TOP 8 Werewolf Movies

TOP 8 Werewolf MoviesSo the The Wolfman is finally out, unleashed on the world and causing havoc in cinemas!  Whereas if it’s good or bad, I honestly don’t know yet (still have to see it), but in celebration of its release I thought it would be fun to explore the golden nuggets of its sub-genre.  As I mentioned in this column before; a good werewolf movie is a rare beast, not to mention the amount of films to have explored the subject are few and far between, especially compared to its counterparts; the Zombie and the Vampire.  Regardless of the limited selection, there are a few that stand out of the crowd and will kick you in the nards!  So check out my Top 8 Werewolf movies, some are missing because I wasn’t able to get a hold of them (Bad Moon, Werewolf of London), or they didn’t match the criteria (Wolfen, Brotherhood of the Wolf) or just plain sucked (Wolf, Skinwalkers).  Anyhow, hope you enjoy…


 8.  Dog Soldiers (2000)

Dog SoldiersNeil Marshall (The Descent), made an impressive debut with this enjoyable action orientated spin on the sub-genre.  It’s safe to assume he was going for the Werewolf equivalent of James Cameron’s Aliens, as a squad of soldiers battle it out with rogue wolf creatures in the Scottish highlands.  Unfortunately, the film doesn’t quite reach those heights, mostly due to its ambition falling short of its budget that seems to consist of the same three goofy werewolf costumes and repetitive marshland locations.  Luckily Marshall is saddled with a bucket load of enthusiasm, a handful of solid character actors (Kevin Mckidd, Sean Pertwee) and some crafty action/gore scenes.  Plus, he deserves some bonus points for breathing fresh life into the underused genre and although the result can be quite silly, it’s also a fistful of fun!


7.  Silver Bullet (1985)

Silver BulletNowadays, any movie headlining celebrity burnouts Gary Busey and Corey Haim would sit on the bottom shelf of your rental store because of its less than stellar quality.  But back in 1985, before cocaine zapped all their brain cells, Haim was a talented kid actor and Busey a charismatic supporting man, together they stared in this enjoyable Stephen King scripted Werewolf pic.  Haim is solid as the young boy who witness’ a brutal murder at the hands of a werewolf, but Busey steals the show as his wacky Uncle and only adult ally against the creature.  The rest of the supporting cast is also worthy with Lawrence Tierney, Everett Mcgill and even John Locke himself: Terry O’Quinn, all chewing up the scenery.  The film itself takes the interesting angle of playing more like a murder mystery as Haim and Co. try to find which town culprit turns beastly on full moons, before he becomes the next victim.  Sadly, the film has been overlooked over the years, but with its sharp and surprisingly warm script by King and several tense, frightening set-pieces its not one not to be missed, plus its got a stunner of an opening (surprise decapitation!).


6.  The Wolf Man (1941)

The WolfmanAlthough Werewolf of London preceded it, The Wolfman was the smash hit that clearly cemented the furry dude’s place amongst his fellow Universal Icons like Dracula and Frankenstein.  Lon Chaney Jr. takes the title role and fairs well, doing his best to create a sympathetic figure, although he’s upstaged by the charismatic Claude Rains as his physically mismatched father (also look out for Bela Lugosi in a bit part as a creepy gypsy).  The film itself is solid 40’s fun; George Waggner’s direction is fairly workman-like but is saved by Curt Siodmak delicious screenplay that showcased a psychological depth unusual to most B-pictures and is coupled with settings and scenarios that dripped with dark atmosphere.  In terms of a classic monster film there have been better, but still it stands as a landmark from its make-up to its fog-shrouded forests to its tragic conclusion.  This is the one that started it all and is the place where everyone should begin.


5.  The Company of Wolves (1984)

The Company of WolvesA full 10 years before director Neil Jordan would tackle vampires in stellar style with Interview with a Vampire, he took on the Werewolf with similar skill in this bizarre yet fascinating piece.  Played as the fever dream of a teen experiencing her first menstruation, the film is understandably surreal and sexually charged yet that’s also its main strength, as it opts to avoid cheap scares and instead plays familiar fairy tale scenarios (Red Riding Hood in particular) with blunt Freudian undertones.  The Werewolf creature is played symbolically as a threatening yet strangely attractive figure and the sexual thematic of his mythology are explored deeper here than in most films.  Now although it has its shocking moments and a terrific Werewolf transformation sequence, this is not a Horror film in the traditional sense, so if Wolf carnage is what you want, you’ll sadly be disappointed.  But if you’re open minded and in the mood for a smart, subversive journey intertwined with the Werewolf mythos except no substitutes.


