The Line: “My father made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.”
Who Said It: Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in the 1972 film The Godfather.
The Setup: Corleone relates the story of how his father, Mafia boss Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), got a singer released from a personal-services contract with a bandleader. After the bandleader turned down Don Corleone’s $10,000 check, Vito’s henchman held a gun to the bandleader’s head and “assured him either his brains or his signature would be on the contract.” The bandleader then released the vocalist and accepted a certified check for $1,000.
The Payoff: “Mafiosi are like urban cowboys,” wrote author Gay Talese. “[They are] feudal lords, and whether you like them or not, they’re fascinating father figures.”
Brando played a “man of respect” who was seemingly benign, but yet a monster. He made the role warm and real enough to command belief and even empathy, yet vicious enough to deter admiration. After Vito, the Mafia was big box office everywhere, from bookstores to toy stores, where The Godfather game sold briskly.
Curiously, Brando was disappointed by his performance: “What the hell did I know about a 65-year-old Italian who smokes twisted goat-shit cigars?”