The Sopranos ranks as one of the greatest television dramas ever and the ultimate gangster series. Created by David Chase, The Sopranos became an overnight sensation as James Gandolfini hooked audiences as the no-nonsense New Jersey mob boss, Tony Soprano. On the surface, the series appeared to be just a mobster show, but The Sopranos has immense depth and clever symbolism that only diehard fans can catch.
The series consists of obvious references to classic movies like James Cagney‘s The Public Enemy and Goodfellas, but The Sopranos has several subtle nods to Francis Ford Coppola‘s masterpiece, The Godfather trilogy. Between Silvio Dante’s impression of Michael Corleone and the botched hit against Tony, these references to The Godfather stand as the best.
10Genco Olive Oil
A.J. (Robert Iler) has started going out with his first girlfriend, Devin (Jessica Dunphy), and tries to impress her by telling her and his friends about his family’s business and lifestyle. One night, A.J. agrees to take his friends to The Bing but accidentally takes them to Satriale’s or, as A.J. calls it, his dad’s office.
“Everybody Hurts” is the sixth episode in the fourth season and guest stars a young Paul Dano as A.J.’s friend, Patrick. As A.J. tries to explain the purpose of the pork store to his confused friends, Patrick realizes Satriale’s is used as a front, comparing it to Genco Olive Oil, the name of Vito Corleone’s business front in The Godfather.
9All Through the Night
Meadow (Jamie Lynn Sigler) is the bright overachiever of the Soprano family and Tony’s pride and joy. In the show’s first season, Episode 3, “Denial, Anger, Acceptance,” Meadow performs a solo during her last high school choir concert. Tony and Carmela (Edie Falco) proudly watch from the audience, and Tony even starts to tear up a little, listening to her.
In The Godfather III, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) watches his son, Tony, sing for him, and while he’s listening, he starts to get emotional like Tony. Both Tony and Michael are men who have to keep up a tough appearance and refrain from showing any sign of weakness, but despite their best efforts, their children always remind them of their hidden humanity and neglected empathy.
8Trip to the Bathroom
Tony dreams that he and Carmela are out to dinner with Meadow, her boyfriend, Finn, and his parents, whom Tony recognizes as the late detective Vin Makazin (John Heard) and actress Annette Bening. While Tony tries to wrap his mind around the situation, the couples continue to converse. Makazin even treats everyone to a solo performance of Lionel Richie‘s “Three Times the Lady.”
After Makazin finishes his number in the episode “The Test Dream,” he announces he has to go to the bathroom. As he and Tony leave, Bening says, “I don’t want my husband coming back with just his c*ck in his hand.” In The Godfather, while planning the hit against Sollozzo and Captain McClusky, Sonny (James Caan) says this same line about his brother, Michael.
7A New Chapter
At the beginning of Season 5, Tony and Carmela have officially separated, and Tony has moved into his mother’s house nearby. The season’s first episode, “Two Tonys,” opens with a montage of the Soprano home showing how the house and yard have been neglected with piles of leaves, an uncovered grill, and a deserted patio.
The Soprano home is always kept pristine, but after the separation, the family is never the same, and the neglected home symbolizes the loss of Tony’s family. The montage is also a direct reference to the beginning of The Godfather III after Michael and Kay (Diane Keaton) have also separated. Like Michael, Tony’s finally alone and forced to face the consequences of his actions and the irreparable damage he’s caused his family.
6“Difficult, But Not Impossible”
In the third episode of the final season, “Mayham,” A.J. decides to take revenge against Uncle Junior and tries to buy a gun. He’s confronted by Christopher (Michael Imperioli) and Bobby (Steve Schirripa), who try their best to talk the troubled teen out of making a very stupid mistake.
Bobby and Christopher tell A.J. there’s no way he could access Uncle Junior, especially in federal lockup. A.J., overly confident. replies, “It’s difficult but not impossible.” When Michael’s brainstorming with Tom (Robert Duvall) and Rocco in The Godfather II on how to whack Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg), Rocco says the same line about getting past Roth’s security.
Tony is overwhelmed by the situation involving his cousin, Tony B. (Steve Buscemi), and New York capo, Phil Leotardo (Frank Vincent). While dreaming that he’s at a normal family dinner with a few surprise guests, he starts to feel as though something bad is about to happen, and the dream suddenly takes a downward spiral bringing his worries to the forefront.
While in the bathroom, Tony goes into one of the stalls and reaches behind the toilet for something, but nothing’s there. The scene’s a mirror image of the moment in The Godfather when Michael retrieves the gun from behind the toilet to kill Sollozzo and McClusky. The tribute goes the extra mile by featuring a similar setup to the bathroom from the film’s iconic scene.
4“All My Power, All My Skills”
In Season 3, Episode 2, “Proshai, Livushka,” after the death of his mother, Livia (Nancy Marchand), Tony and his sisters, Janice (Aida Turturro) and Barbara (Nicole Burdette), go to the funeral home to meet with the funeral director, Mr. Cozzerelli. The siblings take a rickety elevator down to the morgue and are immediately greeted by Cozzerelli and his assistant.
Cozzerelli tells Tony and his sisters that he’ll use all his power and all his skill to prepare their mother. When Sonny’s killed in The Godfather, Vito tells the mortician, “I want you to use all his power, all of your skills,” to make Sonny look like himself for his mother. The scene also contains a visual reference with a similar shot inside the elevator and through the gate of Cozzerelli, waiting on the other side.
In the first season, Episode 12, “Isabella,” Tony’s depression seriously affects him. When word gets out to Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese) that Tony’s been seeing a psychiatrist, the newly made boss decides to take a hit out on his nephew. As Tony stops at a newsstand, he’s ambushed by two men and miraculously makes it out alive with just a minor flesh wound.
When the guys make their move, Tony’s about to get back into his car with a bottle of orange juice. The scene is a nod to when Vito is gunned down in The Godfather. Like Tony, Vito buys oranges from a street vendor and is shot numerous times when he makes it back to his car. Christopher is unable to get to Tony in time, just like Fredo fails to protect his father.
2Our True Enemy
Tony’s right-hand man, Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt), is known for his uncanny impression of Pacino and entertains the guys with lines from The Godfather III. Silvio gives his first performance during the show’s only cold opening in Season One in the episode “46 Long.” While the guys roar with laughter, Silvio’s impression comes back to play a vital and ominous part in the next season.
In “Funhouse,” Tony has a series of fever dreams that address the possibility that his best friend, Big Pussy (Vincent Pastore), has been talking to the F.B.I. As Tony’s walking down a boardwalk in his dream, Silvio glides into the frame and says, “Our true enemy has yet to reveal himself.” The line is not only directly from The Godfather III, but Silvio is also dressed exactly like Pacino is in the movie.
1Phil’s Death in Tony’s Dream
As the events of Tony’s dream in “The Test Dream” continue to unfold, Tony finds himself among a large crowd of people, all standing in the street watching Tony’s cousin, Tony B., shooting Phil multiple times while sitting in his car. Bloody and badly wounded, Phil stumbles into the street before collapsing on the pavement as Tony B. approaches him.
When Sonny is viciously gunned down in The Godfather, he manages to get out of his car before dying, and as Phil falls to the ground in “The Test Dream,” he positions his body similarly to Sonny’s on the road. The scene contains several details that further the reference, including Phil donning an all-gray tracksuit as a modern nod to Sonny’s gray suit.