The full moon should be avoided at all costs, and silver should be purchased in abundance.
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Despite the fact that werewolves have been a staple of the horror and fantasy genres for decades, there is a shockingly small number of films that deal with the subject matter, and even fewer that do it successfully. In contrast to zombies, vampires, and slashers, the werewolf picture has remained an outlier in the horror world. The werewolf movie has never been a trend-setter in the horror genre, except for the bountiful year 1981, which saw the release of Wolfen, The Howling, and An American Werewolf in London.
Carnal animals have traditionally lived in groups. Many of our favorite supernatural dramas have featured wolves as prominent characters, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Penny Dreadful to Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Werewolf clichés have been used to great effect in films like Trick ‘r Treat, Monster Squad, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as well. It has been more difficult to find stories that focus solely on the transformation of a human into an animal, though.
The best ones are a joy to behold. Werewolf films are a proud destination for stunning practical effects work in the style of An American Werewolf in London, which took home the very first makeup effects Oscar for Rick Baker’s game-changing work. To examine our relationship with the beast we all know resides within us, they make for compelling tales of self-awakening that are both stark and disturbing. Werewolves are known for their ability to keep going for long periods of time. But even while werewolves have never captivated moviegoers in the manner that other horror films have, they have always remained an iconic symbol of terror in literature and film.
Before we get to the good stuff, here are a couple honorable mentions: There’s a lot to choose from: Werewolf of London; Underworld: Rise of the Lycans; Ginger Snaps Back: the Beginning; Wolfcop; Bad Moon; and 2010’sThe Wolfman.
Keeping that in mind, here are our recommendations for the best werewolf films of all time. Just remember to avoid the full moon and store up on silver! Check out our list of the finest vampire movies ever created for more creature fun.
1. Brotherhood of the Wolf
Look no further than Christophe Gans’Brotherhood of the Wolf if you’re seeking for something different from the typical werewolf movie. Aristocracy from the eighteenth century, gory action scenes, and visually stunning cinematography all combine in this film about Colonial French warfare. MarkDacasco’s portrayal of an Iroquois martial arts teacher in this film is completely convincing because of all the other crazy going on.
The Brotherhood of the Wolf is set during the French Revolution and is partially based on the tale of the Beast of Gévaudan. Mani, a Native American companion to Grégoire deFronsac, a French naturalist, was summoned to cope with a raging beast that had been destroying the region. They investigate the attacks, uncovering an ever-twisting plot and finding themselves in a struggle to the death as they learn the truth (with a little romance thrown in for good measure). Brotherhood of the Wolfis an avant-garde werewolf picture that shouldn’t be missed. It’s not your typical werewolf movie.
2. Silver Bullet
The problem with Silver Bullet is that it’s not a great movie. No, it’s not. In any case, it’s a well-liked film for the whole family that helped start the lycanthropic love trend. They’re all here, and I’m one of them. My first encounter with Stephen King’s work was with Cycle of the Werewolf, and it left me shaken. Silver Bullet, on the other hand, is a Kingian-style coming-of-age cult favorite that isn’t quite as horrific.
Daniel Attias, a rising star in the world of television, made his feature film debut as a filmmaker with his one and only feature picture, which was rumored to be helmed in part by Don Coscarelli, who insists he left the production after executives rejected script notes from Stephen King. However, Silver Bullet’s script, derived from King’s original Cycle of the Werewolf calendar before it was expanded into a novella, is the problem. However, Silver Bullet is still a fun-filled, action-packed adventure with a family you can cheer for, and Gary Busey’s Uncle Red remains one of the best adult characters in teen horror history; a decent uncle who tries his best to get it, and he’s worth the price of admission alone.’ Hannah Foutch, author
Wolf, a 90s-style white collar werewolf film, starring Jack Nicholson as Will Randall, a publisher who has struck rock bottom. After being bitten by a wild animal on the side of the road, he is cursed with the werewolf curse, and his wife has an affair with his protege (though, to be fair, it’s James Spader in the 1990s, so who can blame her?). During his lycanthropic metamorphosis, he has an intense love affair with Laura Alden (Michelle Pfeiffer), the spoiled but alluring daughter of wealthy publishing mogul Raymond Alden (Christopher Plummer).
As always, Nicholson is excellent in this role, but the biggest surprise is that he is so restrained in his performance, reversing his usual tendency to go overboard in his portrayal of the character. Pfeiffer is as electrifying as she can be with a restricted role, while Spader uses his trademark strangeness to great advantage. Wolf doesn’t have any gore or over-the-top effects, but it does take the werewolf mythos and give it an unapologetically mature perspective. This is a serious film directed by Mike Nichols, but it never becomes too serious to enjoy, and the corporate environment adds a unique twist to traditional werewolf cliches. An entertaining satire on the world of sex and corporate greed, Wolf boasts an A-list ensemble cast and an Oscar-winning director. Hannah Foutch, author
4. Late Phases
There are few settings for a werewolf film that are as wonderfully out of place as those in Late Phases. This short story of lycanthropy takes place behind the gates of a calm retirement community that has recently been afflicted by a succession of violent fatalities that local police believe to be caused by a mysterious feral beast. An elderly Vietnam veteran (Nick Damici) and his young son (Ethan Embry) are terrorized by an unseen creature as they move into their new neighborhood, and Ambrose sets out to rid the area of the problem on his own terms.
An excellent practical werewolf metamorphosis kicks things off, although the fully developed animals themselves look a touch ridiculous. There is lots of well-executed gore, but Late Phases’ dedication to character is what makes it stand out. Late Phases is screenwriter Damici’s best performance yet; he’s transitioned from actor to screenwriter in the last few years. As a result of his performance, the material becomes an effective character portrayal of a guy who is determined to live his remaining days on his own terms. Haleigh Foutch, a freelance writer
The ensemble cast, which includes Albert Finney, Diane Venora, Gregory Hines, and Edward James Olmos, is both engaging and eccentric. Even though it’s a horror film, it also tells an important story of Native American land rights and anti-gentrification while using in-camera thermography to illustrate the predator’s point of view, staying low to the ground and pouncing on victims whose bodies have heat gradients.
Wolfen are a type of wolf. A wolf species that has evolved to the point that it can trade souls with particular human tribes. An abandoned Bronx housing building being bulldozed to make way for yet another corporate behemoth has become their new home. As a horror film, Wolfen shows that every race and every species has a right to defend their country. For Brian Formo,
6. Teen Wolf
There is nothing more 80s than a teenage werewolf playing air guitar to “Surfin’ USA” by The Beach Boys while surfing on the bonnet of a van. “Um, heck no,” is the response. This cheesy ’80s cheesefest, Teen Wolf, is pure joy.
A 17-year-old high school kid named Scott (Michael J. Fox) is fed up with being an average Joe in this picture directed by Rod Daniel and written by Matthew Weisman and Jeph Loeb (yes, that Jeph Loeb) (being a white dude in the 80s was hard you guys). Werewolves aren’t just mythical creatures to him; they’ve come to life in his dreams, and it’s all down to his father’s curse. As a result, he becomes the most popular child at school and must balance his newfound sports stardom with maintaining his friendships and, of course, the love of his life. This is a ridiculous film, yet it works because of Fox’s charisma and the film’s willingness to embrace its cheese element. Plus, there’s a werewolf basketball player. It’s Adam Chitwood –
7. The Howling
There is no denying that Joe Dante’s The Howling is one of the greatest werewolf films ever made, but because it was released in the same year as An American Werewolf in London, it has always suffered from retroactive second-child syndrome. In spite of the fact that The Howling lacks the polish and precision of American Werewolf and Rick Baker’s individual talent, The Howling remains a remarkable work in its own right, full of Dante’s typical oddball comedy.
In a sting operation, Karen White (Wallace) meets a serial killer who leaves her scarred for life. A cult therapeutic camp where she encounters wolfish antics is the solution to her nightmares, so she goes there to try to deal with them. Although The Howling has much to say about the importance of belonging and the desire to unleash the beast within, Dante has a rather simplistic approach to social satire in this early film. Fortunately, the monster action makes The Howling an endlessly enjoyable example of the werewolf genre at its best. — Foutch Haleigh
8. The Company of Wolves
Interview with a Vampire director Neil Jordan has a knack for the strange and fantastical, which he showed in his second picture, The Company of Wolves. The Company of Wolves is a reimagined fairy tale that delves into the romantic overtones of the Little Red Riding Hood myth through the act of storytelling. As a modern teenager, Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson) lives in the 17th-century village where wolves roam the woods, preying on the town’s livestock. Werewolf stories, jealousy stories, and other sexually perilous stories are common among Rosaleen’s oral history lessons from her maternal grandmother (Angela Lansbury). As she puts it: “They’re sweet as can be until they’ve had their way with you,” but as soon as that’s over, the beast comes out.
An eloquent critique of the way we romanticize female victimization, The Company of Wolves also offers a fresh take on the werewolf legend, and the film’s production values are top-notch across the board, from set design to costuming to camera work. And the R-rating is well-earned, with gruesome moments of face-ripping gore punctuating the stories and ruminations. Haleigh Foutch, a freelance writer
9. Curse of the Werewolf
For the first time in his career, Oliver Reed appeared on screen in Curse of the Werewolf, a Hammer film with all of the high drama and gothic production values you’d expect. Reed portrays Leon, a guy doomed by the heinous events surrounding his conception and birth. Leon, the son of a silent servant and the victim of a psychopathic inmate’s rape as a toddler, causes the holy water at his christening to boil and soon develops a thirst for blood. Now, fifteen years later, he thinks that his animal tendencies would no longer be tamed unless his beloved Cristina is at his side to provide him with comfort (Catherine Feller). With a slow-burning melodrama and some of the best old school transformation effects before American Werewolf in London changed the game, Terrence Fisher’s classic Hammer thriller Curse of the Werewolf is a stylish slow-burn horror classic. Hannah Foutch, author
10. Ginger Snaps
Werewolves are used as a magical parallel for female coming of age and a creative story device to explore the intricacies of sisterhood in John Fawcett’s take on the mythos of werewolves.
One sister is bitten by a werewolf and the bond between the two is slowly broken away in Ginger Snaps, an intimate narrative about two sisters who are intimately attached, death obsessed, and co-dependent with each other. With its superb allegory for female puberty, Ginger Snaps is an excellent horror picture in its own right. The effects are top-notch, the characters are relatable and sympathetic (even the cruel girl from school, the neighborhood drug dealer, and the lusty teen lad) and the performers all gave it their all in their pulpy roles. They all gave it.
For his part as the “cool guy,” Kris Lemche does an excellent job, but the real credit goes to the film’s star combo.
When it comes to Ginger’s makeover, Emily Perkins and KatharineIsabelle are bonded but battling sisters. A narrative of female awakening, bathed in violence, and passionately committed in the melancholy of change is Ginger Snaps’ take on werewolves. Hannah Foutch, author
11. The Wolf Man
The Wolf Man, a Universal Monsters film, had a huge impact on modern werewolf design. Lon Chaney Jr. and Jack Pierce’s classic make-up work were introduced in this film, albeit it was not the studio’s first foray into lycanthropy (that honor goes to 1935’s Werewolf of London). In real life, the metamorphosis from man to beast takes much longer than what is shown on TV.
Wolf Man chronicles the story of Larry Talbot’s return to Wales after the death of his brother, which makes it a worthwhile watch for anyone who hasn’t watched it yet. Larry’s encounter with a werewolf serves as the film’s hook, even if his reconciliation with his father and growing romance with a local village girl both give depth to the plot. Larry is the victim of the curse, which causes him to unleash his wrath on the town before he runs afoul of the wrong crowd. Over 75 years later, the devastating twist in this fast-paced horror story holds up. As said by Dave Trumbore —
12. Dog Soldiers
For years, Neil Marshall has been one of the most intriguing and innovative genre directors in the business. With a pack of vicious werewolves on the loose, a band of soldiers is stranded on a lonely mountainside and must fight to the death with every last bullet, blade, and ounce of their willpower.
Kevin McKidd, Sean Pertwee and Liam Cunningham lead a stellar cast in Dog Soldiers, which is directed by Marshall with aplomb and boasts the kind of explosive action you’d expect from a blockbuster action film and the level of practical effects you’d expect from a hard-R horror film. While Rick Baker’s creations are stunning, Marshall used experienced dancers to give his lycanthropes a spooky elegance that is unmatched in the film industry. While Dog Soldiers succeeds as a horror film, it also does it as an action film with a vengeance. If you’re a fan of Aliens and Predator, you’ll love this werewolf movie. Hannah Foutch, author
13. An American Werewolf in London
Most people associate John Landis with his classic comedies from the 1970s and 1980s, like Animal House, The Blues Brothers, and perhaps even Trading Places or Coming to America. Another film comes to mind for horror fans, however: the Oscar-winning horror-movie icon, An American Werewolf in London. An American Werewolf in Paris, a sequel to this genre-defying classic, is a pale imitation of the original’s moonlit hysteria.
When a werewolf attacks David (Naughton) and Jack (Dunne), two young Americans backpacking through England, the movie recounts the deaths of both men at the hands of the werewolf’s fangs. Even if you don’t believe in the ‘werewolf curse,’ Landis takes it one step further: Until the creature’s bloodline is wiped out, each of its victims will remain a living, breathing zombie (for more on zombie movies, check out our list of the top zombie movies). David’s conscience and sounding board are provided by the undead Jack, an uncommon occurrence in the horror genre. But the Oscar-winning effects work of the famous Rick Baker and his team is what makes this particular film such a terrible (and awesome) werewolf drama. Despite their age, they’re just as jarring and funny as they ever were. It’s so good that Landis even tried to stop his own son from creating a sequel, which I think we can all agree would have been a poor idea at this point in time. As said by Dave Trumbore —