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The Corleone Family
Don Vito Corleone
- "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse."
- 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. People are expected to treat Don Vito the same way — like a treasured and respected friend. During his first scene, he chides Bonasera the mortician for not being more sociable with him and only visiting when he needs a favour.
- Decoy Protagonist: Both of the films he appears in initially appear to be about him, but end up being more about Michael, and both times Vito eventually drops out of the narrative.
- The Don: The original Godfather, the Don of a New York crime family.
- Family Values Villain: Vito firmly believes and teaches that blood is Thicker Than Water.
- Good Parents: He genuinely and deeply loves his children, and his children love him unconditionally.
- Happily Married: With his wife Carmela.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: A composite character based on several real-life Mafia bosses, most notably Frank Costello, Carlo Gambino, Joe Bonanno, Raymond Patriarca, Santo Trafficante Sr., Sam DeCavalcante, Frank Balistrieri and Lucky Luciano.
- Papa Wolf: He shows hints of this towards his own children, especially for his youngest son, Michael. When arranging Michael's safe return from exile with the other heads of the crime families, he makes it clear that anyone who messes with his son will regret it.
- Parental Substitute: Unofficially adopts Tom Hagen after he was found by Sonny as a homeless orphan.
In Part I, this character exhibits examples of:
- A Father to His Men: Treats everybody that works for him with sincere respect.
- Acrofatic: A minor case, but his surprising quickness for his size saves his life during Sollozzo's ambush.
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: The Trope Namer. Coined by Michael to illustrate how Vito reached an agreement with a band leader to release Johnny Fontane from a contract.
- Badass Moustache: He sports a badass moustache, and he only begins wearing it after he gains power as a Mafia kingpin.
- Benevolent Boss: Compared to Michael and Vinnie, Vito is extremely forgiving. He even publicly admits to other Dons that he will not seek revenge for Sonny's death. Although this can be interpreted as more of a case of Exact Words.
- The Chessmaster: Especially in the book where it is more obvious that Michael's purge of the five families was orchestrated by Vito years before, at his negotiations to bring Michael home from Sicily.
- Everyone Has Standards: He believes that his political connections, which regard gambling as "a harmless vice", will abandon the Family in a heartbeat if they learn that hard drugs like heroin are being sold. Even after they agree to the trade, the Dons refuse to allow the drugs into schools or to be sold to children.
- Evil Parents Want Good Kids: To Michael. Vito figures on Sonny following his path, and Fredo... well... He wanted something better with Michael. The expression on his face when he's told that Michael killed Sollozzo and McCluskey is one of pure heartbreak.
- Go Out with a Smile: When he dies, he dies playing with his grandson.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Vito has no illusions that the things he's done in his life were crimes, but he rationalizes that he did what he had to do to take care of his family - otherwise he'd still be a poor immigrant being pushed around by powers bigger than himself. He neither condones nor condemns the things he's done: he felt he did the only thing he could to survive. Even so, he must still have been uncomfortable with them in the back of his mind, because he always hoped that when he grew up Michael wouldn't have to be involved in a life of crime to be a powerful man.
- I Coulda Been a Contender!: Wanted to turn the family legit and go into politics.
- Manly Tears: When he learns of Sonny's death, and then later when he takes the corpse to the undertaker. Also at the hospital when he realizes Michael is taking his side in the family business.
- Parental Favoritism: Towards Michael, meant for a higher purpose. The original novel tries to explain why Sonny is the heir exempt from Evil Parents Want Good Kids because Sonny chose a criminal life after witnessing Vito killing Fanucci. (Part II disregards this)
- 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.
- Pragmatic Villainy: Don Vito does not oppose the drug trade because of any moral opposition to drugs, but because he fears that it will destroy their political connections.
In Part II, this character exhibits examples of:
- Authority Equals Asskicking: In the first movie, despite his reputation and intimidating nature, we never see him personally kill or intimidate, save for a Noodle Incident mentioned by Michael. Whilst in Part II we see how he rose to the ranks by killing Don Fanucci and Don Ciccio.
- 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's 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.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Started out as an orphaned kid stuck in an unknown country.
- 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.note
- He Who Fights Monsters: Ran away from a crime lord, only to become one himself.
- Misery Builds Character: After running away to America alone as an orphaned child, he builds up his reputation on the streets.
- 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.
- Posthumous Character: His story is told throughout a flashback since he already passed away in the first film.
- The Quiet One: As a child he hardly ever talked, which made his family think he was dull-witted. This is later shown to not be the case. The book elaborates, saying that in actuality Vito was an observer and not a talker; it also says that what cemented his friendship with Clemenza was that Clemenza was a storyteller and Vito was a listener to storytellers.
- Revenge: Against Francesco Ciccio for killing his parents and brother Paolo. And in the recut, against the capos that were looking for him before he escaped too.
- 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 take revenge on Don Ciccio.
- "Keep your friends close; but your enemies closer."Portrayed By: Al Pacino
- Being Evil Sucks: He justifies his descent into mob villainy as being done for the well-being of his family, but by the end of the second movie he starts to realize that it has destroyed his family. By the end of the third movie almost all the people he cared for are dead or driven away as a result of his choices.
- Berserk Button: Michael believes in two things; Family and Loyalty to the family. Going after or betraying the family sets him off.
- The Chessmaster: He proves himself to be this at least twice during Part I, and continuously throughout Part II, using devious and brutal schemes to keep the Corleone Family strong, despite their (numerous) ups and downs.
- The Don: After Vito died in 1955 Michael officially became Don.
- Faux Affably Evil: In the first two movies, he's polite, icy and ruthless. He sweet-talks Kay to make her believe he's not going to be a criminal while his revenge plans are already in motion. He invokes a false veneer of amicability by keeping his friends close but his enemies closer.
- Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: The Responsible to Sonny and Fredo's Foolish.
- From Camouflage To Criminal: Michael went from being a captain in the United States Marine Corps to the most ruthless and cunning mafia don around.
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Went from being a war hero to becoming the most ruthless boss in town.
- 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.
- Meaningful Name: Michael is an angel and its supposed to symbolize that the youngest Corleone son will turn out different than his brothers. But he didn't.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Loosely based on Bill Bonanno, the son of Joe Bonanno. Like Corleone himself, Joe wanted his son to go legitimate, but he ended up becoming the Bonanno family's consigliere. Personality wise however, Bill was more like Fredo than Michael, as many of the street guys viewed him as a mob prince who lacked the street cred his father earned years earlier; Bill even lacked the ruthlessness Michael carried. The fact that Bonanno promoted his attention-seeking son to such a high position rankled many in the Bonanno family, triggering an internal war in the 1960s. Also has some elements of Thomas Gambino (son of Carlo Gambino) and Santo Trafficante Jr.
- Odd Name Out: Unlike his parents and his siblings, he's the only one not to have an Italian name.
- Protagonist Journey to Villain: The entire series is all about Michael Corleone's transformation from White Sheep of a crime family to its ruthless leader, and subsequent doomed attempts to atone.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The cold hearted Blue Oni to Sonny's Red.
- Tragic Villain: He starts as an independent minded War Hero, but he is gradually dragged into mob life to protect his father and his family. He fought his perceived enemies with cold ruthlessness for years while he struggles to achieve legitimacy, and by the time he gets there, he admits that it's too late and that he is too tired and past redemption, and passes the torch to a new Don.
- Turn Out Like His Father: Despite his early attempts to avoid it, he ends up in the exact same role as his father.
- Villain Protagonist: He's the main character of the series.
- Young Conqueror: Is Don by default after Vito's passing.
In Part I, this character exhibits examples of:
- Anti-Hero: Initially a heroic character, but by the end of the movie he becomes something of this status.
- Awakening the Sleeping Giant: At the start of the movie, Michael was completely uninterested in the Family Business. Then rival families went after his family.
- Badass Bookworm: He was a soldier in World War II and also an Ivy League graduate.
- Black Sheep: He deliberately distances himself from his family's crimes at the beginning of the movie.
- Corrupt the Cutie: He starts as a principled war hero firmly detached from the family business, only to be gradually dragged into the criminal world and ending up as the new Don, cold and ruthless, alienated from his family.
- 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 leadership role.
- Face–Heel Turn: He goes from being the one person in his family that could possibly go legit into a cold-blooded Mafioso who can lie to his wife's face and feel no remorse.
- 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.
- Happily Married:
- With Apollonia until her death.
- He later marries Kay but their marriage is a total disaster.
- He Who Fights Monsters: The reason he got into the Corleone family business in the first place was to do his part in protecting his family. But he ends up just as monstrous as his enemies.
- I Just Want to Be NormalMichael: "That's my family, Kaye. That's not me."
- Knight Templar Parent: Don't you ever go against the family. It gets even worse in the second movie.
- Love at First Sight: When he meets Apollonia.
- Naïve Newcomer: Subverted. Michael detached himself from the business and is laughed at by other members of the family when he proposes a hit against Sollozzo and McCluskey. They consider him ignorant and too trigger happy. Michael deliberately continues to project this image.
- Necessarily Evil: Tries to justify himself as this, at least to Kay.
- 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!
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: He was chosen to negotiate with The Turk because he had no known connections to his family's criminal empire. Michael kills The Turk and the mediating police captain, and he just gets worse from there.
- Oh Crap!: Has this reaction when he realizes that another assassination attempt against his father was carried out at the hospital.
- Start of Darkness: Apollonia's death is the ultimate trigger.
- Sympathetic Murderer: He has killed and ordered others to kill in his name, but after Sonny's brutal murder and accidentally killing Apollonia, it's not hard to feel like those victims had it coming.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: He claims, and to an extent believes, that he is doing what he does for the sake of his family, and only against those who deserve it. This justification gradually erodes over the course of the movie.
- 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.
- White Sheep: He was raised to be the white sheep; he was supposed to begin the family's shift into respectability. Vito expresses regret shortly before his death that he ended up being the one to succeed his father, since he'd wanted him to be "Senator Corleone" or "Governor Corleone," and Michael reassures him that "we'll get there."
- Youngest Child Wins: He manages to subdue all of the family's enemies and secures his position as Don... of course, was it really worth it?
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.
- Greater Scope Villain: His own ruthless style of leadership is a much bigger threat to the Family than Hyman Roth ever was.
- Kiss of Death: After he finds out that Fredo betrayed 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:
- Amicably Divorced: With Kay.
- Anti-Villain: He desperately tries to do good, going so far as to assure the protection of Pope John Paul I, only to fail.
- The Atoner: He even confesses in church for his crimes; this is how badly he wants to become good.
- Chronic VillainyJust when I thought I was out... they pull me back in.
- Dying Alone: In stark contrast to Vito.
- Evil Parents Want Good Kids: Michael refuses to have her daughter Mary involved in the business and does whatever he can to keep her out of the loop.
- Heartbroken Badass: He starts crying when his son sings a Sicilian ballad that reminds him of Apollonia.
- Heel–Face Door-Slam: It becomes the focal point for the final movie in the trilogy. Michael Corleone tries to repair the relationship with his wife and children now that he's legit in the eyes of the public (which was his ultimate goal for the family). He goes to a Catholic Priest and confesses his ultimate sin of having his older brother Fredo killed. He finds a worthy successor to take over the business when he's gone. And just when things are looking up, his daughter gets killed by his enemies, breaking him for good.
- Hypocrite: Michael tries to push Tony to complete law school so that he could become a family lawyer, and gets upset when Tony instead pursues his dream to become a singer. Michael himself resisted his family's push to become a politician, and instead chose to enlist.
- My God, What Have I Done?: At the time of this movie it's clear he feels deeply remorseful for having Fredo killed.
- Passing the Torch: To Vincent.
Santino "Sonny" Corleone
- "I want Sollozzo, if not, it's all out war, we go to the mattresses!"Portrayed By: James Caan
- Berserk Button: Hurting his younger sister will earn you a free trip to the emergency room.
- Big Brother Instinct:
Sonny: Hey listen, I want someone good and I mean really good to plant that gun. I don't want my brother to come out of the toilet with just his dick in his hand.
- He launches into one of the most epic No Holds Barred Beatdowns in film history against his brother-in-law after he finds his sister with a black eye. The enemy family Barzini later uses this instinct against Sonny by paying Carlo to deliver a savage beating to his wife in order to easily set up an ambush for Sonny.
- He has a minor one with Michael too, when they are planning out the hit on Solozzo, he threatens that someone better be good at providing Michael the gun.
- Bruiser with a Soft Center: In Part I, Sonny is the most violent and hotheaded of the brothers, but most of his violence is directed at those who hurt his family. It's clear that he is very protective of them and hurting them is his Berserk Button. Like Vito, his acceptance of Tom as a brother also shows that he is not as racist as most Sicilian mafioso.
- Dragon-in-Chief: Became acting Don after Vito was shot and wounded.
- Fatal Flaw: Sonny's Hot Bloodedness combined with an overzealous Big Brother Instinct allowed Carlo to lure him to his death.
- Gag Penis: Actually a minor plot point in the book.
- Generation Xerox: Like his grandfather, Antonio, Sonny was proud, hot-tempered, and stubborn. Both of them ended up dead because of those traits.
- Hot-Blooded: The most impulsive, aggressive and violent of Vito's sons.
- If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: What he did to Carlo after beating up Connie.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He's a violent thug who openly cheats on his wife but also a genuinely loving husband, father and brother.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Beating up Carlo for abusing Connie.
- Knight Templar Big Brother: This trait ends up being his downfall.
- Kick Them While They Are Down: After being riddled with bullets by hitmen, Sonny is given an extra few rounds once he falls to the ground, and kicked in the head for good measure.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: Unlike his father and brothers, he isn't above dropping racial slurs in conversation.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Hotblooded Red Oni to Michael's Blue.
- Unstoppable Rage: Somebody that messed with Sonny's sister caused him to pummel that man well into submission.
- Wife-Basher Basher: "You touch my sister again and I'll kill ya."
- Your Cheating Heart: However his infidelities did not trouble his wife.
- "Fredo has a good heart, but he's weak... and stupid."
— Michael CorleoneThe middle child of the family. He is the stupid one, but has a warm heart. "Fredo" has now become shorthand for "weak link".
Portrayed By: John Cazale
- Adaptational Wimp: In the book 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.
- Ascended Extra: Appears only in a few scenes of the first film, but he gets a bigger role in the second film.
- 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, specially Tony.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: At the end the reason why he betrays Michael for Hyman Roth is not for ambition or greed, or even true hate for his brother Michael, but for the need to be respected and valued as member of the Family.
- 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...
- Henpecked Husband: To Deanna in Part II.
- Inadequate Inheritor: He might be the second child of Vito, but he is pretty much excluded from the line of inheritance because of his dimwitted nature.
- 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.
- Pet the Dog: He's the only member of the Corleone family to openly support Michael's decision to enlist in the military. This makes Michael's decision to have Fredo killed all the more tragic.
- 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!"
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Ugly Guy to Deanna's Hot Wife in Part II.
- The Unfavorite: By the second movie, he's developed a complex over this.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Tries everything he can to please Michael, but it just doesn't work out.
Contanza "Connie" Corleone
- Connie: Michael. Now they'll fear you.Michael: Maybe they should fear YOU!Portrayed By: Talia Shire
- Ascended Extra: Connie is the least important of the Corleone siblings In-Universe (what with being a woman and all that), however, by part III with Fredo, Tom and Sonny out of the way she temporarily replaces Michael as family boss when he falls ill in the middle of a gang war.
- Corrupt the Cutie: In Part I Connie is (an informed) civilian who marries well before her husband treats her like crap and is murdered; in Part II she turns to leeching off Michael (while spiting him) but staying out of the business; in Part III she is an active player in family affairs
- Daddy's Girl: Vito loves her very dearly.
- Domestic Abuse: Experiences this at the hands of Carlo
- Mafia Princess: The archetypal example of this. By the end of the first film however, when her abusive husband is murdered by her brother Michael for his role in setting up the murder of the oldest sibling Sonny, Connie finds herself quite jaded and goes into a downward spiral of debauchery and drinking to punish her brother Michael. It takes the death of her mother Carmela to get her to clean her act up, at which point she convinces Michael to reconcile with turncoat brother Fredo. By the third film, she's been upgraded to full-blown Godmother and has taken the role of adviser/Corleone Family mentor to Sonny's illegitimate son Vinnie, who has followed his father's footsteps into organized crime.
- Older and Wiser: She is practically a load in her younger years since the business is not female-friendly, but she evolves and by Part III she is Lady Macbeth.
- 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
- Amicably Divorced: With Michael in Part III.
- 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.
- First Love: To Michael. He ends up marrying her after his first relationship didn't pan out.
- Naïve Newcomer: In the first movie. Zigzagged as she is aware of some of the nasty things but Michael plays with it trying to downplay the criminal side of his family.
- Not So Above It All: For all her talk about how wrong killing is and how Michael's life of crime is going nowhere, she was willing to abort her unborn child as a means to an end. Something she herself lampshaded.Kay: It was an abortion Michael. Just like our marriage is an abortion. Something that's unholy and evil.
- White Anglo-Saxon Protestant: She is this to provide a contrast between a "normal" American in The Forties and the Corleones.
- Portrayed By: Marianna Hill
- Alliterative Name: Deanna Dunn
- Amicably Divorced: More so on her part than Fredo's in the book.
- Dumb Blonde: So much its actually painful, completely ignorant of wedding traditions and ettiquete.
- Gold Digger: The impression she gives, and how the Corleone family views her.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Book only. While she's heavily promiscous (so far as to having being caught by Fredo having sex with a film co-star), she did show Fredo some affection. She gave him bit parts in her films and bought a large headstone for him when he died.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: While Fredo is plain-looking, she is a gorgeous actress.
- Portrayed By: Simonetta Stefanelli
- Babies Ever After: Subverted. Michael and Apollonia wanted this to happen since they had sex every night. Apollonia finds out she is expecting and Michael is overjoyed, but she is murdered during her pregnancy thus their baby dies too.
- Foil: To Kay. Apollonia represents traditions and Italian life whereas Kay represents modernity and American life.
- Happily Married: With Michael. Their marriage brings Michael back to his Sicilian roots.
- 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.
- Lost Lenore: To Michael.
- Meaningful Name: Her name is derived from the Greek god, Apollo (god of light and the sun). This symbolizes how 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.
- Nature Adores a Virgin: A huge deal is made about her purity and how Michael must marry her before diving into his carnal desires.
- One True Love: What Michael sees her as.
- Second Love: To Michael, and also his greatest love.
- Small Role, Big Impact: Despite her small role, her death sets Michael's ruthlessness rise to Don in motion.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: She does not appear much and we know little about her but her death is what leads to his Face–Heel Turn.
Vincent "Vinnie" Mancini-Corleone
- "I am your son. Command me in all things."Portrayed By: Andy Garcia
- Canon Foreigner: He wasn't in the book at all. In fact Sonny's mistress was explicitly stated to have not gotten pregnant by him.
- Generation Xerox: Although from all indications, he would probably be a better Don than Sonny could have been.
- Hot-Blooded: Must run in the family.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He's impulsive and hotheaded, but loves his family deeply and is very protective of them.
- Kissing Cousins: With Mary, but it doesn't last.
- Shoo the Dog: At Michael's request, he tells Mary that he cannot be with her since his business is too dangerous for them to be together.
- Undying Loyalty: To Michael and the Corleone family.
- Portrayed By: Sofia Coppola
- Daddy's Girl: No good comes of it to her.
- Kill the Cutie: She is shot with a bullet meant for Michael near the end of Part III.
- Kissing Cousins: With Vincent, but it doesn't last.
- Mafia Princess: She is legitimately oblivious to her father's corrupt ways, also striking a romance with her cousin Vinnie. The poor kid ends up shot to death as a result of her father's crimes coming back to bite him on the ass, since an assassin sent to snipe Michael after her brother's opera debut shoots her instead by mistake; she dies in Michael's arms, and he's pushed to the Despair Event Horizon.
- Naïve Everygirl: Has no knowledge of what her father has done as Don.
- Parental Marriage Veto: Michael is adamantly opposed to her marrying Vincent.
Anthony "Tony" Corleone
- Portrayed By: Franc D'Ambrosio
- Calling the Old Man Out: He delivers a particularly devastating one to Michael at the beginning of Part III.
- 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.
- "A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns."— Vito CorleonePortrayed By: Robert Duvall
- Abusive Parents: Tom's father was a violent alcoholic.
- Amoral Attorney: A dignified mob lawyer.
- 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".)
- Bald of Awesome: By the second movie, he's going bald.
- Child of Two Worlds: Tom was born into a German-Irish family but raised by Sicilians. As an adult, he often acts as a buffer between the Corleones and their WASP colleagues.
- The Consigliere: Trope Codifier. Close to a Unbuilt Trope in that Tom, though well-meaning, isn't a particularly good Consigliere during wartime. He admits it to himself in the book after Sonny dies. Michael replaces him with his father, although he still listens to him until he grows unhappy with Tom in Part II.
- 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. In the books, he is drowned in the Florida Everglades by Nick "Ace" Geraci, as part of Geraci's plan to bring down Michael's support structure en route to taking over the family.
- The Good Chancellor: Spends most of the films urging caution over bloodshed.
- Happily Adopted: Although the Don never formally adopted him, Hagen thought of Vito Corleone as his true father.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: 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.
- Liminal Being: He's an American man of German-Irish descent who was adopted by a Sicilian family, so he has a foot in both cultures. His heritage and lack of blood ties to the Corleones technically make him an outsider in the mafia, but his role as a trusted consigliere paradoxically makes him an insider.
- 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."
- Not So Stoic: The one person who consistently gets under his skin and causes him to display his impatience is Sonny. Just about every conversation they have ends with Tom raising his voice, something he hardly ever does with anyone else.
- Only Sane Man: Finds himself playing this part when Sonny or Michael start getting too bloodthirsty.
- Parental Abandonment: Mother died from an unknown sickness and an eye infection, father drank himself to death shortly afterwards.
- The Stoic: Insults, threats, betrayals, Tom takes them all with calm equanimity.
- Sugar and Ice Personality: Tom's a very serious guy at heart, but he can be surprisingly warm-hearted towards friends and family.
- Undying Loyalty: To the Corleone family.
- Your Cheating Heart: Implied by Michael.
- Portrayed by: Gianni Russo
- Asshole Victim: The BEST example of this trope ever being used to end a story. After spending much of his time in the movie physically beating Connie over minor stuff (or for no reason at all as implied in some scenes) and being responsible for Sonny's death by luring him into a trap after whipping Connie with a belt in her bathroom, he gets choked to death from behind the car seat that he thought was going to send him to the West Coast. The scene was so brutal that you can see Carlo desperately struggling, and he even reflexively kicks and breaks the front windshield of the vehicle as he struggles to escape the choke.
- Dirty Coward: Beats Connie (who loves him so much that she tries to rationalize that it's her fault that he beats her, and even cries when she confronts Michael after his death EVEN KNOWING he's responsible for his brother's death) but RUNS away when Sonny confronts and whimpers like a puppy after being cornered as he gets beaten up by Sonny. He is so cowardly he didn't even participate in the ambush that killed Sonny, instead staying far away as safe as possible. This is not even counting how he actually LIES about having nothing to do with Sonny's death and denying being involved with the other Mafia family's operations when Michael confronts him at the end of the first movie and then begs for his life to Michael to spare him after being busted as a lying bullshitter..
- Gold Digger: Carlo is a failed male example.
- Hidden Depths: He's smart enough to use Sonny's temper and protectiveness over his sister against him.
- Hope Spot: He puffs up considerably when it seems like Michael, in contrast to his father, intends to make him a significant part of the family business. This turns out to be a ruse to keep him close until the plan to wipe out the leaders of the other families is enacted, at which point Michael takes revenge for Carlo's betrayal of Sonny.
- The Resenter: He's shut out of the family business except for minor living to enable him to support Connie and his family, and consequently stews with bitterness about this. This leads to him beating Connie and, along with Sonny beating him in retribution, is implied to lead him to make a deal with Barzini.
- Would Hit a Girl: A Domestic Abuser who is physically abusive to Connie.
Corleone Family Associates
Capo Peter Clemenza
- Portrayed By: Richard Castellano (The Godfather), Bruno Kirby (Part II)
This character exhibits examples of:
- Acrofatic: Both the book and the film show him as a surprisingly agile dancer at the Corleone wedding.
- Affably Evil: To his friends and associates, Clemenza's regarded as a friendly, jovial kind of guy, always happy to talk and always happy to share his tales of the good old days.
- Big Fun: Seems to provide a comedic scene or two, the quote above being the top example on how funny he can get.
- The Big Guy: As a Capo of the family, he takes a direct role in controlling the movements of the family soldiers; for good measure, he's occasionally called upon to act as a hitman.
- Cool Uncle: To Vito's children, even if not by blood.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Dialogue in the second film implies that he died of a heart attack between movies.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Vito and Tessio.
- Honorary Uncle: To Vito's children.
- Fat Bastard: Has a reputation for violent, ruthless tactics in gang wars.
- Hidden Depths: An excellent cook, even showing Michael how to make spaghetti sauce, and a history buff who compares Solozzo's actions to Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch.
- 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.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Loosely based on Frank Labruzzo, Joe Bonanno's brother-in-law who stayed loyal to him even during the tumultuous Bananas Wars in the 1960s. Also had some elements of Joe Magliocco, Giuseppe Profaci's underboss and cousin, and as well as Vincent Gigante, Vito Genovese's protege and future boss. The assassination of Victor Stracci by Clemenza was partially based on the botched hit on Frank Costello in 1957; Gigante's unintentional warning only grazed Costello's scalp, but Costello saw the writing on the wall and later stepped down as boss.
- 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."
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Red Oni to Tessio's blue.
Capo Salvatore Tessio
- "Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him."Portrayed By: Abe Vigoda (The Godfather), John Aprea (Part II)
This character exhibits examples of:
- Been There, Shaped History: The novel narrates that he killed Salvatore Maranzano in a Brooklyn restaurant.
- The Cameo: Briefly appears in Part II.
- Face Death with Dignity: Once it's clear that he can't talk his way out of his execution, he calmly and willingly steps into the car without another word of protest.
- Subverted in the game, where you have to chase him down and kill him.
- The Mole: Secretly works for Barzini.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Loosely based on Gaspar Di Gregorio, a capo in the Bonanno family and a trusted friend of Joe Bonanno. But when Bonanno promoted his son Bill to consigliere, this left hard feelings on Di Gregorio, who then plots with rival bosses (who were already incensed with Bonanno's plot to kill them) to orchestrate Bonanno's ouster, splitting the family into two rival factions. Like Tessio, who set up Michael for an assassination in a supposed "sit-down", Di Gregorio arranged an ambush on Bonanno's son, but not a single shot aimed by Di Gregorio's men hit their intended target. Unlike Tessio, who gets a "one-way ride", Di Gregorio was rebuked by the Commission for his incompetence on the ambush against Bill Bonanno and was forced to step down, living in relative obscurity until his death in 1970.
- Nothing Personal: After being discovered as Don Barzini's mole in the Corleone family, he explains that nothing about his betrayal was personal.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Blue to Clemenza's red.
- The Smart Guy: Considered the smarter of the two Caporegimes, and usually makes the tactical decisions of the Family soldiers.
- Portrayed By: Lenny Montana
This character exhibits examples of:
- Ax-Crazy: Implied to be one in the book.
- The Dragon: He is the Corleone's most trusted bodyguard.
