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Spanning the years 1945 to 1955, a chronicle of the fictional Italian-American Corleone crime family. When organized crime family patriarch, Vito Corleone barely survives an attempt on his life, his youngest son, Michael steps in to take care of the would-be killers, launching a campaign of bloody revenge.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, this mob drama, based on Mario Puzo's novel of the same name, focuses on the powerful Italian-American crime family of Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). When the don's youngest son, Michael (Al Pacino), reluctantly joins the Mafia, he becomes involved in the inevitable cycle of violence and betrayal. Although Michael tries to maintain a normal relationship with his wife, Kay (Diane Keaton), he is drawn deeper into the family business.
Genre: Crime, Drama
Original Language: English
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Producer: Albert S. Ruddy
Writer: Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo, Mario Puzo
Release Date (Theaters): Mar 15, 1972 Wide
Release Date (Streaming): May 11, 2004
Runtime: 2h 57m
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Sound Mix: Mono
Aspect Ratio: Flat (1.85:1)
The Godfather is a 1972 American crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who co-wrote the screenplay with Mario Puzo, based on Puzo's best-selling 1969 novel of the same name. The film stars Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte, and Diane Keaton. It is the first installment in The Godfather trilogy. The story, spanning from 1945 to 1955, chronicles the Corleone family under patriarch Vito Corleone (Brando), focusing on the transformation of his youngest son, Michael Corleone (Pacino), from reluctant family outsider to ruthless mafia boss.
Paramount Pictures obtained the rights to the novel for the price of $80,000, before it gained popularity. Studio executives had trouble finding a director; the first few candidates turned down the position before Coppola signed on to direct the film but disagreement followed over casting several characters, in particular, Vito and Michael. Filming took place primarily on location around New York City and in Sicily, and was completed ahead of schedule. The musical score was composed principally by Nino Rota, with additional pieces by Carmine Coppola.
The Godfather premiered at the Loew's State Theatre on March 14, 1972, and was widely released in the United States on March 24, 1972. It was the highest-grossing film of 1972, and was for a time the highest-grossing film ever made, earning between $250 and $291 million at the box office. The film received universal acclaim from critics and audiences, with praise for the performances, particularly those of Brando and Pacino, the directing, screenplay, cinematography, editing, score, and portrayal of the mafia. The Godfather acted as a catalyst for the successful careers of Coppola, Pacino, and other relative newcomers in the cast and crew. The film also revitalized Brando's career, which had declined in the 1960s, and he went on to star in films such as Last Tango in Paris, Superman, and Apocalypse Now. At the 45th Academy Awards, the film won Best Picture, Best Actor (Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Puzo and Coppola). In addition, the seven other Oscar nominations included Pacino, Caan, and Duvall for Best Supporting Actor, and Coppola for Best Director.
The Godfather is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made, as well as a landmark of the gangster genre. It was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 1990, being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and is ranked the second-greatest film in American cinema (behind Citizen Kane) by the American Film Institute. It was followed by sequels The Godfather Part II (1974) and The Godfather Part III (1990).
In 1945 New York City, at his daughter Connie's wedding to Carlo, Vito Corleone listens to requests in his role as don of the Corleone crime family. His youngest son, Michael, who was a Marine during World War II, introduces his girlfriend, Kay Adams, to his family at the reception. Johnny Fontane, a popular singer and Vito's godson, seeks Vito's help in securing a movie role; Vito dispatches his consigliere, Tom Hagen, to Los Angeles to persuade studio head Jack Woltz to give Johnny the part. Woltz refuses until he wakes up in bed with the severed head of his prized stallion.
Shortly before Christmas, drug baron Sollozzo, backed by the Tattaglia crime family, asks Vito for investment in his narcotics business and protection through his political connections. Wary of involvement in a dangerous new trade that risks alienating political insiders, Vito declines. Suspicious, Vito sends his enforcer, Luca Brasi, to spy on them. Brasi is garroted to death during his first meeting with Bruno Tattaglia and Sollozzo. Later, Sollozzo has Vito gunned down in the street, then kidnaps Hagen. With Corleone first-born Sonny in command, Sollozzo pressures Hagen to persuade Sonny to accept Sollozzo's deal, then releases him. The family receives fish wrapped in Brasi's bullet-proof vest, indicating that Luca "sleeps with the fishes". Vito survives, and at the hospital, Michael thwarts another attempt on his father. Michael's jaw is broken by NYPD Capt. McCluskey, Sollozzo's unofficial bodyguard. Sonny retaliates with a hit on Tattaglia. Michael plots to murder Sollozzo and McCluskey; feigning a desire to settle the dispute, Michael meets them in a Bronx restaurant, where after retrieving a handgun planted by Clemenza, a Corleone capo, he kills both men.
