Showgirls is a 1995 drama film directed by Paul Verhoeven. It stars former teen actress Elizabeth Berkley, Kyle MacLachlan and Gina Gershon. The film centres around a street-smart drifter who ventures to Las Vegas and climbs the seedy hierarchy from stripper to showgirl. Produced on a then-sizeable 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 and currently only 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 assure that patrons would not be sneaking into the theater from other films, and to make sure the filmgoers were over the age of 17. Despite a poor theatrical and critical consensus, 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 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.
When we first meet Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley), she's hitchhiking in Nevada. A shady country-boy tries to hit on her after he gives her a lift, but Nomi shows she's someone not to mess with when she pulls out a knife. After having a near-accident, the two agree to behave themselves and they drive to Las Vegas. After the country-boy takes off with her suitcase, leaving Nomi stranded and broke, she meets up with Molly (Gina Ravera), who saves her life when Nomi wanders in traffic. After talking and discovering Nomi does not have any family or place to go, Molly takes her in. Nomi gets a job as a stripper at the sleazy Cheetah's Topless Club; she considers herself a dancer, and the Cheetah is a place where she can do this and still make a living. While out dancing for fun at a nightclub called The Crave Club, Nomi meets a bouncer named James (Glenn Plummer). James admires her dancing and Nomi is flattered until he dares to criticize what she's doing. In retaliation, Nomi kicks him between the legs and he falls into another patron, sparking a brawl. Nomi delights in what she's done, smiling to herself as all the men begin to throw punches, until someone recognizes her as the instigator and she's taken to jail. James bails her out the next morning, but Nomi still won't forgive him for his comments. One night, Nomi accompanies Molly backstage at Goddess, the topless Vegas show at the Stardust where Molly works as the costume seamstress. Since it is Nomi's dream to be a showgirl, she is thrilled to watch the show and see the backstage area. Molly introduces her to Cristal Connors (Gina Gershon), the diva-like star of the show. Molly tells Cristal that Nomi is a dancer as well, but when Nomi tells her she dances at the Cheetah, Cristal derisively tells Nomi that what she does is akin to prostitution. Nomi becomes furious, and her reaction intrigues Cristal, who is bisexual and apparently attracted to Nomi. The next evening, Cristal and her boyfriend Zach (Kyle MacLachlan), the entertainment director at the Stardust, visit the Cheetah and pay Nomi $500 for a lap dance. Nomi does not want to do the private dance, for fear it will prove her to be the prostitute Cristal made her out to be, but is forced to do so by her manager, much to her embarrassment. James, who lurks in the Cheetah and sees Nomi performing her private dance with Zack and Cristal, confronts Nomi at her home the next day. He feels that Nomi has too much talent to be performing as a stripper, not to mention that he, too, considers it to be something similar to prostitution. Nomi angrily rebuffs him once more. Nomi later discovers Cristal has arranged for her to have an audition as an ensemble dancer in Goddess. At the audition, the callous director of Goddess, Tony Moss (Alan Rachins), refers to Nomi as "Pollyanna" because of her outfit. Nomi dashes backstage, removes her blouse, and dances in her underwear, but she notices Cristal watching silently from the darkened theater. When Nomi is told to use ice to make her nipples hard for the second part of the audition, she gets upset and leaves. Cristal approaches her as she cries backstage, and Nomi tells Cristal that she hates her. Leaving the Stardust upset, Nomi finds James working as a bellhop and he takes her back to his apartment. They have an intimate moment as James demonstrates a dance number that he conceived in honor of Nomi and her career as a private dancer. Despite the audition, Nomi gets the job and immediately quits the Cheetah. She excitedly rushes over to tell James about her new job, but she finds him having an intimate moment with another woman; ironically, one of her co-dancers at the Cheetah. Meeting with the producers of Goddess, Nomi wears a brand new dress she bought at Versace, mispronouncing it "Vur-SAYSS" in front of everyone. Nobody corrects her on it except Zach, who tells her she looks beautiful and has great taste. Cristal calls a truce and takes Nomi out for lunch, and they discover they have similar backgrounds. Cristal, however, calls Nomi a whore again, which Nomi angrily denies. The way Cristal sees