The Godfather

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This article is about the 1972 film. For the novel on which the film is based, see The Godfather (novel). For other uses, see Godfather (disambiguation).
The Godfather
The Godfather written on a black background in stylized white lettering, above it a hand holds puppet strings.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Produced by Albert S. Ruddy
Screenplay by
Based on The Godfather 
by Mario Puzo
Music by Nino Rota
Cinematography Gordon Willis
Edited by
Alfran Productions
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • March 15, 1972 (1972-03-15) (Loew's State Theatre)
  • March 24, 1972 (1972-03-24) (United States)
Running time
175 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6–7 million[1][2]
Box office $245.1–286 million[1][3][4]

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 the fictional Corleone 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 family 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[5]—and as one of the most influential, especially in the gangster genre.[6] Ranked second to Citizen Kane by the American Film Institute in 2007,[7] 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 the box office leader for 1972 and was, for a time, the highest-grossing picture ever made. It won three Academy Awards 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.


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. Sollozzo 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.



The film is based on Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather, a well received novel that remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for 67 weeks and sold over nine million copies in two years.[8][9][10] The novel became the best selling published work in history for several years.[11] Paramount Pictures originally found out about Puzo's novel in 1967 when a literary scout for the company contacted then Paramount Vice President of Production Peter Bart about Puzo's sixty-page unfinished manuscript.[9] Bart believed the work was "much beyond a Mafia story" and offered Puzo a $12,500 option for the work, with an option for $80,000 if the finished work were made into a film.[9][12] Despite Puzo's agent telling him to turn down the offer, Puzo was desperate for money and accepted the deal.[9][12] In March 1967, Paramount announced that they backed Puzo's upcoming work and planned to make a feature-length film out of it.[9] In 1969, Paramount confirmed their intentions to make a film out of the novel for the price of $80,000,[N 1][12][13][14][15] with aims to have the film released on Christmas Day in 1971.[16]


A photo of Francis Ford Coppola.
Paramount executive Peter Bart wanted Francis Ford Coppola (pictured) to direct the film because he would accept a low salary and work with a low budget.

Paramount production head Robert Evans wanted the movie to be directed by an Italian American to make the movie "ethnic to the core."[17][18] Sergio Leone was Paramount Pictures' first choice to direct the film.[19][20] Leone turned down the option to work on his own gangster film Once Upon a Time in America.[19][20] Peter Bogdanovich was then approached but he also declined the offer because he was not interested in the mafia.[21][22][23] In addition, Peter Yates, Richard Brooks, Arthur Penn, Costa-Gavras, and Otto Preminger were all offered the position and declined.[24][25] Peter Bart wanted Francis Ford Coppola to get the job as director because he believed Coppola would work for a low sum and budget.[17] Coppola initially turned down the job because he did not finish Puzo's novel.[17][25] At the time Coppola's studio, American Zoetrope, owed over $400,000 to Warner Bros. for budget overruns with the film THX 1138 and when coupled with his poor financial standing, along with advice from friends and family, Coppola reversed his initial decision and took the job.[17][25][26][27] Coppola was officially announced as director of the film on September 28, 1970.[28] Paramount had offered twelve other directors the job with The Godfather before Coppola agreed.[29] Coppola agreed to receive $125,000 and six percent of the gross rentals.[30] On March 23, 1970 Albert S. Ruddy was officially announced as the movie's producer, in part because studio executives were impressed with his interview and because he was known for bringing his films in under budget.[17][31][32][33]

Coppola and Paramount[edit]

Before The Godfather was in production, Paramount Pictures had been going through an unsuccessful period.[10] Their latest mafia based movie, The Brotherhood, had been a box office bomb.[10][34] In addition, the studio had usurped their budget for their recent films: Darling Lili,[32] Paint Your Wagon, and Waterloo.[10][34] The budget for the film was originally $2.5 million but as the book grew in popularity and Coppola argued for a larger budget, the budget was raised to $6 million.[N 2][17][24][35][36] Paramount executives wanted the movie to be set in then modern-day Kansas City and shot in the studio backlot in order to cut down on costs.[24][32][35] Coppola objected and wanted to set the movie in the same time period as its eponymous novel, the 1940s and 1950s;[24][27][32][28] Coppola's reasons included: Michael Corleone's Marine Corps stint, the emergence of corporate America, and America in the years after World War II.[28] The executives eventually agreed to Coppola's wish as the novel became increasingly successful.[35][32] The studio heads subsequently let Coppola film on location in New York and Sicily.[39]

