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Showgirls is a 1995 film directed by Paul Verhoeven. It stars former teen actress Elizabeth Berkley, Kyle MacLachlan and Gina Gershon. The film centres on a drifter who ventures to Las Vegasmarker and climbs the seedy hierarchy from stripper to showgirl.

Significant controversy and hype surrounding the film's gratuitous amounts of sex and nudity preceded its release. In the United Statesmarker, the movie was rated NC-17 for "nudity and erotic sexuality throughout, some graphic language and sexual violence." Showgirls was the first and only NC-17 rated film to be given a wide release in mainstream theaters. United Artists dispatched several hundred staffers to theatres across the United States playing Showgirls in order to assure that patrons would not be sneaking into the film from other films, or that anyone going to see it was under 17 years of age.

Though the movie did not do well in theaters, Showgirls enjoyed success on the home video market, generating more than $100 million from video rentals 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 128 minutes and deletes some of the more graphic footage, in particular the infamous lap dance sequence. Showgirls has since become regarded as a cult classic.


Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) is a hot young drifter who hitchhikes to Las Vegas hoping to make it as a showgirl. After being stranded with no money or spare clothing, Nomi meets Molly Abrams (Gina Ravera), a seamstress and costume designer who takes her in as a roommate. Molly invites Nomi backstage at Goddess, the Stardust Casinomarker show where she works, to meet Cristal Connors (Gina Gershon), 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, harry takes her dancing at The Crave case, where James Smith (Glenn Plummer) 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 thereafter, Cristal and her boyfriend Zack Carey (Kyle MacLachlan), 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 (Robert Davi), who pressures her to perform. After giving Zack an explicit nude lap dance 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 (Alan Rachins), 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 destroy 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 suffers a compound fracture of 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 suspects that Nomi is in fact the one that pushed Cristal down the stairs. Later Molly relents and attends Nomi's opening night celebration at a local hotel, where she meets her idol, musician Andrew Carver (William Shockley). In a bizarre twist, Carver lures Molly to his room, where he and his two security guards brutally beat and rape 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 violently assaults him by kicking 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 grants Cristal one passionate kiss. The movie comes full circle when Nomi, leaving Las Vegas, hitches a ride to Los Angelesmarker with Jeff (Dewey Weber), the same man who gave her a ride in the opening scene. 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.


Showgirls' subject matter was relatively controversial: rape, lesbianism, and interracial relationships were just some of the topics explored. The film's gratuitous nudity, simulated sex, and $2 million screenplay (written by Joe Eszterhas, who had worked with director Paul 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 received a 14% positive on the film-critics Aggregate Site Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert wrote that Showgirls received "some bad reviews, but it wasn't completely terrible". Despite Ebert's views, the movie was heralded as one of cinema's worst, winning seven 1995 Golden Raspberry Awards or "Razzies" (from a record 13 nominations). Verhoeven gamely appeared in person at the Razzies ceremony to accept his award for Worst Director; Showgirls would later win a record-setting eighth Razzie Award for Worst Picture of the Last Decade in 2000.

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, also was 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 holds the honor of being the highest-grossing NC-17 production earning $20,350,754 at the North American Box Office.

Cult status

Since its release, the movie 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".

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 movie on TV were eventually purchased by the VH1 network. However, because of the film's rampant, gratuitous nudity, a peculiar moment in cinema history occurred: 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' 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. Any such plans were scrapped upon the film's massive critical fiasco.

The film was also ranked #36 on Entertainment Weekly magazine's "The Top 50 Cult Movies list.

Recent years have seen a reevaluation of the movie's merits. Critics such as Jonathan Rosenbaum and Charles Taylor, as well as filmmaker Jacques Rivette, have gone on the record defending Showgirls as a serious satire. Actor Patrick Bristow, who plays choreographer Marty, defended the movie as "not that bad" except "that horrible rape scene." 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.


The film earned a record thirteen Razzie nominations in 1996, and would take home a whopping seven awards--a record later tied by Battlefield Earth in 2001. Showgirls would later win an eighth Razzie in 2000; Battlefield Earth would again tie this number in 2005. (The single-year record of seven Razzies was broken when the film I Know Who Killed Me won eight awards in 2008.)
  • Worst Picture (Won)
  • Worst Director (Paul Verhoeven, Won)
  • Worst Actor (Kyle MacLachlan)
  • Worst Actress (Elizabeth Berkley, Won)
  • Worst Supporting Actor (Robert Davi)
  • Worst Supporting Actor (Alan Rachins)
  • Worst Supporting Actress (Gina Gershon)
  • Worst Supporting Actress (Lin Tucci)
  • Worst Screenplay (Joe Eszterhas, Won)
  • Worst New Star (Elizabeth Berkley, Won)
  • Worst Remake or Sequel (remake of both All About Eve & The Lonely Lady)
  • Worst Screen Couple ("Any combination of two people, or two body parts", Won)
  • Worst Original Song ("Walk Into the Wind", Won)
  • Worst Movie of the Decade (awarded in 2000)

DVD releases

In 2004, MGM released "The V.I.P. Edition" of Showgirls 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 lapdance hosted by real strippers, and a special "trivia track" feature that can be turned on or off. When left 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.



  1. Wiser, Paige. "The beauty of 'Showgirls'", Chicago Sun-Times, July 27, 2004
  2. Showgirls (1995) - Trivia
  3. Maureen Dowd, "Bucks and Blondes: Joe Eszterhas Lives The Big Dream", New York Times, May 30, 1993.
  4. Ebert, Roger. "An Alan Smithee Film Burn Hollywood Burn", Chicago Sun-Times, February 27, 1998.
  5. Nashawaty, Chris. " Demi Goes Undercover: Moore's 'Striptease' Bumps into Trouble", Entertainment Weekly 04/26/96. Retrieved 16 August 2006
  6. Anonymous review of Catwoman,
  7. Anonymous review of Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows by
  8. Sternbergh, Adam. "Springtime for the Undulating Curve of Shifting Expectations!" New York Magazine March 26, 2006
  9. Klein, Naomi, No Logo, Vintage Canada Edition, 2000, p. 79.
  10. Showgirls (1995) - Trivia

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