Marlon Brando was the actor who said, “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” as the character Don Vito Corleone in the movie The Godfather, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Mario Puzo wrote both the book, published in 1966, and the film, produced in 1972. The famous quote appears in both and also in both sequels, Godfather II and Godfather III.
This line originally occurs as Vito Corleone’s godson Johnny Fontane, played by Al Martino, asks his godfather for a favor. Fontane wants to become a film actor and needs Corleone’s help to secure the role, since he has already been turned down for it by the producer. After Fontane comes crying to his godfather, literally, Corleone tells his godson, “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Later, the film cuts to another memorable scene in the film producer’s bedroom, where he wakes up next to the head of his own racehorse. No surprise, Fontane gets the part and becomes a movie star.
Film critics and historians have speculated that Fontane’s character was based on the dealings of legendary film star and singer Frank Sinatra. While Sinatra was often seen in pictures with mobsters and reported by others as being friendly with them throughout his life and career, he has always denied that this scene was based on him or his actions and has denied his involvement with any mobsters.
An offer may seem like a negotiation; however, the offer in “I’ll make him an offer he can't refuse” really isn’t a gift or an exchange of services but a death threat, which is why “he can’t refuse.” Since mobsters are not known for negotiating, this line comes in handy many times throughout the Godfather trilogy in idea or words. For example, Al Pacino, as Michael Corleone, says this line when referring to Moe Greene, another mobster, selling his shares of a casino in Nevada that the Corleone family wants in The Godfather II.