I was thinking about Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985) recently—because I’m always thinking about this movie—and it dawned on me that hardly anyone in cinema history has worn quite as many outlandishly crazy and outlandishly sexy outfits as that film’s star Sybil Danning has. Then of course I started making a list because, one, it’s Sybil Freakin’ Danning! And two, I haven’t done a list in so long I can’t even remember—especially not one this fun—so why not?
Before that though, let me just remind y’all about what makes Sybil—Ms. Danning, if you’re nasty—such a legend. IMDb says of the Austrian-born, USA-raised Danning, “Statuesque 5’7″ blonde beauty Sybil Danning reigns supreme as one of the sexiest, most dynamic, and commanding actresses to achieve cult B-movie queen status.” Truth! If you grew up on 1970s and 1980s cinema, she was one of, if not the genre queen, starring in a diverse array of Roger Corman and Corman-esque flicks. From horror to science fiction to action to comedy, Sybil did it all, and all while looking like a tall, leggy, blonde, bronzed, stacked goddess walking among mortals. And over a long career full of sexy, tough, badass performances, she wore some absolutely fabulous outfits. Here’s my totally subjective list of the best of the bunch, in no particular order.
Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985)
Even though I said this was in no particular order, I might as well start with my favorite. Stirba, queen of the werewolves, might be the most perfect realization of Sybil’s exquisite Sybilness: she’s an evil queen (as she so often is in her movies) who is alluring and dangerous (in this case also a werewolf) and wears some crazy and memorable costumes. She shoots electrical bolts from her hands! Plus we get to see her have werewolf sex—a threesome, no less!—during mid-transformation! Oh, and I didn’t even mention the famous bodice-ripping scene! I can’t put too fine a point on this so I’ll just spell it out for you clearly: that scene fundamentally ushered me from boyhood into manhood. And I’ve heard and read countless other people say the same thing over the years. The scene is so spectacular, and Sybil performs the bodice-ripping with such gusto, that the filmmakers decided to repeat it no less than seventeen times over the end credits! It’s positively mesmerizing.
Christopher Lee knows what I’m talking about.
Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)
Produced by Corman, directed by Jimmy T. Murakami, and written by future indie film pioneer John Sayles, this spectacularly fun space opera was billed as “The Magnificent Seven in space” and yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds. Sybil plays a Valkyrie warrior itching to prove herself in battle (beyond the stars) in what has to be one of my two or three favorite performances of hers. She brings so much life to the movie every time she’s onscreen, exuding sexiness, strength, and a deft comedic touch too. She’s downright hilarious at times.
Enough enthusing about her excellent acting! What about her costume? Well hoo-boy, it’s a doozy. While not exactly appropriate for battle—lots of exposed skin and large heavy-looking accoutrements (that for the film were probably actually made of paper mache)—it’s insanely, ridiculously cool. How cool? Cool enough to have its own action figure! How she kept her bazongas from completely spilling out of that bustier is beyond me; they seem ready to jailbreak at any moment.
Malibu Express (1985)
In one of the best of Andy Sidaris’s bullets, bombs, and babes flicks, Sybil wears several gravity-defying dresses and bikinis, making every time she’s onscreen a riveting affair, as you anxiously wonder if it at any minute a tiny piece of cloth will give way.
They’re Playing With Fire (1984)
Kino Lorber sums this movie up nicely on their website: “Drive-in goddess and 80s action queen Sybil Danning (Howling II, Chained Heat, Reform School Girls) stars as a lusty college professor who seduces a naive student (Eric Brown, Private Lessons) as part of a sordid plot to frame him for the murder of her wealthy in-laws.” As for Sybil’s attire, I don’t even know where to begin with that. She wears several killer outfits in this one, all winners, from bikins to lingerie to sexy dresses, she really leans hard into the “lusty” part of “lusty college professor.” Plus, she gets nekkid again. Just thought you’d want to know.
Hercules (1983) and The Seven Magnificent Gladiators (1984)
She filmed these Cannon classics with the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) back-to-back and, yup, you guessed it, wore outfits in each that barely contained her ample, heaving bosom. Of the two, Hercules is my favorite ensemble. She looks positively striking in what amounts to a blue bathing suit/evening down combo that hugs her body in all the right places. She’s playing the evil princess Ariadne, but the look also screams “Cult Queen” and is definitely one of her best ever.
The Naughty Nymphs (1972)
I’ve never seen this European softcore sexploitation film, and from what I’ve read a super young Sybil is barely in it. So why is it here, you ask? Because, hello nurse!
Every single time she wore a bikini.
There are very few things you can count on in life: death, taxes, and Sybil Danning donning a bikini at some point in what feels like every film she’s ever made. I know that’s not true, but after watching her movies for 30+ years it certainly feels that way.
Amazon Women on the Moon (1987)
This riotously funny comedy anthology features a segment starring Sybil as Queen Lara—I’m starting to think she’s played more queens than anyone else in movie history. She wears a lovely hot pink dress with slits cut high to show off her gams and another dangerously plunging neckline to show off her two most famous physical assets. You might be noticing a trend in how she was styled in many of her films: just throw something on her that draws attention to her cleavage! cleavage! cleavage! and legs! legs! legs!
Werewolf Women of the S.S. (2007)
Okay, so this one’s not technically a movie, but I have to include it because Rob Zombie’s nazisploitation trailer for the Robert Rodriquez-Quentin Tarantino double-feature Grindhouse has Sybil doing her best Ilsa She-Wolf of the S.S. imitation. I desperately wanted them to turn this into a full-length feature. What a cast! Nicolas Cage! Udo Kier! Sherri Moon Zombie! And of course our queen Sybil. It’s a sordid homage to 1970s sexploitation and there’s no one you want around more when making a sordid homage to 1970s sexplioitation than Sybil Danning. She delivers by making you feel really skeevy for lusting after a Nazi.
That time she and costar John Saxon talked about Battle Beyond the Stars at Comic-Con
Okay okay, this one isn’t a movie either but in case you can’t tell by now I will not be constrained by “definitions” and whatnot. Look, this time in 2011 when Sybil and the late, great John Saxon got together to discuss their classic sci-fi romp is legendary for many reasons. First, it’s two of the all-time best genre stars together in one place discussing their fond memories of making this cult classic. Then there’s Sybil’s cleavage, which is freakin’ outrageous! I don’t know where she got her push-up bra but it was worth every single penny she spent on it. I wonder if Saxon is looking skyward so he doesn’t gawk and drool. Good grief, just watch this video and try to hear a single word they’re saying. I dare you. It can’t be done. And that cross necklace resting right between Sybil’s breasts is the envy of every living, breathing organism on earth, and even some of the dead ones too.
I still need to see this one, which I once saw described as the “worst film ever nominated for a Best Foreign Film Academy Award.” Sounds promising! Sybil starred alongside total madman Klaus Kinski, an actor notorious for being such a stark-raving lunatic that director Werner Herzog was driven so crazy by the man that he once pulled a gun on him, threatening to shoot him and then himself. I’m including this movie here based on images I’ve seen, which show a side of Sybil not seen as frequently once B-movies became her main source of income. She looks positively glamorous here in her 1970s patterned shirt and groovy sunglasses.
Jungle Warriors (1984)
That time she wore a gorgeos orange number while confidently holding what looks like a miniature samurai sword. This is about as regally glam and badass as it gets. She looks amaaaaazing.
Speaking of amaaaaazing, this look from another film she made with Christopher Lee (alternate titles for this one include The Night of the Askari, Death in the Sun, and Whispering Death) is jaw dropping. More fully clothed than usual, but with another pair of goddess boots, her sexiness, beauty, and confidence still shine through just fine.
Phantom Empire (1988)
As an alien queen (another queen!) in this sci-fi/horror joint, Sybil once again rocks some tall boots, this time shiny silvery ones that look like they were constructed out of aluminum foil, plus some absurd shoulder pads. She also carries a ginormous sword and, as you might expect, she can handle a big sword.
Sybil’s resume is loaded with plenty of television work as well, including a stint on the awesome 1980s series V. Heck, I’m just gonna say it: this one-piece animal-print body suit and thigh-high black boots is the coolest outfit in television history.
Okay, I’m getting carried away here, but this entire list has been about getting swept up and carried away! That’s the power of Sybil Danning.