Alligator (1980) - Rotten Tomatoes

Alligator (1980)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Alligator Photos

Movie Info

Lewis Teague directed this sly horror-comedy from a script by John Sayles, which plays off the old urban legend about the dangers of flushing one's pet alligator down the toilet. One such unlucky reptile is "Ramon," who survives in the subterranean cesspool by feeding on the steroid-saturated carcasses of dogs dumped there by chemical company researchers and eventually bulks up to the size of a Winnebago. When assorted sewage workers start disappearing into Ramon's massive maw, hard-boiled cop David Madison (Robert Forster), who has a history of unlucky partners, reveals a strong personal interest in the case. Deemed a jinx and a nutcase by his superiors, he's kicked off the force and must go underground (literally) to destroy the beast with the help of young reptile-expert Marion (Robin Riker). The witty screenplay is filled with clever references, eccentric characters and in-jokes aplenty (a style reflective of Joe Dante's Piranha and The Howling, both of which Sayles also scripted), which combines with decent effects and a good amount of suspense (particularly in the sewer scenes) to make this an entertaining romp overall. Highlights include Henry Silva's over-the-top performance as a misplaced big-game hunter who recruits urban "native guides" in his back-alley search for the elusive Ramon.


Michael Vincente Gazzo
as Police Chief Clark
Henry Silva
as Col. Brock
Sue Lyon
as News Reporter
Angel Tompkins
as News Reporter
John Lisbon Wood
as Mad Bomber
Patti Jerome
as Madeline
Tom Kindle
as Announcer
Simmy Bow
as Seedy
Jim Boeke
as Shamsky
Stan Haze
as Meyer
Peter Miller
as Sgt. Rice
Larry Marko
as Stanley
Richard Partlow
as Policeman 2
R.M. Richards
as Gator Vendor 2
JoJo D'Amore
as Gator Vendor 4
Anita Keith
as Old Lady
Mike Mazurki
as Gatekeeper
Margaret Muse
as Society Matron
View All

News & Interviews for Alligator

Critic Reviews for Alligator

All Critics (20) | Top Critics (7)

Enjoyable, but this croc-fest is no Lake Placid.

July 9, 2019 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Dumb as it is, director Lewis Teague brings some plusses to the pic. Robert Forster, as a detective, and Riker are amiable leads, never taking the film too seriously. Tech credits are cheap but serviceable.

March 26, 2009 | Full Review…

Lewis Teague is only too willing to hand over the entire project to Sayles's hunger for allegorical subplots.

November 6, 2007 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Clever, funny, and wonderfully bloody

September 27, 2007 | Rating: A- | Full Review…

The result is an effective and unpretentious treat.

February 9, 2006 | Full Review…

I suggest a plan: Why not try flushing this movie down the toilet to see if it also grows into something big and fearsome?

October 23, 2004 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Alligator


Before he launched an art-house directing career, John Sayles wrote a plethora of wiseacre, cunning horror-comedies for Roger Corman such as 'Piranha' and this gruesomely funny gem. Robert Forster is street-wise and unerringly charismatic as the detective who is investigating the string of sewer-based slayings and in a self-deprecating lack of seriousness, Forster's receding hairline is the subject of multifarious jabs. Sayles upends the old adage about flushing an alligator down the toilet and transforms it into a darkly humorous cautionary tale. For the most part, the alligator skulks through the shadows but once it is unveiled, the combination of animatronics and an alligator on a scale model, is an impressive feat. Perhaps the most pungent contribution of Sayles' screenplay is that if one were to extract the alligator scenes entirely, 'Alligator' would still be a exceedingly frolicsome satire of the New York lifestyle (Forster casually disarms a perpetrator with a makeshift "bomb" strapped to his chest as if it is a matter-of-fact occurrence). Teague rachets up the palpable suspense in many of the subterranean scenes (without a musical stinger to accompany it, the alligator can seen in the underground backdrop like a subliminal image). Henry Silva materializes midway through as a big-game hunter and his scenery-chewing hamminess is a joy to behold. Unlike the sublethal piranha, "Ramon" (as he dubbed earlier in the film) constitutes a baleful threat. Of the 'Jaws' imitators in the late 70's and early 80's, 'Alligator' is a wonderfully facetious addition that doesn't skimp on the offbeat humor or referential jokes (graffiti stating that "Harry Lime Lives" is spray-painted on a wall).

Cory Taylor
Cory Taylor

Super Reviewer


I love nature gone wild horror flicks. There's a certain appeal to killer animal films that just makes that genre of horror so memorable. Director Lewis Teague has made one of the classic gator flicks, years before films like Rogue and Lake Placid took to the screens. Alligator is fun monster horror flick about a killer alligator that terrorizes a town. This is a very good film that is pretty underrated. If you enjoy good old' fashioned cheesy monster films, then this is the perfect film to watch. As far as killer creature films are concerned, this is the most entertaining since 1976's Grizzly. There's plenty of good gruesome moments in this film to appeal to horror fans. If you love creature features, then check this one out. The cast do a good job and there's plenty of effective suspenseful moments to thrill you. This is a terrific B movie. it's a very enjoying film from start to finish. It's a well written, well directed from Lewis Teague, who also directed Cujo. It's very entertaining, and is a film that should get more exposure. Alligator is underrated and is a must see for fans who enjoy a good killer creature flick. Although nothing original, Alligator is nonetheless a solid entertaining film that delivers a thrilling viewing experience. The film is very tongue in cheek, and I think that's what makes this film so good, add to that an ample body count, and you have a horror film worth watching.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

When it comes to these creature features, they're pretty much a dime a dozen. I found Alligator to be quite special for a couple of reasons. First of all, it was made by competent filmmakers who put their own spin on things without losing sight of the main narrative. Second, Robert Forster, Perry Lang and Henry Silva are in it. The lovely Robin Riker is also in it, and one must experience Michael Vincente Gazzo's performance which is amazingly bad! Third, not only does it reference The Third Man in a very nice way, it's also been referenced and lifted from for everything from movies to video games. There are supposed to be some extended and deleted scenes from a TV version of the movie out there that I would like to have seen included on the side of the disc I watched, but the movie itself is quite entertaining. It's constantly giving us new information without becoming boring, and I like that a lot. It's also nice to see a leading guy who's not all that great. Not that Robert Forster isn't great, but the way he portrays his character makes him seem like a douche bag. It's great that he isn't the usual heroic type, yet still manages to come through in the end.

Tim Salmons
Tim Salmons

Super Reviewer

Alligator Quotes

News & Features