Werewolf of London (1935), The Wolf Man (1941), Curse of the Werewolf (1961). An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, and Wolfen all showed up in 1981. Later we got Ginger Snaps and Dog Soldiers. I've skipped over stuff like Silver Bullet, Bad Moon, and Underworld because even if you think they're half-decent werewolf movies -- you probably don't think they're fantastic werewolf movies. Hell, I only included the very dry Wolfen up top because it's weird that three(!) werewolf movies came out in 1981!
Clearly my assertion is that there aren't really all that many GOOD werewolf movies. I will now take that assertion and stretch it like so much bubble gum ... and there: I now have a specious piece of logic that says MOST werewolf movies are crap.(Wolf? Blood and Chocolate? I Was a Teenage Werewolf? Cursed? Don't make me laugh. And the name of that witless "Paris" sequel will go unmentioned on this website.) Actually that's not entirely accurate either because, really, we don't really GET all that many werewolf movies these days. And I think I know why:
The coolest vampires are both alluring and revolting. They're fascinating and gross at the same time. Frankenstein's near-mindless monster is also intriguing: would a big mixture of body parts be able to feel human? And what would the inside of that creature's brain feel like? It's just a creepy concept. Dr. Jekyll, The Invisible Man, hell, even the boring bandage-pile known as The Mummy is more interesting than the werewolf.
John Landis is the only one who has ever really nailed it. His tongue-in-cheek approach to An American Werewolf in London is a pitch-perfect way to illustrate the absurdity, the tragedy, and the horror of a man becoming a man-wolf. It's painful to witness, disturbing to consider, and ultimately ... a whole lot of fun to watch.
Beyond that, though, what is The Wolf Man's character arc? He's a nobody. He gets bit by a werewolf and acquires the same curse: He'll sprout claws and kill people on the next full moon. Then he does so until he's stopped with a silver bullet. Roll credits.
Where's the cleverness there? There's nothing "subtextual" or particularly fascinating going on here. It's all surface-level silliness. The werewolf is not a clever, ironic, or artistically fascinating character. There's little in the way of real duality or unexpected conflict. He's boring, except when he's a wolf, and then he does what wolves do. Yawn.
I guess that's why you need a new hook to make werewolves interesting, which is why we still dig Ginger Snaps (werewolf meets teenage girls) and Dog Soldiers (werewolf meets armed soldiers) and generally forget about stuff like the new Wolfman remake.
P.S. Bonus points for anyone who was wondering if I'd mention Neil Jordan's The Company of Wolves. So I did. Good flick.