Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Francis Ford Coppola|
|Produced by||Albert S. Ruddy|
|Based on||The Godfather
by Mario Puzo
|Music by||Nino Rota|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$245.1–286 million|
The Godfather is a 1972 American crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by Albert S. Ruddy from a screenplay by Mario Puzo and Coppola. Starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino as the leaders of a fictional New York crime family, the story spans the years 1945-55, concentrating on the transformation of Michael Corleone from reluctant family outsider to ruthless Mafia boss while chronicling the Corleones under the patriarch Vito.
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 of the Library of Congress in 1990 as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". It is #21 in the Sight & Sound poll.
The film was for a time the highest grossing picture ever made, and remains the box office leader for 1972. It won three Oscars for that year: Best Picture, 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 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Bibliography
- 10 External links
On the occasion of his daughter Connie'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, wearing a Marine Corps uniform, introduces his girlfriend, Kay Adams, to his family at the reception. Johnny Fontane, a famous singer and godson to Vito, seeks his help in securing a movie role; Vito dispatches his consigliere, Tom Hagen, to Los Angeles to talk the abrasive studio head, Jack Woltz, into giving Johnny the part. Woltz is unmoved until 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 Tattaglia crime family, asks Don Corleone for both investment in his narcotics business and protection through his political connections. Wary of involvement in a dangerous new trade that risks alienating political insiders, Vito declines. Suspicious, he sends his enforcer, Luca Brasi, to spy on them. Solozzo has Vito gunned down in the street, then kidnaps Hagen. With Corleone first-born Sonny in command, Hagen is pressured to persuade him to accept Sollozzo's deal, then released. Vito survives, and at the hospital Michael thwarts another attempt on his father; Michael's jaw is broken by NYPD Captain Marc McCluskey, Sollozzo's bodyguard. Sonny retaliates with a hit on Tattaglia's son. The family receives two fish wrapped in Brasi's bullet-proof vest, indicating that Luca "sleeps with the fishes." Michael plots to murder Sollozzo and McCluskey: on the pretext of settling the dispute, Michael agrees to meet them in a Bronx restaurant. There, retrieving a planted handgun, he kills both men.
Despite a clampdown by the authorities, the Five Families erupt in open warfare and Vito's sons fear for their safety. Michael takes refuge in Sicily, and his brother, Fredo, is sheltered by the Corleone's Las Vegas casino partner, Moe Greene. Sonny attacks his brother-in-law Carlo on the street for abusing his sister and threatens to kill him if it happens again. When it does, Sonny speeds for their home but is ambushed at a highway toll booth and riddled with sub-machine gun fire. While in Sicily, Michael meets and marries Apollonia Vitelli, but their euphoria is shattered when a car bomb intended for him takes her life.
Devastated by Sonny's death, Vito moves to end the feuds. Realizing that the Tattaglias are controlled by the now-dominant Don Emilio Barzini, Vito assures the Five Families that he will withdraw his opposition to their heroin business and forgo avenging his son's murder. His safety guaranteed, Michael returns home and enters the family business. He and Kay reunite and marry the next year.
With his father at the end of his career and his brother too weak, Michael takes the reins of the family, promising his wife the business will be 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, their partner derides the Corleones for being run out of New York; Michael is dismayed to see that Fredo has fallen under Greene's sway.
Vito suffers a fatal heart attack. At his funeral, Tessio, a Corleone capo, asks Michael to meet with Don Barzini, signalling the betrayal that Vito had forewarned. The meeting is set for the same day as the christening of Connie’s baby. While Michael stands at the altar as the child's godfather, Corleone assassins murder the other New York dons and Moe Greene. Tessio is executed for his treachery; Michael extracts Carlo’s confession to his complicity in setting up Sonny's murder for Barzini. After Clemenza garrotes Carlo with a wire, Connie accuses Michael of the murder, telling Kay that Michael ordered all the killings. Kay is relieved when Michael finally denies it, but when the capos arrive they address her husband as Don Corleone.
- Marlon Brando, in the title role, is Vito Corleone (born Vito Andolini), the Don of the Corleone crime family. A native Sicilian, he is married to Carmela Corleone and the father of Sonny, Fredo, Michael, and Connie.
- Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, the Don's third son, recently returned from World War II. The only college-educated family member, he is initially steered from the family business. His evolution from the family's last-born son to its ruthless boss is the main subject matter of the film.
