Great Characters Wiki
Great Characters Wiki

Santino "Sonny" Corleone Sr. (born 1916 - dies 1948) is a supporting character in Mario Puzo's 1969 novel The Godfather and its 1972 film adaptation. He also appears in flashbacks in The Godfather Part II.

In the novel and film, he is the oldest son of New York City Mafia Vito Corleone and Carmela Corleone. He has two brothers, Fredo and Michael, an adoptive brother, Tom Hagen, and a sister, Connie. He's notable for being the most impulsive and violent of Vito's children and the most involved in his father's criminal operations.

He was portrayed by James Caan.

Why He Rocks

  1. As the oldest child of the Corleone family, he's super protective about the safety of his younger siblings. His most famous example would be when he attacked Carlo Rizzi after finding out about his abusive relationship with her sister. Yes, it was a trick set up by Rizzi himself and Barzini, but it still goes to show that you don't mess with his siblings useless unless you want to be in serious pain.
  2. James Caan does a nearly flawless acting job as the eldest Corleone son.
  3. As explained within the book, Santino takes the family crime business incredibly seriously. He had "made his bones" when he was 19, and by his mid-20s, he was promoted to a caporegime in the Corleone family. And by the end of World War II, he is his father's underboss and heir apparent, popular and feared as a merciless killer with a short-temper.
  4. Despite Sonny's rough and abrasive edge, he's still got a sensitive and caring side. Aside for looking over his siblings, he also brought home Tom Hagen -- who was a homeless, orphaned boy -- when he was eleven, demanding he be allowed to live with the family.
    1. Plus, despite being perfectly willing to beat up and kill other men, he refuses to harm women, children, or anyone unable to defend themselves.
  5. He's a kind and loving father towards his kids, and a great (if unfaithful) husband.

Bad Qualities

  1. Sometimes his hot-headed nature can easily be used against him, such as when Barzini and Carlo Rizzi tricked Santino into going to protect Connie so he could be killed.
  2. He tends to be be over reliant on his physical strength and doesn't always think his plans through like his father or youngest brother, which is why he wasn't a very efficient Don during his time.