The film takes a straightforward narrative approach, beginning with Kennedy taking a trip to Dallas to help shore up fractures within in the Texas Democratic Party in advance of his 1964 re-election campaign (Gov. John Connally, shot along with the President, eventually became a Republican). Other threads follow Lee Harvey Oswald, a frustrated young Marxist who decides to commit a terrible crime, and Jack Ruby, a strip club owner and police department groupie who commits a crime of his own.
Contains many of the standard clips one associates with the Kennedy assassination, as well as some more obscure one, such as an interview with the cabbie who drove Oswald to his boarding house on Nov. 22. Does not include the infamous Zapruder Film, which was not shown to the public until it aired on television in 1975.
- Antagonist in Mourning: A subdued Barry Goldwater, who was gearing up to run against Kennedy (and did run against Lyndon Johnson) in 1964, observes that JFK "was the sort of antagonist I've always enjoyed", because he didn't make it personal.
- The Cameo: None other than Joan Crawford is shown in a brief clip. Crawford was in Dallas for a Pepsi-Cola convention (she was on the company's board of directors). In Real Life Crawford stepped out of a meeting to watch the president's motorcade go by, minutes before he was murdered.
- Due to the Dead: As one might guess, much of the film is devoted to the elaborate state funeral.
- Dramatization: "Certain scenes have been re-created." The scene with Dallas cops hunting around the sixth floor of the Book Depository for a weapon stands out.
- Happy Flashback: Ends with a series of brief film clips of President Kennedy in life, mostly with his wife and two small children.
- Have a Gay Old Time: Narration observes that the Kennedys hosted "gay and lustrous gatherings" at the White House.
- How We Got Here: Starts with the Military District of Washington firing off a 50-gun salute in memory of the president, before going back to the decision to take a political trip to Dallas.
- The Ken Burns Effect: Used for just about every still picture in the film. Examples include a pan up the infamous picture of Oswald with his rifle, and a zoom onto the face of John F. Kennedy Jr. as he salutes his father's coffin.
- Lonely Funeral: Lee Oswald's funeral has exactly three mourners: his wife, his mother, and his older brother. Six reporters covering the event are pressed into service as pallbearers.
- Narrator: Richard Basehart, then a well-known film and TV actor, provides narration throughout.
- P.O.V. Cam: Used multiple times for scenes documenting the movements of Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby.
- Present Tense Narrative: Used throughout for the narration to describe the events of that weekend."On Saturday November 16, six days before the president's visit, Dallas papers publish his probable route."
- Vice President Who?: The narration states that Vice President Johnson arrived in Texas "almost unnoticed" on Tuesday Nov. 19, and also that he flew commercial.
- Widow's Weeds: One of the most famous Real Life instances of this, as Jackie Kennedy went with the full black dress and veil. The narration describes her as "black veiled, like some ritual figure of classic myth."