The Godfather was about a lot of things, but at its heart, it was the story of a family. Of course, to the Corleones, being a family was more than sharing a last name and watching TV together every night. It was who they were, how they made a living, and what they did to have their name synonymous with power, corruption, and loyalty. Should you need a reminder, here are eight quotes from The Godfather to prove why you should never take sides against the family.
“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” – Vito Corleone
Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) had a way of persuading people to come around to his side, not so much because he was an imposing figure — in his older years, he resembled his age and the mileage added to his body — but because of the reputation that followed him. If you really want to get your way in negotiations you’re going to need to think not just about your approach in the room, but if you inspire fear based on your power and your past actions. It’s about building a legacy of authority, not just being super persuasive in that moment.
“I want reliable people, people who aren’t going to be carried away. I mean, we’re not murderers, in spite of what this undertaker thinks.” – Vito Corleone
When Vito Corleone was asked by an undertaker to kill the two men who attacked his daughter by way of a long, heartfelt monologue that opens up the first Godfather movie, he manages to talk the guy down from murder to a non-fatal, yet still merciless form of retribution. While that’s definitely the kind of calm, sensible disposition you need to have working for you at all times, don’t undermine the importance of having trustworthy people that you can rely on.
“Mr. Corleone never asks a second favor once he’s refused the first, understood?” – Tom Hagen
You don’t exactly gain a formidable reputation by being known as a pushover. When Vito sends Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) to ask big shot producer Jack Woltz (John Marley) to let Johnny Fontaine (Al Martino) star in his movie, Woltz flat-out refuses. Rather than stick around to try and negotiate, Hagen leaves immediately, setting in motion Vito’s backup plan that’ll outright convince Woltz to grant him the favor. If you’re going to get what you want, you’ve got to make your point known loud and clear.
“Paulie sold out the old man, that stronz. I don’t want to see him no more. I want you to make that first thing on your list, understand?” – Sonny Corleone
Perhaps the best reason to not take sides against the family is the consequence that could happen as a result. When Paulie (John Martino) is disloyal, Sonny (James Caan) wastes absolutely no time making sure the problem is taken care of. He even puts one of his best guys, Pete Clemenza (Richard S. Castellano), on the job, knowing that it’ll get taken care of. You just can’t underestimate the necessity of having people you can count on in life. After all, those that come through for you again and again are the ones who’ll earn the right for you to call them family.
“I want no inquiries made. I want no acts of vengeance. I want you to arrange a meeting with the heads of the Five Families. This war stops now.” – Vito Corleone
Taking a hard line might do wonders for your reputation, but if you really want to count on the lasting power of your family, you’ve got to know when to call for a compromise. Rather than continue a vicious cycle of violence, one that cost Vito his oldest son, (spoiler alert), he becomes the first one to call for a truce. After all, a reputation for being sensible in a time of crisis could last a lot longer than the reputation for always trying to one-up the competition.
“Fredo, you’re my older brother, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the family again. Ever.” – Michael Corleone
As a family, it’s of the utmost importance to present a united front in almost any situation. Michael knew this, just like his father did before him, and when Fredo (John Cazale) couldn’t help but talk out of turn, Michael waited until they were in private to scold him for his outburst. A united front only works if it stays united. Show the world you’re susceptible to petty squabbling, and you run the risk of losing the upper hand.
“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” – Michael Corleone
Nothing helps define a family legacy than using the words made famous by your father. With Micheal the new Godfather of the Corleone Family, he takes great care in reminding all his associates how much his father, Vito Corleone, meant to him. It bridges the gap between generations and helps ease any woes someone might have with someone new at the helm. Most importantly, of course, is that Michael is able to live up to these words, just like his father was. You can talk a big game all you want, but if you can’t back it up, your name will be as good as your word.
“Don’t tell me you’re innocent. Because it insults my intelligence and makes me very angry.” – Michael Corleone
As Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) was setting himself up to take over the role of Godfather, a title made notorious by his father, he did so with a kind of ruthless efficiency, promptly taking out any and all who spoke against his family — including his brother-in-law, Carlo (Gianni Russo). While he lacked the same sort of track record that his father did, Michael made up for it with a no-nonsense attitude, a steely-eyed glare, and the willingness to continue building an empire. If you get moved up the ladder, a lot of people look at this as a way to get over on the new guy in charge. You can address this problem from the get-go by taking this same no-nonsense approach and by making it clear to everyone that you know exactly what’s going on. Just don’t whack anyone.
The Godfatheris available on Blu-ray and Digital HD
This is an updated version of a post that originally ran on August 8, 2016.