MY TOP 10: WEREWOLF FILMS

A Top 1o post is always going to come under scrutiny. What may be Top 10 to you may be Bottom 10 to someone else and vice versa. That’s why I put the word “My” out there in front of the title. This is my Top 10 favorite werewolf films of all time. I’m sure some of you have favorites on this list, also. My number 10 might be your number 2 and so on. Anyway, I’m babbling incoherently so let’s get on with it.

10. Curse of the Werewolf (Terence Fisher,1961)

"Can someone please give me directions? I need to get to the church; I'm late for my wedding."

“Can someone please give me directions? I need to get to the church; I’m late for my wedding.”

A woman is raped by a nasty, smelly, hairy beggar and nine months later her kid pops out with a tendency to chase cars, hump legs, eat sheep and rip people apart. Later on he grows up to be Oliver Reed and adds scenery chewing to his resume. Based on the book The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore, it’s a shame that this was Hammer films only dip into the lycanthropic pool. It’s actually held up quite well in the 52 years since its release. I think it’s overdue for a Special Edition Blu-ray.

9. Bad Moon (Eric Red, 1996)

"I hated Dennis the Menace!"

“I hated Dennis the Menace!”

Uncle Ted (Michael Paré, Eddie and the Cruisers) gets bitten by a werewolf in the first two minutes of the movie and later comes home to live with his sister (Mariel Hemingway, Star 80) and her kid (Mason Gamble, Dennis the Menace, Gattaca). Based on the novel Thor by Wayne Smith; the twist is that the family dog knows exactly what Uncle Ted is and will do anything to protect its family. The transformation scene could have been better; but it’s still a pretty good show and worth a look.

8. Wolf (Mike Nichols, 1994)

Even Jack Nicholson agreed that the catering for this movie sucked.

Even Jack Nicholson agreed that the catering for this movie sucked.

Jack Nicholson (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Departed) portrays publisher Will Randall. Bitten by a wolf, Will uses his new-found lycanthropy as a worthy weapon in the fight to keep his job as a publisher out of the hands of the smarmy Stewart Swinton (James Spader, The Blacklist, Lincoln). Add the gorgeous Michelle Pfeiffer as a love interest and you have the ingredients for a woefully underrated film. The whole damn thing is a metaphor for office politics.

7. The Wolf Man (George Waggner, 1941)

Lawrence was never the same after seeing his grandmother naked,

Lawrence was never the same after seeing his grandmother naked.

It may not have been the first (six werewolf films including Werewolf of London preceded it), and it may have been remade with Benicio Del Toro in 2010, but those are trivial matters. None of these films has the tragedy and pathos that defined the character of Lawrence Talbot as portrayed by the underrated Lon Chaney, Jr. The Wolf Man is the grand-daddy of werewolf movies.

Silver Bullet (Daniel Attias, 1985)

"Hey! Everybody!! I'm in a movie with freakin' Gary Busey!!!"

“Hey! Everybody!! I’m in a movie with freakin’ Gary Busey!!!”

Based on Stephen King’s novella Cycle of the Werewolf, the film adaptation took liberties with the story to fit its cinematic needs. King’s story followed the beast as it howled and bloodied its way through a calendar year. Silver Bullet featured the late Corey Haim as a cute kid in a wheelchair trying to stay one step ahead of the big bad werewolf. Don’t let any of that fool you; Silver Bullet is actually a pretty darn good werewolf movie and yes, it does indeed have Gary Busey in it.

5. Brotherhood of the Wolf (Les Pacte des Loups) (Christophe Gans, 2001)

pilot-60467972217

“My, what a big eye you have.”

Based on the tale of the werewolf-like Beast of Gévaudan, Brotherhood of the Wolf is the story of the Chevalier de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan, Frontier(s)) and the Native American Mani (Mark Dacascos) as they are called to Gevaudan to investigate a string of mysterious and brutal killings. Is it a werewolf? It could be. Brotherhood of the Wolf is one part action, one part horror, one part period drama and every bit spectacular. Did I mention it has a Kung Fu fightin’ Native American?

4. An American Werewolf in London (John Landis. 1981)

"I've got food in my teeth, don't I? Man, I hate that!"

“I’ve got food in my teeth, don’t I? Man, I hate that!”

I may catch a little flak for placing this one at number 4; but I tend to believe that there has been better werewolf movies since An American Werewolf in London premiered in 1981. All that aside, what we have here is one of the coolest lycanthropic movies ever made and it’s got the guy from those Dr. Pepper ads (“I’m a Pepper, he’s a Pepper, she’s a Pepper, we’re a Pepper, wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too?”) a slowly decomposing animated corpse (Griffin Dunne, After Hours), a killer soundtrack with songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival and Van Morrison and the word ‘moon’ in nearly every title, the second-best werewolf transformation (I’m getting to the best) ever committed  to celluloid to prove it.

3. Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett, 2000)

"Bite me. I haven't had my coffee this morning!!"

“Bite me. I haven’t had my coffee this morning!!”

Whoever thought that using lycanthropy as a metaphor for menopause deserves a Lifetime Achievement Award or something to that effect. Katharine Isabelle (American Mary) and Emily Perkins (Supernatural) are Ginger and Brigitte; two outcast and bizarre sisters (they stage and photograph fake suicides for a school project). When Ginger is bitten by a werewolf she begins a transformation that includes a lot more than fur, fangs and howling at the moon. Does anyone else besides me think that Katharine Isabelle is the sexiest woman with a tail that they have ever seen?

2. Dog Soldiers (Neil Marshall, 2002)

Worst game of 'go fetch'. Ever.

Worst game of ‘go fetch’. Ever.

Think Aliens with werewolves. A group of soldiers on a routine military exercise in the Scottish wilderness get way more than they bargained for when they encounter a pack of bloodthirsty werewolves. Seeking refuge in a farmhouse, the soldiers put up a fight that leaves the beasts wondering what they got themselves into. This was director Neil Marshall’s (The Descent) first film and he rips into it with a glee that is evident in every frame. Must see lycanthropy, yo!

1. The Howling (Joe Dante, 1981

"My, what a big...everything...you have."

“My, what a big…everything…you have.”

Did those of you who know anything about me expect any other werewolf movie to be at the top of this list? I saw The Howling on the first day of its release on April 10, 1981 and in the 32 years since then I have watched it more than a hundred times on VHS, DVD and finally a beautiful Blu-ray copy that shows details that I never knew existed. One of my proudest moments as a blogger was the opportunity to interview the film’s star, Dee Wallace. The plot is deceptively simple; news anchor Karen White (Wallace, The Lords of Salem) is attacked by a serial killer and is sent to a woodland community known as The Colony to unwind and get her life back together. Instead she finds herself up to her ass in werewolves. This is the movie with the single greatest werewolf transformation of all time, courtesy of Rob Bottin. With characters named after famous horror directors of the past and a cast that includes Belinda Balaski, the late Christopher Stone, Dennis Dugan, Patrick Macnee, Robert Picardo and the late Elisabeth Brooks. Ignore all the horrid sequels that followed; among werewolf films The Howling reigns superior!

ONE PIECE OF TRIVIA FROM EACH FILM

10. The Curse of the Werewolf-In an interview, Richard Wordsworth stated that in the original screenplay his beggar character was a werewolf. Hammer told him that the censor had problems with the notion of a werewolf/rapist, so out it went.

9. Bad Moon-In the scene in which Janet makes breakfast, her son Brett is watching Werewolf of London (1935) on the television, and he and his Uncle Ted argue about werewolf lore. Actually, the lore that Brett argues that “everyone knows about”, such as details about silver bullets and wolfsbane, comes from The Wolf Man (1941), which Curt Siodmak totally made up.

8. Wolf-Director Mike Nichols had originally wanted lead actress Michelle Pfeiffer to wear a red-hooded sweatshirt for the film’s final act. She refused as she thought it would harm the film’s credibility.

7. The Wolf Man-According to the documentary on the Recent Wolf Man DVD collection, the script for The Wolf Man was influenced by writer Curt Siodmak’s experiences in Nazi Germany. Siodmak had been living a normal life in Germany only to have it thrown into chaos and himself on the run when the Nazis took control, just as Larry Talbot finds his normal life thrown into chaos and himself on the run once he is turned into a werewolf. Also, the wolf man himself can be seen as a metaphor for the Nazis: an otherwise good man who is transformed into a vicious killing animal who knows who his next victim will be when he sees the symbol of a pentagram (i.e., a star) on them.

6. Silver Bullet-According to director Daniel Attias, Gary Busey ad-libbed a great deal, for instance when Uncle Red is in the gun shop. Attias checked with Stephen King, who said OK for these ad libs to be included.

5. Brotherhood of the Wolf-There actually was a Beast of Gévaudan (La Bête du Gévaudan) which was a real wolf-like creature that prowled the Auvergne and South Dordogne regions of France during the years 1764 to 1767, killing about 100 people, often in bizarre circumstances.

4. An American Werewolf in London-The final look of the werewolf beast was based on make-up creator Rick Baker’s dog Bosko.

3. Ginger Snaps-The opening shots of the girls’ fake suicides had to be shot on location at an actual home. Someone would have to distract the homeowner’s four-year-old child whenever the actresses, who would be covered by fake gore, would have to come inside to change.

2. Dog Soldiers-When the squad first lands from the helicopter, Sgt. Wells tells Cooper “Get a position and bearing. I want to be on the move in three minutes.” He gives the command for the squad to move out exactly 3 minutes later.

