Weekend at Bernie's

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For the 2006 album by The Queers, see Weekend at Bernie's (album).
Weekend at Bernie's
Weekend at Bernies.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ted Kotcheff
Produced by Victor Drai
Written by Robert Klane
Starring Andrew McCarthy
Jonathan Silverman
Catherine Mary Stewart
Terry Kiser
Music by Andy Summers
Cinematography François Protat
Edited by Joan E. Chapman
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • July 5, 1989 (1989-07-05)
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 million[1]
Box office $30,218,387

Weekend at Bernie's (1989) is a dark comedy film written by Robert Klane and directed by Ted Kotcheff. The film stars Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman as young insurance corporation employees who discover their boss, Bernie, dead. Discovering Bernie has ordered their deaths to cover up his embezzlement, with orders to refrain from killing them if he is around, they attempt to convince people that Bernie is still alive. The film was released three times on DVD; once from Artisan Entertainment in 1998, and twice by MGM in 2005 and 2011. MGM released the film for the first time on Blu-ray on May 6, 2014.


Larry Wilson (McCarthy) and Richard Parker (Silverman) are two low-level financial employees at an insurance corporation in New York City. While going over actuarial reports, Richard discovers mismatched payments. Richard and Larry take their findings to the CEO, Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser), who commends them for discovering insurance fraud and invites them to his Hamptons island beach house for the weekend. Unbeknownst to Larry and Richard, Bernie is behind the fraud. Nervously meeting with his mob partners, Bernie asks to have Larry and Richard killed and arrange it to look like a murder-suicide. However, after Bernie leaves the gangsters decide Bernie has been attracting too much attention with his grabbiness as well as his fooling around with a girlfriend of one of the mobsters, and order that he be killed instead.

Bernie arrives at the island before Larry and Richard and speaks to the hitman Paulie (Don Calfa) on the phone, planning the murders and establishing an alibi, unaware the conversation is being recorded on Bernie's answering machine. Bernie then plants cash and a fake confession note implicating Larry and Richard in the insurance fraud. Paulie arrives, injects Bernie with a fatal overdose, then plants heroin on him. When Larry and Richard arrive at the beach house, they find their boss's body. Before they can call the police, however, guests arrive for a party that is a regular event at Bernie's house every weekend. To Larry's and Richard's amazement, the guests are all too engrossed in their partying to notice their host is deceased, with Bernie's dark sunglasses and dopey grin from the fatal injection concealing his lifeless state.

Fearing implication in Bernie's death, Larry proposes he and Richard maintain the illusion that Bernie is still alive, a notion that Richard finds absurd. Only the arrival of Richard's office crush, Gwen Saunders (Catherine Mary Stewart), convinces him to go along with Larry's plan. After the party, Richard and Gwen enjoy a romantic walk on the beach, but Bernie's body, after being carried out on the tide, washes up next to them, prompting Richard to return to the house and get Larry to help him retrieve the corpse.

Vito's girlfriend Tina arrives at the house, convinced Bernie has been cheating on her. She threatens Larry and Richard with a knife, so they direct her to the bedroom, but she also fails to realize Bernie is dead. At that moment, another man from Vito's gang witnesses the two of them apparently making love. Fooled into thinking Bernie's assassination failed, he notifies Vito, who orders Paulie back to finish the job.

The next morning, Richard is appalled to discover that Larry is furthering the illusion Bernie is alive by manipulating his corpse's arms and legs. The two bicker about alerting the police until Richard attempts to call the police himself but instead activates the phone message detailing Bernie's plot against them. Unaware of the circumstances of Bernie's death, they mistakenly believe they are still the targets of a mob hit, and decide to use Bernie's corpse as a prop for protection. Paulie, in the meantime, has returned to the island and throttles Bernie's corpse.

Richard and Larry make various attempts to leave the island, but Bernie's body becomes repeatedly misplaced and recovered in the process. They attempt to board the mainland ferry with Bernie in tow, but the ferry has already departed. Paulie, who was on board, sees what looks like Bernie running with Richard and Larry on the dock, and gets frustrated at the failure of his assassination. An ill-fated attempt to use Bernie's speedboat results in numerous mishaps: Larry pulls away from the dock without first untying the boat, Richard falls overboard, and a tied-up Bernie topples from the boat and smashes into several buoys as he is dragged through the water. Finally, the boat runs out of fuel and Larry and Richard are forced to float back to shore on Bernie's body. Paulie, unfortunately, sees them and assumes that Bernie has somehow survived. Unhinged at his apparent failure to kill Bernie and Bernie's inexplicable "immortality," Paulie returns to the island to finish the deed.

At the house, Gwen confronts Larry and Richard, who confess that Bernie has been dead since their arrival. At that moment, Paulie suddenly appears and empties a pistol into Bernie's chest, then turns his attention to Larry, Richard and Gwen, but fails to shoot them as he exhausted all his ammunition. Chasing after the trio, who have spilt up in different parts of the house, Paulie corners Larry, who clumsily manages to subdue Paulie with a punch and a phone cord. Richard and Gwen then alert the authorities.

The police eventually arrive to place Paulie under arrest for first-degree murder, carting him off in a straitjacket as he continues to insist Bernie is still alive. The film ends with Bernie being loaded into an ambulance. However, his gurney rolls away and topples off the boardwalk, dumping him onto the beach right behind Richard, Larry and Gwen, who run away after noticing him. Eventually, a young boy comes along and starts to "play" with Bernie, scooping buckets of sand over his lifeless body.



Though the film was not a critical success, holding only a 52% rating on Rotten Tomatoes,[2] it was a financial success, grossing US$30 million at the box office, and was profitable on home video, as well as becoming a cult classic.[3][4]


The film's commercial success spawned a 1993 sequel, Weekend at Bernie's II.


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