for investment in the emerging drug trade and protection through his political connections. Vito disapproves of drug dealers, so he sends his enforcer, Luca Brasi, to spy on them. The family then receives two fish wrapped in Brasi's vest, imparting that he "sleeps with the fishes". An assassination attempt by Sollozzo's men lands Vito in the hospital, so his eldest son, Sonny, takes command. Sollozzo kidnaps Hagen to pressure Sonny to accept his deal. Michael thwarts a second assassination attempt on his father at the hospital; his jaw is broken by Police Captain McCluskey, who is also Sollozzo's bodyguard. Sonny retaliates for the attacks on his father by having Tattaglia's son killed. Michael comes up with a plan to hit Sollozzo and McCluskey: on the pretext of settling the dispute, Michael accepts their offer to meet in a Bronx restaurant, retrieves a planted handgun, and murders them.
Despite a clampdown from the authorities, the Five Families erupt in open warfare and the brothers fear for their safety. Michael takes refuge in Sicily, and Fredo Corleone is sheltered by associate Moe Greene in Las Vegas. Sonny attacks his brother-in-law Carlo on the street for abusing his sister Connie and threatens to kill him if he abuses her again. When it happens again, Sonny speeds for her home but assassins ambush him at a highway toll booth and riddle him with submachine gun fire. Michael's time abroad has led to marriage to Apollonia Vitelli. Their euphoria is shattered when a car bomb intended for him takes her life.
Devastated by Sonny's death, Vito decides to end the feuds. Believing that the Tattaglias were under orders of the now dominant Don Emilio Barzini, he promises, before the heads of the Five Families, to withdraw his opposition to their heroin business and forgo revenge for his son's murder. His safety guaranteed, Michael returns home to a father saddened by his involvement in the family business and marries Kay the next year.
With his father at the end of his career and his surviving brother too weak, Michael takes the reins of the family, promising Kay that he will make the business legitimate within five years. To that end, he insists Hagen relocate to Las Vegas and relinquish his role to Vito because Tom is not a "wartime consigliere"; the older man agrees Tom should "have no part in what will happen" in the coming battles with rival families. When Michael travels to Las Vegas to buy out Greene's stake in the family's casinos, Greene derides the Corleones as a fading power. To add injury to insult, Michael sees Fredo falling under Greene's sway.
Vito collapses and dies in his garden while playing with Michael's son, Anthony. At the funeral, Salvatore Tessio arranges a meeting between Michael and Don Barzini, signaling his treachery as Vito had warned. The meeting is set for the same day as the christening of Connie's son, to whom Michael will stand as godfather. As the christening proceeds, Corleone assassins, acting on Michael's orders, murder the other New York dons and Moe Greene. Tessio is told that Michael is aware of his betrayal and taken off to his death. After Carlo is questioned by Michael on his involvement in setting up Sonny's murder and confesses he was contacted by Barzini, Peter Clemenza kills him with a wire garrote. Michael is confronted by Connie, who accuses him of having her husband killed. He denies killing Carlo when questioned by Kay, an answer she accepts. As Kay watches warily, Michael receives his capos, who address him as the new Don Corleone.
- Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, formerly known as Vito Andolini, who is the Don (the "boss") of the Corleone family. He is a native Sicilian married to Carmela Corleone. Vito is the father of Sonny, Fredo, Michael, and Connie.
- Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, the Don's youngest son, recently returned from World War II. The only college-educated member of the family, Michael initially wants nothing to do with the "family business". He is the main protagonist of the story and his evolution from doe-eyed outsider to ruthless boss is the key plotline of the film.
- James Caan as Santino "Sonny" Corleone, Don Corleone's hot-headed eldest son. As underboss, he is being groomed to succeed his father as head of the Corleone family.
- Richard S. Castellano as Peter Clemenza, a caporegime for the Corleone family. He is also an old friend of Vito Corleone and Salvatore Tessio.
- Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen, Don Corleone's informally adopted son, he is the family lawyer and consigliere (counselor). Unlike the Corleones, he is of German-Irish descent, not Sicilian.
- Diane Keaton as Kay Adams-Corleone, initially Michael's non-Italian girlfriend and then his second wife and the mother of his two children.
- John Cazale as Frederico "Fredo" Corleone, the middle son of the Corleone family. Deeply insecure and not very bright, he is considered the weakest of the Corleone brothers.
- Talia Shire as Constanzia "Connie" Corleone, the youngest child and only daughter of the Corleone family. She marries Carlo Rizzi at the beginning of the film.
- Abe Vigoda as Salvatore Tessio, a caporegime for the family. He is also an old friend of Vito Corleone and Peter Clemenza.
- Al Lettieri as Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo, a heroin dealer associated with the Tattaglia family. He asks Don Corleone to protect the Tattaglia family's heroin business through his political connections.
- Gianni Russo as Carlo Rizzi, introduced to the Corleone family by Sonny; became Connie's husband. Ultimately he betrays Sonny to the Barzini family.
- Sterling Hayden as Captain McCluskey, a corrupt police captain on Sollozzo's payroll.
- Lenny Montana as Luca Brasi, Vito Corleone's loyal and widely feared hitman.
- Richard Conte as Emilio Barzini, Don of the Barzini family.
- Al Martino as Johnny Fontane, a world-famous popular singer and godson of Vito, loosely based on Frank Sinatra.
- 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, based on Bugsy Siegel.
- Morgana King as Carmela Corleone, Vito's wife and mother of Sonny, Fredo, Michael, and Connie, and adoptive mother to Tom Hagen.
- Corrado Gaipa as Don Tommasino, an old friend of Vito Corleone, who shelters Michael during his exile in Sicily.
- Franco Citti as Calò, Michael's loyal bodyguard in Sicily.
- Johnny Martino as Paulie Gatto, a soldier under Peter Clemenza and Vito's driver.
- Victor Rendina as Philip Tattaglia, Don of the Tattaglia family.
- Tony Giorgio as Bruno Tattaglia, son and underboss. Sonny Corleone has him assassinated in retaliation for the shooting of Vito Corleone.
- 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 personal bodyguard who eventually becomes a caporegime.
- Julie Gregg as Sandra Corleone, the wife and, later, widow of Sonny.
- Jeannie Linero as Lucy Mancini, Sonny's mistress.
- Sofia Coppola (uncredited) as Michael Francis Rizzi, godchild of Michael Corleone.
The film is based on Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather, a 67 week New York Times Best Seller that sold over 10 million copies. The work first came to the attention of Paramount Pictures in 1967 as an unfinished sixty-page manuscript. Paramount executive Peter Bart believed it was "much beyond a Mafia story" and the studio made Puzo an offer to option the filming rights. Against his agent's advice, Puzo accepted the deal; in 1969, the studio exercised their option to adapt the novel.[N 1]
While numerous directors were considered, Paramount production head Robert Evans wanted an Italian American, to make the movie "ethnic to the core". Sergio Leone was the first choice, but he turned it down to work on his own gangster film Once Upon a Time in America. Even though not Italian, Peter Bogdanovich was offered the job, but he was not interested in the mafia. In all, twelve directors refused the job.
Coppola and Paramount
Paramount executive Peter Bart believed Coppola would work inexpensively within their small budget of $2.5 million, [N 2] but Coppola turned him down because he was put off by the novel. With his American Zoetrope studio in debt and his personal financial position weak, Coppola took the advice of family and friends and reversed his previous decision. Paramount announced the signing of Coppola as director on September 28, 1970.
