Killers of the Flower Moon: Plot, Trailer, True Story, Where to Watch

Martin Scorsese’s new epic explores the true story behind the murders of over twenty members of the Osage Nation in the 1920s.

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Whenever Martin Scorsese announces a new project, the ears of fans and critics alike prick up, and the train of anticipation starts to pick up speed. Such was the case in 2017 when the legendary director’s next project was announced to be the adaptation of David Grann’s book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.

The film’s global theatrical release will be on October 20, 2023, and after its run in cinemas it will be available to watch on Apple TV+. Before it arrives on screens, let’s dive into everything we know so far about the production, from its all-star cast to its plot, the true story on which the book is based, and the involvement of the Osage Nation in the film’s creation.

Who is in the Killers of the Flower Moon Cast?

Fans of Martin Scorsese’s film know that the director usually works with a few longtime collaborators as his main cast, and Killers of the Flower moon is no exception.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Ernest Burkhart, in his seventh collaboration with Scorsese. Burkhart is a white man married to Mollie (Lily Gladstone), a member of the Osage Nation. His allegiances are twisted by his ties to his uncle, Bill Hale (Robert De Niro, in his eleventh collaboration with Scorsese), a local white businessman who ruthlessly aims to reap the profits from the oil found on Osage land.

The rest of the cast includes Jesse Plemons as Tom White, the FBI agent sent to investigate the multiple murders of Osage tribe members, Brendan Fraser as Hale’s lawyer, John Lithgow as Prosecutor Leaward, Tantoo Cardinal as Mollie’s mother, Lizzie Q, and Scott Shepherd as Ernest’s brother, Bryan Burkhart, amongst others.

Is Killers of the Flower Moon based on a true story?

Killers of the Flower Moon is adapted from David Grann’s nonfiction book titled Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, which documents the true story of the murders of Osage tribe members in Oklahoma in the 1920s.

In the 1920s in Osage County, Oklahoma, USA, it was discovered that the Osage tribe’s territory was sitting on a bountiful resource of oil deposits. While the tribe legally won the rights to the oil, several white men (Bill Hale and his nephews Ernest and Bryan Burkhart) living in the area set out to steal the profits through bullying and murder, resulting in the deaths of over twenty (although some estimates range to over one-hundred) members of the Osage tribe. 

In one of the FBI’s first major investigations, agent Tom White was dispatched to Oklahoma to find out what was going on and bring Hale to justice.

What is the plot of Killers of the Flower Moon?

While the book’s narrative focuses heavily on the FBI investigation into Bill Hale and his subsequent trial, Scorsese chose to direct attention onto the twisted motives of the villains themselves. 

In an interview with Deadline, the acclaimed director discussed his process in coming up with the story, saying that originally he and his co-writer Eric Roth wrote a script for a more straightforward FBI investigation before realising, “There’s no mystery. So, what is it? A police procedural? Who cares! We’ve got fantastic ones on television”.

After meeting with members of the Osage Nation and discussing the script further with Roth, DiCaprio, and De Niro, Scorsese decided, “Let’s put ourselves in the mindset of the people who did this”. The result is a film that focuses far more on the twisted human dynamics — between Hale and Ernest, Ernest and Mollie — and the power of greed to heinously misguide and corrupt. 

Who are the Osage tribe? How involved were they in the making of Killers of the Flower Moon?

The Osage (the French name based on the original Dhegiha Siouan name, Wahzhazhe, meaning 'Children of the Middle Waters') are a Native American nation located in the north of Oklahoma, USA.

Members of the Osage community were involved in the making of Killers of Flower Moon, and were in fact influential in redirecting Scorsese’s vision for the plot to focus more on the complicated human element. In an interview with Deadline, Scorsese recounted his visit, saying “We went to Oklahoma to the Gray Horse settlement, the Osage gave us a big dinner, and people got up and spoke. One woman got up and said, ‘You know, they loved each other, Ernest and Mollie. And don’t forget that. They loved each other’. I thought, ‘Whoa. That’s the story. How could he have done what he did?’”

Jim Gray, former Principal Chief of the Osage Nation and descendant of Henry Roan (whose murder led the FBI to start investigating Bill Hale) posted a lengthy thread on X (formerly known as Twitter) after he attended an early screening of the film. Gray wrote that he was “adamant that our Nation speak up and engage proactively with the filmmakers and encourage them to let us help them make this film. To his credit, Scorsese did come and meet privately with descendants like me and others to hear our concerns".

Gray praised the filmmakers’ handling of the Osage community’s story, writing, “The dignity and care for the Osage perspective was genuine and honest throughout the process and the Osage responded with the kind of passion and enthusiasm that met this historic moment". 

He also commented on the participation of the Osage in the process: "For those of us who were watching from the sidelines while our best and brightest among us auditioned, sewed, catered, painted, acted and advised the filmmakers, it's going to be hard not to feel our presence in helping to tell this painful, violent story to an international audience… But in the hands of a Martin Scorsese and his team combined with an A list cast, the excitement and anxiety was at an all-time high for the Osage people”.

Lastly, he praised the film overall, saying, "It was excellent. Scorsese even captured some of our humor. The performances across the board were Oscar worthy, I mean it. I've never seen a movie like this before. No White Savior, nothing needed to be made up. The violence is real and the music of the Osage language was beautifully spoken by all of the actors especially the non-Osage actors”.

How long is Killers of the Flower Moon?

Martin Scorsese is not known for brevity when it comes to his films, and Killers of the Flower Moon is very much in keeping with this trend. The film clocks in at an impressive 3 hours and 24 minutes. His longest film to date remains The Irishman, which is 5 minutes longer than the Killers of the Flower Moon (3 hours and 29 minutes). The third longest is The Wolf of Wall Street (3 hours), and in fourth place is Gangs of New York (2 hours and 47 minutes). 

When is Killers of the Flower Moon’s release date? When will it be available to stream?

Killers of the Flower Moon will have a global theatrical release on October 20, 2023 before it becomes available to stream on Apple TV+. The film already premiered at the 76th Cannes Film Festival in May 2023 to a 9-minute standing ovation.

Killers of the Flower Moon will be released in cinemas in the UK on October 20, 2023.