Welcome to Beat the Algorithm — a recurring column dedicated to providing you with relevant and diverse streaming recommendations based on your favorite movies. Today, we’re recommending must-see classics as well as recent favorites to watch if you’re a fan of Paul Verhoeven’s 1992 erotic thriller Basic Instinct.
There’s a lot to love about Basic Instinct. There are the provocative charms of the one and only Sharon Stone; the befuddled aggression of Michael Douglas, an actor consistently adept at playing the world’s slimiest everyman; the biting satirical take on a uniquely American obsession with and fear of sexuality, courtesy of Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas. Essentially, this movie’s got it all.
The film follows Douglas’ Detective Nick Curran (Douglas), a volatile cop investigating a brutal murder that is suspiciously similar to one described in a book written by the victim’s girlfriend, Catherine Tramell (Stone). For her part, Catherine insists that she’d have to be pretty stupid to do the deed the same way it went down in her book. But is that alibi just a little too perfect to be believable?
With this set-up and two titans of 90s cinema leading the film, Basic Instinct became an instant classic. Though it didn’t exactly bowl over cowards — err, critics — at the time, that didn’t stop audiences from showing up in droves. The controversial film launched a hefty handful of imitators (some better than others) while also building upon a foundation of incendiary erotic thrillers. To celebrate one of the greatest psychosexual films of all time, we’ve rounded up thirteen other movies that will satiate Basic Instinct fans.
So when you tie up your white silk scarves and settle in for some ice-picks and chill, these are the movies we most recommend pairing with Verhoeven’s steamy thriller.
This article was co-written with Meg Shields.
Purple Noon (1960)
Make no mistake, this list will provide you with enough seductive broads to satisfy your most, shall we say, Basic desires. But if you’re in the mood for more of a homme fatale, it doesn’t get better than Alain Delon‘s take on Tom Ripley. When Tom gets a taste for the high life while careening through the shores of Italy with the affluent Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet), he’s willing to do anything to stay there. Even if it means murdering Philippe and stealing his identity. With sumptuously vibrant and sun-soaked imagery, Purple Noon feels like a film that you could almost melt into. But as we come to learn through Tom’s games with life-and-death stakes, escapism has consequences.
Available on Kanopy, The Criterion Channel, DIRECTV, and TCM.
Belle de Jour (1967)
It should come as a surprise to no one that Luis Buñuel‘s French erotic thriller delivered transgressions in 1967 that it would take Hollywood decades to catch up to. And even then, no one else nailed Buñuel’s handling of satire with the same precision. The film follows Catherine Deneuve‘s Séverine, a demure and sexually repressed Parisian housewife. In place of any intimacy with her husband, Séverine retreats into sadomasochistic fantasies. When she begins working at a high-class brothel while her better half is at work, it doesn’t take long for client relationships to complicate the double life that Séverine has built for herself. Gloriously taboo and psychologically ambiguous, Belle de Jour is the work of a true master. And just because it’s over sixty years old, don’t you dare assume it’s traditional.
Available on HBO Max.
In the Realm of the Senses (1976)
As a director, Paul Verhoeven has always been very…carnal. He has a talent for representing physical intimacy on-screen with unapologetic gusto. And, rather infamously, Verhoeven tends to martial this talent not for tenderness but for desire, consensual and otherwise. Basic Instinct is an incredibly sex-filled film. And in a lesser or more restrained director, it’s likely the film would lack the shamelessness that sets it apart from its peers.
But for all of his enthusiasm, not even Verhoeven can touch Nagisa Ōshima, whose In the Realm of the Senses is inarguably the most graphic representation of mutual obsession and eroticism ever committed to celluloid. Intense and certainly not for the faint of heart, the film tells the true story of a hotel owner (Tatsuya Fuji) and his employee (Eiko Matsuda) who enter into a torrid and dangerously intense affair. A pinnacle of perverse psycho-sexual cinema, this is a film recommended only in hushed tones. So scurry off, and make your acquaintance with this masterpiece.
Available on The Criterion Channel.
Fatal Attraction (1987)
There was a brief, beautiful, shining moment where Hollywood was interested in one thing, and one thing only: the myriad of ways Michael Douglas could embarrass himself chasing a woman. This time, Douglas’ Dan has his sights set on the seductive and ravenous Alex Forrest (Glenn Close), a writer with kinks in both her hair and her extracurricular activities. While Dan only wanted a quick tryst while his wife and daughter were out of town, Alex had other intentions. It goes without saying that Close is iconic and incendiary here as the scorned mistress hell-bent on ruining lives after getting dumped. It should also be noted that this was an era when a scorchingly sleazy thriller could be nominated for Hollywood’s highest honor: the Oscar for Best Picture. If only this was still true.
Available on FuboTV, Showtime Amazon Chanel, Showtime, and DIRECTV.
Single White Female (1992)
This is getting out of hand. Now there are two of them!
Remember that part in Basic Instinct where Catherine confides in Nick that in college she had an intense relationship that spiraled out of control when the girl became obsessed with her? If that (very scary) concept were a whole movie, it would be Single White Female. The film follows a chic Manhattanite named Allison (Bridget Fonda) who takes out an ad in the classifieds after giving her cheating boyfriend the boot. She thinks she’s found a dream roommate in Hedy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and the pair become fast friends. Then things get weird. Like, steal your identity weird. Balancing absolute ridiculousness with genuine psychological-thriller chills, Single White Female is a performance-driven banger and high-end gourmet trash for the discerning erotic thriller connoisseur.
Available on HBO Max.
The Last Seduction (1994)
If, somehow, you could bring Basic Instinct‘s Catherine and Gone Girl‘s Amy Dunne together, the way to complete a trio would be with Linda Fiorentino‘s Bridget. In this woefully underrated neo-noir, Bridget entraps men and has them do her bidding. But as the stakes for her conquests increasingly heighten, so too does the threat. After skipping town on her husband, Bridget becomes entangled with an insurance man (did we mention this was a noir?) and hatches a new plan. We don’t dare risk tipping her hand by revealing any more, so let’s just say that if you think you’ve seen depraved maneaters before, we can promise you haven’t seen anything like this.
Available on Amazon Prime.