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Lewis Teague


Brandon Chase


John Sayles
Frank Ray Perilli


Robert Forster
Robin Riker
Michael Gazzo

Music by

Craig Hundley

Production information

BLC Services Inc


90 min


$1,750,000 (estimated)



Alligator is a 1980 American monster movie, directed by Lewis Teague with a screenplay by John Sayles. It stars Robert ForsterRobin Riker, and Michael V. Gazzo. It follows the attempts of a police officer named David Madison and a reptile expert named Marisa Kendall to stop a deadly giant alligator that is killing humans in the sewers of Chicago.

The film received praise from critics for its intentional satirizing and, in 1991, an apparent sequel was released, titled Alligator II: The Mutation. Despite the title, this film shared no characters or actors with the original, and the plot was essentially a retread of the first film. A board game based on the movie was distributed by the Ideal Toy Company in 1980.


A baby alligator is flushed down a Chicago toilet and survives by eating discarded lab animals,  injected with growth hormones. The small animal grows gigantic, escapes the city sewers, and goes on a rampage.


  • Robert Forster as David Madison
  • Robin Riker as Marisa Kendall
  • Michael V. Gazzo as Chief Clark
  • Dean Jagger as Slade
  • Sydney Lassick as Luke Gutchel
  • Jack Carter as Mayor
  • Perry Lang as Officer Jim Kelly
  • Henry Silva as Col. Brock
  • Bart Braverman as Thomas Kemp
  • John Lisbon Wood as Mad Bomber
  • James Ingersoll as Arthur Helms
  • Robert Doyle as Bill Kendall
  • Patti Jerome as Mrs. Madeline Kendall
  • Angel Tompkins as Newswoman
  • Sue Lyon as NBC Newswoman
  • Mike Mazurki as Gatekeeper (as Michael Mazurki)
  • Robert Hammond as Wedding Guest (uncredited)


Filming took place in and around Los Angeles. Although commentary on the Lions Gate Entertainment DVD gives the location as Chicago, the police vehicles in the film appear to have Missouri license plates. When the young Marisa returns home with her family from their vacation in Florida, they pass a sign that reads "Welcome to Missouri." Later, the voice of a newscaster identifies Marisa as "a native of our city," implying the location is a city in Missouri other than St. Louis. 


Vincent Canby of the New York Times praised the film, saying, "The film's suspense is frequently as genuine as its wit and its fond awareness of the clichés it's using."

Film critic Roger Ebert was not a fan of the movie, suggesting that it would be best to "flush this movie down the toilet to see if it also grows into something big and fearsome."

Online movie review site, From the Mind of Tatlock loved the film, saying, "The movie definitely screams 80's cheese, but in actuality, it's more than just that. It's a semi-serious, yet funny take on the giant creature features, that were all the rage back then and doesn't once stop being awesome."

The film is rated M in New Zealand and it contains violence and offensive language.


A sequel to Alligator was released in 1991, titled Alligator II: The Mutation. The film was heavily panned by critics due to its less impressive special effects as well as its plot being essentially a retread of the original first film. Unlike the original film that was rated R, the sequel was rated PG-13.

Video releases

On September 18, 2007, Lions Gate Entertainment released the film on DVD for the first time in the USA. The disc features a new 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer in the original 1.78:1 ratio and a new Dolby
Alligator (1980)

DVD for Alligator

Digital 5.1-channel sound mix in addition to the original mono mix. The included extras are a commentary track with director Lewis Teague and star Robert Forster, a featurette titled Alligator Author in which screenwriter John Sayles discusses the differences between his original story and the final screenplay, and the original theatrical trailer. The film had previously been available on DVD in other territories, including a version released in the UK in February 2003 by Anchor Bay Entertainment (now Starz). This release features an optional DTS sound mix, includes the 1991 sequel Alligator II: The Mutation on a second disc, and includes the same Teague-Forster commentary found on the recent Lions Gate US release.


  • Graffiti on a wall in a sewer at the end of the film reads "Harry Lime Lives," a reference to the character from The Third Man (1949) who is chased through the sewer system of Vienna in that film.
  • The shot of the swat team emerging from the sewers looked so real that people actually thought they were terrorists and some even called the police.
  • The oft-malfunctioning animatronic alligator used in the film was later donated to the Florida Gators as a team mascot.
  • The first victim's name is Edward Norton. The Honeymooners (1955) features a sewer worker of that name.
  • The proceeds that John Sayles earned from his screenwriting duties were used to finance Return of the Secaucus Seven (1979).
  • Robert Forster was recovering from a case of spinal meningitis when principle filming began.
  • As in the shooting of this film's main inspiration, Jaws (1975), the mechanical, giant alligator was often malfunctioning. In a few scenes, Lewis Teague either shot around the alligator to build suspense or shot a regular alligator in miniature sets (which is plainly obvious in some shots).
  • Robert Forster improvised the jokes in regard to his receding hairline, which a delighted John Sayles wrote into the script during shooting for the other characters.
  • John Sayles read Frank Ray Perilli's script for the film once and then totally scrapped it. Sayles said it was set in Milkwaukee and explained that the alligator grew gigantic because of beer from a beer factory going into the sewers.
  • The final cinema film of Dean Jagger.
  • Kelly (played by Perry Lang), the young police officer who follows David through the sewers, is always seen with chewing tobacco in his mouth.