“Throughout history,” Michael Corleone says, “terrible things have happened to the people of Sicily,
terrible injustices, and yet they still expect that good rather than bad will happen to them.”
We’re all aware of the risks involved when even the greatest Hollywood directors turn a well-loved series
into a trilogy. A third sequel can often produce catastrophic results. Do I believe all third sequels are
doomed? No, I don’t. If they are done carefully, they can be done well, but there are those that are often
considered an insult to the franchise.
"The Godfather Part III", released in 1990 and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, has received a lot of
backlash over the years. I’m going to tell you why this movie is worth another look.
I’m the Ranting Usher. Let me talk you to your seat.
I realize I am now facing an angry mob, and that I could be massacred at a toll booth for defending this
movie. Please hear me out.
"The Godfather Part III" was nominated for twenty-three awards in 1991 including Best Picture, Best
Director and Best Screenplay for Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo. Given that the studio allowed
them only so much time and budgeting to complete the picture, both the nominations and awards are an
astonishing achievements for both of them. It also received a nod for Best Cinematography, Art and Set
Direction, Film Editing, Musical Score, Best Supporting Actor Andy Garcia and for Best Actor in a Crime
Drama Al Pacino.
Despite several bloody scenes, the violence is hardly glorified. The movie takes a more subtle approach,
focusing more on an interwoven morality that, while present in the earlier movies, is much more
The film is less devoted to celebrating gangsters. It tells the unique story of aging mafia Don Michael
Corleone (Pacino) who has undergone a major character arc. He has changed from a coldblooded
murderer to a leader who purchases shares in an international real estate holding company to legitimize
the family business. The arc is essential for the sake of believability as well as to entreat audiences to the
view the don as compassionate and sincere. This is quite possibly the movie’s greatest strength.
Michael composes a letter to his children, Anthony and Mary. He invites them to attend a ceremony in
which he Pope will bestow upon him the honor of Commander of the Order of St. Sebastian the martyr for
his charitable work. “You know how I look forward to seeing you during this new period of harmony in our
lives. Perhaps, you could prevail upon your mother to come to this ceremony, and that from time to time we
can all see each other again in family function.”
This is quite a dramatic change from the man who had alienated his family years before.
Another touching moment occurs when Michael rekindles his relationship with Kay even though they had
long since been divorced. Toward the end of the second film, when Michael slams the door in Kay’s face,
it seems impossible they will reconcile in the foreseeable future. The couple admits that they love one
another and join hands.
Michael visits a true Catholic priest to whom he confesses his sins. Viewers had been waiting sixteen
years for this since part two ended in 1974. It is likely the most important scene in the entire film. "I
betrayed my wife. I betrayed myself.” Michael hesitates. The priest urges him on. “I ordered men to be
killed. I ordered the death of my brother. He injured me. I killed my mother’s son. I killed my father’s
That he breaks down and is unable to go on reveals the man beneath the Don.
Mario Puzo, who co-wrote the script with Francis Ford Coppola, found clever and effective ways to tie the
third movie to its predecessors.
The film opens by showing the compound in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, a key setting in the second movie. It is
utterly deserted and in disarray. Pictures are shown in Michael’s home in New York City of his younger
self and of Sonny’s children.
The Don takes Sonny’s illegitimate son, Vincent Mancini, who is played by Andy Garcia, under his wing to
advise and protect him. This dichotomy between the old and the young remains consistent with earlier
parts of the trilogy.
Flashbacks show the Godfather dancing with his first wife, Apollonia and later on with Kay. Then the film
reverts back to the present showing Michael dancing with his daughter after he is given the St. Sebastian
While taking Kay on a tour through Sicily, he shows her the house where his father Vito Andolini Corleone,
Vincent points out the Genco Olive Oil Company where Vito first earned a living. “He started as a delivery
boy making three bucks a week. Three years later he owned the company.”
The use of symbolism is also consistent. The handling of an orange and references to the Son of God
perishing on the cross are featured either before or immediately following the death of one or more
Woven through the Cavalleria Rusticana opera, in which Michael’s son performs are the brutal murders of
every enemy the Corleone’s ever faced.
Based on the reasons I’ve given, I believe "The Godfather Part III" is far better than its reputation. It is
worthy of praise and deserves another look.
I’m the Ranting Usher. Let me make you an offer you can’t refuse.
Do you agree with my review? Do you think the third installment in the Godfather saga deserves more
Let me know in the comments section.
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