The Godfather Part II
The Godfather Part II

Francis Ford Coppola


Francis Ford Coppola
Gray Frederickson
Fred Roos


Francis Ford Coppola
Mario Puzo


Al Pacino
Robert Duvall
Diane Keaton
Robert De Niro
John Cazale
Talia Shire
Lee Strasberg
Michael V. Gazzo

Music by

Nino Rota
Carmine Coppola

Cinematography by

Gordon Willis


Paramount Pictures


December 20, 1974


200 min


United States




English and Sicilian


1901-1922 & 1958-1960

Preceded by

The Godfather

Followed by

The Godfather Part III

"Keep your friends close but your enemies closer."
Michael Corleone[src]

The Godfather Part II is a 1974 American crime epic that Francis Ford Coppola produced, directed, and co-wrote with Mario Puzo, starring Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, and Robert De Niro. Partially based on Puzo's 1969 novel, the film is in part both a sequel and a prequel to The Godfather, presenting two parallel dramas. The main storyline, following the events of the first film, centers on Michael Corleone (Pacino), the new Don of the Corleone crime family, trying to hold his business ventures together from 1958 through 1960; the other is a series of flashbacks following his father, Vito Corleone (De Niro), from his childhood in Sicily in 1901 to his founding of the Corleone family in New York City.

The film was released in 1974 to great critical acclaim, some even deeming it superior to the original.[2] Nominated for 11 Academy Awards and the first sequel to win for Best Picture, its six Oscars included Best Director for Coppola, Best Supporting Actor for De Niro and Best Adapted Screenplay for Coppola and Puzo. Pacino won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor and received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Like its predecessor, the sequel remains a highly influential film in the gangster genre. It was ranked as the 32nd-greatest film in American cinematic history by the American Film Institute in 1997 and it kept its rank 10 years later.[3] It was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1993.[4]

A sequel, The Godfather Part III, was released 16 years later in 1990.


The Godfather Part II presents two parallel storylines. The first involves Mafia chief Michael Corleone in 1958 and 1959 after the events of the first film; the other is a series of flashbacks following his father, Vito Corleone from 1917 to 1925, from his youth in Sicily (in 1901) to the founding of the Corleone family in New York City.

The film begins in 1901, in the town of Corleone, Sicily, at the funeral of young Vito's father, Antonio Andolini, who has been murdered for an insult to the local Mafia lord, Don Ciccio. During the procession, Vito's older brother is murdered because he swore revenge on the Don. Vito's mother goes to Ciccio to beg for mercy, but he refuses, knowing that nine-year-old Vito will seek revenge later in life. Vito's mother then takes Ciccio hostage at knifepoint, allowing her son to escape, and Ciccio's men kill her. They search the town for the boy, but he is aided in his escape by the townspeople. Vito finds his way by ship to New York City, and at Ellis Island an immigration agent chooses Vito's hometown of Corleone as his surname, and he is registered as "Vito Corleone".

In 1958 in a scene similar to the opening of the first film, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), Godfather of the Corleone family, deals with various business and family problems during an elaborate party at his Lake Tahoe, Nevada compound to celebrate his son Anthony's First Communion. In his office, Michael meets with corrupt Nevada Senator Pat Geary (G. D. Spradlin) to discuss the price of the gaming licenses for the hotel/casinos the Family is buying. Geary, who makes his contempt for Michael and other Italian businessmen who are moving into his state to take advantage of gambling opportunities known, promises to make Michael's acquisition of his gaming license a difficult process. Michael ends his conversation with Geary when he refuses to pay the outrageous fee Geary demands, telling the senator he'll get nothing.

