Borderline porn cult "hit" with drugs, rape, topless fights.
  • Review Date: March 12, 2010
  • Rated: NC-17
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1995
  • Running Time: 131 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Theme about a strong woman holding on to her integrity and not lowering herself to become a "whore" even though mired in the sex-show trade. But the whole movie is so sleazy it strongly gives the opposite message. Nomi's moral victory: abandoning her topless career to avenge (toplessly) her one true friend.

Positive role models

Only one character, Molly, seems thoroughly decent (though she works backstage on an upscale sex show), and her "reward" is assault and rape. Brash heroine Nomi is repeatedly disparaged as a "whore," a label she fights (but third-act revelation is that she really is one, with a rap sheet). Plenty of negative racial stereotyping to go around:  Asians are shown as leering businessmen, etc.


A (topless) kickboxing attack. A young woman is beaten and gang-raped. Backstage catfighting, reckless driving, bad falls on the dance floor and backstage (some caused deliberately).


Extensive female nakedness -- full-frontal and back-end -- or barely-there attire. Some rear-end nudity of the male lead. Sex, graphic pole dancing, lapdancing, and topless Vegas production numbers that are unsubtle mimicry of oral sex, even rape. Prostitution.


Comprehensive, with versions of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "p---y," "t--s." Two small children of a showgirl hear the f-word backstage and cry.


Numerous Las Vegas real-life casinos, restaurants, and attractions in the backdrop. A strong materialist vibe puts emblems of hot cars, boats, and fashion in your face. The clothing label Versace is a running detail. Mention of Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul and the Alvin Ailey dance company.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Plenty of cocaine-snorting (though heroine Nomi abstains, she turns out to be a past crack user), talk of marijuana. Social and recreational drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this film was adults-only for a reason. As Showgirls gradually enters into the nudie-show environment, topless dancing and sex (often in combo, a la prostitution) become frequent and stop just short of hardcore pornography. Violence includes a brutal gang rape of a sympathetic female character and a man is also beaten viciously. Practically every nasty word there is comes out at one point or another. Characters are stereotyped. A "milder" R-rated cut is available,  but this is a review of the more widely available NC-17 movie.

What's the story?

Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley), a young, attractive, and assertive drifter covering up her troubled past, hitchhikes to Las Vegas only to be robbed of her meager possessions. Nomi finds sanctuary sharing a trailer with Molly (Gina Ravera), a kind-hearted costumer who works on "Goddess," an erotic-topless musical revue in one of the biggest gambling casinos. Nomi dreams of dancing in a show like that, but meanwhile earns money as a stripper and lapdancer at a raunchy night club called Cheetah's. Crystal (Gina Gershon), the haughty star showgirl who headlines in "Goddess" finds out about Nomi and loses no opportunity to try and humiliate the hopeful newcomer, as Nomi rises through the ranks of topless-showgirl-dom and is drawn into an affair with Crystal's steady boyfriend (Kyle MacLachlan), a powerful casino executive.

Is it any good?


Notorious even before premiering, SHOWGIRLS tested the MPAA NC-17 rating for adults-only material. NC-17 got stamped on arty/indie film before; this was the first time a mainstream NC-17 blockbuster went wide with an ad blitz. Alas, the same "edgy" guys who made Basic Instinct went to extremes of bad taste with this flagrantly borderline-porno; a stew of stripper-stardom, drugs, ghastly boyfriends,  betrayal, and bare booties/breasts. It pretends to be a moral story of an indominatable girl resisting 100 percent degredation and exploitation -- but hey, this is about topless Vegas dancers (she bails at about 99.05234 percent degredation).

Between stripper-hookers, promoter-pimps, hateful choreographers, and creepy gay chorus boys there's nobody to root for -- but everybody worked hard on the dancing,  obviously. Critics were near-universal in their hatred -- a merciful Roger Ebert judged Showgirls bad but never boring, and some call it a "cult" film. It still failed to bring real usefulness to the NC-17 other than to make everyone take notice of a movie best forgotten. And quickly.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the choices Nomi and the other characters make. What (if anything) ennobles Nomi as more heroic than the other showgirls?

  • Themes of backstabbing women in the same profession are handled much better in the classic All About Eve. Which movie seems more realistic?

  • Why do you think this movie is NC-17? Did it dissuade viewers from seeing it? Find out more about ratings controveries in the mature documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 22, 1995
DVD release date:July 17, 2007
Cast:Elizabeth Berkley, Gina Gershon, Kyle MacLachlan
Director:Paul Verhoeven
Run time:131 minutes
MPAA rating:NC-17
MPAA explanation:nudity and erotic sexuality throughout, and for some graphic language and sexual violence.

This review of Showgirls 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

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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

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

Teen, 13 years old Written byThreeDaysGracesGirl October 26, 2010
@zombieslaya: You're disgusting. Get off this website. I wouldn't let my kid see this. I don't know what to rate this... so... I guess I'll rate it a 4 star. ... I'll be honest... I wanna see it...
Parent of a 14 year old Written byTheGman447 October 25, 2010

VERY BAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

LOADS of sex and drugs, lots of naked women and rape and swears and drugs, THIS is a very inappropriate movie for everybody under 17!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 11 years old August 26, 2011

this isn't a parenting movie retards:P

I watched this movie before with my cousin and it was really disgusting. I dont think that parents should let their kids watch it ESPECIALLY if theyre gonna watch it'll be awkward. and if youre trying to teach your kid about sex... TEACH THEM YOURSELF! and there are alot of other movies and shows that help with that. like seriously... dont watch this with your kids unless you want them to start liking porn:P
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide