The funny thing about werewolves is that, despite the fact that they’re an enduring and iconic horror and fantasy creature, there’s a shockingly slim selection of movies that tackle tales of lycanthropy, and even fewer that do it well. While zombies, vampires, and slashers have come and gone from fashion time and again, and paranormal horror really never seems to go out of style, the werewolf picture has remained a somewhat rare anomaly in the horror landscape. We get a winner every once in a while, but aside from the bountiful genre-defining year 1981, which saw the release of Wolfen, The Howling, and An American Werewolf in London, the werewolf movie has never been a trend-setting driver of the horror genre.
The carnal creatures have always in ensemble environments. We’ve seen it time and again in television, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Penny Dreadful, the wolfman has emerged as a standout player in supernaturally populated series. The same has proven true in films like Trick ‘r Treat, Monster Squad, and heck, even Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban uses werewolf tropes to fantastic effect. But successful stories singularly focused on the transformation from man to beast have been harder to come by.
When they’re good, they’re a downright delight. In the tradition of An American Werewolf in London, which took home the very first makeup effects Oscar for Rick Baker‘s game-changing work, werewolf films are a proud destination for staggering practical effects work. They also make for stark, startling tales of self-awakening and a persevering means of inspecting our relationship with the beast we all know lives inside us. Perhaps that’s the standout trait of the werewolf genre; endurance. While it’s never lit up the passions of the movie-going public like its fellow horror genres, the werewolf mythos has always been an iconic image of horror, be it on the page or on screen.
A few honorable mentions before we get to the goods: Werewolf of London; the OG; Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, a surprisingly solid action horror film; Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning, a seriously underrated period prequel; Wolfcop, a giddily goofy genre spoof; Bad Moon; a pulpy 90s gem; and 2010’s The Wolfman, which deserved more credit than it got.
And without further ado, steer clear of the full moon, stock up on silver and check out our picks for the 13 best werewolf movies of all time. For more creature goodness, check out our list of the best vampire movies ever made.