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Film / The Godfather

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It's not personal. It's strictly business.

"I believe in America. America has made my fortune."
Amerigo Bonasera, first lines of the first film

The Godfather is a trilogy of American crime films directed by Francis Ford Coppola and based upon Mario Puzo's novel of the same name, revolving around a fictional Italian-American crime family, the Corleone Family, who have roots in Sicily. The first movie came out in 1972, followed by The Godfather Part II in 1974 and The Godfather Part III in 1990. Puzo and Coppola co-wrote all three films, with Nino Rota composing the music for the first two films.

The first two films are widely considered to be among the greatest films of all time and the flagship of the New Hollywood, due to being the first films to portray gangsters seriously as dramatic figures of real complexity, with real depth of character, and tell the story from their perspective. It served as a Star-Making Role for many members of its cast, including Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, James Caan, Robert Duvall and John Cazale, while Marlon Brando's performance as Vito Corleone is renowned as one of the most iconic in the history of cinema.

The scale of achievement is such that it not only defined the image of gangster culture in the popular consciousness but also influenced real gangsters and mafiosi to imitate the film's characters in style and manner of speech. Coppola admitted that he did very little actual research into the gangster culture and that to him the film was a stylistic "modern myth" about the Italian-American immigration experience.

In late 2020, Coppola released a Director's Cut of the third film both on home video and in selected theaters, which he retitled The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone.

Without Coppola's involvement or approval, the first two films were loosely adapted by EA Games into two free-roaming action/adventure games that let you create your own mobster and rise through the ranks. Content related to the video games goes here.

There are two projects depicting the making of the film: the Paramount+ mini-series The Offer, based on the experiences of Godfather producer Al Ruddy, and the upcoming Barry Levinson movie Francis & The Godfather, starring Oscar Isaac as Coppola.

The Godfather is the Trope Namer for:

I'm gonna make him a trope he cannot refuse.

