Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Paul Verhoeven|
|Produced by||Lynn Ehrensperger
|Written by||Joe Eszterhas|
|Music by||David A. Stewart|
|Editing by||Mark Goldblatt
|Distributed by||MGM/UA Distribution Co.
|Running time||131 minutes|
|Box office||$137,702,961 (Worldwide including rental revenue)|
Showgirls is a 1995 American drama film directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring former teen actress Elizabeth Berkley, Kyle MacLachlan, and Gina Gershon. The film centers around a "street-smart" drifter who ventures to Las Vegas and climbs the seedy hierarchy from stripper to showgirl.
Produced on a then-sizable budget of approximately $45 million, significant controversy and hype surrounding the film's amounts of sex and nudity preceded its theatrical release. In the United States, the film was rated NC-17 for "nudity and erotic sexuality throughout, some graphic language and sexual violence." Showgirls was the first NC-17 rated film to be given a wide release in mainstream theaters. Distributor United Artists dispatched several hundred staffers to theaters across North America playing Showgirls in order to ensure that patrons would not be sneaking into the theater from other films, and to make sure the film-goers were over the age of 17. Audience restriction due to the NC-17 rating coupled with the extremely poor reviews the film received resulted in a box office take of slightly less than $38 million.
Despite a poor theatrical and critical consensus, Showgirls enjoyed success on the home video market, generating more than $100 million from video rentals allowing the film to turn a healthy profit and became one of MGM's top 20 all-time bestsellers. For its video premiere, Verhoeven prepared an R-rated cut for rental outlets that would not carry NC-17 films. This edited version runs 3 minutes shorter (128 minutes) and deletes some of the more graphic footage. While it has been consistently ranked as one of the worst films ever made, Showgirls has become regarded as a cult classic and was released on Blu-ray in June 2010.
A spin-off sequel, Showgirls 2: Penny's from Heaven, focused on the minor character Penny played by Rena Riffel and also written, produced, and directed by Riffel, was released direct-to-video in 2011.
Nomi Malone is a hot young drifter who hitchhikes to Las Vegas hoping to make it as a showgirl. After being cheated of her money by Jeff, who gave her a lift, Nomi meets Molly Abrams, a seamstress and costume designer who takes her in as a roommate. Molly invites Nomi backstage at Goddess, the Stardust Casino show where she works, to meet Cristal Connors, the diva-like star of the topless dance revue. When Nomi tells Cristal she dances at Cheetah's Topless Club, Cristal derisively tells her that what she does is akin to prostitution. This makes Nomi furious, and sparks a rivalry. When Nomi is too upset to go to work that night, Molly takes her dancing at The Holbank Pinks Club, where James Smith works as a bouncer. James asks Nomi to dance with him, and when he criticizes her dancing, she kicks him in the groin. James falls into the crowd, starting a brawl on the dance floor with several male patrons. After Nomi is arrested for causing the melee, James bails her out of jail, but she still pays him little notice.
Shortly, Cristal and her boyfriend Zack Carey, the entertainment director at the Stardust, visit Cheetah's and request a lap dance from Nomi. Although the bisexual Cristal is attracted to Nomi, her request is also informed by her desire to humiliate Nomi by proving she is little more than a hooker. Nomi reluctantly performs the lap dance after Cristal offers to pay $500 for it within earshot of Nomi's boss, Al Torres, who pressures her to perform. After giving Zack an explicit nude lap dance which brings him to orgasm while Cristal watches, Nomi takes the money from Cristal, who gloats that she has made Nomi feel cheap.
Cristal arranges for Nomi to audition for the chorus line of Goddess. Tony Moss, the show's director, humiliates Nomi by asking her to put ice on her nipples to make them hard. Furious, Nomi leaves the audition and again runs into James, who says he has written a dance number for her and contends that Nomi is too talented to be a stripper or showgirl. Despite her outburst at the audition, Nomi gets the job and quits the Cheetah. Cristal further humiliates Nomi by suggesting she make a "goodwill appearance" at a boat trade show which turns out to be a thinly disguised form of prostitution. Undeterred, Nomi sets out to get revenge against Cristal and claim her mantle. She seduces Cristal's boyfriend, Zack, who secures an audition for her to be Cristal's understudy. Nomi wins the role, but when Cristal threatens legal action against the Stardust, the offer is rescinded. After Cristal gloats and taunts Nomi at a performance, Nomi pushes her down a flight of stairs, and Cristal breaks her hip. Unable to perform, Cristal finds herself replaced by Nomi as the show's lead.
