The Criminal Activities of The Godfather

As a film about organised crime, The Godfather showcases more than a few criminal activities. From money laundering and murder, to bribery and heroin distribution, the Corleone family and its rivals take part in their fair share of nefarious activities.

But what could they actually be charged for? Let’s consult the legal books and look at a few of the film’s criminal acts to see just how much trouble the fictional families could face – if they happened to live in present day England.

Animal Mutilation

When Vito Corleone’s godson Johnny Fontane asks for the don’s help in getting a movie role, Vito dispatches his henchman Tom Hagen to plead Fontane’s case to the movie director Jack Woltz. Woltz says no deal, and later wakes up in bed with the severed head of his prized horse.

If Woltz chose to press charges (which he probably wouldn’t) he could claim for trespass under the law of tort. The incident may also fall under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.


Bribing judges and officials could lead to The Godfather’s fictitious families being charged under the Bribery Act 2010. This law states that all cases of bribery, including facilitation or “grease” payments, are illegal. Penalties include prison time and unlimited fines.


With supply and production charges of a Class A drug such as heroin, guilty parties could face up to life in prison, unlimited fines, or both.

Money Laundering

Allegations of money laundering can be investigated by a number of organisations, including the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Department of Works and Pensions (DWP), the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Financial Services Authority (FSA), Trading Standards Departments, and the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).


If there is one thing The Godfather movie does not run short of it’s murder. Luca Brasi is sent by Vito to spy on his rivals, the Tattaglias, which leads to the Corleone family receiving two fish wrapped in Brasi’s vest and one of the film’s most memorable lines: “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes”.

There is also some attempted murder, with the assassination attempt on Vito that lands him in hospital, and a second assassination attempt while he is in hospital.

Back to murder, and Vito’s eldest son Sonny has Tattaglia’s son killed. Vito’s other son Michael then lures drug baron Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo and corrupt police captain McCluskey to a restaurant under the guise of a truce, but kills them both.

Sonny is killed by assassins, Michael’s new wife Apollonia Vitelli is killed by a car bomb intended for Michael, Corleone assassins kill the other New York dons and Las Vegas associate Moe Greene, and Michael has his brother-in-law Carlo garrotted for arranging Sonny’s murder.

While there is certainly a lot of law-breaking going on in the movie, finding witnesses willing to testify, finding evidence linking the top guys to the crimes, and making the charges stick is another matter entirely.

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