June 21, 2014

The List: The Godfather Edition, Part IV

Concluding The List: The Godfather Edition with Part IV. In this four part column, we've been looking at my Top 20 favorite scenes from The Godfather Trilogy, with commentary. Here is #4-#1:

#4. Brother vs. Brother (The Godfather, Part II)

*I couldn't find the complete portion of this scene, but the majority is intact.

Why It's Cool:
 The most powerful brother, with the smallest of emotions vs. the smallest brother with too many emotions; Michael had to go up against his own family when Fredo betrayed Michael. Though the betrayal may not have been premeditated or motivated by anger, it certainly was eased along by jealousy. Sonny got himself killed with his rage and Fredo sealed his fate with his need to feel wanted. In the end, Fredo got the bullet ... but despite it being 'justified', it would haunt Michael for the rest of his days.

Best Line: "I can handle things ... I'm smart. Not like everybody says ... " -- Fredo

#3. The Abortion (The Godfather, Part II)

Why It's Cool: What a brutal, brutal scene. In many of Michael's moments, especially in Part II, Michael is very cold and calculating; he hardly ever shows his true feelings. However, his wife Kay seems to bring out those hidden emotions and it is usually never a good thing.

In a culture that thrives on family and finding a successor, the loss of a child is damaging not just for the heart but for the soul of the family business. Though Michael has one son and one daughter by this point, any addition is helpful. Just look at Vito's brood: puny Fredo, adopted Tom, angry Sonny and future king Michael. Michael worked out but heirs are no guarantee. So when Kay says she aborted Michael's son, he loses that cold-as-ice composure and lashes out, which makes for uncomfortable viewing.

Hats off to Diane Keaton and, of course, Pacino, for acting the hell out of this scene.

Best Line: "I wouldn't bring another one of your sons into this world". -- Kay

#2. The Business (The Godfather)

*start at 00:46

Why It's Cool: Kay sees first hand how cold and horrible Michael can be ... but, giving the benefit of the doubt, believes his lies. And thus, a world of 'dread' begins for Kay. I love this scene mainly because the two most important women in Michael's life, Kay and Connie, see what Michael has become and both deal with it in different ways (Connie becomes a tramp, traversing the world on Michael's dime before becoming the defacto head of the family; Kay eventually leaves and moves on). While Connie eventually forgives, Kay can only suspect and slowly realize the continuing horrors of being Michael's bride.

My favorite part of the whole scene is when Pacino slaps the table. It is one of the only times Michael ever raises his voice in the entire film ... one of the only times he cracks that newly formed emotional shield ... and it is telling. Kay represents the potential disruption in his plans and he quickly seals the crack. However, and the scene has become iconic, Kay realizes at the very end of the movie, that lies are just part of the business.

Best Line: "Don't ask me about my business". -- Michael

#1. The Confession (The Godfather, Part III)

Why It's Cool: I know, I know. I picked a scene from the least popular Godfather film as my all-time favorite scene. I can't help it: this ties everything together for Michael. It took decades but Michael finally breaks down and reveals his greatest sins. Slowly, his body has been punishing him, it seems, for his crimes. Now, he has to punish himself ... by letting it all go. It is a powerful scene, acted with sincerity and heart breaking emotion by Pacino. It isn't the Michael we have come to know, but that might be the point.

Best Line: "I killed my father's son" -- Michael


  1. This is a great list, Will. And specifically for its top selection. One of the few highlights in the weak sister of a sequel for this brilliant saga. Pacino really nails it, culminating a marvelous arc for the character. It's one of the reasons I still watch it, putting up with Sofia maiming a good portion of the film, to get this scene. Fine job, Will.

  2. I agree with you and Leopard on this. I think the third film gets trashed on too often. There really is a lot to like about it. Pacino's acting is really amazing in it. Nice to see someone giving the film it's due.


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