Although Nomi has finally secured the fame and fortune she sought, she alienates Molly, who saw her push Cristal down the stairs. Later Molly relents and attends Nomi's opening night celebration at Zack's home, where she meets her idol, musician Andrew Carver. Carver lures Molly to a room, where he brutally beats her and one of his two security guards rapes her. Molly is hospitalized after the assault. Nomi wants to prosecute Carver, but Zack tells her the Stardust will give Molly hush money instead; their primary interest is to protect their high-profile celebrity client, not to seek justice. Zack then confronts Nomi with the details of her past: she is a runaway and former prostitute named Polly, her father murdered her mother and then killed himself, and she has been arrested several times for drug possession, prostitution, and assault with a deadly weapon. Zack blackmails Nomi by vowing to keep her past quiet if she will play along.
Unable to obtain justice for Molly without exposing her past, Nomi resorts to vengeance: she gets Carver alone in his hotel room and kicks him repeatedly with her boots until he is bloodied and unconscious. Nomi then pays two hospital visits — one to Molly to deliver news of the assault, and another to Cristal to apologize for injuring her. Cristal admits she pulled a similar stunt to get cast in the lead of a show years before. Because of her world-weariness — and the fact that her lawyers managed to secure her a large cash settlement — Cristal forgives Nomi. Before she leaves, Nomi gives Cristal a passionate kiss. Nomi, leaving Las Vegas, hitches a ride to Los Angeles with Jeff, the same man who cheated her and stole her suitcase when she arrived. She demands its return. The film's last shot juxtaposes a billboard advertising Nomi's starring role in Goddess with a road sign indicating the distance to Los Angeles.
- Elizabeth Berkley as Nomi Malone/Polly Ann Costello
- Kyle MacLachlan as Zack Carey
- Gina Gershon as Cristal Connors
- Glenn Plummer as James Smith
- Robert Davi as Al Torres
- Alan Rachins as Tony Moss
- Gina Ravera as Molly Abrams
- Lin Tucci as Henrietta "Mama" Bazoom
- Greg Travis as Phil Newkirk
- Al Ruscio as Mr. Karlman
- Patrick Bristow as Marty Jacobsen
- William Shockley as Andrew Carver
- Michelle Johnston as Gay Carpenter
- Dewey Weber as Jeff
- Rena Riffel as Penny/Hope
- Melissa Williams as Julie
- Ungela Brockman as Angie
- Melinda Songer as Nicky
- Bobbie Phillips as Dee
- Carrie Ann Inaba and Debra Ables as Goddess dancers
Joe Eszterhas came up with the idea for Showgirls while on vacation at his home in Maui, Hawaii. Based on the idea he scribbled on a napkin, he was advanced $2 million to write the script and picked up an additional $1.7 million when the studio produced it into a film.
A long list of actresses were offered the role of Nomi Malone including Pamela Anderson, Drew Barrymore, Angelina Jolie, Jenny McCarthy, Denise Richards and Charlize Theron, but they all turned it down before Elizabeth Berkley (following the cancellation of Saved by the Bell), signed on to play the role. Madonna, Sharon Stone and Finola Hughes were considered for the part of Cristal Connors, before Gina Gershon became available. Dylan McDermott was the first choice for the character of Zack Carey, but he declined and Kyle MacLachlan was then cast.
Eszterhas and Paul Verhoeven did extensive interviews with real-life Las Vegas strippers, and incorporated parts of their stories in the screenplay to show the amount of exploitation of strippers in Vegas. Some of them were interviewed for magazines by magazines after the movie's premiere, and completely reversed their stories, maintaining that the movie did not depict their lives accurately.
Showgirls received negative reviews. The film's gratuitous nudity, simulated sex, and $2 million screenplay (written by Joe Eszterhas, who had worked with director Verhoeven before) did not lend itself to what might have been a provocative film. The 1998 film Burn Hollywood Burn, also written by Eszterhas, contains a reference to Showgirls as a "terrible" film.
Showgirls currently holds a 14% 'Rotten' rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 43 reviews. It has an average score of 16 on metacritic. Roger Ebert, following a relatively mild negative review, wrote that Showgirls received "some bad reviews, but it wasn't completely terrible," but the movie remains heralded as one of cinema's worst.
The film was the winner of a then-record seven 1995 Golden Raspberry Awards (from a record thirteen nominations, a record that still stands) including Worst Picture, Worst Actress (Elizabeth Berkley), Worst Director (Paul Verhoeven), Worst Screenplay (Joe Eszterhas), Worst New Star (Elizabeth Berkley), Worst Screen Couple ("any combination of two people (or two body parts)") and Worst Original Song (David A. Stewart and Terry Hall for "Walk Into the Wind"). Verhoeven gamely appeared in person at the Razzies ceremony to accept his award for Worst Director; Showgirls would later win an eighth Razzie Award for Worst Picture of the Last Decade in 2000. It was soon tied with Battlefield Earth for winning the most Razzies in a single year, a record broken when I Know Who Killed Me won eight trophies in 2008 and then again when Jack and Jill won ten awards in 2012.
Due to Showgirls' poor reception, Striptease, a 1996 film about nude dancers starring Demi Moore, had to be distanced from Showgirls in advertisements; Striptease nonetheless won the next year's Razzie Award for Worst Picture. Rena Riffel, who played Penny/Hope in Showgirls, was also cast in Striptease, as Tiffany Glass.
The term "Showgirls-bad" has been adopted by film critics and fans to refer to films considered guilty pleasures, or "so-bad-they're-good". To date, Showgirls is the highest-grossing NC-17 production, earning $20,350,754 at the North American box office.
"I met Paul Verhoeven and he was just so charismatic," remarked Toni Halliday, who contributed to the soundtrack. "He wowed me into this horrible film, selling it as some intellectual comment on the sex industry. I walked out after 45 minutes. The screen went dead every time that woman was on it." (Select magazine, August 1996)
Cult status 
Since its release, the film has achieved cult status. According to writer Naomi Klein, ironic enjoyment of the film initially arose among those with the video before MGM capitalized on the idea. MGM noticed the video was performing well because "trendy twenty-somethings were throwing Showgirls irony parties, laughing sardonically at the implausibly poor screenplay and shrieking with horror at the aerobic sexual encounters".
In the United States, Showgirls is shown at midnight movies alongside such films as The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It is heralded as one of the best "bad movies", a camp classic in the vein of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Although the film was not successful when first released theatrically, it generated more than $100 million from video rentals and became one of MGM's top 20 all-time bestsellers.
The rights to show the film on TV were eventually purchased by the VH1 network. However, because of the film's rampant and gratuitous nudity, a censored version was created with black bras and panties digitally rendered to hide all exposed breasts and genitals. Also, several scenes were removed entirely. Berkley refused to redub her lines, so a noticeably different actress's voice can be heard on the soundtrack.
As revealed on the DVD release, a sign showing the distance to Los Angeles in the last shot of the film hinted at a sequel in which Nomi takes on Hollywood. The film was also ranked #36 on Entertainment Weekly magazine's "The Top 50 Cult Movies list.
Critical reevaluation 
Recent years have seen a reevaluation of the film's merits. Critics such as Jonathan Rosenbaum and Jim Hoberman, as well as filmmakers Jim Jarmusch and Jacques Rivette, have gone on the record defending Showgirls as a serious satire. Rivette called it "one of the great American films of the last few years", though "very unpleasant: it’s about surviving in a world populated by assholes, and that’s Verhoeven's philosophy". Quentin Tarantino has stated that he enjoyed Showgirls, referring to it as the "only [...] other time in the last twenty years [that] a major studio made a full-on, gigantic, big-budget exploitation movie", comparing it to Mandingo.
Showgirls has been compared to the 1950 film All About Eve as a remake, update, or rip-off of that film. For Jonathan Rosenbaum "Showgirls has to be one of the most vitriolic allegories about Hollywood and selling out ever made". "Verhoeven may be the bravest and most assured satirist in Hollywood, insofar as he succeeds in making big genre movies no one knows whether to take seriously or not", Michael Atkinson has noted.
In Slant Magazine's four-out-of-four-star review, Eric Henderson rejects the "so-bad-it's-good" interpretation and lauds the film as "one of the most honest satires of recent years", stating that the film targets Hollywood's "morally bankrupt star-is-born tales." Henderson draws from a round-table discussion in Film Quarterly in which others argue its merits. Noël Burch attests that the film "takes mass culture seriously, as a site of both fascination and struggle" and utilizes melodrama as "an excellent vehicle for social criticism." In the same round-table, Chon Noriega suggests that the film has been misinterpreted and the satire overlooked because "the film lacks the usual coordinates and signposts for a critique of human vice and folly provided by sarcasm, irony, and caustic wit."
Verhoeven himself and many other people have stated that the reason why the film failed at the box office was because audiences were alienated by the film's misanthropic attitude not only toward its characters and subject matter, but of the general human existence.