Michael also deals with his younger sister Connie (Talia Shire), who, although recently divorced from her second husband, is planning to marry a man named Merle Johnson (Troy Donahue) with no obvious means of support and of whom Michael disapproves. He also talks with Johnny Ola (Dominic Chianese), the right hand man of Jewish gangster Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg), who is supporting Michael's move into the gambling industry. Belatedly, Michael deals with Frank "Five Angels" Pentangeli (Michael V. Gazzo), a business associate who took over Corleone caporegime Peter Clemenza's territory in New York City after his death, and now has problems with the Rosato Brothers, who are backed by Roth. Pentangeli leaves abruptly, after telling Michael "your father did business with Hyman Roth, your father respected Hyman Roth, but your father never trusted Hyman Roth."

Later that night, Michael barely escapes an assassination attempt when his wife Kay (Diane Keaton) notices the bedroom window drapes are inexplicably open, which allows two unseen hitmen to spray the bedroom with bullets. The two hitman are found dead having been killed by a "mole" within the compound. Afterwards, Michael tells his lawyer and adopted brother Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) that the hit was made with the help of someone close, and that he must leave, entrusting all his power to Tom to protect his family.

In 1917 New York City, the adult Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) works in a grocery store in the Lower East side with his friend Genco Abbandando. The neighborhood is controlled by a purported member of the "Black Hand", Don Fanucci (Gastone Moschin), who extorts protection payments from local businesses. One night, Vito's neighbor, a young Peter Clemenza (Bruno Kirby) asks him to hide a stash of guns for him, and later, to repay the favor, takes him to a fancy apartment where they commit their first crime together, stealing an elegant rug.

In 1958, Michael meets with Hyman Roth in Miami, and he tells Roth that he believes Frank Pentangeli was responsible for the assassination attempt, and that Pentangeli will pay for it. Traveling to Brooklyn, Michael lets Pentangeli know that Roth was actually behind it, and that Michael has a plan to deal with Roth, but he needs Frankie to cooperate with the Rosato Brothers in order to put Roth off guard. When Pentangeli goes to meet with the Rosatos at a local bar, he is told "Michael Corleone says hello," as he is attacked from behind, but the attempted murder is interrupted by a policeman. Pentangeli is left for dead, and his bodyguard, Willie Cicci (Joe Spinell), is struck by a car while shooting at the Rosatos as they drive away.

Back in Nevada, Tom Hagen is called to a brothel in Carson City run by Michael's older brother Fredo (John Cazale), where Senator Geary is implicated in the death of a prostitute, and Tom offers to take care of the problem in return for "friendship" between the Senator and the Corleone family.

Meanwhile, Michael meets Roth in Havana, Cuba, at the time when dictator Fulgencio Batista is soliciting American investment, and communist guerrillas led by Fidel Castro are trying to bring down the government. At a birthday party for Roth, Michael mentions that there is a possibility that the rebels might win, making their business dealings in Cuba problematic. Earlier that day, Michael had witnessed a communist rebel kill a Havana policemen by detonating a grenade that also killed the rebel himself. The comment prompts Roth to remark, privately, that Michael has not yet delivered the two million dollars to firm their partnership.

Fredo, carrying the promised money, arrives in Havana and meets Michael. Michael mentions Hyman Roth and Johnny Ola to him, but Fredo says he has never met them. Michael confides to his brother that it was Roth who tried to kill him, and that he plans to try again. Michael assures Fredo that he has already made his move, and that "Hyman Roth will never see the New Year."

Instead of turning over the money to Roth, Michael asks him who gave the order to have Frank Pentangeli killed, saying it wasn't him. Roth avoids the question, instead speaking angrily of the murder of his old friend, Moe Greene, which Michael had orchestrated (as depicted at the end of the first film).

Michael has asked Fredo, who knows Havana well, to show Senator Geary and other important American officials and businessmen a good time, during which Fredo pretends to not recognize Johnny Ola. Soon after, at a sex show, Fredo comments loudly that Johnny Ola told him about the place, contradicting what he told Michael twice earlier, that he didn't previously know Roth or Ola. Michael now realizes that the traitor is his own brother, and dispatches his bodyguard, Bussetta (Amerigo Tot), to deal with Roth.

