There are many great monsters within movies, and many of them have received fantastic films, especially if you’re a fan of Vampires or Zombies, but one movie monster that struggles to make it big and hit the right notes with cinema audiences is the Lycanthrope, or as they’re more often called, the Werewolf.
If for whatever reason you are unaware of what a Werewolf is, a werewolf is a human that transforms either physically or mentally, or both, to become a wolf. The forms of a werewolf vary throughout the mediums, be it a large humanoid wolf, a standard real life wolf form, or a wolf man.
I am a huge fan of werewolves, I may even go as far to admit that I am obsessed with them. I’ve loved them since I was a kid. Most of all I enjoy watching movies about werewolves but there seems to be few very good films that get it right (in my opinion) so I decided to compile this top ten list, which is in no particular order, because I know a few people who have asked me in the past which films I’d recommend that have werewolves in them. I haven’t seen every werewolf film (yet) but I have seen a large quantity of them and would like to give you all a top ten list of films I’d recommend as well as a few bonus recommendations below of films that have werewolves in them but are not focused on them.
- An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Okay so let’s start by getting the obvious one out of the way. When people say werewolf movie, the first one that comes to most people’s mind is the classic 1981 horror comedy by John Landis, An American Werewolf in London. Starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne, John Woodvine, and DonMcKillop to name a few of the main cast.
David Kessler (Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Dunne) are two American backpackers who have traveled from New York and found themselves in the moors of Yorkshire. They find themselves somewhat unwelcome in a local village pub called ‘The Slaughtered Lamb’, and decide to leave after and unpleasant exchange when Jack asks about a five pointed star he noticed on one of the walls. Just before they leave, they are given a warning to stay off the moors, stick to the roads, and beware of the full moon.
Despite the warnings, David and Jack find themselves off of the road and onto the moors, where are they suddenly attacked by a howling creature. David survives the attack with severe wounds, but Jack is killed in the attack which is brought to a halt when the villagers find the boys and shoot the animal attacking them, but before David passes out from the blood loss, he sees that the dead animal is now a naked man.
Three weeks later and David wakes up in a hospital in London where he meets a lovely attractive nurse named Alex (Agutter) and a Dr. Hirsch (Woodvine) who tells David that he and Jack were attacked by an escaped lunatic, but David insists that it was some sort of rabid dog or wolf. After moving in with Alex, David begins to go through some strange changes, not to mention the fact that he keeps seeing his deceased friend Jack everywhere, who warns him of the curse, and advises David to kill himself. David takes no notice of the warnings until he learns that London is being terrorized by vicious animal attacks.
Why it’s a classic
An American Werewolf in London is an almost perfect film, from story to cinematography and of course the brilliant soundtrack, it’s hard to find anything wrong with it. It keeps some of the classic werewolf movie tropes such as the power of the moon, and the curse being transferred via bite or scratch, but does away with other cliche’s such as silver bullets. It’s a grounded horror flick that genuinely terrifies you and leaves you on the edge of your seat when you see the beast closing in on it’s victims.
Though whilst I say it’s grounded, there are some bizarre scenes that add to the plot, that may shock you. I am of course talking about the Nazi Werewolves dream that is a sure shock factor in a film like this, but it adds so much to the enjoyment of the film overall. It’s definitely a scene you’ll be talking about after the film is finished. That and the porno theater scene.
The comedy is also brilliant at breaking some of the tension of the film, with great special effects as we see Jack slowly decomposing more and more throughout the film each time he appears to David. Rick Baker does a phenomenal job with the makeup designs for this film, but his special effects makeup for David’s incredible transformation sequence, not only won awards for Rick and the film, but changed the face of horror makeup in the 80’s and probably in history. No other film has captured that perfect practical effects transformation that we see in this film, which was done with new ground breaking technology that was made up of foam appliances, makeup, and what Baker calls “change-o” body parts that were elaborate puppet reproductions of Naughton’s body (including torso, head, face, hands and feet) that would stretch and transform in real time, meaning the camera crew just had to shoot the scene and watch the practical effects magic happen as David transforms from a man into a ‘Hound of Hell’ right before their very eyes.
The soundtrack consists of surprisingly up-beat songs, all of which refer to and are titled with the word “moon” which keeps the theme consistent throughout. Bobby Vinton’s slow, soothing version of “Blue Moon” plays during the opening credits, Van Morrison’s “Moondance” plays as David and Alex make love for the first time, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising” plays as David nears the moment of changing to the werewolf, a soft, bittersweet ballad version of “Blue Moon” by Sam Cooke plays during the agonizing wolf transformation, and the Marcels’ doo-wop version of “Blue Moon” plays over the end credits, making the soundtrack as memorable as the film itself.
2. Ginger Snaps (2001)
Ginger Snaps is a film that sadly struggled with both production and marketing, which meant that it was often looked past by potential fans at the time of it’s release, and didn’t become more popular until it’s release to physical media. The film went through some issues during development, especially with funding which meant that the producer, Steve Hoban, even had to wait another year to start production for the the film from when he had originally planned it in 1998, because they only received 60% of what they required due to negotiations causing them to miss a deadline for another financier.
Casting also became an issue, as the violence, gore, bad language and dark humour of the film appalled some casting directors, and then when things started looking up, there were the Columbine shooting and another high school shooting in Alberta, that set the film back due to the bad press of ‘violent teens’. Publicity about the movie being a “teen slasher film” was released in newspapers and was soon met with controversy and a flurry of debate.
However, despite all of this and more, Ginger Snaps finally got it’s release in 2001 and I have to tell you, it’s a damn good film, that uses lycanthropy as a metaphor for puberty, and sees Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins bring life to the outcast sisters, Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald, and due to the films popularity amongst fans, there were even two more films made in the series, a sequel, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, and a prequel, Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning, which were filmed back to back, thought neither performed as well as the first, but both received mostly positive critical reviews, and in my opinion are actually good films to watch as a trilogy.
Fascinated with death, the Fitzgerald sisters are as close as sisters can be, to the point of having a pact, which declares that they either move out of their suburban home town by the age of 16, or die together. The sisters are pretty much outcasts in their school, and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) is often bullied by Trina Sinclair (Danielle Hampton) with Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) often coming to her sisters aid. One night they decide to get payback on Trina by stealing her precious little pooch to scare her, since the suburban town has been the target of mysterious dog murders, but on the night they are due to go out, Ginger discovers that she has begun her first period. Despite this discovery, the two decide to go out anyway, but little do they know that the scent of blood from Ginger, will be their undoing.
Whilst walking through a park the girls are attacked by a wild animal, which bites Ginger. Brigitte manages to save her sister and as the two run across the road, the pursuing beast is splattered by and oncoming truck. Soon, Brigitte begins to become concerned for her sister, as Ginger appears to be going through some sort of transformation, which cause her scars to heal, hair to grow around her body, and a tail to appear. Brigitte tries everything to warn her sister of the dangers, but defiant as ever, Ginger does what she wants, becoming more hostile, which leads to more and more unfortunate events, until Ginger is finally consumed by her curse and transforms into a monstrous werewolf.
Why I like it
Ginger Snaps is a film with a great story and brilliantly dark humour. It’s not your average teen movie despite it’s theme of puberty, metaphorically at least, and the film brings genuine scenes of terror and suspense that leave you wanting more. The gradual transformation of Ginger gives us a nice take on a human to werewolf transformation as it isn’t instant. The transformation takes a while before she fully becomes a beast and when you see the beast, it’s genuinely horrifying to look at.
Filled with a cast of unknowns at the time, this film is one you can watch without comparing roles with other films, and the acting is brilliant, especially from the two leading ladies. Perkins and Isabelle bring us a genuine feeling of sisterly love, especially from Perkins as Brigitte, who does everything in her power to save Ginger before it’s too late.
Better yet, if you watch this film and do want more, there are two more films to wet your appetite. Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed sees Brigitte in an rehab facility after she becomes obsessed with injecting monkshood, to avoid her own lycanthropic transformation, but despite her efforts to get some from the workers at the rehab, she is left to slowly suffer the transformation with the ghost of Ginger tormenting her along the way. In Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning, we are taken back in time to the 19th century where we follow Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald, the ancestor sisters of Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald from the first two films, who find themselves lost in the Canadian wilderness, and after a warning from a Cree seeress, the sisters are pursued by vicious creatures, but saved by a hunter who takes them to the safety of a fort. However, we soon learn that humans are often the more beastly creatures.
All 3 of these films are a great watch with the third feeling like an ‘Underworld: Rise of the Lycans’ type deal in my opinion. Which is great as I love a good prequel. However, if you’re only planning on watching one of these films in this series, then make it the first one, because the original is more often than not, the better of the franchise.
3. Dog Soldiers (2002)
Another horror comedy now but this time it’s Neil Marshall’s directorial debut with an absolute must-see film for fans of horror comedies. Dog Soldiers is a fast paced action film with lots of great laughs, brilliant practical effects, and an excellent cast to boot. Despite it’s lower budget to most films with an estimate around the £2 million mark, Dog Soldiers is a stand out film that will leave you in tears of joy at it’s brilliant humour, thrilling fast paced action, fun little references and awesome looking werewolves.
The cast includes the likes of Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Emma Cleasby, Liam Cunningham, Darren Morfitt, Chris Robson, Leslie Simpson and Thomas Lockyer. Pertwee and McKidd being the two standouts, but none of the cast members fail to amuse the audience and draw us in to loving each one of them. All of them leave a lasting impression and do so no matter how many times you watch this film, which I can say from experience as I have seen this film countless times over the years and every time I do watch it, it never ceases to entertain me.
Lawrence Cooper (McKidd) is a British Army soldier attempting to join a special forces unit, but despite a top of the class, successful training exercise where he avoids capture for 22 hours, he is soon rejected when Captain Ryan (Cunningham) orders him to shoot an innocent dog in cold blood. Despite this rejection, Cooper and his squad of five other soldiers are dropped into the Scottish Highlands, four weeks later, for a different training exercise against the SAS (Special Air Service).
The squad, led by Sergeant Harry G. Wells (Pertwee), talks about a strange rumour regarding the Scottish Highlands, where travelers have been said to go missing or found dead in strange but vicious attacks, but nothing has been proven. The squads relaxing night is interrupted by a dead cow being thrown into their camp from the cliff above them. Upon investigating there is now sign of anyone being around and the cow seems to have large claw marks on it’s body. The next morning, the squad find a small camp which looks to have been attacked, and the only survivor turns out to be none other than Captain Ryan, who warns them of a real danger, claiming “there was only supposed to be one”. The Squad gear up with real bullets replacing their blanks and prepare to run as a danger looms closer.
What ensues is a fast paced, panic inducing chase sequence that sees the death of one character and the severe injuring of another. After reaching a road, the squad are met by a zoologist named Megan, who wastes no time in getting the squad to safety into a house in the middle of nowhere. Not everything is at it seems though, and soon secrets begin to unfold and plans foiled as the soldiers must survive the night against the surrounding werewolves.
Why I like it
As mentioned before, Dog Soldiers is fast paced and full of great humour, be it football references (with the film being set around the time of the England v Germany match of 2001), references to other pop culture films such as The Matrix, or even references to real life events such as The Battle of Rorke’s Drift, this film has it all. Pertwee, McKidd and the other soldiers in the squad all deliver brilliantly fun performances that leave a lasting impression and breaks the tension between the action, which is always intense.
Dog Soldiers is unlike any other werewolf film on this list despite there being other horror comedies here, because it’s a film of survival in an isolated location which isn’t seen as much in werewolf films surprisingly, at least not in this manor. There are themes of survival, secrets and trust mixed with brilliantly timed humour and an excellently written and directed cinematic experience that is unmatched for films seen as “low-budget” like this one is. The practical effects that bring the werewolves to life are some of the best looking werewolf appearances on film so be prepared to see some incredible practical effects at work. It is without a doubt one of the greatest British horror films in history, in my opinion at least.
4. The Wolf Man (1941)
How could I make this list and not mention my favourite of the classic Universal Monster movies. It may not have been the first werewolf movie as some people mistake it for, and it’s not even the first Universal Studios werewolf movie, that title belongs to Werewolf of London in 1935 which was in fact the first Hollywood mainstream movie to feature a werewolf, but six years later it was overshadowed by the special effects and story of 1941’s The Wolf Man, directed by George Waggner, and starring Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains, Bela Lugosi, Evelyn Ankers, Maria Ouspenskaya, and others.
Larry Talbot (Chaney Jr.) has returned home to his ancestral estate in Wales, after the death of his brother. It is here where he tries to reconcile with his Father, Sir John Talbot (Rains) and during his time at home he falls in love with a young woman named Gwen Conliffe (Ankers) who runs an antique store. In an attempt to spark up conversation with her, he purchases a walking stick that bears a silver wolf’s head top with a five pointed star. Gwen tells Larry that it is the sign of the werewolf, and recites to him a poem that other townsfolk repeat to him throughout the film, which goes;
Even a man who is pure in heart, and says his prayers by night;
May become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.
Later, when Larry, Gwen and Gwen’s friend Jenny (Fay Helm) take a trip out to have their fortune told by Bela the gypsy (Bela Lugosi) they are rushed away in a panic. Jenny is told to leave the camp at once and after hearing her screams of terror, Larry rushes to her aid to find that she is being attacked by a wolf. Larry uses his silver cane to kill the wolf, but could not save Jenny. In his heroic attempt, Larry is bitten and soon begins to feel strange, after learning that no wolf was found, only the body of Bela the gypsy who seems to have been beaten to death by the very cane Larry was using.
After strange effects take hold of Larry and accusations are thrown his way regarding him being a murderer, Larry visits Maleva the gypsy who tells hims that whoever is bitten by the werewolf will become one, and reveals to him that Bela was in fact a werewolf but his curse has ended and Larry’s has begun.
Why I like it
The Wolf Man is a classic film with the signature Universal atmosphere of the era and brilliant story telling. Sure by today’s standard it can be seen as cheesy and somewhat dull but you have to appreciate the classics for what they were at the time and this film was remarkable, with incredible special effects and makeup by Jack Pierce which took five or six hours to apply to Chaney Jr. each time and an hour to remove.
This film is filled with emotion and brilliantly dramatic sequences backed by it’s orchestral score and whilst there are many movies under the Universal badge that many claim to be better than Wolf Man in narrative and design, it remains one of my all time favourites for it’s legacy. Despite not being the first, it is the most referenced and is the film that began many of the werewolf cliche’s we know and love today, from the weakness to silver to the wolfsbane connection. Even the poem that recited multiple times throughout the film, is believed to be some historical warning but is in fact completely made up for the film by the brilliant screenwriter Curt Siodmak and has been repeated in multiple films that involve werewolves since, including more modern films such as Van Helsing (2004).
In 2010, Universal Studios made a remake of the classic film, but with a much darker tone. The Wolfman starred a big name cast including Benicio del Toro as Larry, Emily Blunt as Gwen, Anthony Hopkins as John Talbot, and Hugo Weaving as Inspector Francis Aberline. Though the film under-performed at the box office, I would also recommend it as a great film with a much darker tone and even more award winning special effects.
5. Bad Moon (1996)
Okay so this next film was panned by critics and did poorly at the box office in 1996, and I’ll admit it has many flaws that would convince someone this is a bad movie, so why would I recommend this? Well, Bad Moon is a film that, despite not being amazing like the others on this list, is unique in it’s execution of the werewolf story. Even after changing so many elements of the story from the book it was based on, this film is one I still find enjoyable, and despite the costume, even back in 1996 being called ‘cheap-looking’. I think it’s honestly one of the best looking werewolves on the list.
For anyone interested in a bit of werewolf literature, the book this film is adapted from is called ‘Thor’ and was written by Wayne Smith, published in 1994. The film was Written and Directed by Eric Red.