Gulf & Western executive Charles Bluhdorn was frustrated with Coppola over the number of screen tests he had performed without finding a person to play the various roles.[37] Production quickly fell behind because of Coppola's indecisiveness and conflicts with Paramount, which led to costs being around $40,000 per day.[37] With the rising costs, Paramount had then Vice President Jack Ballard keep a close eye on production costs.[40] While filming, Coppola stated that he felt he could be fired at any point as he knew Paramount executives were not happy with many of the decisions he had made.[24] Around the time when shooting the Sollozzo dinner scene was taking place, it was known that Aram Avakian and Steve Kesten had been talking down the footage to Paramount executives.[40] Paramount even forbade Coppola to film the scene again, which Coppola took as a sign he was going to be fired.[40] Coppola fired the two men and re-shot the dinner scene, which made it harder for Paramount to fire him and keep costs low.[40] It was revealed later on that Brando told executives that he would quit the project if Coppola were fired.[24][40]

Paramount wanted The Godfather to appeal to a wide audience and threatened Coppola with a "violence coach" to make the film more exciting. Coppola added a few more violent scenes to keep the studio happy. The scene in which Connie smashes crockery after finding out Carlo has been cheating was added for this reason.[27]


On April 14, 1970, it was revealed that Puzo was hired by Paramount for $100,000, along with a percentage of the film's profits, to work on the screenplay for the film.[41][42][33] His initial draft was finished on August 10, 1970, and was 150 pages in length.[41][42] After Coppola was hired as director, both Puzo and Coppola worked on the screenplay, but separately.[43] Puzo worked on his draft in Los Angeles, while Puzo wrote his version in San Francisco.[43] Coppola created a book where he tore pages out of Puzo's book and pasted them into the book.[43] There, he made notes about each of the books fifty scenes, which related to major themes prevalent in the scene, whether the scene should be included in the film, along with ideas and concepts that could be used when filming to make the film true to Italian culture.[43][40] The two remained in contact while they wrote their respective screenplays and made decisions on what to include and what to remove for the final version.[43] A second draft was completed on March 1, 1971 and was 173 pages long.[41] The final screenplay was finished on March 29, 1971,[41][42] wound up being 163 pages long,[43][41] 40 pages over what Paramount had asked for.[44] When filming, Coppola referred to the notebook he had created over the final draft of the screenplay.[43][40] Screenwriter Robert Towne did uncredited work on the script, particularly on the Pacino-Brando garden scene.[45]

The Italian-American Civil Rights League wanted all uses of the words "mafia" and "Cosa Nostra" to be removed from the script, in addition to feeling that the film emphasized stereotypes about Italian-Americans.[16][46][47][48] The league also requested that all the money earned from the premier be donated to the league's fund to build a new hospital.[47][48] Coppola claimed that Puzo's screenplay only contained two instances of the word "mafia" being used, while "Cosa Nostra" was not used at all.[47][48] Those two uses were removed and replaced with other terms, which Coppola felt did not change the story at all.[47][48] The league eventually gave its support of the script.[47][48]


A screenshot of Al Pacino from another film.
Al Pacino (pictured in 1971 during Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel) was chosen to play Michael Corleone.

Mario Puzo was first to show interest in having Marlon Brando portray Don Vito Corleone by sending a letter to Brando in which he stated Brando was the "only actor who can play the Godfather."[49] Despite Puzo's wishes, the executives at Paramount were against having Brando play the part due to the poor success of his recent films and short temper.[50][35] Coppola favored Brando and Laurence Olivier for the role.[51][52] Olivier's agent refused the role saying that Olivier was sick;[53] however, Olivier went on to star in Sleuth later that year.[52] The studio mainly pushed for Ernest Borgnine to receive the part.[51] Other actors that were considered for the part were: George C. Scott, Richard Conte, Anthony Quinn, Carlo Ponti.[51][54][55] Frank Sinatra showed some interest in the part of Vito Coreleone,[51] despite being frustrated that a character, Johnny Fontaine, was rumored to be based off himself.[56][57]

