1981 was the Year of the Werewolf, cinematically speaking. Advances in special effects technology, a spike in horror as a genre, and a little good old fashioned serendipity saw not one but three all time classic werewolf flicks.
First to hit was Joe Dante’s The Howling, in which Dee Wallace’s traumatised news anchor confronts a rural colony of ravening shapeshifters. Then Michael Wadleigh’s Wolfen saw NYC cops Albert Finney and Diane Venora hunt down a race of intelligent wolves preying on the city’s homeless. Finally, and most importantly, John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London was so groundbreaking they invented a new Oscar category just to give special effects guru Rick Baker his due.
It was a good time to be a horror fan, folks. Since then, the werewolf has stalked the silver screen only intermittently, and with mixed success; the makeup effects necessary to conceive a convincing wolf man are expensive and complex, while most horror films are modestly budgeted, which makes werewolves a challenging prospect for prospective horror auteurs.
There have been some gems, though, so if you have a hankering to howl, here are the 12 best werewolf movies since 1981—one for every full moon of the year.