80 user 63 critic

The Singing Detective (2003)

2:27 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Prime Video

From his hospital bed, a writer suffering from a skin disease hallucinates musical numbers and paranoid plots.


Keith Gordon


Dennis Potter (screenplay), Dennis Potter (television series)
1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

More Like This 

Drama | Musical | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  

Tormented and bedridden by a debilitating disease, a mystery writer relives his detective stories through his imagination and hallucinations.

Stars: Michael Gambon, Patrick Malahide, Joanne Whalley
Drama | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

Tragi-comic, romantic whodunnit set in a run down hotel which plays host to mentally ill people too poor to afford medical insurance.

Director: Wim Wenders
Stars: Jeremy Davies, Milla Jovovich, Mel Gibson
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.6/10 X  

Two girls, Carla and Lou meet on the street outside a loft waiting for their boyfriends. In a short time, they find out that they're waiting for the same guy - young actor Blake, who said ... See full summary »

Director: James Toback
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Heather Graham, Natasha Gregson Wagner
Black & White I (1999)
Crime | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5/10 X  

A group of white high school teens become involved with Harlem's black hip-hop crowd.

Director: James Toback
Stars: Ben Stiller, Allan Houston, Claudia Schiffer
Paparazzi (2004)
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

A rising Hollywood actor decides to take personal revenge against a group of four persistent photographers to make them pay for almost causing a personal tragedy involving his wife and son.

Director: Paul Abascal
Stars: Cole Hauser, Robin Tunney, Dennis Farina
Mrs. Soffel (1984)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

Peter Soffel is the stuffy warden of a remote American prison around the turn of the century. His wife, Kate, finds herself attracted to prisoner Ed Biddle. She abandons her husband and ... See full summary »

Director: Gillian Armstrong
Stars: Diane Keaton, Mel Gibson, Matthew Modine
Biography | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Turning her back on her wealthy, established family, Diane Arbus falls in love with Lionel Sweeney, an enigmatic mentor who introduces Arbus to the marginalized people who help her become one of the most revered photographers of the twentieth century.

Director: Steven Shainberg
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Robert Downey Jr., Ty Burrell
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  

A lawyer uses his power to help his lover put her father behind bars, but when he escapes, they are all in danger.

Director: Robert Altman
Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Embeth Davidtz, Robert Downey Jr.
Air America (1990)
Action | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

A young pilot finds himself recruited unwittingly into a covert and corrupt C.I.A. airlift organization operating in Vietnam War-era Laos.

Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Stars: Mel Gibson, Robert Downey Jr., Nancy Travis


Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Downey Jr. ... Dan Dark
Robin Wright ... Nicola / Nina / Blonde (as Robin Wright Penn)
Mel Gibson ... Dr. Gibbon
Jeremy Northam ... Mark Binney
Katie Holmes ... Nurse Mills
Adrien Brody ... First Hood
Jon Polito ... Second Hood
Carla Gugino ... Betty Dark / Hooker
Saul Rubinek ... Skin Specialist
Alfre Woodard ... Chief of Staff
Amy Aquino ... Nurse Nozhki
David Dorfman ... Young Dan Dark
Eddie Jones ... Moonglow Bartender
Lily Knight ... Woman Physiotherapist
Clyde Kusatsu ... Visiting Japanese Doctor


"While hospitalized with an extreme case of psoriasis, novelist Dan Dark reworks his first book in his head. Feverish, paranoid and prone to musical outbreaks, he confuses himself with his protagonist, a detective investigating the murder of a prostitute in 1950s Los Angeles." Written by Mag-Helder Thélot

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


When it comes to murder, seduction and betrayal he wrote the book. Now he's living it!

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexual content, language and some violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

14 November 2003 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

El detective cantante See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA


Box Office


$8,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$28,324, 26 October 2003, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$336,456, 1 February 2004
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 »

Did You Know?


At one point, David Cronenberg was in line to direct the film, with Al Pacino in the lead. See more »


When the First Hood and Second Hood are driving away in their vintage car in the 1940s, you can clearly see the reflection of a lit, modern, Los Angeles skyscraper in the window of the backseat. See more »


Dan Dark: When you're dealing with the devil praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.
See more »

Crazy Credits

During the end credits we see Robert Downey Jr. perform the song "In My Dreams" See more »


Featured in At the Movies: Episode #1.2 (2004) See more »


My Special Angel
Written by Jimmy Duncan
Published by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI)
Performed by Bobby Helms
Courtesy of MCA Records
Under license from Universal Music Enterprises
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

A musical for cynics. That's not an easy accomplishment.
17 April 2014 | by rooprectSee all my reviews

It was a dark and sultry evening when Rooprect, gumshoe film critic wannabe, popped in this DVD expecting to see something as pulpy and vapid as the 50s comic book artwork on the cover. "The Shhinging Detectivesh" said Rooprect out of the right corner of his mouth while out of the left corner was a limp cherry Twizzler hanging like the soggy laundry that he forgot to put in the dryer the night before.

And that's where my story writing skills end.

But never fear, the 2003 movie "The Singing Detective" has more than enough going for it to keep your attention for 109 minutes, if not days afterwards. This is one of those deliciously deceptive films that promises a kiss on the cheek but delivers a suckerpunch to the gums. It can broadly be called a musical, a comedy, a crime drama, a psychological thriller, a mind trip, and just about anything else under the sun. But the trick is not to expect any 1 of those. Just be ready for anything.

The story begins in a kind of satirical film noir setting which we quickly learn is one of the nightmarish delusions that plague our hero (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) as he lies in a hospital bed, suffering, disfigured and terminally ticked off at the world. Downey's chilling yet charismatic performance is what sucks us in. His ability to portray the world's worst cynic while eliciting our sympathies (not to mention getting our toes tapping to such hits as "How Much is that Doggie in the Window") is something I haven't seen since... heck, since ever.

The story follows him as he explores his own mind, his past, his present, and of course his cryptic fantasies which play out like Humphrey Bogart with an NC-17 rating. Yes, sexuality is very prevalent in this film, but it's not gratuitous. It can make for awkward viewing (do NOT watch this movie with your parents, and for Pete's sake not with kids!), but there is a clear point to his rude, crude, abusive visions. Some of it is so over-the-top that you'll die laughing, such as the hospital dance number where the doctors & nurses are all but raping their bedridden patients (not too subtle on the symbolism there!). In fact, all of it is very tongue in cheek. Just remember that we are exploring the mind of a seriously damaged human being.

Mel Gibson plays a role I've never seen him play, something so different and so well done that I didn't recognize him for several minutes. He's the nerdy little bald psychotherapist whose job is to crack Downey's mind. And all the while you feel like Downey is ready to crack Gibson's skull if he could only make a fist. The dynamic between these two is absolutely magical.

Robin Wright Penn completes the trio of acting magnificence. She plays the mysterious wife whom we're not sure whether she's a good guy or a bad guy. As she appears in various nightmares that paint her in a less-than-complimentary light (prostitute, liar, swindler), we start to understand the message of the film: that paranoia can taint an entire world. And yet, is it truly paranoia if our suspicions are correct? Watch the film and find out.

Adrien Brody and Joe Polito (the most repulsive and lovable gangster you've ever seen) round out the troupe as two killers hot on the trail of... well, nobody knows. You wonder if they do. Like all the other characters in the film, they are alternately chilling and charming. They disturbed me to my core and made me laugh like I was a kid at a birthday party.

Like I said, be ready for anything because this is a very bipolar film. Nothing is as it seems. But it delivers one of the most powerful experiences I can remember. I highly recommend this film to people who have a dark, somewhat cynical view of the world. I'm not saying it will confirm your misanthropy, nor am I saying that it'll suddenly fill your life with rainbows and unicorns. But it'll definitely make you see the world in a different way. I saw this movie 48 hours ago and I can't stop thinking about it. If you end up seeing this movie, make sure to give it your full attention, absorb every detail, every line (EXCELLENT script, by the way, with chilling monologues that rival anything Salieri ever said in "Amadeus").

I'm not sure how this film slipped through the cracks and received such a low rating on IMDb (5.7), but it's always great to stumble on an obscure gem like this. Don't pass it by, shweetheart.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 80 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed