A violent police detective investigates a brutal murder that might involve a manipulative and seductive novelist.


Paul Verhoeven


Joe Eszterhas
665 ( 136)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 21 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Douglas ... Detective Nick Curran
Sharon Stone ... Catherine Tramell
George Dzundza ... Gus Moran
Jeanne Tripplehorn ... Dr. Beth Garner
Denis Arndt ... Lieutenant Walker
Leilani Sarelle ... Roxy Hardy
Bruce A. Young ... Andrews
Chelcie Ross ... Captain Talcott
Dorothy Malone ... Hazel Dobkins
Wayne Knight ... John Correli
Daniel von Bargen ... Lieutenant Nilsen (as Daniel Von Bargen)
Stephen Tobolowsky ... Dr. Lamott
Benjamin Mouton ... Harrigan
Jack McGee ... Sheriff
Bill Cable Bill Cable ... Johnny Boz


A former rock star, Johnny Boz, is brutally killed during sex, and the case is assigned to detective Nick Curran of the SFPD. During the investigation, Nick meets Catherine Tramell, a crime novelist who was Boz's girlfriend when he died. Catherine proves to be a very clever and manipulative woman, and though Nick is more or less convinced that she murdered Boz, he is unable to find any evidence. Later, when Nilsen, Nick's rival in the police, is killed, Nick suspects of Catherine's involvement in it. He then starts to play a dangerous lust-filled mind game with Catherine to nail her, but as their relationship progresses, the body count rises and contradicting evidences force Nick to start questioning his own suspicions about Catherine's guilt. Written by Soumitra

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Flesh seduces. Passion kills. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence and sensuality, and for drug use and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


There has been some confusion as to whether or not Sharon Stone knew her exposed vagina was being filmed during the interrogation scene, but she admitted in interviews that the scene was appropriate for the movie and noted that if she had been the director, she would have left it in too. See more »


A police department would not let people lead investigations that they blatantly have conflicts of interest with. See more »


[first lines]
Gus: Who was this fuckin' guy?
Nick: Rock and roll, Gus. Johnny Boz.
Gus: Never heard of him.
Nick: Before your time, cowboy.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The European release is much more explicit than the American release (which had to be submitted seven times to the MPAA in order to avoid an NC-17 rating). The European version is available unrated on video in the US. The US version uses alternate, less explicit takes of several scenes to tone down the sex content.
  • The murder of Johnny Boz in the opening scene is more graphic; we see the killer stabbing him in his neck, stabbing him repeatedly in the chest, in the face and we see the ice-pick passing through his nose.
  • The scene where Nick rapes Beth is severely cut in the US version (we see ripping off her underwear and forcing her over the couch, then there's a cut to the two of them lying in bed). In the uncut version Nick pulls down his pants, penetrates Beth from behind and he apparently has an orgasm.
  • The scene where Nick and Catherine make love after going to the disco is longer much more explicit in the uncut version (Nick is seen burying his face between her legs).
See more »


Referenced in Museo Coconut: Hipopotomostrosesquipedaliosfobia (2010) See more »


Rave the Rhythm
Performed by Channel X
Written by Nikkie van Lierop (as Van Lierop), Praga Khan (as Khan) and Olivier Adams (as Adams)
Courtesy of Beat Box/Antler-Subway Records
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User Reviews

Problematic but Intelligent thriller about the the relationship between audience and cinema
30 January 2005 | by longtakeSee all my reviews

Basic Instinct was an entry into the neo-noir genre of the 90's (The Last Seduction, Fatal Attraction etc ) that tried to update 40's/50's American film noir as well as bringing in elements of Hitchcock's Vertigo. On this level Basic Instinct is a brilliant conveyor of noir themes that portrays an unstable detective out of control in an intricate unfathomable plot with a femme fatale, Hollywood mansions, dark shadowy rooms, smart cynical dialogue and smoking. It is also flawed on this level with its unnatural characterisation. However, the artificiality of the plot, genre, characterisations and the look creates a distance between the viewer and the film. When you take this into account along with the constant references to watching in the film, outlined below, the film moves to a different level. It is no longer about whether Catherine Tramell is the killer but is more about the spectatorial process of watching a (Hollywood) film.

For example, Catherine Tramell(Sharon Stone) is a writer whose murder plots exactly follow the murders that occur in the film. Her coolness and openness about these killings gives her a sense of being in control of Nick Curran's(Michael Douglas) destiny. In this way, she is like cinema itself spinning a predetermined plot line that the audience represented by Douglas just follows.

Throughout the film, the detective seems resigned to his lack of control, totally in awe of Catherine Tramell ready to go along with her. This is similar to the way the audience submits itself inside the cinema to the control that the screen exerts. However just as we do, Curran attempts to predetermine the plot with his own expectations. He tells Tramell that he has his own idea how it will end - "The cop survives" - The final question of "What do we do now, Nick?" is met with "F*** like minxes, raise rug rats, live happily ever after." another idealistic expectation of the cinema audience. However the ambiguous final shot reminds us that Douglas/the audience may not get the ending he wants - only cinema decides whether that ice pick under the bed will be used.

Another parallel with the cinema experience is the way Nick Curran seems to identify with Tramell. At the start he is a recovered smoker and drinker and Tramell gets him to start again. Over the course of the film his attraction to Tramell's character makes him take on more and more of her traits - aggressive sexuality, risk taking, use of her dialogue and more and more leaps into fantasy. He is almost merging with her and this is reflected in his interrogation scene being shot identically to Tramell's earlier one. Again this development mirrors the way cinema audiences identify with the film narrative. The Hollywood ideal is that the viewer leaves his/her outside of the cinema in order to temporarily identify with the fantasy characters on screen.

Another main aspect of the cinema experience touched on here is the voyeuristic process of watching itself. Curran is constantly in a spectatorial position. It is most obvious where he watches Tramell through a window that looks like a cinema screen itself. Another scene where he is trying to find out about Tramell on a computer sees him reprimanded by a colleague for "jacking off to the screen". This likens Douglas to an audience member watching the film in a similarly voyeuristic way. This is the reason why Hitchcock is such a strong influence on this film - these are classic Hitchcockian themes.

My final comparison is the bi-directional aspect of cinema touched on in the film. The interrogation scene where Tramell manipulates the audience of detectives is the only time where Tramell has point of view, reminding us that cinema watches and manipulates us as well. Also the fact that throughout Tramell knows so much about Detective Curran's past is a similar device. Tramell uses what she knows about Curran to make her murder work, just as Hollywood exploits what it knows about our desires of movies in order to sell us their product. (And those desires may have been partly contrived by Hollywood).

The female murderers (who look like old film stars) that Tramell hangs around with represent other archetypal Hollywood stories - maybe these could have been other films that Nick Curran watched before when he took up smoking before.

Is it a coincidence that the words "cinema theatre" can be found in the name Catherine Tramell and the word "audience" can be found in "Detective Nick Curran" ?


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Frequently Asked Questions

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USA | France



Release Date:

20 March 1992 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Love Hurts See more »

Filming Locations:

Carmel, California, USA See more »


Box Office


$49,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$15,129,385, 22 March 1992

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Carolco Pictures, Canal+ See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (unrated)

Sound Mix:

Dolby SR | LC-Concept Digital Sound (France)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »

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