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The Godfather Part III (also known as Mario Puzo's The Godfather Part III) is a 1990 American thriller film written by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, and directed by Coppola. It completes the story of Michael Corleone, a Mafia kingpin who tries to legitimize his criminal empire. The movie also weaves into its plot a fictionalized account of real-life events – the 1978 death of Pope John Paul I and the Papal banking scandal of 1981-1982 – and links them with each other and with the affairs of Michael Corleone. The film stars Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire and Andy García, and features Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, George Hamilton, Bridget Fonda, and Sofia Coppola. Despite being part of a popular movie series, Part III has received mixed reviews and receptions. However, according to the director's commentary on the DVD, Coppola mentions that Puzo and he originally wanted the title of the film to be The Death of Michael Corleone. Paramount Pictures however would not accept that title. Coppola mentions that The Godfather series is in fact two films, and Part III is the epilogue.


The film opens with Michael Corleone sitting alone on a bench (which was the same way and where Part II ended as the last scene), thinking back to his past of people such as Fredo Corleone, Sonny Corleone, Kay Adams, Vito Corleone, in which shows flashback scenes from both Part I, and Part II, in order, as well as showing scenes from the house that the family originally lived in Lake Tahoemarker, Nevadamarker. This is also narrated by Corleone, giving an update of what has happened since. Sometimes, the flashback scenes are not shown and therefore edited out on some televised airings of the movie.

The film then flash forwards on February 23, 1979. Michael Corleone is nearly 60 and feeling tremendous guilt for his ruthless rise to power, especially for ordering the murder of his brother Fredo two decades before. By now, he has mostly retired from the Mafia, selling the Las Vegasmarker casinos and leaving the Corleone family's criminal interests in the hands of former enforcer Joey Zasa. His adopted brother Tom Hagen is now dead and the Corleone compound at Lake Tahoemarker has been abandoned. Michael and Kay have been divorced since 1959, and Michael gave her custody of their children, Anthony and Mary. He has since returned to New York Citymarker, where he is using his tremendous wealth and power to restore his reputation via numerous acts of charity. In an attempt to break with the past, Michael creates a charity, the Vito Corleone Foundation, in memory of his father, which he has endowed with $100 million to use for the betterment of Sicily.

At a ceremony in St. Patrick's Old Cathedralmarker, presided over by Archbishop Gilday, Michael is named a Commander of the Order of St. Sebastian. At a lavish party following the ceremony, Michael and Kay have an uneasy reunion. Anthony tells his father that he is going to drop out of law school to pursue a career as an opera singer. Kay supports his choice, but Michael disagrees, wishing that his son would either finish law school or join the family business. Anthony steadfastly refuses, stating that while he loves his father, he will never be part of the family business. Michael eventually, though somewhat reluctantly, acquiesces to Anthony's wishes.

Meanwhile, Vincent Mancini, the illegitimate son of Michael's brother Sonny, shows up at the party. He is embroiled in a feud with Zasa, who has involved the Corleone family in major drug trafficking and turned Little Italy into a slum. In Michael's study, Vincent and Zasa tell him about their feud, a discussion that erupts into a fight, in which Vincent bites off part of Zasa's ear. Zasa is escorted out and Michael scolds Vincent for losing his temper, but is nevertheless impressed by Vincent's passionate loyalty to him, ultimately agreeing to take Vincent under his wing.

That night, as Vincent has a one-night stand with Grace Hamilton, a journalist he met at the party, two men break in and try to kill him. Vincent quickly gains the upper hand, and kills one in order to frighten the other into revealing that Zasa is the man who sent them. Once the second assassin has surrendered, Vincent kills him, too. Meanwhile, Michael busies himself with the biggest deal of his career: he has recently bought up enough stock in Immobiliare, an international real estate holding company known as "the world's biggest landlord", to control six of the company's 13-member board of directors. He now makes a tender offer to buy the Vatican's 25% interest in the company, which will give him majority control. Knowing that Archbishop Gilday, who serves as head of the Vatican Bankmarker, has run up a massive deficit, he offers to pay $600 million to the Bank in exchange for the shares.

