Catherine Tramell.jpg

Catherine Tramell is a fictional character in the film Basic Instinct (1992) and its sequel, Basic Instinct 2 (2006). She is played by Sharon Stone in both films. In the original Basic Instinct, Tramell is the antagonist, and love interest of washed up detective Nick Curran. She is the protagonist of the sequel.

Character history

A brilliant, charismatic sociopath, she manipulates everyone around her, largely for her own amusement. It also seems that she enjoys killing people. She was born in 1961, although her age appears to be reconnected in Basic Instinct 2, as the official movie website stated she was 38 in 2006.

The first film establishes that her parents were killed in a boating accident in 1979, leaving her with $110 million. It is implied that she killed them, because it happened exactly like one of her novels, though she states that the book was written several years after the event.

She double-majored in psychology and literature at UC, Berkeley, graduating magna cum laude in 1983, and quickly made millions by writing best-selling crime novels.

Tramell, an open bisexual, has many short-lived, empty affairs with people of both sexes, ending when she discards them. She was engaged, however, to a middleweight boxer named Manuel 'Manny' Vásquez, who was killed in 1984 during a prizefight in Atlantic City.


An asterisk indicates that the crime was not for certain committed by Tramell. This table contains the list of the characters that she killed before, during or immediately after Basic Instinct I.

Name Relationship to Tramell Reason Method
Mr. & Mrs. Tramell Parents Inheritance, to see if she could get away with it Boat explosion
Guidance Counselor at Berkeley* Counselor Unknown/future framing Ice pick during sexual intercourse
Joseph Garner* None Unknown/future framing Gunshot wound
Johnny Boz Boyfriend She was tired of him. Ice pick during sexual intercourse
Officer Nilsen None Unknown Gunshot wound
Gus Moran None Framing, accusing Beth Garner Ice pick
Nick Curran? Boyfriend She was tired of him? Ice pick?

There were two ways to understand that ending: she retires and stops her criminal career, or she only waits for a good moment to kill Nick. Incidentally, Nick Curran has disappeared by the second movie and, like Dr. Chilton of The Silence of the Lambs, we never see his murder, but his death is more than probable. Even Sharon Stone, during an interview in Spain, said that "poor Nick is dead," implying with a swift stabbing motion that an ice pick was indeed used.

However, it is also possible that Elizabeth Gardner killed Gus and Curran's superior, since she was in love with Nick and possibly with Catherine and she wanted revenge, and that Catherine just killed Nick. During the film, she also intimates that she killed her parents and her college counselor.

In the films

In the first film, Tramell was the suspect in the murder of her sometime boyfriend, Johnny Boz, which bore an almost identical resemblance to events in her latest book, Love Hurts, written under the pen name of Catherine Woolf. She charmed — and ultimately bedded — Detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas), who was investigating the case, and "proved" her innocence, as the apparent murderer was revealed to be Curran's psychologist and lover Doctor Elisabeth 'Beth' Garner (Jeanne Tripplehorn), who was revealed to be Tramell's lover in college, when Garner's name was Lisa Hoberman.

The ending is ultimately ambiguous, leading to many interpretations over who was truly the murderer. Nonetheless, an ice pick is seen under Tramell's bed at the end of the movie, implying she was the true murderer. This is the most (and once) accepted version of the ending. Director Paul Verhoeven, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, and even Sharon Stone have said that Catherine was the killer.

In the sequel, Basic Instinct 2, it is revealed that Tramell ultimately escapes justice when her psychiatrist gives insufficient evidence at court. The police then proceed to investigate her following several more murders. In the end, she escapes justice once again when the "real murderer" Dr. Glass (David Morrissey), is apprehended for having shot the lead detective, Roy Washburn (David Thewlis), in the line of duty. An alternative "interpretation" of the ending is that Catherine is not really the killer after all, but that she simply compelled Dr. Glass to follow his own 'basic instincts', for which a motive is provided for all of the murders, via flashback. However, Catherine invites the viewer to realize that her version of events may indeed be a work of fiction, leading us to believe that perhaps she really is the killer.

Psychological diagnosis

In Basic Instinct 2, Tramell is diagnosed by Dr. Michael Glass as possessing a "risk addiction." He explains, "Inside I believe she vacillates between a feeling of god-like omnipotence and a sense that she simply doesn't exist, which of course is intolerable. I believe Ms. Tramell's behavior is driven by what we might call a risk addiction. A compulsive need to prove to herself that she can take risks and survive dangers that other people can't. Especially the subsequent encounters with the police, the powers that be. The greater the risk, the greater the proof of her omnipotence. Her existence really. All addiction is progressive, the addict will always need to take greater and greater risks. I suspect the only limit for her would be her own death."

External links

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