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Film / Gremlins

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"So if your air conditioner goes on the fritz, or your washing machine blows up, or your video recorder conks out, before you call the repairman, turn on all the lights, check all the closets and cupboards, look under all the beds, 'cause you never can tell. There just might be a gremlin in your house."
— Rand Peltzer

Gremlins is a 1984 dark Horror Comedy film directed by Joe Dante, and executive produced by Steven Spielberg.

Inventor Randall Peltzer stops by Chinatown in New York City to pick up a gift for his son, Billy. He ends up getting a mysterious, yet undeniably adorable, critter called a mogwai. The creature comes with instructions, though:

The creature, named Gizmo, is gentle and well-behaved, but after he accidentally gets splashed with water, more mogwai suddenly form, and this new, mean-spirited batch tricks Billy into feeding them after midnight. They all form cocoons, and then turn into ugly, frightening gremlins, who gleefully cause havoc and terrorize the town.

Followed by the 1990 sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch. This one relocates the main characters to New York City, and features a parody of moguls such as Donald Trump and Ted Turner, as well as references to films like The Wizard of Oz and the Rambo series.


A second sequel is rumored to be in the works. An animated series for HBO Max called Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai was confirmed in 2020, which features the adventures of a young Mr. Wing and Gizmo as the boy learns to become the Big Good who would be the only man trustworthy to safely contain the mogwai. Characters from the franchise also appeared in LEGO form in the video game LEGO Dimensions.

This movie, along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, is the reason why the PG-13 rating was created in the U.S. (and the 12 rating in the U.K.).

For the trope, see Griping About Gremlins.


This film and its sequel provide examples of:

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    Both movies 
  • Adaptational Heroism: Daffy and Lenny, while arguably the least malicious of the known mogwai, were still antagonistic and ultimately evolved into dangerous Gremlins in the second film. In the Gremlins: Gizmo video game, they are Eternals you can choose to take control of like Gizmo.
  • Alien Blood: The gremlins bleed (often copious amounts) of green goo, even though the mogwai bleed red.
  • All There in the Manual: The Novelization has a prologue that explains that Mogwais were genetically engineered by an alien scientist called the Mogturmen as the perfect companion. However, the vast majority of Mogwais turned out to be dangerous, not to mention the unforeseen Gremlin problem. Gizmo is one of the few Mogwais to turn out right (labelled 'Eternals').
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Emphasis on "chaotic" in the case of any of the Mogwai/Gremlins who aren't Gizmo. Emphasis on "evil" when it comes to Stripe and Mohawk. That said, the other Gremlins do not exactly weep over killed comrades.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Averted. The Gremlins aren't even safe from each other.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The twin scientists in the sequel guess that Gizmo is some kind of rodent, yet he lacks the buck teeth that all rodents share; if anything, he looks like a prosimian primate.
    • The Gremlins don't seem to reproduce again until Stripe dips his finger in the fountain, even though he and most of the Gremlins have been walking barefoot through snow to reach the bar and the movie theater.
    • They most likely have to have water spilled on their torso area combined with the fact that gremlins are most likely cold-blooded and couldn't melt the snow with their body heat
  • Ascended Extra: Murray Futterman is a relatively minor character in the first film, but has a much bigger part in the second, sneaking into the building the Gremlins are occupying and even pulling a Big Damn Heroes moment to save Billy.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The first Mogwai is bought from a Chinese shop. "Mo-Gwai" is Cantonese for "devil."
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The Mogwai and gremlins don't operate under normal biological rules. Most forms of light are painful to them, and sunlight is outright fatal, they reproduce asexually just from contacting water, and they metamorphosize from the former to the latter just by eating after midnight. The novelization justifies this by saying they are literally aliens.
  • Celestial Deadline: Mogwai shall not be fed "after midnight", lest they turn into Gremlins. Nothing is said about when you can feed them again. Sunrise, maybe?
    • Lampshaded in the second movie, when the security crew mocks Billy by coming up with various scenarios, such as eating on a plane and passing into another time zone.
  • Clock Discrepancy: One of the rules for handling mogwai was to never NEVER feed them after midnight (as turns out, it turns them into gremlins). One night the mogwai in the box were making noises like they were hungry. The alarm clock says it's about 11:30, so the boy feeds them some leftover chicken. The next day, the boy notices the clock reading the exact same time. Seems the extension cord had been ripped from the plug, the mogwai actually chewed through the electrical cord, so it was after midnight after all.
