7.0/10
293,567
611 user 353 critic

Burn After Reading (2008)

Trailer
1:47 | Trailer
A disk containing mysterious information from a CIA agent ends up in the hands of two unscrupulous and daft gym employees who attempt to sell it.

Directors:

Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Writers:

Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Reviews
Popularity
1,846 ( 662)
Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 8 wins & 30 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Adventure | Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

In the deep south during the 1930s, three escaped convicts search for hidden treasure while a relentless lawman pursues them.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson
True Grit (2010)
Drama | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A stubborn teenager enlists the help of a tough U.S. Marshal to track down her father's murderer.

Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld
A Serious Man (2009)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Larry Gopnik, a Midwestern physics teacher, watches his life unravel over multiple sudden incidents. Though seeking meaning and answers amidst his turmoils, he seems to keep sinking.

Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Stars: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Sari Lennick
Barton Fink (1991)
Comedy | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A renowned New York playwright is enticed to California to write for the movies and discovers the hellish truth of Hollywood.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Tom Regan, an advisor to a Prohibition-era crime boss, tries to keep the peace between warring mobs but gets caught in divided loyalties.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, John Turturro
Hail, Caesar! (2016)
Comedy | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

A Hollywood fixer in the 1950s works to keep the studio's stars in line.

Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Stars: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich
Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

When a childless couple of an ex-con and an ex-cop decide to help themselves to one of another family's quintuplets, their lives become more complicated than they anticipated.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson
Fargo (1996)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

Jerry Lundegaard's inept crime falls apart due to his and his henchmen's bungling and the persistent police work of the quite pregnant Marge Gunderson.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi
Comedy | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A week in the life of a young singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.

Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Stars: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman
Blood Simple (1984)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A rich but jealous man hires a private investigator to kill his cheating wife and her new man. But, when blood is involved, nothing is simple.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A laconic, chain-smoking barber blackmails his wife's boss and lover for money to invest in dry cleaning, but his plan goes terribly wrong.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, Michael Badalucco
Comedy | Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A puppeteer discovers a portal that leads literally into the head of movie star John Malkovich.

Director: Spike Jonze
Stars: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
George Clooney ... Harry Pfarrer
Frances McDormand ... Linda Litzke
Brad Pitt ... Chad Feldheimer
John Malkovich ... Osborne Cox
Tilda Swinton ... Katie Cox
Richard Jenkins ... Ted
Elizabeth Marvel ... Sandy Pfarrer
David Rasche ... CIA Officer Palmer DeBakey Smith
J.K. Simmons ... CIA Superior (as JK Simmons)
Olek Krupa ... Krapotkin
Michael Countryman ... Alan
Kevin Sussman ... Tuchman Marsh Man
J.R. Horne J.R. Horne ... Divorce Lawyer (as JR Horne)
Hamilton Clancy ... Peck
Armand Schultz ... Olson
Edit

Storyline

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

Taglines:

Intelligence is only their job. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site

Country:

USA | UK | France

Language:

English

Release Date:

12 September 2008 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Burn After Reading See more »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$37,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$19,128,001, 14 September 2008

Gross USA:

$60,355,347

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$163,720,069
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

SDDS | Dolby Digital | DTS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

The Coen brothers (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen) said they wrote the screenplay for this film while writing the screenplay for No Country for Old Men (2007). They would usually alternate every other day for each script. See more »

Goofs

When Chad Feldheimer enters Coxes house the basement door is different between the outside view (door and side window) and inside view (no side window). See more »

Quotes

CIA Superior: The Russians?
CIA Officer: Mmm-hmm.
CIA Superior: The Russians?
CIA Officer: Mmm-hmm, Russian Embassy.
CIA Superior: Are you sure?
CIA Officer: Hey, the guy was not hard to follow, as you know.
CIA Superior: Why the fuck would they go to the Russians? Why the fuck?
See more »

Crazy Credits

As usual, the Coen Brothers edited this film under the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes See more »

Connections

References Fargo (1996) See more »

Soundtracks

On The Floor
(2008)
Written by Taryn Murphy and Chris Landon
Performed by Taryn Murphy
Courtesy of Getty Images
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

More "Big Lebowski" Than "Intolerable Cruelty" -- thankfully
10 September 2008 | by erica-224See all my reviews

BURN AFTER READING is laugh-out-loud funny. It's more "Big Lebowski" than "Intolerable Cruelty," though there are wisps of both, but "Burn" is not quite up to Lebowski's genius. Still, it is very, very funny and loads of fun.

From the opening moments, the Coens' latest movie -- a spy-thriller spoof -- hurls the viewer on a hilarious romp through Absurd-land. What better place to set such a story than Washington, DC?

The story involves a demoted government worker (John Malkovich) who finds himself the target of an extortion scheme by two gym workers, riotously played by Frances McDormand (a would-be gym bunny if only she could afford some plastic surgery) and Brad Pitt (a high-energy, arm-thrusting, hip-shaking fitness trainer-cum-"good Samaritan" who lands himself way in over his head). The romp soon turns dark.

As usual, the Coens' dialog is a real treat. When a co-worker points to Malkovich's alcohol problems as a reason for his demotion, Malkovich retorts, "You're a Mormon. Next to you we all have a drinking problem." And as usual in Coen-land, there's a clash between high and low brow. Malkovich's pronunciations of "mem-wahhh" for "memoir" is a hoot, and his correction of Pitt's mistaken "report" for "rapport" propels a conflict between classes and types -- symbols of a society in trouble, whose priorities are askew.

As in the Coen brothers' 1987 box-office hit RAISING ARIZONA, obsessions fuel the plot, though this time it's body (not baby) obsession. McDormand is hellbent on getting expensive elective surgery to "reinvent" herself. Pitt is a workout addict, who can barely stop moving long enough to think straight. And George Clooney, who can only stop talking when it's time to go running or jump into bed with someone, plays a G-man fixated on sex. Notions of "intelligence" and all that the word connotes (along with its antonyms) mix into the film's dark comedic brew of unintended consequences.

Where does it go? I don't want to give away any of the twists to answer that question in depth. But I would disagree with the critics who claim it doesn't go anywhere. The movie and its over-the-top, needless violence show how secretive missions even by bumbling know-nothings (whose only knowledge of undercover ops seems to come from spy flicks) can have disastrous outcomes. Secrets in Washington? Sure sounds like a topic we should all be better versed in.

  • Erica Rowell Author: The Brothers Grim: The Films of Ethan and Joel Coen http://www.amazon.com/Brothers-Grim-Films-Ethan-Joel/dp/0810858509


168 of 291 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 611 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Free Movies and TV Shows You Can Watch Now

On IMDb TV, you can catch Hollywood hits and popular TV series at no cost. Select any poster below to play the movie, totally free!

Browse free movies and TV series

Stream Trending TV Series With Prime Video

Explore popular and recently added TV series available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed