With spring in the air—and indie werewolf flick Spring in theaters—we thought it best to steer you to the biggest beasts of the subgenre. Some of these werewolf films are savage, some are sweet, and a few belong on any reputable list of horror films. So get to a Netflix queue and start investigating. The moon is nearly full.
The 10 best werewolf movies
Claw your way through horror history with these essential lycanthrope thrillers, the hairiest of the bunch
Jack Nicholson playing a rapacious animal seems almost redundant, but the concept was too brilliant to ignore. The plotting is nothing special. Still, director Mike Nichols brings his usual sophistication to the more suggestive passages, and Michelle Pfeiffer was rarely this bitable.
Here it is: the first Hollywood werewolf movie, plenty entertaining (if not exactly scary). In Stuart Walker's groundbreaking thriller, a guilt-ridden lycanthrope seeks out a rare Tibetan flower to prevent himself from going beastly. Warren Zevon was obviously a fan.
George Waggner's werewolf thriller is hardly the best, but it's the one that commercialized the genre (as well as that perennial plastic Halloween mask)—so that counts for something. It's a full-moon tale about poor Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.) and his lycanthropic affliction.
And who does the howling, pray tell? Werewolves, silly! Joe Dante’s lupus-centric horror-comedy is as great in its own way as John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London (released the same year). Rob Bottin's gooey special effects led to a gig on John Carpenter's The Thing.
“Little Red Riding Hood” gets the ol’ Freudian workout in this bizarre, borderline phantasmagorical adaptation of Angela Carter’s novel—one of the few successful cinematic fairy tales. Director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) keeps a close eye on the performances, all of them sharp.
Director Neil Marshall went on to make 2005’s vaginal cave-horror flick The Descent, a fairly brilliant bit of mainstream subversion, along with key episodes of Game of Thrones. Here’s his fine feature debut, about Scottish werewolves and the military men who get slaughtered by them.
Hammer Films, toothsome Oliver Reed (making his first credited appearance) and werewolves—what else do you need? Director Terence Fisher and his crack British crew add plenty of polish to the genre: This is the transition between silly howlers and horror movies with real bite.
This near-perfect blend of humor and horror from John Landis (Animal House) was a seminal movie for burgeoning cinegeeks and Fangoria subscribers in the ’80s. Effects artist Rick Baker's transformation scene, ingeniously set to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,” remains a landmark, winning the first Oscar ever granted for makeup.
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