20 Rules The Soprano Family Must Obey No Matter What

For those who are part of a criminal family, it's not all fun and games. Yes, there may be loads of money flying about, flowing alcohol, glitz, and glam, but life is not what it seems. Being part of a mob comes with its fair share of rules and repercussions. 

They don't call organized crime "organized" for no reason as Tony Soprano has shown us in the action-packed, crime-fighting show on HBO, The Sopranos. Tony is the head of the DiMeo crime family and they have a list of rules and codes that need to be followed to get their illicit deeds done without the law interfering. 

So, let's delve into the world of crime with The Sopranos and see what rules they follow.

20. Doing the crime means doing the time

Being a mobster involved in criminal activities packs loads of risks. One of the prominent threats is being imprisoned for long periods. Tony Soprano’s cousin, Tony Blundetto (Steve Buscemi) did a 17 year stretch for the armed hijacking of a truck. Tony was meant to join him on the job, but due to a panic attack, he failed to show up.

Because of this, he tells Blundetto that he was mugged. Tony – who is secretly afraid of doing time – is wracked by guilt about what happened to his friend and cousin. When Blundetto is released, he’s seemingly a reformed character, refusing Soprano’s offer to continue working for the DiMeo, crime family. Unfortunately, things don’t go well for Blundetto, and the other Tony eventually whacked him.

19. No unauthorized killing 

Before a hit can be delivered, a full blessing is required from the head of the family. Any other action could result in a loss of bodily parts and severe consequences. Remember what happened to Tony Blundetto when he took things into his own hands? This showed that Tony meant business. The ban on unsanctioned hits extended to families that do business together.

The DiMeo family had a long-standing partnership with the Lupertazzi crime family, especially capo Phil Leotardo. When Phil became the de facto boss of the Lupertazzi, he started to get delusions of grandeur and eventually went too far when he whacked the captain of Tony’s top-earning crew, Vito Spatafore. Tony responded by hitting Phil financially and blowing up his wire room. Then, after a series of war councils, he had Phil killed.

18. Always respect your family and crew

Throughout The Sopranos, Tony was continuously torn by his desire for the family to become a more professional organization and his random outbursts. One thing that he required from other members of the crime family was total respect. He even said, "Those that want respect, give respect." Since Tony was the head of a crime family, he needed those around him to show him respect, whether this is from Chris or old-school gangster Richie Aprile Jr.

Of course, as the head of an actual family, he also tried being a positive role model for his children, even if he was unsuccessful at it. Respect is a two-way street, however, and Tony was appalled by some of the obnoxious characters in the show, such as the bullying, no-class Ralph and the arrogant and condescending Feech.

17. There is no way out of the mob

We don't see many people retire from organized crime in The Sopranos. Leaving the DiMeo family either means being sent to the big house or leaving in a hearse. According to Tony, “Once you’re into this family, there’s no getting out.” Crime is part of the Soprano's blood. Giovanni Franci "Johnny Boy" Soprano was the former captain of the DiMeo family. Following his demise, Tony stepped up to become the next boss, with Uncle Junior briefly served as the head of the family.

Other members have been associated with the family for long periods of time, stretching back decades in the case of Sil and Paulie. In the first season alone, 14 members of various families get killed, which shows us that there is no real exit. Even those who try to go straight eventually get pulled back into the life of crime, often only to meet unfortunate ends, such as Tony Bludetto.

16. Snitches get the stitches

Salvatore Bonpensiero was one of Tony’s closest friends. However, despite this, when he became a rat, he still had to be dealt with. It’s a tragic story. Salvatore was a kind-hearted man who doted on his wife and three kids. However, the bread he earned from the mob was not enough to put his children through college, and he started dealing substances on the side.

While Tony, who was then his capo, and acting boss Jackie Aprile Sr. discovered this and tried to help, Salvatore kept dealing. Eventually, he was caught by the Feds, who gave him a decision: either rat other members out or face 30 years in prison. Unfortunately, Salvatore chose the former option, which led to him getting murdered by Tony, Paulie, and Sil in the second season. This continued to haunt Tony throughout the series.

15. Family always come first 

Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo) had long been targeted as a potential rat by the FBI due to her relationship with the volatile Chris. Initially, the Feds tried to ensnare her by sending Deborah Ciccerone to befriend Adrianna. However, this blew up in their faces when Chris made a pass at Deborah.

The Feds were more successful when they used Adrianna’s distribution of banned substances and her involvement in the cover-up of illegal activities at the club to get her to become a mole. Eventually, Adriana confessed her involvement to Chris, pleading with him to join her in a witness protection program. Unfortunately for Adriana, Chris informed Tony which led to her untimely demise at the hands of Silvio Dante.

14. Never harm animals, especially horses

Despite gorging himself on red meat, Tony Soprano loved animals. He’s flown off of the handle before because of the mistreatment of dogs. However, when it comes to horses, Tony can be especially passionate. During the show, Tony becomes very close to Ralph Cifaretto’s racehorse Pie-oh-my. 

He even offered Ralph racing advice and also stepped in to settle the horse’s vet bills when Ralph comes up short. When Pie-oh-my passes away in a stable fire, Tony suspects foul play and believes that Ralph started the blaze to collect the sky-high insurance payout. When Tony confronts Ralph about this, only one of the men emerge alive – and it isn't Ralph.

13. Keep marital affairs behind closed doors

Tony Soprano loves his wife, Carmela. Sure, their relationship can be turbulent, but Carmela is always by Tony’s side. Although Carmela knows that Tony works for the mob, they rarely discuss it. Despite spouting family values at home, Tony is a hypocrite. He left a trail of mistresses, or goomahs, wherever he goes.

While this is an accepted norm for mob members, Carmela reacts with understandable fury when she finds out that Tony has been unfaithful and has slept with both Irina and Svetlana. Tony is soon kicked out of the house. While mistresses are the norm for Tony's work family, they cannot be mentioned at home. Because of this, Tony has made it clear that his crew can't talk about his extra-marital affairs around his wife.

12. No matter who you are, Tony is always in charge

Whether you’re Tony Soprano’s consigliere or just a dependable foot soldier, one thing's for sure; you respect the head of the family. Not everyone obeyed this rule. Take the case of Feetch La Manna (Robert Loggia), for example. As an original gangster who became a made-man in Italy, Feetch came to the U.S. in the 50s, rising to the rank of capo with his fingers in both bookmaking and cards.

When Feetch was released from prison after a30-year span, he wanted back in the game. Even though Tony ran Northern Jersey, it was clear that Feetch still considered him a kid and therefore didn't give Tony his due respect. When Feetch went against Tony's wishes one too many times, Tony set him up, and the old mobster was quickly sent back behind bars.

11. There are always consequences for your actions

The New Jersey crime family lives by a specific code. Whenever this code is split, there have to be consequences, and these outcomes are often harsh, as Tony himself explains, “There’s an old ... saying: you f*** up once, you lose two teeth.” You may remember some instances such as Ralph’s demise after the stable fire, the whacking of snitches Salvatore and Adrianna, and Tony taking out a rat when he visited an upstate college with Meadow.

Janice whacked Jackie Aprile Jr. after mistreating her, Burt Gervasi was killed by Silvio for trying to organize a coup and, well, the list goes on. In short, for every violation or betrayal in The Sopranos, the results were often unrelenting, permanent, and were meant to serve as a reminder to anyone who wants to go up against the DiMeo family. That's a lot of whacking! 

10. Never talk about your family secrets

Never reveal mob secrets to the cops, the same also goes for leaking state secrets to other crime families. When Paulie’s notoriety started to go into the gutter following the arrival of top-earner Ralph, he considered himself side-lined. Of course, Paulie didn't do himself any favors by advancing to whack Ralph for no apparent real reason.

Paulie began to interact with Lupertazzi underboss, Johnny Sacks, under the impression that he might be able to join their crew. After exposing several DiMeo family secrets, Paulie is dropped by the Lupertazzi crew and goes back to Tony. While it takes some time, Paulie eventually weaseled his way back into Tony’s good books to become the DiMeo family underboss after Silvio is incapacitated.

9.  Always be loyal to the boss 

Integrity is everything in the DiMeo family. Because of this, there are harsh punishments for those who deceive the family. For instance, look at Adrianna and Salvatore, who met their ends after becoming informers. When it came to affairs, this was also true. Naples-born gangster, Furio Giunta, came to work for Tony Soprano as part of an international car theft ring. Furio proved himself to be a courageous enforcer, delivering knockouts on anyone who owed Tony money.

After he came into contact with Tony’s wife Carmela, the two developed an unrequited love. Carmela saw Furio as a sympathetic man compared to the self-centered Tony, and it was apparent that they had some serious tension between them. Rather than betraying his boss, though, Furio decided to go back to Italy. Wise decision Furio! 

8. Always support the other members

When you are in the DiMeo crime family, you are required to be there for the other members of your family no matter how insane, out of control, or unstable they are. For example, Tony was always there for Chris, even as his nephew’s life declined through a succession of poor decisions and substance abuse issues. 

When Chris’s addictive tendencies went a little too far, the other members of the crew held an intervention. Things didn't specifically go as planned when Chris pushed them into delivering a physical beating, which resulted in a hairline fracture and a visit to the emergency room. Of course, this all ended in doom when Tony put Chris out of his misery for good following a car crash.

7. Always respect your boss's needs, even when he's in therapy

Being the head of the New Jersey mob can't be a bed of roses. It calls for Tony Soprano to put on a brave face for the public, with little time for romance or consideration. This puts a lot of stress on Tony, who often displays his anger with violent outbreaks. However, Tony is also prone to panic attacks, and feelings self-doubt and guilt often overcome him, with good reason.