    • In the sequel, Billy has all the clocks in Clamp Tower set ahead a few hours, to convince the Gremlins the sun has gone down and it's safe to come out.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: The Gremlins may well define this trope.
  • Cute Is Evil: The cuteness of the Mogwai blinds people to the fact that they could possibly be dangerous.
  • Explosive Breeder: Mogwai start to pop out new mogwai whenever they get wet. Gremlins do this too, and they make more gremlins rather than mogwai.
  • The Fair Folk: The novelisations outright state that the Mogwai/Gremlins are their direct inspiration, and they are modelled after a particular fey creature anyways. If you consider the novels' statements about them being aliens to be true, then they also reference the similarities between traditional fairies and the grays.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence / Family-Unfriendly Death: To the point that the graphic content of the first movie (along with another Spielberg production) was used as an indication that a rating between PG and R was necessary.
  • Follow the Leader: There were oodles of gremlins-like creature features in between the two films, including Ghoulies and unfortunately Hobgoblins. (The movie Critters was not following the lead of Gremlins, as it had been in the works before Gremlins went into production.)
  • Genetic Memory: Gremlins, as part of their nature, are born with the capacity to understand the interworkings of machinery and how to sabotage it. As well as an apparently instinctive grasp and love of pop culture.
  • The Genie Knows Jack Nicholson: In spades; both Gizmo and the Gremlins are huge pop culture junkies. This quality is exaggerated and highlighted in the second film.
  • Gorn: The Gremlins have green blood and guts, which leaves them open to extremely gory deaths that only get more gruesome in the sequel.
  • Green Aesop: After the mayhem in the first film, the Chinese shopkeeper returns to collect Gizmo, berating the Peltzers all the while. "You have done with mogwai what your society has done with all of nature's gift!" Definitely shoe-horned on, considering the causes for the mayhem was an innocent accident with water, followed by the mogwai tricking Billy into feeding them after midnight.
    • It can be argued that the real cause of the whole incident was Billy's father going against the Mogwai's original owner and taking it from the place where it was protected and understood, then bringing it into an environment that was both unfamiliar with it and to it, so the Aesop still stands. As for the whole "alien genetic experiment" angle, it's not in the original movies, where the "nature's gift" line was first spoken, so it's more like a case of Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole.
    • The Aesop is also undermined by the man delivering it: if you know anything about Chinese Folk Medicine, then you'll know that the Chinese do more than their fair share of exploiting and harming nature for selfish reasons.
  • Griping About Gremlins: For anyone who lived long enough to gripe about them, at least. The first film features a monologue by Mr. Futterman about the typical Gremlin legend, which Billy later latches on to as a handy name for the critters. They do embody some elements of the mythical gremlins, notably being very adept with technology, usually to the detriment of human beings.
  • Horror Hates a Rulebreaker: The series is a classic example of this trope/genre of horror. The adorable little Mogwai named Gizmo had a number of rules that anyone taking care of one needed to know.
    • The first rule was never to place a Mogwai near bright light, especially sunlight as that would kill them.
    • The second rule was never to get any water on them or have them drink it, as this was their primary means of reproduction, and when this rule was broken, it resulted in a number of Mogwai getting born from Gizmo's back who weren't nearly as nice as him.
    • The third and final rule was never to feed a Mogwai after midnight (something the new Mogwai tricked the protagonist into doing by means of ripping the wires out of a mains-powered analog clock), because that would result in the Mogwai undergoing a transformation into one of the eponymous Gremlins. The key to defeating them turned out to be weaponizing the first rule, which worked on both Mogwai and Gremlins alike.
  • I'm Melting!: Prolonged exposure to sunlight causes gremlins to melt. For added points Gremlins 2 has one dressed as a witch recite the trope namer as he melts.
  • Incongruously Dressed Zombie: Whenever a Gremlin bothers to wear clothes, it's liable to be this trope. The bar scenes from the first movie in features Gremlin bar floozies, Gremlin beatniks, a Gremlin in a Flashdance outfit, a ski-masked Gremlin armed robber, and even a Gremlin flasher.