The studio and the director had pre-production differences, and not only over casting (see below). Paramount wanted the movie set in modern-day Kansas City and shot in their studio back lot to keep the budget down. Coppola preferred the 1940s, as in the novel, allowing him to cover Michael's Marine Corps stint, the emergence of corporate America, and the American milieu in the years after World War II. Because the studio wanted a film with a wide audience appeal, Coppola was threatened with the addition of a "violence coach", prompting him to add a few more violent scenes that included Connie's dish-smashing reaction to her husband Carlo's infidelity.
The growing popularity of the book eventually changed minds at Paramount about the film's prospects; they raised the budget to $6 million and approved period filming on location in New York and Sicily.
When shooting began, the friction intensified between director and studio. Coppola was almost replaced in the first week when production was delayed after Pacino was badly injured. The studio believed that Coppola failed to stay on schedule, frequently made production and casting errors, and insisted on unnecessary expenses. But Brando told them he would quit if Coppola were fired. Still, Coppola was shadowed by a replacement director ready to take over if he was let go. He would later recollect:
"The Godfather was a very unappreciated movie when we were making it. They were very unhappy with it. They didn't like the cast. They didn't like the way I was shooting it. I was always on the verge of getting fired. So it was an extremely nightmarish experience. I had two little kids, and the third one was born during that. We lived in a little apartment, and I was basically frightened that they didn't like it. They had as much as said that, so when it was all over I wasn't at all confident that it was going to be successful, and that I'd ever get another job."
After the Sollozzo dinner scene was shot, Coppola met with studio resistance to a re-shoot. Behind his back, two members of his crew criticized the footage to studio executives. Coppola fired them and re-shot the scene, raising the cost of his own dismissal.
On April 14, 1970, Puzo was hired by Paramount to adapt his novel for the screen. In August, he had a draft 30 pages longer than the 120 pages expected of the final screenplay. After Coppola was hired as director, Puzo worked on the rewrite in Los Angeles, with Coppola in San Francisco, where he tore pages out of the novel and pasted them into his loose leaf draft, making notes about each of the book's fifty scenes, their major themes, and ideas and concepts that could be relevant to the film. This notebook became the director's personal reference for the duration of his work on the film. The two brought their drafts together into a second draft of 173 pages by March of the next year, with the final draft of 163 pages completed March 29, 1971. Screenwriter Robert Towne did uncredited work on the script, particularly on the Pacino-Brando garden scene.
Previous gangster movies looked at organized crime from the perspective of an outraged outsider. By contrast, The Godfather presents the gangster's perspective, with the Mafia a reflection of a corrupt society. Although the Corleone family is rich and powerful, no scenes depict prostitution, gambling, loan sharking or other forms of racketeering.
The Italian-American Civil Rights League wanted the words mafia and Cosa Nostra removed from the script and objected to its stereotypes about Italian-Americans. In addition, they requested that earnings from the premiere be donated to the league's fund to "build a new hospital". Coppola claimed that Puzo's screenplay only contained two instances of the word "mafia", while "Cosa Nostra" was absent. The league backed the production after those two uses were removed, a change Coppola found inconsequential.
Mario Puzo was first to show interest in having Marlon Brando portray Don Vito Corleone by sending him a letter stating he was the "only actor who can play the Godfather". However, Paramount executives were opposed because of the inferiority of the actor's recent box office showings and a reputation for a short temper. Coppola favored Brando or Laurence Olivier for the role. Olivier's agent refused the role for him because of poor health; however, he starred in Sleuth later that year.
After months of debate, Paramount president Stanley Jaffe insisted that Brando perform a screen test, so Coppola, not wishing to offend the actor, told him that he needed to test equipment. He traveled to Brando's residence in California and Brando allowed filming in makeup: cotton balls in the actor's cheeks, shoe polish in his hair, and a rolled collar. When Coppola met with Paramount executives, he placed Brando's tape in the middle of the auditions. They were impressed with Brando's performance and approved his casting in the title role, under the condition that Brando accept no salary (only a percentage) and put up a bond insuring against delays in production.
