KNIVES OUTA Murder Mystery byRian JohnsonSCREEN SCRIPT
EXT. THROMBEY ESTATE MANOR HOUSE - DAWNThe grounds of a New England manor.Pre-dawn misty.INT. MANOR - PANTRY / LIVING ROOM / FOYER / HALLWAY - DAWNINSIDE THE MANORUnlit and still. Gothic with a theme of antique games,arcane puzzles and decorative weapons.First floor: A drawing room, living room, kitchen.detritus of a party. Stray champagne flutes.TheINT. THROMBEY ESTATE - 2ND FLOOR - DAWNFollow one housekeeper named FRAN carrying a tray of coffeeup a flight of stairs.Second floor: a hallway, doors all closed. The house hasnot woken up, and Fran steps lightly. Up a much narrowercreaky flight of steep stairs.INT. THROMBEY ESTATE - 3RD FLOOR MASTER BEDROOM - DAWNThird floor: the master bedroom suite.FRANMorning Mr ThrombeyBut the bed is empty, unslept in. A robe thrown across it.Fran heads out onto the landing and UP an EVEN NARROWER halfflight of stairs, which leads to a single door.FRAN (cont'd)Mr Thrombey you up there? Mr ThrombeyI'm coming inINT. HARLAN THROMBEY'S STUDY - DAWNA cramped attic study, every shelf crammed with curios.The door swings open and Fran sees:HARLAN THROMBEY himself.white leather day bed.Throat slit.85 years old.Drenched in blood.Slung across aVery much dead.
2.Fran's tray slips out of her hands for a second.Shit.CUT TO:FRANTitle card, on black.THEN TO:INT. MARTA'S BEDROOM - MORNINGMARTA CABRERA wakes with a cry.Plain, modern, cramped. Marta, in her late twenties, takesa moment to catch her breath. Opens a window.EXT. SOUTH BOSTON HOUSING PROJECT - MORNINGA tiny window in a cheap apartment building opens, Marta'sface appears breathing deep.SUPER:"ONE WEEK - after Harlan Thrombey's demise"INT. CABRERA KITCHEN - MORNINGMarta sits in front of a laptop. Her MOM is at the tablewith her, her sister ALICE watches CSI on an iPad on thecounter top. Murder related dialog from the show.Marta scroll through a jobs site, tired, eyes dead.watches, concerned.Her momMOMAlice, turn that off now.ALICEWhy it's almost over, what they're finding out who didit and the wifi sucks in myroom so it doesn't play it'slike two minutes left whatthere isn't even anythingbad on it, it's just normaltv and they're just talkingok ok goddddd whatever okwhatever.MOMNow please just turn it off.Turn it off.Alice.Now.Off.They're talking about murderon it, your sister just hada friend she loves slit histhroat open she doesn't needto be hearing that right nowlet's be sensitive!
3.Mom standing yelling, Alice slams the iPad cover closed.Marta puts her head in her hand. Looks at her mom, wholooks back at her with protective sympathy. Marta startslaughing at the absurdity of it, but the laugh turns intocrying.MARTAAlice you can keep watching your showit's alright.ALICENo, I guessed who did it anyway.sorry Marta.I'mAlice hugs her sister. Marta's phone rings. WALT THROMBEY.MARTAIt's Harlan's son.(answers)Hi, Walt.(listens)Uh huh.Her face shifts in confusion.What?MARTA (cont'd)EXT. PRIVATE ROAD - LATE MORNINGA long narrow private road leading to the Thrombey estate.Marta's shitty SUBCOMPACT car buzzes by, towards the house.EXT. THROMBEY ESTATE FRONT DRIVESeveral cars, including a police cruiser with a fewuniformed officers by it. Marta pulls up. An officer eyesher, approaches.COPHey! Excuse me ma'am.the help?Are you withMEG, Thrombey's college aged granddaughter, trots out.MEGHey! Her name is Marta, she wasgranddad's nurse, she's with us."The help?".