After months of debate between Coppola and Paramount over Brando, the two finalists for the role were Borgnine and Brando,[58] the latter of which Paramount president Stanley Jaffe required to perform a screen test.[59][60] Coppola did not want to offend Brando and stated that he needed to test equipment in order to set up the screen test.[61] Coppola traveled to Brando's California residence to perform the screen test in make-up, which Brando allowed Coppola to film.[60][62] For make-up, Brando stuck cotton balls in his cheeks,[58] put shoe polish in his hair to darken it, and rolled his collar.[63] Coppola placed Brando's audition tape in the middle of the videos of the audition tapes as the Paramount executives watched them.[64] After Brando's tape ended, the executives were impressed with Brando's efforts and allowed Coppola to cast Brando for the role.[58][64][65] To be cast, Brando was required to accept a lower salary and put up a bond insuring that he would not cause any delays in production.[66]

The Paramount executives wanted a popular actor to portray Michael Corleone and heavily considered Warren Beatty and Robert Redford.[16][66][58][67] Producer Robert Evans wanted Ryan O'Neal to receive the role in part due to his recent success with the Paramount film, Love Story.[67][68] Al Pacino was Coppola's favorite for the role as he could picture Pacino roaming the Sicilian countryside and wanted an unknown actor who looked like an Italian-American.[27][67][68] However, Paramount executives found Pacino to be too short to play Michael.[16][17] Dustin Hoffman, Martin Sheen, and James Caan also auditioned.[66] Caan was well received by the Paramount executives and was given the part of Michael initially, while the role of Sonny Corleone was awarded to Carmine Caridi.[17] Coppola still pushed for Pacino to play Michael after the fact and Evans eventually conceded, allowing Pacino to have the role of Michael as long as Caan played Sonny.[17] Evans preferred Caan over Caridi because Caan was seven inches shorter than Caridi, which was much closer to Pacino's height.[17] Despite agreeing to play Michael Corleone, Pacino was contracted to star in MGM's The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, but the two studios agreed on a settlement and Pacino was signed by Paramount three weeks before shooting began.[69]

A picture of James Caan.
James Caan (pictured in 1976) was chosen to play Sonny Corleone.

From the start of production, Coppola wanted Robert Duvall to play the part of Tom Hagen.[16][17][70] After screen testing several other actors, Coppola eventually got his wish and Duvall was awarded the part of Tom Hagen.[17][52][70] Al Martino, a then famed singer in nightclubs, was notified of the character Johnny Fontane by a friend who read eponymous novel and felt Martino represented the character of Johnny Fontane.[17] Martino then contacted producer Al Ruddy, who gave him the part.[17] However, Martino was stripped of the part after Coppola became director and then awarded the role to Italian singer Vic Damone.[17] Damone eventually dropped the role because he did not want to play an anti-Italian American character, in addition to being paid too little.[71] According to Martino, after being stripped of the role, he went to his godfather and crime boss Russ Bufalino who then orchestrated the publication of various news articles that talked of how Coppola was unaware of Ruddy giving Martino the part; that, when coupled with pressure from the mafia who felt Fontaine deserved the role, led Damone to quit as Fontane.[17] Either way, the part of Johnny Fontane ended up with Martino.[17][71]

Robert De Niro originally was given the part of Paulie Gatto.[72][58] A spot in The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight opened up after Pacino quit the project in favor of The Godfather, which led De Niro to audition for the role and leave The Godfather after receiving the part.[72][73] After De Niro quit, Johnny Martino was given the role of Gatto.[17] Coppola casted Diane Keaton for the role of Kay Adams due to her reputation for being eccentric.[66] John Cazale was given the part of Fredo Corleone after Coppola saw him perform in an Off Broadway production.[66] For the role of Salvatore Tessio, Coppola chose Abe Vigoda.[17] Vanity Fair author Mark Seal wrote that Richard Castellano was given the role of Peter Clemenza because he "was a natural for the Don’s fat, affable lieutenant."[17] Gianni Russo was given the role of Carlo Rizzi after he asked to perform a screen test where he acted out the fight between Rizzi and wife Sandra Corleone.[74]

