Teen Wolf (1985)

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Teen Wolf (1985) Movie Poster Image
Cheesy '80s comedy still works thanks to Fox-y star.
  • PG
  • 1985
  • 84 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

On the plus side, Scott worries about whether his elevated status as a wolf-boy is earned or not, and how this affects his relationships. He ends up imparting a message of self-actualization (without the hairy transformation) to his teammates. Reckless teen behavior includes a goal of alcohol-drinking, and boys dangerously "surfing" by standing on top of a moving van on the road (one even falls, but no injury); this is taken as a sign of strength and machismo.

Positive role models & representations

While the leading man dives into premarital sex and other questionable behavior, Michael J. Fox invests his character with an innate likeability. Scott never uses his wolfish, predator side to go full Incredible-Hulk and hurt anyone (even when he’s bullied). Some adults (especially Scott’s dad) are okay folks; others are amusingly mean or foolish (a coach who pretends he can heroically mentor students through their issues but who really doesn’t want to hear any messy personal problems). Compared to the enmity and scorn heaped on parents and authority figures in other films of this era, the tone is quite mild. 

Violence

A few fistfights, with suggestions that Scott, as a wolf, could really hurt people if he really tried (but he doesn’t).

Sex

The main character has (offscreen) sex with a classmate; no nudity shown, but she strips to her underwear and removes her bra (shown from the back) in anticipation. Boys and girls acting flirty at a raucous party, including one guy shoving his face into a (willing) co-ed's bosom. Brief shot of girl and guy tied up and covered in shaving cream and little else in some sort of party game. Homosexual and “fag” references include a double-entendre joke about "coming out of the closet."

Language

"Bastard," "ball-buster," “dicknose,” “fag,” “damn.”

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Scenes in which the underage hero and his buddies conspire to try to get alcohol from a liquor store (including via robbery). Scott’s cool buddy has a “stash” of herbal-looking stuff in a plastic bag; you can guess what that’s supposed to be.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Teen Wolf is a popular '80s teen comedy that seems to endorse such boys-gone-wild stuff as underage drinking/drugging, reckless vehicle operation, and youthful sex, though such activities are mostly kept to the margins. Girls are briefly shown in bras and panties. There are references to homosexuality, including the pejorative “fag” tossed casually around, even by the nice-guy hero. Viewers hoping for more intensity are barking up the wrong werewolf movie; no real horror here. The sequel, Teen Wolf Too (sometimes bundled on the same DVD) is much the same but doesn’t have the virtue of Michael J. Fox in the lead -- Jason Bateman plays a cousin instead.

User Reviews

Adult Written by1st-Pebbles-the-cat May 31, 2012

NOT PG - More like PG-17

NOT PG like Netflix says it is. THIS MOVIE more like PG-17 - FYI. Wholly 'd*ck-nose' wolf man! This movie I thought was funny and entertaining and... Continue reading
Parent of a 10 year old Written bymichelhays February 17, 2012

Offers opportunities for good conversations, but it's a lot more risque than I remembered

I was looking for a movie with a non-violent role model, and I remembered this one revolves around the main character choosing to walk away from his violent pot... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old February 20, 2016

DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE!

Parents and kid's- let me give a little heads up. Do not watch this due to its cussing, drinking, and overall nudity!
Kid, 12 years old September 6, 2011

Classic 80's Teen Comedy

i think Teen Wolf is a great Michael J Fox movie, nothing compared to Back to the Future, but it's a heartfelt teen comedy. I admit, there are some inaprop... Continue reading

What's the story?

In TEEN WOLF, Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox), teen son of a widowed hardware-store owner in a small town, tries hard to excel on his high school’s basketball team; he strives to obtain liquor so he can join the “cool kids” at their parties; he attempts to attract a pretty drama-club blonde (Scott overlooks that the dark-haired classmate he hangs out with is the right girl for him, a common situation in these sorts of movies). When he doesn’t succeed, he wonders if he’s too average. Then an inherited family curse strikes, and Scott becomes…a werewolf (though, in rudimentary long-hair makeup, actor Fox could easily be Teen Sasquatch or Teen Wookiee), transforming at will, any time of day or night, but not undergoing any violent personality changes, just some lupine superpowers. Surprisingly, being a werewolf makes Scott the most popular dude in school and the star of the basketball team -- but the honor comes with its own unexpected dilemmas.

Is it any good?

This is a good-natured spoof of adolescent insecurities and image-consciousness in school, not Gothic shocks. Some horror-movie reference books don't even list Teen Wolf, and no wonder; Michael J. Fox makes one of the least menacing monsters ever. True, the comedy verges on a being a one-joke situation; people are intrigued by “the Wolf,” try to profit off “the Wolf,” want to be pals with “the Wolf” -- anything but be frightened of him. And the less-than-conclusive ending leaves something to be desired.

But the filmmakers draw solid laughs out of the situation, and even a bit of thoughtfulness about Scott's predicament in going from being thoroughly mediocre to an unexpected Leader of the Pack. It wouldn't be half the movie it is without Michael J. Fox in the lead. The young actor, right off his hit performance in Back to the Future (though this was shot earlier) is tremendously appealing. Fox was not only the unpretentious sort any kid would want as a friend, he was also the type any parent would be proud to call a son, and that was a rare combo for young screen characters in the post-Porky's 1980s.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how filmmakers have used the idea of a youth becoming a werewolf, like in Teen Wolf, or monster as a metaphor for puberty, raging hormones, and tumultuous maturation, classic depictions being I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Ginger Snaps, and The Company of Wolves. Ask teens if they relate to the idea.

  • Instead of all the students fearing/hating “the Wolf,” they like him even better than ordinary Scott Howard. Ask kids if they think this is really how their world works. Who are the most popular kids, and why?

Movie details

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