In cinema, the werewolf is a symbolic monster. It's a stark representation of the duality of man: the sophisticated versus the primal, the intellectual versus the powerful force of instinct within.
Some interpret this battle as an attempt to harness our most depraved impulses and tame our violent energies. In that sense, the werewolf identity is an internal struggle against one's animalistic self.
Here are the best movies about werewolves that each bring something worthwhile to this unique subgenre of monster movies.
10. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
Directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi
Starring Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer
Comedy, Horror (1h 26m)
What We Do in the Shadows is actually about vampires, but I'm including it because it has one of the most memorable showings of werewolves.
The first time you see these vampires face off with werewolves, threatening each other with Kiwi accents, you'll bust out laughing. ("We're werewolves, not swearwolves!")
It doesn't matter whether Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement meant for this to be a commentary on the internal battle that werewolves face. It's fantastic satire of a well-known mythological creature.
9. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Adventure, Family, Fantasy (2h 22m)
While the werewolf aspect of Harry Potter's third-year adventure wasn't necessarily central to the plot, it certainly made the film several times more exciting and memorable.
Near the end, from out of nowhere, we're treated to an epic battle between two enormous beasts, with one being a werewolf.
Of course, it was only David Thewlis and Gary Oldman, but these two exceptional actors made Prisoner of Azkaban's werewolf component that much more compelling. And probably even a little frightening for some of the younger audience...
8. The Company of Wolves (1984)
Directed by Neil Jordan
Starring Sarah Patterson, Angela Lansbury, David Warner
Drama, Fantasy, Horror (1h 35m)
Now we're starting to delve into the classics of werewolf cinema. Directed by Neil Jordan, The Company of Wolves takes the traditional folktale of Little Red Riding Hood and gives it a fantastic new interpretation.
The plot follows Rosaleen (played by Sarah Patterson), a young girl who's staying with her grandmother (played by Angela Lansbury) after her sister is run down and eaten by a pack of wolves.
After a while, she decides to return to the village—but before she can leave the house, Granny gives Rosaleen a chilling warning: "Never stray from the path, never eat a windfall apple, and never trust a man whose eyebrows meet."
7. The Howling (1981)
Directed by Joe Dante
Starring Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Dennis Dugan
Horror (1h 31m)
In The Howling, Karen White (played by Dee Wallace) is the unfortunate target of a serial-killing stalker. In an attempt to catch him once and for all, she cooperates with the police and meets him in a theater.
Sound like a bad plan? Of course it is.
After a bloody shootout, Karen loses consciousness and forgets everything that happened. Traumatized, she speaks with a therapist who recommends that she and her husband take a holiday retreat to an isolated resort in the far countryside.
However, it becomes clear that things are amiss in this cult-like encampment, and soon things become much more sinister than anything Karen could have imagined.
6. Ginger Snaps (2000)
Directed by John Fawcett
Starring Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Kris Lemche
Drama, Fantasy, Horror (1h 48m)
One of the better horror comedies out there, Ginger Snaps is a great film for any teenager who wants to ease into their first horror experience. This one's a bit scary, but it's also tons of fun.
Brigitte (played by Emily Perkins) and Ginger (played by Katharine Isabelle) are two teenage Goth friends who have a flair for all things dark and deathly. However, after Ginger has her first period, she's attacked by a wild animal in the woods.
The bonds of their friendship start to be tested when it transpires that Ginger has, in fact, become a werewolf. It's an allegory for puberty, of course, and it's both insightful and biting.
5. Wolfen (1981)
Directed by Michael Wadleigh
Starring Albert Finney, Diane Venora, Edward James Olmos
Horror, Thriller (1h 55m)
It's fair to say that 1981 was a good year for werewolf movies, with three of them featuring on this list. We already had The Howling, and now we have Wolfen. (You'll have to keep reading for the third one!)
Wolfen follows a police officer (played by Albert Finney) who's tasked with solving a series of increasingly violent, animalistic murders.
He initially believes they're animal attacks, but as he finds each one more grisly and gruesome than the last, he suspects there's something worse at play—something darker, something unscientific, and something much more ancient...
4. The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020)
Directed by Jim Cummings
Starring Jim Cummings, Riki Lindhome, Robert Forster
Comedy, Horror, Mystery (1h 25m)
The Wolf of Snow Hollow swings back to a more modern interpretation of the lycanthrope mythology, with writer/actor/filmmaker Jim Cummings taking on the trope in horror comedy fashion.
PJ (played by Jimmy Tatro) and his girlfriend Brianne (played by Annie Hamilton) take a vacation to Snow Hollow, Utah. They're hoping for a most pleasant trip, but things only go from bad to worse.
After getting into a fight with a duo of hunters, PJ finds his girlfriend savagely murdered by an animal—and the only thing left by her body appears to be a large paw print.
Even if it's a bit uneven in parts, The Wolf of Snow Hollow is one of the better contemporary films about werewolves.
3. Werewolves Within (2021)
Directed by Josh Ruben
Starring Sam Richardson, Milana Vayntrub, George Basil
Comedy, Horror, Mystery (1h 37m)
If you're in search of a movie that successfully turns an old folktale into a compelling narrative for contemporary audiences, then look no further than Werewolves Within.
A forest ranger (played by Sam Richardson) moves to a paradise mountain town only to encounter all of its crazy inhabitants and their internal conflict: some want a pipeline to come through the mountain while others want to refuse and preserve the natural scenery.
Josh Ruben's Werewolves Within doesn't just highlight the internal conflict between man and beast when someone is bitten by a werewolf, but also the internal conflict in societies.
Funny, scary, and intelligent, Werewolves Within is one of the most underestimated movies of recent years, let alone one of the best movies about werewolves since the turn of the millennium.
2. The Wolf Man (1941)
Directed by George Waggner
Starring Claude Rains, Warren William, Lon Chaney Jr.
Horror, Mystery, Romance (1h 10m)
George Waggner's The Wolf Man is a must-watch classic for any fan of werewolves. It's an iconic look at one character's internal struggle between man and beast, and it was the film that elevated the concept of man turning wild into a philosophical masterpiece.
On top of that, The Wolf Man wasn't just a profound take on werewolves, but also technologically impressive with its filming techniques.
While it has aged quite a bit (which we understand, given that it came out more than 80 years ago), The Wolf Man is still a fantastic film that influenced all werewolf movies that came after it.
1. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Directed by John Landis
Starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Joe Belcher
Comedy, Horror (1h 37m)
Of all the werewolf movies in cinema history, John Landis's An American Werewolf in London comes out on top as a clear winner.
It centers on two American tourists who are visiting London. They come across a small, provincial town that just so happens to harbor a deadly, supernatural threat—and their luck falls through as they unfortunately stumble across the beast themselves.
What makes this film so fantastic is that it humanizes the animalistic side of man (and beast) in a poignant way. It infuses the story with romance, comedy, and horror, but most importantly, there's an aspect of tragedy that elevates this film above the rest.
For those reasons, An American Werewolf in London sits atop our list of best movies about werewolves ever made.