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The Founder is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by John Lee Hancock and written by Robert Siegel. The film stars Michael Keaton as businessman Ray Kroc, and portrays the story of his creation of the McDonald's fast food chain. Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch co-star as McDonald's founders Richard and Maurice McDonald.

The film premiered at Arclight Hollywood on December 7, 2016 and was released in the United States on January 20, 2017, by The Weinstein Company. It grossed $23 million worldwide and received generally positive reviews from critics, with praise for Keaton's performance.


Ray Kroc is a traveling salesman selling Prince Castle brand milkshake makers in 1954. While he has a supportive wife, Ethel, and has saved enough to live a simple comfortable life in Arlington Heights, Illinois, he craves more. After learning that a drive-in in San Bernardino, California is ordering an unusually large number of milkshake makers, Ray drives to California to see it. What he finds is McDonald's—a highly popular walk-up restaurant with fast service, high-quality food, disposable packaging, and a family-friendly atmosphere.

Ray meets with the two McDonald brothers, Maurice "Mac" McDonald and Richard "Dick" McDonald. Ray tours the kitchens and notes the employees' strong work ethic. Dick explains the high-quality food and lightning-fast service are the backbones of their diner. Ray takes the brothers to dinner and is told the origin story of McDonald's. The next day, Ray suggests that the brothers franchise the restaurant and discovers that they had previously attempted to do so only to encounter absentee owners and inconsistent standards which ultimately led to the failure of the endeavor. Ray persists and eventually convinces the brothers to allow him to lead their franchising efforts on the condition that he agree to a contract which requires all changes to receive the McDonald brothers' approval in writing.

Initially, Ray begins building a McDonald's restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois while attempting to entice wealthy investors (specifically fellow members at the country club he and Ethel were members of) to open franchises, but encounters the same poor management ethic which doomed the original franchise efforts. Ray hits on the idea of franchising to middle-class investors, who are more likely to be hands-on and willing to follow the McDonald's formula. This proves successful, and new franchises begin opening across the Midwest, with Ray representing himself as the creator of McDonald's. During this time, Ray meets Rollie Smith, an upscale restaurant owner in Minnesota who wishes to invest, and his wife Joan Smith, to whom Ray is immediately attracted.

Despite his success, Ray begins to encounter financial difficulties as his share of franchise profits is limited due to his contract. Owners are encountering higher than expected costs, particularly for refrigeration of large quantities of ice cream for milkshakes. Joan suggests a powdered milkshake to Ray as a way to avoid these costs, but the brothers refuse to compromise the quality of their food. With his debts mounting, Ray goes to his bank to attempt to renegotiate his loan, but it refuses. Fortunately, he is overheard by Harry Sonneborn, a financial consultant for Tastee-Freez, who agrees to review Ray's books. He realizes that the real profit opportunity is in providing real estate to the franchisees, which will not only provide a revenue stream, but give Ray leverage over his franchisees and over the McDonald brothers. Ray incorporates a new company, Franchise Realty Corporation, and attracts new investors.

Emboldened, Ray begins to increasingly defy the McDonald brothers and circumvent their authority, including by providing powdered milkshakes to all franchisees. Ray renames his company to The McDonald's Corporation and demands to be released from his contract and buy the brothers out, the news of which sends Mac into diabetic shock. Ray visits him in the hospital and offers a blank check to settle their business. The brothers agree to a $2.7 million lump sum payment, ownership of their original restaurant in San Bernardino, and a 1% annual royalty, but when the time comes to finalize the agreement, Ray refuses to include the royalty in the settlement and instead offers it as a handshake agreement. Afterwards, Dick asks Ray why he had to take over their business, when he could have easily stolen their idea and recreated it. Ray reveals that the true value of McDonald's is the name itself, which expresses all the attributes of Americana.

The McDonald brothers are forced to take their name off the original restaurant and Ray opens a new McDonald's franchise directly across the street from the original restaurant to finally put the McDonald brothers out of business. The film closes in 1970 with him preparing a speech where he praises himself for his success in his elaborate mansion with his new wife, Joan. An epilogue reveals that the McDonald brothers were never paid their royalties, which could have been in the area of $100 million a year.



The screenplay for The Founder was written by Robert Siegel, based on Ray Kroc's autobiography, and on an unauthorized biography.[1] According to early reports, the film was to be developed in the same vein as There Will Be Blood and The Social Network. According to, it was ranked the 13th best unproduced script of 2014.[2][3] In December 2014, John Lee Hancock was signed to direct the picture.[4]


In February 2015, Michael Keaton was signed to the role of Ray Kroc.[5] Laura Dern joined the film on May 11, 2015, to play Kroc's wife, Ethel Fleming, from whom Kroc divorced in 1961.[6] The next day, it was announced that Nick Offerman joined the film, set to play Richard "Dick" McDonald.[7] On May 28, 2015, it was announced that B. J. Novak joined the film as Kroc's financial consultant, Harry J. Sonneborn.[8] On June 9, 2015, it was reported that Linda Cardellini had joined the film,[9] and on June 26, 2015, it was announced that John Carroll Lynch and Patrick Wilson had also been cast.[10]


Principal photography on the film began in Newnan, Georgia on June 1, 2015.[11][12] An old style McDonald's set, with the "golden arches", was constructed in downtown Douglasville, Georgia in June 2015 for the filming.[13] The J. Mack Robinson College of Business Administration Building in Downtown Atlanta, which houses a Bank of America branch, served as the Illinois First Federal Savings & Loan association building for the film.


On March 2, 2015, The Weinstein Company paid $7 million for the film's distribution rights.[14] On March 26, 2015, the studio set the film for a November 25, 2016 release date.[15] In March 2016, the film was moved up to August 5, 2016.[16] On July 13, 2016, the film's release date was delayed until a limited December 16, 2016 date, followed by a wide release on January 20, 2017.[17] The film ultimately opened in the United States at Arclight Hollywood on December 7, 2016, in order to qualify for the 2016 Oscars,[18] before expanding wide on January 20.

In February 2017, FilmNation Entertainment, one of the film's production companies, sued The Weinstein Company for $15 million. The Weinstein Company released Gold on January 27, 2017, a week after The Founder, which FilmNation claimed was a breach of contract, saying the two companies had an agreement that no Weinstein Company film would be released within a week before or after The Founder.


Box office

The Founder grossed $12.8 million in the United States and Canada and $10.3 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $23.1 million.

In North America, the film was released alongside the openings of Split, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone and XXX: Return of Xander Cage, as well as the wide expansion of 20th Century Women, and was expected to gross about $3 million from about 1,115 theaters in its opening weekend.[19] It ended up debuting $3.8 million, finishing 9th at the box office.[20] In its second week, the film made $2.6 million, a drop of 23.4%.[21]

Critical response

On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 84% based on 197 reviews, with a weighted average of 7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Founder puts Michael Keaton's magnetic performance at the center of a smart, satisfying biopic that traces the rise of one of America's most influential businessmen – and the birth of one of its most far-reaching industries."[22] On Metacritic, the film holds a score 66 out of 100, based on 47 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[23]

Rolling Stone magazine's Peter Travers gave the film three out of four stars, stating that director Hancock and screenwriter Siegel "strive hard – and mostly succeed – at keeping Hollywood sentiment out of the storytelling.... Set more than a half century ago, The Founder proves to be a movie for a divisive here and now. Step right up. You might just learn something."[24]'s Matt Zoller Seitz gave the film three out of four stars, stating that despite the film overly relying on exposition and failing to skillfully incorporate Ray Kroc's personal life into the narrative, "I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about The Founder constantly since seeing it... It's an ad that becomes a warning before circling around and becoming another, darker kind of advertisement, and one of the most intriguing and surprising things about The Founder is that, in the end, it seems vaguely ashamed of itself for letting this happen".[25]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Template:Abbr
AARP Annual Movies for Grownups Awards February 6, 2017 Best Time Capsule The Founder Template:Nom [26]
Best Actor Template:Sort Template:Nom
Best Buddy Picture John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman Template:Nom


