Everything You Need to Know Before Watching Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood”


* DISCLAIMER: “Inglourious Basterds” and “Django Unchained” spoilers are contained in this article. Read at your own risk.

“Once Upon a Time In Hollywood”– Quentin Tarantino’s 9th-movie – might have been the most anticipated movie of the second semester of 2019. Starring Leonardo di Caprio and Brad Pitt, the movie depicts three days in 1969 Los Angeles, where Rick Dalton and his stunt double Cliff Booth see the world they once knew changing, paying tribute to the final years of Hollywood’s golden age. Rick Dalton is Sharon Tate’s (Margot Robbie) next-door neighbor and sees his own fame fade as hers grows. Despite it being a work of fiction, some of the characters existed in real life. Therefore, in order to be able to understand Tarantino’s newest movie, here is a short breakdown of key points you need to know:

The Manson Family & Sharon Tate’s Murder

The Manson Family and the Tate-Labianca murders are central to the plot of Tarantino’s new movie. The director opted to include several real members of the Manson Family, with the leader Charles Manson (Damon Herriman) as well as the actress and model Sharon Tate. Therefore, it is very important to understand the roles these people had in the late 60s Hollywood.

The Manson Family was a desert cult located in California that was active in the final years of the 1960s. The group consisted of approximately 100 followers who adhered to an unconventional lifestyle led by Charles Manson. In the summer of 1969 – the year in which the movie is set – the members of the family committed mass murders, killing a total of nine people during that time period. Charles Manson was sentenced to death, but when the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional in California in 1972, he was sentenced to life along with four of his “family” members. The cult leader died in 2017, at age 83.

Another interesting thing in Tarantino’s movie is the portrayal of the hippies. The way the director chooses to portray them can be summarized by protagonist Rick Dalton’s (Leonardo Di Caprio) line: “dirty (censored) hippies”. The hippie movement in the 60s in the United States is oftentimes shown solely as the “peace and love” vibe, tye-dyes, and colorful tea shades, and Tarantino chooses to showcase the unexplored aspect of the hippie movement. Though the Manson Family did not entirely represent the hippie movement (since there was A LOT more killing involved in this specific cult than in regular hippie communities), but some of the elements of the lifestyle of this particular group in the movie resembled the hippie experience. 

One of the most famous victims of the Manson Family’s summer 1969 murders was the actress and model Sharon Tate. In “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood”, Tate is played by Margot Robbie and is portrayed to be Rick Dalton’s neighbor. The movie depicts Tate’s rise to fame in the final years of the golden age in Hollywood in parallel with Dalton’s and Booth’s stories. 

The model was married to the director Roman Polanski and starred in movies such as “The Thirteen Chairs” and “The Wrecking Crew”. On the early morning of August 9th, 1969, as Tate had three guests at her house, four members of the Manson Family – Tex Watson, Linda Kasabian, Susan Atkins, and Patricia Krenwinkel invaded the actress’s home and murdered her and her guests. Sharon Tate was eight and a half months pregnant at the time, waiting for her husband to return home from his travels in London. 

The cruel conditions of the murders and unconventional lifestyle of the Manson Family were among the reasons why the events had such extensive repercussions – leading to the creation of a movie about it even fifty years after it happened.


Tarantino’s Custom of Altering History

* DISCLAIMER: “Inglourious Basterds” and “Django Unchained” spoilers ahead.

One of the greatest reasons why the director Quentin Tarantino is so renowned amongst movie lovers is because of his adaptations of real-life situations in his pieces of work. For example, in two of his most famous movies, “Inglourious Basterds” and “Django Unchained” – starring Brad Pitt and Leonardo di Caprio, respectively – he based the plot on real-life situations, but opted to create an alternative ending to the each of the historical events. 

In the 2009 picture “Inglourious Basterds,” Tarantino created a plot based on World War II events but altered historical events by making Donny and Omar kill Adolf Hitler with a machine gun. In the 2012 movie “Django Unchained”, he does something similar by creating a plot depicting slavery in the American south in 1858. He alters historical events, however, by having the protagonist Django explode the plantation house he worked at. 

These past Tarantino trends, therefore, might indicate that there is a twist of the historical events depicted in “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood”. Many fans believe that he prioritizes good storytelling over historical accuracy. How will he do it, though? And with what purpose? One thing is for certain: Quentin Tarantino will surprise his audience in whichever way he decides to approach the final years of  Hollywood’s golden age.


As someone that has watched the movie, I assure you that you will be surprised by this film. As an author from The Guardian stated, the ending is “startling and provocative”, and the movie itself is a work of creative genius. Go watch the movie as soon as possible, while it is still in theaters here in São Paulo!