Critics Consensus

Whether you choose to see it as a statement on consumer culture or simply a special effects-heavy popcorn flick, Gremlins is a minor classic.



Total Count: 63


Audience Score

User Ratings: 451,465
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Movie Info

"Don't expose him to bright light. Don't ever get him wet. And don't ever, ever feed him after midnight." This sage advice is ignored midway through Gremlins, with devastating results. This comic Joe Dante effort is set in a Norman Rockwell-esque small town at Christmastime. Seeking a unique gift for his son an erstwhile inventor (Hoyt Axton) purchases a cute, fuzzy little "Mogwai" from a Chinatown shopkeeper's (Keye Luke) grandson (John Louie), who dispenses the above-mentioned warning before closing the deal. Meanwhile, young bank clerk Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) must suffer such antagonists as rich-bitch Mrs. Deagle (Polly Holliday) and priggish Gerald (Judge Reinhold) while pursuing his romance with Kate (Phoebe Cates). These and a variety of other plot strands are tied together when the lovable mogwai (named Gizmo) is exposed to bright light and gotten wet. In short order, the town is invaded by nasty, predatory Gremlins, who lay waste to everything in sight as Billy and Kate try to contain the destruction. Like most of Joe Dante's works, Gremlins is chock-full of significant cameo appearances: in this instance, such pop-culture icons as Dick Miller, Jackie Joseph, Chuck Jones, Scott Brady, Harry Carey Jr., Steven Spielberg (the film's executive producer) and even Robby the Robot all show up briefly on screen. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi


Polly Holliday
as Mrs. Deagle
Scott Brady
as Sheriff
Keye Luke
as Grandfather
John Louie
as Chinese Boy
Dick Miller
as Mr. Futterman
Jackie Joseph
as Mrs. Futterman
Harry Carey Jr.
as Mr. Anderson
Don Steele
as Rockin' Ricky Rialto
Arnie Moore
as Pete's Father
James MacKrell
as Lew Landers
Belinda Balaski
as Mrs. Harris
Jonathan Banks
as Deputy Brent
Edward Andrews
as Mr. Corben
Chuck Jones
as Mr. Jones
Jim McKrell
as Lew Landers
Susan Burgess
as Little Girl
Donald Elson
as Man on Street
Daniel Llewelyn
as Hungry Child
Lois Foraker
as Bank Teller
Nicky Katt
as School Children
Nick Katt
as School Child
Tracy Wells
as School Child
John C. Becher
as Dr. Molinaro
Gwen Willson
as Mrs. Molinaro
Fred Newman
as Special Vocal Effects
Mark Dodson
as Special Vocal Effects
Michael Winslow
as Special Vocal Effects
Peter Cullen
as Special Vocal Effects
Michael Sheehan
as Special Vocal Effects
Bob Holt
as Special Vocal Effects
Steven Spielberg
as Man in Electric Wheelchair (uncredited)
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News & Interviews for Gremlins

Critic Reviews for Gremlins

All Critics (63) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (53) | Rotten (10)

  • A wildly original roller-coaster ride of hilarious mischief.

    Dec 6, 2013 | Full Review…
  • A horror-comedy about cute little Christmas toy/pets who turn into murderous monsters wreaking havoc on a Norman Rockwellian town.

    Dec 4, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Brilliantly potent social critique of Reagan-era fear-mongering and consumerism.

    Dec 6, 2012 | Rating: 4/5
  • The humans are little more than dress-extras for the mechanics.

    Nov 27, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • What's confusing yet ultimately illuminating is the way his gremlins function as a free-floating metaphor, suggesting at separate junctures everything from teenagers to blacks to various Freudian suppressions.

    Nov 27, 2007 | Full Review…
  • Dante is perhaps the first filmmaker since Frank Tashlin to base his style on the formal free-for-all of animated cartoons; he is also utterly heartless.

    Nov 27, 2007 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Gremlins

  • Dec 06, 2017
    Gremlins is a fun, dark, well-made piece of 1980's culture which became very well-known and highly merchandized. Had Ghostbusters not been released the same weekend, this movie may have been even bigger. People complain about the uneven tone, cute and silly at first, then dark, violent and pretty scary. But that was early 80's horror, especially from Joe Dante (The Howling). This movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom caused the MPAA to create PG-13 when parents expressed shock and anger over the surprising amount of violence. This is also a holiday classic, as it ties into the Christmas season quite well. Don't be fooled by the critics reviews of Gremlins 2, a long-overdue sequel that should have been ignored altogether. This is an excellent film and should be a staple of any 1980's time capsule.
    Mark H Super Reviewer
  • Dec 27, 2016
    Nostalgia is a hell of a thing. It allows to see any form of entertainment from our past in a more favorable light than how we would actually view them as more rational and level-headed adults. That's why, sometimes, it's really hard for people to go back to the movies they loved as children. Sometimes they even avoid watching them altogether to keep from ruining those memories. So, yes, to me, Gremlins would be one of those films from my past that I loved as a child. It wasn't actually hard for me to watch this, since I've been wanting to watch it since last year's holiday season, but I just got around it to now. But, if I'm being honest, I was a little afraid that time wouldn't have been kind to this movie in its, almost, 33 years since release. But, color me surprised when I find out that this movie, does in fact, hold up after over three decades. Would I have liked this movie more if I was alive in 1984 than I did now? It's probable, but I'm not complaining about that since I found the movie to be a really entertaining flick. It also manages to sneak in some critique of consumer culture and consumerism in general. So it works on both levels. Does the movie have its rough spots? Yes, it does. I do think that the first 45 minutes, or until the first villainous gremlins appear, are a little tough to get into. The movie is never bad, of course, but you know that nothing is really gonna move forward until the gremlins do appear. They don't kill time until they get there, but it takes a little while before it gets going. It's kinda surprising that Gizmo, the adorable Mogwai featured in the movie, was a big children's toy when the film came out, I mean of course it was, which ironic given what the film criticizes. And I say surprising because, while this movie may have been rated PG when it first came out, there was no PG-13 back in the day. It was actually introduced shortly after this film came out, like a month later, as a result of how violent this movie (and Temple of Doom) both were. And that's the thing, Gizmo was seen as a kids' toy, but this isn't, by any definition, a kids' movie in the slightest. The gremlins kill several people in the movie, at least that you get to see. They get drunk, get into fights and generally they do a bunch of shit that you wouldn't see a "kids' movie" get away with now, seeing that parents are so fucking sensitive about stuff like that. There was a certain cognitize dissonance between audiences and the actual movie. It's like they thought Gizmo was cute and cuddly for their kids, regardless of the fact that he was created for a movie that it surprisingly violent. Just something to think about, really. It doesn't affect the movie one way or the other, at least to me. The gremlins going nuts and attacking anything and everything that moved was the film's highlight. And you get close to an hour of that. You might think that the gremlins' shtick gets old after a while, but I do believe they find new ways and clever ways to amp up the destruction the gremlins end up causing. Like I said, the movie is far more violent than the PG rating would imply, it's not close to an R-rating, but I even find that it's slightly more violent than even PG-13. And this is why a third sequel, particularly nowadays, worries me a lot. I'm worried because of the way the business is today that they'll strip away the film's horror elements, and I know the sequel was more darkly comedic, in exchange of a kid-friendly affair because they know they'll be able to sell far more Gizmos in this day and age than they could have in the 80s. And I don't want the film to sacrifice its own integrity just for the sake of more merchandising money. But, again, I think parents being more sensitive nowadays will make the third movie a family-friendly affair. And that pisses me off. Not because it 'ruins my childhood', which is a ridiculous nerd saying, but because the gremlins are meant to be dark and violent. So I'm hoping they don't sacrifice that style due to studio pressure. But I digress, I really liked this movie quite a bit. It definitely takes its time before introducing the gremlins themselves, but when they do, it really kicks into high gear and it doesn't really let up. I can't complain much about this movie. It's not gonna be everyone's cup of tea, particularly over 30 years after it originally came out, but a quality film is a quality film and this is definitely one of those.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Jul 05, 2014
    It's a mix of slapstick, horror, black/dark humor, & goofy fun with some classic Looney Tunes style to it. One thing should be clear though, Gremlins is too dark to be a kids movie (really, you have the meanest Gremlin sadistically attacking the hero with a chainsaw).
    Frisby 2 Super Reviewer
  • Jul 31, 2013
    My foray into 80s Horror/Comedy education begins here. Gizmo is super cute, the explicit scenes of gremlin-cide are campy and hilarious, and I finally know the rules of Mogwai maintenance, as referenced in much pop culture nostalgia. I didn't expect so much violence, nor did I expect the main characters to be adults. The movie could have felt more real this way, but it didn't, and I think that may be due to the flat villains. Mean Mrs. Deagle is so mean that it doesn't MEAN anything. She has no raison d'etre, and nor do the gremlins. They just cause trouble.
    Alice S Super Reviewer

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