Paul Verhoeven Films Ranked

Dutch provocateur Paul Verhoeven has had an interesting career arc over 50 years in the film business.

The filmmaker went from making violent, sexually explicit and politically polarising films in the Netherlands to violent, less sexually explicit but still political films in Hollywood to making whatever the hell he liked upon his return to Europe.

Despite being a big moneymaker for American studios for over a decade, it’s fair to say that Hollywood never really got Verhoeven. He couldn’t get away with anywhere near as much in terms of the content of his US films, and his satirical side was lost on many critics and audience members.

This leaves the question: how do you rank such a divisive artist forever swimming against the current and refusing to compromise on his vision? 

Based on quality, reception and level of up-yours attitude, these are all 16 Paul Verhoeven Films Ranked.

Read first: Where to Start with Paul Verhoeven

16. Hollow Man (2000)

In a riff on HG Wells, a scientist and his team invent an invisibility serum for the military. Unwilling to wait for approval for human trials, Dr Sebastian Caine (Kevin Bacon) tests it on himself and goes on a sociopathic rampage.

An effectively creepy modern take on “The Invisible Man” wouldn’t actually be achieved until Leigh Whanell’s 2020 version. Hollow Man is, by comparison, an unpleasant and jarring little movie full of seriously icky scenes exploring what a psychopath would do if he couldn’t be seen. Admittedly it does, for the time, have blockbuster special effects.

15. Flesh and Blood (1985)

A gang of mercenaries led by formidable warrior Martin (Rutger Hauer) take a castle in early 16th Century Italy and kidnap a noblewoman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) as revenge for a promise of spoils of war being broken.

Clearly Paul Verhoeven didn’t get his way on this one, so his first English language film ends up stuck frustratingly halfway between the sensibilities of his European and Hollywood careers.

It’s got more sex and violence than the average historical epic, but tonally it’s all over the shop and very much feels like what it actually was: unused ideas from a TV show Verhoeven had worked on (‘Floris’) re-shaped into something more commercial that still ended up flopping.

14. Showgirls (1995)

Nomi (Elizabeth Berkley) arrives in Las Vegas to seek her fortune, beginning as a club stripper and working her way up to being the star of a spectacular nude stage show.

The rabid cult status and meme-ability of Showgirls is far more interesting than anything actually in the schlocky sexploitation movie itself. Whatever the intention of this originally was, Joe Eszterhas’s misjudged screenplay, and the “interesting” choices from much of the cast, leaves this firmly in “so bad it’s good” territory.

Hilariously, Verhoeven has since described this film as “The only realistic movie I ever made in the United States”. 

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