it, they are all whores because they exchange sexual titillation for cash. Cristal also acknowledges that she is attracted to Nomi, but Nomi does not consider herself bisexual. Nevertheless, she allows Cristal to engage her in an erotic dance when they are alone, allowing Cristal to pull down her top and caress her bare breasts. As she leans in for a kiss, Cristal sneers at her "See, darlin? You ARE a whore." Nomi storms out again in a fury. From this point on, the two are rivals once more. Cristal repeatedly takes malicious swipes at Nomi in a never-ending attempt to portray Nomi as a cheap whore, including sending Nomi on a promotional appearance with Zach's assistant, Phil Newkirk (Greg Travis). Cristal knows from experience that Nomi will be approached to have sex for cash. Nomi furiously rejects Phil's proposition and she mistakenly thinks she has an ally in Zach, who pretends to bawl Phil out over the incident. One night, Nomi agrees to a car ride from Zach, and they end up at his large estate. Nomi seduces Zach, and they have sex in his swimming pool. As Nomi leaves the next morning, Zach mentions that there is an audition for Cristal's understudy - a rivalry between two other showgirls has led to an onstage sabotage incident, where one of the rivals breaks her knee. Zach tells Nomi she should try out for the position. At the audition, Cristal senses a shift in the tide; Zach suggests Nomi as Cristal's understudy, and the choreographer agrees that Nomi has what it takes. Tony Moss disagrees but makes a remark about Cristal's age. Cristal also finds out that Zach slept with Nomi, and Zach gloats over it. When Nomi gets the position, Cristal is furious, and Nomi feels she finally has the upper hand. As a result, Cristal threatens to leave the show, and the producers reverse their decision. Nomi is, of course, furious; her clumsy grab for power has alienated most of the other dancers, and now Cristal seems to be in control. Nomi goes to see James perform his number at the Crave Club, where he and his co-dancers are booed off the stage. James takes it fairly well, telling Nomi that he is giving up dancing to work in a grocery store now that his girlfriend is pregnant. Nomi bids him farewell. During the performance of Goddess that night, Cristal taunts Nomi about her disappointment. As the dancers leave the stage, Nomi impulsively pushes Cristal down a flight of stairs, injuring her badly and sending her to the hospital. Molly knows Nomi pushed Cristal, but another dancer backs up Nomi's story and pretends that she saw the whole thing. With Cristal unable to perform, Nomi ends up getting Cristal's lead in the show, where she makes a dazzling debut and is suddenly the talk of the town. Things seem to be going well for Nomi; she has finally secured the fame and fortune she initially sought. However, at the opening night party, Molly is brutally raped and beaten by famous musician Andrew Carver (William Shockley) and his two security guards. Molly is taken to the hospital to treat her injuries, and Zach tells Nomi that they will give Molly some money to keep quiet; their primary interest is in protecting their high-profile celebrity client, not in seeking justice for Molly. Zach then confronts Nomi with the truth he has just discovered: Nomi is actually a runaway and former prostitute named Polly Ann Costello; 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. Finally, confronted with her seedy past, and frightened at who she has become and what lies ahead, Nomi decides to flee Las Vegas, but not before she pays a visit to Andrew Carver. Because Carver has made propositions to her from the moment he met her, Nomi has no problem inviting herself up to his hotel room. She walks into the room wearing thighboots. Once they are alone, she strips for him, but then pulls out a switchblade and swears that she will kill him if he makes a sound. She then brutally kicks him in the face repeatedly with her boots. He begs her to stop kicking him. However, she shows absolutely no mercy and continues her vicious assault. She callously and savagely kicks him in the face with her boots many more times until he is unconscious. Later, Nomi bids goodbye to a semi-conscious Molly, informing her that she obtained some kind of vengeance for her. Nomi also visits the hospital room of Cristal, who doesn't seem particularly bitter about Nomi's stunt. Cristal tells Nomi that she, too, got ahead by similar means. "There's always someone younger and hungrier than you coming down the stairs after you," Cristal says. Nomi says goodbye, but grants Cristal a passionate kiss before she leaves. The film comes full circle when Nomi coincidentally hitches a ride to Los Angeles with the very same guy who robbed her in the beginning, and attacks him for what he did to her, and both drive in the direction of LA.