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    A - H 

  • Abortion Fallout Drama: Kay's revelation that she aborted what would have been their third child blows up her marriage to Michael.
  • Abuse Discretion Shot: The greater part of Carlo beating Connie (in both instances) is not shown in the film; only the aftermath is shown and the beat down Carlo receives from Sonny in response.
  • The Ace: Vito always saw Michael this way — he was the family's great hope for legitimacy and genuine power, a man who could become anything, up to and including President of the United States. Once that idea goes down the tubes, Michael proves to be stronger, smarter and more decisive than just about anyone else in the Mafia, but it's the tragedy of the trilogy that all of Michael's brilliance just leaves him alone and alienated from his loved ones.
  • Acrofatic: Clemenza is a great dancer, and Vito's surprising quickness for his size saves his life during Sollozzo's ambush.
  • Actor Allusion: Robert De Niro is seen running over the rooftops of Little Italy during the annual Feast of San Rocco festival.
  • Adaptation Distillation:
    • The film drops a lot of the novel's subplots, though one major one (Don Vito's youth and rise to power) becomes about half of Part II.
    • Secondary characters like Al Neri, Johnny Fontane and Luca Brasi get a lot more backstory and screen time in the novel, whereas in the movie they only get a few scenes.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The scene where a retired Vito reflects with Michael about his life and their prospects was written by Robert Towne for the movie. Coppola also added a few violent scenes to keep the studio happy. Part II mixes Vito's scenes left out of the original novel with a completely new plot with Michael during the 50s. Part III is entirely original.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: In many of the Sicily scenes, Michael wipes his nose with a handkerchief. The novel explains that McCluskey's punch did damage to his sinuses.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: A small one for Sandra, Sonny's wife. When she sees Sonny and Lucy go off together at the wedding, she is clearly displeased. In the novel, however, she is grateful enough of his affairs to light a church candle in thanks because she can't handle Sonny's big penis.
  • Adaptational Context Change: In the novel (and the shooting script), it's Michael who tells Kay about the Sicilian tradition of never refusing a request on a daughter's wedding day. In the film, Tom explains it to his wife, Theresa.
  • An Aesop: Being Evil Sucks. It's hidden behind considerable helpings of Do Not Do This Cool Thing, though.
  • 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 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 favor.
    • Michael is this in the third movie, as he's mellowed out in his old age and genuinely wants to be a better man.
  • Affectionate Nickname: One of the many connotations of the Godfather title. Discussed by Michael during the Senate commission in Part II.
  • The Alcoholic:
    • A doctor is talking to Nino Valenti, a friend of Johnny Fontane, telling the man that if he doesn't cut out the smoking and drinking he'll be dead in five years. The man gives off an apparently horrified reaction as he says, "My God! Doc, are you serious? I'll be dead in five years? You mean it's going to take that long?
    • In the film, when Fredo introduces himself to Kay, he's quite schnozzled.
    • Deanna, Fredo's wife, is juiced to the hilt in 2, slurring her words and falling on her ass on the dance floor.
  • All Girls Like Ponies:
    • When Connie was younger, she got her own pony.
    • Jack Woltz presents his ingenue/lover with a pony as a gift.
  • Alliterative Name:
    • Antonio Andolini, Vito's father.
    • Also Constanzia Corleone.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • When Michael and Sollozzo switch to speaking Italian during the restaurant scene, the subtitles don't pick up their dialogue. The conversation (translated in English) is in the novel.
    • The names, characterizations, and histories of various characters, including most of the Dons at the peace conference, are in the novel.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: An inter-criminal example in Part II has several hitmen infiltrating Michael's compound at Lake Tahoe in an attempt to gun Michael down, who is uncharacteristically and justifiably inflamed by the attack.
    Michael Corleone: IN MY HOME! IN MY BEDROOM WHERE MY WIFE SLEEPS! Where my children come and play with their toys. In my home.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Frank Pentangeli is about to testify about the Corleone family's business dealings to Congress when he sees his brother sitting next to Michael, having been flown all the way from Italy. Pentangeli immediately recants his previous testimony and pleads ignorance of anything to do with the Corleone family. Did he do this because he was ashamed of snitching to the feds in front of his brother? Or was his brother's presence an implied death threat on the part of Michael?
  • Amoral Attorney: Tom Hagen is a dignified mob lawyer. Vito makes a point in the novel about brains being better than brawn.
    Vito: A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.
    • Tom actually considers being a mob lawyer to be the lesser of two evils. According to the novels, after graduation he got a job working for an auto company, where he was asked to do a cost-benefit analysis of a vehicle recall, weighing the cost of the recall against the cost of paying death benefits to the families of the projected casualties. He submitted his report along with his resignation and went to work for Vito the next day, where any screwing over he had to do would be on those who took their chances and had it coming.
  • And This Is for...: Said verbatim by Vito (in Sicilian) to Don Ciccio before gutting him in II.
  • Answer Cut: Michael explains to Pentangeli that lulling Hyman Roth into a sense of trust is key to finding the traitor in the Corleone family. Cut to Fredo, at home with his wife, taking an unwanted call from Johnny Ola.
  • Anyone Can Die: Just like in the real life mob world. Deaths, both major and minor, are swift and anti-climatic (yet remain powerful). By the end of the trilogy, very few main characters are left standing.
  • The Artifact: During later events, Fanucci sports a big scar under his chin that wasn't present in previous ones. It originates from a deleted scene where Vito witnesses him being badly beaten by two thugs.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • In Part II, the Statue of Liberty greets Vito upon his arrival in New York in its iconic shade of green, when in 1901, it was still mostly bronze and would only turn visibly green several lustrums later as the copper fully oxidized.
    • In Part III, the deaths of Pope Paul VI and John Paul I take place in 1979, the year after their real-life deaths. Furthermore, the name of the actual Cardinal who becomes John Paul I appears to have been changed, along with his pre-papal posting in Sicily rather than Venice. This overlaps with Very Loosely Based on a True Story, since the movie is based on several conspiracy theories surrounding the death of the real-life John Paul I and offers an accordingly fictionalized version of events. Also, Pope John Paul I appears to die on the same night as the opera, which was stated to premiere at Easter. Easter takes place in April or late March, depending on the year. John Paul I died in late September.
  • Ascended Extra: In the DVD Commentary for Part II director Francis Ford Coppola notes that minor characters like Al Neri and Rocco Lampone "emerge as a presence in the first Godfather, becoming more and more evident in each installment of the story, as would be natural. As it would be in life."
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Two interweaved killings set this up.
    • Vito killing Fanucci and deposing the local authority marks the cornerstone of his rule.
    • Michael killing Sollozzo and McCluskey doubles as a rite of passage from naive newcomer to credible and de facto mafia leader, as he can no longer be a clean civilian and is now in Vito's world.
  • Atrocity Montage: The famous baptism scene where Michael Corleone becomes the godfather of his nephew and claims to reject Satan and his works at church while he orders a series of successive assassinations of his rivals by his hitmen, each punctuated by the organ.
  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: A future version. In the scene where Michael comes home the day after saving Vito at the hospital, the family compound is bristling with Corleone soldiers all in suits and overcoats... along with one man in a knit cap, jeans and a brown leather jacket seemingly out of the 70s.
  • Bad Habits: This guise fails in Part III as the old mafia boss recognises the assassin sent to kill his guest Michael Corleone.
  • Badass Bookworm:
    • Michael was a decorated Marine in World War II and also an Ivy League student.
    • Tom is 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".)
  • Badass Decay: Discussed in-universe. When Sollozzo has Tom held captive, he says that Vito and Luca would never have fallen for the ploys used if it were years earlier, trying to suggest that they've gotten soft.
  • Badass Family: The Corleones. Except Fredo.
  • Balance of Power: Some of the intrigue comes from the families negotiating about this.
  • Bang, Bang, BANG: Played straight and conversed in the first movie. When Clemenza shows Michael the gun he will have planted at the meeting place with Sollozzo and McCluskey, Michael fires a test round and comments on how loud it is. Clemenza says the loudness is a good thing because it will scare off any pain-in-the-ass innocent bystanders.
  • Batman Gambit: To set up Sonny in Part I, Carlo has his mistress call his home just before he arrives, then refuses the dinner Connie's made for him. This sets her off to the point that she starts breaking plates on the floor, giving him the pretext he needs to beat her. He knows she will call her brother and complain, and based on what happened after an altercation between the two of them earlier Sonny will rush right over to beat up Carlo in retaliation. Which he does ... right into the ambush at the toll booth.
  • Bath Suicide: In Part II, Hagen visits Pentangeli in prison and talks about this practice in the Roman Empire, hinting that if Pentangeli does this his family will be spared. He does, and they are. The camera shot depicting the outcome is a Shout-Out to the painting The Death of Marat.
  • Beautiful Singing Voice: In the original novels, Johnny Fontaine, with the blessing of Vito Corleone, was chosen to sing at the wedding of Constanzia Corleone. Johnny is stated to have had a remarkable voice since childhood, which was furthered by Sister Immaculata. In III, Michael's son Anthony drops out of college to become a professional singer, and is good enough to get third billing in an opera within a year.
  • Bedmate Reveal: Jack Woltz has just refused an offer by Tom Hagen on behalf of Don Vito Corleone to cast Johnny Fontane, who Woltz wants run out of the business, in his new movie. When Woltz wakes up the following morning, he finds himself and his undersheets covered in blood, rips the sheets back and discovers that someone's placed the head of his prize horse Khartoum in bed with him!
  • Being Evil Sucks: If you wish to be a mob chief after watching this, then you are crazy.
  • Best Served Cold:
    • Many years pass until the Corleones exert their revenge in Part I.
    • Vito is an adult family man when he returns to Sicily to exact revenge on the man (a crippled old man by then) who killed his brother and his parents when he was a child.
    • A deleted scene from Part II, shows Fabrizzio, Michael's traitorous bodyguard, getting into a car, turning the ignition, and having the car blow up, killing him exactly the way he killed Michael's first wife, years after it happened. (This scene does appear in the adapted for TV Saga.) In the book he was simply shot on the same night Michael had everyone else with Corleone blood on their hands killed, as seen in Part I.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Both Vito and Michael were noted as young men for being soft-spoken, understated, and reasonable, especially in contrast to many of their Sicilian immigrant and first-generation compatriots.
  • Big Bad:
    • Barzini in Part I, with Sollozzo serving as Disc-One Final Boss.
    • Roth in Part II. Unless, of course, you count Michael himself. Don Ciccio plays this role in the flashback plot line.
    • Don Lucchesi and Altobello in Part III.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Don Fanucci, the local kingpin in Part II. He is very feared and acts all ruthless, but he is a Paper Tiger: there are some paisans who don't pay him any tribute, he has no real muscle and resorts to police threats to enforce his demands. After Vito tests him by only paying half of his debt, he decides that he's no threat and kills him.
  • The Big Board: During the Senate investigation there is a big board with a diagram showing how the Corleone family is organized and branched.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Sonny Corleone:
    • 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 Sollozzo, he threatens that someone better be good at providing Michael the gun.
      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.
    • Inverted with Michael, as he takes pointed offense to hearing that Moe Greene physically assaulted his older brother Fredo. This indiscretion is later dealt with.
  • Big Fancy House: The Corleone houses, the most luxurious being the one at Lake Tahoe. Also Jack Woltz's California mansion.
  • Big Prick, Big Problems: Sonny is so well-endowed that sex is uncomfortable for most of his partners. Even "the most hardened and fearless putain" demands double price, and his wife is actually glad that he's cheating on her, since it means she won't need to have sex with him as often (though she does start to complain when he neglects her too long). When he meets Lucy, a woman whose vagina can comfortably acommodate him, their affair is intense. Meanwhile, Lucy has the female version of this problem: her capacious vagina is the result of a weakened pelvic floor which prevents her from enjoying sex with any man less-endowed than Sonny, and which needs surgical correction lest it cause even more serious problems later in life.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: NYC and its underworld is the center of action for most of the first movie and half of the second.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Corleones. They are a mafia family after all. And there's murders, assassinations, assassination of in-laws, fratricide...
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed:
    • Sonny, though it is less blatant in the film than in the book, where it is deconstructed as the size makes the sex extremely uncomfortable to his partners except to Lucy, who has an abnormally large vagina.
    • Johnny Fontane. Enough so that stories about its sheer girth are common on the Hollywood scene. One rumor (eventually confirmed) stated that he had to have his suits specially tailored in order to accommodate it.
    • Subverted by "Superman" in the sex show in Part II, where it's implied that the sex will be very painful for the woman.
  • Bilingual Bonus: In certain scenes of the trilogy people speak actual Italian/Sicilian. In Part II during the scenes in Cuban Spanish is spoken too.
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition: The Baptism / Execution sequence from the end of Part I where Michael becomes the Godfather in both senses of the term. Not an actual birth but a very close symbolic one, a very young child gains admission to a new life in Christ.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The first movie. Michael has been corrupted but the triumph of the Corleones is portrayed as a lesser evil, most of the wrongdoings are not irreversible in hindsight and Las Vegas may offer a cleaner new life. Coppola deemed this was a bit too happy for a Mafia movie and gave grimmer endings to the sequels.
  • Blasphemous Boast: Inverted in a deleted scene. Vito visits Genco, his old consigliere who is dying. Genco begs Vito to heal him, and Vito ruefully replies that he has no such power.
  • Bloodless Carnage: The fake-looking beating of Carlo was made even more hilarious by the fact there was not even a single bruise, much less a drop of blood, in spite of the supposedly "brutal" beating that Sonny gave him.
  • Bludgeoned to Death: In extended scenes for Part II, Vito takes revenge on one of Don Ciccio's former enforcers by beating him to death with an oar.
  • Board to Death: The meeting of Part III becomes a massacre when a helicopter shows up.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal:
    • Vito is shot on the same day Paulie calls in sick. Sonny sees through the coincidence. In the novel and the recut he backs the suspicions with phone records.
    • In Sicily, Apollonia is driving the car for the first time as a surprise to Michael, who notices his bodyguard Fabrizzio hurriedly walking away from his villa. Michael turns and screams to his wife, but it's too late, she starts the engine and the car explodes, killing her.
    • Sal Tessio plans one at the end of Part I, but he's thwarted.
    • Michael in Part II discusses the possibility, pointing out that his men are just businessmen and their loyalty is based on that.
  • Bookends: The film begins and ends in the Don's study. At the beginning, Vito is the Don, and Michael truthfully tells Kay about the business his family are in, and the fact that he wants no part of it. At the end, Michael is himself the Don, and he lies to Kay about his involvement in Carlo's death.
    • In Part II young Vito's story begins with his flight from Sicily to America after Don Ciccio kills his father, mother, and brother, and tries to kill him. It concludes with Vito, now a powerful Mafia Don in New York, coming back to Sicily for a visit and exacting revenge on a now-feeble Don Ciccio after more than 20 years later.
    • Part II begins and ends with the murder of a brother...Vito's older brother in 1901 Sicily and Fredo in 1959 Lake Tahoe. Also, it's more obvious in The Godfather Epic (a cut sometimes shown on cable that presents the first two movies in strict chronological order, beginning in 1901 and ending in 1959), but when you take Part III into account, the entire saga begins and ends with a parent weeping over a murdered child.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Numerous examples. Sonny makes a point about the family business not being a clean and impersonal matter. It's also far from the Pretty Little Head Shots variety.
    Sonny: What do you think this is — the Army, where you shoot 'em a mile away? You've gotta get up close like this and bada-bing! You blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit.
  • Brandishment Bluff: To save Vito from being assassinated at the hospital due to Sollozzo-affiliated police captain McCluskey removing all of Vito's guards from the scene, the unarmed Michael and Enzo, who had shown up after the guards were driven away, pretend to visibly pull out weapons as soon as they spot a car they know is full of assassins. The assassins drive away due to the bluff, buying more time for Sonny's men to reach the hospital and guard Vito.
  • Break the Cutie: Present in the book and in the recut. What Jack Woltz does to a very young, very beautiful actress during Tom Hagen's visit. Insiders say it's a description of something that happened to Elizabeth Taylor, probably at MGM. It was one of the factors that would ultimately lead to the horse-head incident, and is called an infamita by the Don himself when he hears about it.
  • Break the Haughty: EVERYONE who defies or otherwise disrespects the Corleone crime family and/or its current Don comes to regret it, sometimes fatally. And the ones who survive this lesson are always much more friendly and compliant. Jack Woltz (Part I), Senator Geary and Signor Roberto (from Part II) are the most prominent examples of the latter.
  • Break-In Threat: In one of the most famous scenes, Jack Woltz wakes up with a severed horse head in his bed. Bonus points for it being his prize horse when it was still alive. And even more for being an actual horse head and not a prop (which had been used in rehearsals for the scene).
  • Bring My Brown Pants: In the novel Carlo soils himself while being garroted by Clemenza. Also happens to Luca Brasi when the Tattaglias need to get him out of the way.
  • Broken Ace: Michael in Part II, 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.
  • Brooklyn Rage: Sonny's temper is legendary amongst everyone who knows him; it eventually leads to his downfall.
  • Bruiser with a Soft Center: Sonny, despite being known for his explosive temper, is a loving if unfaithful husband and father who cares about his family and friends deeply.
  • The Brute: Sonny. Despite doing his best to fill the roles of caporegime (read: general), and later acting Don, the only thing Sonny is ever really good at is violence (well, outside the bedroom that is...)
  • Bulletproof Vest: Luca Brasi wears one when going to speak to The Turk. It doesn't help, since he gets garroted instead and then sleeps with the fishes, but it's not like he could have discreetly worn a gorget.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The Mafia, specifically.
    • Jack Woltz rambles furiously to a stone-faced Tom Hagen about how he won't fold to the demands of an extremely powerful crime lord. Needless to say this doesn't end well. This doubles as Idiot Ball when you remember that Woltz admitted to knowing the story of how Vito Corleone strong-armed Johnny Fontane's band leader into letting him go. Meaning he knew what the Corleones were capable of and provoked them anyway.
    • This applies to Moe Greene as well. When told that the Corleones are going to buy his portion of the casino out and have sole control, he claims that the family doesn't have "enough muscle" to pull this off and refuses. Moe also (stupidly) brags about "straightening out" Fredo (Michael Corleone's brother) with slaps. He learns later what a mistake that was, by taking a bullet to the eye.
  • Bus Crash
    • Clemenza dies of a heart attack — although Cicci implies foul play — between the events of the first and second films and his position as capo of the Corleone family's New York branch passes to Frank Pentangeli, his Suspiciously Similar Substitute. This was not originally going to happen; the reason for this change was a disagreement between actor Richard Castellano and Coppola (Castellano wanted creative control over his character and Coppola would not allow it, so Castellano was dropped from the film).
    • The central story of Part III was going to be a full-on war between Michael and Tom, but Tom was dropped from the final film and his recent death is mentioned briefly in a scene with his son. Robert Duvall thought it was unfair for him to receive only a fifth of Al Pacino's salary and Coppola didn't have enough traction to amend it.
    • Willie Cicci was reportedly supposed to have a major part in Part III but after Coppola learned of the 1989 death of actor Joe Spinell, the character was changed to Joey Zasa. Interestingly enough, Cicci was one of the untied ends from Part II as his final fate was left unclear. Most assume that he would have been dead by then (probably killed in prison), given his violation of "Omerta".
  • But Liquor Is Quicker: Used for drama with Bonasera's daughter in the opening scene. A boyfriend and his friend made her drink whiskey with the intent of taking advantage of her, but when she resisted, they viciously beat her to the point that the undertaker says that "she will never be beautiful again." Bonasera's reason for coming to Don Corleone was to avenge this horrible wrong after the courts did not provide him with the justice he sought.
  • Cain and Abel: Michael and Fredo, mixed with Finding Judas; Fredo claims he thought his actions would unblock a deal and be good for the family too.
  • Call to Agriculture: Retired Badass Vito Corleone exits this life playing hide and seek with his grandson in his garden.
  • Call-Back: A great deal of them, often used as a subtle device to portray the evolution of the family through the saga. Examples:
    • Part I starts with a traditional Sicilian wedding, Part II has a First Communion, in both parties the guests have business meetings with the Don, but there are meaningful differences; in Part I the politicians excuse their absence while in II a Senator is a prominent guest. The party in I has a tarantella, the more Americanized party in II lacks one, to Pentangeli's chagrin. In I the FBI is stalking outside, in II a local cop is seen inside the party having a snack and on very friendly terms with the family. And in I the people the Don meets with in private are hard-luck cases looking for help, and are extremely deferential and respectful. Whereas in II Michael meets with the aforementioned powerful Senator, who insults him to his face and laughs at his threats.
    • Vito's making his bones scene refers back to Michael's with similar camera and body positions, a first non-deadly shot, plus the overall implications. From the internal chronology POV it works as a Call-Forward.
    • The meeting of the American entrepreneurs with Batista in Cuba is presented almost identically to the reunion of the five mafia families in Part I.
    • Both I and II end with a montage of murders juxtaposed with a prayer.
    • Part II ends with a flashback set in 1941 Part I, where Michael reveals he's enlisted (Part I starts with him returning home from the war), showcasing how much Michael has changed over the course of the two films.
    • The murdering of the prostitute in Part II has something of a visual link with the horse's head in Part I and both events showcase the willingness to take innocent lives for the sake of the family/business. Michael takes it to a new level.
    • Tom Hagen displaying a quiet sadness when he has to handle the dismissal of the old guard; Tessio in I and Pentangeli (Clemenza's stand-in) in II.
    • Part II shows Vito establishing early on his tradition of holding affable audiences with suppliants while sitting behind a desk.
    • Michael's death scene evokes Vito's, in an antonymic way.
    • A deleted scene from Part II has Michael's treacherous bodyguard being tracked down and killed exactly the way he killed Michael's first wife, while a scene from Part III has him tearfully remembering their wedding day.
    • Enzo the Baker. In Part I his boss asks Vito's help in allowing him to stay in America and marry his daughter, and Enzo shows up at the hospital where Vito is being kept after his shooting. Enzo is mentioned in Part III as having baked the cake for Michael's birthday, and is seen briefly dancing to "Eh, Cumpari."
    • Part I ends with a shot of a door being closed on Kay while Michael discusses mob business. There's a similar scene near the end of Part II, except now it's Michael closing the door on Kay when she tries to visit the children after she and Michael have divorced.
    • In Part I Michael makes a case to a group of men including Tessio and Clemenza that someone considered untouchable, in this case Captain McCluskey, isn't, and can be killed. In Part II, Vito similarly argues to Tessio and Clemenza that Don Fanucci likewise is not as untouchable as they believe him to be. Michael also argues that Hyman Roth is not untouchable even when being turned over to the FBI in a busy airport.
  • Vito dances with his newly married daughter Connie near the beginning of Part I. Part III has a flashback to an earlier scene where Michael dances with his own daughter, Mary.
  • Call-Forward: Don Tommasino, the friend of the Corleone family that looks after Michael when he has to hide out in Sicily, has partial paralysis in his legs. In Part II, Tommasino takes part in Vito's revenge against Don Ciccio, and takes a blast from a lupara shotgun that knocks him flat when he and Vito are escaping the house grounds.
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
    • Connie aggressively confronts Michael in the aftermath of the Carlo situation. She later confesses she behaves badly in order to get back at Michael and hurt him.
    • Fredo has an outburst of anger against the arrangements made by his father Vito and continued by Michael, who is his kid brother but is to all effects a second father figure; the Godfather.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: especially Part II, was regarded by Francis Ford Coppola as being less about the mob and more about the mob as a metaphor for capitalism. This is most prominent where Michael Corleone boasts of his shares in IBM and Hyman Roth states that the mob is "bigger than U.S. Steel." See also American Dream above for details.
  • Cartoon Bug-Sprayer: In Part I, young Anthony is playing with one.
  • Casting Couch: In the novel, the mother of a twelve-year-old actress hands her daughter over to producer Jack Woltz (a thinly disguised Jack Warner). Insiders say it's based on a true story. The movie tones this down, except in deleted scenes, but Woltz complains about another actress. He mentions her talent, how much money he spent on her, and how he was going to make her a big star, but he seems angrier that he won't have another chance to sleep with her, because Johnny Fontane got with her first.
  • Cement Shoes: "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes."
  • The Chains of Commanding: Michael has to juggle many hard balls in Part II. In Part III he is an infirm man haunted by some of his past decisions, tired of an unbearable crown and has to give in.
  • Character Witness: Enzo, an immigrant baker who Don Corleone was asked to help get married to his employer's daughter and thus become a citizen, shows up unexpectedly at the hospital he is being treated at — presumably to pay his respects to the ailing Don — the same night that his bodyguards are sent away; when Michael tells Enzo that danger is imminent, he bravely offers to stay and help guard the Don until reinforcements arrive. His presence, along with Michael's, foils a second attempt on the Don's life.
  • The Chessmaster:
    • Don Vito himself, 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.
    • Michael in all three films.
    • The main antagonists of the movies— Barzini, Roth, and Altobello — are examples, albeit much less successful.
  • Chiaroscuro: Gordon Willis and Coppola loved this trope to the extent that in many cases it's so dark that parts of the film remain un-exposed. This was why it has been problematic to transfer or restore the film to DVD, as it's very hard for digital media to handle pitch black. note 
  • Child of Two Worlds: Tom Hagen 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.
  • Chokepoint Geography: The toll booth is the perfect place for an ambush.
  • Chronic Villainy: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!"
  • Churchgoing Villain: The Corleones and other crime families are pretty devout Catholics, and ruthless racketeers.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: The baker Enzo tries to light a cigarette when he and Michael Corleone are guarding Vito Corleone; Enzo's hands are shaking too hard to light the cigarette, but Michael, a war vet, is completely calm and lights it for him.
  • Citizenship Marriage: One of the favors asked of Vito during his daughter's wedding is to help an Italian POW who was allowed out of the camps on parole to work at the favor-seeker's bakery to get a green card so that he could stay in America and marry the baker's daughter now that the war was over and the POWs were getting shipped back to Europe.
  • Cleanup Crew: In Part II, Michael and co "offer" to clean up after their own frame job on Senator Geary, who was drugged and left in a hotel room with a Disposable Sex Worker. The idea is that he'll owe them a favour, and thus be in their pocket.
  • Coattail-Riding Relative: Carlo thinks he's going to pull this off by marrying Connie, but the Corleones never offer him any opportunities, until Michael does so as part of the final set-up. See under Gold Digger
  • Color Motif: The color orange is a symbol of impending death. Usually, it comes in the form of orange fruit, but even orange clothing and orange decorations are used as foreshadowing towards death.
  • Come Alone: Michael Corleone is summoned to such a meeting after the Don has been shot.
  • Composite Character: Francis Ford Coppola describes Vincent as this, having Vito's cunning, Michael's ruthlessness, Fredo's sensitivity, Sonny's temper, and Tom's loyalty.
  • Compressed Adaptation: Though some scenes from the book were included in Re-Cut versions.
  • Concert Climax: The ending of Part III takes place at an opera and involves an assassination attempt. The target is Michael who survives, but his beloved daughter is killed.
  • Confessional: In Part III. Michael gets to confess and receive absolution from the future Pope John Paul I himself.
    His Holiness: "Your sins are terrible. And it is just that you suffer. Your life could be redeemed, but I know you do not believe that. You will not change."
  • The Consigliere:
    • Trope Codifier Tom Hagen in the first two. 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.
    • Genco Abbandando was Vito's longtime consigliere, seen in Part II, recuts and in the original novel (he doesn't appear in Part I because his entire role in that part of the story was to die of natural causes so that Tom could step into the position). When reflecting upon his own failures, Tom remarks that his councillorship is a tough act to follow:
      Tom: Genco would never have fallen for it. He would have smelled a rat. He would have smoked them out, tripled his precautions.
    • Less-seen B.J. Harrison in Part III.
    • Connie seems to fill this role (albeit unofficially) in 3, at least in terms of being much more of a "wartime consigliere' than B.J.; it's she who serves as her nephew Vincent Mancini's biggest booster, and gives the go-ahead (alongside Al Neri, behind Michael's back) to whack Joey Zasa.
    • Also in 3; after Michael retires and appoints Vincent as his successor as the Don of the Corleone family, he all but in name becomes his nephew Vincent's consigliere.
  • Conspicuously Public Assassination: Michael wants to get rid of Sollozzo and Captain McClusky. A gun is left for him in a restaurant bathroom: he gets up from his parley with the targets, comes back from the toilet and shoots them each once in the head, then drops the gun on the floor and calmly walks out the front door. Sure, he has to flee the country afterwards, but he gets away with it.
  • Contrived Clumsiness:
    • Michael has to support Apollonia by her arm when she almost trips over. The book and the subtitles in the recut movie make clear the stumble is a deliberate misstep by Apollonia to invoke some mild physical contact before the wedding. It's as much as the chaperones would allow.
    • The operator at the toll booth (where Sonny gets assassinated) drops the change. It's just a way to bend down out of sight and a signal to the armed gunmen to start firing.
  • Continuity Cameo: Johnny Fontane and Lucy Mancini. In the novel they both get big storylines nearly the equal of the main storyline with Michael. In the first film, Johnny has a very small part and Lucy just two short scenes confirming her as Sonny's mistress. They both make a brief appearances in Part III.
  • Contrast Montage: The christening in which Michael becomes an actual godfather is contrasted with a series of hits on rival mob bosses. Michael's promises to renounce Satan and "all his works" underscore the grisly scenes of the murders committed on his orders.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: Subverted. Kay Corleone apparently suffers this trope, only to be revealed later that she aborted the child out of hatred towards her husband and because she can't stand the idea of another child being raised into his criminal family.
  • Cool Horse: Jack Woltz's prize horse Khartoum. Shame what happens to him due to the Don's offer getting refused.
  • Cop Killer Manhunt: Michael Corleone has to hide out in Sicily for years to escape retribution for killing a corrupt police captain who was in the pocket of another family. It is discussed in the novel that Michael doesn't need to flee for fear of legal prosecution, since the Corleone connections could probably deal with the courts, but because the cops would be out for revenge no matter what the law decided. Part of the solution is getting somebody already on death row to confess to the shooting so that Michael will no longer even be suspected in the crime.
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat:
    • Senator Geary of Nevada in Part II, who tries to extort and bully Michael... and not out of greed but because Geary is a racist spiteful bastard.
    • The many off-screen politicians and judges that are indebted to Vito in the first two films.
    • Along with Geary, the Senate attorney Questadt is working for Hyman Roth.
  • Corrupt Church: One of the central stories of Part III, featuring also Vatican City and The Pope as a reformist.
  • Corrupt the Cutie:
    • Michael Corleone 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. He tries to atone for some things in Part III.
    • 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.
  • Creator Cameo: Associate producer Gray Frederickson appears as an actor in Woltz's studio in the first film.
  • Criminal Procedural: Organized crime category. An exploration of the top managerial positions.
  • Culturally Religious: The Italian-American characters were raised in a culture very heavily influenced by Roman Catholicism, and they do go to church for special occasions like baptisms, first communions, and the like, but anyone with even a passing knowledge of the films could tell that they otherwise do not live according to Catholic teachings. Michael in particular is said in Part III to have not gone to confession in 30 years. Cardinal Lamberto even discusses this; he points out a rock that has been in a church fountain's pool for a very long time but which has a completely dry interior due to it not having absorbed any of the water, which he says is similar to how many in Italy have absorbed little of Christianity's teachings despite them living in Christendom's historic center.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: There are no big gunfights, no epic Last Stands. A man caught unprepared by armed and ready ambushers indeed has no chance. For example, in Sonny Corleone's death, there is no Heroic Second Wind where he gets up and takes some of his attackers with him, no final speech, just getting shot and shot again until he's dead. Similarly, Rank Scales with Asskicking is not in action; the four other Dons don't get any final speeches, any epic fight scenes, just simple assassinations.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Omnipresent and alluded to by Kay in Part III: "It never ends."
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: The first movie was the Trope Codifier, so much so that Coppola crafted the second two movies—particularly the third—to deconstruct this trope and demonstrate the terrible costs of being in the mafia.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat:
    • Played with early in the film: Clemenza takes Paulie Gatto with him on the pretense of scouting for apartments in preparation to "go to the mattresses", but he also brings along Rocco Lampone; Rocco sits in the back while Paulie drives and Clemenza rides shotgun. Paulie knows something is a little off and you can see it in his expression when he asks Rocco to move over because he's blocking the rear-view mirror. It turns out Paulie was right to be nervous.
    • "Hello, Carlo."
  • Dangerously Close Shave: Subverted; during the Baptism Scene it certainly looks like this is about to happen to someone, but it turns out that the man getting a shave is a hitman for the Corleone family who is making time before ambushing the target.
  • Darker and Edgier: Part II has a few moments that are somewhat Lighter and Softer than the original (the landlord practically collapsing into a quivering puddle in front of Vito during one of the flashback sequences is more comedic than anything in the original, for example), but in general Coppola felt that the first movie had shown The Mafia in too warm and sentimental a light, so Part II was consciously made darker and edgier. It emphasizes the corruption and ugliness inherent in organized crime. Michael grows colder, more murderous and increasingly paranoid as his power grows; he's betrayed by longtime henchmen and ultimately his own brother, besides driving away his wife and kids. His murders are less cathartic and justifiable, with Michael having a prostitute killed to frame Senator Geary, sending Rocco on a Suicide Mission to kill a terminally ill Roth and ordering Fredo's execution. It's virtually a deconstruction of the original film's treatment of the Mafia lifestyle.
  • Dead Animal Warning: Jack Woltz wakes up with the severed head of Khartoum in his bed as proof of what will happen if he doesn't give in to Don Corleone's demands.
  • Deadly Euphemism: All over the place. The Mafiosi of The Godfather rarely speak of killing directly:
    • Sonny orders Clemenza to kill Paulie for his betrayal by saying "I don't wanna see him again." Clemenza announces that the deed is done by saying "Oh, Paulie, you won't see him no more."
    • Luca Brasi being killed and dumped in the ocean is referred to as "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes."
    • Proving your worth to a gang by killing someone is referred to as "Making one's bones".
    • Clemenza asks Michael if he's "done the job" on McCluskey and Sollozzo, which also counts as an Unusual Euphemism in-universe, since every other time the phrase is used, it refers to having sex with a woman.
  • Deal with the Devil: Don Corleone's policy of doing favors for people in return for the person in question performing a service for him in the future has very strong undertones of this, but the Don does not make the people who call on him for help do anything evil (at least, not that we see; the potential is still there). The mortician Bonasera, whose request for help opens the movie, is terrified of being indebted to Don Vito for such a favor and, in the book, fears that one day the Don will show up at his doorstep with a pile of corpses and a "request" that he bury them. In the end, Vito calls in the favor to beg Bonasera to clean up Sonny's bullet-riddled body, as well as reconstruct his face so that his mother will be able to look upon him. When Don Vito himself dies, Bonasera is spotted at the funeral. Apparently he is providing for the late Don and is openly weeping.
  • Death by Adaptation: In the book, the prostitute that Tattaglia was having sex with, Cuneo, Stracci, Barzini's driver, and his bodyguards all survive. They are all killed during the first film's Death Montage.
    • In the segment of the book that goes into Vito's past (later incorporated into Part II), there is also no mention of Vito's mother confronting Don Ciccio to plead for Vito's life and getting killed in the process. The book simply states that when the Don's men came looking for Vito to kill him, she hid him with friends and arranged for his travel to America, so we can assume she survives in the book, though Vito never seems to see her again.
  • Death by Irony: When you think about Vito, Sonny, Fredo, and Michael all die in a manner fitting of their life. Vito relatively peacefully in his home with a loved one present. Sonny in an extremely violent way. Fredo passively and pathetically. And Michael alone and broken.
  • Death Montage: The climax of each film involves a montage of people being killed on Michael's orders. They all culminate in the murder of one of Michael's family members: Carlo, Fredo, and Mary, respectively. The latter is the only case where Michael didn't order the hit himself.
  • Death Wail: Michael Corleone's full scream when Mary dies was supposedly so primal and intense that a good chunk of the full audio had to be cut from the movie.
  • Decapitated Army: Invoked by Sollozzo. Without Vito at the helm the Corleone family would lose his political connections and half of its power.
  • Decapitation Strike: Michael has the heads of all of the other New York crime families assassinated on the same day. This ends the Mob War and makes Michael one of the most powerful mob bosses in America.
  • Deconstruction: Of the American dream.
    • The first line of the first film is "I believe in America... " A crucial theme of the film is how the five families are essentially living the American dream with specific ideals that America at the time greatly treasured (capitalism, gender roles, family values, etc.). The Godfather takes apart the idea of the American Dream and gives it a very different look via criminal entrepreneurship. For instance, the meeting of the Five Families is held inside the Federal Reserve Bank, where Barzini remarks — to great hilarity — that Don Corleone is entitled to profit from sharing his network of political corruption, since they are not communists.
    • It's also one for the Immigrant Narrative. In earlier films, such as House of Strangers,note  Michael Corleone, the second-generation entirely assimilated American college boy who married a nice WASP girl, would be the reformer who redeems the dodgy past of his predecessors. In Coppola's vision, informed by '60s disillusionment with American society and government, Michael sees American government and society to be just as corrupt and violent as the Mob. As he tells Geary, "Senator, we are part of the same hypocrisy." Rather than assimilate into America and legitimize Italian-Americans as legal citizens, he assimilates the Mafia into a pillar of American society, investing in corporations (such as IBM) and helping the US Government in propping up the Batista regime in Cuba. By the late '70s, Michael is respectable giving press conferences at Wall Street and so on.
    • The one thing that averted being targeted was Christianity, with the third film in particular through Cardinal Lamberto lamenting the hypocrisy on the part of Christendom for being awash in his image but not being truly penetrated by Christ's teachings. Michael's willingness to do horrible things to try and avoid facing suffering unlike him, or St. Sebastian whose order he was inducted into at the start for that matter, ultimately leads to him losing everything he cares about and tried to protect, missing the chance at redemption Lamberto said was in his grasp but knew he wouldn't believe in.
  • Deer in the Headlights: Captain McCluskey just looks on in shock when Michael caps Sollozzo. He doesn't even go for his own weapon when Michael turns his gun on him.
    • In the book, this is partly due to the fact that he believes Michael wouldn't dare to shoot a police captain.
  • Defector from Decadence: It's implied that Michael's apparent weakness and lack of resolution (a ruse meant to lull the other families into a false sense of security as well as to force the hand of any potential traitors) is the reason behind Tessio's betrayal. Factored in and hinted by the two main capos announcing their intention to spin-off from the Family because of Michael's incapacity to defend their own territories.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • None of the Five Families have any problem with black people buying drugs. "They're all animals anyway."
    • Sonny can be heard matter-of-factly tossing off the n-word during a conversation, reflective of the racism that was rampant both at the time and within the Italian mafia.
    • In the novel Don Corleone is pondering who will replace Luca Brasi as his chief enforcer, and rejects a candidate who works in the Negro district and gets along well with them, because the latter implies some flaw in his character.
    • When Connie complains to her father about Carlo beating her, she's surprised by his cold response, and he even gives Sonny a direct order not to intervene. In the Don's mind he's facing an irreconcilable dilemma, as protecting his daughter would mean intervening in a husband's absolute authority over his wife.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "I'm honored that you have invited me to your daughter... 's wedding... on the day of your daughter's wedding." In reality, Lenny Montana was a professional wrestler and not a trained actor (he was brought in due to having actually worked as a mob enforcer). His verbal stumble came from being incredibly nervous about having to act opposite Marlon Brando. Coppola kept it in because it seemed to fit Luca Brasi's own awe and admiration of the Don. They also added an extra scene, where Luca is practicing his speech on the porch, so that the stumble would make more sense.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Michael in Part III after Mary gets killed.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Near the end of the first film Vito is dead after capitulating in the mob war and Michael is angering his Capos by not defending Corleone interests as the other families muscle in. Michael's enemies (the opposing crime family heads) plan to assassinate this 'weak' new Don under guise of a peace meeting, only for Michael to have them all wiped out at once. The ease of the killings and lack of protection for the targets show just how little they thought of Michael, and how unexpected his decapitation strike really was.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: In the book, having wiped out the Heads of the Five Families, Michael sends a man to Fabrizzio's pizza parlour to shoot him dead. In a scene cut from the film, Michael does the deed himself with a double-barreled shotgun. In a cut scene from Part II, Michael has him killed via car bomb, just like how Appollonia was killed.
  • Dirty Cop: The worst of the worst, Captain McCluskey openly doubles as Sollozzo's bodyguard. McCluskey also basks in the comfort that comes with knowing he cannot be killed due to the Mafia having a policy to never harm a cop. Which doesn't help save him when he can be eliminated as business requires; Michael quickly realizes that his crooked side can be exploited.
    • The plot to eliminate Sollozzo would have come to naught if Sonny hadn't had his own informer inside McCluskey's own precinct. In the film, he's anonymous; in the novel, this is specified to be one Detective Phillips, who also kept McCluskey from injuring Michael even worse than he did at the hospital, and who performs a couple of smaller "services" for the Corleones as well.
    • In the novel, McCluskey's actually something of a Deconstruction, or at least a more nuanced example than most. His dad was a cop who actually took young McCluskey along on his collection of "clean" graft (see below) without the youngster realizing what's happening. When he himself becomes a cop, he also only takes "clean" graft at first. The financial pressures of putting his kids through college (significantly, McCluskey does not want any of them to become cops, nor do they) and of caring for his large extended family, including medical bills for cancer treatments, make him need more and more illicit income. This brings him in touch with the Tattaglia family, and from there he becomes wholly dirty.
    • In the novel every cop is either on the take, experts in Police Brutality (like ex-cop Al Neri) or both. That said, they have their own code of honor as to what constitutes "clean" graft and what's beyond the pale. Taking a bribe to look the other way for prostitution or gambling or speeding tickets is one thing; getting involved in drugs or murder is quite another. Thus, in the novel, the NYPD loses a lot of their will to avenge McCluskey when they find out he was working with the Mob to set up a hard-drugs operation. The Corleones also exploit this through the media, with plenty of stories emphasizing McCluskey's "hard" corruption ensuring that the public aren't exactly crying out for his killer to be found and punished either.
  • Disowned Sibling: In Part II Michael Corleone effectively disowns his brother Fredo when he hears his reasons for selling out the family, only sparing his life for the sake of their still-living mother. After she passes, however, he has Fredo executed during a fishing trip.
  • Disposable Sex Worker:
    • In Part I, Rocco Lampone and another assassin kill Phillip Tattaglia, along with the prostitute he is having sex with at the time.
    • In Part II, the Corleones get corrupt U.S. Senator Geary in their pocket when he wakes up in a room with a dead and bound prostitute in a brothel run by Fredo. They had engaged in rough, possibly dangerous sex before the senator blacked out, but the exact circumstances of her death are never revealed, and it is awfully "convenient" for the Corleone interests that she died. Of course, there is a brief scene during that moment where Al Neri is idly washing his hands in a nearby bathroom, hinting he had set up the senator by drugging him unconscious and then killing the poor girl.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Discussed. Bonasera asks Don Vito to kill the guys who beat his daughter, but Vito replies he cannot do that, since — as his daughter is alive — that wouldn't be justice. Vito finally arranges to have Clemenza deal with them, with the stipulation that his people aren't to get "carried away." There's a scene in the book where Paulie Gatto does indeed deal with the guys, and while it's not exactly pretty what he and his men do to them, no one could say it's more than they deserve.
    • Vito once threatened to kill a band leader after refusing his request to buy out Johnny Fontane's contract.
    • Arguably the reason why Godfather Part II has such a Downer Ending: other than Hyman Roth, Michael didn't really need to have the others killed for his revenge. And even Roth was doomed to prison and would likely soon die from failing health anyway. Finally, Michael certainly didn't need to have his own brother Fredo killed.
    • Pretty much the entire story starts when Solozzo decided to launch a gang war against the Corleones because Vito declined to invest in his drug operation, something Vito did politely while explaining precisely why (while narcotics would bring in lots of money, it was also high-risk and could cost him influence in his power-brokering network), and stated that he would also not interfere with Solozzo's operation should he find funding elsewhere. Had Solozzo taken Vito at his word, the rest of the book/film would not have happened.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Merle, Connie's boyfriend, and Deanna, Fredo's wife; two good-looking and obvious gold diggers. Mama Corleone offhandedly notes that the two look like a perfect match.
  • Distant Finale:
    • Part II, a 1941 flashback is followed by a slightly aged Michael sitting alone at Lake Tahoe, likely during the late '60s.
    • Part III has a similar final scene, now in 1997.
  • Doctor's Disgraceful Demotion: Jules Segal lost his license for performing underground abortions, and has to settle for the still-underdeveloped Las Vegas. Later, Michael Corleone helps him to get a clinic.
  • Domestic Abuse:
    • Carlo beats Connie regularly. The trope is invoked to lure Sonny out of the Corleone fortress.
    • Fredo threatens to "belt" his wife, but she laughs in his face and tells him, "You couldn't belt your mama."
    • Michael hits Kay hard enough to knock her down when she says she had an abortion.
  • The Don: Vito, Michael and the other Dons; The Godfather is the Trope Namer.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Politely implied by Vito when he refuses to accept the basket of food that a heartbroken Abbandando gives to Vito as severance and genuine gift in Part II, after Don Fanucci's nephew gets Vito's job. Vito is like family, but the handout does not sit well with his pride or his self-governing nature. Subsequently Vito finds his own ways to provide for his family... and sets in motion the entire epic.
  • Door-Closes Ending: Probably the most famous use of this trope. Done after Michael lies to Kay about not being responsible for killing his brother-in-law, we see the door shut on Kay as Michael is being proclaimed the new Don.
  • Draft Dodging: It's mentioned in the books that the Families found various ways to get their people and those willing to ask their Don for a favor to be declared medically ineligible for conscription. Michael was a notable exception — he enlisted in the Marines willingly — but even there it's noted that after he was wounded in combat Vito pulled some strings to arrange for Captain Corleone to get a medical discharge.
  • The Dragon: Luca Brasi and Tom Hagen to Vito, Al Neri and Rocco Lampone to Michael. There is a dragon-vs.-dragon fight in Cuba between Michael's unnamed bodyguard and Johnny Ola, Roth's man.
  • The Dreaded: Of all the non-family members under Vito's employment, Luca Brasi has this reputation, thanks to incidents like his run-in with a Hollywood producer, as Michael tells Kay at Connie's wedding; it's even more pronounced in the novel — throw your newborn baby in an incinerator, and people will talk. Even Vito seems to want to keep his interactions with Brasi as brief and infrequent as possible; when told that Luca is waiting to speak with him at the wedding, the first thing Vito asks is, "Is this necessary?" It's worth mentioning, though, that the one person who seems to truly intimidate Brasi is Vito himself.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Vito opposes entering into the drug trade. His stated reason is that he thinks that they will drive away his allies in politics and the police force, but it's implied to be more a matter of conscience. He is eventually forced to get the Corleones into the trade when the Five Families kill Sonny and he needs to negotiate a truce. All the other Dons agree that it needs to be run "as a business," kept out of the hands of children and preferably within the black community.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: A major issue for Fredo in Part II.
  • Dull Surprise: Sofia Coppola's character in Part III gets shot outside of a theater, and all she pulls off is a rather flat and expressionless "Dad?"
  • The Dutiful Son: Michael, and to an extent, Fredo (although he's not especially competent). Connie is the prodigal sibling in Part II and becomes The Caretaker in Part III
  • Dying Alone: In stark contrast to Vito, Michael dies alone surrounded by idle dogs, which serves to underscore his tragic failure.
  • Eagleland: The epic as a whole reflects upon the Italian-American experience. The second movie in particular a poignant celebration of the immigration experience as young Vito arrives to Ellis Island and grows up in the melting pot that is New York City. The opening line famously frames the entire movie: "I believe in America..."
  • Easily Forgiven:
    • Averted with:
      • Sal Tessio, who appeals to Tom to be left off the hook for old times' sake, but it's not an option.
      • Connie begs Michael to forgive Fredo but then again this doesn't happen. They seem to reconcile, but Michael is not the forgiving type.
    • Borderline example with Kay in Part III. It's been 20 years, after all, but Michael has forgiven the abortion, which was meant as an injury against him, has given up custody of his children, is very friendly towards her and stoically takes many of the jabs she throws at him.
  • Ensemble Cast: Michael is indisputably the central character of the series, but the supporting cast is massive and richly detailed. This is even more pronounced in the sequel, which cuts back and forth between Michael's story and a young Vito's.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first wedding scene of Part I is one of the most iconic examples, for all the characters.
    • Vito is hearing the lamentations of a man who feels cheated by the legal justice system. He refuses the request for an assassination, deeming it out of proportion and then gives the man a long scolding for his lack of respect and proper manners. Yet Vito finally complies with a toned down request, affably but unenthusiastically, once the man's allegiance (in a very feudal kind of way) is assured. All in the middle of his daughter's wedding party.
    • In the same scene, Tom Hagen's role as The Handler is hinted with a few gestures and confirmed once Vito assigns to him the implementation — but not the execution — of the request. Sonny seems to be Vito's right hand, but he is distracted and more concerned with the outside party and later with chasing skirts than with the business.
      • This is reinforced during the briefing before the meeting with Sollozzo. Despite his busy schedule and just getting off a plane from California, Hagan is organized with a point by point rundown of Sollozzo's activities and background so the Don knows what to expect when they speak later. When Vito asks Sonny his opinion on the proposal, all he has to offer is saying there's a lot of money to be made in drugs. Vito looks almost disappointed as he turns to Tom for what he knows will be a much more in-depth and substantial reply.
      • This goes a different direction in the book, where Sonny provides a simple but solid analysis (there's a lot of money, but it's risky; people could get serious prison sentences. It might be better if they stick to financing instead of importation and distribution), and Tom thinks, approvingly, that Sonny "Had stuck to the obvious, much the best course for him."
    • Sonny spits at FBI agents and then destroys the camera of a photographer, demonstrating that he is a hot head. He later has sex with the maid of honor, showing that he is a lothario. His wife also makes a visual representation of the size of Sonny's ... prowess.
    • Michael arrives late at the wedding, in a military uniform that differentiates him from the rest of the family, and his conversation with Kay makes it clear he wants to be a law-abiding and respectable citizen with no part in the family business. He is far from a stranger however, Vito refuses to take a picture without him.
    • Fredo is not present in Vito's inner circle and then drunkenly bumps into Michael and Kay. He's an idiot, but not that bad a guy. His spinelessness is later reinforced when Vito gets shot: he clumsily drops his gun and the hitmen flee, and his response is to sit down by the roadside and cry rather than try to get help.
    • Luca Brasi's introduction scene plays with this, in that it doesn't exactly establish his character as much as it reinforces his employer's. We first see this hulking, physically imposing enforcer nervously rehearsing for his audience with Vito Corleone, only to completely flub it when he's actually in the room. As notes, it reminds us that it's not the thug we should be intimidated by — it's the man who gives the thug his orders.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Michael discovers that Fredo was in cahoots with Johnny Ola, involved somehow in the plot to kill him, and thus a traitor.
    Michael: I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Exhibited many times. One of Michael's generous acts, in his mind, is not to have Fredo killed until after their mother is no longer alive to know about it, and Vito spends years waiting for revenge on the man who killed his mother.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Vito believes that his political connections, which regard gambling, prostitution, and bootlegging as "a harmless vice", will abandon the Family 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 sold to children.
    • Vito refuses the assassination requested by Bonasera because that wouldn't be justice, since Bonasera's daughter is alive. "We're not murderers, in spite of what this undertaker says"
    • Tom Hagen and Vito are disgusted about Jack Woltz's rape of the child actress in the book and a deleted scene from Part One.
    • Even during wars such as the escalating conflict between the Corleones and Tattaglias, there's an unspoken agreement to leave "civilians" - people not directly involved with the Mafia - alone. This initially includes Michael before he gets involved.
    • Many of the police are willing to take bribes, but only for minor offenses — the NYPD rank and file give up their anger over the murder of Captain McCluskey when his connections to drug trafficking and murder come to light.
    • One of the cops McCluskey brings along to the hospital balks at giving a beating to Michael because of his status as a war heronote 
    • Al Neri's backstory in the book reveals that he had been fired from the NYPD and arrested for beating a pimp (caught in the act of slashing a little girl) so badly with his flashlight that the flashlight broke (along with the perp's skull). It is this incident that brings Al to Michael's attention, and subsequently into the Corleone organization as Michael's enforcer.
    • One mentioned in the book and only passingly referenced in the film: during the meeting of all the dons, we see some from California and Kansas City (as well as other places), but the New York dons specifically left out the Chicago Outfit, because they were far too happy to resort to violence and they also failed to keep their underlings under control.
  • Evil Genius: Michael 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.
  • Evil Is Petty: When Johnny Fontane seduces a beautiful young starlet away from Jack Woltz the latter's response is to have him blacklisted in Hollywood entirely. He initially refuses to back down from this when Vito Corleone gets involved and even declares that he'll never fold to Vito's demand. In the book Tom Hagen lampshades how pointlessly petty and vindictive this was.
  • Evil Parents Want Good Kids:
    • Vito 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.
    • In the book, Michael wants his kids to stay out of the Family business — he wants them to be law-abiding, all-American citizens.
    • In the book, we learn that part of the reason McCluskey is so greedy for bribes is because he wants to pay for college for his children and grandchildren, since neither he nor they want them to be cops. Of course, usually a cop wouldn't qualify for this trope, but the way McCluskey does the job...
  • Evil Virtues: The Corleone family displays many of them:
    • Ambition: Vito went from a penniless immigrant orphan to heading the leading crime family in New York. Michael expands the family business to include casinos in Las Vegas (and almost Cuba) and later in life seeks to run the Vatican's bank.
    • Determination: Michael responds to Tom's concerns about trying to kill Hyman Roth by assuring him, "If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone."
    • Honor: Vito's first step towards becoming The Godfather, after killing Fanucci, is stopping a landlord from kicking a widow out of her apartment with her kids and dog. He later opposes Sollozzo's offer to join the drug trade and only gives in after all the other families defeat the Corleones in a city gang war.
    • Humility: Not so much ...
      Don Corleone: You don't even think to call me Godfather.
    • Love: The Corleones clearly love each other very much. Even when Michael has Fredo killed—which he waits to do until after his mother has died—he is wracked by guilt for decades.
      Michael: I killed my mother's son! I killed my father's son!
    • Loyalty: Michael joins the mafia to protect his father and then the whole family. Tom stands by Michael even after Michael cuts him out of the family.
    • Passion: Sonny!!
    • Patience: Unlike Sonny, though, Michael is patient in exacting his revenge.
      Connie: All the time he knew he was going to kill him. And you stood godfather to our baby, you lousy, cold-hearted bastard.
    • Valor: Michael's fate looks bleak after Barzini's victory in the mob war, Tessio and Clemenza's open denigration of his leadership, the Godfather's death, and Tessio's imminent betrayal. Yet Michael battles on.
  • Exact Words:
    • Vito Corleone makes a pledge at the meeting of the Five Families that, despite the death of Sonny and the other families colluding to force him to accept humiliating peace terms, he will not seek revenge. Specifically, he says that "I will not be the one to break the peace we have made here today." Note that this does not bind his successor from doing so in the event of Vito's demise... This is made explicit in a deleted scene from Part I:
    Michael: You gave your word that you wouldn't break the peace. I didn't give mine.
    • At the end of Part III, Michael makes a solemn vow on the souls of his children that he will never sin again and retires as Godfather. He then names as his successor someone who he knows will start off his reign with a bloody purge of his enemies the same way that Michael once did. God apparently doesn't approve of the Loophole Abuse, as on the same night as the purge, Michael's daughter is killed while her brother helplessly watches.
  • Executive Meddling: In-universe: Hollywood mogul Jack Woltz has actor wannabe Johnny Fontane blacklisted because he ruined a starlet (translation: seduced her away from Woltz). Woltz in turn gets overruled by the ultimate meddling in the form of his prize horse's head being placed in his bed.
  • The Exile:
    • Michael takes refuge in Sicily to avoid the heat of the mob war that ensues in Part I.
    • Michael tells Carlo that his punishment is being exiled from the family. He is instead exiled from this life.
    • A young Vito makes America his new home out of necessity when he has to flee from Corleone after Don Ciccio refuses to spare his life.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Michael's hair goes from loose and boyish in the beginning of the first movie to slicked back when he's older and more ruthless later in the film and in Part II.
  • External Combustion: In Part I, Apollonia is killed by a car bomb meant for Michael.
  • Extreme Mêlée Revenge: Carlo physically abuses Sonny's sister. Sonny then tracks down Carlo and attacks him in broad daylight. He uses his fists, his feet, his teeth, Carlo's shoes, and a nearby metal trashcan (which is brought down smack on Carlo's head). All of this happens in public, and a crowd watches while Sonny's goons keep them from interfering. Carlo is left barely alive in a nearby puddle.
  • Eye Scream: As part of The Purge of the Five Families by Michael, Vegas boss Moe Greene while getting a massage is shot in the eye.
  • Facepalm:
    • Michael's appalled reaction in Part II when he realizes Fredo's betrayal.
    • Frank Pentangeli's lawyer during the former's testimony denying his sworn statements.
    • Michael does one in Part III, muttering "Oh, Jesus..." after Vincent bites off Joey Zasa's ear.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Michael's arc in the first movie.
  • Fake Defector:
    • Don Corleone sends Luca Brasi to infiltrate the gang of Sollozzo to garner information, but Sollozzo is wise to the plot and Luca ends up sleeping with the fishes.
    • Michael puts Vincent under the tutelage of Don Altobello in Part III . Michael takes some precautions to avoid an obvious identification of the trope.
  • False Reassurance: In making the peace treaty with the Five Families that will bring Michael home, Don Vito promises that "I swear, on the souls of my grandchildren, that I will not be the one to break the peace we've made here today." And indeed he doesn't. Instead, Michael takes revenge after Vito's death. In the novel and in the recut Vito says I Gave My Word, but Michael points out he didn't give his.
  • Family Business: The ultimate variety.
  • Family Extermination: Don Ciccio orders the whole family of Antonio Andolini killed. They are all killed except for Antonio's son, Vito, who escapes to America and becomes Vito Corleone. Vito returns decades later and kills Don Ciccio.
  • Family-Values Villain: Vito firmly believes and teaches that blood is Thicker Than Water. Subverted/zigzagged with Michael. The contrast between the two on this subject is a major theme in Part II.
    Don Corleone: A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man.
  • Fashions Never Change: Largely averted in the first two movies. Cars and clothing styles visibly change over the course of decades.
  • Fatal Flaw: The Corleone brothers all inherited a quality from their father (Sonny's charisma, Fredo's heart and Michael's cunning) which comes off as a negative quality. Had they worked together they would have been unstoppable. The one thing they have in common is ambition and this brings disaster.
  • Fat and Skinny: The two caporegimes in the Corleone family under Vito: Peter Clemenza is a heavyset man (fat), Sal Tessio is a tall, thin man (skinny).
  • Fate Worse than Death: The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone has the titular demise be symbolic rather than literal as in Part III. Instead of dying, the ending has him live a long life alone, and haunted by his failures.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Michael in the first two movies is 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.
  • Feudal Overlord: The resemblance with this is striking. As the Mafia is, in a way, an underground version of the pre-modern social system, it makes sense.
  • The '40s: Most of the action in Part I.
  • The '50s: Michael's half of Part II. Also, the latter half of Part I, which spans from 1945 to 1955.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing:
    • In the first movie, Michael realizes something is fishy about the car and quickly tries to warn Apollonia about it, but it's too late, as she's already gotten into the car and turned the key. Boom.
    • In Part II: "Michael, why are the drapes open?" seconds before a rain of gunfire is unleashed inside the Corleone's bedroom.
  • Flashback: Part II ends with a flashback that goes all the way back to four years before the first movie begins, at Don Vito's birthday party. It shows the family all together and happy, before everything went bad.
  • Flashback B-Plot: While the second film mostly focuses on telling the story of Michael Corleone as the new Don of the family, we also get flashbacks to the first years of his father in New York to show the difference on how they balanced their power and their families.
  • Foil:
    • Blue Oni Michael and Tom to Red Oni Santino.
    • Played with the icy, powerful and cunning Michael and the apparently meek, spineless but goodhearted Fredo.
    • The women in Michael's romantic life. Kay depicts the modern American lifestyle while Apollonia represents the traditional Italian life.
    • The central theme of Part II is the comparison between Vito, affable family man and upcoming kingpin, and Michael, icy Lonely at the Top Don.
  • Food Porn: Clemenza takes Michael through his process of making tomato sauce, including using sugar and red wine.
  • Forced to Watch: Vito is no happier than Sonny about how Carlo treats Connie, but his traditional values won't allow him to intervene in matters between husband and wife. It's implied that this is part of the reason Carlo abuses Connie in the first place.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: During their argument Carlo yells vaffanculo (roughly: "go fuck yourself") at Connie.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • If you see an orange, somebody is about to have his day completely ruined.
    • Paulie utters some mildly disdainful and greedy comments during Connie's wedding.
    • "Exterminate? That's a bad word to use: exterminate! Get this guy. Watch out we don't exterminate you!"
    • As the Corleones prepare for the hit on Sollozzo and McCluskey, they face a problem because they don't know where the meeting between them and Michael will be held, and they won't know where to plant the gun. Sonny then suggests they "just blast whoever's in the car."
    • Vito refuses to get into the narcotics business after the war, not only because he knows his political friends would abandon him but because he believes in the future that the drug business could kill the Mafia. In Real Life, the Mafia has been crippled since The '70s mostly due to the war on drugs bringing federal attention to mafia activities.
    • When Michael asks permission to leave for the toilet, McCluskey says "If you gotta go, you gotta go." Both he and Sollozzo are dead within minutes.
    • "Fredo, you're my older brother, and I love you. But don't ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever."
    • During their heated argument (right before she's beaten), Connie pulls a kitchen knife to fend off Carlo. He screams at her "Yeah, be a murderer, just like your father!" In the third movie, Connie does just that, fatally poisoning Don Altobello.
    • Fabrizzio's pliability is hinted by his desire for a better life in America. Expanded and more clear in the recut.
    • The very first scene of the trilogy foreshadows Michael's entire character arc in the first film. Bonasera (like Michael) is a humble and law-abiding man who managed to avoid getting involved with the Mafia for most of his life—until one of his loved ones was hurt, and he realized that he couldn't count on the authorities to bring the men responsible to justice.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The brothers are a perfect example. Sonny (choleric), Michael (melancholic), Fredo (sanguine), and Tom Hagen (phlegmatic).
  • Framing the Guilty Party: The novel goes more in-depth about how Michael is able to come home when he's wanted for the murder of a police captain - the family is less worried about the actual evidence and more worried that the NYPD will create fake evidence to get their revenge. Vito eventually hits on a plan to do this himself, by making a deal with someone already on death row for three murders to "come clean" and confess to the two murders Michael committed.
  • Friendly Enemy: Invoked by Michael with Roth and with Don Altobello. A lesson learned from Vito: "Keep your friends close but your enemies closer."
    • Also the case between Frank and his FBI handlers. They're positively chummy with him.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Gangster: However nasty the Corleones might be to their enemies or those who get in their way, to the local community they are considered a pillar of society. Vito in particular was so well-loved by the part of New York he controlled that everyone made a point of coming to the funeral.
  • Friendly Target: Apollonia, via car bomb. Michael, however, was the intended target..
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: Michael begins the first film having recently returned from service in the Marines during WWII; by the end, he is the head of the most powerful crime family in New York.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Emphasis on "nobody" for Vito and on "nightmare" for Michael, as he is raised inside a powerful family and is Famed In-Story for being a war hero at the start, only to develop a deadly callousness that his affable father never showed.
  • Funny Background Event: When the old Italian man at the wedding gets on stage to join in singing Che La Luna, there's a blink and you'll miss it moment where his dentures get loose mid-song.
  • Generational Saga: The Corleones 1901-1980, with a 1997 epilogue.
  • Genre Deconstruction: Prior to the release of the original 1972 film, movies about gangsters were mostly action-oriented pictures of the James Cagney/Edward G. Robinson/Paul Muni variety. The trilogy does a lot to strip away some of the larger-than-life mythology of the American gangster and depicts its protagonists as human beings with flaws and frustrated ambitions.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: The Don pulls this on Johnny Fontane when Fontane is complaining about Woltz keeping him from getting a part in his movie.
  • Glory Days: It's an underlying theme that the heydey of organized crime came and went:
    • It's implied in the first movie that the Corleone Family's own glory days had already come to an end, with Sollozzo commenting that he could not have pulled off the attempted hit on Don Vito a decade earlier.
    • Several remarks through the films establish that the Corleones (and the rest of the Five Families) rose to power during the Prohibition era, when organized crime was making money hand over fist from rum running. The height of their power was from around 1924 (when Vito killed old Don Ciccio) to when the mob war over the new drug trade starts in late 1945. This twenty year golden age isn't covered by the movies at all: we see some of Vito's rise in the early 1920s, but after killing Ciccio the next scene chronologically is the flashback at the end of Part II, when Michael announces he's joined the Marines in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor.
    • During the meeting of the Five Families, Barzini remarks "It's not like the old days, when we could do anything we wanted."
    • Michael tells Kay that his father's way of doing things is over.
    • A point during the nostalgic final conversation between Frankie "Five Angels" and Tom. The scene also shows an underneath comradeship and Frank thanks Tom for everything he has done as a farewell.
      Frank: Those were the great old days, you know... And we was like the Roman Empire... The Corleone family was like the Roman Empire.
      Tom: It was once.
  • Godzilla Threshold: The book essentially describes Michael having to kill McCluskey as this. Killing an NYPD captain is just about the most dangerous thing the Family can do (short of killing a fed). This is because the NYPD will put enormous pressure on all the New York families to find the killer and, since they can't with Michael hiding in Sicily, it would be horrible for everyone's business. This turns out to be right; McCluskey and Sollozzo's assassinations kick off a Mob War.
  • Gold Digger: Connie's husband Carlo is a failed male example.
    • Deanna, Fredo's drunken spouse.
  • The Handler: Tom Hagen as consigliere to Don Vito.
  • Happily Married:
    • Vito and Carmela Corleone.
    • Michael and Apollonia, while it lasts.
    • Despite his various affairs, this seems to be the case for Santino and Sandra Corleone as well. In fact, she seems to be quite content that he sleeps around because his endowments make sex painful for her.
  • Happy Flashback:
    • A particularly effective one ends the second film. The Corleone children waiting for Vito and sitting around the dinner table, as Michael tells them he is joining the Marine Corps and going off to fight in World War II and thus bluntly detaching himself from the family business. There is a lot of character definition and foreshadowing and the moment represents the end of the happier, together times in the Corleone family's life. This is counterpointed by the final shot of Michael sitting alone in the Lake Tahoe compound.
    • The final scene of the saga is preceded by a montage reprising Michael's happy moments with the women of his life, including dancing with his daughter Mary.
  • Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee: A large section of Part II features Michael being interrogated by a Senate committee on organized crime, who produces Pentangeli as its surprise witness.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: No one questions the sexist machismo culture of the mafia. For example, Michael's level of pain over the death of his and Kay's unborn child is dependent on whether or not it was a boy.
  • Heel Realization: Michael in Part II briefly has signs of this, but he's too far gone to really notice or act on them. It's not until Part III that he actually feels sincere remorse for his actions. His attempts at atoning and undoing the damage however, fail.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Subverted, Pentangeli is put under Witness Protection and is going to testify against the Corleone family. Michael and Tom Hagen find a way to prevent him breaking the omertà; his brother shows up the day he has to testify. It's not stated if they stop Pentangeli by shaming him in front of his old school brother or there's some kind of Implied Death Threat going on. note 
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Pentangeli. The Family wants him dead, but Tom Hagen tells him that if he kills himself the Corleones will provide for his surviving family from that point on.
    • Vito's mother grabs Don Ciccio and holds a knife to his throat, screaming at him to run. She had to have known this would result in her own death, but was determined to save her remaining son's life.
  • Hidden Weapons: The Corleones correctly assume Michael is going to be thoroughly frisked before a meeting and discuss a method to plant a gun in a restaurant.
  • Historical Domain Character: Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista appears in Part II. Part III features Pope John Paul I as a major character and climaxes near his election to the papacy in the Sistine Chapel.
    • Amazingly, "Superman" the sex show performer was an actual guy, legendary in Havana's pre-Castro club scene.note 
  • Historical In-Joke: Part III RetCons the death of Pope John Paul I and the murder of the Vatican's chief banker into parts of a Mafia vs. Vatican conspiracy. Assuming they weren't in the first place.
  • Hollywood Hype Machine: Two in-universe examples.
    • Jack Woltz spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on acting, singing and dancing lessons for a promising young actress, planning on turning her into a big star. Johnny Fontane seducing the young starlet and causing her to "throw it all away" causes Woltz to blacklist him from the entire movie industry, causing Fontane to plead for help from Vito.
    • Fontane's pursuit of a major movie role that Woltz is blacklisting him from can be seen as Fontane's own effort to live up to the hype machine, as he fears his career will be over if he can't secure the role. With Vito's help in securing the role, Fontane lives up to the hype machine and becomes a superstar.
  • Holy Pipe Organ: In the first baptism scene, a reverent organ music is playing. But as the movie begins switching between Michael Corleone standing at an altar and a mass murder scenes, the organ music slowly becomes much more sinister.
  • Honest Advisor: Vito encourages Tom to be one: "Not even a Sicilian consigliere always agrees with the boss."
  • Hope Spot:
    • In a seeming Pet the Dog moment Michael embraces a crying Fredo at Connie's behest, appearing to forgive him in Part II. Instead he gives a pointed look at Al Neri, signifying that the protection from assassination Fredo had while Carmela Corleone was alive is over.
    • Part III/Coda in general follows Michael, being at the cusp of genuinely going legitimate, trying his best to seal the deal, only for enemies and circumstances to render said efforts all for nought.
  • Horrible Hollywood: Much more visible in the book than in the film. The studio labour unions are on the Mafia's payroll and will strike at a moment's notice if given a good reason (such as getting Johnny Fontane the lead role he and Woltz know will make him a star again). The writer of Fontane's comeback film was paid next to nothing for his hard work. Hookers and Blow abound; Tom Hagen tries to use a male lead's growing heroin addiction as leverage with Woltz and later sees a dishevelled 12-year-old starlet being ushered out of Woltz' house by her uncaring Stage Mom, while a preview screening turns into a massive orgy when the lights are dimmed. Actors place preserving their good looks over their health as they grow older, and their doctors are happy to oblige for the right price. Fontane's cousin Nino Valenti thinks to himself that if this is success, he wants none of it. He later becomes a film actor anyway, but drinks himself to death just as his career is taking off.

    I - P 
  • I Am Not My Father: "That's my family Kay, it's not me."
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Vito's reflections on his life:
    Vito [to Michael]: I worked my whole life. I don't apologize for taking care of my family. And I refused to be a fool, dancing on a string held by all those big shots. I don't apologize. That's my life, but I thought that when it was your time, you would be the one to hold the strings.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Not in a romantic sense but an expected sign of respect towards a Don.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Tom Hagen needs a drink before bringing himself to tell his Don the news about Sonny. Anticipating this, Tom hands Vito a shot before he tells the Don the news that the latter already suspects.
  • I Want Them Alive!: In Part II, following the attempt on his life, Michael tells Rocco that he wants the gunmen captured alive. He even repeats the order, to make absolutely sure.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Sollozzo says this verbatim to Tom Hagen.
  • Ignored Epiphany: In the novel, Michael comes to realize during his time in exile that the Mafia had been the ruin of Sicily, and further realizes that if the Mafia, including specifically "his father's empire" is allowed to grow, it will be the ruin of America too. Needless to say, this does not stop him from taking over his father's empire and continuing to spread its corruption.
  • Illegal Gambling Den: Carlo Rizzi was given one to manage by the Corleone family to check whether he would be competent enough to be given more responsibilities. He wasn't.
  • An Immigrant's Tale: Emphasized in Part II. Vito arrives at Ellis Island from Sicily in 1901.
  • Impaled Palm: Sollozzo does this to Luca Brasi in the movie version to prevent him reaching for his gun. This is a scary deviation, in the book it takes two men to hold his arms while he's being strangled by Sollozzo.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Al Neri does this in order to assassinate Barzini. In the books, Al Neri was previously an actual police officer until he killed a perpetrator while on the job rather than arresting him. The Corleones took a look at the circumstances and decided to provide him a high-powered defence to get him off the hook at the later trial, after which he came to work for the family.
    • Vincent does this in the third film to get close enough to an unsuspecting Joey Zasa to assassinate him.
  • Impossible Task: Getting to the overprotected Pentangeli and Hyman Roth. Discussed in a clear reference to John F. Kennedy's assassination. The latter's outcome is a Shout-Out to Jack Ruby vs Oswald. The movie takes places years before the historical magnicide (around the time of the Cuban revolution.).
    Tom: It would be like trying to kill the President! There's no way we can get to him!
    Michael: If anything in this life is certain, if History has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone.
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: At the Italian restaurant. What is scary is that the shot was not fatal, so McCluskey wheezes for a few seconds...
  • Improvised Weapon: In Part III, Don Lucchesi is assassinated in a truly spectacular fashion when he is stabbed in the throat with his own glasses.
  • In-Universe Nickname: In the book, some of the other Sicilian families refer to the Corleones as "the Irish gang" behind their backs because Don Vito gave Tom Hagen, who is of Irish descent, a high position in the family.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Fredo after the Don, is shot. Not your everyday Manly Tears, this is full-blown sobbing and sniveling, caused not only by the shocking, sudden onset of grief, but from the sheer humiliation of having failed to do anything to stop the assassination (he fumbled his gun at a critical moment).
  • Informed Attribute: None of the brutality that Luca Brasi is supposedly capable of is seen onscreen, but everyone talks about it. The only story told about Brasi is fairly meek compared to the on-screen action: Michael tells Kay that Brasi once pointed a gun to the head of a music director to extort him to sign Johnny Fontane away. When Don Vito gives Brasi the task of pretending to go work for Sollozzo, Brasi fails and gets killed before doing anything. The book is more explicit about Brasi's savagery although always as Offstage Villainy in the distant past.
    • Justified thematically in that Luca, like Vito, is getting older and his Glory Days (such as they were) are behind him.
  • Insatiable Newlyweds: Implied in the movie, stated outright in the book. Michael was worried that Apollonia, as an innocent young virgin, would be shy and reluctant when it came to sex. She's really, really not.
  • An Insert: When Michael opens the newspaper to read about his father's shooting, his hands in the insert are played by George Lucas.
  • Interface Spoiler: The backgrounds of the disc menus in the Coppola Restoration box set are static shots of three important death scenes. The Godfather's menu shows Vito lying dead in his tomato garden. Part II's menu shows Michael standing in his study, which in the film is when Fredo is killed. Part III's menu shows someone hanged; while it's easy to think that it's Michael given that it's the final film and considering the previous two discs' menus, it's actually Frederick Keinszig.
  • Intermission: Part II has an intermission, though Part I lacks one.
  • Irony:
    • The Mafia caused Vito to run away from Sicily to America and there he became its leader.
    • Vito enters a life of crime for the sake of his family. This leads the Corleone family into a criminal lifestyle that claims the lives of two of Vito's biological sons, his adoptive son, and his granddaughter.
  • It Runs in the Family - Vito's kids have his qualities.
    • Sonny has his charisma and charm.
    • Fredo has his warmth and compassion.
    • Michael has his intelligence and iron will.
    • Connie has his ambition.
  • It Will Never Catch On: In the novel, the Don of Detroit's speech about keeping drugs away from children is seen as a pointlessly sentimental outburst by the others. After all, who would ever sell drugs to kids? And where would children ever get the money to pay for them?
  • It's All About Me: Michael starts to have this attitude in Part II.
  • It's Not About the Request: Vito initially refuses Bonasera's request to take revenge on the men who abused Bonasera's daughter not because he disagrees with it, but because Bonasera has a history of not appreciating friendship and initially tries to talk about how much it will cost, as though Vito is a hired goon. Once he asks the correct way, Vito agrees to do it.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: The main reason why Michael dislikes Vincent and Mary dating, and convinces Vincent to break off the romance. It leads to break her heart to save her. It does not work out in the end.
    Mary: I'll always love you.
    Vincent: Love somebody else.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Michael goes to Dartmouth College (where he meets Kay). A possible justification is hinted when Hagen mentions that his father pulled many strings to provide a deferment for Michael.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sonny is very much this; he may be impulsive and violent (as well as racist), but he loves and cares for his family and is very protective of his younger siblings, especially Connie.
  • Jerkass: McCluskey and Woltz are grouchy and racist, Carlo is an abuser who beats the mother of his unborn child, Ciccio is a callous sociopath and Zasa rarely tries to be polite and tends to be obnoxious. Luca Brasi is a bumbling thug in the film who is revealed to be a horrible human being in the novel.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Michael is a White Sheep who moves from a civilian position to the underworld in a single move by killing Sollozzo and McCluskey.
  • Just a Gangster: The third film shows that not everyone within the Corleone Family is pleased with Michael's efforts to turn the Family legit, and Joey Zasa in particular is recruited by enemies from outside the Family to undermine it from within.
  • Justified Criminal: Michael presents himself as a choiceless one when confronted by Kay in Part III; he starts as a detached from crime college student turned war hero who is dragged into the underground world first to protect his vulnerable father and then to protect his whole family.
  • Karma Houdini: Fabrizzio. A Deleted Scene from the second movie (which actually appeared as part of the purge at the end of the original novel) shows Michael's revenge. The scene is included in the made-for-TV, chronological order The Godfather Saga.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Fabrizzio's runs out eventually. In The Godfather Saga, they put a bomb in his car so he dies the same way Apollonia did. In the book, they just shoot the son of a bitch. Still extremely satisfying.
  • Karmic Death: In a deleted scene from Part II, Michael has Fabrizzio killed via car bomb - the same way that he killed Appollonia.
  • Keeping the Enemy Close: Michael Corleone is the Trope Namer, who learned this trope as a lesson from Vito and practices it with Roth and Don Altobello.
  • Keeping the Handicap: Michael Corleone initially chose to keep his jaw wounded by Captain McCluskey, distrusting the doctor he lived with in Sicily and, even after, wanting to keep his image, until his wife Kay convinces him otherwise.
  • Kick the Dog: Decapitating a man's horse because he will not cast a guy in a movie. But see Break the Cutie above re: Woltz's dark side.
  • Kicked Upstairs:
    • In Part I, consigliere Tom Hagen is reassigned to handling the family move to Nevada because there is a big fight coming and he is not a wartime consigliere.
    • Fredo... "well"; after going into shock from witnessing Vito's shooting he is relegated to secondary roles far away from Michael's inner circle.
  • Killed Offscreen: Bruno Tattaglia in the first film is the only major casualty of the war that is offscreen. Averted in the game where the player kills him.
  • Kiss of Death: One of the most famous examples. Given to Fredo by Michael in Cuba.
  • Kissing Cousins: In the third movie, Michael's daughter, Mary, and nephew, Vincent, are in love. Michael is against their relationship, but Mary's mother, Kay, is not. However, Michael's objections are apparently not based on consanguinity, but the danger of Vincent's lifestyle.
  • Kosher Nostra: Moe Greene is implied and Hyman Roth is explicitly stated to be Jewish.
  • Lawman Gone Bad: Al Neri, in the novel, is revealed to be an incorruptible but ferocious cop. When a Pay Evil unto Evil situation does not quite go as planned, he winds up convicted of manslaughter. Michael Corleone gets him off with a suspended sentence; in gratitude, he becomes Michael's most trusted bodyguard and Professional Killer.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: The Corleone family are the heroes of the film trilogy, but mostly because everyone else — the other mobsters, the cops, politicians, even Vatican clergy — are worse. The very first person we meet in the original film — the mortician — has only come to Don Vito because the courts had let the would-be rapists of his daughter go free. In the Corleones' favor, both Vito and Michael conduct themselves as good decent men... except for Michael's obsessive need for control.
    • This goes back to the original novel. Puzo specifies that the Corleones make their money from illegal gambling and union corruption, which while not nice are not that big a deal to most of his audience. He states further that they (or at least Vito and Michael) hold the Tattaglias, who make their money from prostitution, and of course Sollozzo, who makes his money off drugs, in contempt. The novel also establishes that Vito's heart's desire was to see Michael go completely legit. On top of that, every characterized NYPD officer in the novel is either corrupt (Detective Phillips), brutal (Albert Neri) or both (Captain Mc Cluskey). Puzo's later protestations aside, one begins to wonder if the novel actually was a case of Black-and-Grey Morality if not Blue-and-Orange Morality — perhaps Black and Blue Morality.
  • The Living Dead: In Part II, the dead prostitute used to frame Senator Geary can be seen breathing.
  • Lonely at the Top: Michael, with the added twist that, initially at least, he didn't even want to be the head of the 'family business'. It becomes the focal point for Part III. He 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.
  • Lousy Lovers Are Losers: Sonny Corleone's Gag Penis makes sex with him painful and unsatisfying to most women he sleeps with, including his wife Sandra who openly gossips about it to the other mobster wives. In his youth, he even had to pay double to get prostitutes to sleep with him. The fact he doesn't seem to care much about hurting them speaks poorly of his character. It's only when he finds a Distaff Counterpart in Lucy Mancini, a woman whose vagina is also overly large, that he finds a partner who can enjoy sex with him, and Sandra is actually relieved when he takes Lucy as a lover since it means she herself doesn't have to sleep with him anymore.
    "My God," Sandra had giggled, "when I saw that pole of Sonny's for the first time and realized he was going to stick it into me, I yelled bloody murder. After the first year my insides felt as mushy as macaroni boiled for an hour. When I heard he was doing the job on other girls I went to church and lit a candle."
  • Love at First Sight: This is literally how Michael falls for Apollonia; his native Sicilian companions refer to it as getting "hit by the thunderbolt."
  • The Mafia: The first film has become a Trope Codifier, despite the fact that the movie never uses the actual term.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Don Vito specifically warns the other families against letting anything happen to Michael on the way back from Sicily, even going so far as to say that "If he should get struck by a bolt of lightning, then I'm going to blame some of the people in this room."
  • Malicious Misnaming: When Senator Geary addresses the party that opens Part II, he horribly botches the pronunciation of "Corleone". Later, when talking privately with Michael, he pronounces it correctly, revealing the insult. He's also publicly implying that he's not familiar with the Corleones.
  • The Man Behind the Man:
    • A tactic used by the enemies of the Corleones in I and III.
    • The Mafia uses several hierarchical layers that work as functional safeguards. The orders of the Don pass from the Consigliere to the Capos and finally to button men; a plot point in Part II when the Senate committee is able to produce a witness with direct access to the Don.
  • Man Bites Man: When Sonny does his No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on Carlo, he bites his hand somewhere in the middle of it.
    • Vincent (Sonny's bastard son) bites Joey Zasa's ear in the third movie, more proof of Generation Xerox.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste:
    • Most of the gangsters are already Badasses In Nice Suits, but the nasty Bruno Tattaglia one-ups the lot by wearing a tux.
    • Joey Zasa in Part III likes to be known for his well-dressed style (he's even been dubbed "best-dressed gangster" by Esquire magazine) and as a champion of Italian-American heritage. It doesn't exactly endear him to his fellow mafiosi.
    • Deliberately averted in the book, where the "old mustache Petes" of Vito's generation — many of whom, like Vito himself, came from poverty — wear inexpensive, no-nonsense business suits and disdain anyone who gets too fancy.
  • Masochism Tango: Suggested with Connie and Carlo.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Kay considers the Corleone siblings massive-numbered, and considers Vito and Carmela generous for adding a fifth member to their brood with Tom. Michael, however, notes that even five children constitutes a small family by mid-century Sicilian standards.
  • The Match Maker: In a bit of irony it is revealed in the flashback at the end of Part II that Sonny was this for his sister Connie and Carlo.
  • Matron Chaperone: Apollonia and Michael are escorted by half a dozen old ladies when the couple walks around Corleone.
  • Mentor:
    • Vito tries to be this to Sonny, when the young man eagerly asks to enter the business; he's more successful with Michael.
    • Clemenza to Michael as well (Pentangeli was supposed to be Clemenza in Part II, adding more drama to their relation).
    • Michael to Vincent, to a certain extent.
  • Meaningful Rename: Throughout the novel that started it all, only two people refer to the youngest Corleone as "Michael": his father and his wife. To everyone else he's "Mike," except his mom, who calls him the even more diminutive "Mikey." And then he executes his master-stroke in the penultimate chapter. The next time he meets his caporegimes, they address him as "Don Michael."
    • Less portentously, Vito Andolini changes his name to that of his hometown, Corleone, when he immigrates to America. He does this to make it harder for his Sicilian would-be killers to finish their vendetta, but also " preserve some tie with his native village. It was one of the few gestures of sentiment he was ever to make."
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Fredo.
    Fredo: Did you ever think about that, did you ever once think about that? Send Fredo off to do this, send Fredo off to do that! Let Fredo to take care of some Mickey Mouse night club somewhere! Send Fredo to pick somebody up at the airport! I'm your older brother, Mike, and I was stepped over!
    Michael: That's the way Pop wanted it.
    Fredo (angry): It ain't the way I wanted it! I can handle things! I'm smart! Not like everybody says! Like dumb! I'm smart and I want respect!
  • A Minor Kidtroduction: The beginning of Part 2 is of the 9-year old Vito attending his father's funeral.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal:
    • Not that he didn't have it coming, but Carlo is easily convinced to betray Sonny after he brutally beats him in public.
    • Pentangeli has some disagreements with the Godfather and then flips to the authorities because he believes Michael is the one who put a hit on him.
    • Fredo cites being displaced by his kid brother and only trusted with minor and distant business as a reason behind his behavior.
  • Mob War: A major focus of the first film, with the Five Families on one side, and the Corleones on the other, set off by the attempt on Don Vito's life. (In the novel, Vito establishes himself as the most powerful Don in the city by winning an earlier War.)
  • Moe Greene Special: In the first film the Trope Namer gets shot in the eye, while wearing glasses.
  • The Mole: Most plot twists in the trilogy involve someone betraying the family from within:
    • In Part I, underlings like Paulie set up Don Vito for the street hit, and Fabrizzio plants a bomb meant to kill Michael in Sicily, but kills Michael's wife Apollonia instead. Respected capo Sal Tessio is bought over by Barzini to set up Michael after Vito's death.
    • In Part II, Pentangeli is tricked by Hyman Roth into revealing the Corleone Family's inner workings to the Senate hearings. Ultimately, the deepest betrayal was pulled by poor Fredo.
    • Part III has Joey Zasa as a too-obvious opponent that Michael quickly discerns as a front for hidden and more dangerous enemies: it is really Don Altobello working in league with the European banking interests to get Michael's vast wealth put into the Vatican banks.
  • Mook Promotion: Al Neri and Rocco Lampone are promoted from "Button Men" in the first movie to Michael's caporegimes in the second. Willie Cicci is a button in Part I and became Frank Pentangeli's capo in Part II. In Part III he was originally planned to be the one who took over Michael's New York operation after he became legitimate, but actor Joe Spinell died before filming began. He was replaced by a new character, Joey Zasa.
  • Moral Myopia: The Corleone family and its associates have no moral qualms about corruption, intimidation, and murder, but when one of their own is attacked or killed, they're outraged.
  • More Dakka:
    • The death of Sonny in the first film, who is machine gunned from all angles until the bullets run out.
    • In the third movie, a meeting between prominent families is interrupted by a helicopter with a machinegun. It is a bloodbath.
  • Morton's Fork: The Corleone Family encounters one of these with Sollozzo's business proposal to traffic hard drugs. Vito himself believes that getting into this line of work will erode the family's power in the long run, because the police, politicians and judges that are willing to overlook what they consider more petty crime like gambling and union racketeering will not participate in the drug trade. Tom Hagen argues that not taking the deal will erode the family's power anyway, because it's an incredibly lucrative operation, and the families that do participate will be able to outspend the families that don't.
  • Motive Rant: When Michael asks Hyman Roth who ordered the hit on Pentangeli, Roth responds by revealing his close connection to Moe Greene, whom Michael had killed. This provides greater clarity about why Roth would want Michael dead, even though Roth is never explicit about this.
    Roth: This was a great man, a man of vision and guts. And there isn't even a plaque or a signpost or a statue in that town! Someone put a bullet through his eye. No one knows who gave the order. When I heard it, I wasn't angry. I knew Moe, I knew he was headstrong—talking loud, saying stupid things. So when he turned up dead, I let it go. I said to myself, "This is business that we've chosen." And I didn't ask who gave the order! Because it had nothin' to do with business!
