Life Lessons from “The Godfather”


The greatest guy movie of all-time also happens to be the best film ever. “The Godfather” is full of memorable lines and scenes that most guys can recite on demand, and it’s also full of life lessons every guy should know.

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the theatrical release of “The Godfather” so it’s a great time to revisit the film and all of the wise lessons you can take from it. And no, these aren’t lessons that just apply to mobsters. Use your head and see how these simple truths can lead to wise decisions in your own life.

Never take sides against the family

The family is everything. Got it? That’s the primary message in “The Godfather’ and it’s pounded home over and over again. After the first Sollozzo meeting, Vito smacks Sonny across the face and tells him, “Never tell anybody outside the family what you’re thinking again” after Sonny opens his mouth during the first Sollozzo meeting. Later, after Fredo pleads with Tom Hagen to intervene as Michael squeezes Mo Green, Michael calmy scolds Fredo to “never take sides against the family again.”

The most dramatic scene of “The Godfather” has nothing to do with blood or guns. Rather, it’s in the hospital when Michael tells his father, “I’m with you.” Michael was determined to be independent his whole life, but in the end, he sided with his father when it really mattered.

Hopefully you won’t be facing this level of drama in your life, but life can be much better and more rewarding if you understand family loyalty.

Screenshot Al Pacino as Michael Corleone The Godfather - don't take sides against the family

It’s not personal; it’s strictly business

This is the governing rule when dealing with anyone outside the Family. In mob life, this leads to life and death decisions. Michael emerges as the leader of the Family when he realizes what has to be done after his father is shot. In one of the most dramatic scenes in the film, Michael explains what needs to be done with Sollozzo as the camera slowly zooms in on him sitting in his chair. Sonny mocks Michael for taking the situation personally, but Michael turns and calmy explains, “It’s not personal Sonny; it’s strictly business.” Then he blows away McCluskey and Sollozzo at the restaurant.

The bottom line here is to avoid emotions when making business decisions. Don’t let your personal feelings get in the way of rational decisions. Your bank account will thank you.

Screenshot Al Pacino as Michael Corleone The Godfather - it's not personal it's strictly business 2

Don’t Hit Girls

This rule that you should have learned as a kid is put front and center in “The Godfather.” Carlo smacks around Connie, and then Sonny finds out, leading to a scene where Sonny beats the living shit out of Carlo in the street with the neighborhood watching. Sonny ends up paying the ultimate price for his temper, but his beat-down of Carlo is one of the most satisfying and memorable scenes of the film. And Carlo pays an even bigger price for his mistake later.

If you’ve been raised properly, you know this is a rule you don’t break. If not, then you should know now.

Screenshot Carlo gets beat up by Sonny in The Godfather

Leave the gun, take the cannoli

This iconic line from Clemenza was improvised by actor Richard Castellano.

You always leave the gun. It’s a big F-You to the police and everyone else out there. Yeah – we killed this guy. It was an execution. Period. But you can’t pin it directly on us or any one person in our organization, because the gun can’t be traced.

Meanwhile, food is paramount in the Italian culture, and you’ll hear it from your wife if you come back home without the cannoli you promised her.

Bottom line – details matter! Plan well. Don’t lose your head.

Screenshot Clemenza Leave the gun take the canolis

Some offers shouldn’t be refused

If faced with an offer you can’t refuse – take it.

The band leader who faced down Luca Brasi’s gun did the right thing, choosing to sign the contract releasing Johnny Fontaine when faced with the option of having his brains or his signature on the contract. The Hollywood director instead made the mistake of refusing the Don, and his prize horse paid the price with his head.

It’s all about leverage in negotiations – when you have it, use it! If you don’t have it, don’t do anything stupid.

Screenshot horse head scene in The Godfather

And there you have it. Five simple life lessons you should take away from this masterpiece by Francis Ford Coppola.


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