Don Altobello, an elderly New York Mafia boss and old friend of the Corleones (as well as Connie's godfather), soon visits Michael, telling him that his old partners on the Commission want in on the Immobiliare deal. A meeting is arranged at an Atlantic Citymarker hotel, and Michael appeases most of the Mafia bosses with generous payoffs from the sale of his Las Vegas holdings. Zasa, however, gets nothing, and furiously declares that Michael is his enemy and storms out. Altobello follows close behind, allegedly attempting to calm him down. Minutes later, a helicopter hovers outside the conference room and sprays it with submachine gun fire. Most of the other mob bosses are killed, but Michael, Vincent, and Michael's trusted bodyguard, Al Neri, escape. Back at his apartment in New York, Michael is told that those mob bosses who escaped the massacre quickly made deals with Zasa, and comes to the realization that Altobello supported Zasa in carrying out the hit. As Michael considers how to respond to the situation, he suffers a diabetic stroke and is hospitalized. In his delirium, Michael cries out Fredo's name shortly before he is loaded on an ambulance to the hospital.

As Michael recuperates in the hospital, Vincent begins a romantic relationship with Mary, despite being first cousins, and also plots revenge against Joey Zasa. During a street festival hosted by Zasa's Italian American civil rights group, Vincent's men gun down Zasa's bodyguards. Vincent, disguised as a mounted police officer, then murders Zasa himself. When Michael discovers this, he berates Vincent for his rashness. Michael also insists that Vincent end his relationship with Mary, because Vincent's involvement in the family's criminal dealings puts Mary's life in jeopardy. Vincent agrees.

The family takes a vacation to Sicily in March 1980, in preparation for Anthony's operatic debut in Palermomarker. They stay at the villa of Don Tommasino, the Mafia boss who sheltered Michael when he was on the run in the first film. Michael tells Vincent to speak with Altobello and falsely tell him that he is planning to leave the Corleone family. Altobello supports the idea of Vincent switching his allegiance, and introduces him to Don Licio Lucchesi, a powerful Italian political figure. Michael realizes that the Immobiliare deal was a conspiracy by Lucchesi, Archbishop Gilday, and Vatican accountant Frederick Keinszig to swindle him out of his money, and visits Cardinal Lamberto, the man favored to become the next Pope, to speak about the deal. Lamberto convinces Michael to make his first confession in 30 years, in which he tearfully admits to ordering Fredo's murder.

Shortly after the meeting between Vincent and Lucchesi, Altobello travels to the small village of Montelepremarker, where he meets Mosca, an elderly, veteran hitman with whom he has previously done business. Altobello hires Mosca and his son, Lupe, to assassinate Michael. A few days later, Mosca and Lupe, disguised as priests, make their move, attempting to hijack Don Tommasino and force him to allow them entry to his villa. Tommasino refuses, and Mosca kills him with a lupara. Touring Sicily with Kay, who has arrived for Anthony’s operatic debut, Michael asks for her forgiveness. As they both admit that they still love each other, Michael receives word that Tommasino is dead.

After the death of Pope Paul VI, Cardinal Lamberto is elected Pope John Paul I, which means that the Immobiliare deal will likely be ratified, due to his intention to "clean up" the dealings of the Vatican. The new Pope's intentions come as a death knell to the plot against the ratification of the Immobiliare deal, prompting frantic attempts by the plotters to cover their own tracks. Vincent tells Michael that he has learned from Altobello of Mosca's plot on his life. Vincent wants to strike back, but Michael cautions him, saying that if he goes ahead with such a plan, there will be no turning back. Vincent insists on revenge, and Michael relents, making Vincent the new Don of the Corleone family. In exchange, Vincent agrees to put an end to his relationship with Mary.