Despite a clampdown by the authorities, the Five Families erupt in open warfare, and Vito fears for his sons' safety. Michael takes refuge in Sicily and Fredo is sheltered by Moe Greene in Las Vegas. Sonny attacks Carlo on the street for abusing Connie and threatens to kill him if it happens again. When it does, Sonny speeds to their home but is ambushed at a highway toll booth and violently murdered by gangsters wielding submachine guns. While in Sicily, Michael meets and marries Apollonia, but a car bomb intended for him takes her life.
Devastated by Sonny's death and realizing that the Tattaglias are controlled by the now-dominant don, Barzini, Vito attempts to end the feud. He assures the Five Families that he will withdraw his opposition to their heroin business and forgo avenging Sonny's murder. His safety guaranteed, Michael returns home to enter the family business and marry Kay, promising her that the business will be legitimate within five years. Kay gives birth to two children by the early 1950s. With his father nearing the end of his life and Fredo too weak, Michael takes the family reins. He insists Hagen relocate to Las Vegas and relinquish his role to Vito because Hagen is not a "wartime consigliere"; Vito agrees Hagen should "have no part in what will happen" in the coming battles with the rival families. When Michael travels to Las Vegas to buy out Greene's stake in the family's casinos, he is dismayed to see that Fredo is more loyal to Greene than to his own family.
In 1955, Vito suffers a fatal heart attack. At the funeral, Tessio, a Corleone capo, asks Michael to meet with Barzini, signaling the betrayal that Vito had forewarned. The meeting is set for the same day as the baptism of Connie's baby. While Michael stands at the altar as the child's godfather, Corleone hitmen murder the other New York City dons and Greene. Tessio is executed for his treachery and Michael extracts Carlo's confession to his complicity in setting up Sonny's murder for Barzini; afterwards, Clemenza garrotes Carlo to death. Connie accuses Michael of the murder, telling Kay that Michael ordered all the killings. Kay is relieved when Michael finally denies it, but when the capos arrive, they address her husband as Don Corleone and she watches them pay reverence to Michael as the newly installed don as they close the door on her.
The Godfather was a blockbuster, breaking many box office records to become the highest grossing film of 1972. The film's opening day gross from five theaters was $57,829 with ticket prices increased from $3 to $3.50. Prices in New York increased further at the weekend to $4, and the number of showings increased from four times a day to seven times a day. The film grossed $61,615 in Toronto for the weekend and $240,780 in New York, for an opening weekend gross of $302,395. The film grossed $454,000 for the week in New York and $115,000 in Toronto for a first week gross of $568,800, which made it number one at the U.S. box office for the week. In its first five days of national release, it grossed $6.8 million, taking its gross up to $7,397,164. A week later its grossed had reached $17,291,705 with the one week gross of around $10 million being an industry record. It grossed another $8.7 million by April 9 to take its gross to $26,000,815. After 18 weeks at number one in the United States, the film had grossed $101 million, the fastest film to reach that milestone. Some news articles at the time proclaimed it was the first film to gross $100 million in North America, but such accounts are erroneous; this record belongs to The Sound of Music, released in 1965. It remained at number one in the US for another five weeks to bring its total to 23 consecutive weeks at number one before being unseated by Butterflies Are Free for one week before becoming number one for another three weeks.
The film eventually earned $81.5 million in theatrical rentals in the US and Canada during its initial release, increasing its earnings to $85.7 million through a reissue in 1973, and including a limited re-release in 1997, it ultimately earned an equivalent exhibition gross of $135 million, with a production cost of 6.5 million. It displaced Gone with the Wind to claim the record as the top rentals earner, a position it would retain until the release of Jaws in 1975. The film repeated its native success overseas, earning in total an unprecedented $142 million in worldwide theatrical rentals, to become the highest net earner. Profits were so high for The Godfather that earnings for Gulf & Western Industries, Inc., which owned Paramount, jumped from 77 cents per share to $3.30 a share for the year, according to a Los Angeles Times article, dated December 13, 1972. Re-released eight more times since 1997, it has grossed between $250 million and $291 million in worldwide box office receipts,[N 2] and adjusted for ticket price inflation in North America, ranks among the top 25 highest-grossing films.