  • Mugging the Monster: Senator Geary tries to extort and bully Michael for a gambling license. A nonchalant Michael bides his time and turns the tables with a cold frameup. It's worth pointing out that the Senator knows Michael is a powerful criminal but misevaluates him as harmless thinking that a political leader is out of his nefarious reach.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution:
    • Subverted in the first film when Michael is laughed at for suggesting it regarding Sollozzo and McCluskey, but he makes his case and the others concede that he's right.
    • In the final act of Part II, Tom questions the decision to kill Roth because Michael has already won, the hit is impossible and Roth is a very ill man with a low life expectancy. Michael rebukes him and replies that "Roth has been dying from the same heart attack for the last twenty years" and anybody can be killed. An extra layer of poignancy is added if you assume Tom knows that Michael is going to have Fredo killed as well and is subtly trying to talk him out of it.
      Michael: I don't feel I have to wipe everybody out, Tom. Just my enemies.
  • Naïve Newcomer:
    • Michael detached himself apart 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. Subverted. Michael deliberately continues to project this image.
    • Michael's (non-Italian) fiancee, Kay Adams, 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.
      Michael: My father is no different than any powerful man, any man who's responsible for a lot of people, like a senator or a president.
      Kay Adams: Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don't have men killed!
      Michael: Oh? Who's being naive, Kay?
      Michael: Kay, my father's way of doing things is over, it's finished. Even he knows that. I mean in five years, the Corleone Family is going to be completely legitimate. Trust me. That's all I can tell you about my business.
  • Named After Someone Famous:
    • Tom Hagen — Hagen was The Dragon for Günther (local Vito Corleone) in Nibelungenlied.
    • A deleted scene in Part II reveals that Hyman Roth is named after real life gangster Arnold Rothstein.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Tom Hagen, if you know Nibelungenlied.
  • Nature Tinkling: In Part I, Clemenza gets out of a car to take a leak. While he does, Rocco executes Paulie.
  • Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters: Compare The Corleone family to the Tattaglias. Or to any other gangster for that matter. Vito is a genuine pillar of his community who does retributed favours.
    • Vincent is also shown to be this, and one of his main knocks against Joey Zasa is that Zasa is not.
  • Nepotism: Literal. In Part II Vito is made redundant and loses his job because Abbandando has to accommodate Fanucci's nephew.
  • Neutral No Longer: Michael is pulled into the family business when his father is almost killed by a rival who will keep on trying. Ironically the United States abandoning its neutrality after the attack on Pearl Harbor is the event that makes Michael declare his own neutrality away from the path of his father; he joins the Marine Corps the day after.
  • Never Hurt an Innocent: It's understood among the Five Families that all civilians — people not affiliated with the mob — are to be left alone. This includes blood relatives such Michael Corleone early in Part I before he gets involved in the business. Though it's hard to say how much of this is out of values versus not wanting to bring particularly strong backlash from the police.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: The final scene in Part III is set in 1997, seven years after the film's original release.
  • Nice Guy: People outside the immediate Corleone family consider Fredo to be the most likable. While Sonny has a hair-trigger temper, and one always has to be on guard with Tom and Michael for subtle nuances and double meanings, Fredo has the distinction of being both friendly and harmless, the most easily approachable of the Corleones for a drink and casual conversation.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Sonny shows he's interested in Sollozzo's deal, despite his father saying he wants nothing to do with drugs. As this shows internal dissent in the family, Sonny is reprimanded for this cock-up, and it leads directly to the attempt on his father's life, Sollozzo having assumed that if he gets rid of Don Corleone, he can make a deal with Sonny.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Herod: Don Ciccio attempts to kill all of Antonio Andolini's male relatives, including his 9-year-old son Vito, knowing they would be honor bound to avenge Antonio's murder. This forces Vito to escape to America, where he becomes a Don himself, eventually giving him the ability to return and kill Don Ciccio.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Johnny Fontane is a thinly-veiled version of Frank Sinatra. Sinatra took offense from it and almost got into a fight with Puzo on one occasion.
    • Jack Woltz was patterned after several Hollywood moguls, such as Warner Bros. chief Jack L. Warner. His personality was based on MGM head Louis B. Mayer, who was a great racing aficionado, and owned a racing stable. Mayer abandoned the activity, reportedly after his son-in-law William Goetz, who was his partner in the stable, got involved with the Mafia and fixed a race. Mayer's horse was the favorite to win.
    • Moe Greene is obviously Bugsy Siegel, and Hyman Roth is based on Meyer Lansky. A big difference is that Lansky was not shot to death, but died from cancer.
    • In the novel Nino Valenti — Johnny Fontane's alcoholic friend — is based on Dean Martin's public image (while no teetotaler, Martin was not an alcoholic and did not drink himself to death) and Billy Goff is a thinly disguised Willie Bioff.
    • By implication, the band leader extorted into signing Fontane away in Michael's tale would be Tommy Dorsey.
    • Nevada senator Pat Geary may be based on Pat McCarran, a real-life senator from Nevada known for his staunch anti-communist views. The Las Vegas airport bears his name.
    • Joey Zasa (Joe Mantegna) in Part III is based on John Gotti, and his demise in his Italian-American pride parade is based on Joe Columbo.
    • Don Lucchesi is based on Italian politician Giulio Andreotti. Archbishop Gilday and Frederick Keinszig are based on other figures in the Vatican Bank scandals, Paul Marcinkus and Roberto Calvi.
    • The Senate committee is modeled after the Valachi hearings, with Coppola describing Pentangeli as a "Valachi figure".
  • No Name Given: Don Vito's wife is never named, only referred to as "Mama". The DVD's special features named her "Carmela Corleone" as an afterthought.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown:
    • The mortician relates how his daughter was savagely beaten when she defended her honour, to the point that "she will never be beautiful again." In return, Don Vito arranges for her attackers to get a beating of their own: he wants them hospitalized for at least a month, but "no blows on the top or back of the head, there was to be no accidental fatality. Other than that they could go as far as they liked." (Implied in the movie, depicted in the book.)
    • Sonny gives one to Carlo, right after the latter delivers a savage beating to Connie.
  • Not in the Face!: In the novel, Johnny Fontane's movie-star wife tolerates his beating her — but "not in the face, I'm making a picture."
  • Not Using the Zed Word:
    • The word "Mafia" was deliberately never spoken in the first film, nor is the "official" name of the organization, La Cosa Nostra ("This thing of ours" or, simply "Our Thing"). This was an Enforced Trope Coppola had to concede to a real life mafioso who was vetting the film, and a Mafia Astroturf organization was attempting to convince people that there was, in fact, no such thing as the Mafia. Word of God says its intended usage was very minor anyway. Allegedly, this is Truth in Television, as real-life mobsters rarely refer to themselves in these terms, either.
    • Each term is mentioned in just one scene in Part II. When Corleone faces the senate hearing, he alludes to them and immediately refutes any connection between himself and such organizations. Senator Geary also refers to "these hearings on the Mafia". By the time this movie was made, people had figured out the above Astroturf con, so it was once more politically correct to use the term. Though in the novel at least, it's made clear that, strictly speaking, Don Vito and his lieutenants are not members of the Cosa Nostra: the Corleone family are upstarts rather than "official" "honorable men". Interestingly enough, the novel implies that Vito coins the term Cosa Nostra.
  • Nothing Personal:
    • Perhaps the most famous use of this Stock Phrase. Worded several times on a heated debate.
      Tom Hagen: Your father wouldn't want to hear this, Sonny. This is business, not personal.
      Sonny: They shoot my father and it's business, my ass!
      Tom Hagen: Even shooting your father was business, not personal, Sonny!
      [After some debate Michael finally delivers it in the most famous form]
      Michael: It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business.
    • And deconstructed by none other than Michael himself in the novel, who tells us, "It's all personal, every bit of business," creating an Unbuilt Trope.
    • Tessio gives it to Hagen at the end of part I as a message to Mike.
    • Invoked constantly, by both protagonists and antagonists. The most glaring example: the conference that begins the national syndicate and traffic in narcotics brings together Philip Tattaglia and Vito Corleone, who have lost their oldest sons to each other's hoods, in the name of restoring the "business" to normal.
      Don Vito: Tattaglia lost a son — and I lost a son. We're quits. And if Tattaglia agrees, then I'm willing to — let things go on the way they were before....
  • Numbered Sequels: Cinema's Trope Maker. Part II was the first major film to use this trend. It was one of Francis Ford Coppola's three demands for working on the sequel. His two other demands were approved, but the studio highly objected to simply following the title with a number. Its success began the tradition of numbered sequels.
    • Oddly enough, Part III was inverted. Coppola, now without Auteur License, wanted to call it The Death of Michael Corleone, but the studio wouldn't let him.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Michael, specially in Part I; he deliberately projects the image of a weak boss and even his capos start to doubt his leadership. Not-So-Harmless Villain ensues.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: It's such an iconic line that it's right up there on the poster:
    • Coined by Michael to illustrate how Vito reached an agreement with a bandleader to release Johnny Fontane from a contract.
    • Invoked with Jack Woltz, again for the benefit of Johnny Fontane, Vito's godson.
    • Downplayed or used less efficiently by Michael before the meeting with Moe Greene, who is neither explicitly threatened nor intimidated.
    • The line is dropped by Vito while talking with Tessio and Clemenza about Fanucci's extortion, but averted since eventually Fanucci is not allowed any kind of retort.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Two from the first film:
      • When Michael arrives at an empty hospital and learns from the nurse that the guards in Don Vito's hospital room were removed by the police.
      • When Apollonia says she's going to drive over to Michael in preparation of fleeing the town of Corleone for safety, Fabrizio darts away. Michael then screams at Apollonia to get out of the car, an instant before it explodes.
    • "Michael, why are the drapes open?"
  • Older and Wiser: Connie is practically The Load in her younger years since the business is not female-friendly, but she evolves and by Part III she is Lady Macbeth.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: In the first baptism scene, a Holy Pipe Organ music is playing. But as the movie begins switching between Michael Corleone standing at an altar and a mass murder scenes, the organ music slowly becomes much more sinister.
  • Once an Episode: Open with a family gathering, close with a murder montage.
  • The Oner: The first scene of the first movie runs three minutes without a cut, with the camera focusing on Bonasera as he tells The Godfather his story of how his daughter was brutalized by two young men.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Michael Corleone, like his father, seldom raises his voice or uses foul language, being much more of the Tranquil Fury type. So when he's enraged and shouting at the top of his lungs in several scenes, such as the end of Part I, when he warns Kay not to ask him about his business, and Part II, it's never over "business" (no matter how threatening), but over something personal, such as a threat to his children.
    • After gunmen take shots through his window, Michael confronts Pentangili as the one he (rightly) suspects for the betraya. His rage is compounded by his justified suspicion that his own brother, Fredo, was also involved:
    Michael(shouting): In my HOME! IN MY BEDROOM WHERE MY WIFE SLEEPS! Where my children come and play with their toys. In my home.
    • Similarly, when Kay threatens to take his children away from him:
    Kay : I know now that it's over. I knew it then. There would be no way, Michael... no way you could ever forgive me not with this Sicilian thing that's been going on for 2,000 years—
    Michael: [After slapping Kay across the face] Bitch! You won't take my children!
    Kay: I will
    Michael: [at the top of his voice] You WON'T TAKE MY CHILDREN!
  • Paparazzi: Don Barzini destroys the film of a photographer after the man takes a picture of the mobster. Sonny smashes the camera of another scoop and then throws the man some dollars for his troubles.
  • Parental Favoritism: Played straight in the movie with Vito 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)
  • Passing the Torch. Two of the three films focus on leadership of the Corleone family being passed down between generations. In the first, it's from Vito to Michael, and in the third it's from Michael to Vincent.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Michael makes his bones by killing a drug dealer who tried to have Michael's father killed and a corrupt police captain who earlier broke Michael's jaw.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Vito adopting Tom Hagen. In the novel Kay comments on the generosity of this action but Michael remarks it's no big deal, as their Sicilian family would be undersized by the traditional standards.
    • A literal example in the first scene, Vito tenderly plays with a cat during life-and-death business.
    • The love for their family and Vito's non-criminal favors towards people in need (Enzo the Baker, Signora Colombo, whose son gets to keep a literal dog) are key elements of the Sympathetic P.O.V. given to the Corleones. Part II has a scene where Michael shows kindness giving his blessing to a niece, but Coppola removed it because Michael was smiling too much in it; not the tone he wanted to set in the first third of the film.
  • Pink Mist: When Michael shoots Sollozzo in the head.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The mafia's illegal revenue models are only mentioned in brief narrative. No bribery, prostitution, or drug-dealing ever happens on screen, and the only gambling that is shown (aside from Carlo's bookmaking portfolio) is the legal business in Las Vegas. While the Corleones make their famous offers they cannot refuse they are never seen doing extortion for money; the only one who does it is Fanucci against the young Vito. This leads to his failure, though.
    • Justified by Cicci's testimony in Part II: there was always a go-between so nothing could be pinned on the Corleones — The Don gives an order to The Consigliere, who gives the order to one of the caporegimes, who gives the order to some button-men to execute. Even if the button-men are caught red-handed, the most the cops can get is testimony against their caporegime, who is unlikely to break. Even if he does, the most they can get out of him is testimony against the consigliere. Only by breaking the consigliere is it possible to get any evidence against the don himself. And the caporegimes and consigliere are selected in part for their loyalty: given a choice between doing time and betraying the don, they will willingly go to prison.
  • Plausible Deniability: A mundane example. Tom refuses to convey a letter Kay intended for Michael because that would be proof of Tom's knowledge about Michael's whereabouts.
    • This trope is also implied to be the reason why newly-minted Don Michael removes Tom from the position of consigliere (towards the end of Part I), so that he cannot be implicated in the impending purge of the heads of the Five Families.
  • Plot Parallel: Part II juxtaposes the creation of Vito's family with the gradual dissolution of Michael's.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • Don Emilio Barzini wants to get blacks hooked on heroin. Another Don agrees: "They're animals anyway, let them lose their souls." In the book the other dons have no problem with this attitude, they just don't think it should be discussed. You do business with blacks, but you don't talk about it; the main reason they gave for this disdain is that there were no black gangs as powerful or as organized as "Cosa Nostra."
    • In the book, Luca Brasi has his half Irish illegitimate baby killed because he believes "None of that race should live."
    • Senator Geary from Part II goes out of his way to insult Michael's Italian-American heritage while trying to extort him.
    • Jack Woltz shoots a hurricane of racial slurs to Tom Hagen.
      Woltz: You smooth son of a bitch, let me lay it on the line for you, and your boss. Johnny Fontane never gets that movie. I don't care how many Dago, Guinea, Wop Greaseball Goombahs come out of the woodwork!
      Hagen: I'm German-Irish.
      Woltz: (without missing a beat) Well let me tell you something, my Kraut-Mick friend, Johnny will never get that part because I hate that pinko punk and I'm going to run him out of the movies!
    • Woltz also has an unambiguous pederastic side in both the novel and the recut.
    • Captain McCluskey's first line: "I thought I got all you guinea hoods locked up!"
    • After a fight with Fredo, his wife Deanna yells, "Never marry a wop! They treat their wives like shit!"
  • Poor Communication Kills: Sonny speaks out of turn during the Sollozzo's refusal meeting, contradicting his father and showing internal division to an outsider. He gets schooled later but his blunder makes Sollozzo realize that with Vito dead the Corleones would be weaker and more agreeable to his deal.
  • Pose of Silence: Don Vito is at the receiving end of this whenever one of his Consiglieres wants to report sensitive information to him while in the middle of a meeting with subordinates or other crime bosses.
  • Posthumous Character: Vito, throughout Part 2, as his scenes depict him as a child and then a young man.
  • 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 the novel, it's briefly mentioned that all of the Dons believe it is morally wrong to sell drugs to children, but also that it makes no practical sense, because where would children get the money to afford them?
    • Sollozzo proclaims he doesn't like violence because he is a businessman. "Blood is a big expense." Tom Hagen agrees with this view, while Sonny puts revenge before the business.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
    • "My father's name was Antonio Andolini… and this is for you."
    • "Power wears out those who don't have it." This doubles as an ironic Historical In-Joke, since the original phrase was coined by Giulio Andreotti, the inspiration for Don Lucchesi.
  • Pretty in Mink: Connie and her mother wear mink coats in the second film.
  • Proper Lady: Mama Corleone, though the novel epilogue revealed she is also a Stepford Smiler.
  • Properly Paranoid: Don Corleone almost never speaks on the phone, as he fears his voice being recorded by the FBI. He's right to be wary, as wiretaps were one of the methods used by the FBI in The '70s and The '80s to bring down the mob, which also makes it foreshadowing.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: The Saga gradually follows Michael from his Start of Darkness to his attempts to atone and be out. Part II explores Vito's journey, starting out as an immigrant orphan fleeing from a Mafia don, making an honest living, then being pushed into crime after being fired.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: The movies depict the upper-echelons of the Corleone family in a decidedly non-villainous light.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Pretty much everybody. The story goes out of its way to show these guys are all family men, despite their jobs.
    Vito: It makes no difference to me what a man does to make a living, you understand.
  • The Punishment Is the Crime: By the end of the second film Michael has escaped a Congressional inquiry into his criminality, he has control of several casinos, and has crushed traitors and enemies. But his marriage has bitterly ended, his children are not happy, his sister fears him, and he has killed his own brother. The greatest Pyrrhic Victory imaginable.
  • The Purge: Michael orchestrates a final purge in all three movies as the climax to each film.
  • Pyrrhic Victory:
    • The ending of the second film, possibly the most devastating use of this trope ever.
    • The third film ends with Michael failing to save the Pope in time, and with Mary killed by the assassin that was after Michael.

