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of all the classic movie monsters, i’ve always felt the werewolf to be the least well represented in modern cinema. while abundant, the visual representations of lycanthropes in movies have usually left me disappointed. they’re either not monstrous enough (wolf), too cgi’d (van helsing, cursed), or just too damn silly (silver bullet, big bad wolf, werewolf, etc.). there are a few exceptions however, so below you will find my 11 personal favorite werewolves. this is not a list of my favorite werewolf films… it’s a list of my favorite visual representations of the monster itself. therefore, some good werewolf movies didn’t make this list since they contained a mediocre creature and some not-so-great films are on the list solely due to their quality lycanthrope design. i’m no authority on the genre, so please leave a comment if a particularly interesting werewolf instance seems to be missing; it’s exclusion is likely because i just haven’t seen it yet.
11. the nightmare before christmas
it was going to be a top 10 list, then i remembered this guy. the wolfman look (human physique, clothes, bipedal) almost always looks silly, but when rendered in clay it really works and comes far closer to being scary than most live-action wolfmen. in burton’s masterpiece the wolfman barely gets any screen time, but he’s always been one of my favorite characters in the film… and right now i’m wondering why i don’t have an action figure of the little guy.
waxwork is one of those rare franchises where the sequel is actually superior to the original. however, this little horror/teen comedy combo still has a lot going for it. the werewolf sequence in the film is only about 5 minutes long, but i always found it memorable because it showcases john rhys-davies, the guy who played bobby on twin peaks and a kick-ass monster. the scene is a perfect mix of comedy and grotesque horror that the rest of the film rarely lives up to. the werewolf itself isn’t particularly unique and often appears a bit rubbery, but there’s just something about it i like. perhaps its the menace it shows as it towers over the other characters or the attitude it shows when it brushes off its shoulder after getting hit with a chair… but most likely it’s because i always have to audibly say “ooooh! damn!” when it rips that guy in half (see below).
9. harry potter and the prisoner of azkaban
in the third harry potter movie we meet the first werewolf in the series, professor lupin (you could argue that sirius black, who can transform into a dog, might qualify but my girlfriend informs me that you would be wrong). the irony of a guy named lupin getting bit by a werewolf seems lost on the other characters, but i suppose ‘professor wolfmanlonchaneylunarhairgrowth’ might have been a bit too on the nose.
some have criticized the wolf design as being too lanky and i’ve even seen it compared to a elongated chihuahua, but i find lupin rather unique and beautiful among lycanthropes. there’s something gothic and sad about his look and body movements, and while he’s not the most terrifying of monsters, he’s certainly a fastincating and tragic take on the werewolf legend.
it speaks to the quality of this video that no matter what depths michael jackson sinks to, thriller remains one of the greatest music videos ever made. featuring the team of director john landis and fx master rick baker (both fresh off american werewolf), it’s no surprise the werewolf/zombie designs are amazing even 25 years later. the transformation sequence is legitimately scary and the resulting monster is surprisingly effective given the letter jacket wearing wolfman design highly reminiscent of michael landon’s creature form from i was a teenage werewolf.
7. fright night
oh, how i love fright night. i love roddy mcdowall as the vampire killer, peter vincent… but nothing can top the scene-chewing performance by evil ed (played by future gay porn star, stephen geoffreys).
“oh, you’re so COOL, brewster.”
now some may challenge my assertion that evil ed is a werewolf because the movie is obviously about vampires and ed clearly is one. he was bitten by the disco-loving dracula-esque metrosexual vampire, jerry dandridge… crosses hurt him… and he calls himself a vampire. however, he does have the ability to turn into a wolf and goes through a rather dramatic de-transformation scene from his wolf form. i don’t know if that qualifies him as a traditional, lunar scheduled, died-in-the-wool werewolf… but, as they say, it’s good enough for government work. regardless of what you call it, i love the look of the monster as ed is dying and i wish we could have seen more of that creature in the film.
6. bad moon
it’s been a long time since i’ve seen bad moon, but what i remember is that the story was pretty good and the werewolf was great. i prefer quadraped wolf designs, but those are rare and bad moon uses the common bipedal design to great effect. the wolf is big, scary, physical (not cgi except briefly during the morph sequence below) and it has a really really big mouth. the film itself was also obviously made by dog lovers (like me) since we get lots of dog vs werewolf battles where the dog puts up a good fight and isn’t just a snaugage on legs (see next film).
5. ginger snaps
ginger snaps is probably my second favorite werewolf film due to its metaphoric storytelling, engaging actors and unique monster design. the story does seem to have something against dogs though as more canines are killed in the film than anything else and none seem remotely capable of standing up to a werewolf. the film itself is a coming-of-age story dealing with femininity, puberty and social pressures told through the prism of a classic monster movie (the sequel follows a similar trend but instead uses the werewolf legend as a metaphor for addiction). the character of ginger may be cuter in human form than the other werewolves on this list (mostly due to her innate talent at not being a hairy, sweaty man or michael jackson), but as a wolf she’s terrifying. the creature is a quadraped, bizarrely hairless and almost albino looking; all of which is a refreshing change from the typical brown hairball look we’re used to.
4. dog soldiers
unlike most movies dealing with werewolves, this one delivers exactly what you want. the premise is ‘soldiers vs. werewolves’ and you get that and so much more. action, laughs and scares are all delivered at a feverish pace… and the lycanthropes look great on top of all that. again the monsters are bipedal, but it works here since, despite being monstrous and bloodthirsty, the creatures seem to be as intelligent as the soldiers they’re fighting. the movie itself is surprisingly good, remarkably well-executed and incredibly british. it leaves you wanting more but thankfully there’s a sequel (dog soldiers: fresh meat) currently in the works…
3. the company of wolves
this is another one i haven’t seen in years but remember liking quite a bit. the surreal fairy-tale mood may not appeal to all, but this film has the best transformation sequences from any film i’ve seen. in one the wolf literally crawls out of the mouth of its human form while in another (shown below), the creature rips off its human skin and then changes form with all of its bones, sinew and muscle tissue showing. rewatching that scene, its actually better than i remember and its definitely something i plan on netflixing up soon to see again in its entirety.
2. the howling
despite numerous sequels and imitations, the original the howling still contains the best instance of the bipedal werewolf. this isn’t surprising given it lists both rick baker and rob bottin in the effects credits and its directed by joe dante. the transformation scene is (in my opinion) superior to the one shown in next film on our list, although that’s probably contrary to popular opinion. the werewolves themselves are ferocious and possess a certain demonic presence (with the exception of the yorkshire terrier version from the film’s final moments). it’s worth noting that the film’s sequels contain some of the worst instances of werewolf designs, particularly the bigfoot looking wolfman from part 2 and bizarre marsupial and nun versions from part 3.
1. an american werewolf in london
ah… an american werewolf in london. my favorite werewolf and my favorite werewolf movie. john landis’ unprecedented combination of horror and comedy likely shocked audiences expecting something in the same tone as animal house… but after growing a cult following once released on vhs, few horror fans can hide their affection for this film now. rick baker’s monster design is, in my mind, the perfect werewolf. far closer to wolf than man, it runs on all fours and seems to lack any human compassion or reasoning ability, instead relying on pure instinct and an insatiable appetite. the much-discussed transformation sequence is startling and brilliant, but i must admit to occasionally finding it a bit silly (particularly when david is lying on his back, covered in fur everywhere except his face, looking more like a brown teletubby than anything else), but once the wolf features begin showing in his face it drops any comic effect. the kills are bloody and the monster itself is the scariest animal monster i’ve ever seen. if hell needed a guard dog, this is what it would look like. i only wish the technology had existed to see the monster more mobile, but the quick cuts to close-ups of its face and upper torso are effective regardless. its a shame the sequel abandoned this design and went for something more traditional and far less effective.