“Killers of the Flower Moon,” Martin Scorsese’s telling of the terrible history of the killings of at least 60 Osage people in the 1920s by white neighbors who coveted their oil money, has been part of the film conversation since it was first unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival in May. This month, New York Times critics named it their top movie of 2023. Now that it’s available on demand (and is expected to reach streaming later this month), here’s a guide to what to read about the drama:
The film is based on David Grann’s 2017 nonfiction best seller of the same title, which examined both the horrifying murder plot and the birth of the F.B.I. The Times said of the book, “It will sear your soul.” Here’s the review.
The movie largely jettisons Grann’s F.B.I. angle and focuses on the wealthy Osage woman Mollie Kyle (played by Lily Gladstone); her white husband, Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio); and his uncle, William King Hale (Robert De Niro), the ringleader of the conspiracy. Here’s a rundown of the facts behind the drama.
Initially the film was going to follow the book more closely and track an F.B.I. agent as he investigated the mystery. But “I think Marty and I just looked at each other and we felt there was no soul to it,” DiCaprio told our columnist Kyle Buchanan. So they started over again. Here’s what the stars and director had to say.
In the wedding scene, Mollie wears what looks to be a soldier’s uniform with a tall hat as her bridal outfit. In fact, the look was based on military dress and hewed closely to Osage tradition, according to designers and members of the tribe. Here’s a closer look at the costumes.
The film is stocked with cameos from musicians like Jason Isbell, comedians like Tatanka Means and even a filmmaker (we won’t give it away here). Find out who’s who in the cast.
The Times’s chief film critic, Manohla Dargis, called the film a “heartbreaking masterpiece” and “a true-crime epic that Scorsese — with grace, sorrow and sublime filmmaking clarity — has turned into a requiem for the country.” Here’s the review.
The Times’s two film critics both named “Killers of the Flower Moon” the best film of 2023. “Manifest Destiny makes a hell of a gangster movie,” Dargis wrote. And Alissa Wilkinson wrote that Scorsese proceeds “from the firm belief that guilt is generational, just like grief.” Here are their Top 10 lists.
DiCaprio’s Burkhart is unlike any Scorsese protagonist because, well, he’s dumb as rocks. And that changes the film in a fundamental way. Here’s a critic’s notebook explaining why.
Scorsese has long been identified with ornately edited, violent set pieces. In “The Irishman” and now “Killers,” those flourishes have given way to blunt truth, argues one writer. Learn how Scorsese has rethought violence.