In late summer 1945, guests are gathered for the wedding reception of Don Vito Corleone's daughter Connie

(Talia Shire) and Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Russo). Vito (Marlon Brando), the head of the Corleone Mafia family – who is known to friends and associates as "Godfather" – and Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), the Corleone family lawyer and consigliere (counselor), are hearing requests for favors. Meanwhile, the Don's youngest son Michael (Al Pacino), a decorated Marine war hero returning from World War II service, tells his girlfriend Kay Adams (Diane Keaton) anecdotes about his family, attempting to inform her about his father's criminal life; he reassures her that he is different from his family. According to tradition, a Sicilian cannot refuse a request made on his daughter's wedding day, and therefore, several supplicants come to him asking for various favors. The Don's wealth and his ability to bribe various judges and congressmen make him a powerful man in New York. Among the guests at the celebration is the famous singer Johnny Fontane (Al Martino), Corleone's godson, who has come from Hollywood to petition Vito's help in landing a movie role that will revitalize his flagging career. Hagen is dispatched to California to fix the problem by convincing the head of the studio, Jack Woltz (John Marley) to give Fontane the part. Woltz refuses but is soon persuaded, when he finds the severed head of his prized $600,000 stud horse in bed with him, after waking up the next morning. Upon Hagen's return, the family meets with Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo (Al Lettieri), who is being backed by the rival Tattaglia family. He asks Don Corleone for financing, and political and legal protection for importing and distributing heroin. Despite the huge profit to be made, Corleone doesn't agree and feels his political influence could be jeopardized. The Don's eldest son, Sonny questions Sollozzo's assurances along with the family's investment with the Tattaglia family. Don Corleone then sends his primary enforcer Luca Brasi (Lenny Montana) to infiltrate Sollozzo's organization and report back with information. During the meeting, Brasi is stabbed in his hand to prevent him from defending himself and garroted by an assassin. Soon after Brasi's meeting with Sollozzo, Don Corleone is shot in an assassination attempt. Sollozzo abducts Tom Hagen and persuades him to offer Sonny the deal previously offered to the Don. Sonny instead issues an ultimatum to the Tattaglia family to turn over Sollozzo or face war. They send him "a Sicilian message," in the form of a fresh fish wrapped in Luca Brasi's bullet-proof vest, to tell the Corleones that Luca Brasi "sleeps with the fishes."

When news reaches the still-recovering Don. They are also with him when he viciously beats Carlo who. When Don Corleone is brought home from the hospital. he is fair game. Hagen objects on the grounds that they're losing too much money due to the war. Later. including visits to his mistress. Vito's face becomes pained and he dismisses Hagen and Sonny. he demands a meeting of the Five Families to end the violence between them. without protection. Realizing that his father is again being set up to be killed. With the assistance of a young man who benefited from the Don's favors. Just then. he fatally shoots Sollozzo. moves his father to another room. Police cars soon appear with the corrupt Captain McCluskey (Sterling Hayden). . Although police officers are usually off limits for hits. he is ambushed at a tollbooth and shot dead. Sonny loses his temper. Before the meeting in an Italian restaurant. as well as a general clampdown on the mob by the police and government authorities. There are supposed to be family soldiers on constant watch at the hospital but Michael finds the entire facility almost empty. Sonny responds by having Bruno Tattaglia. Sollozzo requests a meeting with the Corleones. Sonny discovers. it falls to Hagen to tell him that Michael did the hit on Sollozzo and McCluskey and is now in hiding. As the war rages. When Sonny receives a telephone call from Connie he is enraged and speeds off in his car. has been physically abusive to Connie. visits his father at the small private hospital. son and underboss of Don Phillip Tattaglia (Victor Rendina). Michael volunteers to kill both men during the meeting. Sonny then tells Hagen he wants a hit on Don Tattaglia. and returning to the table. Michael is sent to hide in Sicily while the Corleone family prepares for all-out warfare with the other four mafia families (Five Families) who are now united against the Corleones. Hagen arrives with "private detectives" licensed to carry guns to protect Don Corleone. However. and goes outside to watch the entrance. and he takes Michael home. Michael argues that since McCluskey is corrupt and has illegal dealings with Sollozzo. Michael scares away a car full of hoods who presumably expected no resistance. who breaks Michael's jaw when he insinuates that Sollozzo paid McCluskey to set up his father. Following the attempt on the Don's life at the hospital. Carlo again beats Connie who is visibly pregnant. Sonny has to be accompanied by family soldiers at all times. Michael excuses himself to go to the bathroom where he retrieves a planted revolver.Michael. whom the other Mafia families consider a "civilian" uninvolved in mob business. to confront Carlo. which Captain McCluskey will attend as Sollozzo's bodyguard. accusing Hagen of incompetence. killed. he calls Sonny for help. then McCluskey. McCluskey frisks Michael for weapons and finds him clean. but then apologizes.

With the Don semi-retired. he meets and falls in love with Apollonia Vitelli (Simonetta Stefanelli). He tells her he wants them to be married. Michael is now in charge. implicating him in the assassination plot. Fabrizio. Tom Hagen has been removed as consigliere and is now merely the family's lawyer. but the families can at least control distribution. he promises Kay he will make the family business completely legitimate within five years. He implores Vito to reconsider his position on drugs. who barely escapes alive. Michael. Peter Clemenza (Richard S.During this time. Michael is informed of Sonny's death and needs to leave immediately. Apollonia is killed when their car is bombed. In a small village. As long as the narcotics are kept in the ghettos and never sold to children. hurriedly leaving the grounds mere seconds before the explosion. he tells Hagen that it is now obvious to him that Don Barzini has been pulling the strings of the entire situation. A couple of years have passed. an old family friend. he reunites with his former girlfriend Kay after a total of four years. but Michael denies the request. she accepts his proposal. and middle brother Fredo (John Cazale) considered incapable of running the family business. and one in America. Privately. there should be little opposition from the Don's patrons. but on the drive home. Vito will now fill that role. the beautiful young daughter of a bar owner. Carlo. Don Zaluchi. Hagen complains about his change in status. Emilio Barzini (Richard Conte) acts as the primary arbitrator among the Five Families. Castellano) and Salvatore Tessio (Abe Vigoda). In return he swears not to seek revenge for Sonny's killing. More than a year later. and also questions Michael about a new "regime of soldiers" secretly being built under Rocco Lampone (Tom Rosqui). With his safety guaranteed. but soon after. A meeting among several Mafia bosses including many from outside New York City is held. Clemenza and Tessio may break away to form their own families. Michael further promises Connie's husband. spots his bodyguard. two Corleone Family caporegimes (captains). Another boss. Michael waits in exile and is protected by Don Tommasino. but also demands that no harm comes to Michael who stands accused of the Sollozzo hit. Although Kay is hurt that he waited so long to contact her. tells the organization that drugs are inevitable. Don Vito explains to Hagen that . He and Don Tattaglia embrace. three in Italy. that he will be his right hand man in Nevada (this contradicts Vito's earlier declaration that Carlo must never be included in true family business). As the couple are about to be moved to a safer location. He plans to move the family operations to Nevada and after that. complain that they are being pushed around by the Barzini Family and ask permission to strike back. They quickly marry. Vito now softens his stance on narcotics. Sonny dead. Michael returns home.

The Corleone family financed the casino. shakes hands with Barzini. Vito also reveals that he had never intended a life of crime for Michael. At the burial. and Michael prophetically tells him. along with others in attendance. but it loses money. Vito explains his expectation that the Family's enemies will attempt to murder Michael by using a trusted associate to arrange a meeting as a pretext for assassination. Michael intends to buy out the casino owned by gambling mogul Moe Greene (Alex Rocco). Fredo has now been in Vegas for a few years and has grown close to Moe." In a private moment. Vito collapses and dies while playing with his young grandson Anthony in his tomato garden. and that everybody knows the Corleones power is fading. ostensibly congratulating him. hoping that his youngest son would hold legitimate power as a senator or governor. with Vito's passing. Tessio. which identifies Tessio as the traitor that Vito was expecting. "Don't ever take sides with anyone against the family. Fredo yells at Michael afterwards. acting sheepish. Ever.Michael is acting on his Tessio conveys a proposal for a meeting with Barzini. Greene and Michael start arguing. It is clear that. Barzini no longer has to share power and is now considered the capo di tutti capi ("boss of all bosses") of the families. Greene tells Michael that he'll make a deal with Barzini. http://www. Michael. Shortly . It is obvious that everyone feels Vito is senile and Michael is not qualified to be Don. On a trip to Las Vegas. agrees to it. now.

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