The Sopranos

Every The Sopranos Scene That Copies The Godfather Movies

The Sopranos' characters regularly referenced The Godfather movies in conversation, and the show made several visual references to the movies too.

As well as the many references to The Godfather in the dialogue, The Sopranos featured several scenes that visually referenced, or subverted scenes from the classic mob movie. As a series about a mob boss who wishes to stop his children follow in his footsteps, The Sopranos is clearly influenced by Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of the Mario Puzo novel. The characters in The Sopranos regularly reference the movie, most notably through Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt), loyal lieutenant to Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), who regularly entertains his fellow mobsters with his Al Pacino impression.

Hilariously, Silvio appeared to Tony in The Sopranos’ “Funhouse” dream sequence wearing a close approximation of Pacino’s brick-red cardigan from The Godfather Part III. Sil warned Tony that “our true enemy has yet to reveal himself“, paraphrasing Michael Corleone’s assertion that “our true enemy has not yet shown his face“. However, this isn’t the only visual reference to The Godfather trilogy in The Sopranos, so here is every scene that visually references the hugely influential movie.


8Tony Getting Shot While Buying Orange Juice


The Sopranos season 1 builds to a devastating betrayal when Tony’s mother Livia Soprano (Nancy Marchand) and his Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese) plot to have him killed. Junior is concerned that Tony seeking therapy is a liability for the family while Livia is furious that her son has had her put in assisted living. As Tony stops off to buy orange juice and a newspaper, two low-level criminals hired by Junior attempt to kill Tony and make it look like a carjacking. Tony survives the hit, and doesn’t whack Uncle Junior, but weakens his position by whacking one of his closest advisors.

It’s a clear homage to the scene in The Godfather where Don Corleone is shot at while buying oranges. Both Tony and Corleone catch sight of the gunman approaching them, and they both attempt to get to safety, losing their oranges in the process. A bullet shatters Tony’s bottle of juice while Don Corleone’s paper bag splits and scatters the oranges on the road. Tony, however, gives up much more of a fight, disarming one of the gunmen while driving his car after they accidentally kill their partner. In his exhilaration at surviving the hit, Tony then plows his vehicle into a row of parked cars. It’s a moment that reminds viewers of the cultural touchstones that the David Chase show is influenced by, while also reminding them of the importance of oranges in The Godfather.

7The Funeral Parlor

When Sonny Corleone (James Caan) was shot to death by Barzini hitmen in The Godfather, Don Corleone was horrified at how they “massacred” his boy. He told the funeral director to use all his power and skills to restore Sonny’s corpse ahead of the open casket funeral. The Sopranos season 3 features a comic subversion of this scene when Tony and his sisters are preparing for the funeral of their mother Livia. The complex relationship between Tony and his mother is key to understanding his character, and the Godfather reference is perfectly executed to reveal the huge difference between the Corleone and Soprano families.

After the sudden death of Tony Soprano’s mother in season 3, Tony and his sisters were told by the funeral director at Cozzarelli’s Funeral Home that he would “use all my power, all my skills” in a clear lift from The Godfather. Hilariously, Tony responded to this heartfelt promise by telling him not to “go crazy“. It brilliantly subverts the scene in The Godfather by demonstrating Tony’s ambivalence toward his mother, caring very little about how she appears during the funeral. There’s also an unspoken acknowledgment that Tony recognizes the Godfather reference and realizes how over-the-top the comparison with Sonny, violently shot to death, and Tony’s mother, dead from old age, actually is.


6The Moe Greene Special

The killing of Brendan Filone (Anthony DeSando) has two Godfather references. Visually, the shot of Brendan’s dead body in the bath is a reference to the killing of Frank Pentangeli (Michael V. Gazzo) in The Godfather Part II. The manner of Brendan’s death, and how it’s referred to by Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero (Vincent Pastore) is another reference to the first Godfather movie. Brendan is shot through the eye “Moe Greene style“, referring to the scene toward the end of The Godfather when the casino proprietor and mob hitman Moe Greene (Alex Rocco) is shot through the eye while receiving a massage.

5All Through The Night

At the climax of The Godfather Part III, the Corleone family assemble to see Anthony Corleone (Franc D’Ambrosio) perform the lead role in Pietro Mascagani’s one-act opera Cavalleria Rusticana. Michael is visibly moved by his son’s performance, but the crowning achievement of Anthony’s career is juxtaposed with several deaths leading up to the climax of the badly-regarded Godfather 3The Sopranos referenced this scene in season 1, episode 3, “Denial, Anger, Acceptance” when Tony and Carmela Soprano (Edie Falco) attend a performance at their daughter’s school. As Tony is visibly moved by Meadow (Jamie Lynn Sigler) singing the traditional Christmas carol All Through The Night”, the performance is juxtaposed with the assassination of Brendan Filone and the mock execution of Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli).

4Abandoned Houses

Tony Soprano and Michael Corleone's empty houses

Both Godfather 3 and The Sopranos season 5 open with autumnal views of the seemingly abandoned homes of their protagonists. Michael Corleone’s Lake Tahoe compound was abandoned at some point between The Godfather 2 and 3, and it’s likely due to the guilt that Michael harbors over ordering the death of his brother Fredo (John Cazale). Opening the delayed Sopranos season 5 with similar shots of Tony’s abandoned mansion foreshadows the difficult choice that Tony will have to make at the end.

While the poor state of Tony’s beloved pool signifies his absence after his split with Carmela at the end of season 4, the similarity to Godfather 3‘s opening becomes clearer in retrospect. After introducing Tony Blundetto (Steve Buscemi) as Tony’s cousin, who went to prison for him when they were younger, The Sopranos sets up a similar betrayal to Michael and Fredo. By the end of The Sopranos season 5, Tony realizes he has to make the difficult decision to kill his beloved cousin via two more Godfather references.

3The Gun In The Toilet Stall

Tony Soprano can't find the gun behind the toilet in The Test Dream

The season 5 episode “The Test Dream” has two clear visual references to The Godfather. The first of these refers to the iconic restaurant scene, in which Michael Corleone, seeking revenge for the hit on his father, unstraps a pistol from behind a toilet cistern before gunning down McCluskey (Stirling Hayden) and Sollozzo (Al Lieteri). It’s a tense scene because the longer the scene goes, the more there’s a feeling that the pistol might not even be there.

This tension is what the scene in “The Test Dream” cleverly plays on as Tony walks into a restaurant bathroom, also looking for a gun. Once inside, Tony checks behind the toilet cistern and is horrified to discover that there is no gun taped to the back of it. Michael Corleone’s worst nightmare then transforms into Tony’s own worst nightmare as he hears gunshots break out in the street outside the restaurant, leading to both a horrifying revelation and another Godfather reference.

2The Hit On Phil Leotardo

The deaths of Phil Leotardo and Sonny Corleone in The Sopranos and The Godfather

Still in the dream, Tony Blundetto fires several rounds into a car containing Phil Leotardo (Goodfellas actor Frank Vincent). This confirms to Tony that the situation between the Leotardos and his cousin is a ticking time bomb. The imagined shooting of Phil inside his car is familiar from multiple gangster movies, but director Allen Coulter frames the corpse of Phil in a clear reference back to The Godfather. Lying on his back on the street in his grey tracksuit, covered in blood and bullet holes, Phil is the mirror image of Sonny in The Godfather. Ambushed by the Berzini hitmen at the tollbooth, Sonny is shot to death in his car. Emerging from the wreckage, he collapses on to his back, his grey suit covered in blood and bullet holes.

1Tony Soprano And Michael Corleone’s Guilt

tony michael guilt

At the end of Godfather 2, after ordering the death of his brother Fredo, The Godfather‘s Michael Corleone reflects on happier times with his brother. He remembers how Fredo was the only member of the Corleone family to support him joining the army. The Sopranos season 5 ends similarly, with Tony Soprano reflecting on happier times with his cousin Tony B, after having to kill him. Both Michael and Tony feel guilt for their actions and recognize the toll their lifestyle takes on their relationships. It’s this deep human connection between Corleone and Soprano that emphasizes that The Sopranos and The Godfather are far more than hollow and exploitative gangster stories.

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