- The Dreaded:
- In the novel even Vito Corleone is afraid of him, to the point of being apprehensive when he has to receive Brasi's congratulations on his daughter's wedding day despite Brasi being the only one of these visitors not to include the request of a favour with the congratulations. When Solozzo's men make it clear to the Corleones that they have killed Brasi, the Corleones are relieved to know that Sollozo had not turned him and that he isn't coming after them.
- As this Cracked article notes, the movie inverts this; the fact that the huge and terrifying Brasi is seen nervously reciting his speech to Corleone only to awkwardly stutter through it and mess it up when actually in the Don's presence makes it clear exactly who the really scary one in this version is. Although even then, the Don is uncomfortable around him, as evinced by him asking Tom if it's necessary for him to meet with Luca that day.
- Eloquent in My Native Tongue: Clearly seen struggling with English during his introduction at the wedding, but has no problems using colloquial Italian later.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: To extreme levels.
- Hidden Depths: The movie doesn't make him look particularly intelligent, but the book explains how part of what made him so dangerous was his ability to commit murders all by himself; most enforcers need backup on a hit. And when you commit a murder by yourself, there's no one to tell the police what happened.
- No Dead Body Poops: Averted in the book when he's strangled.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Brasi was mostly based on Willie "Moore" Moretti, Frank Costello's right-hand man. He also had some elements of Albert Anastasia, a vicious mob boss, and Carmine Galante, a violent hit man and underboss to Joe Bonanno.
- 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 Sociopath: More evident in the novel than the film.
- 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.
- Dark and Troubled Past: He witnessed his father getting killed when he was only 12.
- Death by Cameo/Dropped a Bridge on Him: He's shot in the neck after escorting Michael and Fredo to safety in Part II.
- 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.
- Previous Player-Character Cameo: Briefly appears in Part II.
- 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.
- You Killed My Father: He guns down Barzini at the steps of the City Hall.
- Portrayed By: Richard Bright
This character exhibits examples of:
- Ascended Extra: By the second film, he becomes one of Michael's most trusted subordinates. And by the third, he's next to Connie in terms of power in the Family.
- Co-Dragons: With Rocco, for Michael.
- Cowboy Cop: What got him fired from the Force and into the Family.
- The Dragon: For Michael.
- The Dreaded: One assumes this after Tom says of him to Michael "Now you've got your Luca."
- Genius Bruiser: Genius might be an overstatement, but Al is very intelligent and Michael seeks and trusts his input.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Loosely based on Carmine Galante, a vicious hitman and underboss to Joe Bonanno.
- The Quiet One: Says nothing in the first film, and only a few scattered lines in the second.
- "Difficult, not impossible."Portrayed By: Tom Rosqui
This character exhibits examples of:
- Ascended Extra: Like Neri, has much more screentime and importance in Part II than the original.
- Co-Dragons: With Neri, for Michael.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Kills Roth before being gunned down.
- Handicapped Badass: In the novel, Rocco suffered a crippling knee injury during World War II, which didn't prevent him from being a tough and efficient assassin. This backstory's left out of the film.
- Rite of Passage: Killing Paulie is how Rocco 'makes his bones'
- "The family had a lot of buffers."Portrayed By: Joe Spinell
This character exhibits examples of:
- Ascended Extra: While named in the books in the first film his name goes unsaid despite his killing of Cuneo and Tessio however in the second film he gets far more lines and screen time. He would have had an even bigger role in Part III if Joe Spinell hadn't passed away.
- Dumb Muscle: Implied in Part II; Cicci can't understand the Senators' questions ("Could you amplify your answer a bit?" "Huh?") without an attorney prompting him. Though it's also possible he's Obfuscating Stupidity.
- Made of Iron: Dude was shot then struck by a car and survived.
- Number Two: Becomes this to Frank Pentangeli in Part II.
- Slasher Smile: When he kills Cuneo in the first film.
- The Stool Pigeon: Along with Pentangeli in Part II.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Last seen testifying before the Senate, with no mention of his subsequent fate. Even when Michael's plotting revenge against Roth and Fredo later in the film, he ignores Cicci.
Capo Frankie Pentangeli
- "Those were the great old days, you know. And we was like the Roman Empire. The Corleone family was like the Roman Empire."Portrayed by: Michael V. Gazzo
This character exhibits examples of:
- Anti-Villain: He's essentially a pawn in Michael and Roth's conflict, becoming an antagonist through no fault of his own. He only turns against Michael after he's convinced that Michael tried to kill him.
- Cassandra Truth: He warns Michael early on that Roth is behind his trouble with the Rosato brothers. Michael ignores him, to his peril.
- Driven to Suicide: Slits his wrists after Tom pays him a visit so his family could be looked after..
- 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.
- Hot-Blooded: He'd rather kill the Rosatos than talk with them, as Michael suggests.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Reportedly a composite of crime boss Joe Profaci (founder of the Colombo crime family and a notoriously greedy boss), Carmine Persico and informant Joe Valachi. The Rosato brothers' hit on Pentangeli resembles a similarly botched attack on Larry Gallo, down to the policeman interrupting.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Cites the Rosatos hiring blacks and Hispanics as one reason he hates them so much. His comments towards Roth drip with thinly-veiled anti-Semitism, wondering how Michael could trust a Jew against "his own blood."
- Remember the New Guy: A classic example, with Fredo gushing over Frankie as a long-lost friend we'd never seen before.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Pentangeli was written to replace Clemenza when Castellano didn't return for Part II.
- 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.
Senator Patrick Geary
- "I despise your masquerade, the dishonest way you pose yourself. You and your whole fucking family."Portrayed by: G.D. Spradlin
This character exhibits examples of:
- Anything That Moves: Hookers, night club singers, he's a womanizer and proud of it.
- Bullying a Dragon: He tries to extort Michael into paying an exorbitant fee for his gambling license. This proves incredibly unwise.
- Disposable Sex Worker: How Tom blackmails him.
- Malicious Misnaming: He publicly mispronounces "Corleone," only to pronounce it accurately in private conversation.
- The Mole: He's part of the Senate committee investigating Michael while being blackmailed by the Corleones.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Based on real-life Nevada Senator Patrick McCarran, best-remembered today for his staunch anticommunism. Geary was even named McGeary in an early script, but Coppola thought the name too on the nose.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Drops some savage anti-Italian slurs in conversation with Michael.
- Sleazy Politician: Corrupt, in bed with the Mafia and cavorts with hookers. He's this trope to a T.
- Some of My Best Friends Are X: His over-the-top defense of Italian-Americans at the Senate hearings.
- What Did I Do Last Night?: "I remember she was laughing."
Other Crime Bosses
- "I don't like violence, Tom. I'm a businessman. Blood is a big expense."Portrayed By: Al Lettieri
- Big Bad Duumvirate: He seems to be this with Tattaglia.
- Co-Dragons: He and Tattaglia serve as this to the real Big Bad, Emilio Barzini.
- Disc One Final Boss: Shot halfway through by Michael.
- Faux Affably Evil: A ruthless businessman who behaves in a polite and personable manner when he's not murdering people.
- Gratuitous Italian: Speaks it fluently like a native despite being known as "The Turk."
- 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.
- Knight of Cerebus: His arrival marks the steady erosion of the unassailable position held by the Corleone Family at the beginning of the beginning. He stabs Luca Brasi's right hand, pinning it to the bar while one of Bruno's men garrotes Luca.
- Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: He had a very elaborate plan with Tattaglia to take down the Corleone's. Judging from Brasi's death, it's a very violent plan too.
- Sinister Schnoz: One of the reasons why he was called "The Turk" was because he had a nose like a Turkish scimitar.
- "He [Vito] had all the judges and politicians in his pocket. He refused to share them."Portrayed By: Victor Rendina
- Big Bad Duumvirate: With Virgil Sollozzo as a front.
- Co-Dragons: He and Sollozzo serve as this to the real Big Bad, Emilio Barzini.
- Decoy Antagonist: Appears to be the main villain in the early stages. It's actually Barzini.
- Dirty Coward: He's still a dirty pimp that barely lifts a finger for Barzini's plans. He tends to avoid facing danger if the opportunity arises.
- Dirty Old Man: He's old enough to have a middle-aged son and he still consorts with prostitutes.
- Disc One Final Boss: For Barzini.
- Disposable Sex Worker: Is riddled with bullets while in bed with a prostitute.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: More evident in the novel; he specializes in prostitution and is subsequently treated with thinly-veiled contempt by most of the other Families.
- Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: Unlike the other Family heads, he still speaks with a pronounced Italian accent.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Loosely based on Tommy Lucchese, who was short in height. Other than that, Lucchese did not specialize in prostitution, but in other areas such as Manhattan's Garment District, union racketeering, narcotics trafficking and also had control over rackets at Idlewild Airport (now JFK Airport)
- "If Don Corleone had all the judges and politicians in New York, then he must share them or let others use them. He must let us draw the water from the well."'Portrayed By: Richard Conte
- Big Bad: The true antagonist 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.
- The Chessmaster: Had his plan to take down the Corleone's set up very well. However, Michael managed to out-gambit him.
- The Don: Of the Barzini Family.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Appears at Connie's wedding long before his importance to the plot is established.
- 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.
- Out-Gambitted: Both Vito and Michael Corleone have outsmarted Barzini by deliberately letting him and the other bosses whittle away the Corleone interests in order to lull them into a false sense of security. Before his death, Vito warns his son that Barzini will try to have Michael eliminated under the guise of a peace meeting, and that whoever approaches Michael about the meeting will be exposed as the traitor within the family. Michael uses this info to his advantage, and silently eliminates the the other Mafia heads (including Barzini). Sal Tessio (who reveals himself to be the traitor at Vito's funeral, albeit unknowingly) and Carlo Rizzi (for conspiring with Barzini to abuse Connie) were later executed for betraying the Corleones.
- "We're bigger than U.S. Steel."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.
- Big Bad: Of Michael's story in Part II.
- The Chessmaster: Tries to outwit Michael, but like Barzini, he gets out-gambitted by Michael and dies for it.
- Die Laughing: He's cracking jokes to reporters at the airport, moments before Rocco shoots him.
- Embarrassing Nickname: Clemenza introduces him to Vito as "Johnny Lips," which Roth clearly dislikes. Vito suggests he's select his own name.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: His wife and brother accompany him to Cuba.
- Evil Counterpart: To Don Vito.
- Kosher Nostra: He is Jewish like Moe Greene.
- Motive Rant: His speech about Moe Greene.
- 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." In-Universe, it's mentioned Roth is a pseudonym inspired by Arnold Rothstein. Coppola also commented that Strasberg based Roth's personality on their mutual friend, Elia Kazan.
- Non-Action Big Bad: He is very sick but no less effective as a Big Bad.
- Remember the New Guy: A longtime friend and business partner of Vito's, whom we don't meet until Part II.
- Tranquil Fury: Is a lot more angry over his protege Moe Greene's death than he's letting on, and has a very good idea who's responsible.
- "It's not his words I'm afraid of!" - on VitoPortrayed By: Giuseppe Sillato
- Asshole Victim: This is the man that killed Vito's parents... it's hard to shed a tear for him when Vito finally gets his sought-out revenge.
- Big Bad: Of Vito's story in Part II.
- Jerkass: He was more than willing to kill Vito as a child to ensure he wouldn't return for revenge.
