In The Godfather, knowing that Sonny was a hothead and would immediately go to Connie's house after Carlo beats her up, he is ambushed at the highway toll booth by (presumably) Tattaglia men.

The ambush they have in place seems unnecessarily elaborate: involving at least eight men, seven of whom are definitely armed with automatic weapons (Tommy guns); two booths acquisitioned by the assassins and at least one car. Although the failure at killing Vito earlier (by just two guys armed with pistols) would have made the plotters more careful concerning the possibility of failure - surely this overkill in relation to Sonny was totally unnecessary and if anything, a liability?

3 Answers 3


This had been slightly puzzling me for a long while but (having not read the book) I believe I've worked it out. As much as a hothead Sonny was, the plotters didn't expect him to fly off the handle to such an extent as to go without protection. While one feels that Sonny made a terrible mistake leaving without the armed protection/escort (that Tom unsuccessfully sent out to follow Sonny); ultimately it would have made no difference. The ambush was extensive enough to cover any normal protection the Corleones would presumably have had - and had the car of Corleone men been right behind Sonny at the time of the ambush (shown in the photo below), would have almost certainly met the same fate.

sonny corleone death

  • As I recall from the scene one guy kicks Sonny apparently out of spite -- I mean, he was dead, really dead, hit by probably 100 bullets. Now, I doubt if the director intended this, but consistent with your idea that protection would be with Sonny but was not, maybe the guy who kicked him was the leader of the detail who was embarrassed that they had come with so many men, was even afraid of criticism for it so took this out on Sonny's dead body.
    – releseabe
    Commented Jun 16, 2022 at 18:39
  • They didn't know how many people (Sonny plus henchmen) they would be dealing with.
  • Sonny's reputation went before him; they could have reasonably expected him to come out shooting.
  • They wanted to not only kill him, but send a message to his family by disfiguring his body beyond recognition so as to deny him an open-casket funeral. (Vito, however, was owed a large favour by his local undertaker).
  • The undertaker was of course the man whose daughter had been assaulted as described in the very first scene. She was disfigured as later Sonny would be -- this became a sort of gruesome bond between Vito and Bonosera. Not only would she never be beautiful again but only the undertaker's skill would allow Sonny's mother to see his body.
    – releseabe
    Commented Jan 23, 2022 at 4:57

I always thought this was more of an homage to the St. Valentine's Day Massacre; the quintessential Mob statement. Yes, they might have assumed Sonny would come with more backup (that backup did arrive, minutes too late), but it was more likely they chose to use a show of force in a remote location, much like Capone's classic hit. Similarly, the hitmen were able to escape without being seen by a multitude of witnesses.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .