There’s no question that Vito Corleone was the breakout character of The Godfather series. Although Al Pacino killed it as Michael, he is still only spoken of after Don Corleone’s portrayal. In a story about crime, Vito was a character who was as anti-gangster as you can think of.
He was a family man who chose the mob life to bring security to his loved ones, and conducted his business very close to the legitimate level. While he was still a criminal, he was also a sharp man with a lot of wisdom to impart. Here are 10 quotes that attest to Vito’s wise nature.
10 “I Have A Sentimental Weakness For My Children, And I Spoil Them, As You Can See. They Talk When They Should Listen.”
None of the things that happened in The Godfather saga would’ve taken place had Sonny learned how to keep his mouth closed. During the meeting with Virgil Sollozzo, Vito turned down the latter’s proposal to go into business; Sonny interrupted when he thought the Tattaglias would guarantee their potential investment.
It was here when Vito swiftly silenced Sonny and excused the interruption as him having spoiled his son. In the end, Vito turned out to be absolutely right as Sonny’s interjection led to Sollozzo attempting a hit on Vito. The Don knew what he was talking about when he wanted his kids to listen, not talk.
9 “That Is Not Justice, Your Daughter Is Still Alive.”
Bonasera came to Vito asking him to take out the thugs who had manhandled his daughter, shredding away the facade of the everyman persona he had worked his life to put up. Vito turned down the request to kill the men, citing that Bonasera’s daughter still lived.
It was done to show Bonasera that Vito wasn’t a common criminal who would kill just because someone was telling him to. Although what happened Bonasera’s daughter was unfortunate, Vito could tell the man was picking and choosing what he thought “justice” meant. So, Vita spilled out some hard facts that killing the men wasn’t tit-for-tat.
8 “You Can Act Like A Man! What’s The Matter With You?”
Men of Vito’s generation weren’t the type to be overly emotional, and while Vito was a very sensitive person in general, he wasn’t a fan of needless drama. When his godson Johnny Fontane came to him for help in acquiring a movie role, Vito wasn’t in the mood to see the man crying before him.
Suddenly springing up, Vito yelled in Johnny’s face to man up and do something about the situation rather than wallow around. Johnny was clearly playing the situation up to gain sympathy, but it was also obvious that Vito understood this, which was why he was so harsh with his godson. The Don would do anything for family, but he wasn’t going to play the fool.
7 “Whoever Comes To You With This Barzini Meeting, He’s The Traitor. Don’t Forget That.”
By the time Michael had been placed as the head of the Corleone family, the situation was in dire straits for the main characters. Michael was clearly being set up to be taken out, but they had no idea who it could be to betray him.
Even though he was near death by then, Vito could still read the situation when no-one else could. Crucially, he told Michael not to trust anyone who would set up a meeting with Don Barzini, as Vito had figured out that Barzini had been the one behind Sonny’s death. Posthumously, this advice to Michael saved his life.
6 “Now You Come To me And You Say, ‘Don Corleone, Give Me Justice.’ But You Don’t Ask With Respect, You Don’t Offer Friendship.”
The reason why Vito wasn’t giving Bonasera any leeway in their interaction was because he saw right through the man. It was a testimony to the calm nature that Vito possessed, as Bonasera had actually been very disrespectful by barging in on the wedding of Vito’s daughter and demand he kill people.
Vito, sensing he could put Bonasera in his place while simultaneously gain respect, told the latter that it was a two-way street they were on and Bonasera would need to extend a show of friendship. By doing this, Vito had another follower in his midst seeing as Bonasera acquiesced to calling him “Godfather” and acknowledged that Vito was a man to be held in high esteem.
5 “It Doesn’t Make Any Difference To Me What A Man Does For A Living. But Your business, Is…A Little Dangerous.”
Vito was the only one in the organized business who saw what the future would really be like when the offer to go into the narcotics trade came up to him. Although Tom Hagen and Sonny attempted to tell him that the real money was in drugs, Vito denied it.
Without admonishing Sollozzo for the business he conducted, Vito confessed he found narcotics to be dangerous and below his level. Vito also admitted he was in no place to judge how a man made a living since he himself was a gangster, but he knew that going into narcotics would smear the family name.
4 “A Man Who Doesn’t Spend Time With His Family Can Never Be A Real Man.”
Though Vito loved all his children equally, he held a certain amount of contempt for Sonny for not following through the principles Vito had taught him. Unlike couples across media who break up for silly reasons, Vito was a character who always believed in being a loyal husband and a father.
When he saw that Sonny had been playing around with his mistress on the day of Connie’s wedding, Vito took a subtle jab at him for not spending time with his family. As far as Vito was concerned, the true mark of a man was how he treated his loved ones through thick and thin; money and power were secondary at best.
3 “Some Day, And That Day May Never Come, I Will Call Upon You To Do A Service For Me.”
The whole interaction with Bonasera had a true purpose: it was to get the man in Vito’s debt. He realized that a man like Bonasera, who had had no run-ins with the law and was a civilian, would be useful for Vito in the long-run should he require assistance that would go unnoticed.
It was done in such a way that Bonasera, or anyone for that matter, would have no choice but to return the favor in the future. After all, Vito had shown them consideration, agreed to their requests, and was simply asking something in return. It was a masterclass in making an ally out of someone.
2 “Is Vengeance Going To Bring Your Son Back To You Or My Boy To Me?”
Make no mistake, vengeance very well was in Vito’s mind by this point, but he was wise enough to overcome the urge to get revenge for Sonny’s death because Michael’s safety was in question. During the meeting between the heads of the families, Vito made the first move toward peace.
Pointing out that no-one was in a place to gain anything from the gang war that had been going on, Vito gave a simple but impactful statement that the path of vengeance would bring no rewards, as Sonny was well and truly gone. All Vito could do was accept it and avoid more tragedy.
1 “I’m Gonna Make Him An Offer He Can’t Refuse.”
You might be wondering what was so wise about a quote where the implication was to threaten a man with death; well, it had to do with the timing of said moment. Vito didn’t order any executions on the fly, and it was a deeply personal decision for him to make each time.
He would always give the person before him a fair chance at considering his request, even treating the person with significant respect and continue to implore upon them to consider Vito’s demands. Unlike Sonny and Michael, who would always opt to kill as a first resort, Vito would only get to the “offer” part when there was no other recourse.
NEXT: Al Pacino’s 10 Most Iconic Roles, Ranked