For Michael, Paramount wanted a popular actor, Coppola wanted an unknown. Warren Beatty claims that he and Jack Nicholson both turned it down. Evans preferred Ryan O'Neal, on the heels of his starring role in the hit Love Story. Although Paramount executives thought him "too short" for the role, Al Pacino was Coppola's preference, an unknown who looked Italian-American.
The studio gave Caan the part of Michael initially, with Sonny Corleone going to Carmine Caridi. But Coppola still pushed for Pacino and Evans eventually conceded as long as Caan—shorter than Caridi by seven inches—took the role of the more diminutive Pacino's brother.
Al Martino, a night club singer, believed the character of Johnny Fontane was based on his life, and was promised the role by producer Al Ruddy. However, Coppola cast Italian singer Vic Damone. After Martino contacted his godfather, crime boss Russ Bufalino, Damone understood that he should bow out.
Robert De Niro originally was given the part of Paulie Gatto, but he left it for a role in The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight that Pacino could no longer fit in. Diane Keaton was cast as Kay Adams after a screen test with Pacino. Coppola saw John Cazale perform Off Broadway and asked him to play Fredo Corleone. Gianni Russo screen tested on the scene where Carlo Rizzi fights with wife Sandra Corleone.
Coppola cast several family members, most notably his sister Talia Shire as Connie Corleone. His daughter Sofia played the infant boy in the famous baptism scene, and his composer father (at the piano), wife, mother, and two sons all made brief appearances.
Shooting began ahead of schedule on March 24 with cinematographer Gordon Willis. The early start was designed to take advantage of an unseasonal forecast of snow for New York City that never materialized. Instead, a snow machine was employed for the Christmas scene of Michael and Kate shopping in the city.
The opening shot is a long, slow pullback, starting with a close-up of Bonasera, who is petitioning Don Corleone, and ending with the Godfather, seen from behind, framing the picture. This move, which lasts for about three minutes, was shot with a computer-controlled zoom lens designed by Tony Karp.
The scene of Michael driving with McCluskey and Sollozzo did not employ back-projection because of budgetary limits. Instead, technicians moved lights behind the car to create the illusion.
Animal rights groups protested the scene with the severed head of a thoroughbred belonging to film producer Jack Woltz. Coppola said that the horse's head was delivered to him from a dog food company; a horse had not been killed specifically for the movie. The DVD release includes material that was cut from the theatrical version: Tom Hagen sees a young girl exiting Woltz's room in tears and Woltz kisses the girl on the cheek in his studio.
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 a fake forehead on top of actor Sterling Hayden. A gap was cut in the center, filled with fake blood, and capped off with a plug of prosthetic flesh. The plug was quickly yanked out with monofilament fishing line, making a bloody hole suddenly appear in McCluskey's head.
The most complicated and expensive scene was the death of Sonny Corleone at the Jones Beach Causeway toll plaza midway through the film. Filmed for more than $100,000 on a small Long Island airport runway at the former Mitchel Field, it was accomplished in just one take with at least four cameras. Caan's suit, rigged with 127 squibs of fake blood, and 200 squib-filled holes in the small toll booth building and the 1941 Lincoln auto, simulated the submachine gun ambush.
Locations around New York City 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 was 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 have fallen victim to neglect. The hospital interiors, shown 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 wedding at 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 Santino smashed the camera. Many of the extras in the wedding scene were local Italian-Americans who were asked by Coppola to drink homemade wine, enjoy the traditional Italian food, and participate in the scene as though it were an actual wedding. Coppola revealed in the extras DVD released in 2008 that if you look really close, some of the "daytime" scenes were actually shot at night, with almost blinding backlighting used to simulate the afternoon environment. The production scheduling required this, since this location was on an actual community street and time did not permit extra days to shoot in daylight.
Two churches were used to film the baptism scene. The interior shots were filmed at Old St. Patrick's Cathedral 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. 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. The toll booth scene was filmed at the site of Nassau Community College in Uniondale, New York on Long Island, which was under construction at the time. It also utilized the former Mitchel Field, and the roadway used was once a runway.
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Coppola hired Italian composer Nino Rota to create the underscore for the film, including the main theme, "Speak Softly Love". For the score, Rota to relate to the situations and characters in the film. Paramount executive Evans found the score to be to "highbrow" and did not want to use it; however, it was used after Coppola managed to get Evans to agree. Coppola believed that Rota's musical piece gave the film even more of an Italian feel. Coppola's father, Carmine, created some additional music for the film, particularly the music played by the band during the opening wedding scene.
There was a soundtrack released for the film in 1972 in vinyl form by Paramount Records, on CD in 1991 by Geffen Records, and digitally by Geffen on August 18, 2005. The album contains over 31 minutes of music coming from the movie, with most being composed by Rota, along with a song from Coppola and one by Johnny Farrow and Marty Symes. Allmusic gave the album five out of five stars, with editor Zach Curd saying it is a "dark, looming, and elegant soundtrack". An editor for Filmtracks believed that Rota did a great job of relating the music to the core aspects of the film, which the editor believed to be "tradition, love, and fear".
Paramount Pictures held the world premiere for The Godfather in New York City on March 14, 1972, almost three months after the planned release date of Christmas Day in 1971. The money gained from the premiere was all donated to The Boys Club of New York. Before the film premiered, the film had already made $15 million from rentals from over 400 theaters. The following day, the film opened in New York at five theaters. The film next opened in Los Angeles at two theaters on March 22. The Godfather was commercially released on March 24, 1972 throughout the rest of the United States.
The Godfather was a blockbuster, breaking many box office records to become the highest grossing film of 1972. It earned $81.5 million in theatrical rentals in North America during its initial release, increasing its earnings to $85.7 million through a reissue in 1973, and including a limited re-release in 1997 it ultimately earned an equivalent exhibition gross of $135 million. It displaced Gone with the Wind to claim the record as the top rentals earner, a position it would retain until the release of Jaws in 1975. News articles at the time proclaimed it was the first film to gross $100 million in North America, but such accounts are erroneous since this record in fact belongs to The Sound of Music, released in 1965. The film repeated its native success overseas, earning in total an unprecedented $142 million in worldwide theatrical rentals, to become the highest net earner. Profits were so high for The Godfather that earnings for Gulf & Western Industries, Inc., which owned Paramount Pictures, jumped from seventy-seven cents per share to three dollars and thirty cents a share for the year, according to a Los Angeles Times article, dated December 13, 1972. To date, it has grossed between $245 million and $286 million in worldwide box office receipts, and adjusted for ticket price inflation in North America, ranks among the top 25 highest-grossing films.
Since its release, The Godfather has received critical acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes reports that all 81 critics gave the film a positive review, with an average score of 9.2/10. Metacritic, another review aggregator, assigned the film a perfect weighted average score of 100% based on 14 reviews from mainstream critics, considered to be "universal acclaim". The film is ranked at the top of Metacritic's top 100 list, and is ranked 3rd on Rotten Tomatoes' all time best list (100% "Certified Fresh").
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times praised Coppola's efforts to follow the storyline of the eponymous novel, the choice to set the film in the same time as the novel, and the film's ability to "absorb" the viewer over its three hour run time. While Ebert was mainly positive, he criticized Brando's performance, saying his movements lacked "precision" and his voice was "wheezy". The Chicago Tribune's Gene Siskel gave the film 4 out of 4 stars, commenting that it was "very good". Village Voice's Andrew Sarris believed Brando portrayed Vito Corleone well and that his character dominated each scene it appeared in, but felt Puzo and Coppola had the character of Michael Corleone too focused on revenge. In addition, Sarris stated that Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, and James Caan were good in their respective roles. Desson Howe of the Washington Post believed that the film is a "jewel" and that Coppola deserves most of the credit for the film. The New York Times Vincent Camby felt that Coppola had created one of the "most brutal and moving chronicles of American life" and went on to say that it "transcends its immediate milieu and genre". Director Stanley Kubrick thought the film had the best cast ever and could be the best movie ever made.
Some critics argued that the setting of a criminal counterculture allows for unapologetic gender stereotyping, and is related to the film's appeal.
Real-life gangsters responded enthusiastically to the film, with many of them feeling it was a portrayal of how they were supposed to act. 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 theater. 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.
Remarking on the 40th anniversary of the film's release, film critic John Podhoretz praised The Godfather as "arguably the great American work of popular art" and "the summa of all great moviemaking before it". Two years before, Roger Ebert wrote in his journal that it "comes closest to being a film everyone agrees... is unquestionably great".
The Godfather was nominated for seven awards at the 30th Golden Globe Awards: Best Picture – Drama, James Caan for Best Supporting Actor, Al Pacino and Marlon Brando for Best Actor – Drama, Best Score, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. When the winners were announced on January 28, 1973, the film had won the categories for: Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actor - Drama, Best Original Score, and Best Picture – Drama. The Godfather won a record five Golden Globes, which still stands today.
Rota's score for the film was also nominated for Grammy Award for Best Original Score for a Motion Picture or TV Special at the 15th Grammy Awards. Rota was announced the winner of the category on March 3 at the Grammys' ceremony in Nashville, Tennessee.
When the nominations for the 45th Academy Awards were revealed on February 12, 1972, The Godfather was nominated for eleven awards. The nominations were for: Best Picture, Best Costume Design, Marlon Brando for Best Actor, Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola for Best Adapted Screenplay, Pacino, Caan, and Robert Duvall for Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing, Nino Rota for Best Original Score, Coppola for Best Director, and Best Sound. Upon further review of Rota's love theme from The Godfather, the Academy found that Rota had used a similar score in Eduardo De Filippo's 1958 comedy Fortunella. This led to re-balloting, where members of the music branch chose from six films: The Godfather and the five films that been on the shortlist for best original dramatic score but did not get nominated. John Addison's score for Sleuth won this new vote, and thus replaced Rota's score on the official list of nominees. Going into the awards ceremony, The Godfather was seen as the favorite to take home the most awards. From the nominations that The Godfather had remaining, it only won three of the Academy Awards: Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture.
Brando, who had also not attended the Golden Globes ceremony two months earlier, boycotted the Academy Awards ceremony and refused to accept the Oscar, becoming the second actor to refused a Best Actor award after George C. Scott in 1970. Brando sent American Indian Rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather in his place, to announce at the awards podium Brando's reasons for declining the award which were based on his objection to the depiction of American Indians by Hollywood and television. In addition, Pacino boycotted the ceremony. He was insulted at being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor award, noting that he had more screen time than his co-star and Best Actor winner Brando and thus he should have received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
The Godfather had five nominations for awards at the 26th British Academy Film Awards. The nominees were: Pacino for Most Promising Newcomer, Rota for the Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music, Duvall for Best Supporting Actor, and Brando for Best Actor, the flim's costume designer Anna Hill Johnstone for Best Costume Design. All of The Godfather's nominations failed to win except for Rota.
In 1990, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 1998, Time Out' conducted a poll and The Godfather was voted the best film of all time. In 2002, Sight & Sound polled film directors voted the film and its sequel as the second best film ever; the critics poll separately voted it fourth. Also in 2002, The Godfather was ranked the second best film of all time by Film4, after Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. In 2005, it was named one of the 100 greatest films of the last 80 years by Time magazine (the selected films were not ranked). In 2006, the Writers Guild of America, west agreed, voting it the number two in its list of the 101 greatest screenplays, after Casablanca. In 2008, the film was voted in at No. 1 on Empire magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. Entertainment Weekly named it the greatest film ever made. The film has been selected by the American Film Institute for many of their lists.
|1998||AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies||3|
|2001||AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills||11|
|2005||AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes||2|
|2006||AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores||"Speak Softly Love"||5|
|2007||AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition)||2|
|2008||AFI's 10 Top 10 Gangster||1|
Although many films about gangsters preceded The Godfather, Coppola's nuanced treatment of the Corleone family and their associates, and his portrayal of mobsters as characters of considerable psychological depth and complexity was an innovation. He took it further 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 a feudal organization with the Don as both the protector of the small fry and the collector of obligations from them for his services is now a commonplace trope which The Godfather helped to popularize. Similarly, the recasting of the Don's family as a figurative "royal family" has spread beyond fictional boundaries into the real world as well – (cf. John Gotti – the "Dapper Don", and his celebrity family.) This portrayal is echoed in the more sordid reality of lower level Mafia "familial" entanglements 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 DVD commentary for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas states that the interwoven scenes of Anakin Skywalker killing Separatist leaders and Palpatine announcing the beginning of the Galactic Empire was an homage to the christening and assassination sequence in The Godfather.
In popular culture
The Godfather epic, encompassing the original trilogy and the additional footage Coppola incorporated later, is by now thoroughly integrated into American life, and the first film had the largest impact. Unlike any film before it, its depiction of Italians who immigrated to the United States in the first half of the twentieth century is perhaps attributable to the director, himself an Italian-American, presenting his own understanding of their experience. Setting aside the stereotypes of the criminal element and the simple peasant, the films explain through their action the uneven integration of a particular population into a new milieu. Ironically, The Godfather increased Hollywood's unsavory depictions of immigrant Italians in the aftermath of the film and was a recruiting tool for organized crime. Still, the story is of a piece with all immigrant experience as much as it is rooted in the specific circumstances of the Corleones, a family of privilege who live outside the law, are not robbed of their universality yet assume a heroic aspect that is at once admirable and repellent. Released in a period of intense national cynicism and self-criticism, the American film struck a chord about the dual identities inherent in a nation of immigrants.
The concept of a mafia "Godfather" was an invention of Mario Puzo's and the film's effect was to add the fictional nomenclature to the language. Similarly, actual gangsters adopted Don Vito Corleone's unforgettable "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse" for themselves—voted the second most memorable line in cinema history in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes by the American Film Institute. In the French novel Le Père Goriot, Honoré de Balzac wrote of Vautrin telling Eugene: "In that case I will make you an offer that no one would decline."
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.
References to the film are abundant. 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 the most unlikely homages 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.
In Set it Off, four women - Lita "Stoney" Newsome (Jada Pinkett), Cleopatra "Cleo" Sims (Queen Latifah), Francesca "Frankie" Sutton (Vivica A. Fox), and Tisean "T.T." Williams (Kimberly Elise) - meet around a conference table at the office building they clean to plan a series of bank heists, during which time they do imitations of The Godfather.
- "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'."
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 Vito Corleone.
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".
The Simpsons makes numerous references to The Godfather, including a scene in the episode "Strong Arms of the Ma" that parodies the Sonny-Carlo street fight 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. The "All's Fair in Oven War" final scene shows James Caan being ambushed by hillbillies (Cletus relatives) at a toll booth, a parody of the scene when Sonny Corleone (portrayed by Caan) is shot and killed; the tollbooth scene is also parodied in "Mr. Plow," except Bart is ambushed by a barrage of snowballs by Nelson, and other students lie in wait behind a snow fortress (in place of the tollbooth). The later episode "The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and Her Homer" parodies the film's ending scene, with Lisa Simpson taking Kay Adams' role and Fat Tony's son Michael standing in for Michael Corleone. The horse-head scene is also parodied in the episode "Lisa's Pony".
In the television show The Sopranos, Tony Soprano's topless bar is named Bada Bing, echoing the line in The Godfather when Sonny Corleone says, "You've gotta get up close like this and bada-bing! You blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit." 
An episode of SCTV satirizes the film as a story about how the four American TV networks of the time (ABC, CBS, NBC, & PBS) are run like the Mob, with SCTV president Guy Caballero being asked to invest in a pay-TV channel by the Ugatzo family as a way to control of TV; when Caballero refuses, a 'network war' starts, with many of the scenes in the episode being similar to that of the film.
The Modern Family episode, "Fulgencio" makes various references to The Godfather, particularly in the ending scenes. Phil Dunphy attends the christening of his godson and recites the vows of renunciation, which is intercut with scenes of his son Luke carrying out various acts of retaliation, on Phil's orders, against people who are causing problems for Phil and members of his family. In the last of these, it is shown that Luke has placed the head of a stuffed Zebra in the bed of a boy who was making fun of Luke at school (but had a fear of zebras); the boy wakes up and reacts just as Jack Woltz had reacted to the horse's head in his bed, in the film. The final scene has Phil's wife Clair commenting on how odd it was that all of the problems had cleared up, to which Phil, sitting in his office, responds, "don't ask me about my business", after which Luke closes the office door.
Releases for television and video
The film's debut on American network television was November 16, 1974, in a highly rated showing on NBC with only minor edits to the theatrical version. The next year, Coppola created The Godfather Saga expressly for American television in a release that combined The Godfather and The Godfather Part II with unused footage from those two films in a chronological telling that toned down the violent, sexual, and profane material for its NBC debut on November 18, 1977. In 1981, Paramount released the Godfather Epic boxed set, which also told the story of the first two films in chronological order, again with additional scenes, but not redacted for broadcast sensibilities. Coppola returned to the film again in 1992 when he updated that release with footage from The Godfather Part III and more unreleased material. This home viewing release, under the title The Godfather Trilogy 1901–1980, had a total run time of 583 minutes (9 hours, 43 minutes), not including the set's bonus documentary by Jeff Werner on the making of the films, "The Godfather Family: A Look Inside".
The Godfather DVD Collection was released on October 9, 2001 in a package that contained all three films—each with a commentary track by Coppola—and a bonus disc that featured a 73-minute documentary from 1991 entitled The Godfather Family: A Look Inside and other miscellany about the film: 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; a promotional featurette from 1971; and video segments on Gordon Willis's cinematography, Nino Rota's and Carmine Coppola's music, the director, the 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.
In 2006, Coppola contacted DreamWorks studio head Steven Spielberg about restoring The Godfather under the auspices of his new parent company, Paramount Studios, who still owned the film. Work began in November, with Robert A. Harris hired to oversee the process with the participation of cinematographer Gordon Willis on all the available material from The Godfather and its two sequels. The original Godfather negatives were badly worn and the duplicate was lost in the Paramount archives, so repairs were made to the originals. Damaged or discolored frames were digitally restored and all the materials were scanned to high resolution 4k files. After a year and a half, The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration was complete, and Paramount released it to the public on September 23, 2008 in both DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats with several new features that play in high definition.
Coppola thought the new transfer was "terrific", and the restoration was well received by critics, as well. For Dave Kehr of the New York Times, it brought back the "golden glow of the original theatrical screenings".
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.
- Sources disagree on the date where Paramount confirmed their intentions to make Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather into a feature-length film. Harlan Lebo's work states that the announcement came in January 1969, while Jenny Jones' book puts the date of the announcement three months after the novel's publication, in June 1969.
- Sources disagree on both the amount of the original budget and the final budget. The starting budget has been recorded as $1, $2, and $2.5 million, while the final budget has been named at $5, $6, and $6.5 million.
- Marc Laub and Murray Solomon are listed as uncredited editors by some sources; see Allmovie Production credits
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- Official website
- The Godfather at the Internet Movie Database
- The Godfather at the American Film Institute Catalog
- The Godfather at Box Office Mojo
- The Godfather at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Godfather at Metacritic