The film was heavily criticized in Holland. Many critics accused the film of being anti-women, anti-gay, anti-invalid, and anti-Chistian. They also called it devoid of morals and needlessly decadent. This criticism was one of the contributing factors in Paul Verhoeven's decision to begin making films in America rather than his native land. In fact, on the film's commentary track Verhoeven states that the reason he was not fazed by the negative criticism of his film Showgirls (1995) was because he'd already been through it with Spetters (1980).
The first version of the screenplay was rejected by a Dutch movie foundation for being too vulgar. The script was re-written and funding was obtained, but in reality, Paul Verhoeven simply used the original screenplay as shooting script.
The suits worn by the three protagonists during motocross racing reflect their nature: Rien, the most talented and valiant of the three, is dressed in white; Eef, the ambivalent one, is two-colored (red and black); and Hans, the fool and coward, wears yellow.
The racing scene was Paul Verhoeven's homage to the chariot race from Ben-Hur (1959), and contains several direct references to this scene, such as the initial presentation of the contenders, and several accidents occurring during the race.
The first movie by Paul Verhoeven and Gerard Soeteman that was not produced by Rob Houwer. They left Houwer over the many artistic and financial arguments they had had over the years, and went to Joop van den Ende, who was pretty much the only other large producer in the Netherlands who could secure the necessary budget at the time.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Actor Hans van Tongeren, who played Rien in the film, tragically committed suicide after the release of the film. This is a strange parallel to his character in the film, who commits suicide after becoming paralyzed.
In the barfight scene you can see a glass of beer is thrown at the back of the head of Eef (Toon Achterberg). It was director Verhoeven throwing it at him and Toon Agterberg was injured and needed stitches after this scene was done.
The subway tunnel where the rape of Eef was filmed was not a set, but a genuine tunnel under construction. The professional guards who protected the place had to be lured away in order to shoot the scene.
Paul Verhoeven had originally intended to make Rien's death very gruesome. The scene would have gone as far as showing paramedics removing parts of his body from the truck's tires, but Verhoeven reconsidered after negative response from his crew.