The mysterious Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), a beautiful crime novelist, becomes a suspect when she is linked to the brutal death of a rock star. Investigated by homicide detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas), Catherine seduces him into an intense relationship. Meanwhile, the murder case becomes increasingly complicated when more seemingly connected deaths occur and Nicks psychologist and lover, Beth Garner (Jeanne Tripplehorn), appears to be another suspect.
Basic Instinct is a 1992 neo-noir erotic thriller film directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Joe Eszterhas, and starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone. The film follows a police detective, Nick Curran (Douglas), who is investigating the brutal murder of a wealthy rock star. During the investigation Curran becomes involved in a torrid and intense relationship with the prime suspect, Catherine Tramell (Stone), an enigmatic writer.
Even before its release, Basic Instinct generated heated controversy due to its overt sexuality and graphic depiction of violence. It was strongly opposed by gay rights activists, who criticized the films depiction of homosexual relationships and the portrayal of a bisexual woman as a murderous narcissistic psychopath. In a 2006 interview, Stone alleged that the infamous leg-crossing scene in which her vulva was exposed was filmed allegedly without her knowledge.
Despite initial critical negativity and public protest, Basic Instinct became one of the most financially successful films of the 1990s, grossing $352 million worldwide. Multiple versions of the film have been released on videocassette, DVD, and Blu-ray including a directors cut with extended footage previously unseen in North American cinemas. The film has contemporarily been recognized for its groundbreaking depictions of sexuality in mainstream Hollywood cinema, and has been referred to by scholars as "a neo-noir masterpiece that plays with, and transgresses, the narrative rules of film noir." A 2006 sequel starring Stone but without Verhoevens involvement, Basic Instinct 2, was critically panned and became a commercial flop.
A police detective is in charge of the investigation of a brutal murder, in which a beautiful and seductive woman could be involved.
A retired rock star, Johnny Boz, is stabbed to death with an ice pick during sex by a mysterious blonde woman at his apartment. Homicide detective Nick Curran investigates, and the only suspect is Catherine Tramell, Bozs bisexual girlfriend and a crime novelist who has written a novel that mirrors the crime. It is concluded that Catherine herself did it or someone who is trying to frame her out of spite. Tramell is uncooperative and taunting in the investigation, including smoking, which is prohibited, in the interrogation room, exposing her bare genitalia in front of the officers, presents alibis, and passes a lie detector test. Nick discovers that Catherine has a habit of befriending murderers, including her girlfriend Roxy, who is later shown to have murdered several young boys on impulse, and Hazel Dobkins, who murdered her family.
Nick, who accidentally shot two tourists while high on cocaine, attends counseling sessions with police psychologist Dr. Beth Garner, with whom he has had an affair. Nick discovers that Catherine plans on using him as a fictional detective in her latest book, wherein his character is murdered after falling for the wrong woman. Catherine becomes aware of Nicks past after paying Lt. Nielsen to look into Nicks psychiatric file; Beth gives it to him after Nielsen recommends Nicks unemployment. Nick publicly assaults Nielsen in his office and later becomes a prime suspect after Nielsen is killed. Nicks suspects Catherine, and when he joins in her behavior in front of his co-workers, he is put on leave.
A torrid affair between Nick and Catherine begins with the air of a cat-and-mouse game. They dance and make out at a club and later have sex in bed. Roxy, who disapproves of Nicks interference, attempts to run him over with Catherines car but dies in a crash. Catherine seems saddened by Roxys death and reveals to Nick that a previous lesbian encounter at college went awry when the girl, Lisa Hoberman, became obsessed with her, causing him to believe that she may not have killed Boz. Nick identifies the girl as Beth Garner, who acknowledges the encounter but claims Catherine became obsessed.