4.  Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

Curse of the WerewolfSurprisingly Curse is Hammer Horror Studio’s sole foray into the Werewolf legend, its fitting then that they made their one shot count as it happily resulted in one of their best and most heartfelt films.  Choosing not to remake the 1941 Universal classic (as they did with several other titles), the story tackles young Spanish noble Leon (Oliver Reed) who’s grown into a upstanding man despite a dark, troubled past that only his adopted parents are aware of. Yet when problems of the heart arise, his primitive side returns and the proverbial poop hit the fan in the form of a crazed Werewolf.  Assured Hammer Vet Terence Fisher handles the direction gracefully and surprisingly holds back on the studios 1960’s mandate of overly bloodying and sexing up the material, in this case not a bad thing, as the film plays more like a subtle character drama with Wolf costumes.  That said, out of all the films to tackle the subject, none have been more successful at portraying the Werewolf as the tragic monster seen here.  The charismatic Reed is simply excellent as the well-meaning man struggling with his own nature and as the film races to its conclusion you’ll be hard pressed not to have your emotions put through the ringer as the inevitable plays out.  Classy, compelling and heart breaking and in my opinion a must watch (although if you like your horror shallow and gory, give it a miss!)


3.  Ginger Snaps (2000)

Ginger SnapsAn inventive twist on the typically male dominate mythos of the werewolf, Ginger Snaps spins the puberty parallel from the female perspective as the relationship of gothed out teen sisters Ginger (Katherine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) is pushed to the breaking point when the former is bitten by a rabid wolf and she starts experiencing bizarre ‘changes’.  Ginger Snaps is a horror movie with a smart head on its shoulders, spinning a sharp satire on teenage growing pains and is ably carried by the combined chemistry from its two leads (Isabelle, Perkins).  Its no slouch when it comes to the horror department either, displaying gore and scares when necessary and a gnarly wolf beast to boot. Its always surprised me that director John Fawcett and the attractive Isabelle didn’t go on to greater things afterwards (both are stuck in TV hell), but it stands if this clever little movie is the only worthwhile credit in their filmography, its no small feat.  Check it out for a fun, scary good time (NOTE: was followed by two entertaining though lesser sequels Ginger Snaps: Unleashed and Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning)


2.  An American Werewolf in London (1981)

An American Werewolf in LondonDirector John Landis, the king of comedy, surprised several viewers when he switched genres and released this werewolf shocker that has subsequently gone down as a classic in the Lycanthrope category.  The film is a unique experience filled with Landis’ penchant for enjoyable characters and absurd humor yet coupled with sudden and brutal violence, a doomed protagonist and an extremely downbeat ending.  To his credit, Landis was able to pull off the films madcap tone resulting in one of the finest horror/comedies (although he resents that categorization), it also lovingly pays knowing homage to the monster classics of yesteryears while exceeding them in its own right.  Special mention should be made of the fantastic work by lead man David Naughton (where did he go?), undead comic side kick Griffin Dunne and Jenny Agutters boobies.  And of course, FX genius Rick Baker whose Werewolf transformation sequence has become stuff of the legend and is still as powerful almost 30 years on.  In terms of werewolf movies this is about as good as it gets, rivaled only by….


1.  The Howling (1981)

The HowlingIt was glaringly obvious when naive reporter Karen White (Dee Wallace) is attacked by a serial killer/werewolf in a grimy porn theatre that the sub-genre had entered the modern area.  And there lies the strength of director Joe Dante’s awesome meld of 40’s monster movies and 70’s exploitation cinema, it’s a exciting, raunchy and satirical spin on the underused creature with an appeal that holds up today.  Admittedly, the film has dated slightly, but for a Genre Hound like myself, the early 80’s cheese factor only adds a layer of nostalgia that makes it more fun, while the film helps by never taking itself too serious.  Add to that Dante’s trademark for great cameo’s (Roger Corman, Dick Miller) and subtle black humor and you have quite a unique film experience.  In my opinion, this film is neck and neck in terms of greatness with An American Werewolf in London, but the one aspect that helps surpass it is the Werewolves themselves.  For sure, Baker’s work on the latter is brilliant, but here Rob Bottin’s wolf’s are terrifying and awesome at once, not to mention the Transformation sequence is superior in its vicious beauty.  Overall, one of the best uses of the sub-genre that deserves to be seen, plus the ending packs a hell of a punch line! 




3 Responses to “TOP 8 Werewolf Movies”

  1. Brian White

    Brilliant! I think you and I were separated at birth. We seem to think alike. The only one I could not get into was Dog Soldiers. What? No Underworld? 🙂

  2. Thor

    Glad you enjoyed the list Brian. Regardless i had to give Dog Soldiers respect for trying something different with the sub-genre even though it didnt completly succeed. No Underworld because it really was a fantasy/action movies that happened to feature Werewolves than really a Werewolf movie. Plus i didnt dig it too much (the sequel ‘Evolution’ was much better though).

  3. Gregg

    Where’s the Underworld prequel? Other than that missing link, it’s an otherwise impressive list!