  • Inevitably Broken Rule: The three rules of keeping a Mogwai: never expose them to light, never get them wet, and never ever feed them after midnight. The breaking of the second and third rules causes the Gremlin infestation, while the breaking of the first rule ends it.
  • It Amused Me: The main motivation behind the Gremlins' actions. Most of them aren't inherently evil - it's just that they are The Unfettered in their pursuit of fun, resulting in it often involving wanton destruction.
  • It Can Think: A lot of the problems arise from the human characters fatally underestimating the Gremlins' intelligence. After the evil Mogwai are spawned, they trick Billy into feeding them after midnight by sabotaging his analog clock, and on several other occasions they damage equipment to cause accidents, like cutting the brakes of a police car. Stripe knows full well that water creates more Gremlins, so he jumps into a pool when Billy pursues him, and also knows how to operate tools (he attacks Billy with a pistol and a mini-chainsaw).
  • Jerkass: Most gremlins qualify for this, save for Lenny and Daffy, but Stripe and Mohawk especially stand out in the jerk department.
  • Killer Rabbit: The mogwai, save for Gizmo. Gizmo himself qualifies when he Takes A Level In Badass and models himself after Rambo.
  • Knight of Cerebus: While the Gremlins are played for violent laughs in general, both Stripe and Mohawk are played deadly straight.
  • Laughably Evil: Most gremlins in general. They're both incredibly dangerous and very funny.
  • Lighter and Softer: The first film compared to the original script, where the gremlins usually killed and ate people in exceedingly horrific ways. Also the second film to the first, which set out to be much sillier and slapsticky rendition than the occasionally dark first one (compare Kate's Santa monologue with the way a similar one is treated in the sequel).
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Sunlight kills mogwai and gremlins who are also afraid of bright lights. Water splashed onto either of the two produces more creatures spawned from their backs. Feeding a mogwai after midnight causes it to metamorphosize into a gremlin. This gets played with in the second movie.
  • Metamorphosis Monster: The Mogwai transform if fed after midnight.
  • Monster Delay: In both films, we at first don't see much if anything of the gremlins except glimpses of their arms and shadows and hearing their voices after their cocoons hatch. After a short time, we finally see them in all their monstrous glory, and from then on they get a lot of screen-time for the rest of either film. This trope's re-use in the second film remains effective due to the four metamorphosing mogwai's unique appearances.
    • Part of this, at least in the first film, is the limitations of the puppets, and Chris Walas always racing to keep up with the film's shooting schedule.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: While no one seems to make a big deal out of who kills what gremlin, it always seems to be Gizmo's destiny to be the one to destroy the lead gremlin which seems to be his main rival.
    • For that matter, while some manage to kill at least one gremlin, it always seems to be Billy's plan that exterminates the entire horde of gremlins except the leader.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The fluffy mammal-like Mogwai outside of Gizmo are already depicted as a malicious bunch, but they become an unstoppable horde who create havoc in the town and kill several people only after they're turned into fierce reptilian-esque Gremlins.
  • Restraining Bolt: In the novelization, Stripe tells Gizmo right to his face that he wants to kill him but can't for some reason. Gizmo explains that their alien creators made sure that Mogwai could never kill each other. That Restraining Bolt vanishes after Stripe becomes a Gremlin, since he isn't a Mogwai anymore.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The mogwai, particularly Gizmo. At least before they have an after-midnight snack.
  • Species Title: About the odd creatures with a penchant for havoc and terror.
  • Threw My Bike on the Roof: In addition to enjoying scaring people, gremlins seem to like wrecking property just to be dicks.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Gizmo goes from harmless furby to sharp-shooting Rambo-clone over the course of the two films.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Poor Billy runs headlong into this trope in both films.
    • First, he's trying to convince the local sheriff that thousands of vicious little monsters spawned from his one tiny, fuzzy friend are terrorizing the town. He starts off acknowledging how insane he sounds and trying to be reasonable, but considering the damage the Gremlins can cause, that doesn't last long.
    Billy: Sheriff! Sheriff, will you listen to me?
    Sheriff: You listen to me, kid! Go on home, take little Gizmo there, sit by the fireplace, and open your Christmas presents, huh? Attaboy.
    • In Gremlins 2, after getting arrested trying to sabotage the Clamp building to keep the Gremlins from getting wet, he's a bit more forceful and incoherent.
    Billy: They feed after midnight, and then they form these cocoons, and then they—
    Forrester: Peltzer, you're having a psychotic episode. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • Action Mom: Mrs. Peltzer turns unexpectedly and brilliantly badass when she kills three (pre-gremlin army) gremlins in one scene alone. Her weapons of choice: Blender, kitchen knife, and microwave.
    Mrs Peltzer: Get out of my kitchen!!
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas: It falls under this when the town is invaded by monsters on Christmas Eve.
  • Alone with the Psycho: After seeing the gremlin that had attacked Mr. Hanson, Billy immediately knew that his mother was in danger and quickly raced back home.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!: Mrs. Deagle's Establishing Character Moment involves her showcasing herself as a very vile woman in many ways, mentioning that she hates the Peltzers and culminating with threatening to kill Billy's dog in the most grisly way she can think of in retribution for it accidentally destroying her property.
  • Artistic License – Economics:
    • As soon as Randall Peltzer finds out that Gizmo reproduced upon getting wet, he thinks that selling mogwai could be his big break. Yeeeeeeeeah... because a species that reproduces when exposed to a little water is sure going to stay in demand for awhile.. Justified Trope — Rand's frequently shown to be absolutely terrible with money, to the point Billy's the breadwinner for the household.
    • So kicking out tenants that can't pay without providing them so much as a single day's extra time even if they beg for it and treating them like absolute crap (and being such an absolute bitch that everybody in town knows it) is supposed to provide Mrs. Deagle with money, how...? No wonder All There in the Manual exposes that it's a deliberate part of a real estate scam (a mall in deleted scenes, a company that was going to use the land to dispose of toxic waste in the novelization).
  • Asshole Victim: Mrs. Deagle was SUCH a bitch, especially in the deleted scenes that reveal she was forcing people out of their homes to put down a strip mall, effectively destroying Kingston Falls.
    • In the novelization, she was selling their land to a chemical company (named "Hitox" of all things), so one can assume she was going to turn the town into a toxic waste dump.
    • Even in the onscreen version, she is a heartless ice-bitch who casually evicts poor widows with children on Christmas Eve, and gleefully threatens to kill helpless little dogs by throwing them in the drying machine.
      • Almost Lampshaded herself after seeing the Gremlins for the first time, convinced "they're" coming for her. Her breakdown into delusional sobbing before she activates her tampered stairlift and her own demise almost makes you feel sorry for her makes you cheer as she literally flies down to Hell where she belongs (the Latin American translation even adds "to go to Hell" to the line below).
      Mrs. Deagle: I'm not ready!!!
    • There's actually a bit cut out of the scene leading up to her death, where she looks at a picture of her dead husband and sighs "Oh, Donald. . ." It was so good they had to cut it out because it made her too sympathetic. And this after she's threatened to put a friendly, cute dog into a spin dryer on high heat!
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: On top of telling a woman and her children that she will not allow them so much as a day's extension in their delayed payment and she will have them kicked out of their home on Christmas Eve, Mrs. Deagle establishes she is a complete monster by threatening to snatch Billy's dog and toss the poor thing in her drier in revenge for the dog accidentally smashing her porcelain snowman (Billy offers to pay her back and she insists she will not accept anything less than the dog's life as retribution).
  • Big Bad: Stripe, the first mogwai/gremlin born when Gizmo got wet, and the leader of the gremlins.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Billy manages to decapitate a Gremlin choking his mother.
    • Gizmo exposes Stripe to sunlight at the end, just as the gremlin is about to shoot Billy and produce a new army of gremlins.
  • Big "NO!": Gizmo lets out one when he sees Stripe is about to jump into a pool.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Billy's biology teacher is the only black character in the film, and the gremlins' first victim.
  • Bungling Inventor: Randall Peltzer's inventions are nothing but disasters that leave tremendous messes behind and it's implied Billy is the primary bread-winner of the family because of this. He still insists in trying to make money out of them, even thinking it would be a good Get-Rich-Quick Scheme to try to exploit the mogwais' ability to make more of them by making them wet (even if it's obvious that such a thing would make demand run out real quick, let alone the "newborns are evil" thing).
