Basic Instinct

Basic Instinct
Basic Instinct

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Produced by Mario Kassar
Alan Marshall
Written by Joe Eszterhas
Starring Michael Douglas
Sharon Stone
George Dzundza
Jeanne Tripplehorn
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Jan de Bont
Editing by Frank J. Urioste
Studio Carolco Pictures
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release date(s) March 20, 1992 (1992-03-20)
Running time 127 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $49 million (estimated)
Box office $352,927,224[1]

Basic Instinct is a 1992 erotic thriller directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Joe Eszterhas, and starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone.

The film centers on 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, the beautiful, mysterious Catherine Tramell (Stone).

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 film's depiction of homosexual relationships and the portrayal of a bisexual woman as a murderous sociopath.[2]

Despite initial critical negativity and public protest, Basic Instinct became one of the most financially successful films of the 1990s.[3] Multiple versions of the film have been released on Videocassette, DVD, and Blu-ray including a director's cut with extended footage previously unseen in North American cinemas. A 2006 sequel, Basic Instinct 2, was critically panned and became a commercial flop.



Sharon Stone as Catherine Tramell, during the interrogation scene.

When rock star Johnny Boz (Bill Cable), is brutally stabbed to death with an ice pick during sex, homicide detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) is sent to investigate. The only suspect is Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), a crime novelist who was the last person to be seen with Boz on the night he died. Nick and his partner, Gus Moran (George Dzundza), visit her Pacific Heights mansion, but they find only Catherine's lesbian lover, Roxy (Leilani Sarelle), who sends them to Catherine's Stinson Beach house. When they ask Catherine about her relationship with Boz, she shows little emotion at hearing he is dead. Nick and Gus, along with their superiors, discover that Catherine has written a novel about a former rock star who was killed in the same way as Boz. During questioning by detectives, including Nick, at police headquarters, Catherine engages in provocative behavior, refuses to extinguish her cigarette and uncrosses her legs under her short skirt which reveals she is not wearing underwear.

Nick, who accidentally shot two people while high on cocaine, attends counseling sessions with police psychologist Dr. Beth Garner (Jeanne Tripplehorn), with whom he has had an affair. After the interrogation, Nick goes to a bar with co-workers and is taunted by Lieutenent Marty Nilsen (Daniel von Bargen), an internal affairs investigator bent on making life difficult for Nick. When Beth arrives, Nick leaves with her, and they have rough sex in her apartment. Nick learns that Catherine has a troubled history: Her parents were killed when she was an adolescent, leaving her a fortune; one of her college counselors was also murdered with an ice pick, and that her fiancé, a boxer, was killed in the ring. He also discovers that Catherine makes a habit of befriending murderers, including a woman who stabbed her husband and children for no apparent reason.

During a visit to her house, Catherine taunts Nick with information that should be confidential. As a police psychologist, Beth is the only person with access to that information. When Nick confronts Beth, she admits that she handed his file to Nilsen, who threatened to discharge Nick if he could not evaluate him directly. An enraged Nick storms into Nilsen's office, assaults him, and accuses him of having sold Nick's file to Catherine. Nilsen then suspends Nick, who goes home and spends the evening drinking. Beth visits him, but after a heated argument, he throws her out. Later that night, Nilsen is found in his car, dead from a single gunshot to the head. Because of their recent altercation, Nick is the prime suspect.

A torrid affair between Nick and Catherine begins with the air of a cat-and-mouse game. Catherine explains that she will base her next novel's character—a cop falling for the wrong woman only to be killed by her—on Nick, while at the same time he declares his love for her and his unchanged intention to nail her for Boz's murder.

A jealous Roxy tries to run Nick over with Catherine's car, but after a car chase she is killed in a crash. Her death reveals that she too has a murderous past. After Roxy's death, Catherine seems genuinely saddened, and Nick begins to doubt her guilt. Catherine later reveals that a previous lesbian encounter at college went awry when the girl became obsessed with her. Nick identifies the girl as Beth Garner, who acknowledges the encounter but claims it was Catherine who became obsessed.

When Nick visits Catherine, she explains that she has finished her book, and coldly ends the affair. Upset, Nick meets Gus, who has arranged to meet with Catherine's college roommate at a hotel. As Nick waits in the car, Gus enters the hotel and is stabbed in the elevator by a hooded figure, in the way described in Catherine's new book. Nick figures out there is trouble brewing and runs into the building, but he arrives too late to save Gus. Hearing the floor creak, Nick grabs Gus' gun and turns to find Beth standing in the hallway, explaining she received a message to meet Gus there. However, Nick suspects that she murdered Gus, and as Beth moves her hand in her pocket, he shoots her. With her final breath, Beth tells Nick that she loved him. A dejected Nick checks her pocket, only to find her keys. The police arrive, and in a staircase discover a blond wig, a SFPD raincoat, and an ice pick, the weapon used to murder Gus, concluding that Beth ditched the items when she heard Nick coming up. A search of Beth's apartment turns up the evidence needed to brand her as the killer of Boz, Gus, Nilsen, and presumably her own husband—the matching revolver, Catherine's novels, and photos chronicling the writer's life.

Nick returns to his apartment where he is met by Catherine. She explains her reluctance to commit to him, but then the two make love. Afterward, the conversation turns toward their possible future as a couple. While talking, Nick turns his back on Catherine as she slowly reaches for something underneath the bed. She stops when Nick senses her stillness; he looks around with distrust in his eyes, and she throws her arms around him and the two resume making love as the camera slowly pans down to show what she was reaching for under the bed: an ice pick.



The screenplay, written sometime in the 1980s, was popular enough to prompt a bidding war; it was eventually purchased by Carolco Pictures, for a reported US$3 million.[4][5] Eszterhas, who wrote the film in 13 days,[6] 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 because Eszterhas and producer Irwin Winkler had walked off the picture after failing to reach agreement with Verhoeven over how the film should be approached. Verhoeven promptly hired Total Recall (1990) writer Goldman to come up with some new scenes, most of which made Douglas' character tougher and less self-destructive.[7] These changes were largely made at Douglas' behest.[7] It was during this stage that Verhoeven realized his changes were not going to work, so he had to publicly make up with Eszterhas. Problems recurred later when Eszterhas wanted to make more changes to appease the gay and lesbian communities. Vterhoeven point-blank refused to incorporate these changes. However, after five months of rewrites, Verhoeven went back to the original script. Original drafts included the concept of the love scene between Nick and Catherine in Catherine's apartment.

The initial production title Love Hurts was quickly changed to Basic Instinct, but was later re-used as the name of Tramell's novel. Tri-Star Pictures, which had the United States distribution deal with Carolco at that time, distributed Basic Instinct. Warner Brothers Pictures hired outside contractors during the production to build the Johnny Boz Club, among other jobs.[7] Adjusted for inflation, the budget of the film was an estimated US$49,000,000.[8]

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. Greta Scacchi[9] and Meg Ryan[10] also turned down the role, as did Michelle Pfeiffer, Geena Davis, Kathleen Turner, Ellen Barkin, and Mariel Hemingway.[4] Verhoeven considered Demi Moore.[11] Stone, who was eventually selected for the role of Catherine Tramell, was a relative unknown until the success of this movie; she was paid a minimal amount of $500,000, considering the film's extensive production budget.


Jennifer Beals, Jennifer Grey, Jamie Lee Curtis, Glenn Close, Ally Sheedy, Diane Keaton, Stockard Channing, Annie Potts, Robin Wright, Nancy Allen, Joan Allen, Rosanna Arquette, Kim Basinger, Ellen Barkin, Patricia Clarkson, Geena Davis, Laura Dern, Linda Fiorentino, Bridget Fonda, Carrie Fisher, Jodie Foster, Melanie Griffith, Linda Hamilton, Daryl Hannah, Helen Hunt, Holly Hunter, Anjelica Huston, Amy Irving, Nicole Kidman, Diane Lane, Christine Lahti, Jessica Lange, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Heather Locklear, Andie MacDowell, Madonna, Virginia Madsen, Demi Moore, Emma Thompson, Uma Thurman, Tatum O'Neal, Annette O'Toole, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Greta Scacchi, Elisabeth Shue, Mary Steenburgen, Julia Roberts, Mimi Rogers, Isabella Rossellini, Meg Ryan, Meryl Streep, Sissy Spacek, Kathleen Turner, Sigourney Weaver and Debra Winger were considered for the role of Catherine Tramell. Kelly Lynch was reportedly offered the role, and Mariel Hemingway, Catherine O'Hara and Kelly McGillis auditioned for it. Lena Olin reportedly wanted the role, but refused to work with Paul Verhoeven.

Wesley Snipes, Richard Dean Anderson, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Jack Nicholson, Charlie Sheen, Richard Gere, John Travolta, Jean Claude Van Damme, Denzel Washington and Kevin Costner were all offered the role of Nick Curran but turned down the role.

Filming commenced on April 5, 1991 and concluded on September 10, 1991.[8] Filming in San Francisco was attended by gay and lesbian rights activists demonstrators[12] and San Francisco Police Department riot police had to be present at every location daily to deal exclusively with the crowd.

In addition, Verhoeven initially fought during the production and filming 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, Ezsterhas and Verhoeven went on to collaborate on Showgirls.


Basic Instinct (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by Various artists
Released March 17, 1992
Genre Soundtrack
Length 57:12
Label Capitol Records

Apart from the film score, professionally released music did not play a major part in Basic Instinct. The prominent music scene 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 also contains excerpts of dialogue, including the interrogation scene.

The soundtrack was released on March 17, 1992. A considerably expanded release of Jerry Goldsmith's score, featuring previously omitted sections and alternative compositions of certain elements, was issued by Prometheus Records in 2004.

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

  1. "Main Title" 2:13
  2. "Crossed Legs" 4:49
  3. "Night Life" 6:03
  4. "Kitchen Help" 3:58
  5. "Pillow Talk" 4:59
  6. "Morning After" 2:29
  7. "The Games Are Over" 5:53
  8. "Catherine's Sorrow" 2:41
  9. "Roxy Loses" 3:37
  10. "Unending Story / End Credits" 9:23

The Complete Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

  1. "Main Title" 2:13
  2. "First Victim" 1:39
  3. "Catherine & Roxy" 5:14
  4. "Shadows" 0:41
  5. "Profile" 0:49
  6. "Don't Smoke" 2:26
  7. "Crossed Legs" 4:49
  8. "Beth & Nick" 2:21
  9. "Night Life" 6:03
  10. "Home Visit" 1:13
  11. "Your Wife Knew" 1:44
  12. "Untitled" 0:52
  13. "That's Real Music" 0:27
  14. "One Shot" 1:27
  15. "Kitchen Help" 3:58
  16. "Pillow Talk" 4:59
  17. "Morning After" 2:29
  18. "Roxy Loses" 3:37
  19. "Catherine's Sorrow" 2:41
  20. "Wrong Name" 2:22
  21. "She's Really Sick" 1:31
  22. "It Won't Sell" 1:02
  23. "Games Are Over" 5:53
  24. "Evidence" 1:39
  25. "Unending Story / End Credits" 9:23
  26. "First Victim (alternate version)" 1:34

The score to Basic Instinct garnered Goldsmith nominations for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award.[13] Goldsmith described it as one of his most challenging efforts, later stating, "Basic Instinct was probably the most difficult I've ever done. It's a very convoluted story with very unorthodox characters. It's a murder mystery, but it isn't 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 it's one of the best scores I've ever written. It was a true collaboration."[14]

MPAA rating

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 to 40 seconds to gain an R rating.[4] Verhoeven described the changes in a March 1992 article in The New York Times:

Actually, I didn't have to cut many things, but I replaced things from different angles, made it a little more elliptical, a bit less direct.[4]

The film was subsequently re-released in its uncut format on video and later on DVD.

Critical reception

Director, producer and stars Sharon Stone, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Michael Douglas at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival.

The film was entered into the 1992 Cannes Film Festival.[15]

The film's critical reaction was mixed. Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised the film, saying "Basic Instinct transfers Mr. Verhoeven's flair for action-oriented material to the realm of Hitchcockian intrigue, and the results are viscerally effective even when they don't make sense."[16] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone also praised the film, saying it was a guilty pleasure film, he also expressed admiration for Verhoeven's 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 Stone's performance: "Stone, a former model, is a knockout; she even got a rise out of Ah-nold in Verhoeven's 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."[17]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Filmtracks 4/5 stars link

The film was not without its detractors.[18] 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, by the ending. Then it's just a worthless scrap with the spaces filled in."[19] On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a score of 63%.

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."[20]

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.[18] 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 Stone's "Tribute to Theodore Cleaver", AKA her vagina).[citation needed]

The film was widely criticized for glamorizing cigarette smoking. Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas was later diagnosed with throat cancer and publicly apologized for glamorizing smoking in his films.[21]

Box office performance

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 ninth highest-grossing film of 1992, adjusted for inflation, it grossed $352,927,224 worldwide.

Releases and versions

Following the theatrical version, the film was first released in its uncut format onto video in 1992, running at 129 minutes. This was followed by a DVD release in 1997, in a barebones format. A "Collector's Edition" setup was released on DVD in 2001, containing the Special Edition of the DVD and an ice-pick pen (the villain's weapon of choice). This version of the film, running 127 minutes, was re-released twice: in 2003 and 2006.[verification needed]

In March 2006, an unrated director's cut version was released on DVD and labeled "Ultimate Edition". In 2007, the film was released in Blu-ray Disc format with the "Director's Cut" label as well. All three of these director's cut versions have a stated runtime of 128 minutes.

The film was cut by 35–40 seconds to avoid an NC-17 rating on its theatrical release in 1992,[4] with some violence and sexuality explicit content removed. The missing or censored material (later released on video and DVD as the director's cut) included:

  • The murder of Johnny Boz in the opening scene. Instead, the killer is seen stabbing him in his neck, in the chest, in the face, and through his nose. In addition, Sharon Stone's character is still having violent sex with him while stabbing him at the same time.
  • The scene where Nick almost rapes Beth is cut in the US theatrical version (he is seen ripping off her underwear and forcing her over the couch, then there's a cut to the two of them lying on the floor). In the uncut version Nick pulls down his pants, exposing his rear, penetrates Beth from behind as she reaches orgasm.
  • The scene where Nick and Catherine have sex after going to the club is longer and much more explicit in the uncut version (Nick is seen burying his face between her legs).
  • The death of Nick's 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.


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 the film industry.[22] Members of the lesbian and bisexual activist group LABIA protested against the film on its opening night. The group GLAAD released a statement accusing the filmmakers of perpetuating homophobic stereotypes. These criticisms were echoed by bisexuals.

Film critic Roger Ebert mentioned the controversy in his review, saying "As for the allegedly offensive homosexual characters: The movie's protesters might take note of the fact that this film's heterosexuals, starting with Douglas, are equally offensive. Still, there is a point to be made about Hollywood's unremitting insistence on typecasting homosexuals—particularly lesbians—as twisted and evil."[23] Camille Paglia denounced gay activist and feminist protests against Basic Instinct, and called Sharon Stone's performance "one of the great performances by a woman in screen history".[24]


  1. ^ Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 22, 2011.
  2. ^ Censored Films and Television at University of Virginia online
  3. ^ Basic Instinct at Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 5, 2007.
  4. ^ a b c d e Weinraub, Bernard (March 15, 1992). "'Basic Instinct': The Suspect Is Attractive, and May Be Fatal". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-09. "But the sexual content of the film helped determine the choice of its female star. Ms. Stone, who played Arnold Schwarzenegger's wife in 'Total Recall', was cast in 'Basic Instinct' only after better-known actresses like Michelle Pfeiffer, Kim Basinger, Geena Davis, Ellen Barkin and Mariel Hemingway rejected her part, largely because it demanded so much nudity and sexual simulation." 
  5. ^ Basic Instinct at UK Critic. Retrieved November 5, 2007.
  6. ^ Joe Eszterhas interview at Moviemaker. Retrieved November 4, 2007.
  7. ^ a b c Basic Instinct (1992) – Trivia from Internet Movie Database
  8. ^ a b Basic Instinct (1992) – Box office / business from the Internet Movie Database
  9. ^ Greta Scacchi, a BBC Drama Faces article
  10. ^ Meg Ryan: In The Cut (Interviewed by Stephen Applebaum), an October 2003 BBC article
  11. ^ Bryce Hallett (10 February 2001). "Her world's a stage". Sydney Morning Herald: p. 3. 
  12. ^ cite video | title = Basic Instinct (Making of, The) | publisher=20th Century Fox |date=2001}}
  13. ^ Basic Instinct soundtrack review at
  14. ^ Velez, Andy. "Evening the Score" Jerry Goldsmith interview. Barnes & Noble. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
  15. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Basic Instinct". Retrieved 2009-08-13. 
  16. ^ Maslin, Janet. Basic Instinct. New York Times. Retrieved November 5, 2007.
  17. ^ Travers, Peter. Basic Instinct. Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 10, 2011.
  18. ^ a b Lundin, Leigh (2010-07-25). "Erotic Mystery Thrillers". sex-n-violence. Criminal Brief. 
  19. ^ Reviews :: Basic Instinct from Roger Ebert's website
  20. ^ Basic Instinct at Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 5, 2007.
  21. ^ Ball, Ian (August 22, 2002). "A smoking star is a loaded gun". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  22. ^ Los Angeles Times, April 29, 1991: Gays Bashing Basic Instinct. See also Phyllis Burke, Family Values: Two Moms and Their Son. New York: Random House (1993), which covers the protests over several chapters.
  23. ^ "Basic Instinct". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  24. ^ Paglia, Camille. Vamps & Tramps: New Essays. London: Penguin Books, 1994. p. 489

External links

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