Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) has a problem. Well, several problems. He's an average high school student with few friends, he's a mediocre player on a losing basketball team, and the girl of his dreams won't even look twice at him. His dad works at a hardware store, and he's generally the Butt-Monkey of the entire high school.
Scott just wants to be recognized, to be special, to be the guy that everyone wants to hang with. He's about to discover that "special" runs in his family. It's called lycanthropy.
Released in 1985, Teen Wolf shares many elements with I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957, starring Michael Landon), and helped to revive the popularity of the werewolf in pop culture. It was followed by an animated series, the Distaff Counterpart Teen Witch, and a sequel, Teen Wolf Too, starring Jason Bateman as Scott's cousin Todd (who is also a werewolf). Teen Wolf, an In Name Only revival that was decidedly both Darker and Edgier and Hotter and Sexier, aired on MTV for six seasons from 2011 to 2017.
This movie contains examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: Zig-zagged. Scott's dad Harold and the liquor store owner are both fine, upstanding, law-abiding individuals who would be fine role models for anyone. Vice Principal Thorne however, is a petty little nobody with a grudge; and the coach for the basketball team could very well be the avatar for apathy. If ever he could be bothered to claim the title of course...
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Pamela doesn't give Scott a moment's notice until she finds out about his animal side.
- All There in the Script: The screenplay mentions that Boof's in-universe real name is Lisa Marconi.
- An Aesop: People should love you for who you are, not what perks that come with you. It ultimately the reason Scott doesn't go wolf at the basketball finals when he realizes his classmate just like him for his wolf form, likewise not wanting to overshadow his teammates either.
- Arch-Enemy: Mick McAllister, the star player of the rival basketball team.
- Bad "Bad Acting": Scott and his costar Pamela are humorously stilted in the school play. Scott has no interest in acting except to be close to Pamela.
- Betty and Veronica: In this case, brunette Boof is Betty, and unattainable blonde Pamela is Veronica.
- Big Game: The film ends with a final basketball game against the Beavers' rivals, the Dragons.
- Body Horror: Scott is unsettled by the transformations he's undergoing, and he's horrified by his first involuntary transformation.
- Book Ends: Scott misses his free throws in the beginning of the film. He makes them to win the Big Game at the end.
- Break Up to Make Up: Scott and Pamela. In the end, he picks Boof.
- Bring My Brown Pants: Harold Howard vs. Vice Principal Thorne. Point goes to Harold.
- Comes Great Responsibility: Harold's "great power" speech to his son was a deliberate reference to Spider-Man.
- Dean Bitterman: Vice Principal Thorne
- Down to the Last Play: The final game against the Dragons comes down to Mick fouling Scott at the end while the Beavers are down by 1, and Scott having to make two free-throws to win.
- Dub Name Change: Some foreign releases gave him the name "Marty" due to the popularity of Back to the Future.
- Everyone Loves Blondes: Pamela, the popular girl that Scott has the hots for, has platinum blonde hair.
- Everyone Went to School Together: Harold, Scott's mother, and Thorne.
- Freaky Is Cool: Everyone is freaked when they first see Scott transform, but once they get a load of his sweet basketball skills, they love him!
- Fun T-Shirt: Easily half of Stiles' wardrobe. He also sells Teen Wolf shirts to classmates.
- Funny Background Event: During the scene at the end on the bleachers pay attention to a guy sitting with a red jacket on his lap. As people get up to walk away, you'll notice the guy had his pants unzipped for some reason.
- Hands-On Approach: Scott teaches Pamela how to bowl.
- Hell Is That Noise: Scott sees a kid blowing a whistle that's making a high-pitched sound that's hurting his ears. He got the kid to stop, who complains the whistle is broken. A confused Scott noticed it was a dog whistle.
- I Just Want to Be Special: Scott really wants to be cool and get the class hottie.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Scott has a freakout on this theme when he finds out he's a werewolf. He's got enough problems already. Then he finds out that his high school loves a winner, no matter how furry he is.
- In the Blood: Scott learns he has to keep a leash on the Wolf after a confrontation at the prom nearly ends in violence. His dad had earlier related a similar tale of werewolf rage from his own youth.
- Jerkass: Vice Principal Thorne doesn't think much of his students. In school, he used to harass Harold and Scott's mother until Harold transforms into a werewolf and threatens him to leave them alone. Then he takes it out on Scott until Harold reminds him again (see Papa Wolf below).
- Jerk Jock: Mick is an asshole and his team's star basketball player.
- Last-Name Basis: We never even learn what Stiles' first name is.
- Mass "Oh, Crap!": Everyone is shocked when Scott transforms in front of them.
- Meaningful Name:
- Vice-Principal Thorne is prickly and a thorn in Scott's side.
- Stiles is very stylin'.
- The terrifying rival basketball team is called "The Dragons".
- Missing Mom: Scott's mother is not in the film at all. Averted, as given how fondly she's recalled by those who knew her she didn't leave the family by choice.
- Noodle Incident: The coach tells Scott that his rules for life include never playing cards with a man with the same first name as a city, and never getting involved with a women with a tattoo of a dagger on her body. He never explains how he came by these pearls of wisdom.
- What happened to Scott's mum is anyone's guess.
- At one point, Mick confronts Scott and claims that he shot his mother in the face when she was in wolf form stealing chickens. Seeing as now; Scott's mother is conspicuously absent, Lycanthropy runs in the family, and there's a rumour floating around that Mick missed school because he was in jail, it's unclear if this is an outright lie to rile Scott, or if this incident actually occurred. It is never mentioned again in the movie.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Chubby and Boof. Stiles is apparently a Last-Name Basis.
- Oh, Crap!:
Thorne: You stay away from me.
- Scott has a moment of shock when he realizes that he's about to transform into a werewolf for the first time.
- Towards the end of the film, Scott is utterly shocked after beating up Mick at the prom.
- Vice Principal Thorne has this reaction merely at the sound of Harold Howard's voice.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Although Michael J. Fox is mostly impeccable at being a Fake American, he briefly slips back into his Canadian accent when he says "sorry", pronouncing it like "sorey".
- Opposing Sports Team: The Dragons, versus our heroes, the Beavers.
- Our Werewolves Are Different: Werewolves automatically change during a full moon, but also can undergo Voluntary Transformation. They maintain their minds, but they have to be more careful with their strength.
- Outside Ride: Stiles' favorite pastime is surfing on the roof of a car. It becomes Scott's favorite pastime as well, until his father chides him.
- Papa Wolf: Harold Howard vs. Vice Principal Thorne.Harold Howard: I want you to leave my son alone. He's a good kid... he's just having a tough time right now. Okay? [Snarl]
Vice Principal Thorne: [promptly wets himself out of fear]
Harold Howard: I knew I could count on you, Rusty.
- Paralysis by Analysis: Scott opens the movie at the free throw line. He's clearly thinking too hard and bricks it.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis! Scott demanding "Give me... a keg... of beer," with glowing red eyes is enough for the store clerk to cast aside any care about liquor laws.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Scott intimidates his nemesis the liquor store clerk by demanding a keg of beer with glowing red eyes.
- Sins of Our Fathers: Vice Principal Thorne's dislike of Scott is because of a confrontation he had with Scott's dad, years ago. Harold eventually confronts Thorne over this.
- Transformation Trauma: Psychological rather than physical; Scott's first transformation doesn't appear to be painful, but more "Holy shit I'm turning into a monster!" Most of the rest of the trauma seems to be social, until he discovers that Freaky Is Cool.
- Underdogs Never Lose: The Beavers are introduced as a terrible team. Their local rivals are the Dragons, establishing their relationship sheerly through mascots. However, with the help of Scott outside of his wolf form, the Beavers win the big game.
- Was It All a Lie?: Harold didn't so much as lie, but never told Scott about it.Scott: Wait a minute, wait a minute, dad... I mean, you knew about this?! You knew about this, and you didn't tell me?!
Harold: I was hoping I wouldn't have to. Sometimes it skips a generation. I was hoping it would pass you by.
Scott: Well, dad, it didn't pass me by! It landed on my face!
- Wham Shot: After an exchange designed to make the audience (and Scott) believe Harold thinks Scott is masturbating, Scott finally obeys his dad's request to open the door, in full on wolf-mode - only to see a wolfed-out Harold looking back at him.
- Wolf Man: A light comedy version.
- You Sexy Beast: Scott gets the attention of the hot girl at school as the Wolf.