Johnny Ola is strangled by Bussetta, but Roth, in a delicate state because of his heart condition, is taken to a hospital, where Michael's enforcer is shot trying to kill him. At Batista's New Year's Eve party, at the stroke of midnight, Michael grasps Fredo tightly by the head and kisses him, telling him: "I know it was you Fredo; you broke my heart." When rebels attack and Batista announces his resignation, the guests flee. However, Fredo refuses to go with Michael, despite Michael's pleas that Fredo is still his brother and that it's the only way out.

In early 1959, Michael returns to his Lake Tahoe compound after fleeing Cuba, where Tom tells him that Roth escaped from Cuba after suffering a stroke and is recovering in Miami, that Michael's bodyguard is dead, and that Fredo is probably hiding in New York. Hagen also informs Michael that Kay had a miscarriage while he was away. Michael is distraught at the news and furiously demands to know the sex of the child, but Tom says he doesn't know.

In 1920, Don Fanucci is now aware of the partnership between Vito, Clemenza and Salvatore Tessio (John Aprea), and wants his share of their profits every week. Clemenza and Tessio agree to pay, but Vito is reluctant and asks his friends to leave everything in his hands so Fanucci will accept less and indeed, Vito manages to get Fanucci to take only one sixth of what he demanded ($100 out of $600). Immediately afterward, during the neighborhood festa, Vito murders Fanucci in the hallway outside his apartment and then rejoins his wife and children on the stoops outside his apartment building where Vito tells the infant Michael that his father loves him very much.

With Fanucci dead, Vito earns the respect of the neighborhood and begins to intercede in local disputes, operating out of the storefront of his Genco Pura Olive Oil Company (named after his friend Genco Abbandando) which he manages as well as give out "favors" to others in the community such as a friend of his wife's, Signora Colombo, threatened with eviction. Vito intimidates her landlord into letting her stay, with a reduction in her rent.

In 1959 in Washington, D.C., a Senate committee, of which Senator Geary is a member, is conducting an investigation into organized crime and the Mafia. They question disaffected "soldier" Willie Cicci about his role as a button man in the Family, but he cannot implicate Michael, because he never received any direct orders from him. When Michael appears before the committee, Senator Geary makes a big show of supporting Italian-Americans and then excuses himself from the proceedings. During questioning, Michael denies all criminal allegations against him, from the murder of Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey back in 1946 (in the first film), and to his business status of operating several gambling casinos in Nevada. Michael makes a statement challenging the committee to produce a witness to corroborate the charges against him. The hearing ends with the committee chairman, Senator Kane, promising a witness who will do exactly that.

Frank Pentangeli, who did not die in the attack by the Rosato Brothers and falsely believes that Michael had tried to kill him, has made a deal with the FBI, and will testify against Michael. Tom Hagen and Michael discuss the problem, observing that Roth's strategy to destroy Michael is well planned, as Michael will be indicted for perjury after Pentangeli's testimony. Michael's brother Fredo has been found and persuaded to return to Nevada, and in a private meeting he explains to Michael his betrayal: upset about being passed over to head the family in favor of Michael, he wants respect and his due. He helped Roth thinking there would be something in it for him, but he swears he didn't know they wanted to kill Michael. He also tells Michael that the Senate Committee's chief lawyer, Questadt, is Roth's man. Michael then tells Fredo: "You're nothing to me now. Not a brother, not a friend, nothing", and privately instructs soldier and button man Al Neri (Richard Bright) that nothing is to happen to Fredo while their mother is still alive.

At the hearing in which Frank Pentangeli is to testify, Michael arrives accompanied by Pentangeli's brother, Vincenzo, brought from Sicily, and whose presence causes Frank to recant his previous statements about Michael. When Pentangeli is pressed, he claims that he just told the FBI what they wanted to hear. With no witness to testify against Michael, the committee adjourns, with Tom, acting as Michael's lawyer, loudly demanding an apology.

