When you think of the movies we watched while growing up in the 1980s I guarantee that Gremlins was one of the first titles that came to mind. While we all know the three rules for looking after your mogwai, there are a lot of things you probably don't know about this beloved 80s classic.
1) It was set during Christmas for a reason
Like Die Hard, Gremlins is one of those movies that shouldn't be a Christmas movie, but totally is, and not just because it's set at Christmas. While the Christmas setting may seem odd for a movie that was released in June, there was a very good reason for that: it was supposed to be released during Christmas. While Warner Bros. had planned on a December release date, they quickly realized they didn't have any summer movies that could compete with Paramount's offerings of Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, so they bumped up Gremlins release date. Considering it went on to become the fourth highest grossing movie of the year, their last minute switch clearly worked out in their favor.
2) Gremlins is why we have the PG-13 rating
Okay, so it's not the only reason, but it is partly responsible. Before the MPAA came up with the PG-13 rating, the only options for anything that wasn't 100% kid friendly or about to be banned from theaters were either PG or R, which seems a little extreme. But all that changed in the summer of 1984, thanks to Steven Spielberg. Both Temple of Doom and Gremlins raised a fair amount of controversy thanks to parents who felt both films required something more than a PG rating. Though the MPAA pushed back at first, they eventually caved to the demands of the film industry - including Spielberg himself - and added the PG-13 rating to make it clear when films were more geared towards older teens.
3) It was actually meant to be much, much darker
While it may have deserved a rating higher than PG, if director Joe Dante had followed the original Chris Columbus script it could have easily gotten an R rating. Take for example the death of Mr Hanson: in the film, he's found under his desk with a syringe sticking out of his butt, but originally, he was meant to be found with his face covered in needles. And it only gets crazier from there.
Billy's dog Barney gets killed and eaten by the gremlins, Billy has his mom's decapitated head thrown at him, Pete Fountaine gets his throat ripped out, and a McDonald's full of customers basically turns into a bloodbath. Kate's story about her father's death is actually one part of the original script that didn't get cut, though the studio certainly tried. Spielberg also didn't want it in the movie, but Joe Dante argued that it fit the idea of the film perfectly, since no one knew whether they were supposed to laugh or be horrified.
4) Kingston Falls probably looks very familiar
The town where Gremlins is set, Kingston Falls, is clearly meant to be your typical idyllic small town, like so many found all across America; but that's not why it seems so familiar. The sets they used for the town are the exact same sets that would be used a year later for Hill Valley in Back to the Future. When you see pictures of the two side by side, the only real difference is that the town besieged by gremlins has a lot more snow.
5) Gizmo and the gremlins weren't really scripted
All the noises, words, and chattering that Gizmo and the gremlins do were almost entirely ad libbed while recording the voiceovers. This actually helped the film when it was released internationally; when recording Gizmo's voice they recorded his lines phonetically, which made it easier to "localize" the movie for different markets. Fun fact, Gizmo was actually voiced by none other than Howie Mandel, though he didn't do the singing for Gizmo's song; that was instead done by a 13 year old girl that the songwriter knew.