Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Ending Of The Godfather Explained

The 1970s were a time of change in Hollywood, when directors were becoming bolder and wanted to push the boundaries of what was considered great cinema. One of those new American "auteurs" was Francis Ford Coppola, who struck cinematic gold with The Godfather

There's something refreshing about a movie that wasn't supposed to be good but turned out great in the end, and The Godfather falls within that category. Despite the shocking violence and the surprising performances of Marlon Brando and a then semi-new actor from the New York stage named Al Pacino, the industry really didn't have high hopes for this movie. But everything from the story, the dialogue, direction, characters, music, and acting chops was excellent in this seminal film, and one of the best scenes of The Godfather was its ending. As the movie's complex ending, and its meaning for the main characters, is explained, be on the alert as spoilers follow.

Where The Godfather main characters ended up

It's no secret that a lot of people die in a small amount of time at the end of this three-hour movie. At the beginning of the film, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) doesn't want to be a part of the Corleone "family business." Rather, he wants the "American Dream," with a wife and kids. Michael is a decorated war hero, and even though he isn't supposed to join the family trade, it seems inevitable when his older brother Sonny (James Caan) is killed. To exact revenge, Michael plans with his father Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) to get rid of all the other heads of New York's "Five Families." Michael's shift toward becoming the next don of the Corleone Mafia empire is, at that point, set in motion.

The way the main characters close out the first installment of The Godfather is important, and it sets up  their actions in the rest of the trilogy. Kay Corleone (Diane Keaton) realizes that her marriage to Michael may be a devil's bargain, and Connie Corleone (Talia Shire) starts to resent her brother. As we know, after Michael's older brother Sonny meets his demise, the way is paved for Michael to become the new family chief.  

Coincidently or not, Vito dies a semi-peaceful death after suffering a heart attack while playing with his grandson.

The overall meaning of The Godfather's ending

From the infamous baptism scene to shutting Kay Corleone (Diane Keaton) out in the very last scene, there is a lot to unpack on what the ending means, as well as what might happen in the next movie, The Godfather Part II. The intercutting of the baptism with Michael's soldiers carrying out assassinations of the other crime lords on his orders is quite a shift from where he started out. As he is becoming godfather to his sister's baby, he is also being baptized into his new role as head of the Corleone crime father. Michael doesn't need to murder anyone himself, which is part of what makes him so dangerous.

After his sister Connie realizes Michael's role in her husband Carlo's death, she confronts him, with Kay present. Kay asks Michael point-black if he killed Carlo, with Michael saying this is the "one time" she can ask about his business, and Michael lies to her. Kay is then literally and figuratively shut out of Michael's office, and it's clear that she knows the truth about Carlo's death. The life they once made for themselves is no more, and Kay will have to live with the fact that she might not know her husband after all.