Monday, June 10, 2013

2 7 Things I Learned From The Godfather

The classic 1972 film, The Godfather, is one of my favorite movies of all time. Aside from the great story and remarkable characters, one of the things which makes me such a huge fan of this movie is the abundance of life lessons and wisdom found in it. The movie is so inspirational for me that I felt the need to share some of the lessons that I learned from it such as...

Lesson 1- Stay focused on your business

One of the most brilliant scenes of the movie is when Michael Corleone goes to Vegas to meet with mafiosi Moe Greene, to get him to sell him his casino to the Corleone family. But when Michael arrives in Vegas for the meeting his brother Fredo has a party waiting for him along with music, food and his choice of women. But Michael sternly tells him, "Get rid of them... I'm here on business." That type of focus Michael had on his business goals rather than personal indulgences always stood out to me. 

As you can see, Michael is all business.

Lesson 2- Keep your composure

The oldest son of the Corleone family. Sonny, was known to be a hothead. He could fly off of the handle at a moment's notice, like when he broke the reporter's camera at his sister's wedding...

Or when he beat up his sister's abusive husband, Carlo.

... OK, that one was understandable. But Sonny's uncontrolled rage would inevitably be his downfall, why? Because it made him predictable. As fate would have it, Sonny was killed in an ambush by henchmen of a rival mafia family as he angrily left his family compound without bodyguards to get retaliation on Carlo for beating his sister again.

Lesson 3- You could act like a man!

...Or you could act like a woman (for the ladies).

One of the more humorous scenes of the Godfather is the one in which the Corleone family protege, Sinatra-esque singer, Johnny Fontane comes to Vito Corleone talking about his problems in the entertainment business. Fontane tells the Don that his career is in a slump and he needs a role in an upcoming film to get back on track, but a movie producer named Jack Woltz won't hire him. Fontane, then starts to sulk and practically cries to the Don about the situation. Don Corleone furiously gets up, slaps him and demands that he "Act like a man!" 

The lesson in this is that anyone can complain and whine about their problems, but it takes guts to just and handle it like an adult. Johnny Fontane learned the hard way, with a good ol' slap from the Don.

Lesson 4- Don't take sides against the family

Family loyalty is one of the recurring themes of The Godfather. Yet one of the most iconic and ominous scenes of the film occurs when new Corleone family head, Michael speaks sternly with Vegas head honcho Moe Greene about buying his casino. Greene basically is against selling the casino and mocks the power of not only Michael, but of the Corleone family as a whole.

This prompts Michael to put Moe Greene in his place with a calm, yet threatening, chilling comment: 
"I leave for New York tomorrow, think about a price."

After Greene leaves angrily, Michael's brother, the weak-minded Fredo Corleone scolds him for the way that he talked to Moe Greene. Michael then warns Fredo about something that would inevitably be his downfall...

This lesson is simple, family comes first.

Lesson 5- "Don't ever let anyone outside the family know what you're thinking..."

In addition to Sonny Corleone's inability to contain his anger, he also was bad at holding his tongue. He often said what he felt without regard for whether or not it was a appropriate time to do so.

A prime example of is when Vito Corleone met with rival mob boss, Sollozzo, who was trying to gain money  and protection from the Corleones for his investment in the heroin business. Yet, seeing how risky the business of narcotics is, Corleone refuses.   

Yet, Sonny, who, unlike his father, was in favor of the Corleones investing in the narcotic business expresses interest in Sollozo's plan. His carelessness angers his father:

 This Sonny's slip of the tongue proves to be a huge mistake. In this small comment, Sollozzo saw a weakness in the Corleone family and saw that Sonny and his father were divided on the issue of narcotics and decided to exploit that weakness.

Since Sonny is the Corleone family underboss, which makes him his father's heir, Sollozzo arranges a hit on Vito.

The lesson in all of this is to be very mindful of what you say to people outside of your inner circle... and when you're in doubt, just shut up

Lesson 6- Be observant

In the world of the Corleone family, families rise to the top of the food chain through power, organization and strategy. But one of the things which kept families like the Corleones at the top is being observant. In some cases, how observant a person is can be a matter of life and death. Like in the meeting after Sonny's death where Vito Corleone declares a truce amongst the five families, and he discovers that Don Barzini, a head of a rival family is one of the main sources of a great deal of the hostility toward the Corleone family.

Just by listening to the way in which people talked, Vito Corleone was able to decipher power relationships amongst the families as well as any hostility toward him. This led him to gain insight on the power dynamics of the families... which inevitably led to his son Michael ordering hits on all of them.

But, murders and violence aside... As The Godfather has showed, it pays off to be observant; keeping your eyes and ears open solves a lot of life's problems.

Lesson 7- Relationships mean a lot

One of the main lessons which I got from The Godfather is that relationships go a long way. Most of the Corleone family's power was built upon their relationships.

Look at Johnny Fontane, he was washed up and wimpy in the beginning of the movie, thanks to his relationship with the Corleones, he was back on top towards the end.

Or you can look at the way in which Carlo exploited his relationship with the Corleones through his marriage to Vito Corleone's daughter Connie.

If the Godfather has showed us anything it's that who let into our inner circle, who we make friends with, who we help and who we make enemies with can play a huge role on our lives.

So in conclusion...

There's nothing quite like a movie that can make you really think, and that's part of the reason why The Godfather is a classic which has stood the test of time. It's not just a gangster flick, it's movie about family, power and change. It offers much more than just good acting and memorable characters, it offers life lessons... and that's an offer you can't refuse.


  1. I am an ardent fan of the Godfather....what u said about lessons, is absolutely right & worth following..thank u..

  2. So many true life lessons, they also say its a blessing to have 3 boys and a girl. Great film and great analysis


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