Al Pacino: Michael Corleone vs. Tony Montana

Al Pacino

One actor. Two film roles. You tell us which portrayal was the best. The most memorable. Or iconic. Or simply your favorite.
But before you pass judgment, a few words defending the “character” of each…

The case for Michael Corleone

From young innocence (“That’s my family Kay, not me”) to the ruthless return of the prodigal son (“I don’t feel I have to wipe everyone out… Just my enemies”) to regretful lion in winter (“Give me a chance to redeem myself and I will sin no more”) the character arc of Michael Corleone in the Godfather trilogy  is a multifaceted and fascinating span of three films and 40 years.

The case for Tony Montana

The rise and fall of Scarface may not be as complex as that of Michael, but Montana’s unapologetic “live fast, die young” lifestyle is by far more exciting than the businesslike Corleone. And while a doddering Michael keels over—alone—in his yard at least Montana has “my little friend” to keep him company as he goes out with a bang. Like Neil Young said: “It’s better to burn out than fade away.”


Now that you’ve heard the arguments for both it’s time to render your verdict!

  • Gordon S. Jackson

    Pacino as Michael Corleone. Montana may be more exciting to watch, but Corleone much more difficult to play. Indeed, going low key is probably the hardest thing you can ask any actor to do. And to prove he hasn’t lost that ability, check out Pacino’s performance in INSOMNIA and the very little seen PEOPLE LIKE US.

  • Larry

    Definitely Corleone! The subtleties of actions that steer him directly to the head of the family, show the developmental change from his more naive suppositions, to the ‘I’m in it now’ realities. He never strived for the position as his brother (Sonny) did.
    Tony Montana was a psychotic type who, heightened by the huge amounts of coke he ingested, became a monster under the weight of the drugs and the ensuing paranoia. Played by Pacino, Montana had a completely different mindset than Corleone, who ascended in the family trade, almost despite his real desires.

  • Mike L

    Michael Corleone. Class of it`s own. No comparison. Next question.

  • Dana Thompson

    Michael Corleone, no question, no comparison, as for Tony Montana (horrible character)

  • Christina Lawson

    Michael Corleone, hands down.

  • Tony Montana

    Tony Montana. I’m sick of seeing “Michael Corleone.” And yes I watched all the parts, Tony Montana would beat the living shit of of Michael. Montana started with not even a dime in his pocket and rose to the top. And he also had that temper that every badass movie character should have. Montana hands down.

  • Aaron Paul Russell

    As much as I love both Al Pacino roles I prefer the complex tragic hero Michael Corleone over the sociopathic cokehead Tony Montana.