Watch Andy Warhol Eat an Entire Burger King Whopper–While Wishing the Burger Came from McDonald’s (1981)

In the early 1980s, Danish experimental filmmaker Jørgen Leth came to America intent on capturing it live as it was actually lived across that vast, still-new, and often strange country. The result, 66 Scenes from America, offers images of roadside motels and diners, desert landscapes, the Manhattan skyline, miles of lonely highway, and stars and stripes aplenty. Halfway through it all comes the longest, and perhaps most American, scene of all: Andy Warhol eating a fast-food hamburger. A few moments after he accomplishes that task, he delivers the film’s most memorable line by far: “My name is Andy Warhol, and I just finished eating a hamburger.”

“Leth did not know Warhol, but he was a bit obsessed with him so he definitely wanted to have him in his movie,” writes DailyArt’s Zuzanna Stanska. And so when Leth came to New York, he simply showed up at Warhol’s Factory and pitched him the idea of consuming a “symbolic” burger on film. “Warhol immediately liked the idea and agreed to the scene – he liked it because it was such a real scene, something he would like to do.”

When Warhol showed up at the photo studio Leth had set up to shoot the scene, complete with a variety of fast-food hamburgers from which he could choose, he had only one question: “Where is the McDonald’s?” Leth hadn’t thought to pick one up from the Golden Arches as well, not knowing that Warhol considered McDonald’s packaging “the most beautiful.”

Warhol had a deep interest in American brands. “What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest,” he wrote in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. “You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good.” Surely the same could be said of any particular fast-food burger, even if Warhol couldn’t have his preferred brand on that particular day in New York in 1981. In the event, he chose a Whopper from Burger King, still a well-known brand if hardly as iconic as McDonald’s — or, for that matter, as iconic as Warhol himself.

Above, you can see Leth talking years later about his experience filming Warhol.

Related Content:

130,000 Photographs by Andy Warhol Are Now Available Online, Courtesy of Stanford University

When Steve Jobs Taught Andy Warhol to Make Art on the Very First Macintosh (1984)

Andy Warhol Digitally Paints Debbie Harry with the Amiga 1000 Computer (1985)

Warhol’s Cinema: A Mirror for the Sixties (1989)

The Case for Andy Warhol in Three Minutes

Ernest Hemingway’s Favorite Hamburger Recipe

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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Comments (7)
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  • Bill W. says:

    Mesmerizing the watch, I was actually surprised he finished it! Weird how he dipped with the ketchup though.

  • Mike c says:

    Very interesting to watch, though I must say Andy seems a trifle disappointed, Am I wrong or is he struggling to complete the burger? Not sure I have ever seen anyone enjoy the experience less!

  • Patrick O says:

    That seems like a very small Whopper bun and patty to me. B/K was my favorite fast food outlet in the 1980’s and I would venture to say that Mr. Warhol is more likely eating a plain hamburger from B/K and not a Whopper. Yes, I saw that it was in a Whopper box, but I have to believe that someone put a smaller B/K plain hamburger in the Whopper box for artistic purposes.

    1. That burger is SMALL compared to the classic Whopper.
    2. The Whopper sandwich has ALWAYS had a sesame seed bun. The burger in the wrapper has a plain bun.
    3. The Whopper has LOTS of messy extras, and this burger is plain.

    Now, one might rightly observe that B/K’s memorable jingle notes clearly that special orders do not upset them as a corporate food entity, and the film maker may have tailored the ingredients to suit Andy’s particular tastes. But then, if he knew his tastes, why neglect the McD’s burger, which pains are taken to tell us he most enjoyed?

    If you order a Whopper and ask for a plain bun, hold ALL of the other ingredients save the bun and patty, I would argue on those grounds alone that this was NOT a Whopper. It’s analogous to special ordering the Ford automotive company to build you a truck using ONLY Pinto parts. The result would be a lowly Pinto, not a Ford truck, even if they tacked on a “F150” plate on the rear hatch door.

    That said, I am now distinctly desirous of a Triple Whopper, no onions. Except my wife made pork chops for dinner and she’d be mighty angry with me.

    Dang it.

  • Patrick O says:

    Having now watched the director’s recounting of the film, I believe that the choice of plain burger and plain bun is in line with his desire to present a “neutral” set of props. Strange that he regrets not giving Andy a glass of water, but has no compunction in withholding a nice SODA instead. By God, a burger WITHOUT a soda – Mr. Warhol did NOT need to scrimp on calories, for goodness sake! So a dry, sesame seed-less – no doubt room temperature – hamburger probably led to Andy NOT eating all of his burger. It wasn’t so much his thin neck that caused him to struggle to eat the burger. Dude was dehydrated after the fourth bite. Come on!

    Poor guy couldn’t fully eat one small burger. He was careful to say he “finished eating” a hamburger. Note well he did not say he “finished a hamburger.” I mean, if I’m eating a Whopper, I eat all of it – then I lick the wrapper if no one’s watching (pro tip). And, there is a soda to help. Delicious (pork chops…dang it).

    My Doctor says I shouldn’t eat like I do, but that guy is cruel. He recently asked me at an appointment to open my mouth and say “oink.” Come on!

    BTW, the duo behind Good Mythical Morning, Rhett and Link, do their own version of this Warhol/hamburger film. Up to today I did not know the inspiration.

    Good set of videos you’ve posted. Thanks

  • Patrick O says:

    Honestly, I wish Warhol had lived a long life. He was one of the most outrageously interesting people of the 20th century.

  • submandave says:

    Indeed. It was so notoriously large that the advertising catch phrase was, “It takes two hands to handle a Whopper.”

  • Liana says:

    thanks for info

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