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I bet you’re asking yourself why I brought you here on the day of daily internet browsing.
It’s the 50th anniversary of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 American crime film The Godfather, so there’s something we need to talk about.
You can’t sit at a dinner table in your life without at least one person pretending to be a domineering crime boss and pulling a quote from the American Film Institute’s (AFI) ranking of second greatest film behind Citizen Kane.
Every word in the best-adapted screenplay is worthy of praise, but I want to discuss the 19 best quotes from The Godfather.
19. “I believe in America. America has made my fortune. And I raised my daughter in the American fashion.”
Before the first shot of The Godfather appears, we hear the voice of Amerigo Bonasera inviting us into the world of Italian immigrants bringing their families to the United States.
The dark turn of his hopeful life foreshadows the ruthless pursuit for “the American Dream” as the foundation for the underworld of corruption, greed, and deceit that surround the Mafia families like the Corleones.
Amerigo Bonasera’s entire opening monologue:
“I believe in America. America has made my fortune. And I raised my daughter in the American fashion. I gave her freedom but I taught her never to dishonor her family. She found a “boy friend,” not an Italian. She went to the movies with him. She stayed out late. I didn’t protest. Two months ago he took her for a drive, with another boy friend. They made her drink whiskey and then they tried to take advantage of her. She resisted. She kept her honor. So they beat her. Like an animal. When I went to the hospital her nose was broken. Her jaw was shattered, held together by wire. She couldn’t even weep because of the pain. But I wept. Why did I weep? She was the light of my life. A beautiful girl. Now she will never be beautiful again.”
18. “Goddamn FBI don’t respect nothin’.”
Enter Santilo Corleone (James Caan), the reckless hot-headed son of Don Vito. Right off the bat, it’s apparent that he has no respect for authority, unlike his lawyer, Army, and timid brothers.
This single sentence establishes that Sonny’s attitude will be a gift and curse for the organized crime family.
17. “Don Corleone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your daughter… ‘s wedding… on the day of your daughter’s wedding. And I hope their first child be a masculine child. I pledge my ever-ending loyalty.”
Michael Corleone’s (Al Pacino) girlfriend notices a giant man at the wedding rehearsing a phrase repeatedly, and we learn he’s none other than Luca Brasi, the unwavering muscle of Don Vito Corleone.
Unlike other questionable guests taking advantage of “the day of [his] daughter’s wedding,” Luca’s attention to custom acknowledges that he will never catch him slipping and disrespecting Don Vito Corleone.
16. “In Sicily, women are more dangerous than shotguns.”
When Michael flees to Sicily to hide from American authorities, he travels back to the roots of his family and culture.
It’s here that Caló (Franco Citti), a shepherd of his father’s associate and Michael’s bodyguard, drops a bit of knowledge on Michael reminding him that things work a little different in the Sicilian countryside than America’s backstreets.
15. “You talk about vengeance. Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you? Or my boy to me?”
His growing compassion shaped the path to Don Vito’s downfall as he became an old grandfather and sought harmony amongst all warring families, even after the slaughter of his son.
If you pay close attention, a pivotal moment in this conversation shows Don Vito’s way with words claiming “accurate quote,” alluding to his plan to pass the torch of retaliation to Michael.
Marlon Brando’s award-winning monologues are endless in this film. Here’s the full speech:
“You talk about vengeance. Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you, or my boy to me? I forgo the vengeance of my son. But I have selfish reasons. My youngest son was forced to leave this country because of this Sollozzo business. All right, now I have to make arrangements to bring him back here safely cleared of all these false charges. But I’m a superstitious man, and if some unlucky accident should befall him… if he should be shot in the head by a police officer, or if he should hang himself in his jail cell, or if he’s struck by a bolt of lightning, then I’m going to blame some of the people in this room, and that I do not forgive. But, that aside, let me say that I swear, on the souls of my grandchildren, that I will not be the one to break the peace we have made here today.”
14. “Mr. Corleone never asks a second favor once he’s refused the first, understood?”
Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) is the adopted son of the Corleone family, apparent in his job as a lawyer and his diplomatic approach to family problems.
But, Tom understands what must be done, and he wastes no time “beating a dead horse” when he realizes that Jack Woltz isn’t going to corporate with his father’s demands.
Check out how the entire conversation goes down before Woltz wakes up to a horse head:
Tom Hagen: Mr. Corleone is Johnny Fontane’s godfather. Now Italians regard that as a very close, a very sacred religious relationship.
Jack Woltz: Tell your boss he can ask for anything else, but this is one favor I can’t grant him.
Tom Hagen: Mr. Corleone never asks a second favor once he’s refused the first, understood?
Jack Woltz: You don’t understand. Johnny Fontane never gets that movie. That part is perfect for him. It’ll make him a big star. I’m gonna run him out of the movies. And let me tell you why. Johnny Fontane ruined one of Woltz International’s most valuable proteges. For three years we had her under contract, singing lessons, dancing lessons, acting lessons. I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. I was gonna make her a big star. And let me be even more frank, just to show you that I’m not a hard-hearted man, that it’s not all dollars and cents. She was beautiful! She was young, she was innocent. She was the greatest piece of ass I’ve ever had, and I’ve had ’em all over the world. And then Johnny Fontaine comes along with his olive oil voice and guinea charm and she runs off. She threw it all away just to make me look ridiculous. And a man in my position can’t afford to be made to look ridiculous. Now you get the hell out of here! And if that goomba tries any rough stuff, you tell him I ain’t no bandleader. Yeah, I heard that story.
[Hagen has been calmly eating his meal throughout Woltz’s tirade]
Tom Hagen: Thank you for the dinner and a very pleasant evening. Have your car take me to the airport. Mr. Corleone is a man who insists on hearing bad news at once.
13. “I don’t like violence, Tom. I’m a businessman; blood is a big expense.”
Virgil Sollozzo (Al Lettieri) was smooth with his threats to the Corleone family, disguising his intentions with Tom Hagen as if he ultimately wanted peace.
Sollozzo’s one true goal was the fund his drug business and would do whatever it took to get his business started.
12. “Fredo, you’re my older brother, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever.”
It’s made clear in the beginning that Fredo Corleone (John Cazale) is a little slower than the rest of his brothers and not a part of all the Family’s dealings.
When Michael fails at buying out Moe Greene, Fredo foolishly defends him over his brother, and Michael quickly lets him know never to make that mistake again.
11. “Bonasera, Bonasera, what have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully? If you’d come to me in friendship, this scum who ruined your daughter would be suffering this very day. And if by some chance an honest man like yourself made enemies, they would become my enemies. And then, they would fear you.”
In the earliest moments of The Godfather, it’s not apparent how the hierarchy and practices of the mob family play out until we witness the banter between a funeral director Bonasera and Don Vito Corleone.
Despite their acquaintanceship, Don Vito lets Bonasera know that there’s an order to things, and if he follows the tradition, he will be in the mob boss’ pocket.
Relive the brilliance of Marlo Brando’s performance and the screenplay with the whole scene:
Don Corleone: We have known each other many years, but this is the first time you’ve come to me for counsel or for help. I can’t remember the last time you invited me to your house for a cup of coffee, even though my wife is godmother to your only child. But let’s be frank here. You never wanted my friendship. And you feared to be in my debt.
Bonasera: I didn’t want to get into trouble.
Don Corleone: I understand. You found paradise in America. You had a good trade, you made a good living. The police protected you and there were courts of law. So you didn’t need a friend like me. Now you come and say “Don Corleone, give me justice.” But you don’t ask with respect. You don’t offer friendship. You don’t even think to call me “Godfather.” You come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married and you ask me to do murder – for money.
Bonasera: I ask you for justice.
Don Corleone: That is not justice. Your daughter is alive.
Bonasera: Let them suffer then as she suffers.
[the Don is silent]
Bonasera: How much shall I pay you?
[the Don turns away dismissively, but Bonasera stays on]
Don Corleone: Bonasera, Bonasera, what have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully? If you’d come to me in friendship, this scum who ruined your daughter would be suffering this very day. And if by some chance an honest man like yourself made enemies they would become my enemies. And then, they would fear you.
Bonasera: Be my friend… Godfather.
[the Don at first shrugs, but upon hearing the title he lifts his hand, and a humbled Bonasera kisses the ring on it]
Don Corleone: Good.
[He places his hand around Bonasera in a paternal gesture]
Don Corleone: 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.
[a gratified Bonasera offers his thanks and leaves]
Don Corleone: [to Hagen] Give this job to Clemenza. I want reliable people, people who aren’t going to be carried away. I mean, we’re not murderers, in spite of what this undertaker thinks…
10. “It’s a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.”
Up until this point, it appeared that Don Vito and the Corleone family held the upper hand against the other families, especially since he had the gargantuan Luca Brasi on his side.
The audience was aware of Luca’s demise, so when the fish wrapped in Luca’s bulletproof vest arrived, the tables turned, and now it’s Don Vito receiving the threats and not sending them.
9. “What’s the matter with you? I think your brain is going soft with all that comedy you are playing with that young girl. Never tell anyone outside the Family what you are thinking again. Go on.”
Sonny Corleone is a wild one, and without his father always there to reel him in, he would go off the handle and cause many problems for the Family.
8. “It’s an old habit. I spent my whole life trying not to be careless. Women and children can afford to be careless, but not men.”
Don Vito Corleone is all about the pomp and circumstance of the mafia lifestyle. He gives respect and demands ultimate respect. The only people who allow having a pass are women and children.
These words are important because it explains the grace he provides in his relationship with his adult children.
7. “Only don’t tell me you’re innocent. Because it insults my intelligence and makes me very angry.”
In the final moments of The Godfather, we discover that Michael inherited every quality of his father and siblings— the undeniable wits and the cold vengeance. Michael was always aware of Carlo’s betrayal and waited until the most opportune moment to address it.
Don Michael Corleone’s dark turn into a merciless mob boss left no stone unturned. Everyone learns that he is not as peaceful as his father or reckless as his brother Sonny.
Not even Family is safe from Michael’s wrath if they wrong the entire Family.
6. “Hey, whaddya gonna do, nice college boy, eh? Didn’t want to get mixed up in the Family business, huh? Now you wanna gun down a police captain. Why? Because he slapped ya in the face a little bit? Hah? 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. C’mere…”
Sonny teases his little brother, who usually does everything by the book. While Michael’s plan might work, everyone, especially Santino Corleone, underestimates him. But, Don Vito warned everyone that it was the most brilliant move to be in this position.
5. “Times have changed. It’s not like the Old Days when we can do anything we want. A refusal is not the act of a friend. If Don Corleone had all the judges, and the politicians in New York, then he must share them, or let us others use them. He must let us draw the water from the well. Certainly, he can present a bill for such services; after all… we are not Communists.”
Virgil Sollozo and Philip Tattaglia were seen as the primary antagonists of the Corleone family until Emilio Barzini (Richard Conte) made this statement at the meeting of the five families.
Everything Barzini says echoes the words of his previous enemies, letting him know it was the more competent and cold-blooded Barzini behind the betrayal all along.
4. “Some people will pay a lot of money for that information; but then your daughter would lose a father, instead of gaining a husband.”
By now, Michael’s fully assimilated into the Sicilian countryside and seeks to return to romance’s normalcy and raise a family.
He presents the father of Apollonia, his first wife, with “an offer” in the most sinister way for an audience with his daughter.
3. “My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.”
Michael Corleone is not like the rest of his family. He’s a respectable veteran with an understanding of right and wrong.
However, he’s no fool, and his loyalty to his father and brothers leads him to justify their actions by comparing them to politicians and logical comparison since many politicians are in Don Vito’s pocket.
Kay’s (Diane Keaton) naive questioning starts in the film’s first scene and remains a theme throughout— proving that she has no idea what’s in store for her future with the son of a mob boss.
Michael and Kay’s exchange is priceless:
Michael: My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.
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?
2. “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”
Before Peter Clemenza (Richard Castellano) leaves the house to “deal with Paulie,” his wife tells him not to forget to bring the cannoli.
Once they “take care” of the traitorous Paulie, Clemenza proves just how ruthless yet responsible and loyal he can be, treating the moment like any ordinary husband’s trip to the grocery store.
1. “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
One of the most iconic lines in film history is repeated multiple times by Don Vito Corleone when explaining to men asking for his help how he will solve their problems. Before the words leave Don Corleone’s mouth, his son Michael gives us an idea of what these particular offers look like in explaining how his father helped Johnny Fontane become famous.
What do these types of offers look like?
“Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract.” – Michael Corleone
When Mario Puzo adapted his 1969 novel for the silver screen with Copolla, they created one of the most celebrated American films.
Hollywood heavy-hitters Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte, and Diane Keaton set a standard for epic film franchises like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and more.
The film won three of ten nominations for the 45th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Marlon Brando, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Not to mention it’s one of the most recognized films sparking up many references, homages, and parodies throughout pop culture, including my favorite spoof Jane Austen’s Mafia! (1998).
Now, I’ll give you an offer you can’t refuse.
Either agree 100% with my ranking or leave a comment and tell me what’s your favorite quote.
Myke Thompson is a freelance writer, screenwriter, and humorist based out of Los Angeles. When he’s not working on his own projects, he supports other artists as a creative manager in music, art, film, and television.