1. The Howling-There were times during the making of The Howling (1981) when Robert Picardo was very despondent about the hours he had to spend in makeup. On the Special Edition DVD he remarked: “One day, after spending six and a half hours in the makeup chair I was thinking, trained at Yale, two leading roles on Broadway. My first acting role in California, my face gets melted in a low-budget horror movie. All the crew had to say to that was, “Bob, next time read the script all the way through first!”

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About Written in Blood

I was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina on March 4, 1962. I guess that makes me old, but I certainly don't feel that way. I still play video games and listen to rock and roll music. I love movies, especially horror films. I have a beautiful wife who is my all time best friend. She supports me in everything I do. More importantly, she calls me out on my bullshit. This blog is dedicated to her for everything she's done for me.

Posted on 12/20/2013, in Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 35 Comments.

  1. agitantgeneral

    I’ve seen pretty much all of these. I’m also inclined to agree to The Howling being number one. For various reasons, including the transformation scene.

    The sad truth is that there just aren’t that many werewolf movies. Consequently, there just aren’t that many good ones. Actually, for a subgenre with so few notable works, it’s surprising how many of them are quality, or at least worth watching once. I’m trying to think of others beyond the ten in your list that others might consider “good” (The Howling sequels notwithstanding). Maybe some forgotten Hammer sequels? The Monster Squad?

    • There are a ton of werewolf films out there. Google ‘list of werewolf movies’ and you will see what I mean. There is just not a ton of good or even great werewolf films out there. Thank you for commenting! :)

      • agitantgeneral

        I have, actually, and it only confirms what I say. Try going to Wikipedia: Categories. There are 116 werewolf movies listed on that page (presumably incomplete). A good chunk are sequels (to The Howling, notably, and also movies like Ginger Snaps). A vast number of them are not straight up werewolf films, but merely feature a werewolf as a secondary baddy, like The Monster Squad. So straightforward werewolf films out of that list are even fewer. The only thing I might have been incorrect about are the high number of quality werewolf flicks. That number actually seems dismal in comparison. The ten you listed, plus a few here and there are about it. So, again, there aren’t many to choose from.

        Furthermore, if you compare werewolf films to lists to vampire and zombie films, the number of straight-up werewolf films pales in comparison. Not to mention there are a ton of films in, say, the zombie genre of which to make a top ten list.

        This is just a cursory look, obviously.

        • Werewolf-Movies.com lists a ton of films in the genre. However, many of them are films that merely feature a werewolf as a supporting character and a lot of them (such as The Beast Within) are not true werewolf films at all.

          • agitantgeneral

            I wasn’t even aware of that site. I was perusing some parts of the database and was surprised to see I’d heard of most of those movies before. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.

            By the by, I’d forgotten about The Company of Wolves. That was a pretty good movie, a bit artier (being a Neil Jordan film) than your standard werewolf fare.

          • It’s been ages since I saw The Company of Wolves.

  2. Yes. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

  3. saw 5 out of 10. i’m surprised Nicholson played as a wolf once in his illustrious career…. although I did see a Frankenstein movie with him in it.

  4. Great least can’t disagree with any of them, they are all my favorite and each one has a mark in spook history. Wolf is one of my favs that few mention.

  5. Ah! At last, the list O’ the Hirsute Ones! Excellent! Couldn’t view them all myself but I’ve often been curious about “Wolf” with Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer. What amuses me there is it’s the 2nd out of 3 times I know that actress has been so closely linked with lycanthropy. #1 Being “LadyHawke”, of course, and #3 being the new “Dark Shadows” movie. Had a friend ask me what Elizabeth Stoddard’s supernatural specialty was after we saw the D.S. flick. I said, “Oh? Hadn’t you guessed? When the sun rises, she turns into a Hawk.” ;)

    Glad to see “American Werewolf In London” made it to the list, too! John Landis not only showed his work on this but also the lengthy music video for “Thriller”… as well as, (Wouldn’t *I* know this?) co-writing the film “Clue” from 1985 with Jonathan Lynn, if I’m getting that name correct.

    Nice bit on Robert Picardo! There’s a story with some hilarious consequences. :S

  6. Good list, love me a werewolf film :D

  7. Great list and I agree with all of these. Can’t think of another werewolf film that should be on it. I always said Silver Bullet was Gary Busey’s best acting – because he was just being himself. The Howling and Dog Soldiers would also be my 1 & 2. As always, loved all your tid-bits of trivia!

  8. Wow. It turns out I don’t see many werewolf movies. The only one I’ve seen is American Werewolf in Paris. Haven’t even heard of most of them.

    And so I can say whether or not I agree with you list. ;-)

    I can say it was a fun read, though.

  9. A couple of new movies for me to watch here. I’ve not seen enough horror movies recently. I loved Ginger Snaps ( the first one then) I thought it was an incredible use of the werewolf figure.

  10. Reblogged this on Official Site of Alex Laybourne – Author and commented:
    I love werewolves and have not gotten some new movies that I have to watch.

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