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The Godfather
The Godfather poster
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Produced by Albert S. Ruddy
Starring

Marlon Brando
Al Pacino
James Caan
Richard Castellano
Robert Duvall
Sterling Hayden
John Marley
Richard Conte
Diane Keaton

Music by Nino Rota
Carmine Coppola
Cinematography Gordon Willis
Editing by William H. Reynolds
Peter Zinner
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release March 15, 1972
Running time 175 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6.5 million
Gross revenue $245–286 million
Followed by The Godfather Part II

The Godfather is a 1972 American crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by Albert S. Ruddy from a screenplay by Mario Puzo and Coppola. Based on Puzo's 1969 novel of the same name, the film stars Marlon Brando and Al Pacino as the leaders of a fictional New York crime family. The story, spanning the years 1945 to 1955, centers on the transformation of Michael Corleone (Pacino) from reluctant family outsider to ruthless Mafia boss while also chronicling the family under the patriarch Vito Corleone (Brando).

The Godfather is widely regarded as one of the greatest films in world cinema—and as one of the most influential, especially in the gangster genre. Now ranked as the second greatest film in American cinema (behind Citizen Kane) by the American Film Institute, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1990.

Plot

On the day of his only daughter's wedding, Vito Corleone hears requests in his role as the Godfather, the Don of a New York crime family. Vito's youngest son, Michael, in a Marine Corps uniform, introduces his girlfriend, Kay Adams, to his family at the sprawling reception. Vito's godson Johnny Fontane, a popular singer, pleads for help in securing a coveted movie role, so Vito dispatches his consigliere, Tom Hagen, to the abrasive studio head, Jack Woltz, to secure the casting. Woltz is unmoved until the morning he wakes up in bed with the severed head of his prized stallion.

Shortly before Christmas 1945, drug baron Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo, backed by the Corleones' rivals, the Tattaglias, asks Vito for investment in the emerging drug trade and protection through his political connections. Vito disapproves of drug dealers, so he sends his enforcer, Luca Brasi, to spy on them. The family then receives two fish wrapped in Brasi's vest, imparting that he "sleeps with the fishes". An assassination attempt by Sollozzo's men lands Vito in the hospital, so his eldest son, Sonny, takes command. Sollozzo kidnaps Hagen to pressure Sonny to accept his deal. Michael thwarts a second assassination attempt on his father at the hospital, but is accosted by corrupt police captain McCluskey, who breaks his jaw; Sonny retaliates by having Tattaglia's son killed. Michael comes up with a plan to hit Sollozzo and McCluskey that his brother approves over Hagen's objections: on the pretext of settling the dispute, Michael lures the pair to a restaurant, retrieves a planted handgun and murders them.

Despite a clampdown from the authorities, the Five Families erupt in open warfare and the brothers fear for their safety. Michael takes refuge in Sicily, and Fredo Corleone is sheltered by associate Moe Greene in Las Vegas. Sonny attacks his brother-in-law Carlo on the street for abusing his sister Connie. When it happens again, Sonny speeds for her home but assassins ambush him at a highway toll booth and riddle him with submachine gun fire. Michael's time abroad has led to marriage to Apollonia Vitelli. Their euphoria is shattered when a car bomb intended for him takes her life.

Vito, saddened to learn that, despite his hopes, Michael has become involved in the family business, decides to end the feuds. Believing that the Tattaglias were under orders of the now dominant Don Emilio Barzini, he promises, before the heads of the Five Families, to withdraw his opposition to their heroin business and forgo revenge for Sonny's murder. His safety guaranteed, Michael returns home and over a year later marries Kay.

With his father at the end of his career and his surviving brother too weak, Michael takes the reins of the family, promising his wife to make the business legitimate within five years. With that in mind, he insists Hagen relocate to Las Vegas and relinquish his role to Vito because Tom is not a "wartime Consigliere"; the older man agrees Tom should "have no part in what will happen" in the coming battles with rival families. When Michael travels to Las Vegas to buy out Greene's stake in the family's casinos, Greene derides the Corleones as a fading power. To add injury to insult, Michael sees Fredo falling under Greene's sway.

Vito collapses and dies in his garden while playing with Michael's son, Anthony. At the funeral, caporegime Salvatore Tessio arranges a meeting between Michael and Don Barzini, signalling his treachery as Vito had warned. The meeting is set for the same day as the christening of Connie's son, to whom Michael will stand as godfather. As the christening proceeds, Corleone assassins, acting on Michael's orders, murder the other New York dons and Moe Greene. Tessio is told that Michael is aware of his betrayal and taken off to his death. After Carlo is questioned by Michael on his involvement in setting up Sonny's murder and confesses he was contacted by Barzini, caporegime Peter Clemenza kills him with a wire garrote. Michael is confronted by Connie, who accuses him of having her husband killed. He denies killing Carlo when questioned by Kay, an answer she accepts. As Kay watches warily, Michael receives his capos, who address him as the new Don Corleone.

Cast

  • Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone
  • Al Pacino as Michael Corleone
  • James Caan as Santino "Sonny" Corleone
  • Richard S. Castellano as Peter Clemenza
  • Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen
  • Diane Keaton as Kay Adams-Corleone
  • John Cazale as Frederico "Fredo" Corleone
  • Talia Shire as Constanzia "Connie" Corleone
  • Abe Vigoda as Salvatore Tessio
  • Al Lettieri as Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo
  • Gianni Russo as Carlo Rizzi
  • Sterling Hayden as Captain McCluskey
  • Lenny Montana as Luca Brasi
  • Richard Conte as Emilio Barzini
  • Al Martino as Johnny Fontane
  • John Marley as Jack Woltz
  • Alex Rocco as Moe Greene
  • Morgana King as Carmela Corleone
  • Corrado Gaipa as Don Tommasino
  • Franco Citti as Calò
  • Johnny Martino as Paulie Gatto,
  • Victor Rendina as Philip Tattaglia
  • Tony Giorgio as Bruno Tattaglia
  • Simonetta Stefanelli as Apollonia Vitelli-Corleone
  • Louis Guss as Don Zaluchi
  • Tom Rosqui as Rocco Lampone
  • Joe Spinell as Willi Cicci
  • Richard Bright as Al Neri
  • Julie Gregg as Sandra Corleone
  • Jeannie Linero as Lucy Mancini
  • Sofia Coppola (uncredited) as Michael Francis Rizzi

External links

The Godfather films

The GodfatherThe Godfather Part IIThe Godfather Part III

Marlon Brando films

The Godfather (1972)  · Superman (1978)  · Superman II (1980)  · The Score (2001)  ·

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