Hello, one and all, and welcome to another list post! I originally posted this back in May 2017 as a top 5 list, but as it’s Halloween, I wanted to revamp it into something bigger. So, I figured it was time for my top ten werewolf movies. The reason for that is … well … I love werewolf movies. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved the genre. My word there are some truly awful werewolf films out there though. If you ever wanted to step into the world of the big bad fuzzies but wanted to avoid stumbling onto something truly naff, these are good places to start. Be warned though, it’s gonna get bloody!
So, let’s get going. Here are my top choices in order of release:
The Curse Of The Werewolf (1961)
When you go back to the early days of werewolf films, it’s tempting to jump straight to Lon Chaney Jr’s Wolfman in 1941. In my opinion, though, this is a far better starting point. Not only was this Oliver Reed’s first starring role, but it was also actually the first werewolf film to be shot in colour. The story of a cursed man who battles his animalistic urges is certainly a familiar one, and Hammer did a great job with it here. strong performances and great effects for its time make this one a standout.
An American Werewolf In London (1981)
I wanted to get this one out of the way early on because it’s pretty much impossible to do a top werewolf anything without including it. That’s with good reason though. The transformation scene in this one is so iconic that it’s still the benchmark that modern transformations are held up against. Practical special effects, dark comedy, and some truly terrifying moments all combine to make this one a classic.
The Howling (1981)
You ask most werewolf fans what their favourite 80s werewolf movie is and if they don’t answer American Werewolf, they usually say this. Honestly, it’s not hard to see why. From a storytelling standpoint, I’d say this is actually stronger than American Werewolf. I’d even go so far as to say that the full werewolf form of the monsters is better too. It’s a classic movie that, unfortunately, made it very difficult for the sequels to come close to it in quality.
This is one of the strangest concepts for a film that I’ve found. What do I mean by that? Well, it’s essentially a werewolf movie about office politics. With Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer and James Spader on board, it features what was an A-list cast for the era, and they do a rather spiffing job with the concept. If you want something a little less flashy that avoids the normal plots, this is a good one to go for.
Bad Moon (1996)
This is one that’s a little harder to come by on physical media now, and that’s a real shame. The film took itself very seriously, and though it was panned critically at the time of its release, it really is worth checking out. The tale of a mother and son who are under threat from a werewolf in the family is an easy one to follow, and the final fight between said shapeshifter and the family dog is actually a pretty nice scene to watch.
Ginger Snaps (2000)
While not the first to do so, Ginger Snaps does a wonderful job of using the werewolf set up as a metaphor for puberty. Now, the film did manage to spawn both a sequel and a prequel, neither of which are as horrible as you may be led to believe, but they certainly weren’t a patch on the original. The slow transformation works well, and Brigitte’s plight in trying to save her sister Ginger from becoming a monster is compulsive viewing.
Dog Soldiers (2002)
Werewolves vs. British squaddies. What more could you want? In all seriousness, this is one awesome film. The werewolves are suitably scary, the action is hard and fast, the story is fun … it’s an easy one to put in any list. I really enjoyed Sean Pertwee’s turn as Sgt. Wells, but to be fair, the whole cast were believable as soldiers out of their depth here. Plus points also go to the gore, which I thought was pitched just right without being too overdone.
Wolf Children (2012)
How could I not include this masterpiece in here? While the only family-friendly entry on the list, the film is an absolute must for the genre. What it lacks in the expected bloodshed it makes up for with beautiful storytelling, great animation, and a thoroughly lovable cast. The tale of a single human mother raising her two werewolf pups after their werewolf father dies is perhaps best described as moving and, if you’re looking for something a little lighter than the above to enjoy, this is your best option.
Late Phases (2014)
You may remember this one from my (thus far only) Live Tweet Review. The film can basically be summed up as ‘retired blind war veteran vs. a werewolf’. After the initial attack, the film spends a great deal of time focussing on the lead working through his thoughts and planning for his impending battle with the beasty. Somehow, that works really well though, as it ensures that it’s really easy to root for our hero. The monster design is also pretty good and a wee bit different to what you’d perhaps expect. A great modern effort.
The second werewolf film on the list to feature Sean Pertwee is certainly an interesting one. What you basically have here is a bunch of British stereotypes, many of whom are terrible people, stuck on a derailed train that is being besieged by a werewolf. It is, at times, brutal, it certainly has a layer of cheese to it, but it’s somehow difficult to not love it. The whole thing plays out at a good pace, and it’s honestly, just plain fun, especially with its short run time of only 89 minutes.
There are a bunch of others that didn’t quite make this list, of course, and they all have things going for them. The Beast Must Die (1974) is certainly cheesy. I mean, any film that gives you a ‘werewolf break’ where you get to guess the identity of the beast has to be, right? It’s still worth catching if you get the opportunity though. The Company of Wolves (1984) did the lycanthropy as a metaphor for puberty thing long before Ginger Snaps and still stands up today as a decent film. The only reason it didn’t make it into my list is that I thought the Katherine Isabelle led tale did it better.
Underworld (2003) isn’t strictly a werewolf movie, but I will admit, I liked the blend of action and modern-goth imagery. Michael Sheen’s lycan leader Lucien was the highlight for me. Similarly, What We Do In The Shadows (2014) is an excellent piece of comedy with a couple of great werewolf scenes – “We’re werewolves, not swear wolves” – ut it not being a werewolf movie precludes it from the list.
Red Riding Hood (2011) is more of a romance film than anything else on this list, and while it was not well received by critics, it would say it’s pretty entertaining if you enjoy paranormal romance. At the opposite end is Wer (2013), which is more of a classic werewolf portrayal in some modern packaging. This was a genuinely good horror tale, and narrowly missed making the list. Meanwhile, Wolf Cop (2014) will be a great choice if you want more of a dark comedy tale.
Finally, we have Wolves (2014). This isn’t a great film in my opinion, but it has some my favourite wolfman style werewolf designs. Honestly, they’re great costumes, it’s just a shame about the stuff around them.
You may notice that Steven King’s Silver Bullet (1996) is not on the list. That’s because…I haven’t actually seen it. I know, sacrilege, right? The same goes for Bloodthirsty (2020), which I do really want to see. I will do my best to rectify these oversights.
But, there you have it. Those were my favourites. But, did I miss any of your favourites? Do you have any recommendations that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading everybody, I’ll catch ya later!