Coppola gave several roles in the film to family members.[17] He gave his sister, Talia Shire, the role of Connie Corleone.[17][18][75] His daughter Sofia played Michael Francis Rizzi, Connie's and Carlo's newborn son.[17][76] Carmine Coppola, his father, appeared in the film as an extra playing a piano during a scene.[17] Coppola's wife, mother, and two sons all appeared as extras in the picture.[17]


In March 1971, Coppola brought the cast of the film together to eat at Patsy's, an Italian restaurant in East Harlem.[17][77][37] Filming was set to begin on March 29, 1971 with the scene between Michael Corleone and Kay Adams as they leave Best & Co. in New York City after shopping for Christmas gifts.[17][78][79] However the weather forecast in New York City on March 24 predicted snow flurries which led producer Al Ruddy to move the filming of the scene forward to that day.[79] Despite the forecast, no snow fell during the day and a snow machine was used to produce the snow for the scene.[79]

Cinematographer Gordon Willis initially turned down the opportunity to film The Godfather because the film production seemed "chaotic" to him when he was first approached.[80] After Willis later accepted the offer, he and Coppola agreed to not use any modern filming devices, helicopters, or zoom lenses. Willis chose to use top-light in the majority of the scenes due to Marlon Brando's make-up around his eyes. Willis made use of shadows throughout the film and also applied sepia tones to several scenes.[81] Willis and Coppola agreed to interplay light and dark scenes throughout the film.[37] Paramount executive Peter Evans found the initial dark scenes to be too dark and also believed.

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.[82]

The scene of Michael driving with McCluskey and Sollozzo avoided the cost of back-projection. Instead, technicians moved lights behind the car to create the illusion.

The cat in the opening scene used to hang around the studio, and was simply dropped in Brando's lap at the last minute by the director.[83][84]

One of the movie's most shocking moments involved the real severed head of a horse. Animal rights groups protested the inclusion of the scene. Coppola later stated that the horse's head was delivered to him from a dog food company; a horse had not been killed specifically for the movie.[27][66]

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.

On June 22, the scene where Sonny is killed was shot at on a runway Mitchel Field in Mineola.[85] On the runway, three tollbooths were built, along with guard rails, and billboard to set the scene.[85] Sonny's car was a 1941 Lincoln Continental that had holes drilled in it to appear as if struck by several bullets.[86] The scene took three days to film completely and cost over $100,000.[87] 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.[citation needed]


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

Locations[88] 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.[citation needed]

A side entrance to Bellevue Hospital was used for Michael's confrontation with police Captain McCluskey.[89] 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.[citation needed]

The scene in which Don Barzini is assassinated was filmed on the steps of the New York Supreme Court building on Foley Square in Manhattan, New York City.[90]

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".[91] 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 didn't permit extra days to shoot in daylight.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

The funeral scene was filmed at Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens.[92] The toll booth scene was filmed at the site of Nassau Coliseum 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.[citation needed]


The famous theme, composed by Larry Kusic and Nino Rota.

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Coppola hired Italian composer Nino Rota to create the underscore for the film, including the main theme, "Speak Softly Love".[93][94] For the score, Rota was to relate to the situations and characters in the film.[93][94] Paramount executive Evans found the score to be too "highbrow" and did not want to use it; however, it was used after Coppola managed to get Evans to agree.[93][94] Coppola believed that Rota's musical piece gave the film even more of an Italian feel.[94] Coppola's father, Carmine, created some additional music for the film,[95] particularly the music played by the band during the opening wedding scene.[94]

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.[96] 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.[97][98][99] Allmusic gave the album five out of five stars, with editor Zach Curd saying it is a "dark, looming, and elegant soundtrack."[97] 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."[99]


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,[16][100] with profits from the premiere donated to The Boys Club of New York.[79] Before the film premiered, the film had already made $15 million from rentals from over 400 theaters.[35] The following day, the film opened in New York at five theaters.[101][17][79][100] The film next opened in Los Angeles at two theaters on March 22.[79] The Godfather was commercially released on March 24, 1972 throughout the rest of the United States.[101][100]

Box office[edit]

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,[102] increasing its earnings to $85.7 million through a reissue in 1973,[103] and including a limited re-release in 1997 it ultimately earned an equivalent exhibition gross of $135 million.[101] 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.[79][104] News articles at the time proclaimed it was the first film to gross $100 million in North America,[79] but such accounts are erroneous since this record in fact belongs to The Sound of Music, released in 1965.[105] The film repeated its native success overseas, earning in total an unprecedented $142 million in worldwide theatrical rentals, to become the highest net earner.[106] 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.[79] To date, it has grossed between $245 million and $286 million in worldwide box office receipts,[107] and adjusted for ticket price inflation in North America, ranks among the top 25 highest-grossing films.[108]

Critical response[edit]

Since its release, The Godfather has received critical acclaim and is seen as one of the most influential films of all time, particularly in the gangster genre.[109][110] On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 98% rating based on 84 reviews. It has an average score of 9.2.[111] 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".[110] The film is ranked at the top of Metacritic's top 100 list,[112] and is ranked 3rd on Rotten Tomatoes' all-time best list (100% "Certified Fresh").[113]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times praised Coppola's efforts to follow to 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.[114] While Ebert was mainly positive, he criticized Brando's performance, saying his movements lacked "precision" and his voice was "wheezy."[114] The Chicago Tribune's Gene Siskel gave the film four out of four stars, commenting that it was "very good."[115] 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.[116] In addition, Sarris stated that Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, and James Caan were good in their respective roles.[116] Desson Howe of the Washington Post believed that the film is a "jewel" and that Coppola deserves most of the credit for the film.[117] 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."[118] Director Stanley Kubrick thought the film had the best cast ever and could be the best movie ever made.[119]

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

Previous Mafia movies had looked at the gangs from the perspective of an outraged outsider.[120] In contrast, The Godfather presents the gangster's perspective of the Mafia as a response to corrupt society.[120] Although the Corleone family is presented as immensely rich and powerful, no scenes depict prostitution, gambling, loan sharking or other forms of racketeering.[121] Some critics argue that the setting of a criminal counterculture allows for unapologetic gender stereotyping, and is an important part of the film's appeal ("You can act like a man!", Don Vito tells a weepy Johnny Fontane).[122]

Real-life gangsters responded enthusiastically to the film, with many of them feeling it was a portrayal of how they were supposed to act.[123] Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, the former underboss in the Gambino crime family,[124] 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.[125] Intiso would frequently swear and use poor grammar; but after the movie came out, he started to articulate and philosophize more.[125]

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".[126] Two years before, Roger Ebert wrote in his journal that it "comes closest to being a film everyone agrees... is unquestionably great."[127]


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.[128] 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.[129][130] The Godfather won a record five Golden Globes, which still stands today.[131]

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.[132][133] Rota was announced the winner of the category on March 3 at the Grammys' ceremony in Nashville, Tennessee.[132][133]

When the nominations for the 45th Academy Awards were revealed on February 12, 1973, The Godfather was nominated for eleven awards.[134][135] 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.[134][135][136] 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.[137][138][139] 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.[140] Going into the awards ceremony, The Godfather was seen as the favorite to take home the most awards.[129] From the nominations that The Godfather had remaining, it only won three of the Academy Awards: Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture.[136][141]

Brando, who had also not attended the Golden Globes ceremony two months earlier,[139][142] 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.[143][144] 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.[143][144][145][146][147] 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.[148]

The Godfather had five nominations for awards at the 26th British Academy Film Awards.[149] 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.[149] All of The Godfather's nominations failed to win except for Rota.[149]

Awards and Nominations received by The Godfather
Award Category Nominee Result
45th Academy Awards Best Picture Albert S. Ruddy Won
Best Director Francis Ford Coppola Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Marlon Brando Won
Best Actor in a Supporting Role James Caan Nominated
Robert Duvall Nominated
Al Pacino Nominated
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola Won
Best Sound Charles Grenzbach, Richard Portman, and Christopher Newman Nominated
Best Costume Design Anna Hill Johnstone Nominated
Best Film Editing William H. Reynolds and Peter Zinner Nominated
Best Music, Original Dramatic Score Nino Rota Revoked
26th British Academy Film Awards Best Actor Marlon Brando (Also for The Nightcomers) Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Robert Duvall Nominated
Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles Al Pacino Nominated
Best Film Music Nino Rota Won
Best Costume Design Anna Hill Johnstone Nominated
25th Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Francis Ford Coppola Won
30th Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture - Drama Won
Best Director - Motion Picture Francis Ford Coppola Won
Best Motion Picture Actor - Drama Marlon Brando Won
Al Pacino Nominated
Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture James Caan Nominated
Best Screenplay Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola Won
Best Original Score Nino Rota Won
15th Grammy Awards Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or TV Special Nino Rota Won
25th Writers Guild of America Awards Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola Won

