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Cast of ‘Gremlins’: See the Stars of the Madcap ’80s Horror-Comedy Then and Now

It's hard to believe the film is turning 40!


Gremlins is one of the kookiest, most memorable movies of the ’80s. The film, which centers on a young man whose life is turned upside down by the titular adorable creatures during the holiday season, is filled with comic chaos and madcap creativity. It was a huge critical and commercial hit, and the distinctive combination of and ensemble cast scares, laughs and deceptively cute critters made the blockbuster popular with kids and adults alike.

Director Joe Dante took much inspiration from retro genre movies and cartoons, and his signature style caught the attention of none other than Steven Spielberg, who executive produced the film. Dante’s visual flourishes, including a storybook snowy town and impressively expressive puppetry, gave Gremlins a timeliness quality, and the mix of old school charm and zaniness still feels fresh today.

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It’s hard to believe it, but the movie, which was released in June of 1984, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. While it’s certainly true that the Gremlins are the real stars of the show, we’re taking a look at the human cast of Gremlins and now.

Cast of Gremlins: Zach Galligan as Billy Peltzer

Zach Galligan in 1984 and 2024
Zach Galligan Left: 1984; Right: 2024Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty; Victoria Sirakova/Getty

Zach Galligan made his big screen debut in the cast of Gremlins, playing protagonist Billy Peltzer, who gets way more than he bargained for when he receives one of the creatures as a Christmas gift.

Galligan starred in the 1990 sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch and acted steadily in a number of TV movies in the ’80s and ’90s, including Surviving, which also featured Molly Ringwald, in 1985. He then appeared consistently in genre movies like Waxwork (1985), Mortal Passions (1989), Cupid (1997) and Nightbeasts (2010) and showed up in episodes of Melrose Place, Star Trek: Voyager and 7th Heaven.

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Zach Galligan in 'Gremlins' 1984
Zach Galligan in Gremlins (1984)Warner Bros. Pictures/Amblin E/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty

Gremlins remains Galligan’s best-known film. Now 60, he recently contributed voiceover work to the animated spinoff series Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai in 2023.

Galligan is a regular at fan events and conventions, and in a 2023 Instagram post reflecting on Gremlins he wrote, “Each year that goes by just makes it all the more remarkable, and actually causes my memories to become even sharper and more precious.”

Phoebe Cates as Kate Beringer

Phoebe Cates in 1984 and 2017
Phoebe Cates Left: 1984; Right: 2017Warner Brothers/Getty; Craig Barritt/Getty for Breakthrough

Phoebe Cates, who played Billy’s girlfriend, Kate Beringer, in the cast of Gremlins and delivered an unforgettable speech about being traumatized by Christmas, was one of the ultimate cool girls of the day, thanks to her role in the 1982 teen movie classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

The same year as Gremlins, she appeared in the deliciously trashy TV miniseries Lace. After Gremlins, she acted in the films Date With an Angel (1987), Bright Lights, Big City (1988), Shag (1988) and Heart of Dixie (1989). In 1990, she appeared in Gremlins 2: The New Batch and then starred in Drop Dead Fred (1991), Bodies, Rest & Motion (1993) and Princess Caraboo (1994).

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Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates in a scene from the film 'Gremlins', 1984
Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates in Gremlins (1984)Warner Brothers/Getty

Cates stepped away from Hollywood to raise her family (she’s been married to fellow actor Kevin Kline since 1989, and they have two children) and in 2001, she made her final film appearance to date in the indie movie The Anniversary Party.

Now 60, Cates stays out of the spotlight, and she’s owned a stylish boutique in New York City, Blue Tree, since 2005.

Hoyt Axton as Randall Peltzer

Hoyt Axton in a scene from the film 'Gremlins', 1984
Hoyt Axton in Gremlins (1984)Warner Brothers/Getty

Hoyt Axton played Billy’s dad, Randall, who buys him Gizmo the Gremlin for Christmas.

Axton started out as a folk musician, and released a number of albums in the ’60s and ’70s. During this time, he also appeared in TV shows like Bonanza, I Dream of Jeannie, The Bionic Woman and WKRP in Cincinatti. Prior to Gremlins, Axton played dads in The Black Stallion (1979) and Heart Like a Wheel (1983).

Post-Gremlins, Axton continued to act and make music, and he showed up in Diff’rent Strokes, Murder, She Wrote and Growing Pains. He was also in a selection of TV movies and features like Disorganized Crime (1989), We’re No Angels (1989), Season of Change (1994) and Number One Fan (1995).

Axton made his final appearance in the straight-to-video horror movie King Cobra in 1999 and sadly died that year at age 61.

Frances Lee McCain as Lynn Peltzer

Frances Lee McCain in 1984 and 2022
Frances Lee McCain Left: 1984; Right: 2022Warner Brothers/Getty; Bobby Bank/Getty

Frances Lee McCain played Billy’s mom, Lynn. The veteran actress started out with TV roles in the ’70s, and starred in the short-lived 1974 show Apple’s Way. She then appeared in the 1979 Albert Brooks comedy Real Life, and the 1982 coming-of-age film Tex.

Gremlins wasn’t the only ’80s classic in which McCain played a mom. She also played Kevin Bacon‘s mom in Footloose (1984), Lea Thompson‘s mom in Back to the Future (1985) and Wil Wheaton and John Cusack‘s mom in Stand by Me (1986).

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In the ’90s, McCain went back to school for a master’s degree in psychology and appeared in Scream (1996), Patch Adams (1998) and True Crime (1999). She kept acting through the ’00s, and had roles in the shows Preacher and The Girlfriend Experience and the films Ideal Home (2018), Dreamland (2019) and The Comeback Trail (2020).

Now 80, McCain most recently appeared in the 2022 thriller End of the Road.

Polly Holliday as Ruby Deagle

Polly Holliday in 1985 and 2003
Polly Holliday Left: 1985; Right: 2003Michael Ochs Archives/Getty; Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic/Getty

Polly Holliday played Ruby Deagle, the villainous, crotchety local rich lady who ultimately gets killed by the Gremlins.

Holliday had her big break in the ’70s, when she played the sassy waitress Flo Castleberry in the beloved sitcom Alice. The character was so popular she even got her own short-lived spinoff series in 1980.

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After Gremlins, Holliday appeared in movies like Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Mr. Wrong (1996), The Parent Trap (1998), Stick It (2006) and The Heartbreak Kid (2007). She also had recurring roles in the shows Home Improvement and The Client.

Now 86, Holliday had her last role in the 2010 political drama Fair Game.

Keye Luke as Mr. Wing

Keye Luke as a Chinese merchant in a scene from the film 'Gremlins', 1984
Keye Luke in Gremlins (1984)Warner Brothers/Getty

Keye Luke played Mr. Wing, the mysterious elderly man who sells Randall Peltzer the Gremlin from his Chinatown shop. Mr. Wing is so mysterious, in fact, that we didn’t even learn that was his name until the sequel!

Luke began acting in the ’30s, and was one of the first Asian actors to find success during Hollywood’s Golden Age. He appeared in a number of Charlie Chan detective films of the era and played Kato in the original Green Hornet film serials. His resume was extraordinarily prolific, with over 200 roles in B-movies and genre pictures. The vast majority of them are from well before Gremlins.

After Gremlins, Luke reprised his role in the sequel and appeared in the movies A Fine Mess (1986), Dead Heat (1988) and The Mighty Quinn (1989).

The trailblazing actor passed away in 1991 at age 86, and made his final appearance in the 1990 film Alice.

Corey Feldman as Pete Fountaine in the cast of Gremlins

Corey Feldman in 1984 and 2024
Corey Feldman Left: 1984; Right: 2024Michael Ochs Archives/Getty; Getty for Family Film and TV Awards

Corey Feldman played Billy’s friend Pete, who unwittingly sets off the Gremlin reign of destruction when he spills water on Gizmo. Being in the cast of Gremlins gave the child actor one of his first prominent film roles, and he’d go on to become an ’80s teen idol.

After Gremlins, Feldman acted in decade-defining movies like The Goonies (1985), Stand by Me (1986) and The Lost Boys (1987). He teamed back up with Gremlins director Joe Dante in The ‘Burbs in 1989 and also appeared in teen movies like License to Drive (1988) and Dream a Little Dream (1989).

Unfortunately, like many stars who found fame at a young age, Feldman went through his share of controversy, battling drug addiction and alleging that he had faced abuse during his time as a young actor, but he’s been a consistent pop culture presence through it all, with sundry appearances in genre movies and low-budget fare. Feldman is also a musician, and has released several albums since 1994.

Altogether, Feldman has nearly 150 acting credits to his name. Now 52, he most recently appeared in the 2023 indie comedy Sour Party.

The most important member of the cast of Gremlins: Gizmo!

Gizmo the Gremlin
Gizmo the GremlinWarner Bros. Pictures/Amblin E/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty

Of course, there would be no cast of Gremlins without Gizmo, the original creature who goes from cute to crazed. Gizmo was voiced by none other than comedian Howie Mandel, who also provided voiceover work for Muppet Babies and acted in the ’80s medical drama St. Elsewhere.

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Today, Mandel is best known as the host of the game show Deal or No Deal, which ran from 2005 to 2019. He’s been a judge on America’s Got Talent since 2010.

Now just remember: Don’t expose a Gremlin to light, don’t let it come in contact with water and most importantly, never feed it after midnight!

Read on for more ’80s movies!

‘Top Gun’ 1986 Cast Then and Now: See Maverick, Goose, Iceman and More!

‘The Breakfast Club’ Cast Then and Now — Catch Up With The 80s Teen Icons

The Cast of ‘The Outsiders’ Then and Now: See Where the Stars of the ’80s Classic Are Today

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