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Weekend at Bernie's

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Weekend at Bernie's
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTed Kotcheff
Written byRobert Klane
Produced byVictor Drai
CinematographyFrançois Protat
Edited byJoan E. Chapman
Music byAndy Summers
Distributed by20th Century Fox[2]
Release date
  • July 5, 1989 (1989-07-05)
Running time
97 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million[3]
Box office$30.2 million[2]

Weekend at Bernie's is a 1989 American dark comedy film directed by Ted Kotcheff, written by Robert Klane, and starring Andrew McCarthy, Jonathan Silverman, Catherine Mary Stewart, and Terry Kiser. It tells the story of two young insurance corporation employees who discover that their boss Bernie is dead after arriving at his house in The Hamptons. While attempting to convince people that Bernie is still alive until they can leave to prevent them from being falsely suspected for causing his death, they discover that Bernie had in fact ordered their killing to cover up his embezzlement. Weekend at Bernie's grossed $30 million on a $15 million budget.

The film's success inspired the sequel Weekend at Bernie's II, released in 1993.


Larry Wilson and Richard Parker are two low-level financial employees at an insurance company in New York City. While going over actuarial reports, Richard discovers a series of payments made for the same death. He and Larry take their findings to the CEO, the wealthy and hedonistic Bernie Lomax, who commends them for discovering the insurance fraud and invites them to his beach house in The Hamptons for the Labor Day weekend. Unbeknownst to the pair, Bernie is behind the fraud. Nervously meeting with his mob partner Vito, Bernie asks to have the two killed to cover up the discovery. After Bernie leaves, Vito orders that Bernie himself be killed for sleeping with Vito's girlfriend Tina.

Bernie arrives at the island before the pair and plans the murders with hitman Paulie on the phone, unaware the conversation is being recorded on his answering machine. Paulie arrives and kills Bernie with a lethal heroin injection, then stages it as self-inflicted accidental overdose.

When Larry and Richard arrive they find Bernie's body but before they can call the authorities, guests arrive for a party that Bernie usually hosts every weekend. To the pair's amazement, the guests are too busy partying to notice he is dead, with his dopey grin from the injection and sunglasses concealing his lifeless state. Fearing implication in Bernie's death, and wanting to enjoy the luxurious house for the weekend, Larry proposes he and Richard maintain the illusion that Bernie is still alive, which Richard finds absurd. He changes his mind when Gwen Saunders, a summer intern for the company whom he has a flirtatious relationship with, also arrives.

After the party, a drunken Tina arrives at the house and demands the pair direct her to Bernie. However, she also fails to realize the situation and has sex with his corpse. One of Vito's mobsters witnesses this and, mistakenly thinking Bernie's assassination failed, notifies Vito, who sends Paulie back.

The next morning, Richard is appalled to discover Larry furthering the illusion by manipulating Bernie's limbs. He attempts to call the police but instead activates the phone message detailing Bernie's plot against them. Unaware of how Bernie died, they mistakenly believe they are still the targets of a mob hit and, as Bernie had said not to kill them while he was in the area, decide to use Bernie's corpse as a shield. All of their attempts to leave the island are thwarted, as they repeatedly misplace and recover Bernie's body, and eventually are forced to return to Bernie's home. Meanwhile, while they are not looking, Paulie makes numerous other assassination attempts, and grows unhinged at his repeated "failures".

Gwen, who has been trying to talk to Bernie, was walking on the beach when she sees Larry and Richard with the body. This forces Larry and Richard to reveal his death to her. Paulie then arrives and repeatedly shoots the corpse before turning his attention to Larry, Richard, and Gwen. Chasing after the trio, Paulie corners Larry, who subdues him.

The police arrive and arrest Paulie, taking him away in a straitjacket as he continues to insist Bernie is still alive. Gwen invites Richard to stay with her family for the week while Larry decides to go home to give them space. Bernie's body is loaded into an ambulance. However, the gurney rolls away and topples off the boardwalk, dumping the body onto the beach right behind the trio, who run away in terror. Afterwards, a young boy, who earlier buried the body in the sand, comes along and starts burying it again.



Jon Cryer was originally cast in the film, but was replaced by Andrew McCarthy.[4] Shooting took place in New York City in August 1988. The Hamptons scenes were filmed at Bald Head Island, North Carolina, Bernie's house was filmed at Fort Fisher, North Carolina, and the ferry scenes were filmed at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.[1]


On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 54% approval rating based on 26 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "Weekend at Bernie's wrings a surprising amount of laughs out of its corpse-driven slapstick premise, but one joke can only carry a film so far."[5] On Metacritic, it has a score of 32 out of 100 based on reviews from five critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[6] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of "B" on scale of A+ to F.[7]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called the film "tasteless" and "crude" and felt that in the end it was impossible to "drag one tired joke around for nearly two hours. Like Bernie, the movie ends up dead on its feet."[8] Roger Ebert echoed this sentiment, arguing that movies centered on dead bodies are rarely funny. Ebert gave the film 1 out of 4 stars, stating "Weekend at Bernie's makes two mistakes: It gives us a joke that isn't very funny, and it expects the joke to carry an entire movie."[9]

The film grossed $30 million at the box office and was profitable on home video.[10][11]

The film has remained popular[12] in part because of repeated showings on cable television. People described it as having "aged into something close to respectability".[13]


The film's closing credits feature the song "Hot and Cold", performed by American singer Jermaine Stewart. It was written by Andy Summers and Winston "Pipe" Matthews, and produced by Richard Rudolph and Michael Sembello.[14] The song was released as a single by Arista in the United States during June 1989 to promote the film.[15][16]


On January 24, 2014, director Ted Kotcheff and screenwriter Robert Klane filed a lawsuit against Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and 20th Century Fox for breach of contract for profits they claimed were due from the film.[17][18][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Weekend at Bernie's (1989)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "Weekend at Bernie's". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 18, 2020.
  3. ^ "Box Office Information for Weekend at Bernie's". TheWrap. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  4. ^ Bierly, Mandi (July 8, 2005). "EW creates extras for Weekend at Bernie's". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on March 10, 2015. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  5. ^ Weekend at Bernie's at Rotten Tomatoes
  6. ^ "Weekend at Bernie's". Metacritic.
  7. ^ "Cinemascore". Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  8. ^ "Weekend at Bernie's". Rolling Stone. July 5, 1989. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 5, 1989). "Weekend at Bernie's Movie Review (1989)". www.rogerebert.com. Retrieved December 26, 2015.
  10. ^ Johnson, Steve (July 13, 1993). "Resurrection 'Weekend at Bernie's II' Feels More Like a Month". Chicago Tribune. p. C5.
  11. ^ "Familiarity Breeds Film Hits". Daily News of Los Angeles. July 13, 1993. Archived from the original on July 8, 2012. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  12. ^ "'Weekend at Bernie's' is 25. Here is How it Would Really Happen". NBC News. July 4, 2014. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  13. ^ Jones, Nate (July 2, 2014). "11 Things You Never Knew About Weekend at Bernie's on its 25th Anniversary". People. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  14. ^ Hot and Cold (Media notes). Jermaine Stewart. Arista Records. 1989. AS1-9848.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link) Retrieved May 24, 2018.
  15. ^ "Jermaine Stewart - Hot And Cold / Search For Love - Arista - USA - AS1-9848". 45cat. January 11, 2016. Retrieved May 24, 2018.
  16. ^ Nash, Jay Robert; Ross, Stanley R. (July 31, 2008). The Motion Picture Guide 1990 Annual: The Films of 1989 - Google Books. Cinebooks. ISBN 9780933997295. Retrieved May 24, 2018.
  17. ^ Patten, Dominic (January 24, 2014). "Fox & MGM Sued in Multimillion-Dollar 'Weekend at Bernie's' Profits Suit". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  18. ^ McNary, Dave (January 24, 2014). "'Weekend at Bernie's' Filmmakers Sue Fox, MGM Over Profits". Variety. Retrieved April 2, 2015.
  19. ^ Lowrey, Brandon (October 15, 2014). "MGM Tries To Kill 'Weekend at Bernie's' Contract Claims". Law360.com. Retrieved April 2, 2015.

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