Why ‘The Godfather Part 3’ Was So Disappointing For The First Two Masterpieces, Explained

The Godfather The trilogy (or at least the first two films) is considered one of the best films ever made. With writer/director Francis Ford Coppola and powerhouse Al Pacino being part of all three films, it’s a shock to many fans that the third was a wash. The third film was released 16 years after the second, a gap far larger than the two-year gap between the first two films. Not only were the first two films much closer together, capitalizing on the hype, but the third film also followed an almost completely different cast. The main characters were people we had never seen, and the main familiar face was Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, but even he looked very different to Michael Corleone fans.


Instead of feeling like an extension of the Godfather universe, the third movie seemed like more of a miserable way to end such a beloved trilogy. Many fans even skip the third movie when showing the series to friends. The third movie felt like an ugly scar on a beautiful face instead of the perfect conclusion to the series that it was meant to be. So why The Godfather Part III fail so miserably?

What is the plot of The Godfather?

The plot of the first Godfather The movie is difficult to describe in a few sentences and honestly, if you haven’t watched it, do it instead; it’s arguably the best mafia or gangster movie ever made. But if you really want a plot synopsis, it’s here. Vito Corleone, the current crime boss of the Corleone family, is nearly murdered after a failed deal. Vito’s son Sonny takes over the family business and plans to retaliate against the assassination attempt. Vito’s youngest son, Michael, kills the man who planned the assassination attempt and a corrupt policeman, then hides in Sicily.

Related: The Godfather: Check Out This Exclusive BTS Clip From The Original Line Script

While in Sicily, Michael marries a woman who is later killed by a bomb in her car, then returns to America when he learns that his brother Sonny has been murdered. When Michael returns, he marries his former girlfriend and takes over the family business. Just as Michael is about to move the family to Las Vegas, his father dies and chaos ensues among the heads of the Five Families.

What is the plot of The Godfather III?

The third movie of The Godfather trilogy was to serve as an epilogue to the first two. Its purpose was to wrap up the Michael Corleone story that began in the first film. At the start of the film, Michael attempts to legitimize the criminal empire he led as his father’s successor. The empire succeeded, but Michael wanted more (as he always seems to do) and wanted the business to at least have the appearance of being legit.

Related: The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone Review: Coppola Delivers The Best Version Of His Flawed Masterpiece

The film also follows Michael as he chooses a successor in his brother Sonny’s illegitimate son, Vincent. As Vincent follows Michael to succeed him, he falls in love with Michael’s daughter, Mary, who is also Vincent’s first cousin (yay, unnecessary incest). The final main plot of the third film is the fictionalized version of the papal banking scandal that occurred in the early 1980s. In the film’s lens, Michael Corleone was involved in the scandal as well as the death of Pope John- Paul I.

Why is The Godfather Part 3 so different?

No one can say for sure (except perhaps Francis Ford Coppola) why the third film in the Godfather trilogy was such a bust. It could be the terrible nepotistic game of otherwise brilliant director Sofia Coppola, who was cast after the death of the first actress and then the second choice, Winona Ryder, dropped out. Other actors from the originals refused to reprise their roles, such as Robert Duvall, while other actors had passed away, such as Joe Pinell. It could also be the odd inclusion of incest, the lazy script writing, the notoriously sloppy editing between scenes, or the fact that Coppola’s heart just wasn’t in it, because he never wanted to do the movie.

Fans of the series are ignoring the third movie for a reason, and everyone has their own. However, the movie as a whole seemed to not fit in with the rest of the series. Not only did it take place in a much later period, but it also didn’t have the same energy as the first two. It felt staged and rigid instead of an authentic look at an organically transpiring event. Especially in the first Godfather film, viewers felt like they were part of the film and understood the characters. On the other hand, the third movie felt like bad fan fiction or a school play where a group of fifth graders put on a Broadway play. In other words, they were way out of their league. Ultimately, if you’re new to The Godfather series, just watch the first two.

Coppola is done with The Godfather franchise and wants to make a movie about the future

Coppola is done with The Godfather franchise and wants to make a movie about the future

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