355 user 181 critic

Motherless Brooklyn (2019)

2:40 | Trailer
In 1950s New York, a lonely private detective afflicted with Tourette's Syndrome ventures to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend.


Edward Norton


Edward Norton (written for the screen by), Jonathan Lethem (from the novel by)
177 ( 43)
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 2 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Edward Norton ... Lionel Essrog
Gugu Mbatha-Raw ... Laura Rose
Alec Baldwin ... Moses Randolph
Willem Dafoe ... Paul Randolph
Bruce Willis ... Frank Minna
Ethan Suplee ... Gilbert Coney
Cherry Jones ... Gabby Horowitz
Bobby Cannavale ... Tony Vermonte
Dallas Roberts ... Danny Fantl
Josh Pais ... William Lieberman
Radu Spinghel Radu Spinghel ... Giant Man
Fisher Stevens ... Lou
Peter Gray Lewis ... Mayor (as Peter Lewis)
Robert Wisdom ... Billy Rose (as Robert Ray Wisdom)
Michael Kenneth Williams ... Trumpet Man


Set against the backdrop of 1950s New York, "Motherless Brooklyn" follows Lionel Essrog (Norton), a lonely private detective afflicted with Tourette's Syndrome, as he ventures to solve his friend's murder. Armed only with a few clues and the powerful engine of his obsessive mind, Lionel unravels closely-guarded secrets that hold the fate of the whole city in the balance. Written by Warner Bros.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language throughout including some sexual references, brief drug use, and violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Edward Norton met and consulted many members of the Tourette's Association of America to prepare for the role. The film has received approval from the organization as well. See more »


At approx. 1:26 into the movie, Norton's character, while doing research, has his hand on and off the basket between shots. See more »


[first lines]
Lionel Essrog: [narrating] Frank always used to say, "Tell your story walkin', pal." He was more philosophical than your average gumshoe, but he liked to do his talkin' on the move, so here's how it all went down. I got somethin' wrong with my head. That's the first thing to know.
Lionel Essrog: [real life] If!
Lionel Essrog: [narrating] It's like having glass in the brain. I can't stop pickin' things apart... twistin' 'em around, reassembling 'em. Words and sounds, especially. It's like an itch that has to be scratched.
Gilbert Coney: [...]
See more »

Crazy Credits

Shauna Lyn... this is yours as much as mine. See more »


Referenced in Evening Urgant: Vincent Cassel (2019) See more »


Round About Midnight
Written by Bernard Hanighen, Thelonious Monk and Cootie Williams
Performed by Babs Gonzales
Courtesy of Blue Note Records
Under license from Unviersal Music Enterprises
See more »

User Reviews

A heartfelt throwback to classic Noir
29 October 2019 | by AmthermandesSee all my reviews

Motherless Brooklyn is a modern film Noir about a troubled man seeking answers, exploring new worlds within familiar ones, and going toe-to-toe with violent thugs and oppressive tyrants, in the heart of New York during its blossoming years. It also just may be Edward Norton's "Sling Blade."

Some of its most noticeable achievements, are the visual and audial elements. With the gloomy, yet bustling sets, and the somber, thoughtful soundtrack, the effective lighting and mood of each shot, it's a brilliant homage to the classic Noir style. It's not even just a throwback, but could eventually be considered a monumental addition to the genre.

And the acting. Expect nothing less from such a stellar, experienced, well thought out cast. Edward Norton nailed it especially, and shines a humorous, yet wondrous and even educational light on Tourette's syndrome. Excellent performances by all.

Story-wise, it's nothing groundbreaking. But it's certainly engaging. One can tell it's no cookie-cutter script, a lot of heart went into it. Sure some may find it boring, slow, presumptuous even. Others will find it exhilarating, and refreshing. Hopefully most will find the passion, love, message, and humor in it, and also discover that it could be that movie which so many people have been wishing Hollywood would make, instead of those dry, cash-cow blockbusters that stain the very heart and art of filmmaking itself. While also being unique in its own way, it's also familiar, without being too familiar if you know what I mean.

I wish Bruce Willis was in it more, and there are some plot holes and mildly annoying coincidences, cliches, etc. These are few and far in between. While it can be difficult to follow at times, it's still quite a fantastic movie.

Those who would enjoy this movie, probably also enjoyed other titles like Chinatown, L.A. Confidential, Road to Perdition, The Sting, Double Indemnity. See it in theaters, you'll find yourself driving down Nostalgia lane in a vintage 1950's Chevy.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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English | French

Release Date:

1 November 2019 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Motherless Brooklyn See more »


Box Office


$26,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$3,500,454, 3 November 2019

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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