What are the best werewolf movies?
The Werewolf subgenre is an interesting one. For whatever reason it’s rarely tackled by great filmmakers. We’ll see 100 vampire movies released this year. We’ll see 200 zombie movies released this year. We’ll see somewhere in the ballpark of 7.9 million found footage films released this year. Okay, maybe that last little prediction is an exaggeration, but you get my drift. And you get it because you know as well as the rest of us that if we get three high quality werewolf films this year, we’ll be lucky.
Now, the shallow pool to dip in here ensures that you’ll likely be extremely familiar with each movie on this list. But this particular piece doesn’t really apply any limitations. Old, new, Hard-R, PG – it really doesn’t matter. If it’s an awesome werewolf movie it’s going to be featured here.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the setting of Wolfen, which unfolds in New York. That metropolis always felt a little off to me, but over the years I’ve come to respect the film for what it is. There are a few pleasant visuals to take in and we do get a mighty fine cast well-suited for this gig. Look for Edward James Olmos, Gregory Hines and Tom Noonan to help elevate the overall quality of the pic.
19 The Wolfman
We could all sit around and pick at the rotting flesh on the bones of this film, but that wouldn’t be entirely fair. Yes, Joe Johnston’s reboot does a lot of wrong things, but it also nails a few important elements. Aesthetically speaking the movie looks great and the atmosphere is very chilling. And, the first moment we truly see Benicio Del Toro’s Lawrence Talbot undergo transformation while a group of smug, overconfident doctors bear witness, we get quite the shock. Even with some heavy CGI in effect, the scene is jarring to say the least. The 2010 rendition of this story is by no means a serious favorite, but it’s got as many good things going for it as it does bad.
One of the more inventive films on the list, Wer is solid and brings something fresh to the table. Will it fit into your bag? It’s hard to say. I’m on board, all the way, and I’m also keen on the idea of not spoiling the film for you. You should be surprised immediately, when you see the style that William Brent Bell shoots in. And then you should be downright stunned when you see what the werewolf looks like “post transformation.”
17 Underworld: Evolution
We had to squeeze a few Underworld pics into the mix. While vampires play just as important a role as the werewolves themselves in the Underworld series, the hairy beasts are constantly on full display, and they look great. More action than horror, Underworld: Evolution is one of those strange pics that work for a generally wide audience.
A modern movie with a throwback feel, this is a story that brings feuding werewolves to the forefront of things, where you know blood is going to splash freely. While not a perfect picture by any stretch (there are some pretty glaring script issues, I freely admit), it sure feels old school, and that alone is charming enough to have me hooked. Toss in a couple huge fight scenes and a few lovely ladies and you’ve got a genuinely fun little keeper.
15 The Night of the Werewolf
The Night of the Werewolf often feels a little too disjointed. It’s also got the feel of a film with a few too many heavy ideas stuffed into a flimsy plastic bag. But, the good news is the werewolf design is pretty impressive – a little bit reminiscent of the good old Lon Chaney Jr. look – and the picture has an insanely eerie vibe going for it. Did we mention the addition of plenty of perky breasts (don’t you dare hate me for appreciating the female body)? Yeah, it’s a winner!
There’s something strangely charming about this film. For years I felt as though Jack Nicholson had been terribly miscast in this role. Time has altered that opinion, as I think he does a bang up job and works seamlessly against his onscreen nemesis Stewart Swinton (played by the great James Spader). Again, we’ll avoid too many spoilers, but we will say this: prepare yourself for a final act that feels as though it climbed straight out of 1941.
13 Late Phases
I can’t get over how much I like the idea of a blind veteran tangling with werewolves. That’s a refreshing angle and it’s only one of the main strengths offered by Late Phases. The movie’s pretty well-shot and the action sequences are loaded with tension as well as explosions. The werewolves featured here (courtesy of Robert Kurtzman and Creature Corps) look rather atypical, and there’s a comedic undertone to the whole affair. Somehow it all works and, like Wolves, feels as though it crawled right out of a different era.
12 Bad Moon
Eric Red’s classic picture has a following that would blow your mind. But it deserves it, and Red makes killer flicks. Bad Moon may be one of the rarer selections to be included on this list, but you better believe that the movie rocks. Werewolves, Michael Paré, family secrets. It’s just a good time in waiting, and it’s aged surprisingly well.
11 Ginger Snaps
Here’s another clear cut, fan-adored picture. It’s a little coming of age werewolfy affair that still makes for top notch viewing today. The movie is all about the characters, when you strip the horror away, you’ve got a study of personality. That’s the very reason the entire franchise has worked so well, regardless of focal conflict or even time period.
Hilarious, outrageous, preposterous and often graphic, Lowell Dean’s Wolfcop did things we’ve never seen done inside these particular parameters. And viewers realize that quite early, as the focus is instantly placed on Officer Lou Garou, who just so happens to periodically transform into a balls-out crime fighting werewolf – with a sidekick (Jonathan Cherry’s Willie Higgins) that’ll leave you in stitches. Excellent movie!
09 Rise of the Lycans
Wait… another Underworld flick?! Absolutely. Unlike the other films in the franchise, the emphasis on the lycans here is stronger than ever before. We also get to see the human side of the monsters, and the wrongs they’ve had committed against them for centuries. For a prequel, this picture is terrific and it must be said that Michael Sheen’s portrayal of Lucian is so multi-layered it’s stunning. He’s compassionate, he’s in love, he’s against the idea of being treated as a monster. He’s rebellious. Lucian, in Rise of the Lycans is more human than he’s ever been throughout the full franchise.
08 The Curse of the Werewolf
The Curse of the Werewolf feels more dated than a number of classic films (despite the color) on this list, but that doesn’t sway my opinion of the production. From the moment one unfortunate beggar has his dignity entirely extinguished to the joy of a pompous lot, right up to the moment in which we see a raging beast take to the night, the film shines. The Curse of the Werewolf really does demand we experience a myriad of emotions and that helps to set this flick apart from a large number of other similar films, even some on this very list.
07 Dog Soldiers
Who doesn’t want to see a handful of macho soldiers tangle with elongated, ferocious and downright terrifying beasts? That’s precisely what Neil Marshall’s feature length breakthrough afforded us and it was such a tense, strangely claustrophobic picture that it’s become universally recognized as one of the greatest werewolf films in history. We’re not about to argue against that.
06 Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman
This is everything we want in a werewolf film, unless you’re a gorehound and a gorehoud alone, in which case, you’re going to feel a bit cheated by this one as it features next to nothing in the gore department. The story on the other hand is awesome and has a number of parallels to a great deal of contemporary horror. It’s always a fine thing seeing Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman, and this film in specific ranks among the greatest crossovers ever made.
05 Silver Bullet
Of all the films on this list, none seep nostalgia quite like this adaptation of Stephen King’s story “Cycle of the Werewolf.” The narrative makes for a genius mystery and damn near every character in the film is likable, though none rival the stunning impression that the late Corey Haim and Gary Busey leave on viewers. The movie still looks great today and if you want to see one of the strongest lycanthropic pieces in existence, you’ve got to watch Silver Bullet.
04 The Werewolf
Another obscure pick, The Werewolf is without a single doubt, one of my absolute favorite horror films, whether focused on werewolves or not. The story has an awkward grace about it and the cinematography is so clean it’s insane. The movie just feels as though it was quite far ahead of its time. If you haven’t seen it, start shopping around. It’s been released on DVD, but I’ve yet to see it get the Blu-ray treatment, sadly (seriously, that’s just sad).
03 The Wolf Man (1941)
Wanna talk about amazing movies? Then talk about The Wolf Man. George Waggner’s 1941 offering was an infectious picture. Lon Chaney Jr. sucks us in as the sympathetic and frightened (but mean as hell when backed into a corner) lead and Jack Pierce’s makeup looks amazing. Very few films succeed in being so palpably dreadful, so when they do, you remember them, forever. The Wolf Man is still a rich film that forces us to feel something today.
02 The Howling
Who doesn’t love The Howling? Who doesn’t know what this movie is about? Who really hasn’t watched the damned thing? It’s got an awesome werewolf design, some beautifully revolting special effects, stellar work from Dee Wallace and then-recently married stud Christopher Stone, and, of course, plenty of nudity. The movie’s still a blast today.
01 An American Werewolf in London
Ask any devoted horror fanatic what the greatest werewolf movie is and you’ll more than likely get one of two responses: The Howling or An American Werewolf in London. They’re both great movies but the buildup in AAWIL, along with the comedic relief, special effects and direction of the story are all just a bit ahead of The Howling in the quality department. They’re both great pieces, regardless, and you can’t lose by choosing one over the other.