We celebrate the unleashing of 'The Wolfman' with a look at some of our favorite werewolves, from Lon Chaney, Jr.'s original portrayal of the cursed Lawrence Talbot to Michael Jackson's hairy turn in 'Thriller' to modern-day wolf-hunks like Jacob Black of the 'Twilight' series. They bark. They bite. They howl at the moon. And now, Benicio Del Toro has joined the pack.
We celebrate the unleashing of 'The Wolfman' with a look at some of our favorite werewolves, from Lon Chaney, Jr.'s original portrayal of the cursed Lawrence Talbot to Michael Jackson's hairy turn in 'Thriller' to modern-day wolf-hunks like Jacob Black of the 'Twilight' series.
Before we begin, honorable mentions must be given to both the hapless Wolf Man of 'The Monster Squad' (1986), who endured endless humiliation and kicks to the groin ("Wolf Man's got nards!"), and the title creature of 'Werewolf' (1996), a legend in its own time thanks to the sagely musings of the MST3K gang and the film that taught us that, no, werewolves most certainly cannot drive cars.
Got that? Then grab your silver bullets and let's go hunting for werewolves...
10. The Werewolves of 'Dog Soldiers' (2002)
Writer-director Neil Marshall staked his territory in the horror genre with 'The Descent' (2006), but we daresay this atmospheric, bloody werewolf yarn is almost as good, as a group of soldiers take refuge in a seemingly abandoned house in the Scotland wilderness whilst terrifying beasts lurk in the tree line. It's basically 'Night of the Living Dead' with werewolves and a shot of adrenaline, with the monsters proving to be formidable foes for the military types with their immense size, considerable speed, superhuman strength ... and, of course, sharp claws and pointy teeth.
9. Lucian, 'Underworld' (2003)
Yeah, the 'Underworld' movies aren't the greatest, but you have to admit the werewolves (or "Lycans," rather) are actually pretty cool -- and the coolest and smoothest of the beasties is definitely Lucian, the most put-upon, tortured and charismatic of the Lycans. It helps immensely that he's played by a class act like Michael Sheen (who also appears in 'New Moon,' but we'll get to that one in a minute), putting all that classic thespian training to good use as he scowls, snarls and barks at the moon. Lucian appears in all three 'Underworld' movies, taking center stage in the third installment, 'Rise of the Lycans' (2009).
8. Jacob Black, 'New Moon' (2009)
There's arguably never been a movie with more preening and posturing than 'New Moon,' the second installment in the 'Twilight' saga, but at least there's vampires and werewolves in it to balance out all those dreamy photo ops. 'New Moon' was responsible for dividing adoring female audiences into two camps: "Team Edward" (for the brooding, sparkly vampire Edward Cullen), played by Robert Pattinson and "Team Jacob" (for the rough and tumble nature boy Jacob Black, who also happens to have the ability to wolf out when the mood strikes him). Taylor Lautner spends about half the movie with his shirt off -- which is, of course, just fine.
7. Scott Howard, 'Teen Wolf' (1985)
The opening basketball scene of 'Teen Wolf' is perhaps the most brilliant portrait of athletic incompetence ever put to film, and it only gets better from there. 'Teen Wolf' is a great movie -- Michael J. Fox truly became a star in 1985 with both this film and that other flick he did about time travel. The script is not only filled with witty zingers but is also surprisingly insightful in its portrayal of teenage alienation, peer pressure, turning into a werewolf -- you know, all that stuff every young person has to deal with in high school. And the message, of course, still rings true, no matter the generation: Be Yourself. And love who you are while you're at it. (Look for 'Teen Wolf,' the TV series, coming soon.)
6. Will Randall, 'Wolf' (1994)
'Wolf' starts out as a psychological exploration of a man who undergoes extreme emotional and mental changes after he gets bitten by a wolf, as book publisher Will Randall (Jack Nicholson) becomes more aggressive, energetic and sexually voracious after his nocturnal encounter with one of the beasts. However, if you're going to cast Jack Nicholson in a werewolf movie, you've got to eventually go for broke with the physical change, too, and soon Jack is sprouting fangs and hair and doing battle with fellow wolf-man James Spader. 'Wolf' is an uneven film, but a fascinating one nonetheless -- Jack is obviously having a blast, and Michelle Pfeiffer is ridiculously gorgeous, as usual.
5. Eddie Quist, 'The Howling' (1980)
'The Howling' hasn't aged very well, and it's a little too "clever" for its own good (the whole movie feels like one big inside joke, which could be said for most of director Joe Dante's films), but the werewolf scenes remain creepy, inventive and a whole lot of fun. Dante regular Robert Picardo steals the show with his limited screen time as Eddie Quist, a serial killer who also happens to be a werewolf -- his extended transformation scene isn't quite as good as the one in 'An American Werewolf in London,' but it's damn close, and it also features cutaways to a terrified Dee Wallace, who's so freaked by the display that she apparently can't even think to run out of the room.
4. Ginger Fitzgerald, 'Ginger Snaps' (2000)
Easily one of the greatest werewolf movies ever made, 'Ginger Snaps' came out of nowhere and was promptly hailed as a true return to form for the horror genre, as well as being a strikingly original take on the werewolf mythos. A much darker portrait of teenage alienation than 'Teen Wolf,' 'Ginger Snaps' tells the tale of a high school beauty (Katharine Isabelle) struck with a once-a-month "curse" that's a bit different than the one her fellow female classmates have to deal with. Witty without being snarky and filled with go-for-broke violence and gore, 'Ginger Snaps' is not only a must-see but a must-own for horror fans. Followed by an almost-as-good sequel and a so-so prequel.
3. Remus Lupin, 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' (2004)
By the third 'Harry Potter' movie, it was time to put the wow-wee approach of director Chris Columbus to bed and make way for directors with true cinematic visions -- in other words, it was time for the 'Potter' movies to actually start being movies. Alfonso Cuaron ('Children of Men') called the shots on what is arguably the best 'Potter' film to date, painting Hogwarts and the surrounding countryside with bleak, muted colors and introducing a darker tone as the adolescent angst of the main characters started to kick in. Cuaron also gave us a rather sad and seemingly always exhausted Remus Lupin, played wonderfully by David Thewlis. When poor Remus succumbs to the power of the full moon in front of Harry and his friends, it's tragic and terrifying in equal measure.
2. Larry Talbot, 'The Wolf Man' (1941)
One of the earliest screen werewolves, Larry Talbot was a doomed misfit from the start, a hulking Yankee come back to his homeland and promptly punished for being a peeping tom (via telescope, at that) and potential homewrecker (his would-be ladylove is engaged to another man) by getting bitten by Bela Lugosi (in wolf mode rather than vampire mode, of course). Lon Chaney, Jr. is excellent in the role and would go on to play poor Larry in four other films, including one that would team him up with Abbott & Costello. Despite a slow start and the beast having actually very limited screen time, 'The Wolf Man' is a moving and sometimes unsettling tale.
1. David Kessler, 'An American Werewolf in London' (1981)
Yes, 'American Werewolf' is actually kind of goofy, what with Griffin Dunne wandering around spewing existential dread as an ever-decomposing corpse and nightmare sequences involving Nazi werewolves (or something). But man, that transformation scene! It's a true tour-de-force for the makeup and effects team, director John Landis and actor David Naughton, a sequence that has never really been topped in terms of practical effects and probably never will. David's bones actually expand and grow to accommodate the physicality of an animal, all while he's screaming in fear and excruciating pain -- yeah, it hurts to turn into a werewolf! Computer effects make for a smoother ride nowadays, but back in '81, you had to sit down at the drawing board and really figure out just how the hell you were going to pull something like this off. And pulled it off they did indeed.