A howl, a full moon, a silver bullet and the transformation are the key ingredients of a werewolf movie that have changed little over the last 100 years. There is something close to us, the viewer when watching a werewolf movie. Perhaps it is the fact that we descended from an animal that draws us into this horror sub genre?
Whatever the appeal something is undeniable – we keep coming back for more and along the way there has been some memorable movies made about the beast within us.
The history of the werewolf movie is varied and the story goes back a thousand years to Greek mythology, where it is said that men would change into wolves for a few days each year.
The very first recognized werewolf movie came 17 years after the very first movie, its title was simple enough and to the point- The Werewolf (1913). Unfortunately the print of this film has since been lost, and it was another two decades until the wolf movie really took off.
Hollywood and Universal brought us Werewolf of London (1935) and The Wolf Man (1941) amongst other monster mash up movies. Both films are rightly regarded as classics and references whenever we speak about the history of this genre.
Apart from the odd speed bump, the wolf movie suffered at the hands of the low budget B movie throughout the 1950’s, 60s and 70s. Indeed it wasn’t really until the 80s when the wolf movie was truly reborn and the howls were back at the box office. Below are the top 10 greatest werewolf movies of all time.
10. Ginger Snaps (2000)
Throughout the years the Canadians have consistently thrown together some great horror movies, and they always seem to do this when the genre hits a difficult period. If we look at the turn of this century there weren’t that many great horror films to get excited about, but Ginger Snaps was one of those little gems that continued to shine on.
The movie isn’t afraid to talk about the fascination of death amongst lost teenagers in a small American town as a sub plot the werewolf movie takes place as a young woman is bit by a savage dog responsible for maulings over the sleepy town. And so the movie takes full shape. Ginger Snaps is a refreshing delight from beginning to end with some memorable scenes.
9. Silver Bullet (1985)
Corey Haim one of the best child actors from the 80s stars as a cripple in this Stephen King inspired werewolf movie.
Some strange animal like murders are taking place in a small town and two detective like kids because embroiled in the happenings. They discover the truth that a wolf is ripping apart the neighbourhood but nobody believes them.
That is apart from their crazy drunken uncle Gary Busey, who steals the show here. Silver Bullet may be a paint by numbers horror flick but nobody can deny that it is extremely entertaining, gory and fun.
8. The Beast Within (1982)
An interesting and perhaps underrated horror movie. The Beast Within concerns a 17 year old kid who is dying of a mysterious illness. His parents try to track back through an horrific nightmare and find out why their son is so ill and showing strange signs, not human like. The Beast Within comes with a fine cast including Ronny Cox and is scripted by Tom Holland who would infamously go on to direct Fright Night and Child’s Play.
Genuine scary moments, a haunting atmosphere and good old fashioned gore set the tone for this 80s classic that needs more appreciation.
7. The Howling (1981)
The first and certainly best Howling movie from the many sequels that followed it through the years. This is a real throat grabber with a fun cast. Dee Wallace plays a TV reporter who is nearly killed by a serial killer. To get over her ordeal she is sent away on vacation out in the sticks and encounters a strange tribe of people, who may just be werewolves.
Now Dee Wallace may have been the main female actress in this movie but it was stolen and so were many young boys’ hearts by Elisabeth Brooks- anyone that has saw The Howling will understand. Tragically Brooks died back in 1997 but certainly left her imprint in werewolves movies no doubt.
Joe Dante directs well and there is a great cameo by Hollywood veteran Dick Miller. Indeed it is this movie that Miller cites as his favorite performance in the 200 odd movies he has starred in.
The Howling has a tongue in cheek feel, but has enough fear, tension and gore to make this a very enjoyable horror movie.
6. The Wolf Man (1941)
Genuine classic Universal horror from 1941 that see’s Lon Chaney Jr dawn the wolf make up for the first time as the Wolf man. This is very much a sympathetic take on the story where Chaney’s character desperately searches for a cure for his disease.
It’s also strangley a very warm movie with a sub plot love story so much so that it’s easy for a non horror fan to enjoy. Of course its effects and tension are very tame for today’s standards but the depth of story works so well over 70 years later.
The impeccable Claude Rains also stars as the wolf’s father and there are some very interesting set pieces. This movie would be followed by the wolf man teaming up first with Frankenstein in Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman and House of Dracula which included almost every monster in the horror book cannon.