Home Featured The Corleone Theory: What The Godfather Can Teach You About Every Man You’ll Ever Meet

The Corleone Theory: What The Godfather Can Teach You About Every Man You’ll Ever Meet

Which One Are You?
Which One Are You?

As a child, watching Francis Ford Coppola’s cinematic classic The Godfather and its sequels was a rite of passage. The men in my family forced me to watch them long before I was ever really old enough to understand them, and over time – they came to hold a particularly special place in my heart. One of the tangential benefits of having watched these films dozens of times has been that I’ve come up with this theory … The Corleone Theory. The Corleone Theory is the idea that every man you’ll ever meet in life is either a Vito, a Santino (Sonny) a Tom Hagan, a Fredo, or a Michael.

As a man, knowing which one you are can be useful in all facets of life — from how you approach your career to how you deal with stress, to how you relate to your family. For men and women, the ability to categorize the men you know and meet through this lens can be super helpful when deciding what kind of role you want the men you meet to play in your life (No Hibbert).

Lets explore each:

Vito CorleoneVito Corleone:

In The Godfather, Vito is the family patriarch. He’s a builder. His primary focus is the preservation of family through whatever means that might require. Having lost both parents at a young age and having traveled alone to America, Vito seeks to carve out a substantial niche for himself and his family. Likewise, in real life, a Vito believes in family and values his ability to shape it. Relationships with those not of his family never go further than the extent to which their interests coincide with that of the family’s. With family, he’s a nurturer, seeing the best and worst in those he loves. He works to bring out the best while gently mentoring to subdue the worst. With all people, he is a great judge of character.

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Ladies, for these reasons, Vitos make great mates, the best option for building a family. Vitos are too loyal and disciplined for infidelity, too loving for physical abuse, and too good at leading to do a whole lot of arguing.

Typical Occupation For A Vito: Entrepreneur

Best Type Of Woman For A Vito: A Strong, self-motivated but submissive or at least deferential, nurturer.

Santino (Sonny) Corleone:Santino Corleone

For a Sonny, the combination of a lethal temper and uncompromising self-confidence create a highly effective leader with an underlying volatility that will always jeopardize everything he touches. He, like Vito, values family and is fiercely protective of it. He is also highly emotional and his actions will often be emotionally charged. This means in relationships he loves hard and will always put, what he determines to be, his mate’s best interest before his own, particularly when it comes to her safety. However, because so much of him is emotionally charged, he’s predisposed toward arguing, fighting and infidelity.

Typical Profession For A Sonny: Construction related Contractor, Police Officer, Athlete.

Best Type Of Woman For A Sonny: An existential one. One capable of going to her happy place during his emotionally charged rants and raves. She needs to be stable, understanding and willing to look the other way sometimes.

Tom Hagan:

Tom Hagan

Tom Hagan’s are squares. They are unwaveringly dedicated to their profession and to their family. A Tom Hagan isn’t interested in being in charge, he isn’t interested in being flashy, he isn’t interested in fortune nor is he interested in fame. He just wants to do his job well and go home. For women, because they’re so boring, Tom Hagan’s are dull to date but great to marry. As mates they’re great listeners they’re very understanding and logical with a healthy value for emotion.

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Typical Profession For A Tom Hagan: Lawyer, Accountant, Mid-level Corporate management or Project Manager.

Best Type Of Woman For A Tom Hagan: One who’s already had her fun.

Fredo Corleone

Fredo Corleone

A Fredo is the poor, kind-hearted soul who for reasons he can’t ever figure out, can never do anything right. Try as he may, he’s perpetually prone to failure. His lifelong ineffectiveness does not escape him. He realizes it and, over time, stemming the tide of consistently losing can eventually consume him. This is when he’s most dangerous. When his desire to be great surpasses his typical trepidation he’s prone to disastrous decision making. Otherwise, he’s harmless. He works hard at keeping up appearances, ever afraid that the world sees him the same way he sees himself: as a failure. In relationships, this self-consciousness bares itself out in how he treats his friends and mates. He’s caring, worshipful and forgiving. He’s also needy, attention starved and he always… always suspects infidelity on the part of his significant other.

Typical Profession For A Fredo: Postal Services Employee, Civil Servant

Best Type Of Woman For A Fredo: A Motherly One.

Michael Corleone

Michael Corleone

Michael is the most enigmatic of all of the characterizations. A Michael’s primary motivation is to accomplish whatever he sets out to accomplish and he is highly effective in doing so. He has very little emotion and whatever emotion he does have, when displayed, is done so sparingly, thoughtfully, and for the purposes of eliciting a desired response. He is calculating a cunning, and his ability to set aside feelings in favor of logic can sometimes come off as cold or indifferent. Michael values family, but not the way a Vito does; not as something to experience and love; a Michael values family the way one values an heirloom. He values it as something to cherish, protect, maintain, and most importantly — own.

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With a Vito or the rest of the guys it’s “the family” with a Michael it’s “My Family”. For women, a Michael is the most challenging type of man to be with. He will love you, but he will also compartmentalize you. You will be in a box, and you will have limited access to his true thoughts, feelings, and inner machinations. He will value your emotions and opinions, but only to the extent that they allow him to manage you. He’ll subtly but surely mold you into what he desires while doing his best to be what he thinks you need. Whatever he has is yours, unless you mess up gravely, at which point, he’ll forget you ever existed.

The best type of woman for a Michael: Whomever he chooses, when it’s all said and done, she will be what he desires.

So here’s where the fun begins.  Fellas, do any of these descriptions fit you?  Look across your crew of friends, can you pick out which they are? Ladies, have you dated any or all of these types – how did it work out?  Do you find you attract or are attracted to one in particular?  Let us know in the comments section below and check out more SBM blogs.

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  1. I’m more Tom Hagan, I’m lowkey. I’m not a turn up every weekend guy, rather grab some food and people watch. I’m sleep by 10:30 on most nights to many’s dismay, and I’m over back and forth arguing and twitter spats, I will say my piece and give u time to digest it. I’ve literally have had Women tell me I’m lame or now they’ve exhausted from the wild life now they here for a pizza and Netflix night. .

    1. Hard to tell online, but it seems like you're disappointed about the "pizza and Netflix" life lol?? However, you seem to be describing yourself as that…just a notice. Tom Hagan's are good people and I'm pretty sure he had the most stable family in the movie.

  2. These are dangerous waters you're stepping in.

    Of course everybody's going to want to say that they want to be a Vito or a Michael – those were the two stars of the movies. I think its more important to understand the flaws / limitations of each character. For instance, here in DC, Tony Kornheiser (a sports guy I'm not too fond of) has a commercial about these characters. And the problem with Sonny is that he was too much of a hothead. I know I was the same way when I was younger. I knew right and wrong and I knew when I was in the right, and so I was more likely to demand my way at these times. Watching Sonny (and his demise) shows you some of the complications of being such a hothead, particularly overconfidence. Sometimes those of us who are so quick to anger or emotion can easily be set up to use that emotion for their demise. For Sonny, it led to his death. For many of us it leads to things like fights, arrests, or getting fired.

    That's just one example, but if I took the time I could go through all the characters in the same way.
    Vito – for one thing, he was too trusting. He got shot because of this. Also, you could argue that he should have killed his son-in-law.

    Tom – I think he's one of the most dangerous characters in the movie because he shows you the dangers of being too smart. I've got a lot of friends who (sometimes unknowingly, sometimes knowingly) ultimately are so smart that a lot of powerful people depend on their advice. Sounds good because that kinda gives you power. Problem is if you eff up, you've got problems. I think back to HS and trying to fit in and I know I wound up being the Tom behind a lot of schemes.

    Michael – Much as I love him, this is not a dude I'd want to be my friend. I mean, love? family? I guess those are important to him until you betray him – then its just over. I'd hate for him to be wrong in his analysis. Cause, although more calculated, he's a lot like Sonny. One problem is that many adult men think that being Michael is a good thing without realizing the things he actually was going through in the movies.

    Fredo – This is the guy I'd think most people are like. Not in that they always mess up, but people's plans rarely work out. Fredo's biggest problem is that nobody believed in him. He had gotten into a position where he was living a comfortable life, but he wanted more and unfortunately that cost him.

    I look back at my life and can easily see portions where I was similar to Sonny, Fredo, Michael and Tom. And I think in a lot of our lives we wind up being all of these characters in some sense. One key for me is to try to understand the good and bad of these fictional characters because often times it helps to evaluate my own shortcomings.
    My recent post Covariance of Vectors

  3. I don’t want a Micheal . He’s the equivalent of Mr .Big( Sex in the city ) which in real life , that whole thing with him and Carrie wouldn’t work out probably.

    I would take a Vito or a Tom. My dad reminds me of Vito. I’m very big on family oriented men, the family first ( plus my family is huge.) Seems like the type of man that will love you to pieces.

    Tom really is only as boring as his partner to an extent. While he might not be into the up all night party every night until 5 am. Most Toms are willing to explore a different type of exciting/ fun with his partner . You have to be the kind of woman that doesn’t mind planning or saying where you want to go or do, most likely he’ll try/ do it if he’s that into you.

    1. This! A 'Vito' or a 'Tom' would be my preference as well, and for the same reasons you laid out, Smilez. I think 'Toms' get a bad rap more often than not.

      A 'Michael' would be an absolute "NO CAN DO" for me. I think you were too nice in listing his shortcomings. Michael, as popular a character as he is in these movies…and as much as I LOVED part 2 of this trilogy because of him…would scare the entire crap out of me in real life. He's a real Jekyll/Hyde IMO. Even if your misstep was an honest to goodness mistake, you're as good as dead to him…figuratively, and potentially literally depending on his profession…and you may/may not even see it coming. This guy has NO forgiveness in his heart. Who wants to live walking on eggshells trying to stay in this kind of guy's good graces the rest of her life? I sure don't.

  4. First off kudos on giving an in-depth description of these characters!! I love this movie although I saw it for the first time last year (I know!!!!!!!). I would need to have a Vito, someone that's about the family, and wanting us to flourish. I always admired Vito, because what he went through made him stronger and develop that mental that he carried, versus coming up in an already established family. And if the Godfather tells you about the man you should married, I know A Bronx tale can tell you a bit about a woman who unlocks the car door for her man!
    My recent post Practice what you preach!

  5. This reminds me of a Twist on a Meyers Briggs test lol You should copyright and marketer brother. Anyway, the only real comment I have is that I would say most people and men would be variations of these characters over time. Unlike movies, most of us go throw one or two (or more) changes based on age or traumatic/powerful events that occur in our lives. I’d say before age 27 or so I was definitely Michael Corleone. I think many people can sense this. I’m calculating by nature, I can’t help it. For a long time, I used this “gift” to manipulate rather than to motivate. I saw the world as mine to control and many of the people in as actors for me to mold to my script. Fast forward a few years, I’m Tom Hagan now. Far more laid back, generally keep to myself, and feel no need to be the star of the show as long as life is good, bills are paid, and things are going my way. Someone else can be the front man, I just want the paper. But, I imagine, if my paper or life was ever threatened, Michael Corleone is more than willing and ready to reemerge on the scene.

    – sent from iPhone

    1. Yeah, it'd be interesting to see the test questions for this. "Lets say you just found out that your brother in law was in collaboration with the guy who got your father shot, would you a) Go to wherever he is and get revenge? b) Welcome him back into the family? c) Secretly ploy to destroy him d) Try to get a job with him e) Say you're in the wrong business"

  6. I'll read this again after I watch the movie, LOL.

    I really have no idea why I've never seen it. *shrugs*

  7. What an interesting and unique article. I've never seen The Godfather, but based on your description, I recently dated a Michael, and he TOTALLY is the type that will try to make the woman he's with what HE desires. We didn't work out because I wasn't malleable enough. He even flat out told me so. A**, but he was all those things – he was everything I needed him to be – kind, giving, but logic won over emotion ALWAYS. He loved me as best he could, but I knew he would never let me all the way in. That didn't sit well with me.

    I'd like to meet a Tom bc I've already had my fun. I think I'm dating a Santino right now. Lawd help me go to my happy place lol

    Great post.
    My recent post I’m Forever Single…I Live in L.A.

  8. I want a Vito. I"m self motivated so I'll only marry a man that I trust enough to lead me and I could trust a Vito to do just that. Plus, I like men who are into their families and understand the concept of leading with grace and not control.

  9. damn, while I can probably have traits of all of these guys, I'm a Michael. Logic wins 95% of the time. I see a few women would like a Tom and I know many that say this but when they meet a guy like this, his being boring turns them off. Not saying all but from the few I know, most did

    1. Are you talking about me??? I WOULD date a Tom. I'm enough fun to keep things interesting. I just never meet them. I've only met Michaels and Santinos. Vito is the ideal. Who wouldn't want a Vito? Not many of them out there though.
      My recent post I’m Forever Single…I Live in L.A.

        1. I think there are a lot of degrees between Life of the party/wild guy and a completely dull guy. I think Tom falls in the middle. He’s like the guy in the crew that doesn’t need the spot light but people know and respect him. He can get attention without having to take over the whole show. And once you get close to him you start to see a different side of him. He may lack some spontaneity but if he cares about you, he’ll put all the effort in to make it happen.

        2. if you put it like that, now it makes more sense because generally the boring guy get left holding the bag when she's on the dance floor.

  10. Good post!
    On Sonny putting what HE determines to be your best interest before his own. Sigh. This is just so….frustratingly problematic. It's hard dating this guy. Maybe because I'm not the ideal girl for this type… I hate that such conflicting characteristics can coexist in one man – but I get it.
    I tend to be attracted to family oriented, take-charge but often emotional men, however, I need full disclosure. I will "look the other way" but tell me WHY I should first! I'm more than willing to go to my happy place while you spaz…. but this requires an incredible amount of authentic communication and trust in our relationship that at the end of your man period or whatever.. things will be ok. I don't like when guys expect you to do this out of the gate; its earned.

    1. When you say it like that Sonny looks a little different. Still can't deal with the cheating though. My happy place can't tolerate that.

  11. I love the Godfather and I could not stand Sonny. Running ya mouth will get you shot at a tollbooth *spoiler*. Anyway, I actually see myself as the Tom Hagan in my friend group. I give good advice and if you're in trouble, I'll be there…helping you bury the bodies. I'm the consigliere. As far as who I date, many Michaels and Toms…I like Vitos though. I feel like the Vitos of the world make good partnerships and give security, but that comes with age. Right now, they're just a Michael or Tom…marry potential?? Lol.

  12. I love this post. I was raised on these movies. About once every 3-4 month my dad, my sister and I would have a Godfather trilogy weekend… that was our Father/ daughter thing for 5+ years. I feel like my dad was subconsciously telling us that the men we would meet in life would fall into the characterizations listed above.

    I dated a Fredo that transitioned into a Sonny during our relationship. One thing I learned about being with a Sonny: it's easy to mistake intensity for intimacy. The new confidence and take charge was attractive, the passion was riveting, but the inconsistency and anxiety it created was draining.

    Now, I'd love a healthy combination of a Vito and a Tom.

  13. ok First of all: YAY!!! my favorite Movie!! 2nd of all: what an interesting post! now Even though i was Born in 91, you won't believe how often i've watched this Movie. anyway, sadly enough i do have to admit, i'm a Bit Sonny-like.It's alyways a good Time with me, Very passionate, Short fuse and i always feel like I Know what's Best for somebody Else but at the Same Time i'm really loyal and i stand up for who and what i believe. But acting like a brat is Not cute, i'm trying to Cut it out ,Lol. But I think that because i have that "wild" persona if u will, i've always been attracted to the Michael Type. There's just something incredibly attractive about someone being the Complete opposite of myself. somebody who keeps a Level Head and doesn't let emotions get in the Way and that quiet demeanor just makes them so much more interesting and u Know what they say, still waters Run Deep and Dirty . But As somebody Else already mentioned that unforgiving Soul is an absolute deal-breaker!! and it doesn't work in the Long Run. Most recently I dated the Sonny-Type, what a Desaster, Not Happening again. U don't Need two Hot-heads in One relationship. I think Vito is the Type I'd like to marry One Day, but Then who doesn't? sorry for any typos or misspellings

  14. Today, our world is filled with too many Sonny's and not enough Vitos. Everyone wants the attention, the power, and the fortune but don't want to work for it unless it is flashy and earns quick recognition. "Vito-esq" gentlemen offer a perfect balance to the workplace, to the family, and to external influences. Personally, I see myself with alot of Michael's tendencies. Some I like and others I don't too much care for. This post was a different take on how to categorize us simple creatures and it did justice for the most part. What movie can be used for the ladies, though? ***ponders***

    New Post: http://www.theurbanbeaux.blogspot.com "The Decision"

  15. Yes to this post! The movie is awesome storytelling in a 3 act sequence. If i were being honest I would have to say im an amalgamation of both Tom and Fredo (at least I can admit it) because of my heightened sense of self, I tend to focus on my flaws. I also lost my mom as a teenager, so I prefer the kind of woman that's nurturing (not necessarily a mother-type) just one who isn't so hard and always trying to dish out tough love. Just my honest assessment people, again great post.

  16. I dated a “Michael” for 7 years and ultimately it did not work out due to his distant personality. Hummmm, interesting, that was also his real name.

  17. I almost married a Michael until I woke up one day and realized I was staring at a complete stranger in the mirror. He totally molded me into a different woman without me even realizing it was going on. Thank God I saw the light BEFORE i walked down the aisle….

  18. Dammit, that “Fredo” description sums up my life with such exactitude I couldn’t have used better words to describe myself, it’s brilliantly written… and depressing as hell. You could at least throw a few redeeming qualities because yeah, I’m a ****** Fredo and I wish I could be at least a Hagan (I have a few things of Hagan though)


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