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The Godfather Part III

The Godfather Part III

The Godfather Part III is a 1990 American crime film written by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, and directed by Coppola. A sequel to The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974), it completes the story of Michael Corleone, a Mafia kingpin who attempts to legitimize his criminal empire. The film also includes fictionalized accounts of two real-life events: the 1978 death of Pope John Paul I and the Papal banking scandal of 1981–82, both linked to Michael Corleone's business affairs. The film stars Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, and Andy García.

Coppola and Puzo preferred the title The Death of Michael Corleone, but Paramount Pictures found that unacceptable. Coppola considers the series as two films, with Part III as an epilogue. The Godfather Part III received generally positive reviews, albeit less than the critical acclaim that the first two films received. It grossed $136,766,062 and was nominated for seven Academy Awards including the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The Godfather Part III
Directed byFrancis Ford Coppola
Produced byFrancis Ford Coppola
Written by
  • Mario Puzo
  • Francis Ford Coppola
  • Al Pacino
  • Diane Keaton
  • Talia Shire
  • Andy García
  • Eli Wallach
  • Joe Mantegna
  • Bridget Fonda
  • George Hamilton
  • Sofia Coppola
Music byCarmine Coppola
CinematographyGordon Willis
Edited by
  • Barry Malkin
  • Lisa Fruchtman
  • Walter Murch
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • December 20, 1990 (1990-12-20)(Beverly Hills)
  • December 25, 1990 (1990-12-25)(United States)
Running time
162 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$54 million[2]
Box office$136.8 million[2]


In 1979, Michael Corleone, approaching 60, is wracked with guilt over his ruthless rise to power, especially for having ordered Fredo's assassination. He donates part of his tremendous wealth to charitable causes. Michael and Kay are divorced; their children, Anthony and Mary, live with Kay. At the reception following a papal order induction ceremony in St. Patrick's Old Cathedral in Michael's honor, Anthony tells his father that he is leaving law school to become an opera singer. Kay supports his decision, but Michael wants Anthony to complete his law degree first. Michael and Kay have an uneasy reunion when Kay reveals that she and Anthony know the truth about Fredo's death. Vincent Mancini, the illegitimate son of Sonny Corleone, arrives at the reception. He is embroiled in a feud with Joey Zasa. Connie Corleone arranges for Vincent to meet Zasa, who calls Vincent a bastard, and Vincent bites Zasa's ear. Although Michael is troubled by Vincent's fiery temper, he is impressed by his loyalty, so agrees to include Vincent in the family business.

Michael knows that the head of the Vatican Bank, Archbishop Gilday, has accumulated a massive deficit and offers $600 million in exchange for shares in Internazionale Immobiliare,[3] an international real estate company, which would make him its largest single shareholder with six seats on the company's 13-member board. He makes a tender offer to buy the Vatican's 25% share in the company, which will give him a controlling interest. Immobiliare's board quickly approves the offer, pending ratification by the pope.

Don Altobello, a New York Mafia boss and Connie's godfather, tells Michael that his partners on The Commission want to be in on the Immobiliare deal. Wanting the deal to be untainted by Mafia involvement, Michael pays them from the sale of his Las Vegas holdings. Zasa receives nothing and, declaring Michael his enemy, storms out. Altobello follows Zasa, saying he will reason with him. Moments later, a helicopter hovers outside the conference room and opens fire. Most of the bosses are killed, but Michael, Vincent, and Michael's bodyguard, Al Neri, escape. Neri tells Michael that the surviving mob bosses made deals with Zasa but Michael realizes that it is Altobello who is the traitor. Michael suffers a diabetic stroke and is hospitalized. As Michael recuperates, Vincent and Mary begin a romantic relationship, while Neri and Connie give Vincent permission to retaliate against Zasa. During a street festival hosted by Zasa's Italian American civil rights group, Vincent kills Zasa. Michael berates Vincent for his actions and insists that Vincent end his relationship with Mary, explaining Vincent's involvement in the family's criminal enterprises endangers her life.

The family goes to Sicily for Anthony's operatic debut in Palermo at the Teatro Massimo and stays with Don Tommasino. Michael tells Vincent to pretend to defect from the Corleone family in order to spy on Altobello. Altobello introduces Vincent to Don Licio Lucchesi, a powerful Italian political figure and Immobiliare's chairman. Michael discovers that the Immobiliare deal is an elaborate swindle, arranged by Lucchesi, Gilday, and Vatican accountant Frederick Keinszig. Michael visits Cardinal Lamberto, favored to become the next pope, to discuss the deal. Lamberto persuades Michael to make his first confession in 30 years. Michael tearfully confesses that he ordered Fredo's murder, and Lamberto says that Michael deserves to suffer but can be redeemed.

