“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” ends on a whimsical, even hopeful, note after Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth prevent the Manson Family from committing the gruesome act that claimed the lives of Sharon Tate and her unborn child, as well as Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, and Steven Parent.
The real-life murders occurred on the night of August 8, 1969. Unlike in the film, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian — all members of Charles Manson’s “family” — successfully invaded the home of Tate and her husband Roman Polanski.
In Tarantino’s retelling, the Manson gang bypasses Tate’s home in favor of Dalton’s, who lives close by. Earlier in the picture, Cliff assaulted one of the Manson clan at Spahn Ranch, thus provoking their assault. Thankfully, in this retelling, Cliff and Rick manage to kill their attackers and consequently save the lives of Tate and her friends.
Obviously, the Tate Murders were an important turning point in Hollywood. According to actor Brad Pitt, during a news conference before the film’s release, he believed the incident was “a sobering dark look at the dark side of human nature, and that pivotal moment was a real loss of innocence.” By preventing the crime from occurring, Tarantino charts an alternate, brighter future where Tate blossoms into a movie star and Dalton enjoys a career resurgence working alongside Polanski. It’s a quietly powerful, emotional ending to a stellar film.