Imagine living forever. That may sound like one of the three wishes you would want a genie to grant you, the best vampire movies make the case for not being so quick off the mark. In fact, these movies show eternal life to be something of a curse, even if the films are a joy – and horror – to behold.
Indeed, what exactly it means to be a vampire has changed drastically over the years. They were once merely terrifying embodiments of the worst behaviours of mankind, but recent portrayals have had vamps goofing around and falling in love. Bram Stoker’s Dracula may have forged the vision of the modern vampire – the cape, the teeth, and the accent – but that's all been altered and played around with. The best vampire movies are therefore a diverse affair, stretching back decades and featuring all sorts of different bloodsuckers. And whatever style vampire you want to see, you’ll find something here to satisfy your bloodlust in our list.
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.
15. Fright Night (2011)
The 1985 Fright Night is a nostalgic experience. The remake stands on its own as a solid vampire movie, loosely borrowing a few plot strands from the original. This time around, Charly (Anton Yelchin) and his mom, Jane (Toni Collette) live in the Las Vegas suburbs. Some things haven’t changed though, and that includes naming the lead vamp Jerry Dandrige. The ominous bloodsucker is played by Colin Farrell, whose edgy, menacing turn is far more threatening that Chris Sarandon in the original. It’s Farrell’s performance, stalking his way through suburbia, lingering in doorways, playfully taunting the humans around him, that cements this as one of the best vampire movies. The rest of the cast has a ball with the schlocky material, namely David Tennant, who’s perfect as bare-chested sleazeball Peter Vincent, the Vegas performer whom Charly seeks out to help him defeat Dandrige.
14. Afflicted (2013)
Try to suspend your eye-rolling at the concept of a found-footage vampire film. Imagine Chronicle with a dash of An American Werewolf in London and you’re somewhere in the vicinity. Afflicted is far better than its descriptors would have you believe, instead being a delightfully clever take on the vampire disease. The writers and directors, Derek Lee and Clif Prowse, take the lead roles – using their own names – as a couple of best friends backpacking across Europe. Derek embarks on some alone time with a stranger, and shortly thereafter begins to exhibit some strange behaviours: he’s afraid of sunlight, he thirsts for blood, you know, all of the typical vampire stuff. Afflicted soars when we’re in the midst of two friends figuring out a horrific situation. The found footage conceit works so beautifully in conjunction, allowing for some absolutely mind-boggling visuals. And, because we learn Clif is an AV nerd, it justifies the whole “Why doesn’t he drop the camera?!” complaint. One of the most underseen vampire movies of recent years.
13. Cronos (1993)
As you might expect, Guillermo Del Toro’s first foray into feature filmmaking packs imagination into the dark crevices of every frame. Cronos telegraphs plenty of themes he’d go on to explore in later movies – lonely children trapped in dire circumstances, even lonelier monsters in the same – while showcasing his signature skill for crafting a distinct visual world, both scary and enticing. Cronos is firmly entrenched in the realm of the undead bloodsuckers. It spins a new angle on standard lore, however, as the story follows antiques dealer Jesus who, rather unwittingly, discovers the joy of everlasting life after an ancient device attaches itself to him. Enamoured by its ability to restore his youth, one of its side effects means he now thirsts for blood, and he begins the transformation into a full-blown vamp. Del Toro regular Ron Perlman makes a delightful appearance as Angel, a hired thug whose boss will do anything it takes to retrieve the device.
12. Thirst (2009)
If you caught Parasite, you’ll be familiar with Thirst’s leading man – Korean legend Song Kang-ho. In Park Chan-wook’s loose adaptation of Therese Raquin, Kang-ho plays Sang-hyun, a Catholic priest who volunteers at a local medical center to help find a vaccine for a deadly virus. The experiment goes awry, and he receives a transfusion that leaves him with a hankering for only the finest vintage A-positive. Chan-wook’s style of storytelling is like making the perfect pulled pork – low and slow – and that’s exactly how this woeful love story rolls out. Sang-hyun’s not your typical vampire; he’s clumsy, shabby, and hardly goes out of his way to avoid detection, instead draining the life from patients at the very hospital where he works. Falling in love with his best friend’s wife is yet another step in the wrong direction, the pair joining forces toward a doomed future of violence and intoxicating, vampiric lust.
11. The Hunger (1983)
Speaking of vampiric lust, let’s talk about The Hunger! You probably shouldn’t dive into this early ‘80s Tony Scott thriller expecting a complex plot – or anything vaguely resembling one. The Hunger’s a sultry experiment in generating an immense amount of sapphic chemistry onscreen and then throwing blood at it. Dripping in gorgeous visuals and supplemented by a saucy score, it’s the very height of ‘80s decadence. The story unfurls as centuries-old couple Miriam (Catherine Denueve) and John (David Bowie) discover he’s beginning to rapidly age – even though he supposedly possesses the gift of eternal youth. He approaches a specialist (Susan Sarandon) to help stunt his ageing and things only get more bizarre and strangely, erotic from there. An early sign of Scott’s talent behind the lens that wasn’t on a commercial set, The Hunger may err more on the side of style than substance, but what a style.
10. Horror of Dracula (1958)
Outside of Lugosi, it’s likely Christopher Lee’s gleeful performance in Horror of Dracula that you picture when you think of the iconic Dracula. What’s most impressive is that he’s barely onscreen for ten minutes, yet his imposing figure and grandiose performance steals the entire film. That’s the power of Hammer’s stab at reviving the classic vampire tale: its simplicity. Ushering in two genre stalwarts in Lee and Peter Cushing, who fights opposite as Van Helsing, it’s no surprise this good verses evil bloodfest instigated a whole new slew of genre sequels. You know the story. Horror of Dracula excels due to its lush production design. No graveyard or castle looks more ominous than the ones our two leads saunter through here. Throw in the bright red blats of blood that squirt from stakes and it’s easy to see why audiences flocked to see it. Alongside the original Dracula and Nosferatu this stands as one of the best vampire movies of all time.
9. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)
Ana-Lily Amirpour directs the first vampire movie to emerge from Iran, and it's one cool customer. Where it's set doesn't matter – this monochrome delight follows the experiences of a young female bloodsucker as she wanders the night alone, dressed head-to-toe in a black veil. Victims come and go, with her main desires leading her to the throats of misogynists. Like Buffy did years before, it preys on the typical trope of a damsel in distress and flips the script, sending the action veering elsewhere as women kick the asses of the pimps, druggies, crooks – all of whom are male. It sidles along with dashes of comedic verve uncutting its hipster leanings. This is a horror that borrows heavily from every genre, with a wave of influence coming from the distinctive style of Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns.
8. The Addiction (1995)
Widely-acclaimed yet bleak as hell, Abel Ferrara takes the concept of vampirism and dry academia and smashes them together. The result is a slow-paced, entrancing exploration into what happens when you’re a philosophy student who gets bitten by a vampire. Awful poetry, you might think, but the reality of Kathleen’s condition extends past that. Following her turning at the hands of Casanova (Annabelle Sciorra), Kathleen (Lily Taylor) finds herself hooked on human blood and sex with strangers. Ferrara revealed as recently as 2018 that the movie is representative of drug addiction, himself being a heroin addict at one point. Even without his admission, it’s easy to see this suggestion in every scene, as Kathleen’s raging lust spills out of control at a graduation party when she and her vamp peers savagely attack her fellow students. Not the happiest vampire movie ever made, by a long shot, but one worth investigating.
7. Blade II (2002)
Undoubtedly the best of the trilogy, Blade II kicks things up a notch by pitting our intrepid vampire hunter against a veritable assortment of enemies – all to a bangin’ EDM soundtrack. With Stephen Dorff’s shirt-fluttering, ab-tramp Deacon Frost gone, new big bad Nomak (Luke Goss) saunters into town with his designs on wiping out the human race. A new-form of hybrid vampire known as a Reaper he dispenses with vampires and humans with the same vicious glee. Blade works together with a gang of vamps – the Bloodpack – to take out Nomak and the Reapers. Guillermo Del Toro lovingly brings the comic book goofiness of Blade to life, ramping up the gore significantly, casting the action sequences in dark, gloomy sewers, and making the vampires even more vile. The hybrid vampires in particular are on-brand for Del Toro, their dislocated jaws extending to reveal a repugnant proboscis, eager to plunge into the next innocent neck. Well, actually, they kind of attach to your face...
6. Martin (1977)
Before introducing zombies to the cultural landscape, Romero cranked out what he dubbed his best ever work. Shot on a budget of only $80,000 Martin is a bleak, intimate trip into the world of a young man who believes he’s a vampire. Whether he is or not isn’t really the issue and Romero seldom tries to make a case one way or the other. For Martin, who drugs women so he can chug on their necks, the world he is enveloped in leads him to his conclusion. So why fight what you already know in your mind? Welcomed into the abode of his great-uncle Cuda following the deaths of his close family (hmmmm), his new relatives begin to treat him like, well, Dracula. The film’s early sluggishness soon makes way for a series of jaw-dropping twists and turns towards the final act, that are, as you may expect from Romero, accompanied by the usual social commentary and unrepentant gore. Martin also marks the first collaboration between Romero and effects guru Tom Savini.
5. Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)
Jim Jarmusch stumbled a little with his more recent genre foray, The Dead Don’t Lie, tackling the zombie myth with his signature style, but he hit the jackpot with Only Lovers Left Alive. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play Eve and Adam, a couple of ancient vamps who reunite having spent decades apart. He’s a down-on-his-luck musician, whose towering mansion is cluttered with guitars, amps, and other needless ephemera, none of which brings him any hope. In an effort to boost his mood, Eve swings in from Tangiers to reconvene with her old paramour. Stripping the film of the usual vampire schtick, there’s little made of bloodsucking or gore. This long-lost pair play like a couple of cool cats who’ve lost the spark for living, and so, in that regard, it’s business as usual for Jarmusch. Their unusual stance on the human race - they don’t hate people, they enjoy them and their creative output - is a nice touch, that further cements the romance at the heart of the story.
4. Dracula (1931)
The daddy of Draculas. Heck, the granddaddy of ‘em, Bela Lugosi, is why you put on a voice when you do an impression of Dracula. Forever cemented into popular culture thanks to his Hungarian accent and dark, furrowed brow, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Yet, prior to director Tod Browning offering him the part, Lou Chaney was earmarked to star as the eponymous blood sucker. Lugosi’s eventual casting made perfect sense, as the actor's stint on Broadway saw him perform the part 350 times onstage: surely no other actor had finely honed the Count’s distinctive mannerisms? What we thankfully ended up with is an iconic piece of cinema that doubles as one of the best horror movies ever made. Its light sound design – it was made in 1931 – leaves the sensory door wide open for Karl Freund, the movie’s cinematographer, who sculpted a sinister visual landscape for Lugosi’s vamp to skulk around in search of prey. Considering its critical and commercial success it should come as no surprise that it propelled a wave of monster movies into production.
3. Near Dark (1987)
Kathyrn Bigelow scripted Near Dark after a long-time struggle to secure funding for a revisionist Western. Elements of that concept made their way into this bloody, gory battle of good verses evil. A modern Western with a genre twist, the savage brood at the center of Near Dark are certainly not soft like the heartthrobs seen in The Lost Boys, released two months earlier. They’re blood-hungry beasts. This gang envelop newcomer Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) after he falls in love with, and is bitten by, Mae (Jenny Wright). Yet they never hide the brutality of their true natures to comfort his dislike of murder: they revel in the spectacle of who they are.
While Lance Henriksen’s Jesse commands the gang, Bill Paxton’s Severen is the highlight, his insouciant swagger and one-liners making him one of cinema’s best ever vampires: “It’s a kick ain’t it?” he asks Caleb when the newest sire takes a shotgun blast to the gut. Darkly funny and yet tragic, the story of a traveling group of vampires is one of the few to barely glamourise their existence. Aliens fans will dig that the movie reunites Hudson, Vasquez and Bishop onscreen for one more genre showdown, except this time: they’re the monsters.
2. Let the Right One In (2008)
Cruising into cinemas in the midst of Twilight hysteria, Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish vampire romance arrived as a delicate alternative. It’s a simple story about adolescent friendship set in wintry Stockholm during the '80s. While that might conjure up quaint images of snow-kissed rooftops and youngsters having snowball fights, Let The Right One In splatters that world with spilled blood. That’s part of what makes John Adjvide Lindqvist’s script, itself an adaptation of his own novel, so impactful. It is seldom interested in exploring the obvious and is all the richer for it. The story revolves around 11-year-old Oskar, overlooked by his recently-divorced parents and with no way to fend off school bullies. Enter Eli, a mysterious young girl whose age-old servant murders people to satiate her appetite for blood. Alfredson knowingly uses this type of dichotomy throughout, through a red splat of gore on fresh white snow or the angelic face of a child masking the true monster within. Undoubtedly the most celebrated vampire movie of recent years.
1. Nosferatu (1922)
After nearly a century of watching vampires leap out of the shadows, bared fangs dripping with blood, eyes frantic, genuine savage predators to be feared, Max Schreck’s original vampire might seem a little less threatening. But looking back, Count Orlok cuts a terrifying figure. While you could laugh at his bulging eyes, the movie's impressiveness leaves you terrified as they come towards you out of the darkness. Director F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu began as an unauthorised version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This tale of a Transylvanian vamp who falls in love with a human and doesn’t know how to responsibly handle his feelings is one of cinema’s earliest dives into the tragic monster fable. And while Stoker’s wife succeeded in lessening its theatrical takings by suing the studio, forcing them to change certain aspects, there’s no mistaking the story’s outline. Regardless, Murnau makes the tale his own. His dynamic use of light and dark enabling him to capture Schreck’s looming shadow on the wall – one of horror cinema’s most iconic visuals.