Werewolves Movies Are Less Common Than Zombies or Vampires – Here Are Some of Our Favorites:
Werewolves have been a part of cinematic history since the first silent films and are one of the most classic of all monsters. Here’s ten of my favorite werewolf movies, from 1941’s The Wolf Man to 2005’s Cursed.
We start with the original Universal classic that started it all:
The Wolf Man (1941)
Night monster with the blood lust of a savage beast!
Synopsis: Returning to his family estate in Wales after 18 years, Larry Talbot is now heir upon the death of his elder brother, John. While visiting a gypsy camp, a werewolf attacks and and bites Larry, who is now cursed with the same condition.
This is the one that started it all. The film was one of three of the original Universal Pictures horror monsters that was not based on a piece of literature. The makeup was laborious, using grease paint and yak hair to transform Chaney, Jr. into the werewolf creature. This was achieved on camera by a lap dissolve and was only seen in the final ten minutes of the film. Chaney reprised his role in four more Universal films, but there was never a direct sequel to The Wolf Man. A “remake” of the film starring Benicio del Toro starring as Lawrence Talbot was released in 2010.
The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
In Hammer Film‘s classic take on the werewolf legend, Oliver Reed portrays the bloodthirsty man-beast who loves by day and kills by night in this gripping gothic thriller. Directed by horror filmmaker Terence Fisher, this atmospheric tale of terror follows Reed, the orphaned baby of a maniacal beggar and a mute girl, from birth to manhood, when he discovers his horrible secret. Try as he may, the cursed youth is unable to suppress the dark forces within. When the moon is full, he becomes an uncontrollable killer incapable of distinguishing between friend and foe. Spectacular makeup effects and beautifully-photographed 19th-century European locales heighten the suspense of this classic werewolf story.
The Howling (1981)
Imagine your worst fear a reality
Synopsis: After assisting the police in capturing “Eddie”, a serial killer who had been preying on the homeless, news anchor Karen White needs a rest and at her psychiatrist’s suggestion heads to The Colony, his own clinic. Once at the clinic however, strange events lead her to believe that her life is in danger. What she does not realize is that the clinic is located near a den of werewolves…
Background: Based on the novel of the same name by Gary Brandner, at the time of its release The Howling employed state-of-the-art special effects to transform the actors into werewolves. Director Joe Dante also included many subtle references to wolves through out the film; characters were also named for many directors who had directed other films that featured werewolves. It was followed by seven sequels.
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Beware the Moon
While on a walking tour of the United Kingdom, two American students are attacked during a full moon while out on the moors. One is killed, the other survives; the survivor begins to have nightmares and is haunted by his deceased friend, who breaks the news that he’s now a werewolf. And the only way to release them from the curse is to kill himself…
The story was originally imagined by director John Landis while working in Yugoslavia. Landis observed a group of gypsies performing burial rituals on a man so he would not “rise from the grave”. The idea stuck with Landis but it would be more than a decade later that the project came to life. Special effects wizard Rick Baker created the ghost make up and werewolf transformation effects, resulting in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences creating a new awards category “Outstanding Achievement in Makeup”.
The werewolf transformation sequences are pretty painful to watch, and a decomposing ghost can look pretty gruesome, even after thirty years!
In this film, a wealthy land developer and his wife are viciously murdered in the South Bronx, and detective Dewey Wilson is assigned to the case. After more people turn up dead, Wilson encounters some Native Americans who reveal the nature of the creatures that are inhabiting the inner-city slums.
Silver Bullet (1985)
Whenever the moon is full… it comes back!
The small, peaceful town of Tarker’s Mill is set into a panic by a string of murders. Sheriff Joe Haller begins to investigate while Marty, a young handicapped boy, believes the killer is not human but a werewolf. After having a run-in with the werewolf, Marty and his sister Jane begin their own investigation to find out who the monster really is.
The 1985 film was based on the Stephen King novella Cycle of the Werewolf. Although it wasn’t state of the art in the effects department, it became a cult classic.
The Company of Wolves (1984)
Werewolves meet…Little Red Riding Hood?
This movie gets a lot of its influence from the writings of Angela Carter, who knew how to really revise classic fairy tales, always heavily emphasizing feminist symbolisms.
This movie is a very strange surreal fantasy world, based around an extremely warped version of Little Red Riding Hood. This is a very artistic and symbolic film full of metaphors, and Angela Lansbury plays the grandmother warning about shape changers and “men with one brow.”
This is a strange and complex movie that mixes traditional myths with modern fantasy in a bizzare but effective combination.
This movie is visually stunning and manages to reflect the symbolism of woods, light against darkness, and the untold dangers of what happens to those innocents who don’t follow the path.
Dog Soldiers (1994)
British director Neil Marshall’s directorial debut Dog Soldiers resurrects and embraces the low-budget horror-comedy. Sergeant Harry Wells (Sean Pertwee) leads a team of British soldiers on a routine expedition to the Scottish Highlands. The six men would rather be at home watching the game, but they are even more dismayed when a carcass lands on their campfire. The next morning, they happen upon a severely injured Captain Richard Ryan (Liam Cunningham) and the bloody remains of his squadron.Soon they are attacked by giant werewolf beasts and chased through the woods, only to be saved by zoologist Megan (Emma Cleasby), who explains some of the truth about the creatures. They all take refuge in an old farmhouse while the threat of the monsters looms increasingly heavy.
10. Bad Moon (1996)
While on assignment in a remote jungle, an American photojournalist is attacked by a fearsome werewolf. Ted survives the encounter with only a nasty bite, but becomes a werewolf himself. Appalled by his bloodthirst, Ted goes to stay with his family in the hope that they can stop him.
Ginger Snaps (2000)
She’s got the curse
Synopsis: Brigitte and Ginger Fitzgerald are sisters who share a sense of the macabre and a love of all things dark. Something has been killing dogs in their neighborhood, and one night while trying to get revenge on a school bully, Ginger is attacked. Soon she begins to change — growing hair in strange places as well as a tail — and a rift forms between the sisters. Brigitte does everything to try and save her sister from the curse of becoming a werewolf. Not that Ginger really wants to be saved…
Background: This time the “curse” is double-fold: being a werewolf and hitting puberty at the same time. Ginger Snaps became a cult phenomena, resulting two sequels, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed and Ginger Snaps Back, although neither were as popular as the first film. There was no CGI used in the film; all special effects were created by traditional means of prosthetics and make-up. Ginger Snaps has attained an underground cult classic status since its release. This film is particularly bloody, gory, and occasionally violent if you’re into that.
An immortal battle for supremacy
Synopsis: The war between immortals, vampires and lycans, has been fought for centuries. Selene, a “death dealer”, falls for Michael Corvin, a human being targeted by the lycans. Little does she know that Michael is part of a larger plot that involves the creation of a vampire/lycan hybrid.
The film resembled the role playing games created by White Wolf, Inc. so closely that the company sued the film makers and settled for a confidential settlement in late 2003. The film would have two sequels, Underworld: Evolution and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, with a fourth planned for 2011. The lycans look pretty cool and there’s lots of action scenes, plus some gore, but the story is pretty terrible.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Secrets will be revealed
In the third film of the Harry Potter series, Harry and his friends must watch out for the crazed wizard Sirius Black, who has broken out of Azkaban prison. A new professor for the Defense Against the Dark Arts class arrives, one Remus Lupin, who has a little secret involving the moon.
The third Harry Potter book/film introduces the werewolf character called Remus Lupin, who is the third DADA professor Harry, Ron, and Hermione have during their years at Hogwart’s. There are two werewolves in the Harry Potter series: Remus and Fenrir Greyback, who works with the Death Eaters. Remus turns out to be a dear friend to Harry as well as having been a friend to his father, James Potter.
While obviously not a horror movie, the werewolf is truly frightening and, since he’s the title character of the film, this qualifies as a werewolf movie on our book.
Have you ever felt like you’re not human anymore?
Since their parents’ deaths, Ellie has been doing her best to take care of her younger brother Jimmy. After stopping to help a car accident victim, the two are attacked by a creature who disappears. Jimmy becomes obsessed with finding out what he and Ellie have be turned into, much to Ellie’s dismay. And when Jimmy discovers they’re both werewolves, will they be able to undo the curse?
The film was plagued by problems, both with production and the script, resulting in its delayed release. Over half the film was scrapped and reshot. The film was originally planned to be a R-rated release, but was cut to make it PG-13. Critics still panned it.
There’s some scary moments, and a twist, which make it a good B-movie for a fright fest. Watching a Golden Retriever turn into a were-dog is pretty fun and certainly something different.
Have you seen all of these, or will you find a new favorite? Is your favorite on this list or did we leave one off – share your comments below.