Karina Longworth has seen Pretty Woman at least 100 times. It was, in fact, her first R-rated movie.

Longworth hosts, writes, and produces the podcast You Must Remember This, which focuses on the first century of movies in America. In the past, she’s made seasonal arcs around themes ranging from the blacklist of the 40s and 50s to the Hollywood connections of Charles Manson. “Erotic ’90s,” the latest 21-episode season, will premiere on March 28. It’s why Longworth has been re-watching Pretty Woman like a madwoman, and why, at 42, she’s seeing it in a new way.

“Part of that was watching it with my husband,” she tells me recently. Her husband is Knives Out director Rian Johnson. “We both lost our dads around the same time a few years ago. And so we’re both coming to it as this is a movie about a guy who just lost his dad. It’s about that as much as it’s about everything else that everybody thinks that movie is about.”

Julia Roberts in 1990’s Pretty Woman.

That’s why You Must Remember This is so addictive, with an appeal far beyond the cinephile crowd. Longworth has the ability to take a rom-com everyone is familiar with and both talk about it in a way that comments on the era in which Pretty Woman came out and find new meanings in a movie most people can quote from memory.

The 90s can feel both very close and very far away. Some of the actors and films covered in this series, such as Thelma & Louise, Drew Barrymore, Showgirls, Madonna, Demi Moore, and Britney Spears are still household names today. Sharon Stone could almost be the mascot of the season. Her film Basic Instinct is Longworth’s pick for the single most important film to revisit; another Stone movie, Sliver, is her favorite to watch.

But it’s also the last decade before the Internet was widespread and prestige TV took over. It feels like a more innocent era. “The 90s is this push and pull in the culture,” Longworth says, “between what Clinton represented in terms of a victory of some of the liberal ideas of the 60s and 70s versus kind of the Newt Gingrich revolution coming in and trying to combat it.” The first episode acts as a sort of prologue, setting the scene around sex and the films of that era, including the NC-17 rating, pro-porn feminism, David Lynch, and Camille Paglia.

Sharon Stone in 1992’s Basic Instinct.

Previously, Longworth has delved deep into stars such as Bela Lugosi and Jean Seberg, both of whom died before she was born. This series is able to tackle movies she came of age with, including Madonna’s documentary Truth or Dare, which she saw at age 10. “I remember my nanny offered to take me for the weekend so that my parents could spend some time together, but really it was a ruse so that she could sneak me in to see Truth or Dare at the Beverly Center.”

Sharon Stone’s film Basic Instinct is Karina Longworth’s pick for the single most important film to revisit; another Stone movie, Sliver, is her favorite to watch.

Longworth grew up in Studio City, just a few miles away from Hollywood. Her late father was British, and her mother, who died in 1991, was originally from Boston and was a bit of a stage mom who took her to auditions from the age of four or five. “I think my mom felt a little frustrated in her own life. She had tried to model a little bit and then had had me and couldn’t do it anymore,” she says. “When I was young, she thought I looked like Natalie Wood…. I probably did when I was six years old.”

Longworth ended up studying acting and attended a rigorous summer program at the Santa Monica Playhouse, where they taught kids the Stanislavski Method. “It became my whole social life. And that lasted until the first year of high school, when I started smoking pot and dyeing my hair pink,” she says. “I’d gone through puberty, and that’s when the acting school was like, I don’t think she’s … matured to the point where it’s not going to happen for her. I had trouble controlling my tone of voice, and I had trouble controlling my body. I’ve always wondered if the second one was their way of saying, You don’t really look like an actress.”

Elizabeth Berkley in 1995’s Showgirls.

It’s true that Longworth doesn’t look like someone who would be cast in a comic-book movie, a genre she doesn’t watch, but with her long dark hair and soothing voice, she is extremely elegant. Look no further than the black Rodarte gown she wore to the Oscars a few weeks ago. She’s reminiscent of some of the noir-ish actresses such as Theresa Russell and Linda Fiorentino whose careers are showcased this season.

After moving to San Francisco to major in film studies at the Art Institute, Longworth lived in New York, working as a film critic and writing several books on subjects ranging from Meryl Streep to Howard Hughes. She met Johnson while she was moderating a Q&A for his film The Brothers Bloom in 2009.

In 2010, Longworth returned to L.A., where she was a film critic for LA Weekly. She had always preferred writing about old movies to reviewing new movies, and when she left the job in 2013, she decided to start working on a podcast dedicated to Old Hollywood.

“The 90s is this push and pull in the culture.”

Southern California remains her home base. “We spend time in other places based on where [Johnson is] working,” Longworth says. “We’re about to go to Paris, where he’s going to write a new movie.”

Longworth and Johnson, who were married in 2018, seem to thoroughly enjoy each other’s work lives—he’ll catch up on Demi Moore’s stripper opus Striptease with her while she’s re-watching it—but they also make a point of keeping them separate. “He and I are both ‘If you want something done, do it yourself’ people,” Longworth says. “Collaboration is difficult anyway, and certainly collaborating within our romantic relationship I think would be ill-advised.”

Paris, with its seemingly endless revival houses, is a happy place for a moviegoer looking to see rom-coms and erotic thrillers, two genres Longworth covers in her new season, and no longer made with the budget or style that Nora Ephron did for Sleepless in Seattle or Paul Verhoeven did for Basic Instinct. “If Hollywood studios are of this mindset of ‘We can’t alienate any part of the audience and we certainly can’t alienate the international box office,’ then they’re just not going to take risks to make movies about adults and adult relationships,” she says. “And so that’s why you don’t see the rom-coms, you don’t see erotic thrillers. You see things that the whole family can go to.”

Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise in 1999’s Eyes Wide Shut.

Still, Longworth is hopeful about the state of the adult movie. “A lot of the independent-oriented movies that were nominated for Oscars had really good box office [runs] for smaller releases,” she says. “So I do think things are on their way back.”

The penultimate episode of “Erotic ’90s” will focus on Stanley Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. “And then I don’t know what I’m going to do next,” Longworth says. “I’ll probably go much further back in time.”

“Erotic ’90s,” the latest season of Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This podcast, premieres on March 28

Marisa Meltzer is a New York–based writer and the author of several books, including the upcoming Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss’s Glossier, to be published in September