He secretively seeks out the services of a psychiatrist named Dr. Jennifer Melfi, in a series of therapeutic sessions that underpin the show. Seeing a shrink isn’t exactly standard for a feared crime lord. Tony finds support in level-headed Silvio, who tells his boss, “This thing of ours… way it’s goin’… it’d be better if we could admit to each other these painful, stressful times.”

6.  Make sure be on top of your game 

In the mafia, you always give your cut after any criminal activity to the capo and those above you. The head always gets a taste of the action, or, in Godfather terms, the head always gets to "wet his beak". Sometimes, this doesn’t always go as planned, after all, we are dealing with mobsters here, not saints. Furio, for all of his generosity and commitment, always took his cut of the action.

However, this was nothing compared to Peter Paul "Paulie Walnuts" Gualtieri (Tony Sirico). As someone in Tony’s inner-circle, Paulie was notorious for being tight-fisted and constantly mistrusted for not "kicking up" the proper amount. While Tony always suspected Paulie’s tightness, it took acting capo Silvio to finally confront Paulie and press him to put in the full amount after he pulled off an intricate heist.

5. Don't test another member's patience

Being in the DiMeo crime family involved dealing with a lot of different qualities, personalities, and egos, most of which were unstable, as organized crime very rarely attracts level-headed individuals. One of the most volatile relationships in the show is the one between Chris and Paulie. As members of Tony’s inner-circle, you’d assume the two of them to play nicely.

However, the two squabbled non-stop, especially with Chris’s self-destructive desires and Paulie’s "quirky" and utterly delusional ways. Things finally came to a head when Tony sent the pair to collect money on behalf of Silvio from a Russian mobster. This took them to snowy Pine Barrens, where, after a series of bitter disputes, the two botched the job and end up nearly got frost-bitten while roaming in the snow.

4. Always let your mother know that you love her

One rule that members of Tony's work-family have to regard involves loving and respecting their mothers, no matter how dreadful they are. While non-mob members seemingly take this for granted, most of us probably don’t have mothers who are scheming to whack them at any minute. Tony’s mom, Livia, was a cynic and a narcissist who begrudged her son for putting her in the Green Grove nursing home.

During the first season, she tried to manipulate Junior into putting a hit on her own son and revealed that Tony saw a shrink. Eventually, Tony was driven too far and sought retribution. After a stroke, she passed away in her sleep. Sadly, this plot advancement was hastened due to actor Nancy Marchand’s passing in 2000.

3. Don't cling to things that happened in the past

Gangster movies always seem to dwell on the past. There’s 50s New York in Goodfellas, the high-end allurement of the 70s Vegas in Casino, and post-World War II in The Godfather. All of these movies come complete with chic ensembles and chart-topping tunes from those eras. Furthermore, the mobsters of New Jersey could frequently be seen extolling the merits of past accomplishments.

Whether that’s visiting Naples to connect with family in Italy or old-school mobsters like Ralph. Nevertheless, this wasn't the case for Tony, who told a homesick Paulie and Beansie, “’Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation” while in Florida for business. After all, you can't be the head of a crime family if you’re constantly looking back on the glory days.

2. You must like the crime movie genre

One thing was for certain with Tony's crew, it helped if you loved crime or gangster movies, especially The Godfather Part 1  & 2 and Goodfellas. Characters like Silvio continuously quoted these movies, and even including lines from The Godfather Part 3, which the New Jersey mob all agreed was not up to snuff. There were also loads of onscreen tributes to these movies.

For instance, Tony bought a carton of orange juice before a car-jacking (oranges always foreshadowed trouble in The Godfather),  Paulie’s car horn played The Godfather theme song and several offers that could not be refused. Linda Bracco (Dr. Melfi), Michael Imperioli (Chis) and Tony Sirico (Paulie) also all had roles in Goodfellas. In fact, 27 of the actors from Martin Scorsese’s 1990 mob masterpiece appeared in The Sopranos.

1. Always obey the rules once you know them

There is one rule that is pretty much self-explanatory, and that is “If you can quote the rules, then you can f***in' obey ’em. You hear me?” While this covers much of the mob code that the DiMeo family lived by, it was only said by Tony to Paulie in the show. When Chris and Sil comfort Ralph after his kid wound up in the hospital, Paulie failed to show the customary respect.

Soon after that, we found out that Paulie despised Ralph because of the trouble he caused. One particular incident happened at a nursing home, and despite Ralph’s position as a top earner, Paulie suggested whacking Ralph. However, Tony reminded Paulie that it was his decision, not Paulie's when it came to sanctioning hits.

Wow, this was one of those crime shows that we'll never forget, and it goes to show how harsh this life can be. We hope you enjoyed this rewind into The Sopranos, and we loved sharing it with you. So, remember to show this to your crime movie-loving friends and keep up-to-date with us for more action-packed news. 

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