Poly(n-octadecyl acrylate) (PnOA) was used as an interfacial compatibilizer for improving the performance of polypropylene/alumina trihydrate (PP/ATH) composites in this study. The influences of PnOA on the properties of fire-retardant PP/ATH composites were evaluated by tensile and impact tests, differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), scanning electron microscope (SEM) observation, thermogravimetric analysis, and mass flow rate tests. The results suggested that PnOA significantly improved the mechanical properties and rheological behavior of the PP/ATH composites. SEM observation helped formulate reasons for these differences. A pronounced difference in DSC curves was detected for the composites with and without PnOA when the temperature is near the melt temperature of PnOA. Tentative theoretical explanation was also provided based on related DSC and SEM analysis. PnOA is a promising new compatibilizer for polyolefin composites with aluminum trihydrate as a flame retardant. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.