The family travels to Palermo to see Anthony perform the lead in "Cavalleria Rusticana" at the renowned Teatro Massimomarker. Meanwhile, Vincent exacts his revenge: Interspersed with scenes from Anthony’s performance are the brutal murders of the enemies of the Corleone family:

  • Frederick Keinszig is abducted by Vincent's men, who smother him with a pillow (first having a metal string dropped on his face) and hang him from a bridge to make his death look like an apparent suicide.
  • Don Altobello, also attending the opera, eats a poisoned cannoli that his goddaughter Connie gives him. He soon dies a silent death as Connie watches from her box.
  • Al Neri travels to the Vaticanmarker, where he shoots Archbishop Gilday as he climbs a spiral staircase and throws his corpse down the gap between the stairs.
  • Finally, Calo (Tommasino's former bodyguard) meets with Don Lucchesi at his office, claiming to bear a message from Michael. After being thoroughly frisked for weapons, Calo stabs Lucchesi in the throat with Lucchesi's own glasses, killing him before being shot by Lucchesi's bodyguard.

The killings are too late to save the Pope, however. Even as Michael and Vincent's men wipe out the plotters, His Holiness drinks poisoned tea provided to him by Archbishop Gilday and soon dies in his bed.

Mosca, still disguised as a priest and armed with a sniper rifle, descends upon the opera house during Anthony's performance, killing three of Vincent's men and preparing to shoot his target from a box, but the opera ends before he has the chance to pull the trigger. The assassin retreats to the opera house façade's staircase and tries to shoot Michael there. At the same moment, Mary is confronting her father about the forced break-up with Vincent. Mosca fires his handgun twice, wounding Michael and killing Mary. As Mosca is wrestled to the ground by a group of real priests, Vincent kills him with a single shot. As Kay weeps, Michael cradles Mary's bloody body in his arms and screams in agony.

The scene dissolves to a short montage of Michael's memories, the first being a dance with Mary, the second being a dance with his first wife Apollonia, and the last being a dance with Kay — symbolizing the women he has lost.

The film ends with Michael as an old man, seated alone in the front yard of his Sicilian villa. After slowly putting on a pair of sunglasses, he drops an orange from his hand. He slumps over in his chair, collapses to the ground, and dies, completely alone.


Script and casting

According to an article in Premiere, Coppola and Puzo requested six months to complete a first draft of the script with a release date of Easter 1991. Paramount agreed to give them six weeks for the script and, lacking a holiday movie, a release date of Christmas Day 1990.

Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, and Talia Shire reprise 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. On an episode of Inside the Actor's Studio, he said he understood that Pacino was the star but felt insulted by the difference in their salaries. When Duvall dropped out, Coppola rewrote the screenplay to portray Tom Hagen as having died before the story begins. Coppola created the character "B.J. Harrison", played by George Hamilton, to replace the Hagen character in the story. The director further states 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.

Coppola felt that the first two films had told the complete Corleone saga. It was only his perilous financial status, after the failure of a big-budget movie, that compelled him to take up Paramount's long-standing offer to make a third installment.

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, Tony, a naval officer working for the CIA, and the Corleone family's involvement with a plot to assassinate a Central American dictator. 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.

Coppola says that he felt The Godfather saga was essentially Michael's story, one about how "a good man becomes evil," as the writer/director puts it on the same commentary track referenced above. Coppola says he felt that Michael had not really "paid for his sins" committed in the second film, and 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. Madonna wanted to play the role, but Coppola felt she was too old for the part. Rebecca Schaeffer was set to audition for the role the day she died. Sofia Coppola, the director's daughter, was given the role of Michael Corleone's daughter when Winona Ryder dropped out of the film at the last minute (supposedly due to illness, though other reports state that she was committed to Edward Scissorhands). Her much-criticized performance resulted in her father being accused of nepotism, a charge Coppola bitterly refutes in the commentary track, asserting, in his opinion, that 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 Islandmarker.) She also played a child who is killed in a drive-by shooting in her father's 1984 film The Cotton Club. The character of Michael's sister Connie is played by Francis Ford Coppola's sister, Talia Shire (making her both Mary and Sofia's aunt). Other Coppola relatives with cameos in the film included his mother, father (who wrote and conducted much of the music in the film), uncle and granddaughter, Gia. Michele Russo, who plays the son of the assassin Mosca, is also a distant Coppola relative, from the same town as Francis Ford Coppola's great-grandmother. In addition, Coppola cast Catherine Scorsese, mother of Martin Scorsese, for a bit part.