A mother and her son have moved house and are adapting to their new life. The family is small and have a loyal pet in the form of Thor, their German shepherd who would protect them no matter the cost. Janet Harrison (Mariel Hemingway) is a lawyer and manages to keep a full time job despite being a single mother to her son, Brett (Mason Gamble). Janet soon learns that her brother, Brett’s Uncle Ted (Michael Paré), has returned home from his trip to Nepal. where he worked as a photo-journalist.
Sadly, Ted has not returned as himself. During his time in Nepal, his girlfriend was torn to shreds by a ferocious Werewolf, which Ted was able to kill with a shotgun to the face but not before being bitten by it. When Ted returns home, he tries to reconcile with his sister, in the hopes that family bonding will prevent his curse from taking hold of him. Thor is the only one who suspects something is wrong with Ted, but unable to tell his family of the danger, He does what he can as a loyal guardian to protect his family, his own little pack.
Janet soon realizes something is off with Ted, and discovers some dark secrets in his trailer. Not only that, but the area they live in has fallen victim to some vicious animal attacks that can only be the result of an attack from a large dog. After Thor throws himself onto a con-man trying to get money out of Janet, then attacking Ted in order to protect his family, Thor is accused of the animal attacks and sent to the pound, leaving Janet and Brett unguarded and very much in danger.
Why I like it
Bad Moon is probably one of the most unique stories told within this list, because taking and adapting the story from Wayne Smith’s novel, the protagonist of this film is in fact the German Shepherd, Thor, and with clever directing and an honestly astounding performance by Primo the dog, Thor is a character that you honestly become connected to and he can portray a character better than some humans can. You honestly believe that Thor is expressing every emotion and warning in this film. His actions help drive the plot along and make this a true wonder to behold in film history.
Regarding the human actors, there are some great performances by Hemingway, Gamble and Paré, but the story feels like it could have had something more to make us really feel for these characters. The main character you share any real connection to is Thor, and apart from the final scream from Hemingway where she yells “GET THE FUCK OFF MY SON” before proceeding to shoot the werewolf, there are no truly memorable moments in this film that would make you want to go back and watch it again (unless you’re me and just love re-watching a bunch of werewolf movies), but don’t let that stop you from experiencing this film at least once in your life.
The scene’s with Thor being protective and being punished for crimes he did not commit are absolutely heart wrenching, leaving you on the edge of your seat telling the humans that they are assholes for believing such a good boy could do anything wrong. Thor is not only the protagonist of the film, but the hero of the film in every sense of the word. He is the best boy in cinema because I honestly can’t think of any other dog that attacks a giant beast to protect his family, can you?
As mentioned previously as well, the werewolf, whilst somewhat cheap looking is still probably one of the better looking werewolves on film, structurally. It’s vicious looking, and even more terrifying when you see all of the gore it brings to this film, as the victims of the werewolf are torn limb from limb and left in pools of blood, scattered about on the forest floor or even left hanging from the trees. The transformation scene we see is nothing to write home about though, but for the time it’s a decent attempt at the special effects.
The book is no doubt a far better story with more characters, since the family is two adults and three kids, instead of just a mum and one child, but the whole book is from Thor’s perspective as he protects his family that he calls “the pack”.
6. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)
The Underworld series has many mixed reviews with some people I know having regarded it more as a guilty pleasure rather than admitting that they just enjoy the films. It’s a series like many others of it’s kind that I feel went on for a little too long, and yet I was one of those people who also wanted more from it each time, so I guess I can’t complain about it’s descending quality as each film in the series came out, at least that’s it feels after the first three movies. Underworld (2003) and Underworld Evolution (2006) follows the story of Selene (Kate Beckinsale), an elite vampire warrior known as a Death Dealer who is hell bent on destroying the Lycans, a race of werewolves, who allegedly killed her family. As the film goes on and the sequels release, more and more secrets are revealed and Selene learns that the vampires she has served under for so many years, are not who she believed them to be. Along the way she meets a human named Michael, who is a direct descendant of Alexander Corvinus, who was the first to have formed both the Lycan and Vampire genes that began the two races existence.
However, Rise of the Lycans is a prequel to Selene’s story, and doesn’t involve her at all for the most part. It’s a story that focuses on the origins of the breed of Lycans that Selene finds herself at war with.
Set in the 15th Century, roughly 600 years before the events of the first Underworld film, and the Vampires are at war with Werewolves, descendants and victims of William’s rampage. William was the first of the Werewolves, but neither he nor any of the other Werewolves he has turned, can ever return to human form. They are forever trapped in the form of beasts. One night, an imprisoned Werewolf gives birth inside her cell, inside the Vampire’s fortress. The baby is human, and the first of his kind, the first Lycan. Viktor (Bill Nighy), one of the Vampire Elders, raises the child into a weapon, a slave for the Vampires, forcing him to bite other so that they can breed more like him to guard the Vampires during the day, and work beneath the whip at night. Lucian (Michael Sheen) seems content in his life at first, because it means he is close to the one he loves, Viktor’s own daughter, Sonja (Rhona Mitra), but soon Lucian decides that he can no longer stand to be a slave and must instead, escape the walls that he has been enthralled in since birth.
After an attack by a pack of werewolves, Lucian removes his shackle that prevents any Lycan from transforming, in order to protect Sonja, but despite his good intentions, his illegal action sees him whipped and left bloody. This punishment begins the start of a revolution for the Lycans, as Lucian demands that they will no longer stand by and protect the Vampire’s that treat them like pets. Lucian and the Lycans escape, and Viktor soon learns the sickening truth that his own daughter has been having an secretive intimate relationship with Lucian, resulting in a cross breed baby growing within her. Lucian attempts to rescue Sonja but they are both captured, and for their crimes, Sonja is burned alive by the Sun, as Lucian is chained down and forced to watch it happen.
Once more, Lucian escapes the clutches of the Vampire’s and begins a final assault that will see the centuries long war between Vampires and Lycans, begin.
Why I like it
Rise of the Lycans is one of my favourite films in the Underworld series because of how it sets up the story for the main timeline of the Underworld franchise. Despite some inconsistency with the flashbacks of the first film, it tells a great story of Lucian’s uprising that really changes his character when you rewatch the first film. You begin to sympathise more with the Lycans than you do with the Vampires, and realise who the really antagonists are. It also expands the universe, giving us a reprisal from Bill Nighy as Viktor which helps us understand just how long this war has gone on for and how much Viktor has endured, leading us to realise why he is so important, and also why he is so feared.
It’s a great fantasy film with plenty of action, excellent CGI and some brilliant visuals that bring to life the origins of the Lycans in this universe that the Underworld films reside in. It’s got some great action sequences, brilliant fight choreography and intense moments of emotion that will leave you thrilled. Sure it’s not the most conventional werewolf movie out their but Underworld is one of the few films that have successfully brought together two of the greatest movie monsters in history and pitted them against one another.
I chose the third film in the franchise for this list, because the others which occur within a consistent timeline following the story of Selene, focus more heavily on the Vampires, with the Lycans being more of an enemy sub plot to Selene’s story, whereas Rise of the Lycans focuses more on Lucian’s story and as the title says in a rather self explanatory way, it’s about the rise of the Lycans who are the werewolves of this universe, so it makes sense to choose this film over the other for it’s focus on Lycan lore, with the Vampires becoming the sub plot antagonists of this story.
According to Len Wiseman who directed the first two films, the Underworld franchise was always planned to be a trilogy at least, with the third being a prequel to expand the lore of the Underworld universe, and for me personally, they executed this plan very well. Rise of the Lycans, as well as the rest of the Underworld films, are a must see for anyone who is a fan of action horror films, especially if you’re a fan of films such as Blade, which has a similar feel to it.
7. The Company of Wolves (1984)
Another British werewolf film on this list, The Company of Wolves is directed by Neil Jordan and adapted from a short story of the same name, written by Angela Carter, which was featured in her own short story collection under the title, ‘The Bloody Chamber’, published in 1979.
The film is a narrative driven production of short stories told through the character of a young woman named Rosaleen, and some of the stories are truly bizarre but brilliant. The film could have been very different if another lead actress was chosen for Rosaleen’s role as Jordan wanted to add sexual overtones to the story but when twelve year old Sarah Patterson auditioned for the role, Jordan believed that there was no better actress to portray Rosaleen and so he took to re-writing the script to edit out some of the more intimate scenes, especially regarding the Hunter.
The film begins in a country house with the young Rosaleen (Patterson) fast asleep in her room. She dreams of a fairytale set some time within the 18th century with her parents (played by Tusse Silberg and David Warner, and her sister Alice (Georgia Slowe). After her sister Alice is killed by wolves in the forest, Rosaleen is told to stay at her grandmother’s house. Whilst there, Rosaleen’s Grandmother played by none other than the legendary Angela Lansbury, knits Rosaleen a red shawl, and warns her about the dangers of wolves and men. She warns Rosaleen to “Never stray from the path. Never eat a windfall apple, and Never trust a man who’s eyebrows meet”. These were common superstitions but Rosaleen was not superstitious, despite her grandmother’s teachings.
When Rosaleen returns to the village to live with her mum and dad again, she is pursued by an amorous boy (Shane Johnson), who chases Rosaleen into the woods, but soon loses track of her. Instead, he finds a mutilated cow, and runs back to the village crying wolf. The men of the village begin a hunt to capture the wolf, and after a successful kill, they soon discover a terrifying secret when the wolf transforms into a man.
As the film goes on, her Grandmother tells her different stories of humans becoming wolves, and none of them are particularly pleasant. One tale involves a disappearing groom, who vanishes one night, only to return some years later to find his wife has married another man and had kids. She pleads to the man for forgiveness, for she believed the wolves had eaten him. In a jealous rage the groom, played by Stephen Rea, begins to tear his skin from his flesh and transforms into a wolf.
The second story that grandmother tells Rosaleen about, is about another young man who’s eyebrows meet, and happens to be the bastard son of a priest. It is said that he met with the devil (portrayed by Terence Stampt) in the forest and receives a transformative potion which at first seems like what he wants, but soon he cries out as vines wrap around him and trap him. This story begins to break the boundaries between Rosaleen’s dream and reality, as she awakens to see the young boy screaming inside of her mirror.
Back within the dream, Rosaleen tells a story to her mother about a woman (Dawn Archibald) was wronged by a young man. The woman appears heavily pregnant when she arrives at the young nobleman’s (Richard Morant) weddint party. The pregnant woman curses the party guests, and turns them all to wolves, all except for the hired servants who did no wrong.
The final story told within the dream is about a young she-wolf, who climbs out of the village well, is shot by a villager and left bleeding outside a church. The priest of the church shows her kindness, patches up her wound with bandages. However despite his kindness, the she-wolf decides that she does not belong in this world of men and returns to her own world, which she gets back to by climbing back into the village well.
As these stories are told, there is a main story regarding Rosaleen which involves a Red Riding Hood-esque plot where she meets a Huntsman whilst on her way to her grandmothers house. The Huntsman (Micha Bergese) toys with Rosaleen, and tells her that her granny’s superstitions are nothing to be listened to. He challenges Rosaleen to a race, saying that he will reach her Grandmother’s house before she does, and if he wins, he would like a kiss. True to his word, he reaches Grandmother’s house before Rosaleen and confronts Granny before Rosaleen knows anything is wrong.
Why I like it
The Company of Wolves is a very unique film, which might require multiple viewings before fully understanding some of the bizarre things seen on screen. A lot of the objects seen within the dream are seen as props scattered throughout Rosaleen’s bedroom in the cottage, and the story itself is very bizarre overall. However the narrative driven film is an instant classic that I feel doesn’t get recognized or talked about enough.
The soundtrack is creepy and the adds so much to the films atmosphere. The art and makeup is astounding for the time, and the final act is one that leaves you with more questions than answers, but in a good way. The cast are phenomenal in their roles, and a lot of the Hollywood cliche’s are cast aside for more folkloric superstitions told through a dark fairy tale fantasy, which feels much like the stories written by the Brother’s Grimm, as the tales are not only dark, but are in fact cautionary.
It would be difficult to find another film like The Company of Wolves as it’s fantastical story, special effects, and cast are all standout, as this film leaves a lasting impression on the viewer. Practical effects always win me over more than CGI and this film is packed with brilliantly designed make up effects and even an animatronic transformation sequence that feels like if Terminator had werewolves in it, but it’s brilliantly gory and may leave some viewers squeamish.
Even if you only watch this film once, it is a film I would recommend to any fan of fantasy films, horror, or narrative driven stories. Neil Jordan’s later film, Interview with a Vampire, feels somewhat similar with it’s narrative driven format, so if you enjoy that film, then be sure to check out The Company of Wolves.
8. The Howling (1981)
It’s no secret that the 80’s were a great time for horror films, with the most popular horror films known worldwide today, being created at the time, whether it’s Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Child’s Play, or Hellraiser to name but a few. Of course this was a great time to be making films that focus on werewolves as well, and with films like An American Werewolf in London and Wolfen (which I have not yet seen, hence why it’s not on the list) also being made at the time, it proves that there are certainly some top class werewolf films made with great reception from audiences either at the time of release, or more within a cult following in the following years.
Another novel adaptation, The Howling is adapted from a book of the same name, written by Gary Brandner, and re-written into a screenplay by John Sayles and Terence H. Winkless. The film was directed by Joe Dante and became a financial success, which was later followed by multiple sequel films that didn’t perform as well as the original.
Karen White (Dee Wallace) is a news anchor in Los Angeles who has been aiding police with the capture of a suspected serial killer who appears to be stalking her. Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo) asks to meet with Karen in a seedy porno-theatre, and after agreeing to meet him, she soon regrets her decision when Eddie gets too close and intimate with her, before telling her to turn around, revealing a horrifying sight that Karen was not prepared for. Eddie is shot by Police who arrive on the scene after hearing her screams for help, and Karen is left traumatised by her bizarre encounter.
After recommendation from her doctor, Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee), Karen and her husband Bill Neill (Christopher Stone) take a trip to “The Colony” which they believe to be a resort for patients, in a secluded area to help them escape the sights, sounds and disruptions of the busy city. However, after meeting some strange characters there, they soon feel out of place and uncomfortable, but are urged to stay for the sake of Karen’s health.
Karen asks her friend Terri (Belinda Balaski) to come and pick her up, but on the way Terri is attacked by a werewolf, and though she escapes the first encounter, her second encounter is not as pleasant. Whilst on the phone to her boyfriend Chris (Dennis Dugan) Terri is attacked and killed by a werewolf, and wasting no more time Chris heads to the Colony with silver bullets and a rifle.
Why I like it
The Howling is another classic 80’s werewolf flick that was ahead of it’s time with it’s brilliant storytelling, great terrifying scenes and moments of suspense, topped off with a brilliant on screen werewolf design as well as a unique and disturbing transformation design, which was state-of-the-art at the time and were designed by Rob Bottin.
The Howling, though very different from the book it’s adapted from, was very well received by audiences and even won a 1980 Saturn Award for Best Horror which should give you some idea of just how good this movie is. There are scenes of genuine suspense and horror that leave you wanting more. A flurry of sequels followed the film’s success but none of them could quite top the first film’s cinematic brilliance despite their bigger budgets and advances in technology, but that’s not to say the sequels are bad. The Howling series of films is another universe of films that I enjoy pretty much all entries for though I haven’t watched any of them nearly as many times as I have the first film.
9. Wer (2013)
A lot of the modern era films are hit and miss when it comes to werewolves. There have been some decent attempts but not many of them can truly shine throug despite the many advancements in technology that brings whole galaxies to life and has seen comicbook characters dominate the industry, it always seems off when it comes to werewolves and that’s because these types of films are given the short stick when it comes to budget. So how do you pass this hurdle that often times seems like an impossible task? You use practical effects, you have a great narrative and you leave the viewer feeling uncomfortable throughout.
Wer, directed by William Brent Bell, written by Bell and Matthew Peterman, does just that. It’s a film that is pulled by a great narrative, some brilliant casting and scenes that will leave you remembering this film for a while.
Claire Porter (Stephanie Lamelin) is the solve survivor of a vicious attack that endured whilst she was on holidayin France with her husband Henry (Brian Johnson) and their young son Peter (Oaklee Pendergast). Claire reports to the police that her husband was torn to shreds and her son eaten alive in front of her own eyes, by a large hairy man.
The police, led by Captain Klaus Pistor (Sebastian Roché) arrest a man fitting the description who lives close by the attack site. The man known as Talan Gwynek (Brian Scott O’Connor) is assigned a lawyer for his defense, and American expatriate attorney Kate Moore (A.J. Cook) is willing to take on the case after viewing the evidence given to her. At first, Kate is eager to prove Talan’s innocence, which proves more difficult as time goes on, with lab results seemingly becoming contaminated, Claire Porter succombing to her injuries and dying, meaning she is unable to identify Talan, and her previous relationship with English animal expert Dr. Gavin Flemyng (Simon Quarterman) seemingly disrupting her work as well as the work of the teams investigator Eric Sarin (Vik Sahay) who seemingly tries to push Gavin’s buttons by disagreeing with him constantly and pointing out Gavin’s advancements towards Kate as unprofessional.
As the film goes on we learn a dark secret about Talan and after an altercation in an interrogation room, Gavin is scratched by Talan and begins to notice changes within himself. When the truth is out that Talan is in fact a werewolf, whose personality and abilities are altered by the power of the moon, Kate works with the Police to try and stop him, but things only go from bad to worse, which ends with a showdown between Talan and a now infected Gavin.
Why I like it
Wer is a very different take on the werewolf film genre, as it uses a lot of camera footage effects for it’s scenes, be it through CCTV or the jittery direction of the camera itself which can sometimes be uncomfortable to watch as there’s a lot of camera shaking but I feel like this uncomfortable feeling you get from watching this, only adds to the atmosphere of the film. It was initially planned to be a “faux-documentary” style project which might explain some of the shakey camerawork, but even with the footage scenes, this is not a “found footage” style film, but rather a film that delves deep into it’s world and drags the audience with it. It really brings you into the film and feels like the events seen could have truly been unfolding before our very eyes.
Slow to start with, but focusing heavily on the narrative, this film isn’t one for those looking for a fast paced action horror. It’s a film of suspense, and anticipation which is brought together by a quiet but very well performed portrayal of Talan by Brian Scott O’Connor, who is the bass guitarist for American rockband ‘Eagles of Death Metal’ and is nicknamed ‘Big Hands’ which isn’t hard to see why when you see him in this film. O’Connor’s performance makes us sympathise with Talan and gives us a sense that his condition is in fact a curse. Talan feels like an outcast who doesn’t want to hurt people but has no control over his actions once the moon takes ahold and that’s exactly how a werewolf should feel. When the changes to his body begin, they aren’t over dramatic, there’s a slight body alteration and O’Connor shifts his performance into a genuinely terrifying adversary that you would not want to cross paths with.
This film is unique in it’s style and storytelling and will leave you wanting more once you see the ending.
10. WolfCop (2014)
The Canadian horrors are back again with this very hilarious and bizarre entry into the werewolf genre. A film that I discovered when I saw the very awesome looking steelbook on Zavvi and became curious to know what this werewolf flick was about and just how it somehow slipped under my radar. I soon learned that this would become one of my all time favourite werewolf movies, for it’s bizarre plot, dark and dirty humour and overall good time that you experience as a viewer, watching this film.
Lou Garou (Leo Fafard) is an alcoholic cop in the small town of Woodhaven, which sees it’s fair share of strange occurrences when a group of occultists begin causing trouble. Upon investigating these disturbances, Lou is knocked unconscious and later awakens in his bed with no knowledge of how he got there. The only thing he does know, after looking in a mirror, is that he appears to have been scarred on his stomach with a pentagram.
Lou’s body begins to endure a transformation of some sorts, and after an encounter with a local gang which results in Lou killing one of the gangsters rather violently, his closest friend, Willie Higgins (Jonathan Cherry), helps Lou find out what exactly is happening to him. Later they learn that the ruling class of the town are all secretly a race of lizard people, and with the help of his ally Sergeant Tina (Amy Matysio), Lou survives being sacrificed in a ritual, and takes down the occult.
Why I like it
WolfCop is a joy ride, and is a film that, at no point, takes itself too seriously. It’s bizarre, it’s funny and it’s straight up unique, which allowed it to become and instant cult classic, and further allowed the creators of the film to produce a sequel with, Another WolfCop in 2017.
The cast are all brilliant, the costume is cheesy and crude, and the film will leave you with one genuine question “What the fuck did I just watch?”. I LOVE this film and it’s sequel, and hope that the team get to keep making films like this with at least one more WolfCop included. The films fans are very much active and alive, with the film’s social media pages posting continuous posts about the film, it’s fans and the lasting impression it seems to have left worldwide. It’s a true feel-good movie that can cheer you up, and even though it doesn’t take itself entirely seriously, you can tell a lot of love for the genre went into the making of this production. Even the protagonist’s name ‘Lou Garou’ is a punny twist on the French name for a werewolf ‘loup garou’.
The werewolf costume is reminiscent of the Wolf Man design, feeling a lot closer to the 2010 remake film’s design. The story has some of the many great werewolf tropes such as the pentagram, and the effects are all done practically with a retro style to show an appreciation for the design of films without CGI.
I honestly don’t know how much I can praise this film for what it is, and you’ll just have to trust me and go watch it yourself to truly find out, and form your own opinion of course.
Van Helsing (2004)
Van Helsing is a film that is completely underrated in my opinion. It’s a film that attempts to merge the universe of Universal Monsters with characters like Dracula, Frankenstein & Frankenstein’s Monster, Jekyll & Hyde and of course Van Helsing, all appearing in a crossover film that is probably the best attempt we’ve ever truly gotten. The story was fantastic, the cast were great and the effects at the time were some of the best despite it’s low budget. Sadly it was panned by critics and is now only talked about by true fans who saw the potential of this film that was terribly lost on a wider audience.
I mention here because the Werewolf plays a major role in the film and appears through three different characters, each of whom have a unique appearance when transformed into the humanoid beast that loses control of their humanity. The first is a werewolf who’s human persona is not identified in the film. It looks badass and when on screen it is ferocious and fast paced, making it a threatening adversary for the Valerious descendants to deal with.
The second Werewolf is Velkan Valerious (Will Kemp) himself who is then defeated by Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) but not before passing on the curse, as Van Helsing becomes the third and final werewolf of the film, which aids him in defeating Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) but not without the loss of Anna Valerious’s (Kate Beckinsale) life. The CGI is pretty great for the early 2000’s and hold’s up decently well to this day. The werewolves are some of the best looking on screen werewolves in film in my opinion.
Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
Okay so without spoiling too much this isn’t technically a werewolf movie, but it is based on a French historical event that some people have tied to the werewolf legend. The Beast of Gévaudan is the historical name associated with a man-eating animal or animals which terrorized the former province of Gévaudan, in the Margeride Mountains of south-central France between 1764 and 1767. Many of the descriptions from records taken at the time of the attacks, identify the beast as either a large wolf, a large dog or some form of wolf-dog hybrid which easily explains why so many literary adaptations of the story decided to add in the idea that the beast was a werewolf.
Brotherhood of the Wolf is a gritty action horror film with a great cast, but the stand out has to be Mark Dacascos as Mani, a surviving member of the Iroquois tribe, who is traveling with Grégoire de Fronsac, a Knight and royal naturalist in the court of King Louis XV of France, and whom Mani is bonded with as a blood brother. The cinematography of this film is pure brilliance with thrilling fight sequences and intense moments of horror.
This is a French film, so if you’re not a fan of reading subtitles, then this film might not be for you but if you can endure them and enjoy them, then please watch Brotherhood of the Wolf.
Teen Wolf (1985)
The 80’s does it again with the werewolf genre but this time instead of horror we get a light hearted comedy about a young lad in high school who appears to be an average teenager until one night he goes through some dramatic changes that alter his appearance, and soon Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) learns that he is in fact, a werewolf, due to a curse in family which his father Harold (James Hampton) hoped had not passed onto Scott since it sometimes skips a generation.
Though he tries his best to keep his secret, Scott ends up accidentally transforming in the middle of a basketball game, but when his new form helps his team win their first match in years, Scott becomes the talk of the town. Fame is not all it’s cut out to be though and Scott soon learns an important lesson about letting fame and popularity go to your head.
Teen Wolf was very close to being on my list anyway, but fell short because I prefer the darker, grittier werewolf films. It’s just a preference of mine, but Teen Wolf is a classic feel good film of the 80’s with an all star cast and all of the charm that Michael J. Fox brings to every role he’s in. It’s coming-of-age romantic comedy that uses the werewolf in such a light hearted way that you can’t help but enjoy the film. It even spawned an animated series of the same name, and a sequel to the film, with Teen Wolf Too in 1987, in which only James Hampton and Mark Holton reprise their roles in as the sequel tells the story of Todd Howard (Jason Bateman) who is Scott Howard’s cousin, and also an inheritor of the werewolf family curse. However this film was critically panned upon it’s release, and in my opinion, is a poor attempt at cashing in on the success of it’s predecessor.
However, one successful predecessor to the film is the 2011 hit series of the same name, Teen Wolf, uses the same character names as the first film but tells a much darker and grittier story than it’s ancestor. The show ran from 2011 to 2017 before being cancelled due to changes with the MTV network on which the show aired. It ran for six seasons and was well received by fans.
There are so many more werewolf films out there, so much so that if I listed them all here, this article would never end, so I hope that this list I’ve compiled has given you more than enough of a variety of werewolf films to tickle your taste buds and satisfy that desire to find more films with werewolves at the helm. Some make me laugh, others make me cry with how bad they can be, and some can leave you with genuine terror which allow them to sit higher up on lists of great horror films than most people might suspect. Werewolves are always a fun plot device and I hope to see more great films produced that involve my favourite movie monster. Vampires and Zombies have had more than their fair share of the spotlight, so let’s give the werewolf some more love and remember, practical effects will always win me over more than CGI!
I know Universal Studios’ Dark Universe may never happen now, but another dark, gritty and gory Wolf Man adaptation is something I wait for with much anticipation.