Werewolf Movies That Aren’t Really About Werewolves
Photo: The Company of Wolves / ITC Entertainment

Werewolf Movies That Aren’t Really About Werewolves

Over 60 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of Werewolf Movies That Aren’t Really About Werewolves
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The idea of the beast within us, just waiting to get out, is a potent metaphor, and one that the most thoughful werewolf movies often take full advantage of. Werewolf movies have managed to turn the metaphor to a lot of different ends - it can represent everything from coming-of-age, to mental illness and PTSD, to love and lust. But not every werewolf movie actually has a wolf (or a wolf man) in it. In fact, clinical lycanthropy, the belief that you are a werewolf without actually transforming into such a beast, was on the medical books for years.

Sometimes, that metaphor managed to get even a little more metaphorical. Rather than sprouting hair and fangs, the victims in these lycanthropic films may simply find themselves with uncontrolled passions. They may think that they're turning into monsters, or feel like they are - or they may want people to think they are, in order to gaslight or mislead them. Whatever the case, some of the wildest and weirdest werewolf movies don't feature werewolves at all - but they're no less hairy for that.

  • Scream Of The Wolf (1974)
    Photo: ABC

    Richard Matheson (I Am Legend) wrote this made-for-TV movie starring Peter Graves and Clint Walker, directed by Dark Shadows' Dan Curtis. Matheson and Curtis had previously worked together on The Night Stalker, a 1972 TV movie that gave us the character of Carl Kolchak. In Scream of the Wolf, they set their sights on werewolves - or do they?

    Peter Graves plays a retired hunter-turned-novelist who is called in to help the local police solve a series of mystifying slayings that seem to be the work of some unknown animal. Graves identifies the tracks as being similar to those of a wolf, but there's something odd about them. They seem to switch from running on four legs to walking on two, before disappearing entirely. Are they after a werewolf, or does Graves' sinister former hunting buddy Byron (Clint Walker) who was bitten by a wolf years ago have something to do with it?

    The reveal isn't exactly shocking, but it is something different from your average werewolf flick.

    • Actors: Peter Graves, Clint Walker, Jo Ann Pflug, Philip Carey
    • Released: 1974
    • Directed by: Dan Curtis
    15 votes

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  • 2
    14 VOTES

    November (2017)

    Sure, we all know that being bitten by a werewolf can turn you into a werewolf - but did you know that longing can do it, too? At least, it can in the little Estonian village at the heart of November, where evil spirits and the personification of the Black Plague roam at will, and the inhabitants use folk magic to try to get what their hearts desire, or simply to survive the harsh winter. For Liina, her heart's desire is the love of a village boy, Hans, who is, himself, enamored with the daughter of a noble family.

    Liina's longing for Hans transforms her into a werewolf, but no one gets what they really want in this dismal yet beautiful film, written and directed by Rainer Sarnet, from a novel by Andrus Kivirähk.

    • Actors: Rea Lest, Jörgen Liik, Arvo Kukumägi
    • Released: 2017
    • Directed by: Rainer Sarnet
    14 votes
  • 3
    12 VOTES

    The Ancines Woods (1970)

    The Ancines Woods (1970)
    Photo: Universal Films Española

    This movie is partially based on the story of real-life serial killer Manuel Blanco Romasanta, who became known as the Werewolf of Allariz after he claimed that he was not responsible for his deeds because he was under a curse that caused him to turn into a wolf. This 1970 Spanish film, released in its native country as El Bosque del Lobo or "The Forest of the Wolf," follows Benito Freire (José Luis López Vázquez), a peddler who suffers from epilepsy, which causes the people of the towns he passes through to believe that he is either a werewolf or possessed by evil spirits. In either event, the suspicions of the townspeople and his own confusion at his condition causes Benito to descend further and further into madness as the film unravels.

    • Actors: José Luis López Vázquez, John Steiner, Alfredo Mayo, Víctor Israel, Antonio Casas
    • Released: 1970
    • Directed by: Pedro Olea
    12 votes
  • Don't worry, the guy suffering under a family curse in John Brahm's 1942 answer to The Wolf Man isn't a werewolf, he just has a "dreadful kink in his brain" that causes him to imagine he is a werewolf. That this imagining is enough to make him grow hair that is identifiable under a microscope as wolf hair and causes him to attack people, well, that doesn't seem enough to faze our very rational heroes at the end of this mannered horror flick based on the incredibly weird 1922 novel of the same name by Jessie Douglas Kerruish.

    At just over an hour long, The Undying Monster is nonetheless roughly equal parts English ghost story (there are clanking chains and secret rooms), werewolf tale, and a who- (or what)-dunit in the style of The Hound of the Baskervilles. The Hammond family has been laboring under a curse since the Crusades, one that strikes only male members of the family when they go out on a "frosty night." The learned minds at the end of the film call it clinical lycanthropy, a "mania," but the results look an awful lot like a werewolf to us.

    • Actors: James Ellison, Heather Angel, John Howard, Bramwell Fletcher, Heather Thatcher
    • Released: 1942
    • Directed by: John Brahm
    11 votes
  • In the middle part of the 18th century, a monster stalked the Gévaudan region of France. Described as a great wolf, the so-called Beast of Gévaudan may have claimed hundreds of lives, and has still not been conclusively identified. "The best and most likely explanation is Gévaudan had a serious wolf infestation" rather than one monstrous wolf, according to Jay M. Smith, historian and author of the book Monsters of the Gévaudan: The Making of a Beast.

    The legends that have grown up around the Beast over the years have proved fertile ground for filmmakers and storytellers, with perhaps the best-known dramatization being Christophe Gans' 2001 historial drama/horror/martial arts mash-up film, Brotherhood of the Wolf, which combines real history, palace intrigue, conspiracy theories, and lots of unlikely martial arts battles - along with a Beast designed by Jim Henson's Creature Shop - to create a weird and heady cocktail.

    For most of the movie, it seems like the hunters are after a werewolf, but the final reveal, while less supernatural, is actually quite a bit weirder than that would have been.

    • Actors: Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Gaspard Ulliel, Mark Dacascos, Jacques Perrin
    • Released: 2001
    • Directed by: Christophe Gans
    30 votes
  • Werewolves may not be real, but clinical lycanthropy - a term used "to describe individuals who believed they were wolves" - is very much a real thing, and was in medical texts for years. It's also at the heart of the 1946 film She-Wolf of London. Released following the success of Universal's Wolf Man pictures, She-Wolf was less concerned with supernatural horror than with a more mannered whodunit - though that doesn't stop plenty of people in the flick from tossing around the word "werewolf."

    June Lockhart plays Phyllis Allenby, a young woman from a wealthy background who is about to be married to her lawyer boyfriend when a string of sinister deaths in the nearby park make her think she might be a werewolf. It turns out that she's being gaslighted by the actual slayer, but the elements of clinical lycanthropy are heavily invoked in the proceedings before the final reveal.

    • Actors: Don Porter, June Lockhart, Sara Haden, Jan Wiley, Dennis Hoey
    • Released: 1946
    • Directed by: Jean Yarbrough
    19 votes

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