"The Godfather" is undoubtedly one of the most famous and revered films of all time! Elevating the gangster movie into an epic tale of family, love, and betrayal, "The Godfather" screenplay is a must-read for screenwriters! Intrigued? Looking to learn more? Well, how about I make you an offer you can't refuse? Get "The Godfather" screenplay PDF download, and keep reading along for my breakdown of the script!
Who wrote "The Godfather"?
"The Godfather" started as a novel by the American author Mario Puzo. Puzo wrote numerous crime novels about the mafia, short stories, and screenplays. When it came time to write "The Godfather" script, Puzzo received help in the form of co-writer and acclaimed filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola directed all three of the films in "The Godfather" trilogy and other famous films such as "Apocalypse Now" and "Bram Stoker's Dracula."
When did "The Godfather" come out?
The first Godfather movie was released on March 15, 1972. The sequel, "The Godfather Part II," was released on December 20, 1974. The final film, "The Godfather Part Part III" premiered on December 25, 1990. In December 2020, a recut of the final film called "The Godfather" Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone was released, described to be the version of the film that Puzo and Coppola's originally dreamed of.
What is "The Godfather" About?
"The Godfather" franchise focuses on the trials and tribulations of the powerful mafia family, the Corleones. The first film spans 1945-1955 and depicts a major change in the family, a transition of power. Patriarch Vito Corleone dies, and reluctant son Michael must take charge and lead the family.
"The Godfather" Screenplay Breakdown
Here's a breakdown of "The Godfather" screenplay using the five plot points.
We establish the world of the story at a Corleone family wedding. The head of the family, Don Vito Corleone, takes meetings in his office away from the festivities. We meet protagonist Michael Corleone. He's recently returning from a military stint and introducing his girlfriend, Kay Adams, to his family. He describes some of the violence and crime associated with his family's business but assures her, "That's my family, Kay. It's not me." Michael has no plans of joining his family's business.
- INCITING INCIDENT
Don Vito takes a meeting with narcotics trafficker Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo. Sollozzo requests an investment from Don Vito for a heroin trafficking venture that he's working on with another mafia family, the Tattaglias. The Don turns him down, fearing that any involvement with drugs could jeopardize his hard-earned political connections.
- LOCK IN (End of Act One)
An attempt is made on Don Vito's life, and he is shot in the street. While on a date with Kay, Michael sees a newspaper headline about the assassination attempt. Michael heads home to be with his family.
- FIRST CULMINATION (Midpoint)
Michael works with his brother, Santino "Sonny" Corleone, who is now leading the family, to set up a meeting under the pretense of bringing a truce to the situation with Sollozzo. In reality, Michael has realized that the threat against his father's life won't stop and plans to murder Sollozzo. Michael succeeds in killing Sollozzo and flees to Sicily, where he's protected.
- MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)
Following Michael's actions, warfare breaks out amongst the various Mafia crime families. When Sonny is ambushed and killed, Don Vito takes a meeting with the rival families. He agrees to stop opposing the narcotics business and pledges not to avenge Sonny's murder in exchange for Michael's safety. Michael can return home, marry Kay, and take his place as the new head of the family.
- THIRD ACT TWIST
Don Vito warns Michael of danger from the rival families before he dies from a heart attack. Michael plans hits against the rival families during his niece's baptism. Michael undergoes a symbolic baptism of blood as he engages in his family's violence, which he never intended to be a part of. He succeeds in taking out key players and assures that The Corleone family is safe to carry on its legacy.
And that's "The Godfather"! I hope this script helped show you how screenplay structure can be broken down into key beats. Read "The Godfather" screenplay or check out the film if you haven't seen it, and see if you can follow along with the breakdown above. Happy writing!