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Gremlins have been defeated and everything is safe again, but Gizmo has to go back to Chinatown with Mr. Wing, who delivers a withering The Reason You Suck to the family for the chaos they unwittingly unleashed. However, seeing the bond Gizmo has developed with Billy, Mr. Wing acknowledges that Billy may one day be the one to take care of Gizmo.
  • The Cameo: Chuck Jones is the man who compliment's Billy's drawing skills at the bar early in the film. Jim McKrell (host and announcer of a few game shows, most notably Celebrity Sweepstakes) and a young Tom Bergeron (then a personality at WBZ-TV 4 in Boston) make appearances as TV news reporters.
  • Captain Ersatz: Mrs. Deagle looks and acts a lot like The Wicked Witch of the West and her human counterpart Miss Gulch, right down to threatening the main character's dog.
  • Chekhov's Gun: At the beginning of the movie, the first rule explains that Gizmo's species hates bright lights and that sunlight in particular is lethal to them. At first, this just seemed like a necessary rule to care for Gizmo, but it ends up being the most important weapon in the fight against the gremlins, the former part allowing them to drive them off while Gizmo ends up using the latter half to destroy the gremlin leader.
    • The ornamental swords hanging next to the door (and which keep falling off every time someone comes into the house) are actually pretty deadly when put to good use.
  • Chimney Entry: Kate's father tried to surprise his family this way one Christmas. Unfortunately, he broke his neck and died in the process.
  • Cooked to Death: Billy's mom is attacked in the kitchen by the initial batch of title monsters. She tosses one into a mixer and backs another one into a microwave, which she then activates.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: Mrs. Deagle again. She is shown to adore her numerous cats and nurture them in a disturbingly affectionate manner. Not that the heartless old hag showed any of the same kindness to children who can be made homeless by one word from her, mind you. The fact that the cats are all named after various pieces of currency from around the world plainly shows what she REALLY cares about.
  • Creator In-Joke: The working titles for Steven Spielberg's movies Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial were "Watch the Skies" and "A Boy's Life" respectively. Both were referenced as a Creator In-Joke in Gremlins (which Spielberg produced), as two movies reportedly showing in the town theater when Billy walks past it. Also, Rockin' Ricky Rialto's billboard is in the style of Indiana Jones from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • Creator Cameo: Steven Spielberg is seen at the inventors' convention, ridign a crazy-looking recumbent bike.
  • Darker and Edgier: The first film is definitely this to the Lighter and Softer sequel, having a ton of frightening imagery, making the Gremlins nightmarish demons with a sense of humor that ranges from corny to twisted. Not to mention the death toll by the end of the film.
    • And the original script compared to the first film. The script includes such scenes as the Mogwai eating Barney (before they turn into Gremlins), killing Billy's mom immediately after they turn (and throwing her dismembered head down the stairs just as Billy walks in the front door and thus landing at his feet...imagine that image welcoming you home as you walk unsuspectingly into your house), a McDonald's full of half-eaten burgers (by people) and half-eaten people (by Gremlins). Oh, and Gizmo turned into a Gremlin, indistinguishable from any of the others.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Poor Gizmo is himself strapped to the dartboard not long after the Gremlins emerge from their cocoons, who then proceed to chuck darts at him, showing how much their contempt for him as grown. The scene serves as a meta one for the filmmakers as well, who made it to express their own frustration in how difficult it was to make the small Gizmo puppet work alongside the much larger gremlins.
  • Deadline News: Subverted with "Rockin' Ricky" Rialto's radio broadcast. We hear him believing the radio listeners calling to denounce the gremlin-caused chaos are pranking him and then his desperate screaming as the Gremlins attack him before the transmission cuts off but he comes back a few scenes later having apparently fought them off by himself.
  • Destination Defenestration: This is how Mrs. Deagle meets her end, courtesy of the Gremlins.
  • Disney Death: It appears that the Futtermans are crushed and killed by a snowplow-driving gremlin, but at the very end of the movie we hear a news reporter mentioning that he'd just spoken with the lovable old couple, who are still alive and well. Viewers who missed that often mistake their reappearance in the sequel as an Unexplained Recovery (although how they survived the encounter isn't shown, either).
    • The novelization, based on an earlier draft of the script, reveals this to be a last second addition. They're explicitly stated to have died in that version.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Mr. Futterman is put out of a job, and then finds out his beloved Kentucky Harvester has foreign-made parts in it.
