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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Movie explores double standards and hypocrisy of the Mafia characters, as they profess to be religious, and family- and friend-centered, but their actions ultimately come down to "just business," no matter who gets hurt or killed. As in other Godfather movies, a theme is hypocrisy of American life: People successful and/or religious and family-oriented on one level are also cutthroat, willing to do whatever is necessary to provide for their families.
Positive Role Models
Positive aspects of Italian American life and culture are overshadowed by Mafia killings and double-crossing.
The Godfather relies on -- and firmly cemented in the public's mind -- the stereotype of Italian Americans as violent gangsters. Despite this, characters are shown with depth. Southern Italian and Sicilian culture, as it was brought over by immigrants from late 19th and early 20th century, is shown at length.
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Violence & Scariness
Constant mob movie violence. Characters shot and killed, often at close range and graphic. Attempted killings by gun. Characters choked to death. Character killed by a bomb in a car. Man stabbed in the hand with a knife. Domestic abuse: man shown beating his wife with a belt. Opening scene concerns a man asking Don Corleone for vengeance on two men who raped and violently beat his daughter. Movie executive wakes up covered in blood, with decapitated horse head in his bed.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief nudity (breasts), brief sex scene (fully clothed). At Connie's wedding, women at a table giggle while one makes reference to the size of Sonny's penis. Sonny is shown having sex with his mistress -- in their clothes, but audible. Reference to how Fredo is "banging cocktail waitresses two at a time."
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"Bastards," "goddamn," "son of a bitch," "ass," "hell," "bitch." Sonny uses the "N" word at the dinner table. Mafia don equates Black people with "animals." Ethnic slurs are used to describe German, Irish, and especially Italian Americans. Vito uses an Italian homosexual slur.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Wine drinking. Cigarette smoking. Talk of marijuana and heroin, and of the Mafia moving into drug trafficking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Godfather is the classic, genre-defining Mafia movie in which Marlon Brando plays the titular character, who's facing grave threats from rival families. Unsurprisingly, there's constant violence. Characters are shot and killed, often at close range in graphic scenes. Characters are strangled to death and die in car explosions. Domestic abuse is shown: A man beats his wife with a belt. In one of many iconic scenes, a movie executive wakes up covered in blood, with a decapitated horse's head in his bed. In the opening scene, a man asks Don Corleone for vengeance after two men raped and beat his daughter. Ethnic and racial slurs are heard, as well as some profanity, including the "N" word. The movie also depicts Italian American culture in a sympathetic but crude and stereotypical light. Characters smoke cigarettes and drink wine, and there's brief nudity (female breasts) and a scene of clothed but audible sex. References are made to the sexual behavior of Sonny (James Caan) and Fredo (John Cazale). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Epic in scope while maintaining a patience and intimacy characteristic of European art cinema, this film is rightly considered one of the greatest ever made. Despite valid questions around its role in perpetuating stereotypes of Italian Americans, The Godfather continues to influence producers of films, TV shows, and video games decades after its release. Nino Rota's score, the sumptuous set design, and Brando's raspy pseudo-whisper have become part of our collective cultural memory.
The film has an operatic quality, yet it's more understated than it is flamboyant. It takes its subjects seriously, bestowing legitimacy upon the power struggles of the Mafia normally reserved for classical themes in high art. The film's release initiated a period when American filmmakers dared to take themselves and their artistic ambitions seriously (perhaps too seriously). There's something deeply resonant in the film's treatment of filial piety, the need for respect, and our culture's abiding interest in the parallel moral universe of the Mafia.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.