When it was first released, The Godfather became such a huge hit that it was the highest grossing movie ever made at the time. And The Godfather Part II is the example everyone uses when talking about sequels that were better than the original. The third movie in the trilogy might not be as classic or acclaimed as the first two – mainly because Francis Ford Coppola never wanted to make a third movie and wanted to leave The Godfather series as a duology – but it’s not that it’s bad; it just isn’t as good as the first two. It still has memorable quotes. So, here are the 10 Most Memorable Quotes From The Godfather Trilogy.
Fredo Corleone is so useless that it has become an insult to compare anyone to him. He caused so many problems for the Corleone family’s business – including betraying them when he was involved in ordering a hit against Michael – that his own brother had to have him killed. Before doing so, though, Michael made sure to let him know that he knew he was the one inside the family who betrayed him: “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!” It’s one of the most memorable and heartbreaking scenes in the whole Godfather trilogy.
When Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone said, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” we’re left to wonder exactly what that offer was. Why couldn’t it be refused? What offer is so great that it physically cannot be refused? Well, later on, Michael Corleone came in to fill in the blanks. He told Kay, “My father made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.” Kay, like us, asked, “What was that?” And then Michael explained, “Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract. That’s a true story.”
In The Godfather Part II, Michael makes a very strong point about the crisis in Cuba (which was ongoing in the 1958 setting of Michael’s part of the film) that taps into his own military past. Michael tells Hyman Roth, “I saw a strange thing today. Some rebels were being arrested. One of them pulled the pin on a grenade. He took himself and the captain of the command with him. Now, soldiers are paid to fight; the rebels aren’t.” Roth then asks Michael, “What does that tell you?” and Michael simply says, “They could win.” Michael served in the war – he knows what he’s talking about.
One of the most compelling story threads throughout The Godfather trilogy is Michael and Kay’s relationship. By the third movie, it has broken down entirely. At one point in the threequel, Michael asks Kay, “Do you still fear me, Kay?” and Kay replies, “I don’t fear you, Michael. I just dread you.”
The Godfather Part III isn’t as great a movie as its two predecessors, but it’s not supposed to be a sweeping epic like them. It’s a postscript, or an epilogue to the story they told, essentially just there so we can see where all the characters ended up, like T2 Trainspotting.
A lot of the rhetoric of both Vito and Michael Corleone helped to shape the public’s idea of how gangsters talk. We get the idea that it’s all about loyalty and respect and building close alliances with people – people who you would trust in a life-or-death situation. When the corrupt politician Senator Pat Geary gets involved with the Corleone family, Michael establishes these close alliances: “I trust these men with my life, Senator. To ask them to leave would be an insult.” Geary is believed to have been inspired by the real-life Senator Pat McCarran, but this hasn’t been confirmed.
Francis Ford Coppola is an impeccable writer. He has a way of distilling an entire character down into one line of dialogue. In the case of Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo, it’s this line: “I don’t like violence, Tom. I’m a businessman. Blood is a big expense.” The Corleone family pumps so much money and time and manpower into settling scores with business rivals and killing people who have disrespected them. The Turk does away with those expenses by keeping out of the realm of violence entirely. His money goes towards business only and, as a result, his hands are clean and he sees more profits.
At the beginning of Kill Bill, this quote is featured as an epigraph, but it’s accredited to the Klingons. It probably wasn’t first used in The Godfather, but that’s what popularized it. When Vito Corleone said, “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” it struck fear into the hearts of moviegoers across the world. In a crime family, it’s all about honor and respect and settling scores. So, naturally, revenge is a huge part of that world. In The Godfather trilogy, there are a number of storylines involving revenge and characters driven by revenge, because a lot of revenge goes on in the mafia.
There’s a reason that The Godfather opens with the line: “I believe in America.” It’s because that’s what The Godfather is about. It’s a movie about America: American politics, American crime, the American dream. This line by Don Lucchesi says as much about American society as any line from The Sopranos or The Wire (both of which were the natural successors to the model of storytelling The Godfather trilogy established).
The financial world and the political world make up a huge part of what America is, and Don Lucchesi describes the distinction in one line of dialogue: “Finance is a gun. Politics is knowing when to pull the trigger.”
The opening scene of The Godfather brings us one of the most spectacularly performed monologues in film history: “I believe in America. America has made my fortune. And I raised my daughter in the American fashion. I gave her freedom, but I taught her never to dishonor her family. She found a boyfriend, not an Italian. She went to the movies with him. She stayed out late. I didn’t protest. Two months ago, he took her for a drive, with another boyfriend. They made her drink whiskey and then they tried to take advantage of her. She resisted. She kept her honor. So, they beat her. Like an animal.” The final line is the most powerful: “Then I said to my wife, ‘For justice, we must go to Don Corleone.’”
The Godfather trilogy is all about power, and how it corrupts people. When Vito says, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” and when Michael later repeats it, it tells us just how powerful the Corleone family is. They have so much money and influence and power that they’re able to make offers people can’t refuse. They have so much wealth and assets that they can make an offer so incredible that nobody can turn it down. This is how to build an empire. This is empire-building 101. Of course, the offer isn’t always a lot of money; sometimes it’s just a gun to the head.