4.MARTA(to the cop)It's ok, sorry.MEG(mutters)No. It's not ok.hell?They hug, and are both instantly crying.What theThey laugh.MARTANot very good. Alone, lots of just,this(the crying)and not knowing what to do next.MEGAnything you need, you're part ofthis family Marta.Thank you.MARTAINT. FOYERThrombey's eldest daughter Linda opens the door for Marta.LINDAHow you doing kiddo.Linda is 60ish, well put together, sharp and steely eyed.She dresses and speaks with just a little more sharpnessthan any situation she's in requires.Hi Linda.MARTAHow are you?LINDAUeuh. The funeral helped. I guess.Just seeing him. I thought youshould have been there. I was outvoted.Linda's husband Richard walks in, on the phone. Same age asLinda, gruff and confident, will put his feet up onanything.RICHARD (ON PHONE)I'm not the cop so I don't know.Alright fine, don't come, getarrested. Die up your own ass all Icare.(hangs up)He's not coming.(MORE)
5.RICHARD (ON PHONE) (cont'd)(to Marta)Ransom. Little shit. Missed thefuneral.STATE TROOPER WAGNER, fresh faced in his 30s, pokes his headin through a door.TROOPER WAGNERExcuse me, we're ready for you now,we'd like to see you one at a time.LINDAAlright I'll go first. I'm assumingthis will all be wrapped up beforethe memorial tonight.TROOPER WAGNERWe'll do our best ma'am.Linda exits with Wagner, leaving Richard and Marta.So.RICHARDHow you doing kiddo.INT. LIBRARYMystery and horror memorabilia scattered on the shelves.Linda sits opposite three men: LIEUTENANT ELLIOTT, in his30s, in a working suit. Very good at his job. The youngTrooper Wagner stands behind him.Sitting back behind both of them, almost blending into thebackground, is a slight man in a linen suit. Legs and armsfold sharply, like a paper crane. Silent, listening.LIEUTENANT ELLIOTTWe are just going to reintroduceourselves as a formality, I'mDetective Lieutenant Elliott, andthis is Trooper Wagner. Now, I'mgoing to record, just makes iteasier.(squints at his phone)Alright, we're with Linda Drysdale,nee Thrombey, Harlan Thrombey'seldest daughter, in discussing theevents the night of his demise, oneweek ago, November 8th.TROOPER WAGNERWe're sorry for your loss.
6.LINDA(dry as chalk)Thank you that means a lot.Elliott checks his notes.LIEUTENANT ELLIOTTSo we understand that night thefamily had gathered to celebrate yourfather's eighty fifth birthday.Yes.LINDALIEUTENANT ELLIOTTHow was that?The party?was great.LINDAPre my dad's death?ItINT. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT OF THE PARTY - FLASHBACKWarmly lit, classic rock playing, food laid out. Linda andRichard mingle happily with the rest of the family (whowe'll meet shortly.)LIEUTENANT ELLIOTT (V.O.)Did anyone besides the family showface?LINDA (V.O.)Uh. There was Fran, thehousekeeper. Marta, Harlan'scaregiver, good girl, hard worker.Family's from Ecuador. And Wanetta Greatnana, Harlan's mom.At the snack table wearing a dozen coats, a woman who mightbe three hundred years old. She pounds down chips and diplike a machine.LIEUTENANT ELLIOTT (V.O.)(wow)His mom? How old is she?LINDA (V.O.)We have no idea.LIEUTENANT ELLIOTT (V.O.)Okay, Your son Ransom, was he thereas well?
7.LINDA (V.O.)Yes but he left early.RANSOM DRYSDALE, roguishly handsome in his early 30s,breezes out the side door, past Greatnana.GREATNANARansom, are you leaving?INT. LIBRARYThe strange man in the linen suit taps a piano key, as ifreminding to ask him something.LIEUTENANT ELLIOTTRight, did all three of you show upat around the same time?LINDAN.o, Richard came early to help thecaterers set up.She raises a questioning finger to ask about the man butLIEUTENANT ELLIOTTOkay and you and your husband Richardwork for a real estate firm inBoston?LINDA(sharp)It's my company.LIEUTENANT ELLIOTT(checks notes)Sorry. Right.LINDAI built my business from the groundup.LIEUTENANT ELLIOTTJust like your dad. You two were veryclose?LINDAWe had our own secret way ofcommunicating. You had to find thatwith dad. You had to find a game toplay with him. And if you did that,and played by his rules.
