The Godfather Quotes
The Best Movie Scenes Ever Shot - and The Best Quotes
The Godfather is a cinematic masterpiece, perhaps the cinematic masterpiece. So iconic is the film that nobody complains about the use of the singular noun: when we talk about The Godfather we mean The Godfather and The Godfather Part II. Yes, it's two movies but we think of them as one continuous story. The second movie was a sequel, but it was also a prequel, not just taking up where the first left off, but delving into the history of the Corleone family before the events of the first movie. No film (films?) in history has spawned such a treasury of quotes. The Godfather quotes have become part of American culture.
The Godfather Part III was filmed in 1990. Although it was nominated for seven Oscars it didn't win any. It is a very entertaining movie and I recommend it, but it never achieved the iconic status of the first two films. In an act of cinematic malpractice, Robert Duvall's Tom Hagen character as the consigliori or counselor was not included. In the movies it is pronounced consiglieri. Instead the role of family lawyer B.J. Harrison was played by George Hamilton. He was not a consigliori, a position that could only be held by a Sicilian. In the first two movies, Tom Hagen, although not Sicilian, had gotten a pass because he had been adopted as a child by Don Vito Corleone.
The first movie, The Godfather, was made in 1972 and walked off with three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor - Marlon Brando, and Best Adapted Screenplay - Mario Puzo, who wrote the book in 1969, and Francis Ford Coppola.. It was nominated in seven other categories including Al Pacino, James Cahn and Robert Duvall for Best Supporting Actor and Francis Ford Coppola for Best Director. In 1974 The Godfather Part II was nominated for 11 Oscars and won six including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Robert De Niro.
Any list of "best," whether it's a top ten list or "my favorites," is subjective, and this article is no different. What follows are quotes from the movies that I see as the most memorable from all three movies.
"Why didn't you come to me first?" from The Godfather
In the opening scene Don Corleone asks this of an undertaker who has come to the godfather to seek vengeance for the rape of his daughter by some thugs. Corleone chides the man for seeking to solve his problems in traditional America. The scene ends with the man kissing Corleone's ring and calling him "Godfather," and in so doing, buys into an alternate system of justice. The godfather replies: "Good. Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter's wedding day."
"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse." from The Godfather
In this scene, also during his daughter's wedding, Don Corleone is talking to the famous singer and friend of the family Johnny Fontaine. The "offer" may as well be a summary of military doctrine by a head of state. The offer is violence and possibly death. This phrase, "an offer he can't refuse," has become part of American culture, whether used in other movies, joking among friends or TV commercials.
"Do you renounce Satan?" from The Godfather
The words were spoken by a Catholic priest at the baptism of Michael Corleone's nephew, the son of his sister and her husband Carlo, who Michael would later have killed. This is one of the most important scenes in the movie. Against the beautiful backdrop of a traditional Roman Catholic baptism ceremony conducted in Latin, Coppola switches back and forth to scenes of hit men preparing to carry out their duty against men who Michael deemed enemies of the family. After the priest intones "Do you renounce Satan" in English, Michael answers "yes,' after which the camera jumps between the bloody hits being carried out and the baptism ceremony. A church bell punctuates each hit. The gunfire, intermingled with the organ music, is jolting. Coppola's juxtaposition of religious beauty and ruthless murder is one of Hollywood's most memorable scenes.
"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli." From The Godfather
Caporegime (mafia lieutenant) Clemenza, talking to a fellow hit man, showed what he really cared about after whacking former colleague Paulie Gatto. Actor Richard Castellano played the Clemenza character with a chilling callous professionalism.In another scene in the movie, the baptism scene, Clemenza is seen climbing a stairway to unload a shotgun at some rival mobsters. Throughout the movie, Clemenza is portrayed as a chubby,affable cold blooded killer.
"Badaboom badabing." from The Godfather
These words, which refer to something done easily and with casual force, were adlibbed by James Cahn as Sonny Corleone, when he humorously chided his brother Michael about Michael's suggestion that he assassinate a police captain and a rival mobster. Michael didn't see Sonny's humor: he was serious. The word badabing was also popularized in the TV series The Sopranos as the name of a strip club.
"Tell Mike it was only business; I always liked him." from The Godfather
Tessio, played by Abe Vigoda, is speaking to Tom Hagen, played by Robert Duvall. Tessio has just realized that he is about to be whacked for betraying the family. He then asks Hagen, "Tom, can you get me off the hook for old time's sake," to which Hagan replies. "Can't do it Sally." The scene reminds viewers of the casual brutality of the family's business.
"You can act like a man." from The Godfather
When singer Johnny Fontaine weepingly complains to the godfather about his being blocked from a movie contract, the Don loses his temper and slaps Fontaine, yelling that he "can act like a man." But after his initial burst of anger, the Godfather carries out Johnny's wish by convincing the career blocking mogul to step out of Fontaine's way. The famous scene of the mogul waking up in bed with a bloody horse's head under the sheets is unforgettable.
"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." from The Godfather Part III
In the final Godfather movie, Michael Corleone had separated himself from the mob and tried to set up a legitimate business empire. But the forces of the mafia were strong, and Michael never was able to make the complete break that he had hoped for. Pacino's portrayal of the aging Michael Corleone is stunning.
"I know it was you Fredo. You broke my heart." from The Godfather Part II
The scene shows a New Year's Eve party in Havana. Castro had just overthrown the Batista government and Michael was making plans to escape the island. Michael had recently discovered that his brother Fredo betrayed the family and cut a deal with a rival gang. Michael kisses Fredo on the lips, and we would later learn that it was the kiss of death when Michael had Fredo killed.
"Don't ask me about my business Kate." from The Godfather
In this powerful concluding scene to The Godfather Part II, Michael tells his wife that he will allow one question, whether he had his sister's husband killed. He lied and told her that he didn't. Relieved, Kate goes into the hallway and pours herself a drink. She looks back into Michael's study and sees men kissing Michael's ring and hears Clemenza call him "Don Corleone."
Quotes from The Godfather movies sprinkle our conversation and have been repeated in countless other movies. Do you find yourself finishing the actor's lines when watching the movie? It has become an American pastime, one spawned by great works of art.
Did I miss any great Godfather quotes? Please let me know. I will update this article from time to time.
Copyright © 2012 by Russell F. Moran.