The film begins as “Don” Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), the head of a New York Mafia “family”, oversees his daughter Connie’s (Talia Shire) wedding. His beloved son Michael (Al Pacino) has just come home from the war, but does not intend to become part of his father’s business. Through Michael’s life the nature of the family business becomes clear.
The business of the family is just like the head of the family, kind and benevolent to those who give respect, but given to ruthless violence whenever anything stands against the good of the family. Don lives his life in the way of the old country, but times are changing and some don’t want to follow the old ways and look out for community and “family”. An up and coming rival of the Corleone family wants to start selling drugs in New York, and needs the Don’s influence to further his plan. The clash of the Don’s fading old world values and the new ways will demand a terrible price, especially from Michael, all for the sake of the family.
On the day of Connie’s wedding, Michael, in a Marine Corps uniform, introduces his girlfriend, Kay Adams (Diane Keaton), to his family at the sprawling reception. Vito’s godson Johnny Fontane (Al Martino), a popular singer, pleads for help in securing a coveted movie role, so Vito dispatches his consigliere, Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), to the abrasive studio head, Jack Woltz (John Marley), to secure the casting. Woltz is unmoved until the morning he wakes up in bed with the severed head of his prized stallion.
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 (John Cazale) is sheltered by associate Moe Greene (Alex Rocco) in Las Vegas. Sonny attacks his brother-in-law Carlo (Gianni Russo) 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 machine gun fire.
Vito is saddened to learn that, despite his hopes, Michael has become involved in the family business. However, Michael has fallen in love with Apollonia Vitelli (Simonetta Stefanelli) and married her in Sicily. His euphoria is shattered when a car bomb intended for him takes the life of his new wife.
To end the feuds, Vito meets with the heads of the Five Families, withdrawing his opposition to the Tattaglias’ heroin business and swearing to forgo revenge for Sonny’s murder. With his safety guaranteed, Michael returns home and over a year later marries Kay. His father at the end of his career and his surviving brother too weak, Michael takes the reins of the family and promises his wife to make it legitimate within five years.
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Year of Release: 1972
Character to watch: Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?