From the introduction in The Godfather till the end of Godfather 3, Michael Corleone is seen trying to distance himself from the illegal crime business and the criminal background. But I am not very sure whether he detested the crime because of the immorality of killing and extorting people or because of the bad public perception associated with such actions.

Edit : I want to clarify that I am looking for insights into Michael's perception about Crime before the inciting incident of Godfather 1 which will help me understand whether his decision to take over the family business was morally challenging or not.

3 Answers 3


Except in cases where people are evil for evil's sake (which is not the case for The Godfather), most criminals consider crime to be a necessary evil to achieve what they want.

  • Robbers rob people because they want money, not because they enjoy robbing. Even though it may be their preferred money making method, it stands to reason that most reasonable people would avoid committing robbery if they had access to the benefits (money) without needing to rob people in the first place.
  • Murderers generally murder people because they want to eliminate that person (or they have been hired by someone who wants that person eliminated). Except for pathlogical serial killers, it's never a matter of murder for murder's sake.
  • A loan shark only uses violence to punish those who no longer pay back the loan. Their main activity (loans) usually doesn't attract police attention (because their clientele wants a clandestine loan), but without violent retribution for non-payments; they can't actually ensure the success of their loans.
  • Mob families often commit violent crimes in order to ensure the success of their non-violent activities (which may still be a crime in and of itself, but there's less force behind such an investigation).

But the Corleone family is a succesful business. Their success is built on their criminal history, but their current state renders them able to continue their enterprise without needing to commit any further crimes.

Not committing any further crimes strengthens the enterprise, by no longer being vulnerable to police investigations.
Furthermore, if they encounter any dispute with another family who does still commit crimes, they can have the police and the courts by their side.

When two criminals have a dispute (e.g. I bought drugs from you but they were fake!), they settle it without getting the police involved. However, if one party is completely legit, they can involve the police if they so choose without it blowing back on them (e.g. I bought a car from you but it doesn't work!)

Longstanding criminal enterprises (whose main goal is not crime for crime's sake) that have proven to be sustainable will generally try to go legit once their enterprise is capable of doing so.
Sons of Anarchy, Narcos (the Cali cartel in S3), The Godfather, ... They all try to go legit.

There's also plenty of real world examples, e.g. Jordan Belfort (the real Wolf of Wall Street) has cleaned up his act because his current skills (that he learned while doing shady things) are able to turn a profit legally. Many hackers/crackers do the same, they can end up in security positions trying to defend their employer against digital attacks.

If you can avoid the problems (incarceration), without losing the benefits (financial stability, power), why wouldn't you?

  • It is very immature and irresponsible to call the act of robbing a hardworking 35 year old man supporting his family of 5, of his month's salary; or taking life of an activist who is trying to expose the drug racket near schools; or shaking down an old lady who took loan to save her dying husband because the insurance company refused to pay citing exceptions; or running a non-violent smuggling racket crippling the economy leaving thousands of families broke; a necessary evil. This answer and the ideology that it supports, is making me sick. + This is not even the answer to my question
    – Shashank
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 6:01
  • 2
    @Shashank: You misunderstood me. I'm not saying that crime is in any way objectively justified or acceptable, but the criminal thinks it is. To the criminal, his crimes are considered as a necessary evil. You asked why Michael Corleone wanted to move away from crime, so I inherently have to explain it from his criminal point of view. When a criminal robs someone, the criminal really needs that money (and to his mind, robbery is an acceptable way of getting the money). But if he's able to get the same money legally (no risk of jail), isn't it obvious that he would prefer that option?
    – Flater
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 8:59
  • I think you should edit your answer to reflect that because even after reading the comment I got the same vibe as before. Can you use this - Except in cases where people are evil for evil's sake (which is not the case for The Godfather), most criminals consider crime to be a necessary evil to achieve what they want ?
    – Shashank
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 9:20
  • @Shashank: I'll change it, but the change feels unnecessary. If "crime is a necessary evil to achieve what you want", that inherently means you're committing a crime (in order to achieve what you want to achieve) and are therefore a criminal.
    – Flater
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 9:24
  • hey it's totally up to you. The clarification is in the comment now anyway, so anyone who gets confused like me can refer that.
    – Shashank
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 9:30

Originally it was hoped that Michael wouldn't be involved because Michael was a war hero and Vito didn't want anything to ruin the status Michael had achieved. If you recall, when informed that Michael was the one who killed Sollozzo and McCluskey, the ailing Vito dismissed the entire room and looked away in grief and disgust.

Michael then married Kay, to whom he promised that he would lead the family to legitimacy. I believe Michael also wanted to do this because he knew it's what his father would have wanted for him, but the MAFIA life doesn't always cooperate with those plans. This is evidenced in this famous line from Godfather 3:

In short, I think Michael's heart was in the right place, and he truly just wanted his family to have honor.


It is clear from the book and the movie that not just Michael's but also his father's plans are not for him to become involved in the family business. But it is clear that, is the theme of the three movies, that once you are involved, leaving is not so easy if at all possible. And Michael had no choice once his father was shot but to become involved.

Perhaps if Sonny had not been shot, Michael would have returned and become a math professor (I think that is what he said he wanted to do in the book).

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