Nick discovers the final pages of Catherines new book in which the fictional detective finds his partner lying dead with his legs protruding from the doors of an elevator. Catherine breaks off their affair; Nick becomes upset and suspicious. Nick later meets his partner Gus, who has arranged to meet with Catherines college roommate at a hotel to find out what really went on between Catherine and Beth. As Nick waits in the car, Gus is murdered with an ice pick. Nick runs into the building but is too late; he finds Gus legs protruding from the doors of the elevator. Beth, standing in the hallway, explains she received a message to meet Gus. Nick suspects she murdered Gus and, when he suspects she is reaching for a gun, he shoots her. Nick finds keys in her pocket.
A search of the scene and Beths apartment turns up the evidence needed to brand her as the killer. Despite knowing Catherines foreknowledge of Gus death, that she must actually have been the killer, and that she must have set Beth up, Nick tells no one. He returns to his apartment where Catherine meets him. She explains her reluctance to commit to him, but the two have sex. As they discuss their future, an ice pick is revealed to be under the bed.
The screenplay, written in the 1980s, was popular enough to prompt a bidding war; it was eventually purchased by Carolco Pictures, for a reported US$3 million. Eszterhas, who wrote the film in 13 days, and who had been the creative source for several other blockbusters, including Flashdance (1983) and Jagged Edge (1985), was replaced by Gary Goldman as the writer. Adjusted for inflation, the budget of the film was an estimated US$49,000,000.
Chuck Norris, Al Pacino, Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes, Robert De Niro, Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Christopher Lloyd, Jack Nicholson, Charlie Sheen, Richard Gere, John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Denzel Washington, and Kevin Costner were considered for the role of Nick Curran. In preparation for the car chase scene, Douglas reportedly drove up the steps on Kearny Street in San Francisco for four nights by himself. Douglas recommended Kim Basinger for the role of Catherine Tramell, but Basinger declined. He had also proposed Julia Roberts. Greta Scacchi and Meg Ryan also turned down the role, as did Michelle Pfeiffer, Geena Davis, Kathleen Turner, Ellen Barkin, and Mariel Hemingway. Verhoeven considered Demi Moore. Stone, who was eventually selected for the role, was a relative unknown until the success of this movie; she was paid a minimal amount of $500,000, considering the films extensive production budget.
Filming in San Francisco was attended by gay and lesbian rights activists and demonstrators, and San Francisco Police Department riot police were present at every location daily to deal with the crowds.
The scene where Douglas has sex with Tripplehorn was filmed unbeknownst to the actors, who were simply rehearsing the scene. Things heated up quickly, as evidenced by the footage in the final film, and Verhoeven liked the performances so much that he included it in the final film. Verhoeven initially fought during the production for a lesbian love scene to be added to the script over the objection of Eszterhas, who thought such a scene would be gratuitous. Verhoeven eventually agreed with Eszterhas and apologized to him for forcing the issue. Following the success of Basic Instinct, Eszterhas and Verhoeven went on to collaborate on Showgirls.
In a 2006 interview, Stone alleged that the infamous leg-crossing scene in which her vulva was exposed was filmed without her knowledge; Stone had been wearing thin underwear for the scene which Verhoeven said reflected light on the camera lens; and it was not until Stone saw the film in a screening room with a test audience that she became aware of it, leading her to slap Verhoeven in the face and leave the screening.
The film score to Basic Instinct was composed by Jerry Goldsmith. The score to Basic Instinct garnered Goldsmith nominations for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award. Goldsmith described it as one of his most challenging efforts, later stating, "Basic Instinct was probably the most difficult Ive ever done. Its a very convoluted story with very unorthodox characters. Its a murder mystery, but it isnt really a murder mystery. The director, Paul Verhoeven, had a very clear idea of how the woman should be, and I had a hard time getting it. Because of Paul pushing me, I think its one of the best scores Ive ever written. It was a true collaboration."
Apart from the score, professionally released music did not play a major part in the film. The scene in which source music plays a prominent role occurs during the club scene; Curran, Tramell, and Roxy are seen at in Downtown San Francisco. It features "Blue" by Chicago singer LaTour and "Rave the Rhythm" by the group Channel X. It also features "Movin on Up" by Jeff Barry and Janet DuBois.
The soundtrack was released on March 17, 1992. A considerably expanded release of Jerry Goldsmiths score, featuring previously omitted sections and alternative compositions of certain elements, was issued by Prometheus Records in 2004.
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
- "Main Title (Theme from Basic Instinct)" – 2:13
- "Crossed Legs" – 4:49
- "Night Life" – 6:03
- "Kitchen Help" – 3:58
- "Pillow Talk" – 4:59
- "Morning After" – 2:29
- "The Games Are Over" – 5:53
- "Catherines Sorrow" – 2:41
- "Roxy Loses" – 3:37
- "An Unending Story" – 7:56
The Complete Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
- "Main Title" – 2:13
- "First Victim" – 1:39
- "Catherine & Roxy" – 5:14
- "Shadows" – 0:41
- "Profile" – 0:49
- "Dont Smoke" – 2:26
- "Crossed Legs" – 4:49
- "Beth & Nick" – 2:21
- "Night Life" – 6:03
- "Home Visit" – 1:13
- "Your Wife Knew" – 1:44
- "Untitled" – 0:52
- "Thats Real Music" – 0:27
- "One Shot" – 1:27
- "Kitchen Help" – 3:58
- "Pillow Talk" – 4:59
- "Morning After" – 2:29
- "Roxy Loses" – 3:37
- "Catherines Sorrow" – 2:41
- "Wrong Name" – 2:22
- "Shes Really Sick" – 1:31
- "It Wont Sell" – 1:02
- "Games Are Over" – 5:53
- "Evidence" – 1:39
- "Unending Story / End Credits" – 9:23
- "First Victim" (alternate version) – 1:34
The film was entered into the 1992 Cannes Film Festival.
Basic Instinct is rated R for "strong violence and sensuality, and for drug use and language". It was initially given an NC-17 rating by the MPAA, but under pressure from TriStar, Verhoeven cut 35–40 seconds to gain an R rating. Verhoeven described the changes in a March 1992 article in The New York Times:
Actually, I didnt have to cut many things, but I replaced things from different angles, made it a little more elliptical, a bit less direct.
The film was subsequently re-released in its uncut format on video and later on DVD.
Following the theatrical version, the film was first released in its uncut format in an unrated version onto video in 1992, running at 129 minutes. This was followed by a DVD release in 1997, in a "barebones" format that contained the R-rated version. A Collectors Edition was released on DVD in 2001, containing the uncut version of the film with a commentary by Camille Paglia and an ice-pick pen (the villains weapon of choice). This version of the film, running 127 minutes, was re-released twice: in 2003 and 2006.
In March 2006, the unrated version (also known as the Directors Cut) was re-released on DVD and labeled as the Ultimate Edition. In 2007, the film was released on Blu-ray with the Directors Cut label..
The film was cut by 35–40 seconds to avoid an NC-17 rating on its theatrical release in 1992, with some violence and sexuality explicit content removed. The missing or censored material (later released on video and DVD unrated as the directors cut) included:The murder of Johnny Boz in the opening scene. Instead, the killer is seen stabbing him in his neck, in the chest, and through his nose. In addition, Tramell character is still having violent sex with him while stabbing him at the same time.
The scene where Nick has sex with Beth is cut in the US theatrical version, as he is seen ripping off her clothes and forcing her over the couch, before a cut to the two of them lying on the floor. In the uncut version they are seen having sex.
The scene where Nick and Tramell have sex after going to the club is longer and much more explicit in the uncut version; she is seen fully nude riding him until he reaches orgasm.
The death of Nicks partner, Gus, in the elevator is more graphic. The US version omits shots of Gus being repeatedly stabbed in the neck with blood and gore flying at the camera.
Basic Instinct opened in theaters in the United States and was one of the highest grossing films of 1992, after its March 29 release. In its opening weekend, the film grossed $15 million. It was the fourth highest-grossing film of 1992, grossing $352,927,224 worldwide.
The films critical reaction was mixed. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a score of 54% based on 59 reviews with the 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." On Metacritic the film holds a score of 41 based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average" reviews.
Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised the film, saying "Basic Instinct transfers Mr. Verhoevens flair for action-oriented material to the realm of Hitchcockian intrigue, and the results are viscerally effective even when they dont make sense." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone also praised the film, saying it was a guilty pleasure film; he also expressed admiration for Verhoevens direction, saying "[his] cinematic wet dream delivers the goods, especially when Sharon Stone struts on with enough come-on carnality to singe the screen," and praised Stones performance: "Stone, a former model, is a knockout; she even got a rise out of Ah-nold in Verhoevens Total Recall. But being the bright spot in too many dull movies (He Said, She Said; Irreconcilable Differences) stalled her career. Though Basic Instinct establishes Stone as a bombshell for the Nineties, it also shows she can nail a laugh or shade an emotion with equal aplomb."
The international critical reception was favorable, with Australian critic Shannon J. Harvey of the Sunday Times calling it one of the "1990s finest productions, doing more for female empowerment than any feminist rally. Stone – in her star-making performance – is as hot and sexy as she is ice-pick cold."
The film was not without its detractors. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times dismissed the film, giving it two out of four stars, stating that the film is well crafted, yet dies down in the last half hour: "The film is like a crossword puzzle. It keeps your interest until you solve it. Then its just a worthless scrap with the spaces filled in." Dave Kehr of the Chicago Tribune also gave a negative review, calling it psychologically empty: "Verhoeven does not explore the dark side, but merely exploits it, and that makes all the difference in the world."
The film was nominated for two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes. Jerry Goldsmith, the composer, was nominated for both awards for his original score. It was also nominated for an Edgar Award. Frank Urioste was nominated for an Academy Award for film editing and Sharon Stone was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actress for her performance as Tramell. It was also nominated for three Razzie Awards including Worst Actor (Douglas), Worst Supporting Actress (Tripplehorn) and Worst New Star (Sharon Stones "Tribute to Theodore Cleaver", AKA her pubic hair).
American Film Institute recognitionAFIs 100 Years...100 Thrills - Nominated
AFIs 100 Years...100 Passions - Nominated
AFIs 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains:
Catherine Tramell - Nominated Villain
Basic Instinct and Basic Instinct 2 are part of the same movie series. Sharon Stone appears in Basic Instinct and Sliver. Paul Verhoeven directed Basic Instinct and Showgirls. Color of Night (1994). Michael Douglas appears in Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction.
The film generated controversy due to its overt sexuality and graphic depiction of violence. During principal photography, the film was protested by gay rights activists who felt that the film followed a pattern of negative depiction of homosexuals in film. Members of the lesbian and bisexual activist group LABIA protested against the film on its opening night. Others also picketed theatres to dissuade people from attending screenings, carrying signs saying "Kiss My Ice Pick", "Hollywood Promotes Anti-Gay Violence" and "Catherine Did It!"/"Save Your Money—The Bisexual Did It". Verhoeven himself defended the groups right to protest, however he criticized the disruptions they caused, saying "Fascism is not in raising your voice; the fascism is in not accepting the no." The group GLAAD released a statement accusing the filmmakers of perpetuating homophobic stereotypes; these criticisms were also echoed by bisexuals.
Film critic Roger Ebert mentioned the controversy in his review, saying "As for the allegedly offensive homosexual characters: The movies protesters might take note of the fact that this films heterosexuals, starting with Douglas, are equally offensive. Still, there is a point to be made about Hollywoods unremitting insistence on typecasting homosexuals—particularly lesbians—as twisted and evil." Camille Paglia denounced gay activist and feminist protests against Basic Instinct, and called Sharon Stones performance "one of the great performances by a woman in screen history".
The film was also widely criticized for glamorizing cigarette smoking. Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas was later diagnosed with throat cancer and publicly apologized for glamorizing smoking in his films.