At a hotel room afterwards, Kay tries to leave Michael, taking their children with her. Michael at first tries to mollify her, but loses his temper and hits her when she reveals to him that her recent "miscarriage" was actually an abortion to avoid providing another child into Michael's criminal inheritance. She also tells him that the child was a boy, further infuriating Michael.

In 1925, while visiting Sicily for a family vacation in for the first time in 20 years, Vito Corleone is introduced to the now elderly Don Ciccio as the man who imports their olive oil to America, and wants his blessing. When Ciccio asks Vito who his father was, Vito says, "My father's name is Antonio Andolini, and this is for you!", cutting the old man's stomach open with a knife, avenging the deaths of his father, mother, and brother. As they make their escape from Ciccio's compound and his men, Tommasino is shot in the leg by one of Ciccio's bodyguards. The injury gives him a permanent limp.

In April 1959, Carmela Corleone (Morgana King), Vito's widow and the mother of his children, dies, and the Corleone family is reunited for her funeral. Michael still shuns Fredo, who is miserable, but relents when Connie implores him to. Michael and Fredo embrace, but at the same time Michael signals to Neri that Fredo's protection from harm, in effect while their mother lived, has now run out.

Michael, Tom, and Rocco Lampone discuss their final dealings with Hyman Roth, who has been unsuccessfully seeking asylum from various countries, and was even refused entry to Israel as a returned Jew. Michael rejects Tom's advice that the Corleone family's position is secure and that killing Roth and the Rosato brothers for revenge is an unnecessary risk. Later, Tom pays a visit to the imprisoned Frank Pentangeli on a military base and suggests that he take his own life, in the manner of unsuccessful ancient Roman conspirators who, in return, were promised that their families would be taken care of after their suicide.

With the connivance of Connie, Kay visits her children, but cannot bear to leave them and stays too long. When Michael arrives, he coldly closes the door in her face.

The movie reaches its climax in a montage of assassinations and death, reminiscent of the end of Part One:

As he arrives at an airport to be taken into custody, Hyman Roth is killed by Rocco Lampone, disguised as a journalist, who himself is immediately shot dead by Roth's bodyguards.

On the military base, Frank Pentangeli is found dead, having followed Hagen's instructions and committed suicide in his bathtub.

Fredo is murdered by Al Neri while they are fishing on Lake Tahoe- while Fredo is saying a Hail Mary to help catch a fish.

The penultimate scene takes place on December 21st 1941, and the Corleone family is preparing a surprise birthday party for Vito. Vito's eldest child Sonny (James Caan) introduces his friend Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Russo), Connie's future abusive husband and betrayer of Sonny, to his family. They all talk about the recent attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, and Michael shocks everybody by announcing that he has just enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Sonny ridicules Michael's choice, and Tom mentions how Vito has told him he has great expectations for Michael's future. Fredo is the only one who supports Michael's decision. Sal Tessio comes in with the cake for the party. When Vito arrives, all but Michael leave the room to greet him.

The final scene in the film is Michael sitting by himself at Lake Tahoe, in silent contemplation.



Behind the scenesEdit

Casting notesEdit


The Godfather Part II was shot between October 1, 1973 and June 19, 1974, and was the last major American motion picture to be printed with Technicolor's dye imbibition process until the late 1990s and was the last major American motion picture filmed in Technicolor.[1] The scenes that took place in Cuba were shot in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.[1][5][6] Charles Bluhdorn, whose Gulf+Western conglomerate owned Paramount, felt strongly about developing the Dominican Republic as a movie-making site.

The Lake Tahoe house and grounds portrayed in the film are Fleur du Lac, the summer estate of Henry J. Kaiser on the California side of the lake.[1][5]

The only structures used in the movie that still remain are the complex of old native stone boathouses with their wrought iron gates. Although Fleur du Lac is private property and no one is allowed ashore there, the boathouses and multi-million dollar condominiums may be viewed from the lake.

Unlike with the first film, Coppola was given near-complete control over production. In his commentary, he said this resulted in a shoot that ran very smoothly despite multiple locations and two narratives running parallel within one film.[7]

Production nearly ended before it began when Pacino's lawyers told Coppola that he had grave misgivings with the script and wasn't coming. Coppola spent an entire night rewriting it before giving it to Pacino for his review. Pacino approved and the production went forward.[7]

Coppola discusses his decision to make this the first major motion picture to use "Part II" in its title in the director's commentary on the DVD edition of the film released in 2002. Paramount was initially opposed because they believed the audience would not be interested in an addition to a story they had already seen. But the director prevailed, and the film's success began the common practice of numbered sequels.

Still, three weeks prior to the release, film critics and journalists pronounced Part II a disaster. The cross-cutting between Vito and Michael's parallel stories were judged too frequent, not allowing enough time to leave a lasting impression on the audience. Coppola and the editors returned to the cutting room to change the film's narrative structure, but could not complete the work in time, leaving the final scenes poorly timed at the opening.[8]

George Lucas commented on the film after its five-hour long preview, telling Coppola: "You have two films. Take one away, it doesn't work."

Additional/deleted scenesEdit

For both The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, many scenes that were shot were not shown in the original theatrical runs but were included in the television adaptation The Godfather Saga (1977) and the home video releases The Godfather 1901-1959: The Complete Epic (1981) and The Godfather Trilogy: 1901–1980 (1992). To date, there has not been a single release that contains all of this footage together in one collection.

A limited time-reduced version of The Godfather Part II was later released because of its runtime. The shorter version was 2 hr 7 min 56 sec rather than the original 3 hr 20 min 45 sec version.

Box officeEdit

The Godfather Part II did not surpass the original commercially, but it was very successful nonetheless, with a $193 million gross on a $13 million budget. For Paramount, it was their highest-grossing film of 1974 and was the fifth-highest-grossing picture in the US that year.


The Godfather Part II ranks among the most critically and artistically successful films in movie history, and is the most honored sequel for excellence. Whether considered separately or with its predecessor as one work, it is widely accepted as one of world cinema's greatest achievements. Many critics compare it favorably to the original — although it is almost always placed below the original on lists of "greatest" movies when listed separately.

The Godfather Part II:

  • Was featured on Sight and Sound's list of the ten greatest films of all time in 1992 and 2002.
  • Is featured on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list, though Ebert's original review of the film granted it only three out of four stars.
  • Is ranked #7 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the "100 Greatest Movies of All Time".
  • Is featured on movie critic Leonard Maltin's list of the "100 Must-See Films of the 20th Century".
  • Received only one negative review on Rotten Tomatoes and a "98%" approval rating, 2 points less than The Godfather (although it does hold a higher rating average of 9.2/10 compared to the predecessor's 9.1/10) but 32 points more than The Godfather Part III.[9]
  • Is ranked #1 on TV Guide's 1998 list of the "50 Greatest Movies of All Time on TV and Video".[10]
  • Is ranked #3 on IMDb's Top 100 Movies of all time, with its predecessor The Godfather ranked #2.

Pacino's performance in The Godfather Part II has been praised as perhaps his best, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was criticized for not awarding him the Academy Award for Best Actor, which went that year to Art Carney for his role in Harry and Tonto. It has come to be seen by some as one of the greatest performances in cinema history. In 2006, Premiere magazine issued its list of "The 100 Greatest Performances of all Time", ranking Pacino's performance at #20.[11] Later in 2009, Total Film issued "The 150 Greatest Performances of All Time", ranking Pacino's performance at #4.[12]

In the chapter "The Speeches We Keep in Our Heads" from her 1998 book Simply Speaking, former television writer and Ronald Reagan's speechwriter, Peggy Noonan, analyzes "Lee Strasberg's great speech, given as Hyman Roth stood, weak and furious, before cold-eyed Michael Corleone" and explains what makes it powerful and memorable. She urges:

"Stop here and go out and rent The Godfather, Part II. In the middle of that movie, you will find a speech that is one of the most famous of our time, and that a lot of people keep parts of in their heads. (If I were making a compendium of great speeches of the latter half of the twentieth century I would include it.)"[13]

Awards and honorsEdit

Between The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, Coppola directed The Conversation, which was released in 1974 and was also nominated for Best Picture. This resulted in Coppola being the second director in Hollywood history to have two films released in the same year nominated for Best Picture. (The first was Alfred Hitchcock in 1941 with Foreign Correspondent and Rebecca, which won. This achievement was matched by Herbert Ross in 1977 with The Goodbye Girl and The Turning Point and again with Steven Soderbergh in 2000, when the films Erin Brockovich and Traffic were both nominated for Best Picture.)

The film was the first sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Academy AwardsEdit

A list of awards the film was nominated for: The film proceeded to win the categories in bold.

  • Best Leading Actor (Al Pacino)
  • Best Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro)
  • Best Supporting Actor (Michael V. Gazzo)
  • Best Supporting Actor (Lee Strasberg)
  • Best Supporting Actress (Talia Shire)
  • Best Script Adaptation
  • Best Music
  • Best Artistic Design
  • Best Costumes & Makeup
  • Best Director
  • Best Picture

American Film Institute recognitionEdit

  • 1998 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – #32
  • 2003 AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains:
    • Michael Corleone – #11 Villain
  • 2005 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
    • "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." – #58
    • "I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart." – Nominated
    • "Michael, we're bigger than U.S. Steel." – Nominated
  • 2007 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – #32
  • 2008 AFI's 10 Top 10 – #3 Gangster film
    • Epic film – Nominated


  • The scene in which Vito negotiates with Don Fanucci inspired George Lucas' scene in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, in which the Corellian smuggler Han Solo negotiates with the Hutt crime lord Jabba Desilijic Tiure for more time to pay the money he owes.
  • The character Hyman Roth, portrayed by Lee Strasberg, is based on Meyer Lansky. Shortly after the premiere in 1974, Lansky phoned Strasberg and congratulated him on a good performance, but added "You could've made me more sympathetic."
  • In an early draft of the script, Tom Hagen had an affair with Sonny's widow Sandra, causing some friction within the family. This subplot was eventually cut from the script, though in the final cut Michael still refers to Tom having a mistress.
  • The statue carried during the Feast of San Rocco is of St. Rocco and is currently located at St. Joseph's Church in New York City. The priest is Rev. Joseph Moffo, who was the pastor of St. Joseph's at the time of the filming. In addition, the altar boys and men carrying the canopy were also from St. Joseph's.
  • After bad experiences directing the first film, Coppola originally sought Martin Scorsese to direct the sequel after seeing Mean Streets.[1] Eventually, under pressure from Paramount, Coppola directed, but was also given other incentives such as a larger budget and the chance to make The Conversation in the same year.


See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Cowie, Peter (1997). The Godfather Book. Faber and Faber. ISBN 0571190111.
  2. "Citizen Kane Stands the test of Time". American Film Institute.
  3. The National Film Registry List – Library of Congress.
  4. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Lebo, Harlan (2005). The Godfather Legacy. Fireside. ISBN 0743287770.
  5. "Movie Set Hotel: The Godfather II", HotelChatter, 12-05-2006.
  6. 7.0 7.1 The Godfather Part II DVD commentary featuring Francis Ford Coppola, [2005]
  7. The Godfather Family: A look Inside
  8. The Godfather, Part II Movie Reviewers – Rotten Tomatoes
  9. TV Guide list of 50 Best
  10. "The 100 Greatest Performances"
  11. "The 150 Greatest Performances Of All Time"
  12. Peggy Noonan (1998). The Speeches We Keep in Our Heads. New York: ReganBooks, 46–57.

External linksEdit

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