Once a month in the Top 5 column, we do a little something different. Moving down the IMDB (International Movie Database) Top 250 films, we’ll name the top five scenes (in my order) from films so good that our regular “My Favorite Scene” column can’t do them justice. You can see our first effort with #1 on the IMDB 250 – The Shawshank Redemption – by clicking here. Today, we tackle #2 – The Godfather Part I.
Not at all to marginalize female fans of The Godfathers Parts I and II (and Part Two will be next if the IMDB 250 stays constant), but watching The Godfather is almost a rite of passage for men. I know guys who live their entire lives by the messages of family and loyalty in the film. Fortunately, they do not also execute hordes of their enemies during, say, a child’s baptism, but there’s a manly gravitas to the film that permeates past the fact that it is in the argument for the greatest movie ever made. How do you separate five scenes out of that? That’s why this column is so hard! So, in no particular order, here are my top 5 scenes from The Godfather.
1. “I’m Going to Make Him an Offer”
One of the best openings of any movie. Ever. The scene establishes the character of Don Corleone, his gravitas, his life code and his position in the community in one interaction with a supplicant. It also gives us one of the most famous lines in all of movie history.
2. “It’s Strictly Business”
The first Godfather is all about Michael’s descent into Hell. This is the moment when Lucifer falls, so to speak. While the rest of the family think he’s joking, Michael coldly plans the execution of two crooked cops and leaves no doubt that the only Corleone not in the family business is now IN.
3. “Don’t Ever Take Sides Against the Family”
Ah, Fredo. This was your warning, man. Mike warned you.
4. “I Never Wanted This For You”
This is a beautiful little scene between Michael and the Don right before his death. The Don keeps awkwardly talking business, but Michael clearly has it under control by this point. It becomes just a father talking to his son about his burden and how sorry he is that he has to carry it. Brilliant showcase from Brando and Pacino.
5. A Baptism of Blood
One of the most effective and disturbing juxtapositions in film. As Michael becomes the Godfather to his sister’s child, we cut between the rites of the baptism and the cold execution of all the Corleones’ enemies. It’s brilliant directing from Coppola. Even more so than the final door closing at the end of the film, this is where you see that Michael has become a monster.
- This article is also published at Movie Pilot here
28 thoughts on “Top 5: Scenes From The Godfather”
Opening wedding sequence
Luca Brasi’s death
“Never tell anyone outside the family what you’re thinking again.”
“Take the gun, leave the Cannoli.”
Death of Sonny/”Look at how they massacred by boy.”
Horse head scene.
Italian resteraunt sequence.
“That was an accident, but no one was hurt.”
“But don’t tell me you’re innocent. It insults my intelligence.”
“This war ends now.”
The only perfect movie ever made.
I disagree it’s the ONLY perfect movie ever made, but it’s perfect. Picking five was HARD. This column is HARD. Maybe it’ll get easier the further down the IMDB 250 I go, but the next two are Godfather II and The Dark Knight so….probably not. When you gotta only pick five out of something like this or Shawshank, you realize what peerless works they really are.
Here are my top 5 (if anyone is interested):
1. Opening scene: I believe in America.
2. Michael at the hospital: I’m with you pop. The empty hospital ward is disturbingly eerie, compounded by the stuck record of a (presumed) Christmas song that discordantly repeats its one line. The footsteps of Enzo the baker are probably the most nail-biting sequence of footfalls in film history.
3. Michael murders McCluskey and Solozzo in the restaurant. The tension is so thick it’s palpable. Where’s the gun? He can’t find the gun! Whew, he found it. What’s that rumbling? Oh, it’s only the train. Why isn’t he coming out with guns blazing the way Clemenza instructed him? He lost his nerve; he can’t do it! His eyes are darting all over the place! Solozzo suspects something. It’s all over! Then… BAM BAM.
4. Intercutting of baptism with mob executions.
5. Final scene: Homage to the new Don Corleone. If I could cheat a bit, I would begin this scene with Michael’s interrogation of Carlo. Has there ever been a more ominous scene opener than “You have to answer for Santino, Carlo”? From there, Michael practically kills with kindness. Never raising his voice, never making a threat, never hinting at physical harm, Michael nonetheless has Carlo shaking in his shoes. At this moment, he is the Godfather.
I sympathize with sleeplessdave. It was not easy to whittle this list down to five. I had to leave out several honourable mentions:
6. Horse’s head scene. Any horror movie can include severed heads; but in Coppola’s hands, this is not a cheap shock tactic. It’s grand guignol at its finest.
7. Sonny’s assassination at the toll booth. If we begin this sequence with Connie and Carlo’s raging fight, it really throws the viewer for an emotional loop. The sound of pregnant Connie’s wails as Carlo whips her with his belt are all the more disturbing for not being shown, so by the time Sonny is called, we are giddy for the impending rescue. When Sonny — a mobster who cheats on his wife, thinks with his fists, and warms toward selling drugs — is ambushed, we feel sorrow for the fate of this morally compromised (albeit colourful) character.
8. The meeting with Moe Green in Las Vegas: Don’t ever take sides against the family — ever. This scene truly reveals the shifting dynamics in the Corleone family. We immediately see that Michael is his father’s son — serious, business-like, monogamous, forward-thinking… and supremely suited to be don. Fredo, by contrast, with his tendency to blurt out whatever he is thinking and with a work ethic that is hampered by his hedonism, comes across as a fish out of water. We note that Fredo is clueless, believing that Moe Green is the prime mover in Vegas and not Michael; but scratch below the surface and we see that Fredo’s own brother is the reason for this. Michael didn’t bother to inform Fredo beforehand about his strategy to migrate to the casino business. Instead, he lets Fredo make a fool of himself. Or perhaps this was a test to see if Fredo would stand behind the family — a test that Fredo failed.
9. Vito Corleone’s death.
10. Tessio’s treachery. When Tessio is surrounded by button men and realizes that his plot with Barzini has been discovered, the scene is all the more effective for its minimalism. We know this man’s final car ride is a ride toward his death, and he knows it too. The details of his demise are left to our imagination.
WOW….just WOW. Tremendously insightful; I don’t think there’s a word I could disagree with. It’s one of those films you can’t pick apart if you TRY. Thank you so much for this addition to the site. Damn, I’m going to have to start that IMDB Top 5 Scenes series up again soon…..I think #5 was Pulp Fiction, which should engender some debate lol.
You are so kind to me, sleeplessdave. I do like your praise! Thank you for establishing this site and letting others contribute. Trying my best to articulate what I love about the Godfather I & II movies certainly helps me hone my writing skills.
Jess, you are more than welcome to comment on anything at any time. I loved your take, and I’ll respond more later. I need to write the 10th installment of that IMDB series badly. Goal for this weekend! Bless ya, Jess! Keep on writing!
Love this post, it’s just filled with so many memorable moments.
Thank you, good sir. It’s part of a series where we’re running down the IMDB Top 250 movies and picking the best five scenes of each and talking about the film. This week we’ll be looking at 12 Angry Men so keep an eye open for that!
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Will keep an eye out for it.
Excellent picks, sleeplessdave! The Godfather is among the best movies of all time, and not just loved by men. I have watched it countless times, and each time, there’s always a new realization, a secret revealed. So, I can imagine how hard it is to pick those top 5. However, while scene #1 is undeniably iconic, for me, #2 is the best & most mesmerizing of all. Gosh, now I must watch it again! 😀
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I certainly didn’t mean only men love The Godfather. It was one of my wife’s favorite films as well. For some reason guys reach a certain age where they go through a Godfather phase and it just sinks into our vocabulary. At least in my experience. ACK! Yes, see even when I give myself five scenes from a film this good, how can you even rank them? That’s why I split this column off from my weekly one where I just pick a single scene from a film. Some movies it’s just too hard to pick a single one, and with films like The Godfather, the entire film could be a list. Awesome comment, thanks so much for reading!
I’m sure picking just five scenes was a huge challenge! Thanks for following my blog – I’m most appreciative. Hopefully will review another movie in July – maybe Wonder Woman, next on my list to see.
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Well, Wonder Woman will be a treat; fantastic movie. With The Godfather the entire film could be slapped up here. I do a weekly column where I pick my favorite scene from a random film, but every now and then I tackle one of the greats and even pulling five IS a huge challenge. Thanks so much for the follow and comment!
you have to correct your comments
for one of your top 5
michael was planning the killing of one crooked
cop : McCluskey
Sollozzo was not a cop
otherwise we’ll done on the comments
i agree with all these picks