8.CUT TO: Richard in the chair Linda was in, giving hisstatement.RICHARDEveryone idolizes their dad, right?LIEUTENANT ELLIOTTI don't know, do they?RICHARDVery much not, don't know why I saidthat. But Linda does.INT. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT OF THE PARTYHarlan Thrombey, surrounded by his family, Richard and Lindaflanking him, a birthday cake with candles. All smiles.RICHARD (V.O.)Harlan started with a rusty SmithCorona, built himself into one of thebestselling mystery writers of alltime.INT. LIBRARYLIEUTENANT ELLIOTTSeems like all his kids are self madeoverachievers.Richard makes a ".sure" face.Sure.RICHARDCUT TO:WALT THROMBEY now sits in the questioning chair. Late 40s,softly obsequious in a sweater and loafers. His leg is in acast.LIEUTENANT ELLIOTTFor the record, I'm speaking to WaltThrombey, Harlan Thrombey's youngestson.LIEUTENANT ELLIOTT (cont'd)So you run your father's publishingcompany?
9.WALTYeah. It's my - it's our, it's thefamily's publishing company, dadtrusts me to run it. 30 languages,over 80 million copies sold. A reallegacy. You guys fans?LIEUTENANT ELLIOTTI don't do much fiction -BIG fan.TROOPER WAGNERBig.TROOPER WAGNER (cont'd)His plots, like something like "AThousand Knives," with the - I don'twant to spoil it but - the cow andthe shotgun, like where do you comeup with that?WALTDad said the plots just popped intohis head fully formed, that was theeasy part for him TAP from the linen suit man's finger.LIEUTENANT ELLIOTTYou live in town, right? You guysprobably arrived at around the sametime?Walt looks at Linen suit, thrown.Uh.WALTWe all got here around 8.INT. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT OF THE PARTYWalt laughing and mingling with his nervous wife DONNA.WALT (V.O.)My wife Donna, she's my rock.Richard backs up into Donna, who YELPS in fear and throwsher martini in the air. Richard jumps, but Walt doesn'teven register it.Jeeesus!RICHARDDonna, you alright?WALT (V.O.)And my son Jacob, he's sixteen.politically active.Very
10.His angry looking son JACOB, who is always on his phone.INT. LIBRARYQuick cuts, each in the chair:RICHARDThe boy's literally a NaziMEGHe's an alt-right troll dipshitWALTKids today, with the internet,amazing.LIEUTENANT ELLIOTTSo the night went well?INT. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT OF THE PARTYThe exact same moment we saw with Richard and Linda ofHarlan in front of the birthday cake - but now it's Walt,Donna and Jacob next to Harlan.WALT (V.O.)I mean. We're all gutted but I'mhappy we got that night with him. Tobe by his side, to think about ourbooks and what we've accomplishedwith them, it's like I can still feelhis hand on my shoulder.INT. LIBRARYWALTPassing the torch.Cut to: JONI THROMBEY in the chair. A striking woman, talland boho chic in chunky jewelry and a flowy dress.LIEUTENANT ELLIOTTSo we are with Joni Thrombey, HarlanThrombey's. daughter in law?JONIMm. I was married to his son Neil,We had one daughter, Meg, and thenNeil passed on fifteen years ago.
11.LIEUTENANT ELLIOTTAnd you remained close to theThrombeys.INT. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT OF THE PARTYJoni dances with various family members, free and flowing.JONI (V.O.)Oh they're my family. I feelsimultaneously freed by and supportedby them, that balance of opposites isthe nugget of Flam.INT. LIBRARY - PRESENTLIEUTENANT ELLIOTTSorry, the Nugget of?Flam.JONILIEUTENANT ELLIOTTAh! Yeah Flam, right, your skin carecompany. Sorry.JONII forgive you, yes, it's skin carebut it promotes a total lifestyle.Self sufficiency with anacknowledgment of human need. That'sFlam, but it's also Harlan. He gotme and Meg through some tough times.Meg in the chair.MEGGranddad gives my mom a yearlyallowance, and he's never missedwiring a tuition payment to myschools. He's a genuinely selflessman.LIEUTENANT ELLIOTTYou left his party early?MEGTo see some friends at Smith.
12.INT. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT OF THE PARTYMeg trots out.Linda, pissed, to Richard so Joni can hear:LINDAyou know, Dad's paying for hercrypto-Marxist postdeconstructualfeminist poetry theory whatevermajor, she could have stuck aroundfor the cake.INT. LIBRARYJONII think Linda was upset.understood.But HarlanTap.LIEUTENANT ELLIOTTRight. You two arrived together tothe party at the same time?Joni looks at the linen suit man.JONIIf I could - pause - because I, whois that guy? And why are we doingall this? Again?LIEUTENANT ELLIOTTJust some follow up questions, justbeing thorough, in order to determinethe manner of death.Cut back to Walt in the chair.WALT(almost laughing)So by "manner of death" you mean ifhe was killed. If one of us killedhim. One of his family?LIEUTENANT ELLIOTTNone of us think that, this is proforma, all of it.CUT TO:Richard in the chair.Ok.He doesn't buy it.RICHARDSo who the fuck is that?
13.He points at linen suit.Elliott takes a breath.LIEUTENANT ELLIOTTThis is Benoit Blanc.RICHARD(the hell?)Benoit Blanc?LIEUTENANT ELLIOTTYes. Mr. Blanc is a privateinvestigator of great renown.Joni in the chair.JONIWait a minute - I read a tweet abouta New Yorker article about you. Thelast of the gentlemen sleuths? Yousolved that case with the tennischamp - you're famous!LIEUTENANT ELLIOTTMr. Blanc is not with the policedepartment, he is not officiallyinvolved with the case but he hasoffered to consult. I happily obligedand I can vouch for him.Linda in the chair.LINDAMr. Blanc, I know who you are, Iread your New Yorker profile. It wasdelightful. I just buried my eightyfive year old father who committedsuicide. Why are you here?Elliott and Wagner turn back to Blanc, who leans forwardslightly and speaks in the gentlest southern lilt you haveever heard in your life.BLANCI am here at the behest of a client.Who?LINDABLANCI cannot say, but let me assure youthis: my presence will beornamental.(MORE)
14.BLANC (cont'd)You will find me a respectful, quiet,passive observer. Of the truth.Elliott and Wagner turn nervously back to Linda.doesn't look thrilled. Cut to Richard.Fine.SheRICHARDAre we getting there?BLANCNearly. Harlan's nurse. She was atthe party in a professional capacity?Blanc begins idly playing with a silver dollar.Marta?RICHARDINT. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT OF THE PARTYThe family is engaged in an animated discussion, Martastanding on the outskirts.RICHARD (V.O.)I guess. Harlan hired her to bearound, take care of whatever medicalneeds pop up, but really she's likepart of the family.Richard beckons with his cake, calls Marta into thediscussion, into the circle of the family.RICHARD (V.O.) (cont'd)Good kid, been a good friend toHarlan. Her family's from Paraguay.Linda really likes her work ethic.INT. LIBRARYRICHARD"Immigrants - we get the job done."From Hamilton.Wagner gives him a smile to show he got the reference.Oh Hamilton!TROOPER WAGNERRICHARDI saw it at the public.
15.Cut to Linda back in the chair.BLANCMay I just - and then I'll recede,but as a self made man myself I haveto express my admiration for howyou've followed in your father'sfootsteps.Thank you.LINDABLANCJust marvelous. The whole family too.Joni with her things, Walt with hispublishing empire.Well.Blanc pauses.LINDADoesn't push anything.Just waits a moment.LINDA (cont'd)Yes. I mean. Walt, yeah. He's donewell with what dad's given him.Walt - not like it matters but he wassort of adrift, dad gave him the job,but really dad hands him a book twicea year and Walt publishes it, Imean. it's just not the same.BLANCBut surely Walt runs themerchandising, adaptations, film andtelevision rights.Linda squints, narrowing her eyes on Blanc.Softly:LINDAAre you baiting me, Detective? Youknow he doesn't, and you think I'mdumb enough to be baited into talkingfamily business, into shit talking mybrother in front of a policedetective and a state trooper Richard in the chair.RICHARDWalt doesn't run shit! There are nofilm or TV rights, Harlan's neverallowed any adaptations of his books.Hates the idea.