  • Eats Babies: In the original script, a scene was planned where Billy and Kate would have come across a McDonald's full of partially devoured people, including many empty baby strollers and a gremlin so bloated from its feast that it had been abandoned by its fellows.
  • From Bad to Worse: After four of the original gremlins are wiped outnote , Stripe, the last one remaining, flees. Billy and Gizmo track him down to the Y.M.C.A...where he jumps into a pool.
  • Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: One of these is what makes the whole mess happen — Mr. Wing's grandson sells Gizmo to Randall Peltzer because the store's location (and Mr. Wing's persnickety nature) have turned it into a money pit. It's also showcased that Peltzer's inventions are this and thus Billy is the primary breadwinner of the family. When he sees the way Mogwai reproduce, Randall briefly entertains the thought of selling the Mogwai as "the Peltzer Pet" (not thinking of how quickly demand will run out if all it takes to make more of them is any amount of water, and not knowing that all Mogwai but Gizmo are very vicious even before turning into Gremlins).
  • Gambling Brawl: A group of Gremlins are playing poker in the bar when one of them tries to cheat. Stripe pulls out a gun and shoots the other Gremlin dead on the spot, which causes the rest of his ilk to burst into laughter.
  • Gift Shake: Billy starts to do this with his present, but is quickly stopped by his father since the box contains Gizmo.
  • Hero of Another Story: Rockin' Ricky manages to survive a Gremlin assault on his radio station, and is back on the air at the end of the movie. In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it line from his survival broadcast, he mentions Marines have arrived to keep the creatures away from his station. Armed with fire hoses.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: All of the events happen during Christmas Eve.
  • Jerkass: Gerald qualifies although he does seem to have some kind of liking for Billy. He doesn't so much put Billy down as to question why he isn't doing more with his life, even if he's not terribly nice about it.
  • Kick the Dog: In the Darker and Edgier original script, the gremlins killed the Peltzers' pet dog, and Billy would have returned home to see his mother's head roll down the stairs. In the final version they just dangle Barney up with Christmas lights, and the mother survives with minor injuries.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: The gremlins' murder of Mrs. Deagle.
  • Kill It with Fire: Finding that the gremlins have gathered in a movie theater, Billy and Kate set off a gas explosion in the hopes of wiping them all out. It works, but Stripe survives because he had left the theater to get some candy from a nearby store.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: A Movie Within a Movie version when Billy and Gizmo are watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). Miles Benell's mad rant at the end of the film regarding the pod people could be seen like it was aimed at Billy and Gizmo, warning them about the gremlins.
  • Lighter and Softer: At least, compared to the original script draft.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: Mr. Wing's shop is in a basement deep in Chinatown and his own grandson mentions that clientele doesn't arrive very often as a result.
  • Microwave Misuse: One of the eponymous monsters is killed in the microwave; going pop in a very spectacular fashion.
  • My Car Hates Me: Played with. In the beginning, Billy's car refuses to start, forcing him to walk to work. In the middle of the Gremlin attack, it actually starts for him. But later, when he tries to drive it again, it won't start. This might actually have some Fridge Brilliance behind it.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Billy unwittingly feeding the mogwai after midnight, though that can be forgiven as they had to trick him into doing it. Also implied near the end of the film where Rockin' Ricky can be overheard on the radio saying that the marines are planning to spray down the Gremlins with firehoses, though the main characters manage to stop them before that ever happens.
  • Nightmare Face: The sight of the gremlin laughing evilly up close facing you after the deputy's car crashes is enough to give anyone a nightmare. Yeah, good luck trying to sleep after seeing this.
  • Nobody Can Die: Sort of Retcon. In the first movie we see Mrs Deagle's body and a number of humans seem to die offscreen. But early in the second movie Kate mentions that fortunately nobody got killed.
    • Deagle might have just been knocked out. But one wonders how the science teacher survived. Maybe Kate was lying.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Possibly with Rockin' Ricky Rialto. The gremlins attack him while he's on the air, but he later comes back to the airwaves, apparently none the worse for wear. This could imply that he managed to defeat whatever gremlins attacked the radio station, although the gremlins may also have simply broken off their attack to go to the movie theater with the others.
