“One of the great American films of the last few years. It’s Verhoeven’s best American film and his most personal. In Starship Troopers (1997), he uses various effects to help everything go down smoothly, but he’s totally exposed in Showgirls. It’s the American film that’s closest to his Dutch work. It has great sincerity, and the script is very honest, guileless. It’s so obvious that it was written by Verhoeven himself rather than Mr. Eszterhas, who is nothing. And that actress [Elizabeth Berkley] is amazing! Like every Verhoeven film, it’s very unpleasant: it’s about surviving in a world populated by assholes, and that’s his philosophy. Of all the recent American films that were set in Las Vegas, Showgirls was the only one that was real – take my word for it. I who have never set foot in the place!”

Jacques Rivette1


“[Together with Total Recall and Basic Instinct,] Showgirls is certainly among the three films directed in America by Paul Verhoeven which are most worthy of respect. [...] This is in fact an authentic ‘fallen woman film’ in the grand Hollywood tradition: a working-class woman’s sinful past catches up with her just as she has gained access to the world of wealth. Those 30s melodramas were theaters of forbidden pleasure and social injustice. [...] Showgirls takes mass culture seriously, as a site of both fascination and struggle. And it takes despised melodrama seriously too, as indeed an excellent vehicle for social criticism.”

Noël Burch2


“If we look again at the Depression-era Busby Berkeley showgirl musicals, we find that their ‘shows’ were always about prurient displays of bleached-blonde (chemically altered) ‘dames’ and the ambivalent moral status of a girl who earns her living by showing her body through questionable forms of dance. In Showgirls, that dance consists of lifting a bare-breasted (erect-nippled) woman out of an exploding papier-mâché volcano, a sadomasochistic black leather dance of lesbian eroticism constisting of a few provocative tribadic thrusts, and several variations of a lap dance. [...] I predict that Showgirls will reemerge one day, like Nomi and Cristal from their papier-mâché volcano, in a triumphant glory to gain the praise that it deserves.”

Linda Williams3

  • 1. Jacques Rivette and Frédéric Bonnaud, “The Captive Lover – An Interview with Jacques Rivette,” Senses of Cinema, Issue 79, September 2001. Originally published in Les Inrockuptibles, 25 March 1998. Translation by Kent Jones.
  • 2. Noël Burch, “Showgirls Round Table: Embarrassing Showgirls,” Film Quarterly, Spring 2003, 35-36.
  • 3. Linda Williams, “Showgirls Round Table: Showgirls & Sex Acts,” Film Quarterly, Spring 2003, 40-41.