An American Werewolf in London is a 1981 British-American horror comedy film, written and directed by John Landis. It stars David Naughton, Griffin Dunne, and Jenny Agutter.
The film starts with two young American men, David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) on a backpacking holiday in England. Following an awkwardly tense visit to a village pub, the two men venture deep into the moors at night. They are attacked by a Werewolf, which results in Jack's death and David being taken to a London hospital. Through apparitions of his dead friend and disturbing dream sequences, David becomes informed that he is a werewolf and will transform at the next full moon.
Shooting took place mostly in London but also in Surrey and Wales. It was released in the United States on August 21, 1981 and grossed $30.56 million at the box office. Critics generated mostly favourable reviews for the film. The movie won the 1981 Saturn Award for Best Horror Film and an Academy Award for Outstanding achievement in make-up. The film was one of three high-profile wolf-themed horror films released in 1981, alongside The Howling and Wolfen. Over the years, the film has accumulated a cult following and has been referred to as a cult classic. Empire magazine also named An American Werewolf in London as the 107th greatest movie of all time in September 2008.
The film was followed by a 1997 sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris, which featured a completely different cast and none of the original crew, and is distributed by Disney's Hollywood pictures.
Two American college students, David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne), are backpacking across the Yorkshire Moors. As darkness falls, and they decide to stop for the night at a pub called "The Slaughtered Lamb". Jack notices a five-pointed star on the wall. When he asks about it, the pub becomes very quiet. The pub-goers start acting very strangely. The pair decide to leave, but not before the others offer them pieces of advice such as "Beware the moon, lads" and "Keep to the road." Whilst conversing with each other and wondering what they meant, they wander off the road, onto the moors.
Back at the pub, the owner gets very distressed and suggests that they go after the pair. As she says this, a sinister howling is heard. The rest of the pub-goers, having barricaded the door, decline. Back out on the moors, Jack and David have also heard the howls, and they seem to be steadily getting closer. They start back to the Slaughtered Lamb when they realize they are disoriented and lost on the moors. A full moon comes out from behind the clouds, and they remember the advice they were given earlier. The noises get steadily closer until they are stopped by a supernaturally large animal. The animal attacks both of them, and kills Jack. The animal is then shot and killed by the pub-goers, who have now emerged. David survives the mauling and is taken to a hospital in London. When he wakes up three weeks later, he does not remember what happened and is told of his friend's death. David is questioned by an arrogant inspector, and more understanding sergeant and learns that he and Jack were supposedly attacked by an escaped lunatic. David insists that they were actually attacked by a large wolf. But the inspector had already been told there were witnesses and an autopsy report of the maniac, so they deduce that David is suffering from shock. David has several nightmares at night (one of him running through the woods, decapitating and eating a deer, another of him in a hospital bed with a monstrous fanged face, and finally him at home where his family is attacked by Nazis with monstrous faces).
Things get stranger when Jack, now a reanimated corpse, comes to visit David, who explains that they had been attacked by a werewolf, and stating that David himself is, in fact, now a werewolf. Jack urges David to kill himself before the next full moon, not only because Jack is cursed to exist in a state of living death for as long as the bloodline of the werewolf that attacked them survives, but also to prevent David from inflicting the same fate on his eventual victims.
Trying to see if David is indeed telling the truth, his doctor takes a trip to the Slaughtered Lamb. However when asked about the incident, the pub-goers deny any knowledge of David, Jack or the wolf. But one distraught pub-goer speaks to the doctor outside the pub and says that David should not have been taken away, and that he and everyone else will be in danger when he changes. After more investigation, the doctor finds out that the police report was "misplaced", and that David's wounds were cleaned and dressed before he was even looked at. The doctor is convinced that the whole town was lying, and that David was indeed attacked by an animal, though he's not completely convinced it was a werewolf.
Upon his release from the hospital, David moves in with Alex Price (Jenny Agutter), the pretty young nurse who grew infatuated with him in the hospital. He stays in Alex's London apartment, where they later make love for the first time. Jack suddenly appears to David again and tells him that he will turn into a werewolf the next day. Jack advises David to take his own life; otherwise he is doomed to kill innocent people who will then become the living dead. When the full moon rises, as Jack had warned, he begins to feel excruciating pain before stripping nude and turning into a werewolf. In his werewolf form, David walks on all fours, is covered in shaggy gray fur, is larger than a regular wolf, and has a savage demonic face with horrifying fanged jaws. He prowls the streets and the London Underground and slaughters six innocent Londoners. When he wakes in the morning, he is naked on the floor of the wolf cage at London Zoo with no memory of his nocturnal lupine carnivorous adventures, but unharmed by the resident wolves.
Later that day, David realizes that Jack was right about everything and that he is responsible for the murders of the night before. David encounters Jack (in an advanced stage of decay) in a cinema in Piccadilly Circus, this time accompanied by David's victims from the previous night. They all insist that he must commit suicide before turning into a werewolf again. While talking with them, night falls and, consequently, David turns into a werewolf again and goes on another killing spree. Following a horrific melee, he is cornered in an alley by the police. Alex arrives to calm him down by telling him that she loves him. Though he is apparently temporarily softened, he is shot and killed when he lunges forward, returning to human form in front of a grieving Alex as he dies.