Vincent tells Michael that Altobello has hired Mosca, a veteran hitman, to assassinate Michael. Mosca and his son, disguised as priests, kill Don Tommasino as he returns to his villa. While Michael and Kay tour Sicily, Michael asks for Kay's forgiveness, and they admit they still love each other. Michael receives word of Tommasino's death, and at the funeral vows never to sin again. Following the pope's death, Cardinal Lamberto is elected to succeed him and the Immobiliare deal is ratified. The plotters against the ratification attempt to cover their tracks. Michael sees that his nephew is a changed man and names him the new Don of the Corleone family, telling him to adopt the Corleone name. Vincent ends his romance with Mary.

The family sees Anthony's performance in Cavalleria rusticana in Palermo while Vincent exacts his revenge:

  • Keinszig is abducted by Vincent's men, who smother and then hang him from a bridge, making his death look like a suicide.

  • Don Altobello, at the opera, is given poisoned cannoli by Connie, who watches him die from her opera box.

  • Calò, Tommasino's former bodyguard, meets with Don Lucchesi at his office, claiming to bear a message from Michael. As he whispers the message, Calò stabs Lucchesi in the neck with his own spectacles.

After approving the Immobiliare deal, Lamberto, now the pope, is served poisoned tea by Archbishop Gilday and dies in his sleep. Al Neri travels to the Vatican, where he shoots Archbishop Gilday.

At the opera house during Anthony's performance, three of Vincent's men search for Mosca but he overcomes them. Mosca is unable to aim at Michael in the theatre but outside the opera house wounds Michael and kills Mary. Vincent shoots and kills Mosca. Michael cradles Mary's lifeless body and screams in agony; the scene fades out into a montage of various scenes of Michael's life across all three films.

Years later, an elderly Michael is alone in the courtyard of Don Tommasino's villa. Suddenly, he slumps over in his chair and falls to the ground.


  • Al Pacino as Michael Corleone

  • Andy García as Vincent Corleone

  • Diane Keaton as Kay Adams-Corleone

  • Talia Shire as Connie Corleone

  • Sofia Coppola as Mary Corleone

  • Eli Wallach as Don Altobello

  • George Hamilton as B. J. Harrison

  • Joe Mantegna as Joey Zasa

  • Richard Bright as Al Neri

  • Bridget Fonda as Grace Hamilton

  • Raf Vallone as Cardinal Lamberto

  • Franc D'Ambrosio as Anthony Corleone

  • Donal Donnelly as Archbishop Gilday

  • Helmut Berger as Frederick Keinszig

  • Don Novello as Dominic Abbandando

  • John Savage as Father Andrew Hagen

  • Mario Donatone as Mosca

  • Vittorio Duse as Don Tommasino

  • Enzo Robutti as Don Licio Lucchesi

  • Al Martino as Johnny Fontane

  • Franco Citti as Calò

  • Brett Halsey as Douglas Michelson


Coppola felt that the first two films had told the complete Corleone saga. In his audio commentary for Part II, he stated that only a dire financial situation caused by the failure of One from the Heart (1982) compelled him to take up Paramount's long-standing offer to make a third installment.[4]

Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, and Talia Shire reprised their roles from the first two films. According to Coppola's audio commentary on the film in The Godfather DVD Collection, Robert Duvall refused to take part unless he was paid a salary comparable to Pacino's. On an episode of Inside the Actors Studio, Duvall said he understood that Pacino was the star but felt insulted by the difference in their salaries, saying: "if they paid Pacino twice what they paid me, that's fine, but not three or four times, which is what they did." When Duvall dropped out, Coppola rewrote the screenplay to portray Tom Hagen as having died before the story begins and created the character B. J. Harrison, played by George Hamilton, to replace the Hagen character in the story. Coppola stated that, to him, the movie feels incomplete "without [Robert] Duvall's participation". According to Coppola, had Duvall agreed to take part in the film, the Hagen character would have been heavily involved in running the Corleone charities. Duvall confirmed in a 2010 interview that he never regretted the decision of turning down his role.[5]

The first draft of a script had been written by Dean Riesner in 1979, based on a story by Mario Puzo. This script centered around Michael Corleone's son, Anthony, a naval officer working for the CIA, and the Corleone family's involvement with a plot to assassinate a Central American dictator.[6] Almost none of the elements of this early script carried over to the final film, but one scene from the film – in which two men break into Vincent's house – exists in the Riesner draft and is nearly unchanged.[7]

Coppola says that he felt The Godfather saga was essentially Michael's story, one about how "a good man becomes evil", that Michael had not really "paid for his sins" committed in the second film, and he wanted this final chapter to demonstrate that. In keeping with this theme, Coppola completely re-wrote the script.

Julia Roberts was originally cast as Mary but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts.[8] Madonna wanted to play the role, but Coppola felt she was too old for the part.[9] Rebecca Schaeffer was set to audition[10] but was murdered. Winona Ryder dropped out of the film at the last minute.[8] Ultimately Sofia Coppola, the director's daughter, was given the role of Michael Corleone's daughter. Her much-criticized performance resulted in her father's being accused of nepotism, a charge Coppola denies in the commentary track, asserting that, in his opinion, critics, "beginning with an article in Vanity Fair," were "using [my] daughter to attack me," something he finds ironic in light of the film's denouement when the Mary character pays the ultimate price for her father's sins.

As an infant, Sofia Coppola had played Michael Corleone's infant nephew in The Godfather, during the climactic baptism/murder montage at the end of that film (Sofia Coppola also appeared in The Godfather Part II, as a small immigrant child in the scene where the nine-year-old Vito Corleone arrives by steamer at Ellis Island). The character of Michael's sister Connie is played by Francis Ford Coppola's sister, Talia Shire (making her both Mary's aunt in the movie and Sofia's aunt in real life). Other Coppola relatives with cameos in the film included the director's mother, father (who wrote and conducted much of the music in the film), uncle, and granddaughter Gia.[11] In addition, Coppola cast Catherine Scorsese, mother of Martin Scorsese, in a small part.


Critical response

Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 68% approval rating, based on 59 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.42/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "The final installment of The Godfather saga recalls its predecessors' power when it's strictly business, but underwhelming performances and confused tonality brings less closure to the Corleone story".[12] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 60, based on 19 reviews, which indicates "mixed or average reviews".[13] Common criticisms have focused on Sofia Coppola's acting, the plot's convoluted nature, and its inadequacy as a "stand-alone" story.[14][15]

In his review, Roger Ebert stated that it is "not even possible to understand this film without knowing the first two." Nonetheless, Ebert wrote an enthusiastic review, awarding the film three-and-a-half stars, a better rating than he originally gave The Godfather Part II[16] In his 2008 re-rating, he gave The Godfather Part II 4 stars[17] and included it in his list of Great Movies from which he excluded The Godfather Part III. He also defended the casting of Sofia Coppola, who he felt was not miscast, stating, "There is no way to predict what kind of performance Francis Ford Coppola might have obtained from Winona Ryder, the experienced and talented young actress, who was originally set to play this role. But I think Sofia Coppola brings a quality of her own to Mary Corleone. A certain up-front vulnerability and simplicity that I think are appropriate and right for the role."

Ebert's colleague, Gene Siskel, also highly praised the film and placed it tenth in his list of the ten best films of 1990. Siskel admitted that the ending was the film's weakest part, citing Al Pacino's makeup as very poor. He also said, “[Another] problem is the casting of Sofia Coppola, who is out of her acting league here. She’s supposed to be Andy Garcia’s love interest but no sparks fly. He’s more like her babysitter.” In response to Ebert’s defense of Coppola, Siskel said: “I know what you’re saying about her being sort of natural and not the polished bombshell, and that would’ve been wrong. There is one, a photographer in the picture, who takes care of that role, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s explained why [Vincent] really comes onto her, unless this guy is the most venal, craven guy, but look who [sic] he’s playing around with. He’s playing around with the Godfather’s daughter.”[18]

Leonard Maltin, giving the film three out of four stars, stated that the film is "masterfully told", but that casting Sofia Coppola was an "almost-fatal flaw."[19]


Although reception to the film was mixed, the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Andy García), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Dean Tavoularis, Gary Fettis), Best Music, Song (for Carmine Coppola and John Bettis for "Promise Me You'll Remember").[20][21] It is the only film in the series not to have Al Pacino nominated for an Academy Award (he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather and for Best Actor for The Godfather Part II). It is the only film in the trilogy not to win for Best Picture or any other Academy Award for that matter, as well as the only film in the trilogy not selected for preservation by the U.S. National Film Registry. Along with The Lord of the Rings, The Godfather Trilogy shares the distinction that all of its installments were nominated for Best Picture.

The film was also nominated for seven Golden Globes Awards, but did not win.[22] Sofia Coppola won two Golden Raspberry Awards for both Worst Supporting Actress and Worst New Star.

63rd Academy AwardsBest PictureFrancis Ford CoppolaNominated
Best DirectorNominated
Best Actor in a Supporting RoleAndy GarcíaNominated
Best Music, Original Song"Promise Me You'll Remember" (Music by Carmine Coppola; Lyrics by John Bettis)Nominated
Best Art Direction-Set DecorationDean Tavoularis and Gary FettisNominated
Best CinematographyGordon WillisNominated
Best Film EditingBarry Malkin, Lisa Fruchtman, and Walter MurchNominated
43rd Directors Guild of America AwardsOutstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion PicturesFrancis Ford CoppolaNominated
48th Golden Globe AwardsBest Motion Picture - DramaNominated
Best Director - Motion PictureFrancis Ford CoppolaNominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - DramaAl PacinoNominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion PictureAndy GarcíaNominated
Best Screenplay - Motion PictureFrancis Ford Coppola and Mario PuzoNominated
Best Original Score - Motion PictureCarmine CoppolaNominated
Best Original Song - Motion Picture"Promise Me You'll Remember" (Music by Carmine Coppola; Lyrics by John Bettis)Nominated
11th Golden Raspberry AwardsWorst Supporting ActressSofia CoppolaWon
Worst New StarWon

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

  • 2005: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes: Michael Corleone: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." – Nominated[23]

Historical background

Parts of the film are very loosely based on real historical events concerning the ending of the papacy of Pope Paul VI, the very short tenure of John Paul I in 1978, and the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano in 1982. Like the character Cardinal Lamberto, who becomes John Paul I, the historical John Paul I, Albino Luciani, reigned for only a very short time before being found dead in his bed.

Journalist David Yallop argues that Luciani was planning a reform of Vatican finances and that he died by poisoning; these claims are reflected in the film.[24] Yallop also names as a suspect Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, who was the head of the Vatican bank, like the character Archbishop Gilday in the film. However, while Marcinkus was noted for his muscular physique and Chicago origins, Gilday is a mild Irishman. The character has also drawn comparisons to Cardinal Giuseppe Caprio, as he was in charge of the Vatican finances during the approximate period in which the movie was based.[25]

The character of Frederick Keinszig, the Swiss banker who is murdered and left hanging under a bridge, mirrors the fate (and physical appearance) of Roberto Calvi, the Italian head of the Banco Ambrosiano who was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982 (it was unclear whether it was suicide or murder; courts in Italy have recently ruled the latter). The name "Keinszig" is taken from Manuela Kleinszig, the girlfriend of Flavio Carbone who was indicted as one of Roberto Calvi's murderers in 2005.[26]


The film's soundtrack received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Score. The film's love theme, "Promise Me You'll Remember" (subtitled "Love Theme from The Godfather Part III") sung by Harry Connick, Jr., received Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Song.

Al Martino, who portrayed Johnny Fontane in The Godfather and The Godfather Part III, sings "To Each His Own".

Fourth film

Following the reaction to the third installment, Coppola stated that the idea of a fourth film was discussed but Mario Puzo died before they were able to write the film. A potential script, told in a similar narrative to Part II, would have included De Niro reprising his role as a younger Vito Corleone in the 1930s; Leonardo DiCaprio was slated to portray a young Santino Corleone gaining the Corleone family's political power;[27] García reprising his role as Vincent Corleone during the 1980s running the family business through a ten-year destructive war, haunted by the death of his cousin Mary, and eventually losing the family's respect and power.[28] García has since claimed the film's script was nearly produced.[28]

Puzo's portion of the potential sequel, dealing with the Corleone family in the early 1930s, was eventually expanded into a novel by Edward Falco and published in 2012 as The Family Corleone.[29][30] Paramount sued the Puzo estate to prevent publication of the novel, prompting a counter-suit on the part of the estate claiming breach of contract. The studio and the estate subsequently settled the suits, allowing publication of the book, but with the studio retaining rights to possible future films.[31]


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