Films by Paul Verhoeven
One of the most notable Dutch filmmakers to ever look through a lens, director Paul Verhoeven has been filling the silver screen with raw sexuality and over-the-top violence for four decades. The latter may have something to do with a childhood spent in World War II Europe, when he and his family lived nearby a German military base repeatedly targeted by Allied bombings. If that’s the case, then all I can say is “Thank you, Allied forces.”
After receiving degrees in both mathematics and physics, Verhoeven joined the Dutch navy, directed an award-winning documentary about the military, and then left to pursue a career in television. This quickly turned into film work, and throughout the ‘70s and much of the ‘80s, he turned out a number of critically-acclaimed motion pictures in his homeland.
But things really got cooking in the latter half of the ‘80s, as Verhoeven relocated to Hollywood and introduced audiences to full-frontal female nudity, Michael Douglas’s bare ass, and a mutant named Kuato. Audiences ate it up, and even supposed box office flops like Showgirls managed to clean up on the home video market.
The following are 10 of the finest examples of Paul Verhoeven movies. They range from science fiction actioners to WWII biographies, and each and every one will hold your attention until the end credits fill the screen.
- Black Book (2006) – Over 20 years after he departed for Hollywood, Verhoeven returned home to direct this suspenseful tale of a Jewish woman (the radiant Carice van Houten) who flees Berlin in 1944, hides out in the occupied Netherlands, joins the resistance, and falls for a German officer (Sebastian Koch). This is classic Verhoeven with loads of sex, van Houten dyeing her pubic hair, and the expected amount of bullet-riddled bodies. But it’s still damned entertaining.
- Flesh & Blood (1985) – A morally ambiguous tale about a bitter mercenary (Rutger Hauer) in 16th century Italy, the young noblewoman who becomes his willing lover (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and the fiancée obsessed with her return (Tom Burlinson). Characters frequently change sides, plague-infected dogs are catapulted into a courtyard, and we learn that brain-damaged nuns make might fine companions. Verhoeven’s English-language debut.
- Starship Troopers (1997) – Leave it to Paul Verhoeven to take a science fiction tale about a fascist state warring with giant bugs and turn it into a satire. Casper Van Dien lands his biggest role as Johnny Rico, a young man in the future who enrolls in the Mobile Infantry and winds up on distant worlds fighting a race known as the Arachnids. Humorous military newsreel footage pops up throughout, and the giant pincers of the bugs ensure that the director’s streak of gory movies continues. Denise Richards co-stars as Rico’s on-again-off-again girlfriend, and Neil Patrick Harris is a soldier with psychic powers. But my favorites are character actors Clancy Brown and Michael Ironside, both playing a couple of fire-breathing military dinosaurs.
- Basic Instinct (1992) – Star Sharon Stone reported slapped Verhoeven when she witnessed the final cut of the film (which showed her private parts), but audiences had just the opposite reaction. The tale of a cop (Michael Douglas) investigating a series of murders likely committed by a seductive novelist (Stone) was a major hit at the box office, and it catapulted Stone to overnight superstardom. Douglas, meanwhile, got to pad his resume with yet another film where he’s manipulated and seduced by a crazed hottie. A classic example of cinema from the early ‘90s.
- Turkish Delight (1973) – Verhoeven teamed up with cinematographer and future director Jan de Bont to make this enduring Dutch film about a sculptor (Rutger Hauer) who looks back at his relationship with a tempestuous woman (Monique van de Ven). While it lost its bid for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, it would later be voted the greatest Dutch movie of the 20th century at the Netherlands Film Festival.
- RoboCop (1987) – When veteran cop Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) dies in the line of duty, a seedy corporation known as OCP takes his body and turns him into a cyborg law enforcement officer. Set in a future Detroit that’s little more than a war zone, RoboCop works in plenty of violence and commentary about corporate corruption and urban decay. The success of the film launched a franchise, with two sequels, live-action and animated TV movies, comic books, video games, and even a theme park ride. It also helped launch the career of character actor Kurtwood Smith, giving him his first major role as the villainous Clarence Boddicker.
- Showgirls (1995) – Verhoeven and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas has previously collaborated on the wildly successful Basic Instinct, but this second team-up didn’t come anywhere close to repeating its success at the box office. Critics railed, audiences walked out, and even the stars seemed embarrassed by the whole affair. Given the dreaded NC-17 rating by the MPAA, Showgirls tells the story of a young woman (Saved by the Bell’s Elizabeth Berkley) who hitches to Las Vegas, becomes a stripper, and eventually rises to prominence as a celebrated showgirl. Gina Gershon is notable as the bitchy bisexual who both lusts after and torments our heroine, and Robert Davi gets the best line of the film as the seedy owner of a strip club. Even though it flopped at the box office (just over $20 million on a $45 million budget), it would become a cult hit on home video and make more than $100 million.
- Hollow Man (2000) – Inspired by a classic story from H.G. Wells, this sci-fi movie stars Kevin Bacon as Dr. Sebastian Kane, a brilliant scientist who finds a way to turn himself invisible. But the reversal process doesn’t work, Kane loses his mind, and lots of scientists (as well as a topless Rhona Mitra) wind up getting murdered. Elizabeth Shue co-stars as Kane’s fellow scientist and ex-girlfriend, while Josh Brolin is the latest genius that she’s getting freaky with.
- Total Recall (1990) – Although she had been in previous projects, this action movie marked the first time I really noticed Sharon Stone. I was blown away by her looks, and I remain an ardent fan to this day. She co-stars as Lori Quaid, the unusually hot wife of Doug Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a construction worker who dreams of taking a vacation to the untamed planet of Mars. Since it’s 2084, false memories can be implanted to simulate an exciting vacation, but Doug’s session goes horribly awry. Not only does he believe that he’s a secret agent being pursued by killers, but people actually begin showing up to put the kibosh on his rippling pecs and outlandish accent. This all leads to Mars, a guy with a mutant living in his chest, and Arnie blowing watermelon-sized holes through the bad guys. Ronny Cox and Michael Ironside are great as the heavies.
- Soldier of Orange (1977) – Set in the Netherlands during the German occupation of WWII, this Dutch classic focuses on a group of students and the effect the conflict has on each of them. Rutger Hauer and Jeroen Krabbe headline as two classmates who join the underground resistance against the Nazis. Voted as one of the best Dutch films of the 20th century.