What's In A Line? The Godfather's 'Offer He Can't Refuse,' Explained

By Jacob Shelton
Source: (Paramount Pictures)

It's the most famous line ever uttered by a movie gangster -- a simple promise delivered by Marlon Brando, playing Don Vito Corleone, in The Godfather: "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse." The quote first appeared in Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather, which tells the story of the fictional Corleone crime family that was adapted into the epic film by Francis Ford Coppola.

Like most of Marlon Brando's best lines in the 1972 film, it's said calmly and quietly. Corleone's godson Johnny Fontane (Al Martino) is a singer whose career is in decline, and he's convinced that a role in an upcoming Hollywood film will be the boost he needs. But studio head Jack Woltz has refused to give Fontane the part. After taking Fontane to task for his unmanliness, Don Corleone tells him he'll convince Woltz to give him the role. "This Hollywood big shot is going to give you what you want," Corleone says, then gives the simple explanation as only a Godfather can:

"I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse."