Living forever – what a nightmare! The best vampire movies make that frightful notion one that audiences continue to explore, year after year. One of the oldest manifestations of eternal life, there’s so many interpretations of the vampire – what they are, how they came to be, and why their fashion sense is abysmal – that no matter what movie genre you prefer, there’s plenty of blood-sucking stories to enjoy. It’s widely known that Bram Stoker’s Dracula forged the vision of the modern vampire: the cape, the teeth, and the accent together forming an easy shorthand of features that we can all recognise. Over a hundred years later, Stoker’s impact on the undead fangbangers remains steadfast, infecting every film genre.
That’s what’s so diverse about the best vampire movies. They vary from films that dig deep into the roots of what it means to feast on human blood (means you’d probably need an apron), to those who use the vampire as an allegory to make social commentary (sounds like you’d still need an apron). And then there’s those that aren’t interested in either and want to simply make a gory mess. Whatever your prefer, you’ll find something here to satisfy your bloodlust.
25. Fright Night (1985)
Arguably the worst neighbour in movies, Jerry Dandridge might sound like a used car salesman who enjoys birdwatching, but don’t confuse his docile name for a docile nature. Dandridge is a vampire. The only thing he watches is vulnerable people down back alleys. Dandridge’s biggest enemy is Charly Brewster, a horror movie nerd who twigs onto his neighbour’s secret and seeks help from a local cable horror host, Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), in destroying him. A true ‘80s video store classic, the original Fright Night is a fun romp that marries together the era’s burgeoning teen comedy canon to its bloodier, B-movie flicks. A lot of eighties genre fare doesn’t splurge on effects, and while Fright Night hardly breaks the mould, its transformation sequences are top-notch, and do little to lessen its vampiric charm.
24. What We Do In The Shadows (2014)
Sure, vampires are seductive, dangerous, and make unique wardrobe choices, but what about the reality of vampiric day-to-day? Think about the escalating cost of having to keep moving house, when your neighbours and coworkers constantly bug you for skincare tips. Or how to make real friends when your closest peers are ancient bald-headed Dracula-types. These are the types of quandaries explored in Taika Waititi’s hilarious mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows, which revolves around a house of vampire roommates who reveal what it’s like to adapt to modern day living when you’re centuries old. Typical squabbles abound – like who’s doing the dishes – alongside the creepier side to their everyday existence, like who’s getting eaten on those dishes.
23. Byzantium (2013)
Somehow this cracking vampire drama slipped under the radar when it landed in theaters back in 2013. Neil Jordan, of Interview with the Vampire fame, directs this unusual riff on blood-sucker lore that hoists two women to the heart of its story. Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan star as Clara and Eleanor, a mother and daughter duo working their way through history until the wind up in an English coastal town. Clara works as a prostitute, sucking on the blood of her clients, whereas Eleanor won’t feed unless a person is nearing death. The pair attract the attention of the Brethren, the all-male ruling class who govern the vampire world, who are repulsed by the notion of working-class women sharing their immortality. These new, albeit misogynist, spins on vampiric mythology are refreshing, but nothing’s quite as mesmerising as watching Arterton viciously tear apart her victims and bathe in the geysers of their crimson arterial flow.
22. Vampire’s Kiss (1988)
Out of a career that’s seen a recent trend toward dodgy straight-to-video thrillers with titles like Chosen, Stolen, and Justice, you might be wondering about Nicolas Cage’s craziest role. It’s this. Whether one of the best vampire movies ever needs to have actual vampires in it... is a discussion we’re not having here. The sentiment behind Vampire’s Kiss is not to convince audiences of their existence, nor to seduce us with an American Psycho-style denouement of “Did it really happen?” Nope. This flick is a true delight because of Cage’s performance as the mentally-unhinged literary executive Peter Loew who truly believes himself to be a vamp. He shoves plastic fangs into his mouth, drags an old plank around New York, all the while screaming “I’m a vampire!” down the street. It’s absolute gold.
21. Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
The idea of an actual vampire starring in a vampire movie is such a simple one that you might wonder why it took so long to reach the screen. Enter: Shadow of the Vampire. It tells a fictionalised alternate story of what happened during production of arguably the best vampire movie ever made: F.W. Murnau’s 1922 Nosferatu. Coated in such thick make-up you’d hardly recognise him, Willem Dafoe plays Max Schreck, a lonely member of the undead who is lured onto set by promises of blood from his director. Murnau, a pitch-perfect John Malkovich, in his desire to achieve authenticity seeks out an actual vampire to perform in his movie, telling him that he simply suck the blood of his female lead once shooting is complete. It’s played for dark laughs as bodies start to appear, yet makes its biggest statement towards the unending loneliness of Schreck. The role landed Dafoe an Academy Award nomination.
20. Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Well over a decade before Twilight taught us that vampires are dramatic and twinkly, Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire revealed that they’re also narcissists who will happily be interviewed. Interview with the Vampire is a gorgeous, lush period piece that unravels lazily on the streets of 1800s Louisiana, recreating the sense of Anne Rice’s novel to perfection. This story is all about Brad Pitt’s histrionic Louis, a former plantation owner-turned-vamp. The solitude he experiences over several lifetimes is at odds with the constant battle between himself and his sire. Say what you will about Tom Cruise’s LeStat, a casting decision that Rice herself was unhappy about, he’s perfect as the slick chatterbox with a dodgy moral compass. That’s where Interview truly shines: where Louis chooses the righteous path, LeStat is content to saunter down the darkest back alleys and prey on the less fortunate.
19. Blade (1998)
One of the earliest Marvel movies to hit the big screen, Blade is a glorious mish-mash – an imaginative dive into a fanboy’s dream: what if you were half-human, half-vampire? Enter Blade, who lets face it, couldn’t have a cooler name if he tried. Shunned by both humans and vamps, he’s not exactly overflowing with social engagements, which works out well as he’s got a lot to get done. In addition to the small matter of avenging his mother’s death, he’s up against Stephen Dorff’s Deacon Frost, a billowing shirt-wearer who wants to summon an old evil and wipe the human race off the planet. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is great and all, but it failed to include this late ‘90s piece of camp which shows Wesley Snipes in fine form as the troubled daywalker. Blade makes no bones about what it is, and that’s a superhero vampire flick that’s cheesier than the stinkiest Roquefort.
18. The Lost Boys (1987)
The Lost Boys embodies the '80s perfectly. From its A-list cast of hearthrobs to its fun, adventurous spirit, this vamp flick is pure sleepover fodder. The tagline “Sleep all day, party all night, never grow old” sums up the teenage demographic nicely – the movie’s audience – yet it also works as a short synopsis. Michael (Jason Patric) and his brother Sam (Corey Haim) move to a coastal California town with their mom Lucy (Dianne Wiest), and shortly thereafter the pair become entwined with the local vampire contingent. Michael grows enamoured with Star (Jami Gertz) and her enigmatic boyfriend David (Kiefer Sutherland), while his little brother Sam befriends a couple of comic book geeks who are wannabe vampire hunters. A blast from the past that’s a no-brainer entry in the vampiric canon.
17. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Never content with telling one story at a time, Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay splits into two distinct tales at the midpoint. Merging a verbose heist kidnapping yarn– that finds the Gecko brothers (George Clooney and Tarantino himself) on the run after robbing a bank – with a vampire action flick is as ambitious as it sounds. Robert Rodriguez directs the hell out of it, masking any cracks between the two tales with a pulpy, campy spirit that hardly stops for breath. Once the Geckos make it south of the border, with the Fuller family in tow, their stop at the Titty Twister turns into a full-blown nightmare. Clooney is on top form, relishing the chance to kick vamp butt as antihero Seth Gecko, dishing out one-liners left and right. But it’s the work of KNB Effects unit that makes this mid-90s genre blend so damn watchable.
16. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
The ostentatious atmosphere of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula is its selling point. A gothic horror adapted from Bram Stoker’s classic tale, every scene drips with lavish production design and makes no attempt to shy away from its theatrical aspirations. As a result, the film was shot entirely on a soundstage. Coppola also insisted only practical effects be used, with no computer-generated imagery whatsoever as a way to capture the authenticity of Stoker’s story. Despite its stylishness, it borders on hammy at times. No, we’re not solely referring to Keanu Reeves’ English accent – decidedly dodgy – but the entire cast, who perform as if they were actors in the late 1800s. It’s an interesting choice. No matter your feelings on that, Gary Oldman plays the title role of Dracula perfectly, a brooding, soulful immortal with a depth that a lot of cinema’s vampires barely tackle. Plus he rocks some epic costumery that went on to earn the film an Academy Award.
Click through to the next page to continues reading about the best vampire movie