Basic Instinct Movie Poster Image

Basic Instinct



Excessive whodunit is definitely not for kids.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 1992
  • Running Time: 123 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Characters manipulate one another repeatedly, heavy drug use.


Graphic depictions of stabbings and gun violence. A rape.


Female nudity (including full frontal), male buttocks, several instances of intercourse, S&M, stereotypical lesbian characters.


Mostly sexual in nature.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Main characters drink and use cocaine.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this film is about a murderer who kills people with an ice pick. There are many scenes involving full female nudity and male-female intercourse. The main characters drink heavily and use cocaine, and the male protagonist sexually assaults a main female character.

What's the story?

This over-the-top murder mystery features a bisexual blonde bombshell that may or may not be murdering people with an ice pick. Sharon Stone plays author Catherine Trammell with exuberance, adding a layer of irony to the stereotypical femme fatale role. Her foil, San Francisco police detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas), is enchanted with her and starts drinking, smoking, and snorting cocaine as he copes with his feelings for a woman who is likely a murderess.

Is it any good?


A familiar scenario -- poor put-upon cop and his deadly, beautiful seducer -- is played to the hilt here. BASIC INSTINCT is nothing if not a hardboiled mystery movie taken through the roof with more sex, drugs, and bloody stabbings than are appropriate for younger viewers (or even many older viewers, for that matter).

It also suffers from an overuse of stereotypes. The film's treatment of female characters become (more) offensive when the detective manipulates, beats, and degrades Dr. Garner. This female character is devoted to him and risks her well-being to protect him from an overzealous police commission, even as Nick humiliates her at work and in the bedroom. Catherine Trammell's lesbian relationship is mostly ignored in favor of depicting her bedroom romps with the detective. Nevertheless, it's hard to overlook the film's use of the murderous lesbian stereotype because Catherine and her girlfriend are murder suspects throughout. The twisty-turny plot is enough to make this a compelling enough movie, yet a reliance on sex and violence clutters it.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the choices that Detective Curran makes in the film. How might his drinking and drug use have influenced his decision-making? Families might also discuss Detective Curran's relationship with Dr. Garner. Did he treat her fairly? Was she right to risk her job for him? Parents could also talk about the depiction of Catherine Trammell. Do you think she "did it"? Do you think she cared about the detective or was just manipulating him?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 20, 1992
DVD/Streaming release date:December 16, 2003
Cast:Jeanne Tripplehorn, Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone
Director:Paul Verhoeven
Run time:123 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong violence and sensuality, and for drug use and language.

This review of Basic Instinct was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Psycho Poster Image
    Classic Hitchcock horror masterpiece still thrills.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Adult Written byDean-Monroe January 23, 2011
Truly an amazing movie with an amazing cast. Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone had such a strong chemistry on screen it was amazing.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 16 year old Written bydeanmonroe January 21, 2011
Love it.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written bylaughingbear. August 30, 2009


it was good but for older crowd
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex