Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Killers of the Flower Moon.

The Big Picture

  • Killers of the Flower Moon is an epic film that explores the true story of corruption, murder, and hatred in American history.
  • The film highlights the Osage Nation murders in Oklahoma and points fingers at those responsible for these atrocities.
  • The story revolves around the conspiracy of white men targeting wealthy Osage people and the devastating ending reveals the mastermind behind it all.

Thanks to Killers of the Flower Moon, Martin Scorsese now has six decades of masterpieces on his resume. Scorsese has long been interested in both gripping crime stories and fascinating real events, and Killers of the Flower Moon satisfies his affinity for both. The film explores one of the most shameless stories of corruption, murder, and societal hatred in American history with its study of the Osage Nation murders in Oklahoma. While this story has often been kept out of official historical records, Scorsese’s epic new film explores who is to blame for these atrocities. Killers of the Flower Moon contains a lot of facts and figures, but Scorsese does a great job of pointing the finger at those responsible for the murders in the film’s devastating ending.

What Is ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ About?

JaNae Collins, Lily Gladstone, Cara Jade Myers, and Jillian Dion as Reta, Mollie, Anna, and Minnie in Killers of the Flower Moon
Image via Apple TV+

Killers of the Flower Moon is based on the nonfiction novel of the same name by David Grann. The film centers on Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio), a former serviceman who returns from duty to live with his wealthy uncle, William King Hale (Robert De Niro), in Osage County, Oklahoma. Even though discrimination towards Native people is rampant within most parts of the United States, the people of Osage Nation have attracted significant wealth due to their control of oil production on their land. Although the Osage people are guaranteed the profits from this booming industry, they aren’t given control of their own money, many of them having to go through guardians to receive their own funds—which leads them to become the target of an enigmatic group of white men determined to take them out one by one, in order to get said money.

Even though Hale gives his nephew a place to stay, Ernest doesn’t have many skills of his own. He makes ends meet by serving as a local driver, which introduces him to the charming Osage woman Mollie (Lily Gladstone). To Ernest’s surprise, Hale encourages him to keep pursuing Mollie, noting her family’s generational wealth. While Ernest personally admits that he loves money more than anything else, he also begins to genuinely fall in love with Mollie. The two are wed and Mollie bears three children; however, she becomes bedridden after a disease renders her nearly immobile. Mollie is suspicious of the insulin medication brought to her by white doctors from out of town which is supposedly meant to help her diabetes symptoms; she knows that anyone from outside her community could be secretly working against her.

Ernest isn’t completely honest with his wife; he had previously conspired with his brother Byron Burkhart (Scott Shepard) to rob local Osage people and use their jewelry for illicit purposes. However, Ernest discovers that Hale has a much grander plan for taking control of Osage County and the oil deposits. The tension escalates as many Native people are found murdered, provoking questions about a larger conspiracy at play. Although Hale claims to be the most loyal ally of the Osage Nation, even hiring private investigators to look into the murders, it’s quickly revealed that he is the mastermind behind the conspiracy. Ernest more or less agrees to follow his uncle’s commands. He claims to love Mollie, but is so weak-spirited that he’s willing to betray her in order to avoid crossing Hale.

What Happens to Mollie and Ernest in ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’?

Leonardo DiCaprio as Ernest Burkhart and Lily Gladstone as Mollie Burkhart in Killers of the Flower Moon
Image via Apple TV+

Mollie grows increasingly worried about her safety as her family begins to dwindle. After an argument with Byron, Mollie’s sister Anna (Cara Jade Myers) is brought into the woods and executed. The death of Mollie’s mother, Lizzie Q (Tantoo Cardinal), reveals that control of the oil depositories will now pass down to Mollie and her sisters, as well as any children they have. Ernest has become blind to the manipulations of his uncle and begins to realize that his uncle coerced him into spending time with Mollie so that they would fall in love and pass future control of the oil refineries to their children.

RELATED: ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’: The True Story Behind Martin Scorsese’s Next Epic

Caught in a web of his uncle’s making, Ernest begins slowly poisoning Mollie via her insulin injections. After Mollie’s sister, Reta (JaNae Collins), and her husband, Bill Smith (Jason Isbell), are killed in a bombing by Hale’s underling Blackie Thompson (Tommy Schultz), the Osage Nation leaders decide to send a formal request to Washington D.C. to ask for an investigation. Although the President seems initially reluctant to proceed with an actual investigation, FBI Agent Tom White (Jesse Plemons) comes to Osage County to begin looking into the murders at personal directive from J. Edgar Hoover.

Ernest is questioned for his role in the murders by White, whose men begin looking into Hale and his circle of allies. Ernest manages to save Mollie’s life by putting the last of the poison dosage meant for her into his own drink, and is later arrested alongside his uncle. As the FBI begins to put together their charges against the conspirators, Hale’s attorney W. S. Hamilton (Brendan Fraser) attempts to convince Ernest to mask his uncle’s role. Ernest initially complies and backs out of a previous agreement he made with the FBI to help find his uncle guilty.

Although Ernest initially decides to spare Mollie any details about his role in the murders and the poisoning, he tells her the truth after their youngest child dies of a long illness. This prompts a heartbroken Ernest to testify against his uncle in court, admitting that he had been roped into the conspiracy. Although Ernest confesses that he was acting under his uncle’s orders, he states definitively that he married Mollie because he loved her, and not for her money alone.

In one of the more surprising twists, the characters’ fates are revealed not through a title card, but through a staged radio broadcast that resembles news programs of the era. The details are provided by Scorsese himself, who has a cameo appearance as a radio show host; Scorsese’s character reveals that Hale was ultimately released from custody, and hints that he was able to leverage his power and influence to spare himself a proper jail sentence. Ernest is pardoned and Mollie divorces him, resulting in Ernest living out the rest of his life with Byron. Mollie ultimately dies of diabetes after remarrying, and according to the film’s conclusion, no mention of the Osage murders was ever noted in her obituary.

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