External links

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  1. Seigel, Robert. "'The Founder' Follows Salesman's Genius Idea To Franchise McDonald's", All Things Considered, NPR, January 25, 2017. Retrieved on January 29, 2017. 
  2. Weinstein Company Wins Bidding War for Michael Keaton's McDonald's Movie 'The Founder' (Exclusive). TheWrap (March 2, 2015). Retrieved on March 3, 2015.
  3. Black List 2014 Gets Star Treatment In 10th Anniversary Announcement Monday. (December 14, 2014). Retrieved on March 3, 2015.
  4. John Lee Hancock Plans McDonald's History Story, The Founder. (December 10, 2014). Retrieved on March 3, 2015.
  5. Burgerman: Michael Keaton Will Star in a McDonald's Biopic. Complex (February 28, 2015). Retrieved on March 3, 2015.
  6. Laura Dern in Talks to Join Michael Keaton in McDonald's Mogul Biopic (Exclusive). The Hollywood Reporter (May 11, 2015). Retrieved on May 12, 2015.
  7. Kit, Borys (May 12, 2015). Nick Offerman Joins Micheal Keaton in McDonald's Mogul Biopic (Exclusive). The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved on January 19, 2017.
  8. Kit, Borys (May 28, 2015). B.J. Novak Joins Michael Keaton in McDonald's Founder Biopic (Exclusive). The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved on January 16, 2017.
  9. McNary, Dave (June 9, 2015). Linda Cardellini Joins Michael Keaton in McDonald’s Drama ‘The Founder’. Variety. Retrieved on January 19, 2017.
  10. Hipes, Patrick (June 26, 2015). John Carroll Lynch On ‘The Founder’ Menu; Gwendoline Christie Joins ‘Swallows & Amazons’. Deadline. Retrieved on January 19, 2017.
  11. On the Set for 6/1/15: James Gunn Starts Shooting 'The Belko Experiment', Michael Keaton Begins Mcdonald's Biopic 'The Founder' & More. SSN Insider (June 1, 2015). Archived from the original on April 22 2016. Retrieved on June 1, 2015.
  12. Movie Shoot in Douglasville Begins Next Week. (June 3, 2015). Retrieved on June 6, 2015.
  13. Golden Arches Are Going Up. Douglas County Sentinel (May 28, 2015). Archived from the original on March 4 2016. Retrieved on June 6, 2015.
  14. Weinstein Co. Buys Michael Keaton's McDonald's Movie 'The Founder'. Variety (March 2, 2015). Retrieved on March 3, 2015.
  15. "Michael Keaton Starrer 'The Founder' Gets Release Date; Focus World Rounds Out 2015 Slate",, March 26, 2015. Retrieved on April 6, 2015. 
  16. D'Alessandro, Anthony (March 1, 2016). Weinstein Co.’s ‘The Founder’ Moves To August; ‘Lion’ To Roar During Thanksgiving Week. Retrieved on March 1, 2016.
  17. Coggan, Devan (July 13, 2016). Michael Keaton's McDonald's movie The Founder gets awards season release date. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on July 13, 2016.
  18. D'Alessandro, Anthony (December 6, 2016). Weinstein Co.’s McDonald’s Movie ‘The Founder’ Will Open Doors Early. Retrieved on December 6, 2016.
  19. ‘Split’ And ‘xXx’ Merge Into Market While ‘The Founder’ May Get Lost In Heavy Traffic – Box Office Preview.
  20. Uni/Blumhouse’s ‘Split’ Is A Hit With High $39M To $40M+; ‘Xander Cage’ Falls Down.
  21. Is Controversy Impacting ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ At The Box Office?.
  22. The Founder (2017). Retrieved on February 5, 2017.
  23. The Founder reviews. Metacritic. Retrieved on February 5, 2017.
  24. 'The Founder' Review: Michael Keaton Makes a Happy Meal of McDonalds Biopic (January 18 2017). Retrieved on January 19 2017.
  25. The Founder Movie Review & Film Summary. Ebert Digital LLC (January 19 2017). Retrieved on January 19 2017.
  26. Rahman, Abid (December 15, 2016). Denzel Washington's 'Fences' Leads Nominations for AARP's Movies for Grownups Awards. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved on December 26, 2016.