The film received a generally positive response (with a 66 percent "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but is widely considered to be the weakest of the three Godfather films. Common criticisms include Sofia Coppola's acting, the plot being too outlandish and convoluted, as well as the storyline being too based on continuity, rather than just a "stand alone" story. In his review, Roger Ebert stated that it's "not even possible to understand this film without knowing the first two." Ebert did, however, write a very enthusiastic review. Awarding the film with three-and-a-half stars, which is a higher rating than what he gave The Godfather: Part II (three-stars). He also defended the casting of Sofia Coppola, who he felt wasn’t miscast. Stating: “There is no way to predict what kind of performance he (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 on his list of the ten best films of 1990 (#10). Siskel did admit that the ending was the film's weakest part, citing Al Pacino's makeup as very poor. Leonard Maltin stated in his movie guide that the film is “masterfully told,” but the casting of Sofia Coppola was an “almost-fatal flaw.”


The Godfather Part III was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Andy Garcia), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Song (for Carmine Coppola and John Bettis for "Promise Me You'll Remember") and Best Picture.. It is the only film in The Godfather series not to have Al Pacino nominated for his role of Michael Corleone. Sofia Coppola won a Golden Raspberry for worst supporting actress. It is the only film in the trilogy not to win the Academy Award 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 National Film Registry (for cultural significance). In addition, Francis Ford Coppola won the 1990 Hollywood Foreign Press Association for Best Director.

Historical background

Parts of the film are very loosely based on real historical events concerning the ending of the Papacy of Paul VI, and the very short Papacy 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. 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 Chicagomarker 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 of which the movie was based.

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 Bridgemarker in Londonmarker in 1982 (it was unclear, although widely accepted that the deaths were performed in the Masonic style, whether it was a case of suicide or, as the Italian idiom has it, "being suicided." Courts in Italy have recently ruled the latter.) The name "Keinszig" is taken from Manuela Kleinszig, the girl friend of Flavio Carbone who was indicted as one of Roberto Calvi's murderers in 2005.

On the audio commentary of the DVD, Francis Ford Coppola states that the character of Don Licio Lucchesi would be very recognizable for Italian citizens. The thick-rimmed glasses, the official police bodyguard while Michael meets the Don in Sicily, and a single quote at the end of the movie are said to contain clues to the actual person Don Lucchesi is (at least partly) based on.


The film's soundtrack received a Golden Globe nomination for best score. Also, the film's love theme, "Promise Me You'll Remember" sung by Harry Connick, Jr., received an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination for Best Song.



  1. The Godfather Part III (1979 script)
  2. The Godfather Part III (1979 script), pp 53-57
  3. Rotten Tomatoes.
  4. New York Times Retrieved March 2009; The Godfather Part III (1990)
  5. You Think You're Out, but They Try to Pull You Back In By Michiko Kakutani, Published: November 12, 2004
  6. Ebert’s review.
  7. , Academy Awards, Retrieved March 2009
  8. New York Times review and List of awards Retrieved March 26, 2009
  9. The 80 greatest conspiracies of all time: history's biggest mysteries, coverups, and cabals, By Jonathan Vankin, John Whalen; Published by Citadel Press, 2004; ISBN 0806525312, 9780806525310 page 172-174
  10. The 80 greatest conspiracies of all time: history's biggest mysteries, coverups, and cabals, By Jonathan Vankin, John Whalen; Published by Citadel Press, 2004; ISBN 0806525312, 9780806525310 page 178-179
  11. The Economist, Published by The Economist Newspaper Ltd., 1843; Item notes: v. 286-289, Original from the University of California
  12. Civil Liability for Pure Economic Loss: Proceedings of the Annual International Colloquium of the United Kingdom National, Committee of Comparative Law Held in Norwich, September, 1994, By Efstathios K. Banakas, United Kingdom National Committee of Comparative Law; Contributor Efstathios K. Banakas; Published by Kluwer Law International, 1996; ISBN 9041109080, 9789041109088
  13. Retrieved March 2009 The Godfather: Part III (1990) Soundtrack


  • Rupert Cornwell, God's Banker: The Life and Death of Roberto Calvi, Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1984.
  • David Yallop, In God's Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I, Corgi, 1987
  • Director's Commentary track on The Godfather Part III DVD by Francis Ford Coppola; included in the The Godfather DVD Collection

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