  • Off with His Head!:
    • In the Darker and Edgier original script, Billy returned home to see his mother's head rolling down the stairs.
    • In the film itself, Billy decapitates a gremlin with a sword and kicks the severed head in the fireplace, and it screams as it's on fire.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Billy's reaction after the last gremlin, Stripe, jumps into a public swimming pool. Gremlin Army ensues.
    • When he's lying on the ground gasping in pain from Stripe shooting a crossbow bolt into his arm, and then he hears the sound of an electric chainsaw whirring to life.
    • The Gremlin choking Billy's mom, just before Billy chops his head off. "Uh-oh."
    • Really, one after another after another as soon as the Gremlins hatch:
      • Billy when he gets the phone call from Mr. Hanson saying that "It just hatched."
      • Again when he finds Mr. Hanson's dead body.
      • Billy's mom when she hears the Gremlins upstairs, then goes up to Billy's room and sees the hatched cocoons.
      • Billy calling his mom to warn her that "They've hatched, get out of the house!"
      • Billy and his mom as the phone call gets cut off, then "Do You Hear What I Hear" starts playing downstairs.
      • Finally, Billy's Mom when she sees the Gremlin eating one of her gingerbread men.
  • Out of Focus: Mrs. Peltzer has one Action Mom scene and then disappears for most of the movie. Possibly because in the original script the gremlins killed her.
  • Police Are Useless: Joe Dante probably defines this trope best in the commentary track: "Whenever you have a sci-fi film, and police, you always have to have a scene with the police, and it's always the same scene." Which ends with the police, still not believing Billy despite seeing Gizmo with their own eyes, leaving to investigate the Futterman's "freak accident" with the snowplow, seeing Mrs. Deagle and a guy playing Santa getting attacked by Gremlins, then getting their brake lines cut and presumably dying in the ensuing car crash.
  • Properly Paranoid: Mr. Futterman's crazy drunk talk about gremlins had some truth to it. During the climax, Billy even says that he was right.
  • Pupating Peril: It's eventually discovered that Mogwai who are allowed to eat after midnight end up encased in creepy, Giger-esque cocoons as they begin metamorphosing into Gremlins. This is played for much ominousness when Billy discovers that five of his six Mogwai are now cocoons clustered around his bed; it eventually results in an especially nightmarish moment in which the newly-metamorphosed Gremlins begin clawing their way out of their cocoons while a terrified Gizmo tries to hide.
  • Schmuck Bait: "And the most important rule of all, the one you must never forget: no matter how much he cries, no matter how much he begs, never, EVER feed him after midnight."
    • Subverted. Billy takes this rule seriously, even though he doesn't know what exactly is going to happen, and honestly intends to follow it. The evil Mogwai had to trick him into breaking it. To be specific, he thought it was safe to feed them as it wasn't midnight yet. His clock had been tampered with.
  • Shirtless Scene: Billy gets one after his father's orange juicer explodes on him, forcing him to change shirts.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Hi, Doctor Moreau."
      • Notably, this isn't the neighbor Billy takes his injured mother to after the Gremlins first hatch (that's Dr. Mollinaro). This is someone Billy sees as he's running down the street to get to work at the bank. Apparently, Dr. Moreau works at the animal clinic...
    • When Billy is hunting down Stripe in the department store, he walks past a row of plush dolls. Not only is Stripe hiding amongst them (a direct reference to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) he pushes away an actual doll of E.T. while poking his head out.
    • Robbie the Robot and The Time Machine (1960) appear (or disappear, in the latter's case) in the inventor convention attended by Mr. Peltzer.
    • At Dory's when talking with Billy Gerald orders a martini shaken not stirred.
    • Rockin' Ricky Rialto's billboard is a reference to Raiders of the Lost Ark, complete with Rialto's name in the same font as the Raiders poster and Rialto's likeness dressed as Indiana Jones.
    • Mr. Wing's son is dressed like Short Round.
    • The gremlin cocoons bear a resemblance to the eggs from Alien.
    • In Billy's bedroom you can see a Twilight Zone: The Movie title marquee in the background. The film featured a segment Joe Dante himself directed: A radically different remake of the episode It's A Good Life.
    • Billy mentions he got a comic book from "Dr. Fantasy's". Dr. Fantasy is the nickname of movie producer Frank Marshall, a regular collaborator with Spielberg.
