12 best werewolf movies of all time

An American Werewolf in London poster
See if you agree with our picks for the best werewolf films of all time. Pic Credit: Still from the cult classic An American Werewolf in London

If there is a full moon and you are hearing a howl in the night, it must be time to cut off paranorm lights, sit back with some popcorn, and enjoy one of the many great werewolf movies.

Here is a list of some of the best. Watch them with the light out if you dare…

1 An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London.
The poster for An American Werewolf in London. Werewolf movies don’t get much better

John Landis created one of the most iconic werewolf films of all time with the 1981 release of An American Werewolf in London. The film belongs on any “best of” list thanks to its gruesome transformation, attack sequences, moody setting, and dark ending.

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Feeling like a throwback to the great Universal Pictures of the 40s and the Hammer Films, American Werewolf in London sees American college students David Kessler (played by Naughton) and Jack Goodman (played by Dunne) forced to sleep out on the moors after a bad run in with local villagers at “The Slaughtered Lamb” pub. They were warned to keep to the road, but naturally wandered off.

That night they are attacked by a werewolf – which results in Jack getting killed and David bitten.

David is rushed to a London hospital but starts having bizarre dreams (including having chats with the shredded corpse of his best friend) which lead him to realize he will soon turn into a werewolf.

Jack also warns David that he should just kill himself before he fully changes. David also has to deal with a new love interest in the nurse who he moves in with after being released from the hospital. The film moves into overdrive as David finally changes into a werewolf and goes on a killing spree in London.

With a blend of dark comedy and traditional horror, An American Werewolf in London is a great film and the make-up effects continue to hold up today.

A sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris, was released in 1997 and while not as good as the original managed to capture some of its spirit.

2 The Company of Wolves

A Company of Wolves.
A Company of Wolves. Werewolf movies don’t come more unusual than this.

Director Neil Jordan puts a gothic spin on the werewolf genre with his 1984 fantasy/horror film The Company of Wolves – which featured an incredible cast of character actors. The film is based on the werewolf short story in the Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and mostly takes place in the dreams of a young girl named Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson).

The girl dreams that in a forest with her family and the film is cut up with various short films that come together through Rosaleen and the stories that the girl’s grandmother (played by a somewhat spooky Angela Lansbury) tells her after she travels through the woods to grandmother’s house.

The shorts feature an incredible tale with Stephen Rea playing a young groom who disappears on his wedding night and returns years later to find his wife remarried. He also returns a werewolf and has a showdown with his wife and her new husband. The transformation sequence is incredible.

The second tale features a young man meeting the devil (played by a wicked Terence Stamp) who makes a deal with the man – which naturally goes bad.

The third tale features a wronged and pregnant woman showing up at man’s wedding party and extracting her revenge on him and his wedding guest. The fourth tale features a female she-wolf who has a bad encounter with a villager, but is saved by an old priest.

While The Company of Wolves is not a traditional werewolf horror film, it features incredible make-up effects and will hook the audience with its gothic atmosphere.

3 Dog Soldiers

Werewolves in Scotland with Dog Soldiers.
Werewolves in Scotland with Dog Soldiers.

Director Neil Marshall makes the most of his small budget with the 2002 werewolf film Dog Soldiers.

Set in the highlands of Scotland, the film follows a group of British Army soldiers who are dropped in the woods for a training mission against an SAS unit. They track the unit down, but discover the SAS group has been massacred by something.

They also discover that something is now tracking them. On the run, they come across a zoologist and a place for shelter. The plan is to simply wait out the night so they have a better chance against the werewolves who are at their door. It is good plan, but they quickly run out of ammo and chances.

Dog Soldiers is one of the best werewolf movies to come out in a long time, and established the talent of its director (who has quickly become one of my favorite filmmakers out there right now).

There is a perfect balance of scares and gore. The atmosphere is rich and Marshall makes the most of his Highland setting. This is a werewolf film that simply is a must own for any fan of the genre.

4 The Howling

The Howling one of the better 80's werewolf movies
The theatrical poster for The Howling, and its chilling tagline

Joe Dante’s 1981 film The Howling is one of the best werewolf films to come out of the 80s and gave birth to a lycanthropy franchise of similar low-budget  films (which never quite lived up to the greatness of the original).

Based on Gary Brandner’s novel, the film bleeds a voyeuristic atmosphere that seems to hang on everything and makes the audience instantly uneasy as Los Angeles news reporter Karen White (Dee Wallace) works with police to capture her stalker/serial killer Eddie Quist – who forces her into an adult theater to watch a video of a rape before the cops manage to shoot him.

Traumatized, Karen (who now has amnesia) agrees to go with her husband Bill (Christopher Stone) to “The Colony” with her therapist Dr. George Waggner (Patrick Macnee).

The Colony is the resort Waggner has designed for his patients – which are an odd cast of characters.

The audience knows things are going to go from bad to worse for Karen, and it doesn’t take long for Bill to be bitten by a wolf, and Karen to discover the truth about Eddie and her good doctor.

The Howling belongs on any “Best of” werewolf films list because of its dark tones, gruesome effects and twisted ending.

While the sequels `11failed to live up to the greatness of the first film (Howling II is a guilty pleasure due to the involvement of Christopher Lee and Sybil Danning), the entire franchise is still a great Halloween marathon to enjoy over a weekend.

5 Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood.
The poster for Red Riding Hood

Although it has problems and is far from great, Red Riding Hood does an excellent job of creating a dark fantasy loaded with atmosphere and features a truly evil performance from the great Gary Oldman.

Loosely based on the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, the film follows the events at a small village on the edge of the forest that is being haunted by a werewolf who has a thing for Valerie – a young woman in love with the local town woodcutter but in an arrangement to marry another.

If that isn’t enough, the town is visited by Father Solomon (Oldman) and his team of werewolf hunters.

They basically put the town on lockdown, and start using its citizens as both bait and suspects. He also focuses his search on Valerie – who he comes to see is the key to discovering the identity of the wolf.

Oldman also appears on our list of best vampire movies, for his role as Dracula in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Red Riding Hood isn’t as good as it should be, but reminds of the classic horror films that made the werewolf genre great and gets better with multiple viewings.

6 Silver Bullet

Silver Bullet
The poster for Silver Bullet, based on Stephen King’s novella

Based on the Stephen King novella Cycle of the Werewolf, Silver Bullet proved the 80s was the decade for great werewolf movies. The movie makes the most of its small town setting and budget to deliver a film that manages to have a few scares and entertains no matter how many times you see it.

The film follows teenage girl Jane Coslaw (Megan Follows) and her paraplegic brother Marty (Corey Haim) as they go on the hunt for the werewolf that they believe is responsible for the murders that are happening around their town.

Luckily, they have a loveable uncle named Red (an unhinged and possibly drunk the whole time Gary Busey) who is willing to not only believe them, but help them hunt the beast down.

The film moves at a predictable pace as the werewolf is finally revealed and the kids’ lives are truly put in danger.

7 Skinwalkers

Skin Walkers
Skin Walkers

The 2006 horror film Skinwalkers is a guilty pleasure simply for its B-movie feel, absurd action sequences, and the incredible creature effects of the Stan Winston Studio.

Everything about this film screams good time as the plot revolves around two kinds of werewolves (those who hunt/kill people and those who don’t), and a blood moon ancient prophecy.

Timothy is about to turn 13 and lives with his mother Rachel (Rhona Mitra), grandma Nana (Barbara Gordon), uncle Jonas (Elias Koteas), cousin Katherine (Sarah Carter) and Katherine’s boyfriend, Adam (Shawn Roberts).

Timothy and Rachel believe Tim’s dad to be dead and are unaware that Tim is half-human/half-werewolf.

They are also unaware that Nana and everyone around them are werewolves as well. They are the “good” werewolves that are there to protect Tim so he can turn 13 and finally break the curse.

Varek (Jason Behr), Tim’s father, tasted human flesh and embraced the blood lust that comes with it.

He is the leader of a pack of werewolves who have been hunting for Tim so that they can kill him before he has a chance to break the curse.

This naturally leads them to Tim’s simple quiet town where it turns out everyone is packing a pistol and a huge gunfight erupts on Main Street (you have to love Nana pulling out Dirty Harry’s gun and going to work).

