Box art for Black Book

Black Book

drama, thrillers

In the darkest days of World War II, a Dutch Resistance cell enlists a sexy spy (Carice van Houten) to go undercover inside a Nazi strongholdwhere she discovers that the enemy is all too human.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
3 out of 5
3 out of 5
Positive messages
0 out of 5
5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Mature WWII drama taps into base human instinct.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that this subtitled World War II drama from the director of Basic Instinct is intense from start to finish. Wartime takes its toll on all the characters, robbing them of their humanity. The lead character, Rachel/Ellis, sleeps with the enemy to infiltrate their turf, and people are dispensed with as the killers see fit. The violence is frequent and bloody, the sex is quite graphic, and characters swear, drink, and smoke.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about the film's notions of good and evil. Are "bad guys" and "good guys" clearly delineated? Should they be? Also, what drives Ellis to place herself in the line of fire? Is it altruism or revenge? How could she fall in love with a Nazi, when Nazis killed her family? What drives a person to betray others for their own gain? Families also can discuss what this movie has in common, if anything, with director Paul Verhoeven's earlier, infamously sensationalistic films, like Basic Instinct and Showgirls. Does it share any characteristics with those movies? Do you think filmmakers have a certain style that affects all of their projects?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    reviews counted: 30
    see all Black Book reviews
  • Audience


Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: Stout-hearted celebration of the Dutch Resistance or total smut? Try both.

- Amy Biancolli, Houston Chronicle, Friday, April 20, 2007

Fresh: Pushes all sorts of envelopes -- political, historical and erotic -- against the sanctified background of the Nazi Holocaust, hitherto unthinkable as the linchpin of a lively melodrama like Black Book.

- Andrew Sarris, New York Observer, Wednesday, April 18, 2007


- Ben Walters, Time Out, Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Audience Reviews

3 stars

I would never have thought it possible to describe a World War II epic as a "hot fucking mess", but then Paul Verhoeven came along and laughed in my face with this lurid masterwork. Black Book is basically a story of a cunning, seductive young Jewish woman who tries to rescue her oppressed countrymen with the help of her breasts. You'll probably feel really dirty for watching it, but it's nonstop slash-and-burn entertainment. Perhaps this sort of trashy fun isn't what most people look for in their Holocaust movies; this is twice as derisive as Inglourious Basterds, so if you had a problem with that movie, stay the hell away from this one. The movie has plenty of merits - its filming has an incontrovertibly classic feel, thanks largely to Verhoeven's cinematic eagle eye. The scope may be a bit more limited, but this really feels like the war movie of a master film-maker. Carice van Houten is a delightful heroine, and her technical ability seems considerable even though the role is honestly not much of a challenge - Tang Wei did this bit better in Lust, Caution, conveying just as much as van Houten in a movie less histrionic by half. The girl at least deserves an award for being such a great fucking sport, because after filming a certain scene in a detainment camp toward the end, I probably would have just walked off set. Her willingness to repeatedly whip out the hoots on camera is a bit distressing as well. Maybe she's less judgmental than I am, but Paul Verhoeven is old and creepy and you know he ogled her rack the entire time. Ultimately, this trash is gussied up mighty pretty, but it's trash all the same. Cinematic junk food. I was thoroughly entertained despite Black Book's obvious ideological problems, largely because van Houten is so likable that I stuck with the movie even through its most infuriating passages, waiting to see how she fares. Your mileage may vary.

- ceWEBrity, Thursday, April 8, 2010

4 stars

"To fight the enemy, she must become one of them." In the Nazi-occupied Netherlands during World War II, a Jewish singer infiltrates the regional Gestapo headquarters for the Dutch resistance. REVIEW Paul Verhoeven's first Euro flick in decades is riveting, rousing cinema. The sexy Carice Van Houten plays Ellis, a Jewish woman who goes undercover to, literally, infiltrate a Nazi stronghold in Holland. She befriends and seduces Muntze, a Nazi head honcho and poster boy for Dramatic Irony. Not only is the charismatic Muntz (Sebastian Koch) a card-carrying Nazi swine, he is also a keen stamp collector who is not unsympathetic to the Jewish nation. My threadbare synopsis barely hints at the splendid complexities of this magnificent, epic love story. Verhoeven has found the perfect dramatic vehicle in which to indulge his passion and preference for heightened drama, raw sexuality, and impactful, relevant violence. The film moves at lightning pace and is filled with unexpected twists and turns. The screenplay by Gerard Soeteman and Verhoeven is a model of economy and the lensing by Karl Walter Lindenlaub is superb. Van Houten is believable and stunning in her richly layered performance. A scene in which she is showered in feces is pure Verhoeven, as is a powerfully erotic moment when she dyes her pubic hair blonde. "Black Book" is tight, terrific movie-making that feels like it sprung from the belly of the director's "Soldier Of Orange" via the vaginal canal of "Turkish Delight".

- LorenzoVonMatterhorn, Friday, February 5, 2010

4 stars

The tone is uneven, the running time is a little too long (or the pacing is just off), and things get a little exploitative, but overall, this is not only a well made film that looks great, but a really good movie in general. Verhoeven returns to his roots both cinematically and personally, and I'm glad he did. This film shows how far he's come as a director, and proves that he really is a master filmmaker. Aside from what I've already said, I don't have any complaints. The acting is terrific, the cinematography is wonderful, and the art direction, and costumes are gorgeous. I liked that it was both an espionage film and a Holocaust drama, but again, the balancing of the two is a little off, but not enough to ruin the movie.

- cosmo313, Friday, October 23, 2009