It is known primarily as the birthplace of several Mafia bosses, some fictional, such as The Godfather's Vito (Andolini) Corleone, and some real, such as Jack Dragna, Giuseppe Morello, Michele Navarra, Luciano Leggio, Leoluca Bagarella, Salvatore Riina and Bernardo Provenzano.
The local mafia clan, the Corleonesi, led the Mafia in the 1980s and 1990s, and were the most violent and ruthless Mafia clan ever to take control of the organization.
Uncertain is the etymology of the name, which underwent various modifications from the Ancient Greek Kouroullounè to the Arabic Kurulliùn\Qurlayun of the Emirate of Sicily, from Latin Curilionum to the Norman Coraigliòn, from the Aragonese Conillon,Coriglione from which the Sicilian Cunigghiuni originated. The modern name ascend from 1556.
A lookout tower built between the 11th and 12th century, known as Saracena, still stands. The view from the tower includes the Cascata delle Due Rocche, a sheer drop following the path of the Corleone river.
At one time the town was surrounded by defensive walls that connected the Castello Soprano and Castello Sottano. The latter is better preserved than the Soprano, but it cannot be visited since it serves as a Franciscan retreat.
Corleone was known as “Courageous Civitas” because of its position on the front line in all wars fought in Sicily. Halfway between Palermo and Agrigento, the town controlled one of the main arteries and was therefore one of the most strategic locations on the island.
Corleone was largely repopulated by Ghibellines from Alessandria (modern Piedmont), Brescia and elsewhere - "Lombards" led by one Oddone de Camerana - when it became obvious that emperor Frederick II of Sicily could not prevail over the Guelph-leaning Lombard communes in the middle of the 13th century.
Corleone became a royal property around the end of the 14th century, and later passed into the feudal holdings of Federico Ventimiglia.
Remarkable demographic growth was reported in the 15th and 16th centuries, following the arrival of several religious orders.