- James Caan as Santino "Sonny" Corleone, Don Corleone's hot-headed eldest son. As underboss, he is the heir apparent to succeed his father as head of the Corleone family.
- Richard S. Castellano as Peter Clemenza, a caporegime for the Corleone family. He is 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 Corleone brother.
- 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 Corleone family. He is 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 seeks both financial investment and the protection of the Tattaglia family's narcotics business through Don Corleone's political connections.
- Gianni Russo as Carlo Rizzi, Connie's husband. Introduced to the Corleone family by Sonny, whom he ultimately betrays to the Barzini family.
- Sterling Hayden as Captain Marc McCluskey, a corrupt NYPD 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 singer and Vito's godson. The character is 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. The character is 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.
- Salvatore Corsitto as Amerigo Bonasera, a mortician who, in the opening scene, asks Don Corleone for revenge against the men who attempted to rape his daughter.
- 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 bodyguard in Sicily.
- Angelo Infanti as Fabrizio, Michael's bodyguard in Sicily. He helped set-up the assassination attempt on Michael that kills Apollonia.
- Johnny Martino as Paulie Gatto, a soldier under Peter Clemenza and Vito's driver. He is executed for his part in the assassination attempt on Vito.
- Victor Rendina as Philip Tattaglia, Don of the Tattaglia family.
- Tony Giorgio as Bruno Tattaglia, Philip Tattaglia's son and underboss of the Tattaglia family. Sonny Corleone has him assassinated in retaliation for the shooting of Vito Corleone.
- Simonetta Stefanelli as Apollonia Vitelli-Corleone, a young woman Michael meets and marries while in Sicily. She is killed a few months later in an assassination attempt on Michael.
- 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 and hitman 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 infant Michael Francis Rizzi, the nephew and godson 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.
Coppola and Paramount
Bart believed Coppola would work within their small budget of $2.5 million; [N 2] Coppola turned him down because he was put off by the novel, but with his American Zoetrope studio in debt and his personal financial position weak, he took the advice of family and friends and reversed his 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. The popularity of the book eventually changed minds at the studio about the requests; they relented on a $6.5 million budget 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 said he 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; Coppola, in San Francisco, 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 came together on a second draft of 173 pages by March of the next year, with the final draft of 163 pages completed March 29, 1971. Because the studio wanted a film with 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.
Previous gangster movies looked at organized crime from the perspective of an outraged outsider. By contrast, The Godfather presents the gangster's perspective; Coppola saw in the Mafia a metaphor for American capitalism. 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, founded by a reputed mobster, wanted the words mafia and Cosa Nostra removed from the script and objected to its stereotypes about Italian-Americans. In addition, they requested a donation of earnings from the premiere to the league's fund to "build a new hospital". Accounts differ on the specifics, but the league backed down after the handful of offending references were removed, a change Coppola found inconsequential.
Puzo told Brando he was "the only actor who can play the Godfather" in a note sent with a copy of his first draft. Although the author conceived the part with Brando in mind, studio executives were opposed because of the actor's poor box office returns and a reputation for disrupting production. Coppola thought the role demanded a great actor, either Brando or Laurence Olivier, but Olivier's agent refused on his behalf, citing poor health; however, he made 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 his cheeks, shoe polish in his hair, and a rolled up 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 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, only to be overruled later by Ruddy. (According to Martino, he contacted his mob patron, Russ Bufalino, who put pressure on someone to get Martino the part).
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 Connie Corleone. Robert De Niro, originally slated for Paulie Gatto, instead accepted a role in The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight that Pacino could no longer fit in.
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.
Adding some verisimilitude to the production, several of the cast members had actual or reputed ties to organized crime, including Richard S. Castellano (Clemenza), who was the nephew of real-life mobster Paul Castellano; Gianni Russo (Carlo Rizzi), who claims to have run errands in his younger days for mobster Frank Costello and who reportedly got his film role, despite having never acted before, after functioning as a go-between in negotiations between The Godfather's producers and mob boss Joe Colombo; Lenny Montana (Luca Brasi), a hulking former professional wrestler working for Colombo as an enforcer and sometime bodyguard who was hired to play a similar role in the movie when the producers saw him on-set with his real-life employers; Al Martino (Johnny Fontaine), who, as noted, used his Mob ties to get and keep his role; Alex Rocco (Moe Greene) who as a young man had connections with Boston-area mobsters; and Al Lettieri (Sollozzo), who was related by marriage to Genovese crime family members Pasquale Eboli and Thomas Eboli; Lettieri invited Brando, Pacino, Caan and other cast members to meet his in-laws so that they could get a better feel for their roles. 
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 Kay shopping in the city.
The opening shot of the film 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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Distinguished Italian composer Nino Rota created the underscore for the film, including the main theme, "Speak Softly Love". He used a symphonic structure to comment on the film's situations and characters, an approach that Paramount executive Evans found too "operatic." Coppola insisted, believing the work gave the film an Italian feel. Coppola's father, Carmine, created some additional music for the film, e.g., the music played by the band during the opening wedding scene.
A film soundtrack was released on vinyl in 1972 by Paramount Records, on CD in 1991 by Geffen Records, and digitally by Geffen in 2005. The album contains over 31 minutes from the movie, with Rota's selections augmented with songs by Coppola and the team of 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, with profits from the premiere 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 77 cents per share to $3.30 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 global acclaim from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 99% "Certified Fresh" rating based on 84 reviews, with an average score of 9.2/10. The film is ranked at the top of Metacritic's top 100 list, and is ranked 7th on Rotten Tomatoes' all-time best list.
Director Stanley Kubrick believed that The Godfather was possibly the greatest movie ever made, and had without question the best cast. The Chicago Tribune's Gene Siskel gave the film 4 out of 4 stars, commenting that it was "very good". Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times praised the film, stating that Brando's performance was a "skillful throwaway", with his movements "deliberately lacking precision" and his voice "wheezy", with the effect of a man "so accustomed to power that he no longer needs to remind others". Ebert would later add The Godfather to his list of The Great Movies. The Village Voice's Andrew Sarris believed Brando portrayed Vito Corleone well and that his character dominated each scene he appeared in, but felt Puzo and Coppola had the character of Michael Corleone too focused on revenge.. Desson Howe of the Washington Post believed that Coppola deserves most of the credit for a movie which is a "jewel". For Vincent Canby of the New York Times, Coppola created one of the "most brutal and moving chronicles of American life" that "transcends its immediate milieu and genre".
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, 1973, 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 had 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 refuse 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.
American Film Institute recognition
- 1998: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – #3
- 2001: AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – #11
- 2003: AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains:
- Vito Corleone – Nominated Villain
- 2005: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- 2006: 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
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.
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 and legacy
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, Don Vito Corleone's unforgettable "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse"—voted the second most memorable line in cinema history in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes by the American Film Institute—was adopted by actual gangsters. 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." According to Anthony Fiato, Patriarca crime family members Paulie Intiso and Nicky Giso modeled their speech on Brando's portrayal. Intiso would frequently swear and use poor grammar; but after the movie came out, he started to articulate and philosophize more.
On the other hand, Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, the former underboss in the Gambino crime family, "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."
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.
The 1999 film Analyze This made many references both directly and indirectly to The Godfather, with a dream scene repeating almost shot for shot the attack on Vito Corleone. Brando virtually reprised the role of the Don in the 1990 comedy The Freshman, and the 2004 animation Shark Tale 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.
An episode of Seinfeld, The Bris, features Jerry Seinfeld being ask to serve as godfather to a new-born baby boy, allowing him to imitate Brando's famous line "see how they've massacred my boy!". Later, the baby's parents decide instead to make Kramer the child's godfather and pay homage to him in a parody of the final scene in the film, calling him "Godfather" and kissing his hand, as the closing music from the film plays - and the door closes to shut out Jerry and Elaine.
In an episode of Family Guy, Peter Griffin gets mixed up with the Mob, inadvertently requests "a hit" on his long-suffering wife, Lois, but then has a chance to cancel the assassination when he and Lois are invited to the wedding of the Don's daughter and are allowed to ask for a favor - a parody of the opening scene of The Godfather.
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 at Prasad Corporation 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 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.
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Since The Godfather had earned over $85 million in U.S.-Canada rentals (the worldwide box-office gross was $285 million), a sequel, according to the usual formula, could be expected to earn approximately two-thirds of the original's box-office take (ultimately Godfather II had rentals of $30 million).
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Worldwide Gross: $245,066,411
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- Official website
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