If you’re reading this, you have already watched Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 magnum opus, once if not multiple times. The story of the Sicilian mafia family, the Corleones, told in all its gory and violent detail, gets better with every viewing. A cinematic masterpiece in every sense of the word, there is no doubt why The Godfather, based on Mario Puzo’s 1969 eponymous novel, continues to have a cult following.
Lines from the movie, like “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”, or “he sleeps with the fishes” have entered common parlance in the forty-five years since the release of this film. Equally iconic are the performances by Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, two of the greatest actors of their time.
In celebration of 45 years of The Godfather, we bring to you some of the most memorable scenes film, in no particular order:
1. “An offer he couldn’t refuse.”
To truly appreciate the evolution of Michael Corleone, you need to understand the almost boyish innocence his face has in this scene. Aware of his family’s “business” but sworn to stay away from it, he describes his father’s way of operating to Kay in a nonchalant manner. In fact, his matter-of-fact tone about the whole affair can be seen as a foreshadowing of things to unfold.
2. “Strictly business”
The decisive turn of Michael from a “nice college boy” to the Corleone kingpin can be seen in this scene. Unlike the hot-headed Sonny, Michael is able to isolate the individual from the job, in an act rationalised as pure self defence. When you see Michael giving directions about how exactly McCluskey and Sollozzo will be eliminated, you know that the transformation is near complete.
Also, props to James Caan in character as Santino ‘Sonny’ Corleone, who you learn to sympathise with, in spite of his temper and antics.
3. The horse’s head
Don Corleone is a man of his word, a man to be feared, and this gruesome scene conveys this fact like none other. When Jack Woltz refuses to give the Don’s godson, Johnny Fontane a coveted movie role, he is given a taste of what it costs to refuse the Godfather a favour. Tom Hagen’s cool demeanour immediately succeeded by a hacked stallion’s head makes for a chilling experience.
4. “Men are coming here to kill him.”
What sets Michael apart from his brothers Sonny and Fredo is his composure during the most trying of times. When he finds the hospital where Don Corleone is admitted for recovery deserted, only a flicker of panic passes over his face before he moves his father, with characteristic equanimity, earning the nurse’s cooperation without mincing words.
It is in moments like these where you see the masterful storytelling at play, and you end up feeling for the Corleone family in spite of being aware of their wrongdoings.
5. “Look how they massacred my boy.”
One of the few instances when Marlon Brando lets the viewers see Don Corleone’s vulnerable side. A scene full of pathos and emotion that is alternately restrained and released, the favour that Don Corleone asks the undertaker Bonasera to return, is not something we are prepared for.
6. “I never wanted this for you.”
In a poignant scene, the ageing Don Corleone looks back upon his life and rues the induction of his most promising son into a murky business. While Michael has assumed the reins like he was destined to, Don Vito still expresses how he would’ve preferred him to be in a more respectable position. This conversation that alternates between their personal and professional lives is composed of many wonderful moments, including Vito Corleone’s prophetic parting advice.
7. “Is vengeance gonna bring your son back?”
There is no honour among thieves, they say. This meeting of the top mafia bosses almost convinces us about the contrary. Don Corleone swears to forgo vengeance for his son’s death, in return for peace and Michael’s safe return to America. The professionally conducted meeting and the civil exchanges give us an insight into the operation of the highest levels of organised crime. But beneath the surface is Don Corleone’s menacing threat that makes your skin crawl.
8. Shooting Don Vito Corleone
A post on The Godfather is incomplete without a mention of the wonderful actor John Cazale, who essayed the role of the second Corleone son, Fredo. In this short scene, the helplessness and hopelessness of Fredo as the weaker one is conveyed effectively by Cazale, who cannot wield a gun to save his life, who sits and weeps as his father is shot. So beautifully are the characters etched that we can predict what Sonny or Michael would have done in the situation that Fredo, predictably, doesn’t.
9. The baptism murders
The sombre church organ plays in communion with gunshots as Michael Corleone’s men eliminate their rivals one by one. Michael Corleone becomes Godfather not only to Connie’s son, but also to the Corleone crime family. The signs of evil on Michael’s face are unmistakable, even as he renounces Satan at the altar, and the transformation is complete.
Which parts of The Godfather are your favourite? (Yes, we know, the entire 177 minutes. Cent’anni to that!)
Title image: pinterest