The ’80s Sci-Fi Horror Gem With A Quentin Tarantino Icon, Stream Right Away Without Netflix

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published


One of the most popular urban legends of modern times is the terrifying idea that deep underneath the streets of big cities, giant mutated creatures are lurking, waiting to feast upon the flesh of unlucky individuals. The 1980s horror gem, Alligator, starring Robert Forster (known for Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown), plays with this idea, spinning a boisterous and bloody tale of a baby Alligator that got flushed down the toilet and became a murderous sewer monster. You can stream it right now for free on Amazon Freevee.

A Jaws Copycat


Alligator isn’t the first movie to play on audiences’ fears of violent creatures running free on a murder spree. Just five years earlier, Steven Speilberg’s Jaws became the highest-grossing movie of all time (until Star Wars surpassed it two years later), so it makes sense that many filmmakers would want to capitalize on the popularity of the genre. While it never made it close to the hype Jaws saw, Alligator stands out as a monstrous B-movie gem from 1980. 

The Story


Directed by Lewis Teague and penned by John Sayles, this independent horror film slithers its way into the sewers of Chicago. The narrative sinks its teeth into the tale of a baby alligator flushed down a toilet in 1968. Feeding on discarded carcasses that were infused with growth formula from a nearby science lab, the reptile evolves into a gargantuan predator prowling the city’s murky depths. 

As the body count rises and the city plunges into chaos, a motley crew of characters, including a detective, herpetologist, a pompous big-game hunter, and an intrepid tabloid reporter, join the hunt. However, their efforts spiral into chaos as the alligator crashes a high-society wedding, leaving a trail of carnage in its wake.

How It Was Made

Filming took place predominantly in and around Los Angeles, with the production team ingeniously using various service tunnels to simulate the grimy underbelly of Chicago. To bring the titular terror to life, a combination of practical effects and optical tricks was employed. The monstrous alligator, a grotesque amalgamation of a Deinosuchus-Purussaurus hybrid, was meticulously crafted by Ben Stansbury, while Richard Helmer orchestrated its internal mechanics, reminiscent of his work on the iconic shark in Jaws.

It took an estimated $1.75 million to bring Alligator to life. It’s a modest number, even for the 80s. But it worked out for the film as the B-movie brought in $6.45 million in box office sales.

A Mixed Reception

Upon its release, Alligator received a mixed bag of reviews. While some critics lauded its suspense and dark humor, others dismissed it as a cheap imitation capitalizing on the success of Jaws. Nonetheless, the film found a cult following over the years, praised for its spirited performances, effective effects, and B-movie charm.

Forster Stood Out

As cheesy as the movie is, lead actor Robert Forster, who played Detective David Madison in the film, managed to capture the attention of fans and critics alike. His part even inspired auteur Quintin Tarantino in the creation of the character Max Cherry in Jackie Brown, a part that Forster also ended up playing.

Alligator’s Legacy


Despite its modest origins, Alligator left an enduring legacy, spawning a direct-to-video sequel in 1991, albeit unrelated to the original. The film’s influence extended beyond the silver screen, with a tabletop game released by the Ideal Toy Company in 1980, further cementing its status in popular culture.