The Godfather, is an American organized crime and gangster film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, produced by Albert S. Ruddy in 1972. The film was based on Mario Puzo’s best-selling, award-winning novel. The film is set in 1945, at the Corleone residence in Staten Island, New York and begins with the boss of the Corleone family mafia, Vito Corleone, known throughout the film as Don Corleone, sitting in his office listening to a man asking for vengeance on the boys who attempted to rape and abused his daughter. We learn that many men and women visit Don Corleone and ask for favors from him which include acts of social justice not provided by the court of justice. The men and women’s favors that which Don Corleone follows through on, he considers those people to be his “friends” and in order for the favor that he provides now, Don Corleone will be able to call up these “friends” at any time and call in his favor in return if necessary. Don Corleone leaves his office and goes to his backyard to participate and enjoy the wedding of his daughter and this is where we meet another member of the Corleone family, Michael Corleone, the son of Vito. Michael Corleone tells his girlfriend, Kay Adams, that he does not participate in the family business and is a clean man.

The film progresses and Don Corleone sends one of his hit-men, Luca Brasi to the Tattaglia Family to deal with some business issues between the Tattaglia and Corleone families but instead, the members of the Tattaglia family stab, choke, and kill Luca Brasi. While this is happening, Don Corleone goes out to do some grocery shopping with his son, Fredo Corleone, since their driver, Paulie Gatto, called off from work. While Don Corleone was looking at an orange, two men ran by and shot Don Corleone many times in the back while Fredo hid behind the car in fear. The Corleone family realized that Paulie called off from work purposely in order for the shooting on Don Corleone to happen and the family had Paulie killed instantly. Don Corleone survived the shooting but was in very critical condition and was kept at the hospital. One night, Michael went to visit his father at the hospital and notices that no guards were present to patrol and keep Don Corleone safe. Michael convinces the nurse to help him move his father to another room because he considers it to be very suspicious that no guards are present at the hospital. Michael then goes to stand outside the hospital with a fellow friend of the Corleone family, Enzo the baker, pretending that they are Don Corleone’s guards with guns in their pockets. They notice that attempted murderers drove to the hospital but didn’t come out because they were frightened by the “guards” present outside the hospital. The police arrive at the hospital but these officers are corrupted and bought out by the Tattaglia family and attempt to arrest Michael for being at the hospital past visiting hours and one officer, Captain Mark McCluskey punched and broke Michael’s jaw. The rest of the Corleone family arrives to rescue Michael and the police drove away.

The Corleone family sits down and arranges a meeting to go over the situation. They understand that Sollozzo, a man working for the Tattaglia family, is planning on killing Don Corleone. At this moment, Michael decides to partake in the family business and wants to be the one to shoot and kill Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey. The Corleone family arranges for Michael to go have dinner at a restaurant in the Bronx with Sollozzo and McCluskey. Michael was told that a gun will be planted in the restroom of the restaurant and so it was. Michael returned from the restroom and shot and killed Sollozzo and McCluskey in bare sight, and walked out of the restaurant. Don Corleone is told the news that Michael was the one who shot and killed his aggressors but Don Corleone was very angered with this news since he wanted Michael to be the pure one of the family so that he could have run for Mayor or Governor of New York. In order to escape punishment, Michael flees to Sicily, Italy to hide out for a year. While in Italy, Michael falls in love with a woman named Apollonia, which Michael ends up marrying. While in Sicily, the Tattaglia family declares their revenge and has a car blown up, killing Apollonia.

Back in New York, Don Corleone decides to arrange a meeting with the heads of the 5 mafia families in order to put all the violence and murder to a halt. Don Corleone and the head of the Tattaglia family, Philip Tattaglia, call a truce and agree on no more vengeance and violence if the Corleone family enters the drug business. Michael returns from Italy and goes to see his former lover, Kay Adams. Michael informs Kay on the news that he has entered the family business. Don Corleone decides that since he is aging, it is about time for him to step down as the “Don” or boss of the family and crowns Michael as the new head of the family. Michael Corleone plants to move the family business to Nevada and run their operations in Las Vegas.

While in Las Vegas, Michael hosts a meeting with Moe Greene, a very wealthy casino boss and Michael offers to buy out Greene and own the casino business. Moe Greene disrespectfully turns down Michael’s offer. Michael returns home back to New York and plans to demonstrate his power and respect for the Corleone family. Vito Corleone collapses while playing with Michael’s son in the garden and passes away. During Vito’s funeral, Michael Corleone is informed that Salvatore Tessio is a traitor to the Corleone family since he has been working with the heads of the other 5 families, specifically working with Emilio Barzini.

The film ends with Michael demonstrating his power as the new head of the Corleone family by arranging murders of many people, including all the heads of the 5 families, Moe Greene, and Don Barzini. Michael confronts Carlo, a man who lead to the ambush and murder of Michael’s brother, Sonny Corleone and forces Carlo to admit his role in the ambush of Sonny. After Carlo admits to the ambush, Michael assures Carlo that he won’t be murdered but instead sent away from New York and the family business as punishment. Carlo agrees and gets into a car to go to the airport but is immediately choked and killed within the car. The film ends with Michael in his office with his mafia members and one member, Clemenza, acknowledges Michael as “Don Corleone.”


Production and Reception:

The Godfather film was directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The film’s screenplay was written by Marion Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola and the film was based on Mario Puzo’s 1969 award-winning novel. Many famous stars and actors played a role in the film, including Marlon Brando starring as Don Vito Corleone and Al Pacino as Michael Corleone (The Godfather Full Cast & Crew). The film was produced by Albert S. Ruddy in 1972, ranking as the highest grossing picture ever made for a while and remains as the box office leader for the year of 1972. The film won three Oscars in 1972 including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture, and Best Actor. According to the American Film Institute, The Godfather ranks as the second greatest film in the United States cinema, trailing close behind to the film, Citizen Kane. The Godfather was selected for safe keep and preservation by the United States National Film Registry in the year, 1990 (The Godfather Wiki).


Seminar Themes:

New York City Characters and Lifestyles

The Godfather connects to the theme of New York City’s characters and lifestyles because during the Prohibition Era of the 1920’s, within New York City the American mafia rose to great power and respect. Looking back at the history of New York City, it is almost inevitable to overlook the U.S. Italian mafia. The mafia during the 1920’s rose to great acclaimed power, fame, and success due to its prohibited trade of contraband,

including liquor trade. Post-Prohibition era, the Italian mafia moved into areas of organized crime including drug trafficking, illegal gambling, and infiltration as well as getting political power within the police force, labor unions and legitimate New York City businesses such as construction and the garment industry (Mafia in The United States). The Godfather effectively, close to perfectly, depicts the theme of the characters and lifestyles of New York City’s Italian mafia by showing life within a New York City Italian mafia, the Corleone family.


Social Justice

            The film, The Godfather, respectively connects and depicts the seminar theme of social justice because that is one of the most evident and key themes on which the American mafia revolved around. All throughout the film, specifically during the opening scenes of the film, we see how Don Corleone’s “friends” come to see and speak to Don Corleone himself. They visit “The Godfather,” Don Corleone, in order to ask for his help, which may include: robbery, violence, or political action. His friends do not ask for these favors out of anywhere, they ask for his help because an illegal action was taken against them and when they went to the U.S. court of justice or the police force, they were provided very little or no help at all. Don Corleone and the mafia is an example of social justice present in New York City during the 1960’s. A form of help and salvation, regardless of economic class, poor or wealthy, coming from a friend in need, the Italian American mafia, specifically the Corleone family.

-Alan Glikman and Talita-Elena Vuvunikyan


Works Cited

“Full Cast & Crew.” IMDb,, Staff. “Mafia in the United States.”, A&E

Television Networks, 2009,

“The Godfather.” The Godfather Wiki,