Basic Instinct is a 1992 neo-noir erotic thriller film directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Joe Eszterhas, and starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone. The film follows a police detective, Nick Curran (Douglas), who is investigating the brutal murder of a wealthy rock star. During the investigation Curran becomes involved in a torrid and intense relationship with the prime suspect, Catherine Tramell (Stone), an enigmatic writer.
Even before its release, Basic Instinct generated heated controversy due to its overt sexuality and graphic depiction of violence. It was strongly opposed by gay rights activists, who criticized the film's depiction of homosexual relationships and the portrayal of a bisexual woman as a murderous narcissistic psychopath. In a 2006 interview, Stone alleged that the infamous leg-crossing scene in which her vulva was exposed was filmed without her knowledge.
Despite initial critical negativity and public protest, Basic Instinct became one of the most financially successful films of the 1990s, grossing $352 million worldwide. Several versions of the film have been released on videocassette, DVD, and Blu-ray including a director's cut with extended footage previously unseen in North American cinemas. The film has contemporarily been recognized for its groundbreaking depictions of sexuality in mainstream Hollywood cinema, and has been referred to by scholars as "a neo-noir masterpiece that plays with, and transgresses, the narrative rules of film noir." A 2006 sequel, Basic Instinct 2 starring Stone was made without Verhoeven's involvement, but received negative reviews from critics and was unsuccessful at the box office.
A retired rock star, Johnny Boz, is tied to his bed with a white silk scarf and stabbed to death with an ice pick during sex by a mysterious blonde woman at his apartment. Homicide detective Nick Curran investigates, and the only suspect is Catherine Tramell, Boz's bisexual girlfriend and a crime novelist who has written a novel that mirrors the crime. It is concluded that either Catherine herself did it or someone is trying to frame her out of spite. Tramell is uncooperative and taunting in the investigation, smoking in the interrogation room and exposing her bare genitalia in front of the officers. She presents alibis and passes a lie detector test. Nick discovers that Catherine has a habit of befriending murderers, including her girlfriend Roxy, who is later shown to have murdered several young boys on impulse, and Hazel Dobkins, who murdered her family.
Nick, who accidentally shot two tourists while high on cocaine, attends counseling sessions with police psychologist Dr. Beth Garner, with whom he has had a sexual affair. Nick discovers that Catherine plans on using him as a fictional detective in her latest book, wherein his character is murdered after falling for the wrong woman. Catherine becomes aware of Nick's past after paying Lt. Nielsen to look into Nick's psychiatric file; Beth gives it to him after Nielsen recommends Nick's termination. Nick publicly assaults Nielsen in his office and later becomes a prime suspect after Nielsen is killed. Nick suspects Catherine, and when he joins in her behavior in front of his co-workers, he is put on leave.
A torrid affair between Nick and Catherine begins with the air of a cat-and-mouse game. Nick shows up at a club and witnesses her sniffing coke in a bathroom stall along with Roxy and another man. Nick and Catherine begin to dance and make out at a club. Later, observed by Roxy, they have sex. Catherine ties Nick to her bed with a white silk scarf and begins riding on him the same way she did with Boz, but doesn't kill him. Roxy, jealous of Nick, attempts to run him over with Catherine's car, but dies in a crash when the car goes off the edge of the road. Catherine is saddened by Roxy's death and reveals to Nick that a previous lesbian encounter at college went awry when the girl, Lisa Hoberman, became obsessed with her, causing him to believe that she may not have killed Boz. Nick identifies the girl as Beth Garner, who acknowledges the encounter, but claims Catherine was the one who became obsessed.
Nick discovers the final pages of Catherine's new book in which the fictional detective finds his partner lying dead with his legs protruding between the doors of an elevator. Catherine breaks off their affair; Nick becomes upset and suspicious. Nick later meets his partner Gus, who has arranged to meet with Catherine's college roommate at an office building to find out what really went on between Catherine and Beth. As Nick waits in the car, Gus is stabbed to death with an ice pick. Nick runs into the building, only to find Gus' legs protruding from the doors of the elevator. Beth, standing in the hallway, explains that she received a message to meet Gus.