Francis Ford Coppola’s seminal crime saga The Godfather trilogy changed the way viewers perceived the genre, transforming the cycle of violence and creation into philosophical meditations. Based on Mario Puzo’s eponymous novel, The Godfather was initially written off as yet another mafia flick, but time has proven otherwise.
In an interview, Coppola explained: “The Mafia was romanticised in the book. And I was filming that book. To do a film about my real opinion of the Mafia would be another thing altogether. But it’s a mistake to think I was making a film about the Mafia. Godfather Part I is a romance about a king with three sons.
“It’s a film about power. It is a film about power. It could have been the Kennedys. The whole idea of a family living in a compound—that was all based on Hyannisport. Remember, it wasn’t a documentary about Mafia chief Vito Genovese. It was Marlon Brando with Kleenex in his mouth.”
On the 49th anniversary of the release of The Godfather, we revisit 10 memorable scenes from the entire trilogy in order to celebrate Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece.
10 memorable scenes from ‘The Godfather’ trilogy:
Original Ending (The Godfather Part III)
When the third part first came out, fans of The Godfather series were dissatisfied with the film and were disapproving of Sofia Coppola’s acting. This contributed to the release of a revised version of the third part which came out in 2020.
The original ending is one of the most rewatched sequences from The Godfather trilogy. It captures the tragic solitude of Michael who realises that he is not immune to mortality even though he spent his life as an invincible crime boss. In the end, none of it matters.
The Murder of Don Fanucci (The Godfather Part II)
Featuring Robert De Niro as a young Vito Corleone, the follow-up to Coppola’s 1972 masterpiece showed the world that sequels can be just as mesmerising. It built on the mythology of its glorious predecessor and managed to win several awards, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor wins at the Oscars among several others.
This brilliant scene marks an important part of Vito’s journey. Tired of the demands of the local boss, Don Fanucci, Vito decides to take matters into his own hands and kill him instead. With this one scene, Coppola announces the emergence of a young, hungry man who is ready to take the crime world by storm.
Baptism Murder Montage (The Godfather)
There are several scenes from The Godfather that deserve special mention and this is definitely one of them. Although fans have made countless memes out of this memorable sequence, it remains an integral part of The Godfather’s spectacular vision.
Balancing the antithetical notions of birth and death, the camera switches between the baptism of Connie’s baby and the brutal execution of New York crime bosses. If anything, it beautifully orchestrates the shift of power and foreshadows the subsequent rise of Michael Corleone.
Vito’s Revenge (The Godfather Part II)
One of the most cathartic moments in The Godfather trilogy, this scene shows Vito exacting revenge on the man who robbed him of his innocence as a child. When he was around 10 years old, Don Ciccio murdered his family for not being able to pay the tribute.
Years later, Vito systematically targets Ciccio’s operation and arranges a meeting with the man himself. Confronted by the ghost who has haunted him for most of his life, Vito carves the Don’s stomach open and shows how violence is cyclical in nature.
The door closes on Kay (The Godfather)
The Godfather’s ending scene is rightly celebrated by critics and fans for perfectly capturing the consequences of being a part of a criminal hierarchy. We see conclusive evidence of Michael’s transformation, from a war hero to a ruthless crime boss.
We observe Michael’s wife Kay (Diane Keaton) being shut out of his inner world, a world that is frequented by mob bosses and sycophants. She slowly recognises the fact that he is no longer the man she fell in love with.
“I know it was you, Fredo.” (The Godfather Part II)
Michael’s older brother Fredo was tired of always being second to Michael in everything. In order to grab the power for himself, he makes a deal behind Michael’s back and arranges an attempted assassination.
Even though Michael survives, it is terribly painful to watch him confront Fredo and come to the conclusion that his own brother tried to kill him. The famous line – “I know it was you, Fredo” was included by the AFI in its list of “100 greatest movie quotes of all time.”
Opening Scene (The Godfather)
Coppola successfully grabs our attention from the very beginning, introducing us to the world of Vito Corleone (played by Marlon Brando). We learn how the godfather runs the patriarchal systems of crime, family and business in a flawlessly efficient manner
This iconic scene has led to the genesis of too many memes involving decency and appropriate titles, but it remains a fascinating chronicle of the deadly microcosm of American crime. People keep asking for favours from the godfather, signifying their loss of faith in traditional institutions.
It was an abortion (The Godfather Part II)
Undoubtedly one of the most intense scenes from the trilogy, Michael’s world is destabilised by the revelation that Kay considers Michael’s potential child to be “unholy and evil”. She wants to leave the ruthless world of crime behind, letting Michael fight his own demons.
Kay tells Michael that she cannot stand the idea of bringing another Michael into this world that is already ravaged by violence. Michael’s pain is unfathomable, slowly turning into anger and lashing out at Kay.
The Horse’s Head (The Godfather)
This scene lingers in the minds of the viewers long after the film has ended, brutally shocking and viscerally unsettling. When Vito’s godson Johnny Fontane is rejected by a producer named Jack Woltz, the godfather ensures that the producer changes his mind.
Woltz wakes up covered in blood only to discover the severed head of one of his prized horses on his bed. An infamous fact about the scene is that the horse head used was real, despite using fake ones for rehearsal. All the emotions on screen are completely genuine.
Michael Shoots Sollozzo & McCluskey (The Godfather)
When Vito is wounded, the machinery of the crime syndicate desperately looks for someone to fill the void. In order to deal with Virgil Sollozzo and NYPD Captain Marc McCuskey, Michael Corleone steps up and takes care of things in the style of the godfather.
We know what will happen. Michael invites the men to a restaurant where he is supposed to kill them. The gun has already been hidden in the toilet. We know everything but Coppola manages to keep us on the edge of our seats, translating the atmospheric anxiety of anticipated death to the cinematic medium. The result is a brilliant scene that marks the beginning of Michael’s bloody odyssey.