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Short takes

Not suitable under 13; parental guidance to 14 (violence, scary scenes, themes, language)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Gremlins
  • a review of Gremlins completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 25 December 2023.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not suitable due to violence, themes, scary scenes, and language.
Children aged 13–14 Parental guidance recommended due to violence, themes, scary scenes, and language.
Children aged 15 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Gremlins
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: The content is mild in impact
Length: 106 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

While on a business trip, struggling inventor Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) visits an unusual antique shop in a remote corner of Chinatown but instead of selling his product, he walks away with a Christmas gift for his son Billy (Zach Galligan). Upon returning home, Billy opens the gift immediately and discovers an unusual creature whom he calls ‘Gizmo’ (voice of Howie Mandel). Gizmo is a sweet and timid little fellow but when he accidentally gets wet, five more creatures are spawned from his back. These creatures are not as nice as Gizmo and when they trick Billy into allowing them to eat late at night, they form cocoons and hatch as mischievous and dangerous monsters called ‘gremlins’ that wreak havoc on the town. When the most evil of them all falls into a swimming pool and spawns an army, Billy and his would-be girlfriend Kate (Phoebe Cates) try to track down the gremlins as they kill, maim, or destroy everything they come into contact with. Will Billy and Kate be able to stop these creatures before it is too late, or will they die trying?


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Death; Horror; Murder; Crime; Monstrous creatures; Western societal greed; The inability to act in the best interest of nature.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie, including:

  • Billy’s dog creates chaos in a bank and breaks a snowman’s head. A woman repeatedly threatens to have him killed: put down, placed into a dryer and tumble-dried on high heat.
  • Gizmo is terrified by a bright light and falls backwards into a bin. He is pulled out by Billy who discovers a nasty gash on his head.
  • A baby gremlin bites at a boy.
  • An evil little gremlin ties up a dog in Christmas lights and suspends him from a porch while the dog whimpers and howls.
  • Mention is made to suicide and how some people spend Christmas opening their wrists instead of opening presents.
  • A science teacher takes blood from one of the little gremlins.
  • There is a brief glimpse of an on-screen horror scene involving weird alien creatures.
  • A character tells Billy: “If I catch your dog, he is in for a slow death”.
  • A science teacher is killed by a gremlin.
  • The gremlins throw darts at Gizmo and then dump him down a laundry shoot.
  • Billy’s mother kills multiple gremlins in a horrific manner.
  • A gremlin throws plates at Billy’s mom and then attacks her and tries to strangle her with Christmas lights while she tries to fight him off with a knife.
  • Billy grabs a sword and slams a gremlin into a fire.
  • A tractor, driven by a gremlin, bursts out of a shed, knocks down a fence and chases a man while he screams and runs into his house.
  • The gremlins chase the man into the house by driving the tractor directly inside. They aim it right at the couple who are screaming as they are pinned beneath the debris. The couple are eventually killed while the gremlins laugh.
  • Gremlins toss mail out of a mailbox, then they grab a man’s hand and try to pull him down into the mailbox.
  • Gremlins create traffic signal chaos and purposefully cause cars to crash.
  • A character roughly grabs the sheriff and begs him for help.
  • Gremlins terrify an old woman and break into her house. They short-circuit her wheelchair elevator which is attached to her staircase and cause her to fly through a window and crash onto the street below.
  • Gremlins attack a Santa. They bite and hit him, break nearby lights, and generally cause chaos all over the neighbourhood.
  • A character tries to electrocute the gremlins.
  • A truck crashes into a building.
  • The brakes on a police car fail and the car flips onto its side and crashes.
  • Gremlins attack a man whilst he’s on the radio. He screams and Gizmo, who is listening, hides in terror.
  • Gremlins swing from a fan in a bar and generally destroy the place as Kate attempts to clean up and stop them.
  • Kate takes a flash photo of the gremlins which cause one gremlin to be blasted off the fan in surprise.
  • A gremlin gets a gun and shoots at Kate.
  • A town is shown to be looted, with businesses and cars abandoned or destroyed and multiple fires burning.
  • Billy sets up a gas leak in the movie theatre and leaves a rag burning.
  • Gremlins chase Billy and Kate, ripping through the screen of the movie theatre, and attempt to pursue them out the door. Billy and Kate use their weight to shove the door closed but creepy gremlin claws try to pry it open.
  • There is a massive explosion in the movie theatre. The gremlins are all on fire or are killed in the blast, except for one.
  • A gremlin face is shown on multiple TVs. Billy smashes the TVs with a bat.
  • A gremlin throws things at Billy and then tries to attack him with a chainsaw. He just misses Billy’s head and instead decapitates a mannequin.
  • Billy is hit with tennis balls.
  • A gremlin shoots Billy with an archery arrow, through the arm. Billy is hit with additional balls and chased with a chainsaw as he tries to hold off the gremlin with a bat.
  • A gremlin is knocked away from Billy and smashed into a wall.
  • Gizmo is nearly crushed with falling balls and cans.
  • A gremlin shoots at Billy with a gun as he (the gremlin) tries to make it to a water fountain.
  • Gizmo crashes a car and a gremlin shoots a gun at him.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Gizmo screams when he is accidentally splashed with water. Fur balls explode off his back, and these each turn into a gremlin, as Gizmo whimpers and writhes in pain.
  • If a gremlin eats late at night, they form creepy cocoons and after some time, they hatch from these cocoons. There is steam and goo as the shells open and sinister claws begin to tear their way out. When they have hatched, they have become dangerous, little monsters.
  • An evil gremlin jumps into a swimming pool. There is smoke, strange light, and multiple green explosions happening under the water. This is all accompanied by screaming and menacing growling sounds. An army of evil creatures is soon shown to be the consequence of what happened there.
  • There is a creepy scene where the most evil gremlin hides in a pile of children’s stuffed animals. He is waiting for Billy to approach and attempts to kill him when he does.
  • When sunlight hits a gremlin, his flesh begins to melt into a gloopy pool. Its creepy, skeletal remains, along with its bulging eyes, burst out of the fountain and continue to melt into a pile of bubbling green and yellow, gooey foam.
  • The movie ends with the suggestion that: “There might be a gremlin in your house”. That idea alone could be enough to scare some children.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • There are creepy sounds coming from inside the science room and the teacher goes to investigate. There are scurrying shadows and sinister claws, along with growling and eating noises. The teacher screams and a gremlin injects something into his bottom. Billy enters the room to see the teacher, dead on the floor. A creepy claw reaches over a desk and grabs Billy’s hand. It appears to be eating apples and glass before escaping through a vent. Meanwhile, another gremlin bursts out of a cabinet by Billy’s head and terrifies him.
  • Billy’s mom hears disturbing sounds coming from upstairs. She grabs a large kitchen knife and cautiously makes her way upstairs. She sees the remains of steaming, goo-covered cocoons and is extremely freaked out when Billy calls her to tell her to get out of the house. Before she can leave, music suddenly starts playing and glass explodes behind her. She holds the knife in front of her as creepy shadows play about the walls. She encounters the evil-looking gremlins and manages to kill one by blending it in the blender it was eating from (Bits of the gremlin fly around the kitchen.). Another gremlin is smashing plates and Billy’s mom stabs it to death with her kitchen knife, repeatedly plunging the blade into its body. She sprays another with flea and tick spray and shoves it into a microwave, where it soon explodes. These scenes are intense, brutal and graphic and are likely to distress many young viewers.
  • Kate shares what Christmas was like when she was 9 years old and they were waiting for her dad to come home from the office, only he never did. Police searched but didn’t find him until later. She describes how her father had died while pretending to be Santa. He had climbed up the chimney and, on his way down, had slipped and broken his neck instantly. From that moment on Kate knew that Santa wasn’t real. The scene is not scary but is likely to be upsetting for some children.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

  • Nothing further noted.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Burger King is shown repeatedly.
  • Coke is displayed and consumed.
  • Mobile gas station logo is clearly displayed.
  • Zenith (television) brand is mentioned.
  • Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is mentioned, showcased and certain scenes are shown.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Two characters kiss in a scene on TV.
  • A creepy gremlin flashes Kate while wearing just a trench coat.
  • Kate and Billy kiss.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Characters drink beer on occasion and Kate works in a bar.
  • A character is shown to be drunk and is about to get into a vehicle when another character tells him that he can’t drive home in that condition.
  • A character smokes cigarettes.
  • A small group of gremlins smoke multiple cigarettes.
  • Gremlins drink mugs of beer and bottles of alcohol.
  • One gremlin drinks beer straight from the tap.
  • A group of gremlins laugh manically at all the chaos and destruction, while playing poker, smoking and drinking simultaneously.
  • One gremlin passes out, presumably from the consumption of too much alcohol.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Hell
  • Crap
  • Damn
  • Putz
  • Loser
  • God Damn!
  • Asshole
  • Jesus!

In a nutshell

Gremlins is touted as a comedic, horror film. Made in 1984, its special effects do not compare to today’s standards, though they were cutting edge at the time. While some may consider this a family film, particularly considering its PG rating, the graphic violence, scary scenes and language make it widely unsuitable for most children. This film is best suited to older teen and adult audiences.

The main messages from this movie are that there are consequences for our actions; and that if we continue to wreak havoc on nature and the world’s natural resources, terrible things will await us.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Teamwork
  • Honesty
  • Ingenuity
  • Compassion
  • Courage.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the importance of looking after the environment and the creatures that we share the world with. We are all connected and if one system gets out of whack the rest will follow.