A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- In theaters: March 20, 1992
- On DVD or streaming: December 16, 2003
- Cast: Jeanne Tripplehorn, Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone
- Director: Paul Verhoeven
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence and sensuality, and for drug use and language.
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch