When Michael is arriving in Las Vegas, supposedly set in the very early 1950s, when he, Fredo, Tom and others are getting out of the car in the hotel driveway, two long-haired, bearded "hippie types" from the early '70s can be seen through the window in the lobby. (In the DVD commentary, Francis Ford Coppola admits that he is embarrassed by this oversight, but that the shot was done on the cheap by the second unit.)
When Michael finds his father without protection in the hospital, he picks up the phone by the bed to alert the family. The receiver has a curly cord which wasn't available until the mid- to late-1950s.
When Michael moves his father's bed from the hospital room into the hallway, there is a sign on the wall over Michael's shoulder which lists Robert O. Lowery as the Fire Commissioner. He was Commissioner in the 1970s, not the 1940s (it should have been Patrick Walsh).
When the funeral procession drives into the graveyard, 1970s 18-wheelers and vehicles can be seen on the freeway at the top left and top right of the scene. The freeway with these vehicles is visible throughout the scene during various shots.
When Captain McCluskey confronts Michael outside the hospital, the sound of a conversational, female voice is heard emanating from the police vehicles' radios. At the time, however, the New York Police Department's primary radio system was based solely on one-way broadcasts from headquarters, with male police officers behind the microphone.
There is a newspaper shown with the article about Don Corleone's discharge from the hospital. In the lower right is a Table Of Contents, with the first item "TV-Radio Listings." If TV listings existed at all in 1946, they would not be noted before radio listings.
The accordion played in the wedding scene was an "Excelsior" model that was not manufactured until the 1950s. The same goes for the "prop" accordion seen in the shoot-out, where the accordion is on a chair with the bellows open. The older accordions did not have the same features.
Michael reads a New York Mirror newspaper account of his father's brush with death. The page is fabricated but inserted into an actual newspaper, which appears to be the NY Daily News. The Daily News page on the opposite side shows a story about a Catholic mass celebrated at St. Patrick's Cathedral, written by a reporter with a Hispanic surname. A minority's byline would never have appeared in the News at that time; minorities did not attain the status of reporters at that newspaper until the late 1960s or early 1970s. Also, the barely readable text in the story says the mass was said by Terence Cardinal Cooke, who was then a parish priest and did not become a cardinal until 1969.
Tom Hagen flies to California to see the movie producer in a Lockheed Constellation. The first production model of the Lockheed Constellation was not produced until 1947, and did not enter commercial service until even later. Tom's flight was apparently in 1945 ("almost 1946" according to movie dialog).
Clemenza's house has an A/C hanging out the window. However, window air conditioners were first marketed in the mid-1930's - and, even though they were expensive, Clemenza would have been able to afford one.
As Vito Corleone comes home from the hospital, a newspaper article is shown that reads "Syndicate Big Shot Corleone Goes Home" the table of contents shows "TV / Radio" listings. It's unlikely TV listings were in the newspaper in the 1940s.
The plots of the first two movies take place from the 1940s to the early 1960s; however, Diane Keaton appears wearing one of the most popular hairdos of the 1970s, the part in the middle of the head that Kate Jackson would make world famous in CHARLIE'S ANGELS.
In Vito's brush with death, one hitman's pistol emits a muzzle flash, visible just after a cut to the overhead shot of them running away, but there is no accompanying sound effect for this last gunshot.
When Tom Hagen is trying to convince Sonny not to go to war after Vito Corleone was almost murdered, he states that the Corleone family will be outcasts and all the five families will go after the Corleone family. However, the Corleone family is one of the five families, so he should have said that the other four families will go after the Corleone family.
When Vito Corleone shows Johnny Fontane out of his office, we see an extra walk onto the frame from the left, but as soon as she sees Vito, she quickly lets out a little smile and backs away, as if she was in the wrong place.
Vito is referred to in newspaper headlines as an "Underworld Chief" and "Syndicate Big-Shot." The Corleones present themselves as olive oil importers, and Michael points out that they have newspaper reporters on their payroll. As neither Vito nor his associates have ever been convicted of a crime, surely they could get the newspapers to go along with their olive oil cover story.
When Don Corleone is talking to the pastry shop owner during the wedding scene, the man is holding a small shot glass. As he is getting up to grab Don Corleone's hands, the glass is still in his hand but in the next shot it is gone.
Enzo (the baker) visits Don Corleone in the hospital after he is critically wounded. Enzo is holding a large bouquet of pink carnations and baby's breath. Later, when he is standing outside the hospital with Michael, the bouquet has been changed to a much smaller one with orange carnations.
After Vito Corleone's brush with death, Fredo sits next to the front of the car on the pavement and next to Vito's head. But following that, when pedestrians walk towards Vito, Fredo is gone, then he is back in the same place in the next shot.
When McCluskey is harassing Michael at the hospital, Michael's jacket changes. Michael's jacket is open a few inches near his tie as McCluskey is puling back his arm to hit Michael. After the cut his jacket is closed and straight when he gets punched.
The gun that Sonny gets from the drawer in the dining room when Clemenza comes to the house following the attempt on the Don's life, is in his belt, disappears when he throws Clemenza against the counters and reappears as he turns around after talking to his wife.
When Michael is telling Kay about Luca Brasi, she has a cigarette in her left hand which disappears and reappears between shots. A few seconds later, the cigarette is gone and Kay has a fork in her left hand which then jumps to her right hand.
When the Godfather is talking to Johnny Fontaine in his office, Sonny is also present. Then the scene cuts to the entrance of the wedding cake outside. Sonny can be seen with the white flower in his lapel standing by the cake. Then the scene goes back to the office where Sonny is still present with the Godfather.
When Michael gets in Sollozzo and McCluskey's car, we see that there is a long distance between the two men on the back seat and Michael on the front seat. However, in the next shot, with Michael in close-up, the two others appear just behind him.
When Michael returns to New York from meeting Moe Green in Vegas, two black sedans pull into the Corleone compound, with Michael and Kay apparently in the second sedan. The cut to the interior of the vehicle shows Michael, Kay and their son in the back seat of a two-door vehicle, not a four door.
After leaving the 'peace conference' the interior camera in their car shows Don Corleone and Tom Hagan discuss various aspects of the meeting, While this discussion is going on, the headlights of a tailing car is observed the whole time, right up close to their own car. However, the scene cuts immediately to a roadside camera, showing the Don's car speed off into the distance, but the tailing car is nowhere to be seen.
After Fredo yells at Michael for trying to negotiate with Moe Greene, we see a shot of Michael smoking. As Michael exhales, we see a cloud of smoke quickly disappear from his mouth as the camera splices to another take of the shot.
When Luca Brasi is killed in the bar scene, the knife is clearly thrust thru his left hand. However in the subsequent shot showing him sinking down as he is being strangled the knife appears thru his right hand.
When Michael reads the paper about his father's brush with death, he crumples it and then starts to run across the street. The paper is crumpled in his hand as a car passes in front of him on the street. After the car passes, Michael throws the paper down. When he does this, the paper is very smooth and neatly folded.
Before Vito is shot, he looks down the street and sees the two assassins turn a corner. They turn left to face towards him, indicating they were on the same side of the street as Vito. When they start running towards him, however, they step to the left to get on to the street. That would mean they had to be on the opposite side of the street.
The coffee cup Sollozzo drinks out of in the scene where Tom Hagen is held hostage is seen again at the hospital when Michael visits Don Corelone. When Michael looks into one of the staff rooms, the coffee cup is there next to the half-eaten sandwich.
When Tom Hagen is having dinner at film producer Jack Woltz's home, the butler fills Tom Hagen's half-empty wine glass. In the next shot, Hagen's glass is one-third filled and the butler is filling it again.
As Luca Brasi is sitting outside Don Corleone's office talking to himself, practicing his little tribute, he is clearly wearing a rectangular-faced watch with 'solid' strap on his left wrist.
A few moments later as he gives his thanks to Don Corleone, the watch has become round-faced with chain link strap.
When Tom is talking to Woltz about putting Johnny into is new film, when they are standing by the door, the right side of Woltz and the left side of Tom are in light, but in a close up the same sides are completely in shadow.
After Santino tells his mom that pop is hurt; he tears off a piece of bread, opens it and grabs some peppers and onions. While Santino is eating in his father's den, he calls Tessio for back-up and opens his father's safe. The sandwich he is seen eating finished as he is dialing and reappears while he say's "C'mom Luca."
When Sollozzo is taking Michael to the restaurant for their conference, his car drives onto a bridge, where Michael sees a sign reading "To New Jersey", and he asks, "We're going to Jersey?", just before the car U-turns in mid-span. In fact, the only bridge between Manhattan (where they picked Michael up) and New Jersey is the George Washington Bridge, and the bridge on which the car is shown is definitely not the GWB. (It may be the Williamsburg or 59th Street bridge.)
The use of the title 'Don' is incorrect as the proper use of this term of respect is always attached to the individual's first name, not surname. Marlon Brando's character should have been addressed as Don Vito, not Don Corleone. Same rule would apply to the other 'Dons'... Barzini, Fanucci, etc.
If McClosky had broken Michael's jaw, then Michael shouldn't have been able to talk so soon afterward, when he is discussing the hit on Solazzo and McClosky in the restaurant. His jaw would have been wired.
When Sonny beats up Carlo, James Caan can be clearly seen in profile faking a punch so badly that he misses Gianni Russo by a foot and a half, with his fist passing within eight inches of his own chest.
When Michael is at his father's funeral he says he will meet with the heads of the 5 families. But since he is the head of one of the families he should have said he would meet with the other 4 heads of the families. Moe Greene was not a family head.
The punch to Michael's face broke his cheek bone which gave him a permanent black eye (and caused his sinuses to continually run - hence the use of a handkerchief all the time) until he got back to America and had surgery to fix it (Freddie says, "that doctor did a good job.")
The exterior set-up shot for the summit meeting of all families is of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. While this seems like an unlikely place for a "family" meeting, it's an indication of how high their influence reaches.
When Michael is moving Vito to a different room in the hospital with the help of the nurse, we can see that Marlon Brando instinctively moves his hand when it hits the door post. However he is conscious, hence his crying while Michael is holding his hand, just heavily sedated due to the pain inflicted by his gunshot wounds.
The car Michael and Apollonia drive is a right-hand drive, whereas Italy drives on the right and you would expect vehicles to be left-hand drive. However Italian car manufacturers Alfa-Romeo and Lancia continued to produce cars with right hand drive for sale in Italy until the 1950s.
During the sequences filmed in Sicily, Michael's broken-jaw make-up does not match the make-up used during the sequences filmed in New York. This is because Paramount Pictures would not pay the costs of sending makeup artist Dick Smith to Italy with the rest of the crew.
Outside the hospital, as McCluskey prepares to punch Michael, as the shot changes showing McCluskey (Sterling Hayden) punching Michael, it is clearly not Sterling Hayden throwing the punch as evidenced by the longer, brown hair of the man doing the punching (vs. Hayden's short, gray hair).
When Michael gets out of the car in front of the hotel in Las Vegas, he is with his brother, Fredo. However, it is clearly not John Cazale (Fredo) getting out of the car, but someone else (notice the hairstyle in the scene).
In the scene when MIchael confronts Carlo about setting up Sonny, you can see a stand-in for Robert Duvall playing Tom Hagen in the background. He is kept in the background, off camera, and then blocked by Michael to obscure the fact that it is not Robert Duvall.
The goof items below may give away important plot points.
Just before he is shot, Don Corleone shops for fruit at a shop. Cardboard boxes of Sunkist oranges in that shot feature graphics that weren't introduced until the 1970s. In 1945 most oranges were still shipped in wooden crates.
The stop sign in New England when Michael returns from Sicily (before his father dies in 1953) is red and white. Stop signs were yellow and black at that time and did not change to red and white until the mid/late-1950s.
Sonny dies in late 1948 or early 1949; however, he was listening to the 3 October 1951 radio broadcast of Russ Hodges calling the Dodgers-Giants playoff, a half-inning before Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World," two years later.
After Michael kills Sollozzo, there is a series of newspaper headlines. The last one is an article entitled "Syndicate Big Shot Vito Corleone Returns Home". In the corner of that paper is an "Index", which has a line beginning "TV/Radio". In 1945 or 46, there wouldn't be television listings, even in New York newspapers, as so few people owned televisions at that time.
At the Don's funeral, the other crime family heads arrive in Cadillac models from the mid-1950s, several years after their own murders, which are said throughout the series to take place in either 1950 or 1953.
When Don Corleone is talking to Michael, just before the Godfather dies in the garden, he asks Michael if he's happy with his wife and his children. Michael & Kay only had 3-year-old Antony at that time.
When Tom Hagen tells Don Corleone about Sonny's death, Corleone says "Consigliere of mine, I think you should tell your Don what everyone seems to know." Marlon Brando pronounces the G in Consigliere. Any Sicilian would know that the G in this word is silent.
Michael fires his gun twice at McCluskey in the scene. The camera is on Michael for the first gunshot. The cut to McCluskey after the first gunshot shows him to reaching for his throat and making gurgling noises , indicating he's been shot in the throat. In that same long shot, the bullet wound to the head appears after the throat reaction. For the second gunshot, the camera cuts back to Michael firing the gun, then cuts to McCluskey, where the forehead gunshot wound appears after and in response to the second gunshot.
When Tom Hagen is abducted by Sollozzo after Christmas shopping, it is clearly nighttime. In the next scene Don Corleone is gunned down and it is clearly daytime. Later Sollozzo tells Hagen that they hit the Don about an hour after they abducted Hagen.
The death of Barzini: During the string of shootings during the baptism, Don Barzini (Richard Conte) is shot on the courthouse steps. In the medium close shot, the squib bullet-hits are clearly visible. In the long shot, however, Conte's stunt double tumbles down the stairs without any bullet holes on the back of his jacket.
While he instructs Michael how to behave after to kill Sollozzo and McCluskey, Clemenza has a cigarette in the mouth. From one shot to another, when Michael passes in front of him, the cigarette jumps to his left hand.
When Don Corleone is shot at the fruit stand, Fredo stumbles out of the car, fumbling with a gun and lurching, nearly falling forward. The next shot, from overhead, shows Fredo walking steadily around the car toward the Don. The third shot, back at ground level, shows Fredo stumbling again.
During Vito's funeral, when Michael stands up to talk to Tessio, the face of Mama can be briefly seen under his arm, tinted orange-red and chewing gum. After Roger Ebert reported this in his "Movie Answer Man" column in 2001, Francis Ford Coppola and Kim Aubry investigated: they confirmed that Morgana King was not supposed to be in the shot, but had gotten into it by an accidental reflection in the optics, probably off a filter (hence the tint) in the matte box.
The opening cemetery shot of Vito Corleone's funeral procession shows two towers side by side in the distance which are incorrectly thought to be the World Trade Center towers. They are in fact smokestacks, complete with smoke, and are in nearly the opposite direction as Lower Manhattan and WTC.
The eyes in Khartoum's severed head have obvious cataracts (which are typically caused by old age and/or degenerative diseases such as diabetes). That is hardly what you'd expect to find in a champion stallion in the prime of his life.
When Cuneo is killed in the revolving door of the hotel the first shot breaks the glass in front of him but no blood squib appears on his shirt. It is not until the second shot goes off does blood appear.