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How to watch Killers of the Flower Moon in two (or more) parts

Where’s the best place to take a break in Scorsese’s brilliant — and very long — epic?

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(L-R) Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone in Killers of the Flower Moon. Image: Apple TV Plus
Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

Martin Scorsese’s compelling, righteously furious crime epic Killers of the Flower Moon is now available to stream at home on Apple TV Plus, and it’s well worth watching if you didn’t catch it in theaters. Starring Robert De Niro in diabolical uncle mode, Leonardo DiCaprio in tortured idiot mode, and a luminous, movie-stealing, award-winning Lily Gladstone, the film tells the incredible, appalling true story of the wholesale murder of members of the wealthy Osage tribe in 1920s Oklahoma. Based on David Grann’s nonfiction bestseller, Scorsese’s movie focuses on the marriage of Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio) and Osage heiress Mollie (Gladstone), and the machinations of De Niro’s cattle baron Bill Hale as he attempts to secure Mollie’s family’s oil rights. It’s a damning portrait of American complicity, greed, and erasure.

But Killers of the Flower Moon is a monster of a movie, clocking in at almost three and a half hours. Many will understandably be thinking of breaking the movie up into parts to watch at home. If you’re wondering how to fit this intimidating, Oppenheimer-dwarfing running time into your busy life, we’re here to help, with suggestions for the best places to break the movie into two, three, or even four parts. But first, a word of warning — or perhaps of encouragement.

What’s the best way to watch Killers of the Flower Moon?

Unquestionably, the optimum viewing experience for Scorsese’s magnum opus is in a single sitting. We strongly recommend setting aside the time and settling in for the duration, if at all possible.

Despite its length, Killers of the Flower Moon has clearly been conceived, written, and edited as a single piece, and breaking it up doesn’t do it too many favors. It doesn’t have an episodic structure — unlike, say, Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, a long movie broken into chapters marked by title cards, which the director actually allowed Netflix to release in an approved serialized version. Nor does it have an obvious break point for an intermission, like S.S. Rajamouli’s RRR, which neatly divides in two with a dramatically well-timed fade to black at the halfway point.

A wide shot of the main street of Fairfax, Oklahoma in the 1920s, with cars racing down the street as crowds watch Image: Apple TV Plus

Instead, Killers of the Flower Moon is structured like a long crescendo. It builds steadily and inexorably, gathering dramatic momentum and an impressive amount of detail, which it then invests in a series of devastating scenes in the final half-hour. When you break it up, some of that accumulated power is lost.

While it isn’t Scorsese’s most high-energy film by any stretch of the imagination, it doesn’t drag, either. Scorsese and his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker have a fluid editing style that eschews establishing shots and downtime in favor of short interlocking scenes, overlapping audio, and sudden, unpredictable cuts. Their storytelling has an insistent flow, like a river, and it’s hard to find natural break points in it. You may well find that you don’t want to.

That said, it’s a practical fact of life that a 206-minute film is tough to fit into a normal day, and we wouldn’t want to discourage you from watching it at all. So let’s get to the best break points.

The best place to break Killers of the Flower Moon into two parts

The next best way to watch Killers of the Flower Moon is in two parts, and the best place to stop the movie is just shy of the two-hour mark. With this break point, the first part of the movie is an engrossing two hours of getting to know the characters and setting, and watching events start to spiral out of control, ending in a dramatic climax. Then part two is a swift 90 minutes focusing on the investigation into the murders and the twisted relationships between Ernest, Mollie, and Bill Hale.

For the two-part viewing, stop the movie at 1:56:24, after the scene with Hale examining some wreckage alongside local worthy Pitts Beaty (Gene Jones), and before the scene with Mollie also talking to Beaty in his position as her guardian.

A beautiful shot at sunset of Mollie (Lily Gladstone) praying to the sun in a field with her daughter Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon/Apple TV Plus

Without getting into spoiler territory, this break point gives you a minute or two to recover from and process one of the biggest events in the film before you stop. Then you resume with Mollie making a decision that will set the events of the second part of the film in motion.

As an added bonus, this break is bookended with scenes highlighting Gene Jones’ excellent performance in a small but significant character part; in the scene with De Niro, he gets to savor one of the movie’s best lines. And there’s a nice symmetry to starting part two with a conversation between Mollie and Pitts Beaty about her finances, in an echo of the scene that introduces her character at the start of the movie.

How to watch Killers of the Flower Moon as a three-part serial

This isn’t as elegant as the two-part solution, but you can choose to watch Killers of the Flower Moon in three parts of an hour-plus each. Part one establishes the setting and the nature of the crimes, and dives into Ernest’s relationship with his uncle, Bill Hale. Part two sees the plot reach its climax and the investigation begin. The drama of part three plays out in interrogation rooms, jail cells, and a courtroom.

End part one at 1:15:44, after a powerful scene between DiCaprio and De Niro set in a Masonic lodge, and before the scene where the private investigator hired by Mollie gets roughed up.

End part two at 2:31:14, after the dreamlike scene of the fire at the ranch, and before Ernest’s memorable scene at the barber shop.

How to watch Killers of the Flower Moon as a four-part serial

If you’re very short on time and want to break the movie into parts about the length of TV drama episodes — between 40 minutes and an hour — this is the way to go. This is a fragmented way to watch the movie, although the breaks in the earlier part of the film arguably work better dramatically than the first break in the three-part solution.

In this watch plan, episode one of Killers of the Flower Moon is all setup, ending with the first significant death and Hale showing his hand; episode two kicks off the criminal plot; episode three sees the plot start to unravel and the law get involved; and episode four (the same as part three in the three-part plan) is all about consequences.

End part one at 0:43:50, after the chat between Hale and Ernest at the funeral, and before the big family gathering at Ernest and Mollie’s house.

End part two at 1:35:35, after the family dinner at Hale’s house, and before Ernest’s proposition to John Ramsey (Ty Mitchell).

End part three at 2:31:14, after the dreamlike scene of the fire at the ranch, and before Ernest’s memorable scene at the barber shop.

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