We horror fans have a bit of a love/hate relationship with werewolf movies. On the one hand, werewolves are one of the most recognizable monster species in the genre, and they’ve been a horror staple ever since the heyday of the Universal monsters. But despite that pedigree, even the most hardcore fanatics would be hard-pressed to name more than a handful of all-time werewolf classics.
There’s The Wolf Man, An American Werewolf in London, and The Howling, and if you really know your stuff, you might add Ginger Snaps and Dog Soldiers to that list as well. But once you get past those five films, the subgenre takes a steep nosedive in recognizability. It’s pretty much just an indistinguishable mass of obscure (and mostly mediocre!) titles most people have never heard of, so if you’re looking for some good new werewolf movies to check out, it can be tough to know where to start.
But it’s not impossible. There are some really fun films beyond the five heavy hitters, so the subgenre isn’t quite as lackluster as its dearth of notable titles might lead you to believe. You just need someone to point you in the right direction, and I’m here to do exactly that. I’ve compiled a list of five of my favorite werewolf movies you might not have seen, so do yourself a favor and give some of these a watch. I bet you’ll be glad you did.
Werewolf of London
When you think of the Universal Monsters, one of the movies that invariably comes to mind is The Wolf Man, and rightly so. Along with Frankenstein and Dracula, The Wolf Man is one of the best and most enduring horror films of that era, so it more than deserves its place among the genre greats. But unbeknownst to most people, The Wolf Man wasn’t Universal’s first attempt at a werewolf movie. That honor actually belongs to Werewolf of London, a good little film that’s often overshadowed by its much more famous successor.
To be fair, I totally understand why Werewolf of London has gotten somewhat lost in the shuffle of cinematic history. It’s not nearly as good as The Wolf Man, so it’s not surprising that audiences would remember Universal’s better werewolf movie and forget the studio’s first stab at the lycanthrope myth. But that doesn’t mean Werewolf of London is a bad film. On the contrary, it’s one of the few bright spots in this seemingly cursed subgenre.
In fact, it has pretty much everything fans generally expect from a werewolf movie. The monster looks cool, the horror scenes are fun, and the main character’s struggle against his wolfish curse makes him super sympathetic. In a word, Werewolf of London is a fine way to spend an hour and fifteen minutes, so even though it never quite reaches the heights of all-time classics like The Wolf Man and the similarly-named An American Werewolf in London, it’s still one of the best werewolf movies most people have never seen.
The Curse of the Werewolf
Hammer Films is probably best known for its reboots of Universal’s Frankenstein and Dracula franchises, but those aren’t the only classic monsters the studio revived during its golden age. Hammer also made an excellent version of The Mummy, and in 1961, it took a crack at the werewolf myth with The Curse of the Werewolf.
Admittedly, The Curse of the Werewolf takes a while to really get going. The first half tries to create a different werewolf mythology than what we see in Universal’s two films, but that new take on the lore ends up being way more trouble than it’s worth. This part of the story just gets bogged down with too many seemingly arbitrary twists and turns, so it’s a bit of a slog to get through.
However, that all changes when we reach the halfway point, and The Curse of the Werewolf turns into one of the best werewolf movies of the pre-1980s era. Not only does it feature a cool werewolf design and some excellent horror scenes (especially the finale!), but it also tells a really touching story.
The film follows the typical werewolf trope of a man tormented by his uncontrollable urge to kill, but there’s a twist. The main character’s lycanthropy subsides when he’s around people who love him, and that adds an extra layer of emotion and meaning to this tragic tale. It helps elevate The Curse of the Werewolf to the status of a legit classic, so if you’re a fan of Hammer’s gothic stylings, this is one movie you do not want to miss.
With this next entry, we come to what you might call the golden age of werewolf movies–the 1980s. This is the decade that gave us all-time classics like The Howling and An American Werewolf in London, but it also spawned some lesser-known gems like Silver Bullet, the 1985 adaptation of Stephen King’s not-quite-classic novella Cycle of the Werewolf.
Unlike the first two films on this list, Silver Bullet doesn’t revolve around a tortured soul cursed with lycanthropy. Instead, it’s about a normally quiet town that’s rocked by a rash of unexplained murders, and when a kid named Marty encounters a werewolf one night, he hatches a plan to stop these crimes once and for all.
In other words, this story turns the typical werewolf formula on its head. It’s told from the terrorized townspeople’s perspective, not the monster’s, and that helps keep the subgenre from becoming stale. It also makes for a fun horror mystery that will keep your eyes glued to the screen, so while I can’t quite say that Silver Bullet reaches top-tier status, it’s still a worthy entry in the werewolf canon.
If you’re a dog lover, I think you’re really going to enjoy Bad Moon. Like most werewolf movies, this one revolves around a man who tries to resist his wolfish nature, but it puts a bit of a spin on that tried-and-true genre blueprint. For starters, the werewolf lives with his sister and nephew for much of the film’s runtime, and the story focuses on them more than on their lycanthropic guest.
What’s more, this mother-son pair also have a dog named Thor, and he’s just as much of a character as the humans. In fact, in a very real sense, he’s the star of the show. He’s the emotional heart of this movie, and he plays an integral role in defeating the werewolf in the final act. Simply put, Thor is one of the best dogs in horror history, so you’ll fall in love with him in the first fifteen minutes.
His presence alone is enough to make Bad Moon worth your time, but there’s more to this film than just a lovable dog. It also features some cool horror scenes and a likable human cast, so it’s a good watch all around. Sure, this may not be an all-time werewolf classic, but it’s definitely one of the better entries in a subgenre that seems perpetually mired in mediocrity.
Last but not least, we have Late Phases, the only entry on this list from the 21st century. It’s about a retirement community that’s plagued by mysterious animal attacks, and when a crotchety war veteran named Ambrose moves in and survives an encounter with the supernatural culprit, he decides to kill the beast that’s terrorizing his new neighbors.
Unlike a lot of werewolf movies, the star of this show isn’t the monster. Rather, it’s the veteran who hunts the creature, and you’ll come to love him very quickly. Sure, Ambrose can be a huge jerk at times, but beneath that gruff exterior lies a heart of gold. This guy genuinely cares about the residents of his community, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep them safe, even if it means putting his own life at risk.
That being said, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. Late Phases isn’t just a terror-tinged character study. No, this is a legit horror film, and when it goes all-out in the third act, it’s fantastic. It features more than enough fun werewolf action to satisfy fans, so it’s the best of both worlds.
In fact, I’d even say that the combination of awesome horror and a great lead character make Late Phases the best movie on this list. Granted, it’s not quite on the level of the films like The Wolf Man and The Howling, but if I had my way, it would be just as beloved as Dog Soldiers and Ginger Snaps. It’s that good, so in my opinion, this is quite possibly the most underappreciated werewolf movie of all time.