Popularly viewed as one of the best American films ever made, the multi-generational crime saga The Godfather is a touchstone of cinema: one of the most widely imitated, quoted, and lampooned movies of all time. Marlon Brando and Al Pacino star as Vito Corleone and his youngest son, Michael, respectively. It is the late 1940s in New York and Corleone is, in the parlance of organized crime, a "godfather" or "don," the head of a Mafia family. Michael, a free thinker who defied his father by enlisting in the Marines to fight in World War II, has returned a captain and a war hero. Having long ago rejected the family business, Michael shows up at the wedding of his sister, Connie (Talia Shire), with his non-Italian girlfriend, Kay (Diane Keaton), who learns for the first time about the family "business." A few months later at Christmas time, the don barely survives being shot by gunmen in the employ of a drug-trafficking rival whose request for aid from the Corleones' political connections was rejected. After saving his father from a second assassination attempt, Michael persuades his hotheaded eldest brother, Sonny (James Caan), and family advisors Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) and Sal Tessio (Abe Vigoda) that he should be the one to exact revenge on the men responsible.
After murdering a corrupt police captain and the drug trafficker, Michael hides out in Sicily while a gang war erupts at home. Falling in love with a local girl, Michael marries her, but she is later slain by Corleone enemies in an attempt on Michael's life. Sonny is also butchered, having been betrayed by Connie's husband. As Michael returns home and convinces Kay to marry him, his father recovers and makes peace with his rivals, realizing that another powerful don was pulling the strings behind the narcotics endeavor that began the gang warfare. Once Michael has been groomed as the new don, he leads the family to a new era of prosperity, then launches a campaign of murderous revenge against those who once tried to wipe out the Corleones, consolidating his family's power and completing his own moral downfall. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards and winning for Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay, The Godfather was followed by a pair of sequels. ~ Karl Williams, All Movie Guide
The Godfather Part II
Francis Ford Coppola's legendary continuation and sequel to his landmark 1972 film, The Godfather, parallels the young Vito Corleone's rise with his son Michael's spiritual fall, deepening The Godfather's depiction of the dark side of the American dream. In the early 1900s, the child Vito flees his Sicilian village for America after the local Mafia kills his family. Vito (Robert De Niro) struggles to make a living, legally or illegally, for his wife and growing brood in Little Italy, killing the local Black Hand Fanucci (Gastone Moschin) after he demands his customary cut of the tyro's business. With Fanucci gone, Vito's communal stature grows, but it is his family (past and present) who matters most to him -- a familial legacy then upended by Michael's (Al Pacino) business expansion in the 1950s. Now based in Lake Tahoe, Michael conspires to make inroads in Las Vegas and Havana pleasure industries by any means necessary. As he realizes that allies like Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg) are trying to kill him, the increasingly paranoid Michael also discovers that his ambition has crippled his marriage to Kay (Diane Keaton) and turned his brother, Fredo (John Cazale), against him. Barely escaping a federal indictment, Michael turns his attention to dealing with his enemies, completing his own corruption. ~ Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide
The Godfather Part III
After a break of more than 15 years, director Francis Ford Coppola and writer Mario Puzo returned to the well for this third and final story of the fictional Corleone crime family. Two decades have passed, and crime kingpin Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), now divorced from his wife Kay (Diane Keaton), has nearly succeeded in keeping his promise that his family would one day be "completely legitimate." A philanthropist devoted to public service, Michael is in the news as the recipient of a special award from the Pope for his good works, a controversial move given his checkered past. Determined to buy redemption, Michael and his lawyer B.J. (George Hamilton) are working on a complicated but legal deal to bail the Vatican out of looming financial troubles that will ultimately reap billions and put Michael on the world stage as a major financial player. However, trouble looms in several forms: The press is hostile to his intentions. Michael is in failing health and suffers a mild diabetic stroke. Stylish mob underling Joey Zaza (Joe Mantegna) is muscling into the Corleone turf. "The Commission" of Mafia families, represented by patriarch Altobello (Eli Wallach) doesn't want to let their cash cow Corleone out of the Mafia, though he has made a generous financial offer in exchange for his release from la cosa nostra. And then there's Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia), the illegitimate and equally temperamental son of Michael's long-dead brother Sonny. Vincent desperately wants in to the family (both literally and figuratively), and at the urging of his sister Connie (Talia Shire), Michael welcomes the young man and allows him to adopt the Corleone name. However, a flirtatious attraction between Vincent and his cousin, Michael's naÃÂÃÂ¯ve daughter Mary (Sofia Coppola) develops, and threatens to develop into a full-fledged romance and undo the godfather's future plans. ~ Karl Williams, All Movie Guide