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Burn After Reading (2008)

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A disk containing the memoirs of a CIA agent ends up in the hands of two unscrupulous gym employees who attempt to sell it.




2,175 ( 272)
Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 5 wins & 26 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
CIA Superior (as JK Simmons)
J.R. Horne ...
Divorce Lawyer (as JR Horne)
Armand Schultz ...


Osbourne Cox, a Balkan expert, resigned from the CIA because of a drinking problem, so he begins a memoir. His wife wants a divorce and expects her lover, Harry, a philandering State Department marshal, to leave his wife. A CD-ROM falls out of a gym bag at a Georgetown fitness center. Two employees there try to turn it into cash: Linda, who wants money for cosmetic surgery, and Chad, an amiable goof. Information on the disc leads them to Osbourne who rejects their sales pitch; then they visit the Russian embassy. To sweeten the pot, they decide they need more of Osbourne's secrets. Meanwhile, Linda's boss likes her, and Harry's wife leaves for a book tour. All roads lead to Osbourne's house. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

memoir | gym | cia | embassy | divorce | See All (146) »


Intelligence is only their job. See more »


Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:

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Release Date:

12 September 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Quémese después de leerse  »

Box Office


$37,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$19,128,001 (USA) (12 September 2008)


$60,338,891 (USA) (19 December 2008)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The Coen Brothers and their long-time composer, Carter Burwell, decided that the movie should have a bombastic music score that suggested 'meaning without meaning' and chose Jerry Goldsmith's percussive music for Seven Days in May (1964), as its chief inspiration. See more »


After Osbourne has quit the agency, we see him on a sailboat motoring on the water. The scene changes to a closeup with his father and the sailboat is suddenly not moving through the water. See more »


[repeated line]
Harry Pfarrer: Well, hello!
See more »

Crazy Credits

There is credit for 'The Walrus' See more »


References Seinfeld (1989) See more »


Day After Day (Royal Appt Remix)
Written by Tiff McGinnis (as T.McGinnis)
Performed by Tiff McGinnis (as Crazy Girl)
Courtesy of Tummy Touch Records LLC
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A Bright American Farce
13 September 2008 | by (Los Angeles, CA) – See all my reviews

Nobody is quite there in this new bright farce by the Coen brothers. The plot is a smart excuse for a movie about nothing but appearing to be about a lot of things. Going backwards and forwards at the same time. Talk about "The Russians?" or planning to write a memoir. Brad Pitt is priceless and the innocence of his character is so believable that I wondered how many more surprises this actor has up his sleeve. He is a joy. George Clooney is also terrific and the Coens move through their crossed purposes with speed and elegance. I was totally immerse in their universe even if I didn't quite care what was going on. John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins and the unnerving Tilda Swinton complete the package of this movie that feels as if it was made for the sheer pleasure of it.

267 of 420 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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