Al Pacino is responsible for two of the most iconic gangsters in cinema history. His career has seen plenty of highs and lows (mostly highs) and plenty of characters, but none stand out so well as Michael Corleone and Tony Montana. One is the reluctant young man that is put in charge of a criminal empire when his father dies, and the other is an outspoken Cuban immigrant who builds a cocaine empire.
It would be impossible to put The Godfather up against Scarface, but a fight between their leading men almost seems inevitable. There are a few elements to consider, though, when determining a winner.
10 Intelligence: Michael Corleone
Having attended college and successfully taken over a criminal empire at a young age, Michael Corleone wins in this category. Despite harassment from his brothers, Michael never wanted a life of crime. He went to college, fought in the war, and then returned to college. After the untimely death of his father, Vito Corleone, Michael quickly took over and confidently began running a massive, already established criminal empire. Tony Montana also ran a sizable organization, but he built it himself and was able to learn along the way. Michael was thrown in headfirst and had to adapt right off the bat.
9 Brutality: Tony Montana
The ability to kill indiscriminately is pretty important in a life of crime, and Tony Montana surely comes out on top here. He killed friends, strangers, bosses, and henchmen, without blinking an eye. Michael's hands were by no means clean, but he had more of a conscience and typically had others do his killing for him. Michael might've had his bodyguard quietly strangle a traitor, but Tony would murder his friend for dating his sister or shoot a guy in the street in broad daylight.
8 Style: Tony Montana
The best gangsters are the ones that dress the part and Tony's swagger was undeniable. Between the white suits, satin shirts, designer sunglasses, and floral prints, Tony Montana was like Don Johnson on a cocaine-fueled runway. Michael's fresh, three-piece suits were admirable, and he even threw in an ascot every once in a while, but there's no doubt that Tony wins here. Even his demise saw him falling into a luxurious fountain as he bled through his pocket square, whereas Michael just quietly slumped over in his chair.
7 Partners: Michael Corleone
Tony's circle was fairly loose and small when compared to Michael's network. The Corleone family had friends all over the world, and they were some of the most loyal people to walk the Earth. Tony had a few friends and employees, but things quickly crumbled for him as his mental state deteriorated. Michael, on the other hand, had a list of bodyguards, lawyers, and law enforcement officials that he could count on at all times. Despite some issues with traitors, Michael certainly wins this one.
6 Money: Tony Montana
This one is a bit more difficult to judge since finances tend to take a back seat when it comes to cinematic storytelling. Plus, The Godfather and its sequels never really mentioned the Corleone Family's net worth. In The Godfather Part III, Michael made some generous donations to the Vatican and owned a sizable share of Immobiliare stock, totaling almost $1 billion, which means his net worth must have been at least $1-2 billion. Tony Montana, on the other hand, was pulling in $10-$15 million per month at his peak.
Considering the fact that Michael had several decades to accumulate his wealth, if Tony was given that much time while making that much per month, his wealth would most likely surpass that of Michael's, making Tony the winner here.
5 Political Power: Michael Corleone
This one can easily be given to Michael. Tony had a couple of minor connections, but most of them were cartel and Cuban mafia-related. Michael, however, was in the pockets of multiple powerful people across the world. He was friends with several senators, met with the president of Cuba, had money in the Vatican, and conducted deals with the Pope. Tony may have been able to schmooze or shoot his way out of trouble, but Michael could ensure that trouble never even reached him.
4 Patience: Michael Corleone
A true mafioso knows that there is the right time to strike and a wrong time. Being able to find that perfect moment is a skill that only a few gangsters have, and Michael was one of them. While Tony would fly off the handle and kill his friend after finding him with his sister, Michael would wait to make his move. He was betrayed by his brother, and he didn't take revenge until years later after their mother had passed away. Even then, his move was calculated, careful, and clean.
3 Charisma: Tony Montana
Michael's father, Vito Corleone, had a very strong and modestly charismatic aura about him. Michael inherited the modesty, but not so much the charisma. He tended to be the strong silent type, giving firm orders from behind closed doors. Tony, on the other hand, screamed charisma. He smoothed over drug deals, seduced his boss's wife, gave inspirational speeches in the backs of convertibles, and introduced mercenaries to his "little friend" before blowing them up. Even coked out of his mind and backed into a corner, he confidently told his enemy to give him their best shot.
2 Family: Michael Corleone
When it comes to being a mobster, family is pretty important. They are the ride-or-die people. Business partners and employees can come and go, but family sticks around no matter what. Tony had his generally supportive sister and a mother who was ashamed of him. Michael, though, had his parents, Vito and Carmela, his brothers, Sonny and Fredo, and his sister, Connie. On top of that, he had Tom Hagen, who acted as the family's lawyer, right-hand man, and was largely considered to be a member of the family, his wife, Kay, and his kids.
Of course, this list dwindles as the trilogy progresses, but Michael still comes out on top as the winner here.
1 Overall: Michael Corleone
It's a close fight. If Michael Corleone and Tony Montana were locked in a room together, Tony might have a chance. He could make a move without even thinking about it and would probably be numb to any counter-attacks. In a typical, large scale mob battle, however, Michael would always come out victorious. He was the head of the biggest crime family in history, with global power. He made a hundred-million-dollar business deal, operated for decades, and knew exactly what to do and when to do it. He had the intellect, resources, power, connections, and support to make pretty much anybody disappear, even the legendary Tony Montana.