In the new horror movie “Crawl,” a pack of enormous alligators invades a sleepy Florida town during a violent hurricane and proceeds to rip the cast apart, limb by limb. These nasty gators aren’t the first critters of their kind to terrify audiences, however. Here’s our list of ravenous reptiles, ranked in order from scariest to silliest.
1) Alligator (1980)
Two-time Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Sayles penned this gruesomely entertaining monster mash about a baby gator named Ramón who gets flushed down a toilet and mutates into a 36-foot behemoth lurking in the Chicago sewer system. When his appetite for human flesh gets the better of him, Ramón bursts through the sidewalk and chows down on a horde of terrified locals. Featuring colorful performances from cult film superstars Robert Forster and Henry Silva, plus witty direction from the ever-dependable Lewis Teague, “Alligator” is more than just the best rampaging reptile movie on this list; It’s one of the finest B-movies of the ‘80s.
2) Rogue (2007)
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Two years after shocking audiences with his acclaimed outback thriller “Wolf Creek,” Australian writer/director Greg McLean unleashed a new cinematic nightmare, this time about a gargantuan saltwater crocodile that devours a group of vacationers on a river cruise in Kakadu National Park. The film’s horrific attack scenes are powerfully intense, and McLean’s feel for the natural beauty of Australia’s Northern Territory gives “Rogue” more weight than one might expect. Although highly fictionalized, the film’s story was inspired by an actual crocodile that terrorized boaters in the area during the late ‘70s.
3) Lake Placid (1999)
It’s rare for a giant crocodile movie to include A-list actors like Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Brendan Gleeson, and Oliver Platt, but “Lake Placid” earns the honor thanks to a memorable script by David E. Kelley and energetic direction from frequent horror helmer Steve Miner. When a twisted old lady (hilariously played by Betty White) decides to feed a few cows to a 30-foot saltwater croc that’s been living in a Maine lake, she puts the tourist population in grave peril, and only a fearless fish and game officer and a plucky paleontologist can set things right again. Deftly blending quirky comedy with perfectly-timed jump scares, “Lake Placid” is a gory treat.
4) Eaten Alive (1976)
Master of mayhem Tobe Hooper followed up his iconic hit “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” with this stylishly grotesque film about a psychotic hotel manager who slaughters his unlucky guests with a rusty scythe and then feeds their bodies to the massive African crocodile that he keeps penned up in the swamp around back. Although the croc scenes are frightening (particularly when it’s hunting a screaming 10-year old girl played by future “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Kyle Richards), it’s the unhinged performance by Neville Brand as the deranged hotelier that’s truly disturbing. Shot with a surreal color scheme that recalls the classic horror comics that Hooper grew up reading, “Eaten Alive” is a sleazy gem just waiting for rediscovery.
5) Black Water (2007)
Deep in the mysterious mangrove swamps of Northern Australia, a small sightseeing tour becomes prey to a vicious crocodile hungry for blood. Expertly directed by a pair of special-effects artists, “Black Water” is a survival horror film that values suspense over gore, and gains extra points for using real crocs rather than CGI creatures. The movie’s tightly focused plot lends a welcome air of claustrophobia to the grim proceedings, making this a perfect choice for fans of the low-budget killer shark film “Open Water.”
6) Primeval (2007)
Like a reptilian version of “The Ghost and the Darkness,” this film about a 25-foot man-eating crocodile responsible for killing hundreds of people in the country of Burundi is reportedly based on actual events. Whether that dubious claim is true or not, “Primeval” is beautifully shot, surprisingly well acted, and mixes African politics with monster-on-the-loose action, resulting in a horror movie that’s a good deal better than its reputation might suggest. The savage attack scenes are graphic and bloody, and the scaly beast – named Gustave – hunts his victims like a prehistoric Terminator with a bottomless appetite for flesh. What more do you really need in a killer croc pic?
7) Dark Age (1987)
Quentin Tarantino is an avowed fan of this wild Ozploitation adventure pic about an ecology-minded ranger (played by John Jarratt of “Wolf Creek” fame) who’s tasked with hunting and killing a deadly saltwater crocodile that’s been snacking on the citizens of Queensland. Imagine a horror version of “Crocodile Dundee” and you might have an idea of what “Dark Age” has in store for you.
8) Crocodile (2000)
Although it lacks the ghoulish brilliance of “Eaten Alive,” director Tobe Hooper’s second foray into the killer crocodile subgenre has a cheesy charm that’s undeniable. Better than the SyFy Channel movies it occasionally resembles, this film about a group of annoying spring breakers who mess with the wrong giant croc starts off slowly but builds to a decent fiery climax. If you’ve always wanted to see a crocodile swallow a dude-bro whole and then puke him out again (let’s face it, who hasn’t?), this is definitely the movie you’ve been waiting for. Despite some dodgy CGI effects, Hooper’s talent behind the camera shines through.
9) The Alligator People (1959)
While it’s hard to imagine anyone today being frightened by this sci-fi chiller about a doctor in the Louisiana bayou who turns his patients into half-human half-gator mutants, audiences in 1959 undoubtedly found the film’s blend of Southern gothic melodrama and creature-feature shenanigans well worth screaming about. Paired with the equally delightful “Return of the Fly” when it was initially released, “The Alligator People” is a charming B-movie filled with mad scientist mumbo jumbo, and features some better than expected monster makeup.
10) Walt Disney’s Peter Pan (1953)
Don’t be fooled by Tick-Tock. Just because he’s an animated crocodile in a Disney cartoon doesn’t mean he’s harmless. After all, this razor-toothed resident of Neverland ate Captain Hook’s severed hand and has been trying to devour the rest of him ever since. If that’s not enough to send a small shiver down your spine, there’s also something ominous about the ticking sound (due to an alarm clock he swallowed) that warns potential victims whenever he’s near.