- Laser-Guided Karma: When he gets carved by Vito.
- Non-Action Big Bad: He has grown too old and almost blind by the time Vito arrives to take his revenge. It doesn't stop him from delivering it anyway.
- Would Hurt a Child: Had Vito's older brother Paolo killed for attempting to avenge his father, and tried to have Vito killed since Vito would do the same.
- "Tell your friends I don't want a lot. Just enough to wet my beak."Portrayed By: Gastone Moschin
- Backup Bluff: A villainous example, and his entire MO. He scares the people in the neighborhood into thinking he is a member of the Black Hand.
- Big Bad Wannabe: Despite his pretentions, his power is weak enough for Vito to exploit.
- Catch Phrase: Fond of telling people he needs to "wet my beak," i.e. skim their profits.
- Disc One Final Boss: For Vito, killing Fanucci turns him from petty criminal to respected godfather.
- Laser-Guided Karma: He gets Vito fired from his job, forcing him to become a criminal. Vito killing him seems just punishment.
- Stupid Evil: When he smugly attempts to extort money from Vito, he: a.) threatens Vito not with violence but with a visit from the cops, suggesting that he's got no actual muscle; b.) first asks for $200, then halves it to $100 when Vito doesn't immediately capitulate, suggesting that he lacks force of will; c.) doesn't offer Vito anything at all (except the implication that he won't call the cops.) All this does is show Vito that Don Fanucci is not a serious threat, and that killing him will annoy no-one.
- "As for Don Corleone, he makes it very clear to me today, that he is my enemy. You must choose between us."Portrayed By: Joe Mantegna
- Big Bad Wannabe: As a whole, he's not really as powerful as his boss, Altobello, and Michael and the Commission don't take him seriously.
- Disc One Final Boss: Of Part III. In fact, the real Big Bad is relieved to see him go!
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: His rant to the Mafia commission complains about no one taking him seriously. Michael tells him it's own fault for being so flamboyant.
- Equal-Opportunity Evil: He recruits blacks and Latinos into his organization, which shows he "has a good heart".
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: A thinly-veiled up-yours against Joseph Colombo, from his personality to the Italian-American heritage organization Zasa fronts, resembling Colombo's Italian-American Civil Rights League which caused Coppola headaches during the first film. His over-the-top, media-friendly persona also recalls John Gotti, Carmine Persico, Paul Castellano and "Crazy" Joe Gallo.
- Remember the New Guy: As with Pentangeli in Part II, a case of Real Life Writes the Plot. Originally Zasa was to be Willie Cicci, but Joe Spinell's death forced Coppola to rewrite his storyline for a new character.
- The Starscream: He is hinted as wanting to take over Altobello's plan so he can be Don.
- "The richest man is the one with the most powerful friends."Portrayed By: Eli Wallach
- Big Bad: Of Part III, secretly being Michael's enemy.
- Big Bad Duumvirate: With Don Lucchesi.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: He managed to fool the Corleones for a long while with a friendly, yet senile disposition; he even managed to become Connie's godfather thanks to his act.
- The Chessmaster: He has an elaborate plan to kill Michael and his pomps so he can take over his operations. However, like the others, Michael manages to catch on to his betrayal and outsmart him.
- Evil Old Folks: Despite his age, he's still the antagonist of Part III for a reason.
- Faux Affably Evil: Polite, friendly and a bit senile but it's all an act.
- The Man Behind the Man: He's the one behind Joey Zasa, among other things.
- Remember the New Guy: He calls himself the Corleone family's "oldest friend." One wonders where he's been for the past two movies.
- Sympathy for the Devil: Connie seems to be a bit sad after poisoning him as he was her godfather.
- Wicked Cultured: He genuinely enjoyed the opera reciting with the performers.
Don Licio Lucchesi
- "Finance is a gun. Politics is knowing when to pull the trigger."Portrayed By: Enzo Robutti
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Stabbed to death by his own glasses in his throat.
- 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. He also shares a lot of traits (down to his first name) with Licio Gelli a grandmaster of the Freemasons.
- "It seems the power to absolve debt is greater than the power of forgiveness".Portrayed by: Donal Donnelly
- The Chessmaster: Quite good at manipulating Michael through outward displays of friendship. It's implied that he's the one who engineers Pope John Paul's death.
- Disney Villain Death: Shot by Neri then falls down a staircase.
- Faux Affably Evil: A very charming and soft-spoken man in public, but a ruthless schemer behind closed doors.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Like other characters in Part III, Gilday is based on a major figure in the Vatican Bank scandals, in this case American-born Archbishop Paul Marcinkus. Unlike his film counterpart, Marcinkus remained head of the Vatican Bank through 1990 and died of natural causes in 2006.
- Sinister Minister: If not his demeanor, then certainly his actions.
- "Everything will be out in the open if Corleone dies."Portrayed by: Helmut Berger
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Happily sells out his co-conspirators as well as Michael. Vincent sums him up well:"That little Swiss banker fuck — he's been swindling everyone from the beginning. Fuck him."
- Ironic Nickname: "God's Banker."
- Morally Bankrupt Banker: An archetypical example.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: For Roberto Calvi, chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, one of the key players in the Vatican Bank scandals of the '80s. Keinszig's fate is explicitly modeled off Calvi's death; the banker was found hanging from Blackfriar's Bridge in London in 1982.
- Smug Snake: Condescending, arrogant and untrustworthy; no one much likes him.
- Too Dumb to Live: When Pope John Paul I takes power, he decides to backstab not only Michael but Altobello, Lucchesi and the Vatican, running off with a suitcase full of cash, bonds and Church documents. Really, what did he expect to happen?