The Godfather Part III

The Godfather Part III is a 1990 American crime film produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola from the screenplay co-written with Mario Puzo. The film stars Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, and Andy García, Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, Bridget Fonda, George Hamilton, and Sofia Coppola. It is the third and final installment in The Godfather trilogy. A sequel to The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974), it concludes the story of Michael Corleone, the patriarch of the Corleone family, 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 Godfather Part III
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrancis Ford Coppola
Produced byFrancis Ford Coppola
Written by
Music byCarmine Coppola
CinematographyGordon Willis
Edited by
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]

Coppola and Puzo's intended title for the film was The Death of Michael Corleone, which Paramount Pictures rejected; Coppola considers the series to be a duology, while Part III serves as the epilogue. The Godfather Part III received generally positive reviews, albeit not to the same extent as the earlier two films; critics praised Pacino's performance and the screenplay, but criticized the convoluted plot and Sofia Coppola's performance. The film was distributed by Paramount, which also distributed the previous two films. It premiered in Beverly Hills on December 20, 1990, and was released in the United States on Christmas Day, December 25, 1990. It grossed $136.8 million and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. A recut version of the film, The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, will be released in 2020, coinciding with its 30th anniversary.


In 1979, Michael Corleone is approaching 60. Wracked with guilt over his ruthless rise to power, especially for having ordered his brother Fredo's assassination, he donates millions 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; nevertheless, Michael agrees to let Anthony go his own way. 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 Michael’s long-dead brother Sonny, arrives at the reception. Michael’s sister Connie arranges for Vincent to settle a dispute with his rival Joey Zasa, but Zasa calls Vincent a bastard, and Vincent bites Zasa's ear. Michael, troubled by Vincent's fiery temper yet impressed by his loyalty, 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. He makes a tender offer to buy the Vatican's 25% share in the company, which will give him controlling interest. Immobiliare's board 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 in on the Immobiliare deal. Michael pays them from the sale of his Las Vegas holdings. Zasa receives nothing and, declaring Michael his enemy, storms out, followed by Altobello. 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. Michael realizes that Altobello is the traitor, and suffers a diabetic stroke. As Michael recuperates, Vincent and Mary begin a romance, while Neri and Connie give Vincent permission to retaliate against Zasa. During a street festival, 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. Michael tells Vincent to pretend to defect from the Corleone family in order to spy on Altobello. Altobello introduces Vincent to Licio Lucchesi, Immobiliare's chairman. Michael visits Cardinal Lamberto, anticipated being the next pope, to discuss the deal. Lamberto persuades Michael to make his first confession in 30 years, during which Michael tearfully confesses that he ordered Fredo's murder. Lamberto says that Michael deserves to suffer for his sins, but can be redeemed. Michael discovers that the Immobiliare deal is an elaborate swindle, arranged by Lucchesi, Gilday, and Vatican accountant Frederick Keinszig.

Vincent tells Michael that Altobello has hired Mosca, a veteran hitman, to assassinate Michael. Mosca and his son, disguised as priests, kill Corleone family friend 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. At Tommasino’s funeral, Michael vows to sin no more. 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 and Gilday kills the new pope with poisoned tea. Michael sees that Vincent is a changed man and names him the new Don of the Corleone family, in return for ending his romance with Mary.

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

  • Vincent's men smother Keinszig and then hang him from a bridge, making his death look like a suicide;
  • At the opera, Connie gives Altobello a poisoned cannoli and watches him die from her opera box;
  • Calò, Tommasino's former bodyguard, stabs Lucchesi in the neck with his own spectacles.
  • Neri travels to the Vatican, where he shoots and kills Gilday.

At the opera house during Anthony's performance, three of Vincent's men search for Mosca but he overcomes them. Mosca shoots Michael, wounding him, and the bullet passes through him and hits Mary, killing her. Vincent shoots and kills Mosca. Michael cradles Mary's lifeless body and screams in agony; the scene fades out into a montage of Michael with Kay, Mary, and his first wife, Apollonia.

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.




Coppola felt that the first two films had told the complete Corleone saga. Coppola intended Part III to be an epilogue to the first two films.[4] 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.[5] Coppola and Puzo preferred the title The Death of Michael Corleone, but Paramount Pictures found that unacceptable.[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. In 2004, on the CBS program 60 Minutes, Duvall said, "if they paid Pacino twice what they paid me, that's fine, but not three or four times, which is what they did."[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9]

Julia Roberts was originally cast as Mary but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts.[10] Madonna wanted to play the role, but Coppola felt she was too old for the part.[11] Rebecca Schaeffer was set to audition, but was murdered.[12][13] Winona Ryder dropped out of the film at the last minute due to nervous exhaustion.[10] 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.[14] In addition, Coppola cast Catherine Scorsese, mother of Martin Scorsese, in a small part.


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".

Release and receptionEdit

The film was distributed again by Paramount Pictures, premiering in Beverly Hills on December 20, 1990, and released in the United States at December 25, 1990. In the Philippines, the film was released by UIP through Warner Bros. on March 8, 1991.[15]

Box officeEdit

The Godfather Part III opened in 1,901 theaters and grossed an estimated $20 million in its opening weekend.[16] It went on to make $136.8 million worldwide.[2]

Critical responseEdit

Sofia Coppola's acting received negative reviews from critics.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 68% based on 62 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.39/10. 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."[17] 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".[18] Common criticisms have focused on Sofia Coppola's acting, the convoluted plot, and the film’s inadequacy as a "stand-alone" story.[19][20] Opening night audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[21]

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[22] (in his 2008 re-rating, he gave The Godfather Part II 4 stars[23] and included it in his list of Great Movies). 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 gave the film high praise, 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."[24]

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."[25]


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").[26][27] 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.[28] Sofia Coppola won two Golden Raspberry Awards for both Worst Supporting Actress and Worst New Star.

Award Category Nominee Result
63rd Academy Awards Best Picture Francis Ford Coppola Nominated
Best Director Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Andy García Nominated
Best Music, Original Song "Promise Me You'll Remember" (Music by Carmine Coppola; Lyrics by John Bettis) Nominated
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration Dean Tavoularis and Gary Fettis Nominated
Best Cinematography Gordon Willis Nominated
Best Film Editing Barry Malkin, Lisa Fruchtman, and Walter Murch Nominated
43rd Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Francis Ford Coppola Nominated
48th Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture - Drama Nominated
Best Director - Motion Picture Francis Ford Coppola Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama Al Pacino Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture Andy García Nominated
Best Screenplay - Motion Picture Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo Nominated
Best Original Score - Motion Picture Carmine Coppola Nominated
Best Original Song - Motion Picture "Promise Me You'll Remember" (Music by Carmine Coppola; Lyrics by John Bettis) Nominated
11th Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Supporting Actress Sofia Coppola Won
Worst New Star Won

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

The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael CorleoneEdit

In September 2020, for the film's 30th anniversary, it was announced that a new, recut version of the film, titled The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, will have a limited theatrical release in December 2020, which will be followed by a release on digital media and Blu-ray.[30]

Historical backgroundEdit

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.[31] 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.[32]

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 Calvi's murderers in 2005.[33]

Potential sequelEdit

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 it. 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;[34] 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.[35] García has since claimed the film's script was nearly produced.[35]

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.[36][37] 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.[38]


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External linksEdit