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The events depicted in The Godfather start in 1946 as we are told early in the movie as Michael has just returned from fighting in the war.

But key later events take significant time. Michael spends enough time in Sicily to get married and witness his wife die. When he returns to the USA he waits at least a year before contacting his old girlfriend. Later we see him married and with young children before the final events of the movie.

How much total time has elapsed between the opening scenes and the end?

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10 Years

According to the script, the opening scene takes place in 1945 and the final in 1955

INT DAY: DON'S OFFICE (SUMMER 1945)

The PARAMOUNT Logo is presented austerely over a black
background.  There is a moment's hesitation, and then the
simple words in white lettering:

              THE GODFATHER

While this remains, we hear: "I believe in America."
Suddenly we are watching in CLOSE VIEW, AMERIGO BONASERA, a
man of sixty, dressed in a black suit, on the verge of great
emotion.

INT DAY: CHURCH (1955)

KAY wears a shawl over her hand.  She drops many coins in
the coin box, and lifts a burning taper, and one by one, in
a pattern known only to herself, lights thirty candles.
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    I suspect the timescale is right, but did that final scene actually appear in the released movie? I thought the final scene was Michael in his office with Kay outside and his advisors closing the door so she could not hear their business discussion. – matt_black Jan 3 at 16:24
  • It's certainly in the book but it may not have made it into the final movie. – Paulie_D Jan 3 at 17:56
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    The final candles scene is not in the movie.  (I think it was filmed, but cut.)  However, according to the script, the immediately previous scene is marked INT DAY: DON'S KITCHEN (1955), so that doesn't affect the overall timespan.  (Interestingly, the script doesn't mention the door closing; that scene finishes with The smile fades from KAY's face, as she looks at what her husband has become.) – gidds Jan 3 at 20:51

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