16.No!BLANCRICHARDOh yeah! Drives Waltthat's where the realWhen he gets a littlein him he'll get intonuts, causemoney's at.Irish courageit with Harlan.BLANCDid he get "into it" at the party?Oh my god.RICHARDINT. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT OF THE PARTYWalt with a drink in his hand has cornered Harlan. Richardwatches across the room as Walt goes from arguing topleading.RICHARD (V.O.)He wouldn't leave him alone, poorguy. Harlan had to give him thehook.Harlan has had enough, he takes Walt's arm and leads himinto the drawing room for a private talk.RICHARD (V.O.) (cont'd)I didn't hear what he said but hemust have really handed him hislunch, Walt was like a wounded puppythe rest of the night.INT. LIBRARYWalt in the chair, indignant.WALTWhat? Richard said what?Jesus. No, we didn't get"into it."BLANCI'm just trying to get anaccurate impression - Harlantook you aside at the party,when you returned you werechastened, what did Harlansay to you?Walt starts to open his mouth, hesitates.frightened face we FLASH BACK:Off his
17.INT. DRAWING ROOM - NIGHT OF THE PARTYWalt, drunk, Harlan guiding him firmly into the shadows.WALTThe Netflix guys, theirbusiness affairs guy sentover something, hard numbersthis time, and I think this is a window, it's notgoing to last and you shouldjust look at these numbersHARLANWalt.Walt.WALTDad you put me in charge of our bookslet me be in charge, let me do this!Please.HARLANThey're not our books, son. They'remy books. And this is not how Iwanted to have this conversation but,you're right, it's unfair of me tokeep you tethered to something thatisn't yours to control.What?WALTHARLANI've done you a grave disservice allthese years, I've kept you frombuilding something of your own,that's yours. You're not going torun the publishing house anymore. Youare free of it.Dad.WALTAre you firing me?HARLANWe'll talk about details tomorrow.But my mind's made up. Good boy.Harlan pats his face, then leaves him shell shocked.INT. LIBRARYBack to Walt's hesitating face.passed. Walt lies:The briefest of moments has
18.WALTWe talked, we had a businessdiscussion, about e-books, Jesus, itwas nothing. You want to talk aboutan argument, hell Ransom had anargument with him.BLANCRansom, Richard and Linda's son?WALTLook we love Ransom, he is a goodkid, we love him.butBLANCWALTBut he's always been the black sheepof the family, and I'm not, I, I keepstuff like this in the family, butwith Ransom, he's never had a job.But dad for some unknown reason hasalways supported him, they've gotthis love hate bond. They fight.But that night, god. They had a blowout.About what?BLANCINT. LIVING ROOM - NIGHT OF THE PARTYThe family having a conversation, everyone but Harlan, Jacoband Ransom. It grinds to a halt as through the door toHarlan's study indistinct shouting booms.WALT (V.O.)We couldn't make it out, but it washuge. And it was strange they wentin another room to do it - theyusually love stoking up drama infront of the whole family.Ransom bursts out of the doors and storms out of the party,past Greatnana.GREATNANARansom are you leaving?
19.INT. LIBRARYRichard in the chair.BLANCSpeaking of getting into it, you wereat the house early to help thecaterer set up. Did you conversewith Harlan at that time?RICHARDHe was there, we must have spoke.BLANCIn his study?RICHARDI don't think so.BLANCYou see, I spoke with the catererthis morning. She didn't see youhelping her staff, but she did hearHarlan in a screaming match withsomeone that afternoon. In his study.RICHARDI don't, a screaming match? No.Joni was here too, she was early,maybe it was her, ask her.BLANCThese were two male voices.INT. HALLWAY - DAY OF PARTYA CATERER walks through with a platter.shouting through the wall.Pauses, hearsBLANC (V.O.)Harlan shouted the phraseHARLAN (O.S.).you tell her or I will!INT. LIBRARYBLANCYou tell her. Or I will.ringing?Bells
20.For a just a split second, Richard considers what he isgoing to say. In the second, we FLASH BACK:INT. SMALL STUDY - DAY OF PARTYHarlan showing Richard photos on a laptop. Long lensphotos, of Richard kissing a woman who is not Linda.Richard glares at it, Harlan turns an old baseball over inhis hands.RICHARDThat's none of your business, Harlan.Stay out of my marriage.Harlan holds up a sealed small envelope with floweryembroidery, "L" written on the front.HARLANI know my daughter. She'd want toknow. I've put it all in this letterto her, tomorrow she gets it.RICHARDI'm warning you once, don'tdo this like hell -HARLANShe deserves to know, you'regoing to tell her!Harlan slams the baseball down on the desk.HARLAN (cont'd)You tell her or I will!INT. LIBRARYBack to Richard.He grins, snaps his fing
Morning Mr Thrombey But the bed is empty, unslept in. A robe thrown across it. Fran heads out onto the landing and UP an EVEN NARROWER half flight of stairs, which leads to a single door. FRAN (cont'd) Mr Thrombey you up there? Mr Thrombey I'm coming in INT. HARLAN THROMBEY'S STUDY - DAWN A cramped attic study, every shelf crammed with curios.