The film then breaks down to a fast-pace extended chase as Tim and his werewolf protectors go on the run from Varek and his gang of biker werewolves.

The movie isn’t the kind of film that makes you think, question or discuss after the end credits roll, but it is one great way to kill 91 minutes.

8 Ginger Snaps

Ginger Snaps
Ginger Snaps examines themes like sexual awakening and teen isolation using the metaphor of lycanthropy

Ginger Snaps was released back in 2000 and is unusual for a horror movie in that the movie’s two main characters are both females.

The dark humored story follows Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and Ginger Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle), two suburban teen sisters who have a morbid obsession with death.

One night they are on their way to kidnap the school bully’s dog when Ginger starts to have her period. Seemingly drawn by the blood a mystery creature attacks and wounds Ginger, before being run over itself by local drug dealer Sam.

Ginger decides not to visit hospital and her injuries heal very quickly.

However, soon she starts to change both physically and mentally. Her behaviour becoming increasingly aggressive and even kills the neighbours dog.

Her sister decides she is a werewolf and enlists the help of Sam to try and cure her.

Directed by John Fawcet, the movie had production difficulties as it was being made in the wake of the Columbine shootings and many professionals and backers were not keen to get involved.

On release Ginger Snaps was well received by critics and hailed for its powerful female cast and satirical take on teenage life.

It’s theme of metamorphosis and using lycanthropy as a metaphor for the changes of puberty also gained praise. As Brigitte sees her sister become more attractive to men but also scary and unknown.

9 Underworld Franchise

The Underworld movies pitch vampires against werewolves.
The Underworld movies pitch vampires against werewolves.

What is better than having a werewolf movie? A werewolf movie that sees the creatures as the mortal enemy of vampires.

The entire franchise belongs on the list simply for its rich story of how the vampires and werewolves came to be, and the  war between the two supernatural beasts.

The first film in the series set the tone of the franchise as the audience is introduced to Selene (Kate Beckinsale) who serves as a Death Dealer to her vampire clan.

Her job is to destroy all Lycans who have been on the run since the death of their leader Lucian (Michael Sheen) – who isn’t quite as dead as the vampires believ.

Lucian and his pact of furry friends are on the hunt for Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman) because they believe he might be a long lost member of the Corvinus line (the first of the vampires and werewolves), and carries the secret to being both vampire and werewolf in his blood.

To make matters worse for Selene, Michael and the other vampires, Lucian is working with someone within the vampire clan to bring about their demise – which leads Selene to wake Viktor (Bill Nighy), the vampire elder who is like a father to her.

Viktor sees Michael as an abomination and orders his death which puts Selene (who has now fallen for Michael) on the run from both her own kind and Lucian’s Lycans.

The second film, Underworld: Evolution, and third, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (which was actually a prequel that tells the origin of Lucian, Viktor and Viktor’s daughter), expanded on the Underworld mythology to make its story one of the riches and fully developed werewolf franchise out there.

The second film continues where the first film left off, and expands its scope to include more members of the Corvinus line and the romance between Selene and Michael.

The third film (which is a bit of a misfire) goes back to the beginning to show how the werewolves evolved from mindless animals to Lucian, and how Lucian went from being Viktor’s slave to a “Spartacus” like leader of his people – at the cost of his own love Sonja (Rhona Mitra).

The fourth film, Underworld: Awakening, had the audience return to the modern setting with a story that kicks off six months after the end of Underworld: Evolution. The human population had fought back against the vampires and werewolves during an event called “The Purge” and managed to capture Selene and Michael.

It then jumps 12 years to Selene (called Subject 1) awakening from cryogenic sleep to discover a world where the Lycan threat is thought to be extinct and the vampires forced to fight a guerrilla style war against the humans for their right to live. Selene also discovers a girl named Eve (Subject 2) – who turns out to be her daughter. Eve has the hybrid powers of her father, Michael.

The film moves at a fast pace and at times feels a little like a reboot in the franchise as it doesn’t quite match the atmosphere and mythology of the first film. It has some problems but is still a fun time.

The Underworld franchise did a great job of reinventing the wheel when it came to movie werewolves and creating a rich universe and mythology for the creatures to thrive.

While the prequel and fourth film were not as great as the first two entries in the franchise, it is still fun to watch the franchise from start to finish.

10 Wolf

The poster for Wolf, starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer

Jack Nicholson lets his inner beast howl in Mike Nichols’ 1994 film that sees the film icon take on the role of down and almost out book publishing house editor Will Randal – who has a run-in with a wolf while driving home through Vermont. Randal is fighting for his job at the publishing house after he is replaced by Stewart Swinton (a snobby James Spader).

A bite from the wolf causes Randal to start changing (he grows more hair, senses get sharper, and his appetites for all things returns), and he finds himself drawn to his new boss’ daughter Laura (Michelle Pfeiffer).

Randal also discovers Stewart has been sleeping with his wife, confronts him about the affair – which leads to a larger showdown later in the film.

Wolf is a different approach to the werewolf genre and doesn’t quite stack up to the many werewolf movies that often bring the beast to the screen.

The movie has some great moments and Nicholson is near perfect in the role. Still, those wanting the blood and guts version of the beast will want to give this movie a pass.

It is worth watching if you want something slower paced and maybe even a tad of a realistic approach to the genre – or as realistic to a man becoming a wolf as you can get.

11 Wolfen

Wolfen makes it to our list of best werewolf films.
Wolfen makes it to our list of best werewolf films

A crime/horror thriller that may or may not be about werewolves, Wolfen makes the list simply because it is a great film; is loaded with atmosphere; and can be conceived as a werewolf movie – even if some critics say it isn’t one at all.

The film follows NYPD Captain Dewey Wilson (Albert Finney) who is brought in to handle the high-profile murders of businessman Christopher Van der Veer (Max Brown), his wife, and his bodyguard at Battery Park.

The murders could be written off as a horrific crime, but there seems to be some supernatural elements involved as well – which leads Wilson into a dark world after the coroner discovers hairs on the body that are later identified as belong to Canis lupus.

Wilson follows the evidence to Native American Indian Eddie Holt (Edward James Olmos) who claims to be a shape shifter.

The film moves at a twisty pace as the nature of the killer is slowly revealed, and Wilson discovers the truth behind the murders.

While it may not be the traditional werewolf story, Wolfen has enough supernatural elements in it to make it a natural for any werewolf list.

The 1981 movie is a tad dated now, but still a great way to spend an evening home alone in the dark.

12 The Wolfman – (1941 and 2010)

The Wolf Man and The Wolfman.
Posters for The Wolf Man and The Wolfman

The Wolfman has never howled better than in the 1941 Universal Pictures film with Lon Chaney, Jr. taking on the role of Larry Talbot – who returns to his home in Wales and his estranged father Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains) following the death of his brother.

Once home, Talbot falls for a local girl Gwen (Evelyn Ankers); buys a cane with a silver wolf head from her shop; and learns the legend of the werewolf (it helps that villagers are also constantly quoting the poem that tells of the werewolf).

Later, Talbot attempts to rescue Gwen’s friend from what he believes is a wolf and even manages to kill the beast with his cane. He is also bitten by the wolf – which a gypsy informs him was not a wolf at all but her son (Bela Lugosi) who had transformed into the beast in the moonlight.

Before long, Talbot starts to transform into the wolfman, and preys on the villagers. He awakes in the morning with vague memories of what he has done. The film has a dark ending between father and son, and is the perfect example of what a monster film or what a werewolf movie should be.

In 2010, director Joe Johnston and Universal Pictures decided it was time to let the Wolfman howl again and signed make-up/special effects icon Rick Baker to help bring the character back to life.

Although the film managed to pick up an Academy Award for Best Makeup, it failed to win over audiences at the theater.

It is somewhat faithful to the original (although the second half breaks new ground in the story), and gets better with multiple viewings.

The movie manages to match the atmosphere of those classic Universal Pictures horror films and reminds what made them great.

Be sure to also check out our lists of best vampire movies and classic horror films.

Which is your favorite werewolf movie? Let us know in the comments.

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