Top 10 Werewolf Films

David Naughton undergoing a severe growth spurt

David Naughton undergoing a severe growth spurt

By Jordan

The Werewolf has long been the ugly duckling of the horror film monsters, possibly not deemed frightening, or aesthetically appealing enough for younger viewers. The stricken, damned beast is the most saddening of perhaps any character created, similar to Stevenson’s Jekyll & Hyde only more carnal, feral, and once bitten doomed to a soulless existence in the shadows at once a lethal threat to others and himself.

This broad neglect (not counting a particular recent franchise I choose not to recognize) is truly a shame, as some of the greatest entries in the oldest and most traditional of genres contain lycanthropes or differing variations of them (Cat People 1942 & 1982 are two exquisite examples of this), and I can’t be alone in wishing for a grand revival. For now though, we have these 10 fantastic films listed below…

Note: I haven’t included it because the werewolf element it contains is quite small, but I’m giving a special mention to Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat (2007), which features one of the greatest “transformation sequences” of all time.

10. The Wolfman

It's hard to go past a picture of Emily Blunt

It’s hard to go past a picture of Emily Blunt

2010, Directed by Joe Johnston

Seemingly forever in production, the high hopes horror fans held for this polished remake started fading quicker than Lawrence Talbot’s sanity, with the mediocre reviews then an exceptionally unfortunate end to the waiting. Upon reflection though, it’s startlingly clear to see just how much Joe Johnson (as the film’s eventual director) did right, maintaining a Gothic mood, ensuring a worthy transformation sequence that is part practical effects and part CG and coaxing wonderful performances from Del Toro as the tortured beast, Hugo Weaving as the determined Aberline and the beautiful Emily Blunt.

Is this a scary film? Not particularly… but its very well made and a lot better than you remember.

9. Brotherhood of the Wolf

What a cool film this is...

What a cool film this is…

2001, Directed by Christophe Gans

Calling Christophe Gans’ stylish cult extravaganza a werewolf film is to paint an incredibly broad and inaccurate stroke, but since it is a film based on secrets and espionage, and feaures gruesome deaths not dissimilar to others on this list, this remains the sub-genre in which it sits. A guilty pleasure of sorts, Gans’ injects his historical tale with an overuse of self-indulgent slo-mo that only adds to it’s favorable notoriety, as do our two mysterious heroes Grégoire de Fronsac and native American Mani and a typically sumptuous performance from Monica Bellucci.

I’m sure it goes without saying that this is very much a one-of-a-kind type of film.

8. Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt

Elsa Pataky in the moody Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt

Elsa Pataky in the moody Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt

2004, Directed by Paco Plaza

Exquisite; that’s the best word to describe Paco Plaza’s vivid gem Romasanta: The Werewolf Hunt – a mature, exceptionally mounted mix of horror and mystery, and possibly the only werewolf film to be based on a true story. Julian Sands (Leaving Las Vegas, Boxing Helena) is terrifically restrained as the titular drifter, and is supported strongly by the largely unknown Elsa Pataky, who imbues her many highly emotional scenes with a dense vulnerability and eventually stands out as the best part of a stunning example of independent film-making.

Romasanta contains its share of suspense and gore, as well as a highly memorable reverse-transformation scene, but its viewing base should not be limited to simply those interested in horror and the bizarre, because once viewed its startlingly clear that it is one of the best low-budget films of the past decade in general.

7. Underworld

So its not a masterpiece... but guilty pleasures don't get much better

So its not a masterpiece… but guilty pleasures don’t get much better

2003, Directed by Len Wiseman

The movie that made werewolves cool again, Underworld may not be critically acclaimed, but like the Resident Evil series its fan base is loyal, vocal and unashamed to revel in its fetishistic costumes, moonlit locations and chaotic action. Telling a Romeo and Juliet inspired chapter in the age-old war between vampires and werewolves, Len Wiseman’s super-cool flick makes fantastic use of Kate Beckinsale’s enchanting appearance and has spawned 3 equally fun sequels.

6. The Company of Wolves

Neil Jordan's vivid, thematic The Company of Wolves

Neil Jordan’s vivid, thematic The Company of Wolves

1984, Directed by Neil Jordan

Intriguing filmmaker Neil Jordan’s (Mona Lisa, The Crying Game, Byzantium) second feature film is a symbolic, dreamlike study of wolves in sheep’s clothing featuring a most adult take on the famous fable Little Red Riding Hood and an image of a wolf shedding its skin that will remain with you for a long time. The Company of Wolves is the work of courageous auteur, at once frightening, disturbing and very adult, and is essential viewing for those with a preference for the macabre side of human nature.

5. The Wolf Man

Lon Chaney Jr as the original Universal creation

Lon Chaney Jr as the original Universal creation

1941, Directed by George Waggner

Claude Rains, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr… 3 reasons why, if you haven’t already partaken in this classic, brooding tragedy from Universal Studios it is of uttermost importance that you do. It’s not as accomplished a film as James Whale’s Frankenstein or The Bride of Frankenstein, Tod Browning’s Dracula or even Karl Freund’s The Mummy, but George Waggner’s The Wolf Man is certainly just as important and influential, being the birth of the sub-genre as we know it today and captured in beautifully evocative black and white. Seeing Chaney Jr transform into the beast in clear view is a definitive image of American cinema.

4. Dog Soldiers

Neil Marshall's action/horror is as fun as movies get

Neil Marshall’s action/horror is as fun as movies get

2002, Directed by Neil Marshall

The feature film of one of my favorite directors, Neil Marshall (The Descent, Doomsday, Centurion), Dog Soldiers explodes from the opening frames ’till the last and revels in its relentless machismo, enthusiastically uttered coarse language and visceral intestine ripping, impaled-on-a-branch brutality. Following a troupe of British soldiers on a routine training exercise in the Scottish Highlands, who face very real danger when it’s discovered the Special Ops team they’re up against have a lethal ulterior motive and domineering lycanthropes are roaming the moonlit woods, this in an adrenaline-pumping thrill ride that represents the very definition of fun and can be re-watched endlessly.

Also, it boasts the best use of Sean Pertwee to date, and that is a great feat of itself.

3. Ginger Snaps

Katharine Isabelle as the object of her male classmates affections, Ginger

Katharine Isabelle as the object of her male classmate’s affections, Ginger

2000, Directed by John Fawcett

Growing up can be brutal for most, but for Ginger (the now iconic scream queen Katharine Isabelle), its truly a monster. Spending her spare time with equally disenfranchised sister Brigitte (Emily Perkins) faking grotesque suicides and avoiding her unbearably perky mother, she is also, on the night of her first period, attacked by the wolf that has been ravaging the local dogs and her body begins to change in a manner not exactly taught by her physical education teacher. As Ginger grows more menacing as well as mature, Brigit teams up with the local pot dealer in trying to find a cure and reclaim the sister she adores, and whose sprouting shoulder hairs are a misfortune worth eradicating.

Sharp, funny and extremely intelligent, Ginger Snaps succeeds as both a werewolf entry and teen drama, and it’s excellence continued throughout two great sequels: Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004) and the 19th century set Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (2004).

2. The Howling

Lovely...

Lovely…

1981, Directed by Joe Dante

Joe Dante, the purveyor of anarchic entertainment and helmer of Gremlins, remains a severely underrated director, so it’s a comfort to know with certainly that at least his knowing (a werewolf film in which past werewolf films exist) 1981 classic is not. With effects by Rob Botin (who would a year later create the seminal alien masterworks of John Carpenter’s The Thing) that rival those of the great Rick Baker (see below), fan favorite Dee Wallace starring, a surprisingly dark undertone and a more-than-memorable scene featuring the late Elisabeth Brooks, The Howling is a hair-raising horror with a glowing reputation it is more than deserving of.

1. An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London. The best of the beasts

An American Werewolf in London. The best of the beast

1981, Directed by John Landis

The deft yet enthusiastic directorial hand of John Landis, the heart-stopping grace and accent of Jenny Agutter, the use of songs only with the word “moon” in them, Rick Baker’s masterful transformation scene in broad daylight, the mixture of suspense and humor, The Slaughtered Lamb, the explicit use of recurring Landis gag See You Next Wednesday, the spine-tingling subway scene, tragic conclusion, Nazi demon nightmare, flayed neck flesh and attack on the moors…

An American Werewolf in London. The best werewolf movie ever made.

How does this list stack up against your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!

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52 responses to “Top 10 Werewolf Films

    • Cheers Mikey. Dog Soldiers is just a flat-out blast, as are the Underworld movies (in particular the first and Awakening) so I definitely recommend booking out a few Friday nights for them.
      Jordan

  1. #1 & #2 arrived when I was in my teens, and I remember them so fondly. The 1941 “The Wolf Man” is in indisputable classic, and Neil Marshall’s “Dog Soldiers” is an incredible debut. The Joe Johnston “Wolf Man” remake is quite underrated! And, of course, “The Company of Wolves” and “Ginger Snaps” are super. Also, “Brotherhood of the Wolf” is a sumptuous feast. Haven’t seen the other two, but might I suggest the Hammer Studios “Curse of the Werewolf” with Oliver Reed. It’s minimalist and marvelous. Great job, Jordan! ML

    • Thanks for the recommendation Mark, I’ll track it down! Glad you enjoyed and agree with the list – these films really do have an energy not present in other sub-genres.
      Jordan

  2. Dog Soldiers is my fave of these – absolutely loved it.

    And I’m well chuffed I got to see Brotherhood of the Wolf at the cinema, visually this film is so stunning, that I consider it one of my all time fave films.

    • Oh you are very lucky indeed! The slow motion kung-fu in the rain on the big screen is something I would have loved to experience also. Glad you’re a Dog Soldiers fan as well!
      Jordan

  3. Great lisy. I LOVE horror and have a soft spot for werewolf films – if only there were more! American Werewolf is y favourite horror fil of all time and Ginger Snaps was great too. Keep up the good work.

    • American Werewolf is an inspired choice of favourite! Easily the best horror comedy of all time. I’d love so much to see a quality resurgence.
      Thanks Laura
      Jordan

  4. Brilliant post Jordan. Only now have I come to terms with my howling lack of cinematic werewolf viewings. However, I have seen An American Werewolf in London, and I echo your eloquently scribed thoughts!

    Adam.

  5. Another reasonable one ( by either Hammer or Amicus) is The Beast Must Die. I just can’t get on board with Underworld though – too much style over substance for my liking. Otherwise, not a bad list at all.

  6. When I saw your headline, I immediately thought, “I wonder if Company of Wolves will be on it?” Then I thought, “There is no way.”
    You impressed me, guys. Kudos.
    I would not have thought of putting Brotherhood of the Wolf on this list, but in hindsight it belongs. It’s one of the most original and well-made horror movies of all time, and people seem to have never heard of it.
    Michael Jackson’s Thriller video deserves an honorable mention because of that amazing werewolf transformation at the very beginning. Jackson got John Landis to direct the video because of American Werewolf in London, and the werwolf moment is an homage.

    • Glad to hear it mate! The more obscure films certainly have their place here.
      You raise a great point with Thriller! It’s definitely worth a nod and still easily stands as Jackson’s most iconic clip.
      Jordan

  7. Wolfen and Silver Bullet are two of my favorite werewolf flicks as well. I think The Howling was one of the most disturbing werewolf films I ever saw. As a kid it scared the hell out of me, and that was even the edited version.

    Great list.

    • Hey mate, 2 good calls there, wasn’t easily leaving either out. I think the disturbing elements of The Howling seems to have been forgotten a bit in favour of its tongue-in-cheek/self-referential moments, but form the very dingy opening moments onwards there really is a harsh sense of menace that permeates. So yes, I can understand you being that scared ha.
      Jordan

  8. Thank you guys so much for this! I was just thinking the other day how sad it is we don’t get see more of these wolfy beasts in cinema. They and zombies are my favorites of the Halloween beasts. I’m especially eager to check out ‘Dog Soldiers’ since Neill Marshall really shocked me with ‘the Descent.’

  9. I love werewolf movies. It surprises me that I actually haven’t seen 4 of the movies on your list. Awesome post.

    As others have already mentioned, Silver Bullet is definitely up there for myself. And call me crazy, but I’m also a fan of Teen Wolf (Michael J Fox movie that is).

    Last thing, do you remember the Fox tv series Werewolf from 1987 through 1988? Your post made me think of it. It was a great series. How often are you going to see a story in which a werewolf travel the US helping people with his power lol?

    • Gotta say I’ve not even heard of that series! I’m certainly very curious about it now though.
      Glad you enjoyed the post, and hope you enjoy those 4 that you’ve missed if you get a chance to see them!
      Ah, and I definitely can’t argue that Teen Wolf is a pretty fun slice of nostalgia ha.
      Jordan

  10. Nice to see THE WOLFMAN included on one of these lists. While not great, I think it was definitely under appreciated. Considering all the behind-the-scenes problems it’s amazing it got made at all and it still came out a pretty decent film.

    I’d probably swap out UNDERWORLD with BAD MOON, tho. Really love the werewolf design in it, and you have to love the fact that the family dog is the hero. At the very least, I’d drop the first Underworld in favor of RISE OF THE LYCANS.

    My top five would probably be the same except my list would put THE HOWLING at the top. That movie pretty much crystallized what I thought werewolves should be (save maybe for the ‘bunny ears’).

    After that, I don’t know. I’d have a heck of a time doing a top-ten list. I’ve got over 50 werewolf movies on DVD and I don’t know how many more taped off of TV and the like. Leaving out stuff like SILVER BULLET and BIG BAD WOLF and WEREWOLF IN A WOMEN’S PRISON (okay, I maybe skew towards the grindhouse side of things sometimes) would be tough for me.

    • Thanks for the thoughts! You’re knowledge of werewolf films is impressive! Gotta say I’m a fan of the Grindhouse myself so can definitely appreciate your taste there, and now I’ve got a very cool-sounding title to track down!
      Cheers, Jordan

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  12. Yes! Completely agree with number 1 and 2. American Werewolf in London was possibly one of the first werewolf films I ever watched, so to me it’s a classic (like Hammer Horror). I liked most of The Wolfman (remake), really enjoyed it… until the end when there were two werewolves fighting. That ruined it for me, but the first part was great. Good article!

  13. Solid list, even though I hardly see how Brotherhood of the Wolf can be considered a werewolf film, I think all the others are there. Did you see Bad Moon and Wolfen? I think those two may be worth including. I’ve made a similar list to yours, but our taste differ (see link on my name).

    • Yeah I see what you mean there, and I think I did state that. Its more that it has the feel and power of a werewolf film, without actually being one. Haven’t seen Bad Moon, but do quite like Wolfen too; enjoyed reading your list mate, at least we agreed on the no.1!
      Jordan

    • Sorry London… Not Paris. Though that sequel had better looking Werewolves. Minus the cgi of course.

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  15. I also consider “An American Werewolf in London” the best of the list, but I would move “Underworld” to the third position.

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