full title The Godfather Trilogy (The Godfather; The Godfather Part II; The Godfather Part III)

director Francis Ford Coppola

leading actors/actresses Al Pacino (1, 2, 3); Marlon Brando (1)

supporting actors/actresses Diane Keaton (1, 2, 3); Robert De Niro (2); Andy Garcia (3); James Caan (1); Robert Duvall (1, 2); John Cazale (1, 2); Talia Shire (1, 2, 3); Sofia Coppola (3)

type of work Feature films

genre Crime; Drama; Epic; Tragedy

language English and some Italian

time and place produced The films were shot on location and edited in Hollywood. They were released shortly after production.


 · The Godfather
 · Best Picture (Albert Ruddy, Producer)
 · Best Adapted Screenplay (Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo)
 · Best Actor (Marlon Brando)
 · The Godfather Part II
 · Best Picture (Coppola, Fred Roos, and Gary Frederickson, Producers)
 · Best Director (Coppola)
 · Best Adapted Screenplay (Coppola and Puzo)
 · Best Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro)
 · Best Musical Score (Carmine Coppola and Nino Rota)
 · Best Art Direction (Dean Tavoularis with Angelo Graham and George Nelson)

date of release 1972, 1974, 1990


 · The Godfather: Albert Ruddy
 · The Godfather Part II: Francis Ford Coppola, Gray Frederickson, and Fred Roos
 · The Godfather Part III: Francis Ford Coppola, Gray Frederickson, Fred Roos, and Charles Mulvehill

setting (time) The action spans the twentieth century. The Godfather takes places in the years after World War II. The action of Part II is set in two periods: the 1950s and the early twentieth century. There is also one scene set on the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, December 7, 1941. Part III is set in 1979.

setting (place)  The action takes place in three countries: America, Italy, and Cuba. Most of the action in America is set in the New York metropolitan region and Nevada (Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, and Carson City), but there are also scenes in Los Angeles and Miami. The scenes in Italy take place primarily in Sicily, but Part III also has scenes in Rome. The Cuban scenes take place in the capital, Havana.

protagonist Vito Corleone (1, 2); Michael Corleone (1, 2, 3)

major conflict The major conflict in the trilogy concerns the competing pulls of family and the business of organized crime.

rising action The desire to bring prosperity and safety to his family pushes Vito and later Michael into a life of crime, but their chosen field of work, organized crime, often directly disturbs the peace and harmony of family life.

climax Each of the three films has a different climax. In The Godfather, it is the murder of the heads of the five families during the baptism of Connie’s son and the murder of Connie’s husband, Carlo. In Part II, it is the murder of Fredo. In Part III, it is the death of Mary on the opera house stairs.

falling action Michael’s response to these three climaxes shows an increasing sense of guilt. In The Godfather, Michael seems untroubled by his actions as he coldly denies killing Carlo. In Part II, Michael’s sense of guilt at having Fredo killed leads to a period of brooding and painful memories. In Part III, Michael dies alone in the yard of his villa.

themes “It’s business, not personal”; the different worlds of men and women; the conflict between respect and legitimacy

motifs Return to Sicily; family gatherings; corruption is everywhere

symbols Windows; doors; chairs


 · The fish delivered to the Corleones in The Godfather, which carry the message “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes,” foreshadow Fredo’s murder while he’s fishing.
 · Vito’s statement at Connie and Carlo’s wedding that the family should give Carlo a job, but never discuss the family business with him, anticipates Carlo’s eventual treachery.
 · On a few occasions the sight of an open window with wind blowing on the curtains foreshadows upcoming danger. In one significant example, it directly precedes the attempt on Michael’s life in Part II.
 · The festival of San Gennaro scene in Part II, while Fanucci marches around the streets of Little Italy like a king while Vito trails him from the rooftop, foreshadows the murder of Joey Zasa at the same festival years later (in Part III).
 · In The Godfather, Sonny’s insistence that Michael leave the family compound with bodyguards, even though Michael is a “civilian” at the time, signals to us that Sonny is in grave danger when he leaves the compound unaccompanied a few scenes later.