Essays · Lists

17 Movies About Killer Crocs to Goofy Gators, Ranked from Worst to Best

What’s the difference between alligators and crocodiles? It won’t matter when you’re trapped in a death roll beneath the water.
By  · Published on July 12th, 2019

Alexandre Aja’s Crawl is new to theaters this weekend, and in addition to being a bloody blast — seriously, it’s a lot of fun — it’s both a long overdue return to horror for the Piranha 3D (2010) director and a welcome theatrical return to alligator/crocodile horror period. It’s been a decade since we’ve seen a big-mouthed gator/croc movie go wide with its release, so this is something worth celebrating. So yeah, of course we’ve put together a list ranking the sub-genre’s best, worst, and everything in between.

I say “everything,” but I’m only human, and to that end the executive decision was made to ignore TV movies and films that don’t even pay lip service to reality or the possibility that its creature could actually exist. (They’re also typically the ones with the worst, most seizure-inducing CG effects.) So no, you’ll have to look elsewhere for rankings that include the likes of Dinocroc (2004), Frankenfish (2004), Croc (2007), Supercroc (2007), Supergator (2007), the inevitable Dinocroc vs Supergator (2010), Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus (2010), Mega Python vs Gatoroid (2011), RoboCroc (2012), Xtinction: Predator X (2014), Zombie Croc (2015). I’m not sorry.

Don’t worry, though, as seventeen others still made the cut with most of them still being ludicrous when you get right down to it but far more compelling and entertaining all the same. So after you see Crawl and realize you have a hankering for more crocogator and allidile horror we hope you find something here that appeals to your taste buds.

17. Giant Crocodile (1979)

This is a tough one that would actually rank far higher on the list for its entertainment value, but we’re putting it dead last for one pesky little reason — it features some rough mistreatment of real animals. Some are drowned after climbing into the “animatronic” croc’s mouth, a live croc is slashed with a blade, and some others face various abuses as stand-ins working against miniature props. (It’s why I’m including the kill-count video instead of the trailer which teases some of those ugly scenes.) A version without most of those beats would be aces, though, and a ton of fun as the big croc here tears through a seaside village in an extended sequence filled with pretty gnarly stunts, and the miniature work is wonderfully charming for fans of old-school big monster movies. The bloody bits are numerous too as it’s not shy about the red stuff, and while it aims to copy Jaws‘ ending it forgets that two of those characters survived. [Rob Hunter]

16. Croczilla (2012)

This Chinese film is ostensibly a killer croc movie, and the beast does chow down on its fair share of meaty mortals, but its more likely to knock people aside than it is to bite them in half. Instead, it’s a more comedic and more pessimistic take on Free Willy (1993) as a young boy is saddened to see a giant gator from a local animal park taken by gangsters to go on the menu of their restaurant. It escapes and chaos ensues, but it’s never fun chaos. Worse, when “horror” beats do happen they’re undercut by a bad CG gator and worse CG blood. And spoiler, for all the bluster in its name and on its poster image, this mighty beast is taken down with a single bullet from a Walther PPK. Meh. [Rob Hunter]

15. Freshwater (2016)

College kids partying at a lake house find terror, terror I said, as an albino alligator starts eating everything on two legs. Lucky for them a gator expert (played by Zoe Bell) is on hand I guess. This is an odd one. To be clear, it’s bad and not worth your time, but it also adds in an unexpected human element — spoiler — in the form of a serial killer. It takes away from the gator fun (not that there is any really) and leads to a surprisingly downer ending too. I’m fully on board that in theory, but it’s just impossible to care. Combine that with some horribly bad and amateurish CG and you have a stinker in every regard. [Rob Hunter]

14. Killer Crocodile 2 (1990)

Reportedly shot back-to-back with the first film (below), this Italian film once again sets a big croc loose on a beachside resort after being contaminated by radioactive materials illegally dumped nearby. It’s pretty much the same plot, which makes it even odder that there seems to be more of a focus on it. More chatter means less splatter, and that’s never fun. The fx artist who built the croc lands this time in the director’s chair, Richard Crenna’s son Anthony returns in the lead role, and Riz Ortolani’s score gets re-used at every opportunity. But we do get cleavage, wet t-shirts, and a canoe filled with a nun and her students that’s tipped over and gobbled up, so it’s not all bad. [Rob Hunter]

13. The Great Alligator (1979)

You’d expect better from director Sergio Martino, but instead we get this confused and too often dull look at obnoxious foreigners meeting their end from both a giant gator and some fed up locals. The theme seems to be respecting local cultures and peoples, but then the locals are made to act in questionable ways, and it’s all muddled. The animal attacks are sporadic until the third act when everything goes to hell, and it’s here where the film finally finds the fun as partying white folks are slaughtered by the dozens as local tribesmen seek to quell the gator’s fury with sacrifice. The big scaly guy gets in on the action finally too knocking drunk folk into the water and cleaning his teeth with their bones, but unsurprisingly it’s still too little too late. [Rob Hunter]

12. Crocodile 2: Death Swamp (2002)

This “sequel” to Tobe Hooper’s film (below) can’t even reach its already limited highs, but it is a riff on one of my horror faves — Scarecrows (1988) — as the plot sees a group of nasty bank robbers and their hostages bring their plane down only to encounter some monstrous demises. Like the first, the film uses both practical and CG effects, but it’s far more liberal with the latter to the film’s detriment. On the plus side, it’s pretty bloody and also stars the great movie tough guy Martin Kove. I’m not saying that makes it worth a watch necessarily, but it’s something. [Rob Hunter]

11. Alligator II: The Mutation (1991)

While the Lewis Teague-directed original (below) is a fun creature feature pitting a disgruntled Robert Forster against an equally perturbed pet alligator, this follow-up clones the plot but forgets the personality. Joseph Bologna isn’t exactly the most exciting lead, and while Richard Lynch and Steve Railsback bring some as the great gator hunter and a shifty big-wig, respectively, the film spends way too much time talking when it should be letting the gator cut loose. It’s pretty dull, and the PG-13 rating doesn’t help, but while it picks up in the third act the drag getting there is no fun. [Rob Hunter]

10. Blood Surf (2000)

The 2000s was an interesting decade for over the top sporting contests. Monster truck challenges were in vogue, MTV produced crazy shows like Wrestling Society X, and the XFL was an attempt to provide a more action-oriented alternative to NFL. Most of these concepts failed. Anyway, the point I’m getting at is that the decade was all about upping the ante when it came to sports, and Blood Surf is a movie that’s very much a product of that mindset, albeit in animal attack movie form. The titular sport sees some thrill seekers surfing through sharks as they eat fish. However, the sharks are the least of their problems, as a prehistoric saltwater crocodile poses a bigger threat. It’s a silly movie, and while it’s not good by any means, there’s some fun to be had with it if you’re a fan of the inherent ridiculousness of its time period. [Kieran Fisher]

9. Killer Crocodile (1989)

Italian filmmakers were never shy about jumping on the bandwagon when it came to aping popular movie hits, but writer/director Larry Ludman — aka Fabrizio De Angelis — was in somewhat uncharted waters with this late 80s creature feature. The 80s had only seen one or two other killer croc/gator movies, and neither of them were hits, but that didn’t stop De Angelis from filming on location in the Dominican Republic, having Lucio Fulci’s favorite makeup artist Giannetto De Rossi design and build the animatronic croc, and hiring legendary composer Riz Ortolani to create the Jaws-like score. Is it goofy? Hell yes it is, but everyone involved is taking it very seriously for our benefit right up until the point where they toss a spinning boat motor into the croc’s mouth causing the creature to blow up. Italian physics! [Rob Hunter]

8. Primeval (2007)

With a promotional campaign claiming that the movie was inspired by the true story of the most prolific serial killer in history, it’s understandable why some people felt misled by Primeval. Granted, the croc that the movie is based on, Gustave, is alleged to have eaten 300 people. But it was still bad promotion, and that’s probably is rarely discussed these days. The film itself is also painfully average. Set in Burundi, the story follows a group of people who are on the run from a warlord while also trying to evade a hungry 25-foot creature. It’s a jumbled mess, but it could have been fun if the film embraced its ridiculous premise more as opposed to playing it so seriously. Still, if you’re bored and it’s on television, there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes. [Kieran Fisher]

7. The Hatching (2016)

Setting your crocodile attack flick on the moors of England is a pretty fun move, and the resulting film continues that trend with a grimly humorous look at a small village under attack by both gators and… something else. I won’t spoil it except to say it’s a subplot used elsewhere to far lesser effect, although it does once again result in less croc time than is ideal. We get some surprises here alongside a story about guilt and consequences, and there are enough thrills and close calls to make for an entertaining time. [Rob Hunter]

6. Crocodile (2000)

Houseboat trips with drunk and horny college “kids” can be risky adventures, but it’s especially dangerous when a killer crocodile — something of a surprise in Southern California, but whatever — put the young folks on the menu. The legendary Tobe Hooper directs this little-seen creature feature after having dabbled in the sub-genre with 1976’s Eaten Alive, and it’s not as bad as the obnoxious characters would have you believe. The croc throws up a guy whole at one point, but the high point is a little dog that you’re sure is going to die at least a dozen times. There is some truly dodgy CG croc effects, but the majority of the animal action is done practically which earns the film some extra points. [Rob Hunter]

5. Dark Age (1987)

Australia’s Northern territories are home to thousands of man-eating reptiles, and they occasionally live up to their name. A big one starts chewing its way through the local populace, but rather than go the expected route with the tale director Arch Nicholson and company instead craft an ecological thriller with laughs, real respect for the nation’s Aboriginal people, and a lively debate regarding how to handle the beast. Some want it dead, others want it moved, and some folks just want the damn thing left alone. That doesn’t mean the croc isn’t filling it’s stomach, though, and one scene involving a kid who’ll never grow to see adulthood is a keeper. A young John Jarratt takes the lead years before he’d become a serial killer for director Greg McLean who would then goon to make his own killer croc movie Rogue (2007). [Rob Hunter]

4. Rogue (2007)

Greg McLean is best known for the Wolf Creek franchise, but in 2007 he wrote directed this gem about a giant human-munching crocodile on the loose in the outback. That’s the movie in a nutshell, but McLean’s craftsmanship, a strong cast, and some bite during the kills scenes makes for some highly entertaining horror experience. This is one of the more underrated horror flicks of the 2000s, and it’s a shame it didn’t garner as much attention as McLean’s other flicks. [Kieran Fisher]

3. Alligator (1980)

A cautionary tale about the horrors of municipal oversight, Alligator sinks its prehistoric teeth into the urban legend of what happens to pets that get flushed down the toilet. Our intrepid hero is David Madison (Robert Forster), a tough cookie cop with a penchant for giallo-themed crew-necks and having his partners die on him. Dismembered bodies are showing up in the sewage treatment facility, and Madison is on the case! Something’s down there. Spoiler: it’s a luxury-Sudan sized swamp-dweller named Ramón who has been feasting on a diet of dumped, growth hormone-filled animal test subjects. The knock-off score notwithstanding, Alligator is more than a Jaws rip-off. At a zippy 94 minutes, the film keeps the set-pieces coming and plays to its strength: that big, beautiful, practical gator. Another highlight is the relationship between Madison and spunky reptile expert Marisa (Robin Riker). They’re truly one of the most endearing couples in the drive in canon. Well, other than Ramón and his love of dangling legs. [Meg Shields]

2. Lake Placid (1999)

A giant croc terrorizes residents around an otherwise quiet lake in Maine, and lots of fun is had by all. This Steve Miner (House, 1985) flick is as fun as creature features get thanks to a smart script by David E. Kelly (Ally McBeal, 1997-2002), a stellar cast — Bill Pullman, Oliver Platt, Bridget Fonda, Betty White, Brendan Gleeson, and Meredith Salenger — and a lively sense of humor. The croc action features both practical work and some impressive (for the time) CG, and it’s just a terrifically entertaining watch. It went on to spawn five TV movie sequels, all of which are bad, but they can’t tarnish the pure monster mayhem and joy of this original. [Rob Hunter]

1. Black Water (2007)

Rogue (see below) might be the most popular Australian croc movie of 2007 (which is saying something, as it didn’t perform well at all), but Black Water is a gem in its own right. Inspired by true events, the film tells the story of a group of friends who get stuck up a tree while a hungry croc swims in the water below, refusing to let them out of its sight. As far as these movies go, Black Water is pretty realistic as well. Granted, I’ve never had to pit my wits against a croc (I’d lose), but this movie had me suspending my disbelief and imagining myself stuck up a tree with these people. [Kieran Fisher]

I’m going to chime in here to double down on Kieran’s appreciation. While many films on this list go for fun, Black Water takes aim straight for the nerves and the jugular, and it delivers a mean and intense little thriller in the process. A few films above are more entertaining, but David Nerlich’s & Andrew Traucki’s sober tale of survival against terrifying odds is a frighteningly exhilarating ride and highly recommended. [Rob Hunter]

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.