Generally unfavorable reviews - based on 20 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 20
  2. Negative: 8 out of 20
  1. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    Grade-A pulp fiction. This erotically charged thriller about the search for an ice-pick murderer in San Francisco rivets attention through its sleek style, attractive cast doing and thinking kinky things, and story, which is as weirdly implausible as it is intensely visceral.
  2. 75
    The film is for horny pups of all ages who relish the memory of reading stroke books under the covers with a flashlight. Verhoeven has spent $49 million to reproduce that dirty little thrill on the big screen.
  3. Beneath its heavy-breathing fripperies, though, Basic Instinct is mechanical and routine, a muddle of Hitchcockian red herrings and standard cop-thriller ballistics.
  4. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    The film never makes total sense, but at its best (the first half-hour), it comes closer to solidly junky titillation than the hapless Final Analysis. [20 Mar 1992, Life, p.1D]
  5. 50
    The film is like a crossword puzzle. It keeps your interest until you solve it. Then it's just a worthless scrap with the spaces filled in.
  6. Uninvolving. Even the sex is boring. Are these scenes supposed to be wildly erotic? If they are, they don't work. [20 Mar 1992, Daily Notebook, p.D1]
  7. Reviewed by: Staff (Non Credited)
    The worst things about Basic Instinct, though, are the explicit "love" scenes. They're supposed to contribute to a heady equation in which sex, violence and psychology are fused; instead, they're gratuitous, exploitative, and entirely unerotic.
  8. Reviewed by: Kathleen Maher
    Verhoeven's film is fascinating, if stupid and stylish, if shallow. The story has to move along at a fair clip because otherwise we'd notice how nonsensical it all is. And there is very little to connect with emotionally.
  9. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    This reflects its fundamental flaw of arrogance, a smug faith in the ability of its own speed, smartness and luxe to wow the yokels. [23 Mar 1992, p.65]
  10. Despite (or maybe because of) his obligatory nods to Hitchcock, this is slick and entertaining enough to work quite effectively as thriller porn, even with two contradictory denouements to its mystery (take your pick--or rather, your ice pick).
  11. Reviewed by: Mark Dinning
    There’s still a guilty pleasure to be had in the ludicrous sex scenes (either we’re doing it very wrong, or Sharon Stone suffers from the most melodramatic orgasms known to womankind) and in Michael Douglas’ spectacular tank tops, of course.
  12. A reminder of the difference between exhilaration and exhaustion, between tension and hysteria, between eroticism and exhibitionism. The line may be fine, but it is real enough to separate the great thrillers from the also-rans. And Basic Instinct is not a great thriller. [20 Mar 1992, Calendar, p.F-1]
  13. Verhoeven's lurid thriller has moments of welcome self-parody, but most of the action manages to be sensationalistic, homophobic, and tedious at the same time. [20 Mar 1992, Arts, p.12]
  14. The $3 million reportedly paid for Mr. Eszterhas's screenplay did not buy a coherent ending.
  15. What isn't so fascinating is this movie's absurdity of motivation. No one does anything that makes sense. No one seems real. When the actual perpetrator is uncovered, there is no enlightenment as to why the killing occurred.
  16. 25
    Verhoeven does not explore the dark side, but merely exploits it, and that makes all the difference in the world. [20 Mar 1992, Friday, p.C]
  17. 20
    What we have here is a movie with not just one, but a family pack of psychos.
  18. It's just one more dunk in the slime pit of exploitation. [13 Apr 1992, p.26]
  19. Reviewed by: Terrence Rafferty
    A vicious, grindingly manipulative urban mystery that uses a thick atmosphere of S & M kinkiness to distract the audience from the story's thinness and inanity.
  20. A perverse, lame-brained thriller that is pornographic, misogynist and homophobic. If that makes it sound appealing, I should also add that it's silly, boring and intellectually insulting.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 57 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 18
  2. Negative: 6 out of 18
  1. Jan 28, 2013
    Here we have a typical erotic-thriller which works (Besides the plot holes, and the unbelievable actions some characters make), because Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas were looking good, and had some screen-chemistry. The script (while nothing special) creates enough tension to keep you watch the whole movie, but the ending is confusing and disappointing. Full Review »
  2. Jan 27, 2013
    Basic Instinct broke new ground like no other thriller - it combined erotic, full-on action with great performances, sexy characters and a breath-taking soundtrack. Verhoeven ramped up his in-your-face style with original cinematography using new and different camera angles which were confronting but always highly seductive. Sharon Stone delivers an empowered performance unlike any female character seen before. She is hot, sexy, beguiling and enticing, with occasional unexpected vulnerability. The film is visually attractive and, while slightly predictable, takes you on a fantastic ride right till the last minute. Far and away the most powerful character is Jerry Goldsmith's brilliant, exceptional, original soundtrack - always reminding you of the risks and pleasures inherent in the storyline. His music is complex, fresh and daring from the opening scene to the credits. Full Review »
  3. Mar 20, 2011
    I felt like I was watching a porno, with the same production value and cheap plot. The sex scenes were entirely over the top, and the movie was extremely predictable. Pretty much a waste of 2 hours. Full Review »