Born Vito Andolini, he is the founder of the Corleone crime family.
Collectively, this character exhibits examples of:
Affably Evil: Vito behaves like — and, in some ways, is — a family-oriented leader of his community, doing favors for the weak and punishing the wicked (so long as it doesn't interfere with business). In some ways this is an enforced Invoked Trope.
Pet the Dog: Considering how insular, xenophobic and racist the Sicilian Mafia is, Vito's acceptance of Tom (who is German-Irish) as a son, even if it's not in name, is an exceptionally magnaminous gesture of kindness.
Foil: To Michael. Vito believes above all in family and in loyalty, but unlike Michael and Sonny he doesn't take it personally when he gets betrayed or otherwise messed around with. For example, when his boss Genco' father has to fire him because the local Don wants his nephew to have Vito's job, Vito politely turns down the offer of compensation and assures him that he bears him no grudge. He then fixes the problem by cold-bloodedly killing the Don, thereby removing the problem. He then makes Genco his consigliere, and Genco is forever loyal.
The Ghost: Marlon Brando was supposed to reprise his role as "old" Vito for the 1941 flashback at the end of Part II, but when he failed to turn up for the shoot, the scene was rewritten to keep him offscreen.
Parental Abandonment: Both of them were killed in Sicily by the local mafia. His older brother Paolo got himself killed trying to avenge their father.
Tranquil Fury: Probably the reason why the other guys in the neighbourhood recognise Vito as a leader.
You Killed My Father: The beginning of Part II' tells or shows that Vito's father, mother (and brother) are murdered by a Sicilian mafia boss, Don Ciccio, when Vito is a child. He escapes to the U.S., becomes an influential crime boss there, and eventually returns to Sicily to meet Don Ciccio.
"Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgement."
"Keep your friends close; but your enemies closer."
The youngest child of the family. He doesn't want to join the family business. When Sollozzo and McCluskey make another attempt on his father's life, he is forced to join the family business and kills them. He becomes the new Don at the end of the movie. By the second movie, Michael becomes a full-fledged ruthless Don. In the third movie, he strives to stay legitimate, but his past finally catches up. He ultimately fails, with tragic consequences.
Collectively, this character exhibits examples of:
Berserk Button: Michael believes in two things; Family and Loyalty to the family. Going after or betraying the family sets him off.
Good Cop/Bad Cop: Michael plays both roles to get information from people who betray him. He will act polite, friendly, like all is forgiven if they just tell him the truth. Then as soon as he gets the information he needs, he becomes Bad Cop.
The Dutiful Son: It's the reason why Michael gets involved in the family business. After the death of Sonny, Michael takes even more of an active role of leading.
Good Hair, Evil Hair: A subtle example. At the wedding, his hair is shorter and parted at the side, emphasizing his innocence. After shooting Sollozzo, he never has his hair like this again. When he returns to America, he has his hair slicked back, like the stereotypical mafia don image.
Non-Action Guy: His brothers and the caporegimes see him as this in the first film, even though he was in the Army, because he never wanted to get involved with the family business. When he offers to shoot Sollozzo and McCluskey, they all laugh at him.
Sonny: What are you gonna do? Nice college boy, didn't want to get mixed up in the family business. Now you want to gun down a police captain. Why? Because he slapped you in the face a little? What, do you think this like the Army where you can shoot 'em from a mile away? No, you gotta get up like this and, badda-bing, you blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit!
What the Hell, Hero? - Not even Vito would have gone as far as he did to secure the power of his empire. He gets called out on this twice, by his sister and later by Kay.
In Part II, this character exhibits examples of:
Broken Ace: Especially towards the end. He is the most powerful Mafia Don in the country, has secured the Corleone Family's power and prosperity, and eliminated all his enemies, but he has alienated those who love him and relinquished his own happiness in the process.
Cain and Abel: With Fredo. As the film goes on they swap roles — Fredo becomes less Cain and more Abel, and Michael less Abel and more Cain, then even more Cain still by having Fredo killed.
Et Tu, Brute?: Naturally his reaction when he discovers that his brother had been talking to Johnny Ola about his plans to kill him.
Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Specifically delays his revenge on Fredo until after his mother passes away, because he knew she would be devastated if anything happened to him.
Motive Decay: It's become less about the welfare of his family and more about the welfare of the family business; and by the end of the film, the greatest enemy of Michael's family is clearly Michael himself.
The Paranoiac: Michael likely doesn't see a difference. In his mind, all the problems the family faced in the first movie came down to them not being respected or feared enough, which is why he is so ruthless and why he can't make the family go legit, as their enemies would see that as weakness; he probably hoped Kay would just one day accept that. He thinks protecting her and the kids is the main reason he is doing this, which is why he goes ballistic when she turns on him too.
Villain Protagonist: Started out pretty heroic in Part I, but he's solidly villainous in Part II.
In Part III, this character exhibits examples of:
Anti-Villain: He desperately tries to do good, going so far as to assure the protection of Pope John Paul I, only to fail.
Broken Bird: Michael was clearly seen struggling to hide it throughout the movie. Mary's death finally breaks him.
Heartbroken Badass: He starts crying when his son sings a Sicilian ballad that reminds me him of Apollonia.
Hypocrite: Michael tries to push Tony to complete Law School so that he could become a family lawyer and gets upset when Tony chooses pursuing a dream to become a singer. Michael himself was resistant against becoming a politician despite being pushed by his family and choose to enlist.
"I can handle things! I'm smart, not like everybody says, like, dumb! I'm smart, and I want respect!"
"Fredo has a good heart, but he's weak... and stupid."
— Michael Corleone
Portrayed By: John Cazale
The middle child of the family. He is the stupid one, but has a warm heart. "Fredo" has now become shorthand for "weak link".
This character exhibits examples of:
Badass Decay: In-Universe, in the book only, the reader is informed that Fredo was a tough guy who just took his eye off the ball during the attempted assassination of Vito and then suffered from being corrupted by the inevitable Hookers and Blow that went with running the Family business in Vegas. None of this shows up in the movies, where he comes across as an incompetent boob. Given that any toughness or competence on Fredo's part was certainly an informed ability, perhaps that was for the best.
Bad Liar: He reveals himself as The Mole by pretending in front of Michael that he's never met Johnny Ola and then, hours later at most, blithely shouting that it was Johnny Ola who told him about the sex show. If he ever figures out how he gave it away, we don't see when. An almost comical example happens earlier: in bed with his wife, he answers the phone to have a whispered conversation full of lines like "You guys lied to me!" and then, when she asks who it was, just says, "Wrong number."
Cain and Abel: with Michael. Ironically, after Michael has Fredo killed, Michael remembers how Fredo was the only one who spoke up for Michael's decision to drop out of college and join the Marines.
Cool Uncle: Ironically he is this to Tony and Mary, Michael's kids.
Heel-Face Turn: He knows he screwed up in betraying Michael to Hyman Roth, and tries to earn forgiveness during the later half of Part II. He's even seen being genuinely kind to his nephew Anthony as the two work on fishing in Lake Tahoe. Unfortunately, Michael is NOT in the mood to forgive anyone this time...
Kavorka Man: Nowhere near as Badass as Sonny, and definitely not as smart as Michael, but Moe Green complains that he's "banging cocktail waitresses, two at a time". In the novel, it's stated that this fact greatly displeased Don Vito, as the Don was always very straitlaced about sex.
Middle Child Syndrome: Fredo has this in spades. Sonny has the brawn, Michael has the brains, and Tom Hagen plays the traditional middle child role of mediating between them. While introducing Kay to his family during the novel's opening sections, Michael acknowledges that Fredo serves almost no purpose in the Corleone family.
Momma's Boy: Described in the first novel as the son every Italian mother longs for.
The Resenter: Though he never showed any real aptitude for the family business, he gets sick of being treated as a gofer and an errand boy, while his younger brother becomes the Don. This leads him to his ill-fated deal with Hyman Roth.
"Send Fredo off to do this, send Fredo off to do that! Let Fredo take care of some Mickey-Mouse nightclub somewhere! Send Fredo to pick somebody up at the airport! I'm your older brother, Mike, and I was stepped over!"
The Unfavorite: By the second movie, he's developed a complex over this.
Outnumbered Sibling: She's the only daughter of the Corleone family with three older brothers (Sonny, Fredo and Michael) and another adopted brother Tom Hagen.
Took a Level in Badass: In Part III, becomes Michael's de facto consigliere, ordering hits without his permission. She even assists in killing Altobello, who is her godfather, with poisoned cannoli during the final parts of Part III.
Portrayed By: Diane Keaton
Michael's long-time girlfriend that he met at college. She is somewhat of an outsider from the beginning and symbolizes Michael's initial desire to live a more Americanized life - viewing her as a way of breaking away from the family business. He eventually falls out of love with her but proposes to her years later in order to start a family. She becomes his second wife and they have two children but their relationship is not a happy one. Michael continuously mistreats Kay and it ends bitterly with a divorce in Part II after Kay tells Michael that she has aborted their third child to spite him. In Part III, Michael has mellowed out and they attempt to reconcile their relationship but then their daughter, Mary dies.
This character exhibits examples of:
Betty and Veronica: Looks like the Betty but is the Veronica while Apollonia is the Betty who looks like the Veronica.
Convenient Miscarriage: Subverted. Kay Corleone apparently suffers this trope, only to be revealed later that she aborted the child out of hatred towards her Catholic husband and because she can't stand the idea of another child being raised into his criminal family.
Shortly after Michael arrives in Sicily following his escape from New York, he meets a local woman named Apollonia. Michael falls deeply and passionately in love with her (which is described as being "struck by the thunderbolt"). After a brief period of courtship, Michael marries her and she becomes his first wife. His relationship with her is what helps him re-connect with his Sicilian roots and find out where he truly belongs. The pregnant Apollonia dies in a car bomb set by Fabrizio (one of Michael's bodyguards) that was intended to kill him. Her death makes Michael a man with an uncontrollable thirst for revenge, which would eventually lead him to betray his family.
This character exhibits examples of:
Babies Ever After: Subverted. Michael and Apollonia expected this kind of life (especially since they had sex every night) but Apollonia was murdered during her pregnancy and thus their unborn child died as well.
Foil: To Kay. Apollonia represents traditions and Italian life whereas Kay represents modernity and American life.
Language Barrier: Has trouble communicating with Michael as she only speaks Italian and he primarily speaks English with only a little Italian, they end up having a loving relationship despite this obstacle.
Meaningful Name: Her name is derived from the Greek god, Apollo (god of light and the sun). This symbolises that Apollonia is the light - the happiness and innocence of Michael's life. Thus her death is also the loss of this innocence and Michael's Start of Darkness.
The youngest of Michael's children. Sofia's being cast as her was a very controversial decision, though in truth she was just a last-minute replacement for Winona Ryder, and only took the part reluctantly.
Kill the Cutie: She is shot with a bullet meant for Michael near the end of Part III.
Anthony "Tony" Corleone
Portrayed By: Franc D'Ambrosio
Michael's oldest child and his initial heir apparent. Anthony, however, has different ideas and by Part III, is openly refusing to become a part of his father's criminal empire, instead opting to become an opera singer.
Heel-Face Turn: Initially in Part II, right after his parents' separation, the young Anthony is portrayed as being cold and distant towards his mother, seemingly blaming her for the breakup. By the third film, however, it is Michael that he resents, mostly because he discovered the truth that Michael ordered the murder of Fredo, his favorite uncle.
Nice Guy: Wants nothing to do with the criminal empire and is sweet, polite and loves his family.
Please Wake Up: A mild example, but the baby Anthony is the only other person present during Vito's death.
"I have a special practice. I handle one client."
"A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns."
— Vito Corleone
Portrayed By: Robert Duvall
An orphaned childhood friend of Sonny´s, Tom was unofficially adopted by Don Vito. He´s the family´s lawyer and Consigliere.
This character exhibits examples of:
Badass Bookworm: A lawyer by profession and undoubtedly one of the most intelligent members of the Corleone family, he also killed two people in The Godfather Returns strangling one with his belt and shooting another. Then, in the same book, there's his ease in putting Fredo on the ground when attacked in a fit of anger. (Fredo later compliments him on his reflexes. Tom's response: "lots of coffee".)
Dropped a Bridge on Him: Despite his integral role in the first two films, his death is only briefly mentioned in passing at the beginning of Part III.
Heroic BSOD: In the original novel, he suffers a very minor breakdown when he learns that Sonny has just been murdered, and needs a stiff drink before plucking up the courage to tell Vito. Vito lampshades this to Tom, but permits him to finish his drink before saying what he's afraid to say.
Non-Action Guy: In the movies, anyway. This fact is lampshaded by Virgil Sollozzo:
"I know you're not in the muscle-end of the family, Tom, so I don't want you to be scared."
Only Sane Man: Finds himself playing this part when Sonny or Michael start getting too bloodthirsty.
Sugar and Ice Personality: Tom's a very serious guy at heart, but he can be surprisingly warm-hearted towards friends and family.
Fat Bastard: Has a reputation for violent, ruthless tactics in gang wars.
The Mentor: According to the book, he taught Sonny how to fight and kill, though he was a bit disappointed that Sonny never showed any particular liking for the garotte. In both the film and the book, he also advises Michael on carrying out the killing of Solozzo and McCluskey.
Real Men Dont Cry: Averted in The Godfather Returns, he will not watch Tessio's execution because "there are some things a guy doesn't want to see."
Eloquent In My Native Tongue: Clearly seen struggling with English during his introduction at the wedding, but has no problems using colloquial Italian later.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Went on one after an attempt on Vito's life in the Olive Oil War. It took Vito recovering and personally calling him off to avoid Luca dropping enough bodies to make peace impossible. The Turk has him killed before they attempt to kill Vito to avoid this happening to him.
The Worf Effect: Established as Don Corleone's most fearsome right-hand man at the beginning of the first film, but then is quickly taken out by the Tattaglia family to show the grave danger the Corleones are facing.
"Everybody loses something."
Portrayed By: Andrew Pifko (The Godfather [game]), Rick Pasqualone (Part II [game])
This character exhibits examples of:
Been There, Shaped History: He is responsible for helping Rocco in removing Khartoum's head and placing it in Woltz's bed, beating the two kids who tried to rape Bonasera's daughter, assassinating both Paulie Gatto and Salvatore Tessio for betraying the Family, hiding the pistol Michael would use to kill Solozzo and McCluskey, and participating in the assassination of the heads of the Five Families.
Retcon: It's a goal to become "Don of New York" in the game, with a cinematic showing it is exactly what it sounds like as he oversees Manhattan in a high rise building with Mafia dons as his lackeys. Come to "Part II" and he's a capo with no hints of having rose anywhere above it.
Villain Protagonist: While he certainly is better than his enemies, and maintains a good relationship with everyone he meets, he still beats and maims shop owners for protection money and dives head-first into the Mafia lifestyle with no hesitation.
Expy: Pentangeli was written to replace Clemenza when Castellano didn't return for Part II.
Hidden Depths: Demonstrates a knowledge of history, when he references the practice of attainted Romans committing suicide so that their families would be spared the Emperor's wrath. This is exactly what he does to atone for his betrayal.
The Stool Pigeon: With Willie Cicci after he mistakenly assumes Michael put a hit out on him. Though he recants at the last minute when his brother paid him a visit.
Knife Nut: Sollozzo is said to be very good with a knife, but being a businessman he avoids fighting if he can help it. This shows up briefly in the film when Luca Brasi meets with him in Bruno Tattaglia's nightclub.
Big Bad: The real one of the first film in The Godfather Trilogy.
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: In a seemingly friendly gesture, he accepts Don Vito Corleone's request to help set up peace summit called to bring an end to the Five Families War. This is ultimately revealed to be a cynical ploy when Barzini uses the summit as an opportunity to subject Vito to a shakedown resulting in the forceful appropriation of much of the latter's power and influence.
Faux Affably Evil: He exhibits a very diplomatic and pleasant demeanor in his dealings with business partners and other associates. However, in reality, he is a very coldhearted and calculated man who has no scruples about employing brutal and underhanded tactics to increase his power.
The Man Behind the Man: He is ultimately revealed to be the mastermind behind a conspiracy to usurp power from the Corleone originally believed to be led by Philip Tattaglia.
Manipulative Bastard: He secretly conspires with Carlo Rizzi to have Connie Corleone viciously beaten in order to provoke her hot-headed brother, Santino, and lure him to his death.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: His character is loosely based on Vito Genovese, a ruthless mob boss who sought to become the "Boss of all Bosses" by capitalizing on the sale of narcotics and eliminating all potential rivals within the criminal underworld.
Portrayed By: Lee Strasberg
Affably Evil: In most of his scenes, he comes across as a friendly old man who honestly wants to advise Michael and leave behind something worthwhile for his friends.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: Roth was very heavily based off the notorious and powerful Jewish gangster/adviser to the Mafia Meyer Lansky. Lansky reportedly called Lee Strasberg (the father of Method Acting), the actor playing Roth, and congratulated him on his performance, but added, "You could have made me more sympathetic."
No Celebrities Were Harmed: Lucchesi is modeled on Giulio Andreotti, who was the prime minister of Italy during III's release and was convicted (then acquitted) of his links with the Real Life mafia. The line Lucchesi's killer gives before Lucchesi's murder — "Power wears out those who don't have it" — is a direct quote from Andreotti.