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Burn After Reading (2008)

R  |   |  Comedy, Crime, Drama  |  12 September 2008 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 231,409 users   Metascore: 63/100
Reviews: 538 user | 332 critic | 37 from

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




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Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 6 wins & 17 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)


Osbourne Cox, a Balkan expert, is fired at the CIA, 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 diskette 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 elective 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 <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

memoir | gym | cia | embassy | divorce | See All (137) »


A high stakes love life and Jewel CIA shelter. See more »


Comedy | Crime | 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
See  »

Did You Know?


It was George Clooney's idea that his character wear a gold chain, thinking it would make him look ordinary and a bit old-fashioned. See more »


Katie reports that it's 5.2 miles on the odometer from the Cox residence on Olive St. NW to West Potomac Park just off the Lincoln Memorial. It's actually no more than about two miles. This may be deliberate however. Harry often lies to try to impress his dates. Perhaps he had Katie go the long away around to the park so he could take the shortcut back that his about two miles, but implying that it is 5 miles to Katie. See more »


Chad Feldheimer: [on the phone] Osbourne Cox? I thought you might be worried... about the security... of your shit.
See more »

Crazy Credits

There is credit for 'The Walrus' See more »


Update: "On The Floor" Written by Taryn Murphy and Chris Landon. Performed by Taryn Murphy. Taryn Murphy was signed with South Beach Music Group as indicated at this link: . The song "On The Floor" was commissioned by South Beach Music Group's Executive Producer Ron Kersey ( ) in 2001. Kersey commissioned the song for promotional use which was distributed to the trendy South Beach area of Miami Beach night clubs to gain exposure for his then recording artist Taryn . As of yet the song has never been made available for distribution!
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Another Hit from the genius of the Coens.
4 September 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

There's a point in this movie that George Clooney's character, Harry Pfarrer shows Frances McDormand's character Linda Litzke something that we've seen him working on for about half the movie. It was so surprising when I first saw it, that at first, I didn't even know what it was.

Once again, the Coens have created wonderful characters, including Clooney, who is a womanizer and paranoid that people are following him, and McDormand, who just wants plastic surgery in order to look better. Also, there's John Malkovich as Osbourne Cox, who "doesn't have a drinking problem," and maybe the best in the movie, Brad Pitt as Chad, a clueless gym employee who is pushed along by McDormand.

The only character that isn't up to par with the rest is Tilda Swinton's character of Katie Cox, Osbourne's wife. She doesn't get as many laughs as the rest, and it seems like the Coens just needed her as a plot device rather than an actual character. However, she may not be funny, but she does play the character well.

The writing is brilliant and the Coens weave the story in such a way that it reminds me of their previous movie, The Big Lebowski. In the end, as J.K. Simmons character sums it up himself, nothing really happens, but while watching it all unfold, you can't help but laugh at the absurdity.

235 of 443 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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