What Women Want is a 2000 Romantic Comedy starring Mel Gibson as Nick Marshall, an advertising executive who holds a really strong "Alpha Male" outlook on life, thanks to having a Vegas showgirl for a mother. He's skilled at marketing products to men, as well as romancing numerous women. Word at his agency is his boss Dan Wanamaker (Alan Alda) is looking for a new creative director, and Nick is convinced it'll be him, but it turns out he's hired Darcy McGuire (Helen Hunt), so as to broaden their appeal to women.
Further complicating matters is his divorced wife Gigi (Lauren Holly) has asked him to take care of their teenaged daughter Alex (Ashley Johnson) while she goes on honeymoon with her new husband. And Alex has a much-older boyfriend, who she's embarrassed to be with in her father's presence.
One day, as part of a marketing assignment, Nick is trying out several women's products when he slips and falls into the bathtub with a hairdryer. When he awakens, he finds himself able to hear the thoughts of every woman around him. He's horrified, but after a meeting with his former marriage counselor (Bette Midler), he starts to see his telepathy as a gift, and he peruses the thoughts of women, including Darcy, to not only get ahead in marketing feminine products, but also in becoming closer with his female coworkers as well as his daughter.
In 2011, a remake was made in China under the title 我知女人心 ("I know women's hearts"), starring Andy Lau and Gong Li. Back in the U.S., a Gender Flip remake, What Men Want, was released in 2019 with Taraji P. Henson in the lead role.
Tropes featured in this film include:
- Abhorrent Admirer: Nick's apartment building doorwoman. Even her thinking about Nick sexually is enough for him to flee in the opposite direction.
- Alliterative Title
- An Aesop: Treat women nicely.
- The Casanova: Nick is a notorious playboy. He gets better.
- Cerebus Syndrome: The movie pretty much drops the comedy in the last half-hour, which makes sense considering he costs Darcy her job (and loses her in the process), Nick's daughter gets an unwanted advance at her prom, the file girl is missing and believed to have committed suicide, and he loses his powers. Everything works out, though.
- Character Development: At first, womanizing macho-man Nick uses his powers selfishly, namely by trying to get in bed with a stubborn but hot coffee girl and phase Darcy out of her job so he can get the position. Over time, however, his constant exposure to the inner thoughts of women leads him to come to understand them and how his actions are affecting them, and his newfound empathy leads him to be more considerate and helpful toward them. In the middle of all that, his power allows him to also notice and progressively help Erin the File Girl.
- Costume-Test Montage: When Nick and his daughter go shopping to choose her prom dress.
- Cursed with Awesome / Blessed with Suck: For a strong willed guy like Nick who has the ability to change his ways or manipulate women into doing what he wants this power is awesome. However, for a weaker man the knowledge that every woman hates you constantly forcing its way into your brain would probably leave you an emotional cripple.
- Dirty Mind-Reading: Being a Chivalrous Pervert, Nick employs this, of course.
- Electrified Bathtub: How Nick inexplicably gets his powers.
- Fake Orgasm: Referenced. Nick picks up a girl at a Starbucks and finds it hard to perform while hearing all her jaded critiques about his size and performance, leading the woman to think to herself about intending to "fake it."
- Female Gaze: "Oh, damn, I looked at his penis!"
- Forgot About the Mind Reader: For some reason, this keeps happening in the movie, even though most of the female characters have no idea Mel Gibson's character has gained telepathy. One of the more painful examples has to be Helen Hunt's character thinking, "Oh, God, I just stared at his crotch!" — and covering her eyes, because that does not look suspicious at all.
- Guardian Angel: In the end, when Nick hurries to stop Erin from committing suicide, a woman appears to point him in the right direction, and at the same time takes away his mind-reading power. It is clear to the viewer that she is on the case, showing where Nick's power comes from and why.
- Hope Spot: Nick thinks he lost his telepathy. And then he sees he's in a deaf-mute sector...
- I Take Offense to That Last One: Nick's coworker asks him what a female co-worker thinks of him. Nick reveals she thinks he's overpaid...and gay. The gay part kinda startles him. Overpaid... not so much.
- Lightning Can Do Anything: Nick gets powers from an electrified bathtub, and loses them from a sparking transformer. A previous attempt to lose it with electrocution in the rain instead of the tub fails, though.
- A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: Nick thinks this way until he starts using it to get ahead at his job and improve his relationships with other women, including his daughter.
- Mistaken for Gay: Lola, the coffee girl Nick sleeps with and then forgets about, later confronts him, saying that he was so sweet and so sensitive that he just had to be gay and that was why he didn't call her. Nick chooses to lie and confirm this, pretending that she's his Last Het Romance, just so she won't think she's undesirable. Also, Nick's coworker in the office thinks he's overpaid and gay.
- Painful Body Waxing: One of the products Nick is given to work with is body wax. He uses it in his leg, and basically does a horizontal Pain-Powered Leap afterwards!
- Politically Incorrect Hero: Nick is a subversion of a licensed sexist, being the "Alpha Male" and all.
- People Fall Off Chairs: Nick's reaction to hearing his daughter's thoughts on the prom dress. Namely, "I can't believe I'm wearing this the last night I'm a virgin!".
- Son of a Whore: Mel Gibson's character was the son of a Las Vegas Showgirl of the Ostrich Feather variety, but still about the same story.
- Survival Mantra: "Don't fall for a guy at work...don't fall for a guy at work..."
- Took a Level in Kindness: Suave womanizer Nick Marshall gains the power to hear women's thoughts, and after a series of wacky misadventures resulting from his newfound power, he learns to see women as people and finds true love.
- The Unfair Sex: The movie has been criticized by some viewers for unfair in the way it portrays men. The film's two messages seem to be "Men are too stupid and lazy to understand women" and "Anytime there's a problem in a relationship between a man and a woman, it's always the man's fault."