In 1990, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[150] In 1998, Time Out' conducted a poll and The Godfather was voted the best film of all time.[151] In 2002, Sight & Sound polled film directors voted the film and its sequel as the second best film ever;[152] the critics poll separately voted it fourth.[153] 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.[154] 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).[155][156] In 2006, the Writers Guild of America, west agreed, voting it the number two in its list of the 101 greatest screenplays, after Casablanca.[157] In 2008, the film was voted in at No. 1 on Empire magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.[158] Entertainment Weekly named it the greatest film ever made.[159][160][161] The film has been selected by the American Film Institute for many of their lists.

American Film Institute recognition[edit]

Cinematic influence[edit]

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[170] 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[edit]

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.[171] 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.[172]

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.[173] 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."[174] According to Anthony Fiato, Patriarca crime family members Paulie Intiso and Nicky Giso modeled their speech on Brando's portrayal.[125] Intiso would frequently swear and use poor grammar; but after the movie came out, he started to articulate and philosophize more.[125]

On the other hand, Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, the former underboss in the Gambino crime family,[124] "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.

In film[edit]

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.[citation needed] 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.[175]

In You've Got Mail, Joe Fox (played by Tom Hanks) quotes The Godfather, positing:

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

In television[edit]

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".[176]

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." [177]

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.[citation needed]

The Modern Family episode, "Fulgencio" makes various references to The Godfather.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Home media[edit]

Main article: The Godfather Saga

The theatrical version of The Godfather debuted on American network television on November 16, 1974 on NBC, and again two days later, with only minor edits.[178] The airing on television attracted a large audience and helped generate anticipation for the upcoming sequel.[178] 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.[179] 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.[179] The Godfather Triology was released in 1992, which consisted of the three feature films, including the recently released The Godfather Part III, in a primarily chronological order.[180]

The Godfather Family: A Look Inside was a 73-minute documentary released in 1991.[181] Directed by Jeff Warner, the film featured some behind the scenes content from all three films, interviews with the actors, and screen tests.[181] 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 containing The Godfather Family: A Look Inside.[182] The DVD also held a Corleone family tree, a "Godfather" timeline, and footage of the Academy Award acceptance speeches.[182]

Coppola Restoration[edit]

During the film's original theatrical release, the original negatives were worn down due to the reel being printed so much to meet demand.[183][184] In addition, the duplicate negative was lost in Paramount archives.[184] In 2006 Coppola contacted Steven Spielberg — whose studio DreamWorks had recently been bought out by Paramount — about restoring The Godfather.[183][184] Robert A. Harris was hired to oversee the restoration of The Godfather and its two sequels, with the film's cinematographer Willis participated in the restoration.[185][186] Work began in November 2008 by repairing the negatives so they could go through a digital scanner to produce high resolution 4k files.[183][184] If a negative were damaged and discolored, work was done digitally to restore it to its original look.[183][184] After a year and a half of working on the restoration, the project was complete.[184] Paramount called the finished product The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration and released it to the public on September 23, 2008 on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc.[185][186] Dave Kehr of the New York Times believed the restoration brought back the "golden glow of their original theatrical screenings".[185] As a whole, the restoration of the film was well received by critics and Coppola.[183][184][185][186][187] The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration contains several new special features that play in high definition, along with additional scenes.[187]

Video game[edit]

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.[188]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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,[12] while Jenny Jones' book puts the date of the announcement three months after the novel's publication, in June 1969.[13]
  2. ^ Sources disagree on both the amount of the original budget and the final budget. The starting budget has been recorded as $1,[32] $2,[16][35][12] and $2.5 million,[17][36] while the final budget has been named at $5,[24] $6,[17][37] and $6.5 million.[35][38]
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