  • Soft Glass: The Gremlins (mostly Stripe) have no problem breaking through windows seemingly by just running through them. Possibly justified by their scaly skin giving them enough armor to protect them from such minor injuries.
  • Stuck in a Chimney: Kate's father tried to surprise his family by Chimney Entry one Christmas. Unfortunately, he broke his neck and died in the process. Kate's family didn't find this out until later when they broke through the chimney to discover why there was a bad smell coming from it.
  • Surprisingly Functional Toys: When the heroes track down Stripe to a department store, Gizmo finds a toy car sized for him, which he can drive around by the steering wheel, and even has a functioning horn, and soon the good Mogwai is driving around in the store looking for Stripe.
  • Sympathy for the Devil, the second Gremlin Billy's mom kills is stabbed to death with a butcher's knife. Or so you think until you see it behind her pinned to her cutting board wiggling around trying to pull the knife out! Sure they are nasty little monsters but being pinned to the ground with a knife through the gut is a horrible way to go. Finish the little bugger off at least.
  • Tagalong Kid: Billy seems to have an older brother type of relationship with a kid called Pete who hangs out with him.
  • Technicolor Death: It's not enough for sunlight to just kill Gremlins. It has to melt them alive.
  • Theme Naming: All of Ms. Deagle's cats are named after different currencies: Dollar Bill, Kopeck, Drachma, etc.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Kate's father had to have been a very stupid man. Jumping down your own chimney while overloaded with presents like Santa Claus is only asking for trouble. To quote CinemaSins, "Christmas didn't kill your father, Kate, stupid did."
  • Tower Defense: Pete is seen defending his room's window against invading gremlins.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Late in the film, the gremlins take a break from their usual mischief to watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the theater.
  • The Voice: The DJ at the town radio station, "Rockin' Ricky Rialto". Gremlins are heard breaking into his studio, but as noted above he survives.
    Rockin' Ricky: Hey wait a minute, you're not Rockin' Ricky fans!...
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Billy's friend Pete is last seen firing his slingshot at a few gremlins. Then later we hear him calling into the radio station trying to give a warning out about them, and then he gets cut off. Pete doesn't appear in the sequel (Corey Feldman was in rehab at the time), nor is he even mentioned.
    • Judge Reinhold's character Gerald is seemingly introduced as an (unsuccessful) rival for Kate's affections, and disappears from the movie after appearing in two scenes. A deleted scene shows that he was hiding out in the bank vault while the Gremlins ran wild, and is losing his sanity.
    • The final fate of the Mogwai/Gremlin that Billy lent to Mr. Hanson is never really explained.
      • He could have joined with the other Gremlins afterwards.
    • The two cops flip their car after a Gremlin cuts their brakes, and don't appear for the rest of the movie. It's unclear whether or not they survived.
    • Mr. Wing's Grandson is never seen again in the movie or mentioned in the sequel. The novelization however explains that he was severely punished by his grandfather for the back alley sale of Gizmo.
    • Mr. Hanson get his hand chewed/clawed up and a syringe in the butt, but it's never outright stated that he's been killed, and he's never mentioned again.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Do not feed Mogwai after midnight.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: One particular Mogwai, stated as Earl in official media, is hinted in the film and novel as being one of the few Mogwai blessed with a more docile personality similar to Gizmo, that is until he is taken to the middle school to be experimented on and then happening on that sandwich, condemning him to become another psychotic Gremlin and (presumably) suffer the same ill fate as all his other brethren.
  • You Are Not Ready: Although it is hinted that Billy may be one day.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: There are three rules to properly care for Mogwais. Billy goes far enough as to break two of those rules so that the movie can really set in full gear in favor of the Gremlins. However the third rule is used to finally thwart Stripe.
  • Younger Than They Look: Ruby Deagle was a dowager in her early sixties, but she was played by Polly Holliday, who was 46 at the time.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Gremlins Unleashed


With Mogwai comes much responsibility (Gremlins)

After witnessing the Gremlins catastrophe and the Peltzer's breaking the three rules, Mr. Wing decides to claim Gizmo and take him back to his home, addressing that maybe Billy, the most responsible member of the family, will be ready for it one day.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / YouAreNotReady

Media sources: