Every Performance In Killers Of The Flower Moon, Ranked

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Summary

  • Martin Scorsese delivers another breathtaking cinematic experience in Killers of the Flower Moon, showcasing his masterful storytelling and direction.
  • The ensemble cast, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, delivers excellent performances, with some standout portrayals that are nuanced and original.
  • Lily Gladstone’s performance as Mollie Burkhart steals the show, displaying a quiet strength and resolve in the face of heartbreaking circumstances. DiCaprio’s portrayal of Ernest Burkhart is also noteworthy, showcasing nuance and sensitivity in a complex character.

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Killers of the Flower Moon is one of the best films of the year, earning immense praise for its ensemble of performances. At 80 years of age, Martin Scorsese has delivered another breathtaking cinematic experience, expanding on an already unbelievable filmography that contains works like Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, and The Wolf of Wall Street. His career took off in the 1970s, and he’s managed to create masterpieces in every decade since. The film sees him paired with long-time collaborators Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, whom he’s made six and ten films with respectively. Killers of the Flower Moon also stars Lily Gladstone in her first major role.

The film is based on a series of real-life murders that plagued the Osage Native American Nation in Oklahoma during the 1920s due to a desire for their land’s oil. Scorsese cast well-known movie stars and rookie character actors alike to fill his ensemble, authentically bringing the period drama to life. Killers of the Flower Moon is a tour de force for Scorsese and many cast members, who all honored the impactful and emotional story by bringing their most excellent work. While each main cast member and all the supporting actors do a phenomenal job, some performances distinguish themselves for their nuance and originality.

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7 John Lithgow – Prosecutor Leaward

John Lithgow on a farm in Interstellar

John Lithgow has had a long and successful career in Hollywood, making his first appearance in a Martin Scorsese film very exciting. The actor isn’t new to the crime genre, however, as he’s had multiple collaborations with director Brian De Palma. John Lithgow’s appearance in Killers of the Flower Moon is delightful, but he’s given very little to work with in the film. He shows up in the third act to prosecute William K. Hale in the court scenes but is overshadowed by everyone else in the room. He has the same limited screen time as Brendan Fraser’s W.S. Hamilton and isn’t quite as exciting.

6 Brendan Fraser – W.S. Hamilton

Killers of the Flower Moon Brendan Fraser as WS Hamilton

The prospect of Brendan Fraser working on a Scorsese movie after his glorious success with The Whale was something to look forward to, as he’s one of the most beloved actors. Fraser’s performance in Killers of the Flower Moon is divisive, with many criticizing him for being over-the-top and cartoonish in the role of attorney W.S. Hamilton. In a sense, this works quite well for the film as he brings an abrupt and immediate level of intensity, showing the disruptive and dramatic tactics that Hale and his legal team are willing to implore to avoid taking responsibility. Fraser also adds to some of the film’s darkly comedic and absurd moments.

5 Jesse Plemons – Tom White

Killers of the Flower Moon Jesse Plemons as Tom White

Jesse Plemons has quickly become one of the most reliable character actors in Hollywood, as he’s always able to deliver an enjoyable and charismatic performance. That’s exactly what he does as Tom White in the cast of Killers of the Flower Moon. White arrives at the beginning of the third act to investigate the Osage murders. His scenes with Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio are his best work in the project, as his calm and friendly demeanor masks his psychological examination of the two men. Tom White arrives and almost immediately understands the situation, knowing who he’ll have to apprehend while showing empathy for the situation’s complexity.

4 Tantoo Cardinal – Lizzie Q

Tantoo Cardinal sits behind a desk in Stumptown

Tantoo Cardinal isn’t new to the Western genre, having appeared in Dances With Wolves, one of the best movies like Killers of the Flower Moon. She plays the character Lizzie Q, Mollie’s mother who dies of sickness earlier in the film. While her scenes are limited, her moments with Mollie and the scenes with the owl on her deathbed are highly memorable. The veteran actress gives an exceptional and heartbreaking performance.

3 Robert De Niro – William K. Hale

Robert De Niro as William Hale in Killers of the Flower Moon

Robert De Niro is one of the greatest actors of all time, and Killers of the Flower Moon manages to be one of the best performances in his career, coming in at the age of 80. William King Hale is unlike all of his other work, with De Niro playing a character who’s despicable and two-faced yet never has a moment of taking responsibility for his actions. Hale is manipulative, greedy, and cruel, and De Niro plays him with a calculating and undisturbed demeanor that makes him so terrifying. Despite all the films De Niro and Scorsese have made together, William K. Hale feels like an entirely new entity.

2 Lily Gladstone – Mollie Burkhart

Mollie looks angry and Ernest stands behind her in The Killers of the Flower Moon.

Killers of the Flower Moon is Lily Gladstone’s first mainstream film role, though she’s appeared in some great movies by Kelly Reichardt. In many ways, she steals the show as Mollie Burkhart, a woman who sees her family and tribe ripped apart by the film’s murders. Mollie possesses a quiet strength and resolve throughout the story, which she manages to maintain even in the most heartbreaking moments. She wants to solve the murders as badly as anyone, but she’s never seen losing her demeanor, even after her love and trust are betrayed by Ernest. Her performance is somber and subtle, but every expression speaks volumes.

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1 Leonardo DiCaprio – Ernest Burkhart

Leonardo DiCaprio as Ernest Burkhart looking troubled at night in Killers of the Flower Moon

Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the greatest actors of the 21st century, constantly delivering versatile performances in well-selected films. His performance as Ernest Burkhart is the standout of Killers of the Flower Moon and will surely put him in contention for the Best Actor Academy Award alongside Cillian Murphy’s performance in Oppenheimer. DiCaprio plays the film’s lead, offering him the most screen time to explore his character as he becomes an integral part of the horrific murders while maintaining his romance with Lily Gladstone’s Mollie. Despite the terrible things he’s complicit in, Burkhart seems to truly love his wife.

DiCaprio has played highly intelligent characters in Scorsese’s films, from Billy Costigan to Jordan Belfort, making the daft Ernest Burkhart an exception. While the character’s foolishness can sometimes make his scenes comedic, DiCaprio plays the character with nuance and sensitivity. Despite his manipulable, obedient nature in his relationship with his uncle, Burkhart is made complex through his love for Mollie, an angle of the film Scorsese specifically sought after. Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of the best performances for one of the most complicated characters in his career in Killers of the Flower Moon.