Basic Instinct (1992) - Rotten Tomatoes

Basic Instinct (1992)



Critic Consensus: Unevenly echoing the work of Alfred Hitchcock, Basic Instinct contains a star-making performance from Sharon Stone but is ultimately undone by its problematic, overly lurid plot.

Movie Info

This cold, stylish erotic-thriller grossed over $100 million at the box-office despite vigorous protests at its depiction of gays and women. The shocking opening sequence features a graphic sexual encounter involving a rock-star bound with a white Hermes scarf by an unidentified blond woman. Despite the fact that the scene ends with a bloody icepick murder (horrifyingly realized by makeup artist Rob Bottin), Hermes scarves quickly sold out at stores nationwide. This seeming paradox is at the heart of the film's appeal, as it mixes perverse sexuality and erotic bloodshed in a manner common to European thrillers (director Paul Verhoeven had done it himself in 1979's marvelous De Vierde Man) but mostly taboo in America. The plot concerns Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), a successful bisexual mystery writer who may also be a ruthless murderer. Everyone close to Catherine dies, and troubled policeman Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) must find out why. In the process, Nick becomes sexually involved with both Catherine and police psychiatrist Beth Gardner (Jeanne Tripplehorn), while the bodies begin piling up and Catherine turns the cat-and-mouse game around on Nick. Verhoeven and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas -- who was paid $3 million for the script -- keep the tension ratcheted up throughout, even during the frequent sex scenes, which carry a violent edge reminiscent of the Italian thrillers of Dario Argento. The film's most notorious scene, a police interrogation in which Catherine makes drooling idiots out of her captors by revealing that she is not wearing underwear, became a cultural touchstone and was widely imitated and parodied. Sharon Stone, meanwhile, was embarrassed to the point that she claimed Verhoeven had aimed lights on strategic locations without her knowledge. George Dzundza and Dorothy Malone co-star.more
Rating: R (adult situations/language, nudity, sex)
Genre: Drama, Horror, Romance, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By: Gary Goldman, Joe Eszterhas
In Theaters:
On DVD: Aug 26, 1997
Artisan Entertainment


Michael Douglas
as Nick Curran
Sharon Stone
as Catherine Tramell
Jeanne Tripplehorn
as Dr. Beth Garner
Denis Arndt
as Lieutenant Walker
Chelcie Ross
as Captain Talcott
Wayne Knight
as John Correli
Daniel von Bargen
as Lieutenant Nilsen
Jack McGee
as Sheriff
Bill Cable
as Johnny Boz
Stephen Rowe
as Internal Affairs Inv...
Mitch Pileggi
as Internal Affairs Inv...
Mary Pat Gleason
as Juvenile Officer
Freda Foh Shen
as Berkeley Registrar
James Rebhorn
as Dr. McElwaine
David Wells
as Polygraph Examiner
Bradford English
as Campus Policeman
Juanita Jennings
as Receptionist
Craig C. Lewis
as Bartender at Police ...
Keith Henry McDaniel
as Featured Dancer
Peter Appel
as Detective
Michael Halton
as Bartender at County ...
Keith A. McDaniel
as Featured Dancer
Eric Poppick
as Coroner's Guy
Ron Cacas
as Policeman
Elsie Sniffen
as Roxy's Friend
Ken Liebenson
as Doo Wah Riders Band ...
Lindy Rasmusson
as Doo Wah Riders Band ...
Byron Berline
as Doo Wah Riders Band ...
Eddie Dunbar
as Doo Wah Riders Band ...
Tod McKibbin
as Doo Wah Riders Band ...
Julie RitterLinda Bo...
as Hand Puppet Model
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Basic Instinct

Critic Reviews for Basic Instinct

All Critics (59) | Top Critics (17)

Verhoeven does not explore the dark side, but merely exploits it, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Full Review… | March 25, 2013
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

[The film has] a smug faith in the ability of its own speed, smartness and luxe to wow the yokels.

Full Review… | March 25, 2013
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Slick, clever and entertainingly overheated while you're watching it, Basic Instinct starts to evaporate the second you leave the theater.

Full Review… | March 25, 2013
Seattle Times
Top Critic

The harsh, politically incorrect truth about Basic Instinct is that it's a tantalizing, suspensefully correct thriller.

Full Review… | March 25, 2013
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

Basic Instinct is a reminder of the difference between exhilaration and exhaustion, between tension and hysteria, between eroticism and exhibitionism. The line may be fine, but it is real enough to separate the great thrillers from the also-rans.

Full Review… | March 25, 2013
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Call me a prude, but it's not sexy watching an erotic thriller in which every time a couple does it, one of them gets it with an ice pick. I don't care how many firmly toned tummies and tushes are bared.

Full Review… | March 25, 2013
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Basic Instinct

"Basic Instinct" is the type of interesting film that is both insane and calm at the same time. If you are watching anyone besides Michael Douglas on screen, they seem almost as if nothing has happened. As the opening scene of the film shows a very sexual murder, the remainder is about trying to put together the pieces as to who actually killed this man. It may not be a perfect movie, due to the predictability, but it sure has you guessing. I really enjoyed watching this film and I almost came to love it, until the final shot of the film. The last shot throws the entire film through a loop and makes everything confusing. This is a great film at it's core, but sometimes falls flat. Still, I loved watching it.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

If I'm not mistaken, this is probably the gold standard of erotic thrillers. It's a stylish, lurid romp that owes a fair debt to Hitchcock, but due to just how graphic and sleazy it gets sometimes, the film really has far more in common with the works of Hitch devotee Brian De Palma more than anything.

Nick Curran is a troubled cop with a troubled past whose latest murder investigation leads him to Catherine Tramell- a lovely bisexual author of sleazy pulp who is the prime suspect because her lover is the victim, and was killed in a fashion basically verbatim from a scene from one of her novels. Nick makes the questionable decision to begin a torrid affair with Tramell, as he is really unsure if she's truly the suspect, but also because she's just too alluring to ignore, no matter how much danger could be involved.

The film really tows the line between exploitative sleaze and actual cinematic merit. It's not always balanced, as the plot often gets cast aside for sex and violence, but the film is certainly nothing if not intensely memorable. The look is great, the score is phenomenal, the performances are quite solid, especially from Stone as Tramell, and, if you watch the director's cut, the film really delivers the goods where the violence and lust are concerned.

This sort of thing is generally Z-Grade schlock, but I found the treatment of the material here to be surprisingly solid and entertaining. It's no masterpiece of course, but it's certainly a highlight on the B-List of Verhoeven's filmography.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


Paul Verohoeven controversial erotic Thriller is a memorable film about a sexy author accused of killing her lover with an ice pick because she wrote similarities to the murder in one of her books, she is the prime suspect. Sharon Stone plays author Catherine Trammel who is under investigation for the murder and Michael Douglas plays Detective Nick Curtan who investigates the murder. Basic Instinct is a mind bending thriller with terrific, thrilling and exhilarating moments. Paul Verhoeven's directing is as usual solid, bold and he keeps the film moving along with each provocative frame. Sharon Stone definitely lights up the screen, and this is one of her best roles. Basic Instinct is a non stop thrill ride from start to finish and it keeps you on the edge of your seat till the very end. Paul Verhoeven has made better films, but Basic Instinct is still an entertaining and well acted film. If you enjoy most of Verhoeven's work, then your most likely going to enjoy this film as well, it's a change of pace for the director, but not one that shy's away from the usual controversy that most of his films get due to their amount of violence.

Alex roy

Super Reviewer

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