Even before Underworld
and New Moon
, vampires and werewolves were squaring off. But while vampires
have always maintained their popularity, werewolves have never caught on in quite the same way. Vampires have always had a sexy component. Werewolves, on the other hand, transform during a full moon and become hairy, wolfen creatures. Then they wake up in the morning naked with blood on their breath and no idea where they've been the night before. Here's a selection of the best werewolf films to win you over to the hairy beasts.
© Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Technically not the first werewolf film -- that distinction has often been assigned to the 1925 silent film Wolf Blood
-- this Universal horror classic gave us the first truly memorable wolf man in Lon Chaney, Jr. Chaney gave us a tormented soul and a man who didn't realize that he was cursed. Every full moon he would transform, attack people, and then be haunted by unclear memories. Claude Rains played Chaney's father who tried to offer a scientific explanation for lycanthropy, while Maria Ouspenskaya provided the necessary gypsy lore.
© Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Next we jump to a more contemporary take on the genre with John Landis' horror comedy. David Naughton is bit by a werewolf and his friend (Griffin Dunne) is killed by one. The decaying ghost of his dead friend explains the curse of the werewolf but Naughton ignores the warning. So he transforms in fabulous fashion thanks to Rick Baker’s still stunning make up and effects. His work was so impressive that Academy gave him their first ever Oscar for Best Makeup that year. The film also contains the best werewolf soundtrack ever featuring Blue Moon, Moondance, Clair de Lune, and Bad Moon Rising among others. You can also find this disclaimer at the end: "Any resemblance to any persons living, dead, or undead is coincidental.”
© First Look Pictures
's Neil Marshall gives us the first real werewolf action film. This one has a wicked sense of fun and a military twist as a group of soldiers on a military exercise in Scotland find themselves under siege by a pack of werewolves. The film is loaded with in jokes – for example one soldier is named Bruce Campbell in honor of The Evil Dead
© Henstooth Video
For a perverse psycho-sexual fairy tale take on werewolves, check out Neil Jordan's reimagining of Little Red Riding Hood
with Terence Stamp, David Warner, Stephen Rea, and Angela Lansbury. As the cautious granny, Lansbury warns: "A wolf may be more than he seems, the worst kind is the one that’s hairy on the inside, when they bite you they drag you with them to hell." Inventive, smart, twisted, and amazing considering its low-budget.
© Sony Pictures
A sly modern take on werewolf lore with Jack Nicholson as a publisher who's bit and then cursed. The cutthroat corporate world makes a nice backdrop as Nicholson marks his territory and challenges the likes of James Spader and Christopher Plummer. Not a lot of action or effects but cleverly handled and with a wicked bite thanks to Nicholson's performance and Mike Nichols' direction. Michelle Pfeiffer
© Warner Home Video
Albert Finney is a New York cop investigating some mysterious deaths who uncovers the wolfen underground. Director Michael Wadleigh (of Woodstock fame) developed a special day-for-night shooting process to convey the nocturnal point of view of the wolfen killers. The film's great supporting cast includes Diane Venora, Edward James Olmos, Tom Noonan, and Gregory Hines.
© Universal Studios
A nifty British number that suggests why there are werewolves. Set in the 18th century, Oliver Reed is the sexy but cursed Leon. He is the bastard offspring of a young girl who was raped by a beggar and then died in childbirth (apparently such an unpleasant conception and birth can cause lycanthropy). Leon is then raised by a nobleman and for a brief moment he hopes the love of a good woman can save him. But we know better. This is the only werewolf film made by Britain's Hammer Films.
8. 'I was a Teenage Werewolf' (1957)
© American International Pictures
This one makes the list over Teen Wolf simply because Teen Wolf goes for obvious sitcom gags. Michael J. Fox is the silly werewolf in Teen Wolf; Michael Landon is an angst-ridden teen in I was a Teenage Werewolf. Sure the film is low budget and with a certain cheese factor, but director Gene Fowler, Jr. endows it with some stylish flourishes as he mixed monster movie and troubled teen formulas.
© Universal Pictures
Rick Baker, who did the make up for An American Werewolf in London
, claims that it was The Wolf Man
that inspired his career choice. So when Universal decided to remake their classic monster movie, he insisted on being a part of the production. Good thing too. Nearly three decades of experience and improved technology allow Baker to really strut his stuff. Benicio Del Toro takes on the werewolf role (previously he was the "dog-faced boy" in Big Top Pee-wee
) and Anthony Hopkins plays his father. This looks to be the biggest budgeted werewolf film to date.
10. 'Werewolf of London' (1935)
© Universal Studios
And let's end where we began with a Universal horror classic. Only the juice of a rare Tibetan flower can hold transformation at bay for botanist Dr. Glendon (Henry Hull) who is cursed with lycanthropy. An early entry, uneven but with impressive moments and a fine performance by character actor Hull. Bonus Pick:
For total cheese ball fun there's the Underworld
franchise. Decidedly silly but you have to love the fact that acclaimed actor Michael Sheen (who has played David Frost and Tony Blair) plays the rebellious lycan Lucian who sets the whole Underworld
saga in motion. And Kate Beckinsale
looks good in her slinky black latex suits.