- Understanding the complex family relationships and connections is crucial to fully grasp the drama of The Godfather saga.
- The trilogy spans multiple generations and timelines, with different characters taking on the role of the family head.
- Betrayal and tragedy are recurring themes in the story, with characters like Fredo Corleone meeting a tragic end.
Considering that The Godfather follows over 80 years of family history, relationships can get tricky at some points in the convoluted family tree. In addition to this, being that this is a mafia story, the existence of two types of families can also make things a bit confusing. On the one hand, there are the blood relatives; on the other hand, there are the members of the mob family. Throughout Francis Ford Coppola’s exquisite Godfather trilogy, the cast involves a sprawling number of characters presented, and to get a better grasp of the actual drama of the saga, understanding the bonds between each character is crucial.
The Godfather is set in 1945, with Vito Corleone as head of the family. The Godfather II, on the contrary, follows two different timelines. On the one hand, a “present” timeline in 1958, with Michael Corleone as head of the family. On the other hand, there is a flashback timeline following Vito Corleone’s early life events for almost 30 years. Lastly, The Godfather III takes place in 1979, with Michael still as boss but on his way to retirement. Even though, the amount of characters presented over all those years, and the timeline jumps can be somewhat overwhelming, a scheme of the family tree can be done.
22 Michael Corleone
Michael Corleone is the lead character in all three movies, and he’s played by Al Pacino. He is the third natural son of Vito Corleone and Carmela Corleone. At first, he is reluctant to be part of the family as he considers himself different from the rest. He starts getting more involved in the business after Vito Corleone’s murder attempt. From that point on, Michael falls deeper and deeper into the business to the point of becoming boss. Throughout the trilogy, his partner and then wife is Kay Adams Corleone. Together they have two kids, Anthony and Mary Corleone, who become more relevant in the last film of the trilogy.
21 Vito Corleone
Vito Corleone’s birth name is Vito Andolini, but it’s changed to Corleone after his arrival in America. He appears in the first two films and is played by two different actors. Marlon Brando plays Vito in the first film, and Robert De Niro takes the role in the second film. Vito is born in Sicily but has to escape to America after his family is killed by the town’s Don. Vito has 4 children: Sonny, Fredo, Michael, and Connie. In addition to this, there’s Tom Hagen, an adoptive son. Vito is the boss of the Corleone Family until he is too weak to run the business.
20 Santino Sonny Corleone
Santino “Sonny” Corleone is Vito’s eldest son, and a very important character in The Godfather. He is played brilliantly by James Caan. During the events of the first film, Sonny is the underboss while his father is the boss of the family. However, once Vito gets seriously injured, he becomes acting boss. Even though Sonny is the eldest son, and seems to be the natural successor to his father’s legacy, his impulsive temper is his biggest weakness leading to his death in the first film. Despite that, Sonny appears in The Godfather II during a flashback, and also as a child in the young Vito Corleone’s timeline.
19 Federico “Fredo” Corleone
Federico “Fredo” Corleone is Vito Corleone’s second son. He is also brilliantly portrayed by Jonh Cazale. Although Fredo is a key character in the first two films, he only appears during a flashback in the last movie. He is the incompetent son who is usually looked after by his brothers. Once Michael takes control of the family, he names Fredo underboss. Of course, this is just a title to make him feel useful. Even though Fredo seems pitiful and somewhat likable, he betrays Michael in The Godfather II and ends up being “whacked” by his own brother in one of the most tragic deaths in The Godfather.
18 Constanza “Connie” Corleone
Constanza “Connie” Corleone is Vito’s youngest child and only daughter. Connie’s character appears in all three movies played by Talia Shire. The opening scene of the first film is Connie’s wedding to Carlo Rizzi. His marriage is fairly relevant in the first movie since Carlo’s abuse is what triggers Sonny to get involved, and eventually get killed by a set-up. Connie becomes distant from Michael after she becomes suspicious about his husband’s death. After Carmela dies, he turns to Michael again and, by the third movie, Connie acts as consigliere in the family as she is very close to her brother.
17 Tom Hagen
Tom Hagen is not only a consigliere to the Corleone Family, but he is also an informally adopted son to Vito and Carmela. Tom is treated differently by his siblings, not only because he is not a natural son, but also because he has a different approach at some points. Tom’s a lawyer, which makes him a great consigliere to the family and, in some ways, also different from his brothers and sister. Tom appears in the first two movies and acts as consigliere until he dies. He is wonderfully portrayed by Robert Duvall.
16 Carmela Corleone
Carmela Corleone is Vito’s wife and, of course, the mother of Sonny, Fredo, Michael, Connie, and Tom. Carmela appears in the first two Godfather movies, and she’s played by two different actresses. In the first movie and in the second movie’s “present timeline” she is played by actress Morgana King. On the other hand, Francesca De Sapio plays Carmella in the young Vito Corleone’s timeline.
15 Sandra Corleone
Sandra Corleone is Santino “Sonny” Corleone’s wife. She is not that important a character, but she is the mother of Sonny’s four kids, two boys and two girls. In addition to this, Sonny has one illegitimate son with Lucy Mancini, which becomes relevant in The Godfather III. Obviously, Sandra did not raise Sonny’s illegitimate son.
14 Vincent “Vinnie” Mancini
Vincent “Vinnie” Mancini is one of the most relevant characters of The Godfather III, played by Andy Garcia. He is Sonny Corleone’s illegitimate son with Lucy Mancini. Vincent works under the orders of Joey Zasa, the man in charge of the remaining Corleone Family business in New York. He becomes close to Michael once he senses that other families are conspiring against the Corleones and that Zasa is involved in that play. Vincent becomes increasingly close to Michael to the point of succeeding him as boss at the end of the film. Vincent also gets involved romantically with Michael’s daughter, Mary Corleone.
13 Mary Corleone
Mary Corleone is Michael Corleone’s Daughter. Although Mary’s first appearance in the saga takes place in the second film as a 4-year-old child, she becomes relevant in The Godfather III, where she is portrayed by director Francis Ford Coppola’s daughter Sofia Coppola. Michael struggles to protect her daughter and keep her away from the family business. Nonetheless, she becomes involved with Sonny Corleone’s illegitimate son, Vincent Mancini, which leads to major problems with his father.
12 Anthony Corleone
Anthony Corleone is Michael Corleone’s son. As well as Mary, Anthony’s first appearance takes place as a 4- or 5-year-old child in the second movie but becomes more relevant in the third film. Anthony is an opera singer who wants nothing to do with the family affairs. In the second film, he is shown to be close with his uncle Fredo. Fredo’s killing is an important part of Anthony not wanting to have anything to do with his father’s business.
11 Johnny Fontane
Johnny Fontane is not blood-related as he is Vito Corleone’s godson. Johnny is a secondary character in the first Godfather movie and appears in a scene during The Godfather III, both times played by Al Martino. Johnny Fontane is a singer based on Frank Sinatra who triggers one of the Godfather’s most iconic scenes, when Vito Corleone puts a horse head inside a Hollywood producer’s bed to get his godson a role in a movie.
10 Carlo Rizzi
Carlo Rizzi is not a blood member of the family as he is Connie Corleone’s abusive husband. He only appears during the first movie and is portrayed by Gianni Russo. Carlo becomes a traitor once he helps Emilio Barzini setting Sonny a trap to have him murdered. Carlo’s betrayal leads to Michael having him killed by Peter Clemenza.
9 Lucy Mancini
Even though Lucy Mancini is not part of the Corleone Family, and isn’t that relevant a character in the trilogy, she is Sonny Corleone’s illegitimate son’s mother. Lucy is Connie Corleone’s maid of honor during her wedding at the beginning of the first Godfather film. In this long opening sequence, there’s a scene in which Sonny is having sex with Lucy. That affair leads to Vincent Mancini being born, a character who will become relevant in the third movie.
8 Peter Clemenza
Peter Clemenza is a capo inside the Corleone Mafia Family. Clemenza is Vito Corleone’s most trustworthy man outside the blood family. He is played by two different actors since he appears both in The Godfather and as a younger man in the young Vito Corleone’s timeline in The Godfather II. Due to production issues, Clemenza does not appear in The Godfather II.
7 Salvatore “Sal” Tessio
Salvatore “Sal” Tessio is also a capo inside the Corleone Family. As well as Clemenza, he is portrayed by two different actors as he appears both in the first movie and in the second as a younger version within young Vito Corleone’s timeline. Michael has Tessio killed after he becomes a traitor conspiring against the family with Tattaglia and Barzini.
6 Luca Brasi
Luca Brasi is a soldier inside the Corleone Family. He is an awkward and scary thug, but also a very loyal character. He is Vito Corleone’s bodyguard and hitman. He only appears in the first movie portrayed by Lenny Montana. Luca Brasi is killed by Tattaglia and Sollozzo while he’s trying to get information from them under Vito’s orders.
5 Frank Pentangeli
Frank Pentangeli is also a capo inside the Corleone Family. He appears in the second film and is portrayed by Michael V. Gazzo. Frank takes Clemenza’s position after his death. In the second movie he intends to betray Michael by testifying in a trial against him. He is finally convinced not to and then induced to commit suicide.
4 Al Neri
Al Neri is to Michael Corleone what Luca Brassi was to Vito Corleone. He appears in the three movies and is played by Richard Bright. Neri is one of the Godfather‘s best enforcers in charge of many important killings throughout the trilogy, such as Barzini’s in the first Godfather film, Fredo’s in the second movie, or Archbishop Gilday’s in the third movie.
3 Joey Zasa
Joey Zasa is the capo in charge of the family’s affairs in New York once Frank Petrangeli dies. He appears in the third film and is played by Joe Mantenga. Even though Zasa is part of the Corleone Family, he becomes a traitor when he conspires with outside families to kill Michael in Atlantic City. He is then killed by Vincent “Vinnie” Mancini.