    Q - Z 
  • Quack Doctor: Dr. Taza spends more time in brothels than reading medical books and received his medical degree from the university of Palerma only because the local Mafia leader said so. Michael Corleone is understandably hesitant to have him operate on his jaw broken by NYPD Captain Mark McCluskey.
  • Rape and Revenge: The mortician's motive for becoming Vito's client. Played with, as his daughter wasn't actually raped, but was brutally beaten when she resisted.
  • Rated M for Manly: Not just for its excessive violence and mafia fashion style. The Godfather is viewed as symbolic of men's gender roles — as Father, Brother, Businessman, Community leader — of 20th Century America. Nicely illustrated in the film You've Got Mail where Tom Hanks' character explains to Meg Ryan's how The Godfather is the I-Ching of all wisdom and that every guy gets the movie. Meg's character promptly quizzes her mild-mannered boyfriend about the phrase "Going to the mattresses." He immediately and nonchalantly replies "Yeah, that's from The Godfather."
  • Read the Fine Print: Subverted. Johnny Fontane doesn't look very happy about the sudden deal but signs the contract to perform in the family casinos at Las Vegas right away without reading or almost looking at it. He is a good godson after all, and trusts that the family will do right by him.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: A minor example — the scene where Luca Brasi meets Don Vito Corleone and stumbles over his words happened because actor Lenny Montana was so petrified to work a scene with an actor like Marlon Brando. Francis Ford Coppola liked the dynamic this gave, and added in the chronologically-earlier scene where Luca practices what he's going to say to Vito, giving the idea that even a "big scary guy" like Luca (as pointed by Kay) could be intimidated by the Don.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: A minor case, but the use of the word "Don" was so impacted by this film that most people are unaware of the proper form of address. In real life, the word "Don" is used in conjunction with a person's first name rather than their last, similarly to how one would address an uncle. Thus, "Don Corleone" should be "Don Vito" or "Don Michael." This is of only minor importance in the movie itself, and there is occasional use of the proper form of address, but public perception of the Mafia in particular (and Sicilian/Italian culture in general) was so defined by this movie that most people are unaware of the correct usage.
    • One possible reason for Vito using his last name instead of his first is that, unlike the other Dons, he wishes for his family to go legitimate at some point, and it's implied he tries to keep some sort of distance between his personal life (as "Vito") and his work life (as "Don Corleone"). Part of Vito's character is his two different personas as a family man and a don. "Vito" has more personal connotations as it's the name he was given, while "Don Corleone" implies distance and formality. Furthermore, nostalgia for "the good old days" is also a major part of Vito's character, and it would be likely used as a way to honor where he came from.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica:
    • With Sonny dead and Vito nearing the end of his life, Fredo is sent to oversee the family's affairs in Las Vegas; despite being the oldest remaining brother, he is unsuited to lead and this opens the door for Michael to take over.
    • This is also supposed to be Carlo's fate for his role in orchestrating Sonny's death — being cut out of the family business and sent to Las Vegas. In reality, Michael has him killed.
  • Re-Cut:
    • The Godfather Saga, a special presentation of the first two films on NBC television in 1977, reassembled them into a strict chronological narrative, adding more than an hour of previously-unseen footage while deleting other scenes that were deemed too intense or violent for network TV. In 1992 Coppola stitched all three films together for the home video presentation The Godfather Trilogy: 1901-1980. A detailed list of the additional footage can be read on The Other Wiki.
    • In September 2020, it was announced that for the third film's 30th Anniversary, a new cut of the film called Mario Puzo's The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone was created by Francis Ford Coppola for a limited theatrical release before hitting home media. This version contains a new beginning and ending alongside other changes to better align with Coppola and Puzo's original intentions.
  • Redemption Rejection: Michael in the third movie. As his priest puts it, while Michael can be forgiven for his sins, as long as Michael himself does not believe he can earn forgiveness, he will never truly change his ways.
  • Refuge in Audacity: When Senator Geary demands a bribe from Michael, Michael tells him, "You can have my answer now, if you like. My final offer is this: nothing. Not even the fee for the gaming license, which I would appreciate if you would put up personally."
    • In the book, it is explained that this was Don Vito's technique: if the person they are trying to make a deal with rejected their first offer, Vito would then propose a second, lower offer. This was intended to send a message that if the new terms are refused, things are soon going to become very unpleasant for the refuser.
  • Refuge in the West:
    • Vito Corleone fled Sicily after his family was killed by the local mafia and settled in New York City, only to find that early 20th century America wasn't particularly friendly to Italian immigrants and wind up founding his own mafia family.
    • In an inversion, Vito's son Michael seeks refuge to the East after killing a crooked cop and his drug dealing allies, lying low in Sicily until his enemies track him down and murder his wife.
    • During the Corleone family's Gang War with New York's drug dealing families, the Corleones start building a casino in Las Vegas and making contingency plans to move the whole family westward. After the war ends in the drug dealers' favor, Vito dies of old age, and Michael has everyone who betrayed them killed, the surviving Corleones finalize the move.
  • Remember the New Guy?:
    • Frank Pentangeli in Part II, reflecting he's Clemenza's Suspiciously Similar Substitute. Someone who looks an awful lot like Frank is briefly visible at Connie's wedding in Part I, so some fans interpret this as a sign that Frank was at least a family friend even by that point. On the other hand, it's not confirmed whether it's the same actor, and even if it is, this probably wasn't intended.
    • Also Hyman Roth is mentioned as having a long history with the Corleone family despite never being mentioned in the first movie.
    • Mild examples in Joey Zasa and Don Altobello, given the Time Skip and the latter being based in Sicily.
    • Possibly excused if any of them were doing time in jail; the Corleones are a criminal enterprise, after all.
  • Repeated Rehearsal Failure: Luca Brasi repeatedly practices his speech to Don Corleone thanking him for inviting him to the wedding of his daughter. But when he delivers the speech, he instead thanks Corleone for inviting him to his daughter. The interesting thing about this is that it's a genuine mistake on the part of the actor. Lenny Montana was so nervous about working with Marlon Brando that he flubbed the line and the director added another scene where Brasi practiced his speech.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Michael tries to avoid joining the Family in the first film, discusses his attempts to leave it in the second film, and conclusively fails in the third film.
  • La Résistance: The Cuban revolutionaries, whose chances of success, derailing the business, are properly evaluated by Michael.
  • Retcon: Vincent Mancini's existence is a piece of retcon, as it is quite clear from the original novel that Sonny never fathered a child with Lucy Mancini.
  • Revealing Hug: During Mama Corleone's funeral in Part II, Michael and Fredo reconcile with a hug. As Mike embraces him, he makes a signal to his hitman Al Neri to kill him.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Clemenza gives war veteran Michael a reliable revolver for his first assassination.
  • Riddled and Rattled: Sonny Corleone is ambushed at a toll booth by a full hit squad. He manages to open the door and stagger out of his car while still being perforated. He doesn't get much further, as he's still being blasted by all sides before finally collapsing. Just for good measure, one of the goons kicks him in the head before walking away.
  • Riddle for the Ages: What Sonny saw in Carlo that made him think he would be a good husband for Connie is never explained.
  • Right-Hand Cat: In the opening scene, Vito is stroking a cat while sitting at his desk listening to Bonasera's plea.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The "Mafia money laundering at the Vatican" plot in Part III.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Luca Brasi 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, and also talks Tom into preventing Santino from going on such a rampage.
    Tom: Sonny'll come after you with everything he's got.
    Sollozzo: That'll be his first reaction, sure. That's why you gotta talk some sense into him.
    • Tom later states that even Sonny won't be able to call off Luca.
  • The Roaring '20s: The parts where Vito begins his career as a gangster.
  • Royal Blood: The Corleones are one of the Royal Families of the criminal underworld; Vito, the self made man founder of the dynasty ascends from Rags to Royalty and his successors are his direct descendants. Sonny, the heir and first regent has shades of The Caligula (he is shown more competent in the novel and the recut) and the third Don is his bastard son. The saga starts during the wedding of the Mafia Princess, Michael ends up as the Unexpected Successor and he finally abdicates.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • Part I
      • The name "the Godfather" has a symbolic ring to it. Just the word itself, comprising "God" and "Father," seems to say a lot: It conveys power, the sense of a patriarch or maybe of a wrathful deity. In Christian tradition, godparents are the people who will assume legal guardianship of their godchildren in case the actual parents die. (It's largely an honorary function, nowadays.) In the movie, "The Godfather" is more a guardian of both his literal and symbolic godchildren's interests: He protects them by going around the law, demanding their eternal loyalty. All they have to do is agree to return the favor—by means illegal or legal. There is something oddly god-like about this relationship, since it bears a similarity to the way an ancient Roman deity might reward his or her devotees in exchange for a sacrifice. The Godfather is a kind of puppet-master too—trying to pull strings that other people are holding (this is depicted in the logo for the film's title, where a hand pulls marionette strings attached to the words). Interestingly, no one in the mafia called the head Don of a family "Godfather" until after Puzo did it in his book. The head of a mafia family was just called the "boss of the bosses," or capo di tutti capi in Italian.
      • The horse head scene is a very iconic moment. Jack Woltz wakes up with a horse head in his bed, showing him that the Corleones mean business. Apparently, this forces Woltz to give Johnny Fontane (a Frank Sinatra expy) a part in a movie that will make him a star, despite his personal distaste for Fontane. In the years since the first film debuted, putting a horse's head in someone's bed has become a widely known symbol of sorts—shorthand for making someone an offer they can't refuse, or forcing them to give you something they don't want to give you.
      • After the Tattaglia family assassinates Luca Brasi, the Corleones' feared hit man, they send a message to the Corleones: a fish wrapped in Brasi's bulletproof vest. The message is clear: He "sleeps with the fishes," meaning that his corpse is weighed down at the bottom of a river (maybe the East River, a historically great place to dump dead bodies). It's pretty effective as a symbolism term.
      • Oranges are another large factor within the first film, as they show up whether someone's about to die, or otherwise suffer. When Vito gets shot in the street, he's buying oranges, which scatter on the ground as he falls. When he dies at the very end, it's while peeling an orange and putting the rind in his mouth to make funny faces at his grandson. Before the horse head shows up in Jack Woltz's bed, we see an orange at the table where he eats dinner with Tom Hagen. Oranges show up at the meeting with the five families, near the mob bosses who will later be murdered. At the beginning of the film, oranges are also prominently on a table where future traitor to the family Tessio sits, who is of course whacked by the movie's end.
      • At the end of the movie, Michael is literally becoming the godfather to Connie's child while also becoming the Godfather to the Corleone family, sealing his position with blood. There's a heavy irony in the scene, as Michael stands in church saying that he "renounces Satan and all his works" while a massacre that he ordered progresses in the world outside. It demonstrates the wide chasm between appearance and reality: This churchly dude, renouncing Satan, is actually semi-secretly embracing the world's evil. This is the scene of Michael's final transformation: He's becoming the thing that he's been trying not to become: the Don, the ruler, and it turns out that this is a pretty violent, pretty awful position to hold. He's being baptized, in a way, but it's an evil, anti-spiritual baptism. He's establishing his new identity through murder. Sure, he's developed some worthy traits—he's cool, competent, and capable of putting business above taking things personally. But those positive traits are put in the service of violence and destruction. Michael is losing his soul, which is, strangely, his triumph. He's made a strong effort toward becoming damned, becoming the leader of a criminal empire, and he's finally made it. There's something admittedly impressive about him as a villain, since it takes so much work. He's not just following his impulses like a serial killer: he's disciplined. A present-day parallel is Walter White's transformation into the drug kingpin Heisenberg on Breaking Bad.
      • At the end of the movie, Connie accuses Michael of having her husband, Carlo, murdered. He straightfacedly denies it, even though it's entirely true. He repeats the same lie to his wife Kay, as well. Michael is capable of lying to his loved ones for the sake of his criminal business interests—which is totally cold, but the inevitable result of his journey. Kay watches as Michael's capos (underling bosses) gather in his office. One of them closes the door, and then the movie ends. This signifies Michael's transformation into ruthless crime lord, sealing Kay outside of his inner world. He's not the golden, studious war hero with whom she was originally in love. He's gone into a different realm, and the closing door symbolizes that he's fully entered into that new world of wickedness. It's a transformation that required a lot of work, but it's placed him, in the end, in a strange and potentially isolated position.
  • Say My Name: In Part III, when Vincent assassinates Joey Zasa.
    Vincent: "How are you, Joe... [he shoots Zasa thrice] ZASA!"
  • Saying Too Much:
    • In Part II, Fredo claims he never met Johnny Ola, but during the sex club scene excitedly talks of how Ola introduced him to the place. Michael's shocked expression says everything as he realizes his own brother has betrayed him.
    • The entire plot might have been avoided if Sonny hadn't let it slip that there was a difference of opinion in the family over the drug business, thus giving Sollozzo the idea that Sonny and the Corleone family would be easier to deal with if Vito were removed.
  • Scars Are Forever: McCluskey's blow gives Michael a disfigured cheek. It gets repaired later; Fredo comments offhandedly that a surgeon did a very good job. In the book, the injury receives more emphasis; because he didn't follow up with surgery right away, the bones healed badly, causing Michael constant pain, heaviness in the face and an almost continuously running nose.
  • The Scream: Woltz starts a series of huge screams in his bed, the scene then cuts to the outside of his house while the screaming continues.
    • Part III. When his daughter Mary is fatally shot during a hit meant for him, Michael delivers a wail that is so heartrending it had to be edited.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Vito's reason for why he refuses to enter the narcotics business with Sollozzo.
  • Shame If Something Happened: What is most likely implied by Michael having Frank Pentangeli's brother flown in from Sicily to attend Pentangeli's Congressional hearing.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Nearly everyone in the Mafia counts in all three films. They may be ruthless mobsters but they do look good in those suits. Michael notably trades in his casual attire for a Homburg hat and slick-looking jacket and tie when he becomes part of the family business.
  • Michael notes in Part III that Joey Zasa has been named "Best-Dressed Gangster" by Esquire magazine.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The toll booth scene is an homage to the ending of Bonnie and Clyde.
    • Moe Greene's death was inspired by a scene in Battleship Potemkin.
    • Troy Donahue's character in Part II is named Merle Johnson, the actor's birth name.
    • The wedding in the first movie is an homage to The Leopard, along with Michael's exile in Sicily. The wedding scene is also inspired by The Bad Sleep Well in the way it sets up the characters.
    • The Conformist is a major influence on all three movies, particularly Coppola and Gordon Willis' visual style. It's most overt in Part II, from the color scheme in the Vito flashbacks to the leaves blowing across the lake house lawn just before Fredo's murder, and the casting of Gastone Moschin as Don Fanucci.
    • Michael and Kay exit a cinema and mention Ingrid Bergman after watching The Bells of St. Mary's.
  • Shown Their Work: In the first movie, the spaghetti sauce instructions are actually usable and a new 1946 Cadillac can be seen with wooden planks as bumpers (due to chrome shortages, bumpers on very early post-World War II cars were supplied some time later, to be installed by the dealer).
  • Sickbed Slaying: Planned against Vito but aborted because Michael steps in. Subverted with Hyman Roth, his would-be killer is killed at the last second, pillow in hand.
  • Slave to PR: Invoked by Michael. McCluskey's police captain status makes him an untouchable target, but this can be nullified if the media controlled by the family starts airing his crooked side.
  • Slowly Slipping Into Evil:
    • After returning from Sicily and with Sonny gone, Michael embraces his fate and gradually becomes his father's son, hatching their revenge for years. He marries Kay in the middle of his transformation, the son of a criminal who claims to be struggling for legitimacy. In a natural, magnified but equal iteration of his first evil act, he becomes a full-fledged Don by killing all of his underworld rivals. The real descent comes in that he crosses lines that Vito never had to cross, alienates his family and becomes callous in his personal life, thereby leading to his Pyrrhic Victory by the end of Part II.
    • Vito lives an honest life in America for years. Petty crime only ensues after he's fired, and he only becomes a killer when Fanucci threatens his livelihood once again. After that it gets downplayed almost to subversion levels in that Vito is not that evil by the standards of the story. He's a neighbourhood friendly gangster who for the most part is pitted against people who are more evil. All things considered his worst in-universe deeds during his donship boil down to having a horse killed and making An Offer You Can't Refuse to a band leader after a failed negotiation, and that loses some effect by being Offstage Villainy.
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: When Woltz is ranting about how Johnny Fontaine wooed away a young actress he had been sleeping with, Tom is quietly munching away at his dinner.
  • Some of My Best Friends Are X: Senator Geary says it word for word regarding Italian-Americans, just before excusing himself during Michael's hearing.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The endings to the three films.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Both of Michael's Sicilian bodyguards, Fabrizzio and Calo, die in the novel but survive in the movie adaptation, only to die in the sequels. Fabrizzio sets a car bomb for Michael but kills Michael's wife Apollonia instead. In the novel, Fabrizzio is killed in the climactic massacre montage, but in the movie he is not seen again after Apollonia's death. A deleted scene in Godfather II reveals that Michael has him killed years later in a car bombing. In the novel Calo is killed in the car blast with Apollonia, but his fate is unrevealed in the movie until Godfather III, where he is killed while taking part in that film's climactic massacre montage.
  • Speech Impediment: Vito's raspy voice is the result of a characterization decision by Brando, who felt Vito the gangster was shot in the throat. Part II straight up RetCons this with a young Vito having already had that voice, hinting it comes from his feeble health as a child. Word of God not addressed in the movies.
  • Spinning Paper: The "Mattress Sequence", a montage of crime scene photos and headlines about the war between the five families. Made by George Lucas.
  • Spiteful Spit: Sonny spits on the identification of an FBI Agent who is posted outside of Connie's wedding. Connie tries this when confronting Michael about Carlo's death, but she's too distraught to work up any saliva.
  • Spotting the Thread:
    • "I didn't realize until this day, it was Barzini all along."
    • In Part II, when Fredo is gushing over a lurid live show with Johnny Ola and a few other family associates, he gets excited and accidentally reveals that he took Johnny (whom he'd previously claimed to have never met before) to see the show a few days earlier. This tips Michael off that Fredo has betrayed the family.
  • Stage Mom: A rather extreme example offers her daughter up to be used sexually by Woltz. The novel even states that she has a look of triumph on her face when leading her obviously traumatized daughter back to the car.
  • Straight Gay: Fredo, mainly discussed in the original book and the Mark Winegardner follow-ups:
    • Many of the personality conflicts he has with Michael and other Made Men are because of his issues dealing with his extremely repressed sexuality, occasionally leading to drunken one-night affairs, and his overcompensation by cultivating a reputation as a Vegas ladies' man. This gives him the impression of being inconsistent, flighty, and unreliable, all traits that attract the wrong kinds of attention and are liabilities for a man looking to make himself useful in the family business.
    • Subtly referenced in Part II. In Cuba, Michael gives Fredo the task of arranging entertainment for his visiting guests, all VIPs and politicians he hopes to win over and expedite his investment in the Cuban hotel industry. Fredo's choice of venue is a seedy club hosting a sex show, starring 'Superman'. While all the guests are laughing in good-natured disbelief at the size of Superman's more-powerful-than-a-locomotive, there is a two-second shot of Fredo staring, unblinking and almost trembling.
  • Suddenly Shouting:
    • The usually stoic and softspoken Vito does this early in the first film when Johnny Fontane is whining that Woltz won't give him the part he wants in a movie.
      Johnny: Oh, Godfather, I don't know what to do, I don't know what to do...
      Vito: [suddenly grabs him and shakes him] YOU CAN ACT LIKE A MAN!!! [slaps him] What's the matter with you? Is this what you've become, a Hollywood finocchio who cries like a woman? "Oh, what do I do? What do I do?" What is that nonsense? Ridiculous!
    • Later in his career (including the third Godfather film) Al Pacino would become known for yelling a lot, but in the first two films Michael is mostly very calm and collected. This makes the two times in Part II when he does suddenly shout, namely the scene after his bedroom is shot up ("IN MY HOME! WHERE MY WIFE SLEEPS!") and the scene where he finds out about Kay's (supposed) miscarriage ("WAS IT A BOY?") land with dramatic impact.
  • Suicide Mission: At the end of Part II, Michael assigns Rocco to assassinate Hyman Roth at the Miami airport. Tom tries talking him out of it, pointing out that the police and FBI will be waiting to arrest Roth. Michael orders the hit anyway, and Rocco's killed moments after shooting Roth.
  • Suspiciously Idle Officers: Averted. Captain McCluskey is on the villain's payroll but he's also an NYPD Captain and is, as such, required to be on call. The Corleones' own Dirty Cops learn where the Captain has scheduled himself during a supposedly secret meeting. Sonny is then able to plant a gun there in advance for Michael to ambush Sollozzo and McCluskey.
  • Switch to English: Played with, in meaningful ways.
    • Invoked in Part I, Sollozzo leaves McCluskey out of the conversation by speaking in Italian/Sicilian, but Michael has a low command of the language and has to switch to English to give his retort. Michael's proficiency improves later in Sicily but he relies on a translator for an important conversation at one point.
    • The characters speak in Sicilian during the whole Vito's segment of Part II. Vito only starts to use English when he begins to deal with his community as the Godfather. His job is linked with his Americanization.
    • Michael switches to Italian in Part II in the middle of a cold conversation with Tom Hagen.
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.: The narration of the novel doesn't ignore the Corleones' misdeeds, exactly, but it always puts the best possible spin on them. The book gives a clue early on that this sympathetic POV might not be entirely reliable when it first introduces Vito as looking so good in his tux that he could have been mistaken for the groom, then describing the tux as ill-fitting when seen by someone outside the Corleones' usual circles.
  • Take Our Word for It: The grotesque state of Sonny's corpse is not fully shown to the audience, but the reaction shots and the terrific acting of Brando say it all.
    Vito: Look how they massacred my boy.
  • Taking the Heat: The Corleones get the charges against Michael for the murder of Solozzo and McClusky dropped by arranging for a low-level criminal who was already on death row to give a False Confession for the killings.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: The poisoned cannolis in Part III that Connie serves to Don Altobello.
  • Tempting Fate: Jack Woltz arrogantly telling Tom Hagen that he won't fold to Don Corleone's demands. Hagen even smirks when Woltz says this during his rant. One severed prized horse head in his bed later...
    • Played for Tragedy in Godfather Part III, Michael really should not "Swear by the lives of my children I will sin no more" and then order a final slew of assassinations.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: Michael to Carlo—"Only don't tell me you're innocent. Because it insults my intelligence. And makes me very angry." A rare effective use of this trope, because Michael Corleone shows no external anger while delivering this line, instead exhibiting an otherwise very telling cold lack of emotion that makes the line very sinister and somewhat chilling.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Poor Sonny... After Vito's failed assassination, they probably wanted to be sure that he was dead. Also because he was hated for his extreme violence; hence the moment where he gets kicked in the face by one of the gunman after he's dead.
    • When Vito is requesting that Bonasera clean and reconstruct Sonny's body so that his mother doesn't have to see him in his current state, even Bonasera — a mortician! — is visibly startled at how savagely Sonny was mauled by the gunmen.
    • In Part II, young Vito first shoots Don Fanucci in the chest, which by itself was probably enough to do him in eventually. But just to be sure, Vito proceeds to shoot him again, this time in the cheek, and finally sticks the gun in Fanucci's mouth and lets off a shot for good measure.
  • Thicker Than Water: For Vito, nothing is more important than Family. Michael tries to follow his example, but blurs the lines between family and business and anyone who crosses him has to go.
  • This Means War!: Sonny was already running hot after his father was shot and nearly killed. After Michael narrowly foils a second attempt on Vito's life (and gets his jaw broken by a cop on Sollozzo's payroll for his trouble), Sonny decides to start hitting the Tattaglias back.
  • Time-Shifted Actor:
    • Both Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando won Oscars for playing young and old Vito Corleone, thus making them the first duo of actors to ever win Oscars for playing the same character.note  Supporting and main role categories, respectively. A third actor, Oreste Baldini plays Vito as a child.
    • Vito's grandson Anthony is played by three different actors.
  • Title Drop: The iconic puppeteer hand logo is explained in this quote:
    Vito, to Michael: "I knew Santino was going to have to go through all this and Fredo... well, Fredo was... But I never wanted this for you. I live my life, I don't apologize to take care of my family. And I refused to be a fool dancing on the strings held by all of those big shots. That's my life I don't apologize for that. But I always thought that when it was your time that you would be the one to hold the strings."
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Moe Greene berates, disrespects and personally insults Michael - now the Godfather of the Corleone family - to his face. Then he goes even further by openly admitting to physically assaulting Fredo, Michael's own brother. He's one of Michael's victims at the end of the movie.
    • One could make a case for Sonny as well. He's so overcome with rage when he learns that Carlo has beaten Connie again that he drives off alone without his bodyguards in the middle of a mob war, resulting in his death. Which is what Don Barzini and Carlo were hoping for.
    • Carlo cheats on the daughter of a powerful Mafia crime lord, beats his pregnant wife twice and sets his brother-in-law up to be killed. Maybe he expected some protection from Don Barzini but he should have realized this would end badly for him.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Connie is the least important of the Corleone siblings In-Universe (what with being a woman and all that) and spends most of the first movie being victimized by her husband. 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.
    • She also fatally poisons Don Altobello, the Big Bad of Part III.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: In Part II, Michael grows a heart of stone (and far worse he has a completely innocent prostitute killed for the sake of the business) yet personality-wise he is not unprovokedly abrupt until the final part, when he offends Tom Hagen for no reason. This is somehow inverted during the two decades gap and by Part III Michael has mellowed out and is now The Atoner. Kay is the one who is abrasive towards him and on a high horse, despite that he voluntarily gave up child custody and she is not squeaky-clean either.
  • Totally Not a Criminal Front: Genco Imports serves as the front organization for Don Corleone. While it's not explicitly portrayed as a paper thin disguise, the criminal activities in New York are referred to as 'the olive oil business' in all three films. The novels highlight that the Corleone's "olive oil business" is an honest-to-god olive oil business, apparently one that grows to be very successful due to the Don's strongarming tactics (basically intimidating groceries all over New York into only stocking the Genco brand).
  • Tragic Villain: Michael 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.
  • Treachery Is a Special Kind of Evil: The traitors are purged in the climax of each movie.
  • Truce Trickery: The novelization explains why Luca Brasi (the Corleones' best hitman) never saw the attack that got him slain and sleeping with the fishes: he was ambushed in a bar that was a well-established Truce Zone among Mob families. With this proof that the rival families wish to get rid of the Corleones at any cost, Michael goes to full scorched-Earth war with them.
    • Don Vito and Michael execute an epic one against the Five Families at the end of the same film.
  • Truce Zone: Bruno Tattaglia's nightclub was supposed to be one, which is why they're able to catch Luca Brasi off his guard so easily. This breach of the truce costs Bruno his Innocent Bystander status, and shortly thereafter his life.
  • Truth in Television: Though in the film and novel it's more of an affectionate nickname, mob informant Joe Vallachi while describing the initiation ritual in 1963 says that the head of the Families is known as "the Godfather".
  • Turn Out Like His Father:
    • Vito never wanted a criminal life for Michael, he was meant to be a Senator, a Governor... another pezzonovante. However, notice family is The Patriarch Vito's only motivation, and when his son is already dead, he doesn't pursue revenge. Michael, on the other hand, is a curse on his own family and always puts Revenge Before Reason.
    • Kay confronts Michael to allow their son Anthony to abandon his law studies and pursue a musical career. Michael is legit by then and needs lawyers, but he graciously concedes.
    • Michael explicitly mentors Vincent to avoid the mistakes of Santino, his father.
      But his temper. Clouded his judgment. I don't want to see the same thing happen to you.
      Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment.
    • Each son is basically a part of Vito's overall personality: Sonny has his violent aspects. Fredo is his sweet and sincere parts. Michael is his cunning and logical parts.
  • Two-Part Trilogy: Variation. Mario Puzo once described the films as "two parts and an epilogue."
  • Unbuilt Trope: While the Godfather franchise is the Trope Codifier of The Mafia, it depicts the inherent weakness of the organization; eventually leading to its downfall, and a family tragedy.
  • Undying Loyalty:
    • First, Luca Brasi to Vito Corleone. The novel puts it poetically: "Luca Brasi did not fear the police, he did not fear society, he did not fear God, he did not fear Hell, he did not fear or love his fellow man. But he had elected, he had chosen, to fear and love Don Corleone.''
    • Then, Albert Neri to Michael Corleone. Michael uses the lesson passed on from his father: "The trick is that since he does not fear death and indeed looks for it, then the trick is to make yourself the only person in the world that he truly desires not to kill him. He has only that one fear, not of death, but that you may be the one to kill him. He is yours then."
  • Underestimating Badassery: The Corleone family (and the criminal underworld at large) treats Michael as a newbie, despite his starting out as a hardened Marine WWII war hero.
  • Unions Suck: More explicit in the book, where unions and their leaders are only described as a racket along the lines of loansharking or gambling. After Vito Corleone offered to help Johnny Fontane with his cinema career, his consigliere Tom Hagen specifically tells him to not pay up these inflated costs, since the Family will take care of these.
  • Unnamed Parent: While Vito's father is named Antonio Andolini, his mother is only known as Signora (Mrs.) Andolini.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Pentangeli in Part II, who's callously manipulated by both Michael and Roth and ultimately Driven to Suicide.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee
    • Surprisingly averted in Act I. The Corleones' scheme to kill Sollozzo and his pet policeman works almost exactly as planned, although Michael waits a bit longer than he was supposed to before gunning his victims down.
    • Played straight in the climax, as the audience is as blindsided as the victims themselves when Michael settles the family business all at once.
  • Villain Decay: Discussed in-universe.
    Sollozzo: All due respect, the Don, rest in peace, was slippin'. Ten years ago could I have gotten to him?
  • Villain Has a Point: Don Ciccio refuses to spare young Vito's life, fearing that when he grows up, he'll seek his revenge for his murdered brother and father—which is exactly what happens.
  • Villain Protagonist: One of the most iconic examples in all of fiction. The films are about the rise and fall of mob boss Michael Corleone, who participates in his family's illicit business in crime from murder to extortion.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Kay accuses Michael of Hiding Behind Religion when Michael is knighted by the Church in Part III.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Many characters have subtle versions, but special mention goes to Michael in parts II and III. In part II he breaks down twice. The first time when he finds out that Kay had a miscarriage, he suddenly snaps at Tom for not getting a straight answer. The second time is around Kay herself when she reveals that said miscarriage was an abortion. In part III, when Mary gets shot, Michael screams with such primal fury that he induces a stroke.
  • Villains Out Shopping:
    • The saga opens with a Mafia wedding. Though the top members of the mob are still working at first, it becomes a leisure activity later.
    • Don Vito Corleone is out shopping for oranges. It immediately precedes a mob ambush.
    • Tom Hagen is in the middle of his Christmas purchases when he is intercepted by Sollozzo. This occurs at pretty much the same time the aforementioned hit on Tom's adoptive father.
    • "Leave the gun, take the cannoli." Clemenza casually switches between professional and personal family errands.
  • Visual Pun: The mafioso American entrepreneurs divide among themselves a birthday cake with the map of Cuba on it. Additionally, in a non-literal sense, Michael and Roth want to have the cake and eat it too.
  • Viva Las Vegas!: Where Michael sends Fredo to get him out of his hair, and where the family attempts to become legitimate in II.
  • War Hero: In the original novel, Detective Phillips, trying to protect Michael Corleone, specifically says "He's a war hero." Indeed Michael is: his deeds earned him several medals, including the Navy Cross, Silver Star, Purple Heart, and LIFE magazine ran a photo layout story on him.
  • We Do Not Know Each Other: This is the fatal mistake Fredo makes in Part II. He pretends not to know Johnny Ola when they meet in Cuba, but later on babbles excitedly about the various places in Havana that Ola took him to, while Michael can be seen covering his face in despair.
  • We Have Become Complacent: At the start of the story, the Corleones have been the unchallenged head of the New York Families for a decade, and they haven't even watched the other Families face any major power struggles in five years (on account of WWII, which ended literally days before Connie's wedding). As a result, they are totally unprepared for the Mob War that breaks out when Sollozzo tries to kill Vito.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Sonny and Carlo were friends, to the point where Sonny introduced Connie to Carlo at Vito's birthday party, leading to their marriage. When Carlo became an abusive prick, Sonny grew to hate him along with the rest of the family, giving him the beating of his life when he abused Connie. In revenge, Carlo sets up Sonny to be killed by Barzini's people.
  • Wedding/Death Juxtaposition: A few variations in Part One:
    • The movie opens with Bonasera asking Don Corleone to kill the two men who beat up and tried to rape his daughter. We then learn that all this is happening behind the scenes at the wedding of Don Corleone's own daughter, Connie. The Godfather declines to have the men killed, on the logic that the other man's daughter is still alive, but is willing to have them badly beaten.
    You come to me on the day of my daughter's wedding, and you ask me to do murder?
    • Toward the end, there's a juxtaposition of death and a baptism for Connie's son, with the movie cutting back and forth between the ceremony and a montage of Corleone hitmen assassinating the heads of all the other major crime families and other potential rivals. This represents Michael's ascendency as the new head of the family, with his consolidation of hard power - through the assassinations - and soft power - by being named Godfather to his nephew at the ceremony.
    • One of the final scenes of the Corleone's family return to Sicily (in part II) is of Vito and Carmela renewing their vows at the local church. After fading out, the next scene is of Carmela's funeral.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Played with, while all the Corleone brothers have big shoes to fill:
    • Initially, Michael doesn't seek to please his father and in fact, does the opposite when he joins the Marines.
    • Fredo bitterly comments that he was never able to live up to Vito's standards and/or ever be more like him. Later, he also seeks Michael's approval and apologizes to him. Michael, despite being Fredo's younger brother, is the head of the family, the Godfather, and comes close to being a second father to Fredo.
  • Wham Line
    • In Part I: During a limo ride with Hagen, Don Corleone reveals that he figured out who orchestrated the hit on Sonny:
      "Tattaglia's a pimp — he never could have outfought Santino. But I didn't know until this day that it was... Barzini all along."
    • In Part II:
      • Fredo casually and inadvertently reveals himself as The Mole for Johnny Ola when he talks excitedly about a steamy sex club act. This is after he said he never met that guy before.
        "Johnny Ola told me about this place!"
      • Michael immediately realizes Fredo's betrayal and lets him know later on with a Kiss of Death:
        "I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart."
      • And then, Kay's revelation to Michael that her Convenient Miscarriage was anything but:
        "It wasn't a miscarriage. It was an abortion."
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: In Part II, Senator Geary is given a room at a Mafia-run brothel and plied with booze and God knows what else. When he wakes up, there's a dead prostitute in his bed and blood everywhere......and that nice Tom Hagen is there to promise Geary that Michael Corleone will make his problems vanish, and they can be friends. And even more: if he should see fit to drop a federal investigation into the Corleone family, that'd make them even better friends.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Willie Cicci, during the Senate hearings, essentially betrays omerta (the code of silence). He gets prison time anyway due to his admission of crimes that he committed. It is not known what ultimately happened to him but most assume that he would eventually have been killed in prison due to his violation of omerta. Reportedly, Cicci was supposed to have returned for Part III but his actor Joe Spinell had died in 1989, before the movie began filming. Allegedly, his place is taken by Joey Zasa. So the assumption is probably The Character Died with Him.
    • Also from Part II, the Rosato brothers apparently survive despite Michael killing Roth, their main benefactor. At least, nothing's heard from them after trying to kill Pentangeli.
    • Michael's bodyguard Fabrizio turns traitor and kills Michael's wife Appollonia, then vanishes from the story and is never seen or mentioned again in the cinematic version. Averted in the novel and recut, in which Michael gets his revenge.
    • The film ends rather abruptly after Mary is killed in Part III. We get a brief montage of all the women Michael has lost followed by his own death. So we never find out what happened to Connie, Kay, Anthony, Vincent, or anyone else for that matter.
    • At the end of Part I, Michael Corleone stands godfather at the christening of his nephew, Carlo and Connie's baby. That boy never again appears, or is mentioned, in the series — not even in Part III, when Michael is looking around for a successor. Connie is still around, but she appears to be childless.
  • What Is Evil?: Michael (sort of) implies it to Kay after returning from Sicily.
    Michael: I'm working for my father now. He's been sick, very sick.
    Kay: But you're not like him, Michael. I thought you weren't going to become a man like your father. That's what you told me.
    Michael: My father is no different than any powerful man, any man who's responsible for a lot of people, like a senator or a president.
    Kay: Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don't have men killed!
    Michael: Oh? Who's being naive, Kay?
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Delivered to Michael by almost every main character towards the end of Part II. Most painfully by the end, when Tom is trying to talk him out of any revenge against Roth and even Fredo. When Michael coldly taunts Tom about leaving for another job, Tom is offended: "Why do you hurt me, Michael? I've always been loyal..."
  • While You Were in Diapers: Moe "I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders" Green. Later, in Part II, Hyman Roth (Moe's childhood friend) tells Michael "Your father and I ran molasses out of Cuba when you were a baby".
  • White Anglo-Saxon Protestant: Kay Adams, who provides contrast between a "normal" American in The '40s and the Corleones.
  • Wicked Cultured: Tom Hagen discusses with a well-read Pentangeli how some things were done in The Roman Empire as a hint about how to solve his situation.
  • Wicked Pretentious: It's noted that the oldest and most experienced wiseguys try to seem the most respectable but also wear the cheapest suits. This is deliberate on their part; they want you to know they are accustomed to getting their hands dirty and respectability hasn't changed that.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: Sonny Corleone, in spite of being an unfaithful husband, does not tolerate men hitting women. ESPECIALLY when it comes to his sister: "If you touch my sister again I'll kill you!". Unfortunately this is used to lure him to his death.
  • Would Hurt a Child: In the book Luca Brasi forces a midwife at knife point to place his illegitimate newborn daughter in a furnace. Francis Ford Coppola allegedly refused to include this episode in the film version.
    • In Part II, Don Ciccio has no qualms about killing young Paolo and wanting to kill the even younger Vito. It's not hard to imagine that this isn't the first time he's done this.
    • After the death of his wife, Jack Woltz is only aroused by young girls and uses aspiring child actresses to satisfy himself.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: How the Corleones ultimately prevail over the other families. Following the death of Sonny, Vito holds a peace treaty where he concedes to all of the other dons' demands, making it appear as though his family is no longer in any shape to fight. In the years that follow, he and Michael instruct their men to not fight back as the other families encroach on their territory (further giving off the illusion of weakness). This causes the other dons to abandon all caution and loosen their security, allowing Michael's assassins to kill all of them in one fell swoop.
  • Wrecked Weapon: After Vito kills Don Fanucci, he smashes the gun he used and drops the pieces down various pipes and chimneys in the neighborhood.
  • Writers Suck: The author of the novel which was being made into the movie that Johnny Fontane wants to star in. He was only briefly mentioned in the book, and not at all in the movie.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Barzini's plot has Tattaglia send Sollozzo to the Corleones to see about increasing the drug traffic. If Vito says yes then the drug trade can begin immediately (with the backing of the Corleones' extensive political contacts), but if he says no, Sollozzo will sow discord within the Corleone ranks. If Sollozzo fails to sway the Corleone family and all out war breaks out (which it does), the Corleones will spend their time gunning for Sollozzo and Tattaglia. Any way it plays out, Barzini wins. It almost works except that Vito figures out "It was Barzini all along."
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: The finale of III. Michael has successfully turned his criminal enterprises over to his nephew and transitioned himself to working in completely legal business. His children are totally clean, with his daughter the head of a charity foundation and his son an opera singer. As young Tony makes his triumphant debut performance, Michael notes to himself that the Corleone name has escaped its past, and now will be remembered for a voice. Then a hitman that Vincent's people failed to catch during the opera opens fire, wounding Michael and accidentally killing Mary.
  • 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.
    Don Ciccio: And what's your father's name?
    Vito: His name was... Antonio Andolini.
    Don Ciccio: Louder, I don't hear so good.
    Vito: My father's name was Antonio Andolini... and this is for you! (carves him)
  • You Owe Me: Vito's standard approach to business binding.
    Vito: Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, consider this justice a gift on my daughter's wedding day.
  • Young Conqueror: Michael is a deconstruction. By the time he's Older and Wiser he's also Lonely at the Top due to the style of his conquests.

"When the Sicilians wish you 'Cent'anni'... it means 'for long life'... and a Sicilian never forgets."

Alternative Title(s): The Godfather Part II, The Godfather Part III


No! Apollonia!

A car bomb meant for Michael kills his wife Apollonia instead.

How well does it match the trope?

4.71 (7 votes)

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Main / ExternalCombustion

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