Why did Santino get killed in The Godfather? I recently watched the movie and I just don't get it. Why did he get killed by the order of Barzini?

4 Answers 4


Barzini was partners with Don Tattaglia. You might recall that after Luca Brasi was killed, Sonny had Tattaglia's son Bruno killed in response.

The morning after the hospital incident.
TESSIO, to MIKE and CLEMENZA: Sonny got mad. We hit Bruno Tattaglia four o'clock this morning.

Barzini knew Sonny was a hothead, and also knew that Sonny was overly protective of his sister Connie. So Barzini had Connie's husband give her a beating, which put Sonny (predictably) in a rage. Barzini then had his men wait at the tollbooths, knowing Sonny would take the causeway en route to Connie.

The hit on Sonny (Don Corleone's son) was payback for the hit he put on Tattaglia's son. This is what caused the Dons to finally meet; you put a hit on a Don's family member and they'll come to the table a lot quicker than if you put a hit on a footsoldier.

  • This seems to answer how Satino got killed, but not why. Would you mind elaborating on your response?
    – akr
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 6:22
  • 1
    Unless the books are vastly different than the movies, Sonny ordered the death of Bruno Tattaglia, not Michael. Commented Feb 10, 2018 at 17:08

Since you are Don Barzini, shouldn't you be telling us instead of asking?

In the movies, Sonny is an uncontrollable, enraged wild dog, so the fact that they were at war meant that it would keep going until Sonny was satisfied (aka - all enemies involved in the hit on Vito were wiped out), even if it meant the destruction of all parties involved, including the Corleone family, whereas Vito, himself, would be willing to call an end to it if it seemed in the best interest of his family.

Sonny did not have that sense of business "detachment." Killing Sonny was a matter of self-preservation, I'd think. At the time of the hit, Sonny was still calling the shots and running the war at full speed.


This question is answered more clearly in the books. When the Corleone family goes to war, Sonny is widely considered the best city fighter around. He was inflicting damage to the Barzini troops and they knew the only way to stop it was to kill Sonny.

  • 2
    I feel like this could be a useful answer, but could you flesh it out a bit more?
    – MattD
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 17:33
  • @Conor is correct, it is also meant to serve as a death blow to the Corleone family, forcing them to call a truce in order to avoid risking more members of the immediate family. It's important to remember that at the same time Michael is saved from an assassination attempt in Sicily, which means the goal of the other families was to cripple the Corleone's completely by killing all of it's potential leaders (which explains why Fredo's life wasn't attempted)
    – Yaron Idan
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 14:32

it was Barzini all along, Vito said these words to Tom clearly implying that the chain of events was orchestrated by Barzini from the beginning to gain control over the entire Italian mob. the hit is one of such events to shift the balance of power towards Don Barzini and his family.

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