English film critic Mark Kermode, a dissenting voice amongst Showgirls' positive critical reevaluation, has stated, "If Showgirls had any appeal at all, it was that it was so spectacularly vulgar and crude," and "I still think it's just rubbish, and I like Paul Verhoeven."
Home media 
In 2004, MGM released "The V.I.P. Edition" in a special boxed set containing two shot glasses, movie cards with drinking games on the back, a deck of playing cards, and a nude poster of Berkley with a pair of suction-cup pasties so viewers can play "pin the pasties on the showgirl." The DVD itself includes several bonus features, including a "how-to" tutorial for giving a lap-dance hosted by real strippers, and a special optional "trivia track" feature. When on, it adds humorous comments and factoids in the vein of VH1's Pop Up Video that relate to the scenes as they play out. It also includes "The Greatest Movie Ever Made: a commentary by David Schmader". In 2007, MGM re-released the V.I.P. edition DVD without the physical extras.
On June 15, 2010, MGM released a 15th Anniversary "Sinsational Edition" in a two-disc dual-format Blu-ray/DVD edition. This edition contains most of the same bonus features as the VIP edition DVD, except the trivia text feature has been reformatted. The NC-17 edit of the film is used.
The trivia track on the 2010 edition contains some errors, such as a statement that some of the dancers featured in the film were recruited from the XFL football league cheerleaders, an impossibility as the XFL wasn't formed until 2000.
The film is classified as R18+ in New Zealand and Australia for its violence, offensive language, and sex scenes. A special Blu-ray edition was released in Australia featuring the special features included on the "Sinsational Edition" and the "VIP Edition".
See also 
- "SHOWGIRLS (18) (!)". British Board of Film Classification. 1995-12-20. Retrieved 2013-03-10.
- "BFI". British Film Institute. Retrieved July 1, 2012.
- Weinraub, Bernard (July 21, 1995). "First Major Film With an NC-17 Rating Is Embraced by the Studio – New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-21.
- Wiser, Paige. "The beauty of 'Showgirls'", Chicago Sun-Times, July 27, 2004
- "MGM's official page for Showgirls DVD". classic-web.archive.org. 2007-04-28. Archived from the original on 2007-04-28. Retrieved 2010-11-25.
- Rochlin, Margy (May 25, 2008). "Step by Step, the Showgirl Must Go On". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-03.
- Maureen Dowd, "Bucks and Blondes: Joe Eszterhas Lives The Big Dream", The New York Times, May 30, 1993.
- Ebert, Roger. "An Alan Smithee Film Burn Hollywood Burn", Chicago Sun-Times, February 27, 1998.
- Nashawaty, Chris. "Demi Goes Undercover: Moore's 'Striptease' Bumps into Trouble", Entertainment Weekly 04/26/96. Retrieved 16 August 2006.
- "Anonymous review of ''Catwoman''". Porktartare.com. Retrieved 2010-11-25.
- "Anonymous review of ''Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows'' by". Exclaim.ca. Retrieved 2010-11-25.
- Sternbergh, Adam. "Springtime for the Undulating Curve of Shifting Expectations!" New York Magazine March 26, 2006
- "Domestic Grosses by MPAA Rating – NC-17". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-08-16.
- Klein, Naomi, No Logo, Vintage Canada Edition, 2000, p. 79.
- "MGM's official page for Showgirls DVD". classic-web.archive.org. 2007-04-28. Archived from the original on 2007-04-28. Retrieved 2010-11-25.
- "The Cult 25: The Essential Left-Field Movie Hits Since '83". Entertainment Weekly. September 3, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-04.
- Udovitch, Mim (1998). "Mim Udovitch/1996". In Peary, Gerald. Quentin Tarantino: Interviews. Univ. Press of Mississippi. pp. 172–173. ISBN 1-57806-051-6.
- "Showgirls Review - Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension". Jabootu.com. Retrieved 2010-11-25.
- Henderson, Eric (18 July 2004). "Showgirls". Slant.com. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
- Burch, Noël (2003). "Embarrassing Showgirls". Film Quarterly 56 (3): 35–36. JSTOR 10.1525/fq.2003.56.3.32.
- Noriega, Chon (2003). "A Whisper of Satire". Film Quarterly 56 (3): 36–38. JSTOR 10.1525/fq.2003.56.3.32.
- "Showgirls 15th Anniversary Blu-ray Announced". April 12, 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-12.
- Parish, James Robert (2006). Fiasco – A History of Hollywood’s Iconic Flops. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 359 pages. ISBN 978-0-471-69159-4.
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Color of Night
|Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture
16th Golden Raspberry Awards