An American Werewolf in London (1981) - Rotten Tomatoes

An American Werewolf in London (1981)



Critic Consensus: Terrifying and funny in almost equal measure, John Landis' horror-comedy crosses genres while introducing Rick Baker's astounding make-up effects.

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Movie Info

While wandering the English moors on vacation, college yanks David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) happen upon a quaint pub with a mysterious patronage who warn them not to leave the road when walking after dark. Irreverent of such advice as characters in horror films always are, the two decide to find a short cut....David wakes up in the hospital with a nasty bite wound to his shoulder; the freshly deceased, and rapidly decomposing, Jack arrives soon after to deliver the grim news that, unless he commits suicide, David will become a werewolf when the moon is full. David dismisses the encounter as a hallucination, but all indicators point to lycanthrope; evenings of barking and bloodletting follow closely behind. While the story is thin and much of the tongue-in-cheek humor is overdone, there are plenty of genuine jolts thanks to makeup guru Rick Baker's eye-popping special effects. The werewolf, resembling a cross between a bear and a wolverine, appears frighteningly real, and, given the fantastic premise, the gore is most convincing (although surprisingly and refreshingly scant). The hospital dream sequences are creative, and the scenes in which the werewolf runs rampant through downtown London are particularly good. In all, An American Werewolf in London is an original, atmospheric film that manages both to scare and amuse. While dismissed by most American critics upon its release, the film managed to secure a place in the annals of American cinema when Baker won an Academy Award for his amazing effects and creature designs. ~ Jeremy Beday, Rovi

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David Naughton
as David Kessler
Griffin Dunne
as Jack Goodman
Jenny Agutter
as Nurse Alex Price
John Woodvine
as Dr. J.S. Hirsch
Brian Glover
as Chess player
David Schofield
as Dart Player
Lila Kaye
as Barmaid
Paul Kernber
as Sgt. McManus
Paul Kember
as Sgt. McManus
Don McKillop
as Insp. Villiers
Frank Oz
as Mr. Collins
Anne Marie Davies
as Nurse Gallagher
Paula Jacobs
as Mrs. Kessler
Gordon Sterne
as Mr. Kessler
Joe Belcher
as Truck Driver
Rik Mayall
as 2nd Chess Player
Sean Baker
as 2nd Dart Player
Paddy Ryan
as 1st Werewolf
Albert Moses
as Hospital Porter
Claudine Bowyer
as Creepy Little Girl
Johanna Crayden
as Creepy Little Girl
Nina Carter
as Herself
Geoffrey Burridges
as Harry Berman
Brenda Cavendish
as Judith Browns
Mary Tempest
as Sean's Wife
Cynthia Powell
as Sister Hobbs
Michael Carter
as Gerald Bringsley
Elizabeth Bradley
as Woman in Zoo
Rufus Deakin
as Little Boy with Balloons
Lesley Ward
as Little Boy's Mother
George Hilsdon
as News Vendor
Gerry Lewis
as Man in Bus Queue
Dennis J. Fraser
as 2nd Man in Bus Queue
Alan Ford
as Taxi Driver
Peter B. Ellis
as Bobby in Trafalgar Square
Denise Stephens
as Girl in Trafalgar Square
Linzi Drew
as Brenda Bristols
Lucinenne Morgan
as Lance Boyle
Gypsy Dave Cooper
as Chris Bailey
Susan Spencer
as George Bailey
Ken Sicklen
as Bobby at Cinema
John Salthouse
as Bobby at Cinema
John Altman
as Policeman
Keith Hodiak
as Policeman
John Owens
as Policeman
Roger Rowland
as Policeman
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Critic Reviews for An American Werewolf in London

All Critics (59) | Top Critics (13)

David's writhing discomfort in his own skin marks not just the monstrous metamorphosis in and of genre, but also that deep sense of estrangement experienced by any well-meaning if gauche tourist tripping up on local lore and mores.

October 29, 2019 | Full Review…

I suspect Landis hoped to keep moviegoers eerily disarmed with an unpredictable mixture of wacky and terrifying touches. Unfortunately, his own touch... is so slack and uncertain that the movie ends up dramatically shapeless.

May 8, 2018 | Full Review…

Not just gory but actually frightening, not just funny but clever, 'American Werewolf...' has its flaws, but these are outweighed by the film's many, mighty strengths.

October 30, 2009 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

But in a "comedy horror" picture, the "horror" bits aren't supposed to be this scary. He would have been better off dispensing with the comedy altogether.

October 30, 2009 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Scary-funny is an acquired taste. For me, it tends to be a recipe in which you can't taste either of the constituent ingredients. The big man-to-wolf transformation scene is still a marvel.

October 30, 2009 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Some of the special effects are a little creaky now, but the snap of Landis's editing and the razor's-edge balance of horror and comedy are still fresh.

October 30, 2009 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for An American Werewolf in London

These excessively gory horror films of the 1980's have either been extreme turn on or off for me. "An American Werewolf in London" is a definite plus to it's genre. Helming some genuinely creepy practical effects and some fantastic gore, this is one horror film that will never feel dated. As two friends arrive in London, they are attacked by a wolf. While one comes back as a zombie, the other must face the fact that he will turn into a werewolf at each moon's first light unless he kills himself. With a dark story, there are some very charming moments peppered throughout this picture. I had a blast watching this film and I would highly recommend it to any horror fans out there. With a script you don't have to take too seriously and direction that is clearly poking fun while staying creepy, "An American Werewolf in London" is great! If I had to fault it, it would be the fact that it takes far too long to build up to the conclusion. Overall, it is a very fun time.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

A werewolf movie turned into a comedy. It's a very original idea that cinema had never been seen before. Werewolf in London couldn't have done it better. It had the feeling of a classic black and white horror movie and the make up is absolutely outstanding. As it's among the best ever crafted. Not so much a scary film by modern standards but with a mix of black humour, light hearted comedy and likable characters it deserves its ultimate cult status.

Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer


This is classic stuff here, its faultless, effects are awesome, note the legendary transformation scene in Agutter's flat completely done without cgi using REAL skills and craftsmanship. The whole thing is macabre, spooky and funny, its also pretty scary here and there, the Nazi demon dream sequences make you jump haha whilst the ending is a gore fest, love it, an adult 'Beetlejuice'. Bluuuue Moooon

Phil Hubbs
Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

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