Vampires may be a hot trend right now because of the Twilight films and the True Blood series, but do the latest incarnations of vampire characters hold up to those of the past? Vampires have transformed from grotesque to romantic characters (and back) over the years. These 13 vampire movies with bite will take you through some of my favorites, which really run the gamut.
13. Dracula, Dead and Loving It
I don’t normally like “stupid” comedies. I don’t often like parody films either. But somehow Mel Brooks always seems to win me over, and his Dracula, Dead and Loving It is no exception. Leslie Nielsen stars as the Count himself, offering up just the right mix of comedy and charm. Brooks co-stars as Van Helsing, determined to slay Dracula. It takes a lot to leave me in stitches, and this duo does it. If scary movies aren’t quite your thing, but you’d still like to check out a vampire movie, Dracula, Dead and Loving It is perfect for you.
12. Queen of the Damned
Queen of the Damned is one of those vampire movies people seem to either love or hate. I fall into the “love it” camp. That’s partly because Queen of the Damned is based on Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles series, which I grew up reading. More importantly though, the movie is just stunning visually. A lot of vampire films have more of a “gritty” feel to them, but this one is rich and that really helps to suck me into the fictional world of the story.
On top of that, Queen of the Damned is one of the best vampire movies (to me) because it has a strong female focus. Too many vampire movies focus on the character of Dracula where women are more vulnerable and treated predominantly as objects of lust. This movie turns the tables (to a degree), making Stuart Townsend’s Lestat (probably Anne Rice’s best-loved character) more of the sex object in this film. Overall, it’s just an interesting take on vampire stories. Because of that, it deserves a place on this list.
It’s also interesting to note that Aaliyah (playing the title character) died after the film’s completion, but before it was released. The film was dedicated to her memory.
11. The Fearless Vampire Killers
I was turned onto The Fearless Vampire Killers by an old friend. I didn’t expect to enjoy it, but Roman Polanski’s 1967 vampire flick charmed me enough to make me recommend it. This is another good vampire movie for people who don’t really like horror films — more humorous than anything else. The settings were beautiful, but it was the way they used color in this film that makes it stand out in my mind still. I believe it was Polanski’s first color film, so that makes its brilliance even more surprising. The only way to describe it is “art.” Funny. Blood-sucking. Art.
10. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
I honestly can’t say that Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one of my favorites, but it’s still a must-see for any vampire movie lover. Don’t get me wrong. This is another visually rich film, and normally I’d love that. But the casting killed this vampire movie for me. Keanu Reeves is usually bad enough.
I could have stomached that though. It was Winona Ryder that cinched it. She’s the kind of actress who can be very good or very bad depending on the role. Unfortunately I’d consider most of her acting very bad, and her performance in this film is no exception. I don’t think she has a moment on-screen where she isn’t completely over-acting. Casting her seems a bit too stereotyped, as though they just defaulted to her as a woman to cast in a darker film.
Next time we have a Dracula film come out, how about a little originality — at least in the casting?
9. Dracula: Pages From a Virgin’s Diary
Guy Maddin’s Dracula: Pages From a Virgin’s Diary is unlike other vampire movies. First, it’s a modern-day silent film. It’s also a ballet. I love vampire movies. I love black and white films (I’ve often said I’d love to see someone put together a truly decent old-style film as a throwback to Hollywood’s heyday). I can’t say I’m a fan of ballet though.
Still, I love this. I don’t know if it’s the simple fact that Pages From a Virgin’s Diary is different than other vampire movies or if this was another case of me finding a film visually exciting, but I really do love this. Hats off to Guy Maddin for giving us something unique in the vampire movie genre, even if just in form.
If you enjoy older silent horror films like Nosferatu or The Phantom of the Opera, give this movie a chance. And if not, consider it your loss (and go enjoy another vampire film more suited to your tastes – you can’t really have enough of them!).
8. Dracula (1931)
No one personifies the character of Dracula in our minds quite like Bela Lugosi in this 1931 Dracula film. When you think of Dracula, what do you see? Forget about previously grotesque representations of vampires like Max Schreck’s Count Orlok in Nosferatu. You probably picture the well put-together, charming gentlemanly figure who just happens to have a thirst for blood.
While that version of Dracula we’ve come to know and love plays up the romantic elements more common (and perhaps over-exaggerated) in some of today’s vampires, I also find that Lugosi makes the character more terrifying.
Everyone can understand being afraid of a hideous monster. But showing that sometimes the monster is concealed in a “pretty” package does a better job of hitting home (similar to how serial killers can seem like such ordinary and also charming men). And it’s the idea that danger can lurk anywhere (and in anyone) that really sets vampire stories apart in the world of monster myths. There’s a certain level of truth to it. Don’t miss this classic.
Nosferatu has an interesting story behind it. This grandfather of all vampire films was based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But it was never authorized to be made. F.W. Murnau instead thinly veiled his adaptation by changing character names, settings, and other minor details while still ripping heavily from the plot.
Stoker’s widow tried to have the film destroyed due to the violations of copyright, but fortunately for us it still exists. Actually, several versions exist (different cuts and different scores). You can find full versions available online these days because the movie is in the public domain now in the US.
If you’re not into old black and white films, you may not love this. If you don’t enjoy silent films, you may have an even harder time getting into it. Then again, if any silent film is going to keep your attention, it’s probably Nosferatu — the familiar story and haunting imagery are enough to make it a must-see (at least once).
6. Night Watch
Let me start of by saying Night Watch is a fantastic film! The only reason it doesn’t rank higher on my list is that I feel really hard-pressed to even call this a “vampire movie.” Yes, there are vampires. But that’s not the central focus of the film. It’s a film focused more on the balance of good and evil, where those on each “side” are literally responsible for keeping each other in check. It’s an interesting concept.
I’m a big fan of foreign films. Night Watch is a Russian film (you can watch it dubbed in English, but I highly recommend seeing it in its original format — or watch it both ways). I may not have ever come across this film if it weren’t for my old work with musicians. Through my work I came into contact with a Russian band. They were involved in some way on the soundtrack of Night Watch. This was before it was released in the US. One of the band members had just found out that it was picked up for US distribution, and let me know about it. The moment it was available, I had to see it. It was awesome (not a word I like to use, but you get the idea).
If you enjoy Night Watch, you might want to check out the sequel Day Watch as well. I know a few people who prefer the latter, but personally I’m a bigger fan of the first.
5. Near Dark
Vampires and cowboys — could it be true? That’s what you’ll get in this odd (yet intriguing) vampire movie. It’s one part western and two parts horror flick (and not surprisingly, this vampire western comes to us from the 80s). And the vampires’ favorite mode of transportation? Why their RV of course!
It’s really not as corny as it sounds. Okay. Maybe it is. But it’s a great movie nonetheless. What’s great about Near Dark is the fact that we lose the glorification a bit, and go back to vampires as monsters. Sure, they look just like you and me (nothing like Schrek’s portrayal in Nosferatu), but it’s their actions — their ruthlessness — that make these vampires hard core. This is another of those vampire movies that was recommended to me by a friend. Again I didn’t think I’d enjoy it, but I was pleasantly surprised. And now I’m recommending it to you.
4. The Lost Boys
Another 80s vampire movie, The Lost Boys has traditionally been one of people’s favorites. It’s no wonder. It has something for everyone. Kiefer Sutherland epitomized the “cool” aspect of being a member of the undead, and girls had the Coreys (Feldman and Heim for those who don’t know).
The Lost Boys isn’t necessarily a great movie by any technical standards, but it’s a whole lot of fun. It has the perfect mix of horror and comedy.
3. Let the Right One In
Let the Right One In is another foreign vampire film, and the most recent vampire movie on this list. It’s a Swedish film. Like Night Watch you can watch it dubbed in English if you really want to. However, I found the English voice actors to be absolutely awful for this one, and recommend the original. Reading subtitles won’t kill you.
This movie injects a sense of reality into vampire myths — you almost feel like it could be true. There’s no sex or violence solely for the sake of sex or violence here. The gore really is necessary to the story (the way I feel horror films should always be made). And there’s always something about great child actors in horror movies. They add a whole different dimension to the creepy factor that adult actors just can’t touch. Overall, this is an amazing film, and one no fan of vampire movies should miss.
2. Fright Night
I know I said earlier that I don’t usually like “stupid” comedies (where it feels forced, as if they’re trying too hard). But the vampire movie sub-genre is clearly an exception. Here’s yet another comedy / horror film, this time starring Christopher Sarandon as our leading vamp. This is one of very few movies (of any genre) that I can watch over and over again, and still be amused. If you’ve ever wondered what could happen if a vampire moved in next door, you won’t finish this film disappointed. And if not, well, it’s still good fun.
1. Interview With the Vampire
I know some vampire movie fans wouldn’t rank Interview With the Vampire anywhere near #1 in their own top picks, but I have to give it credit for a lot of reasons.
First, it’s based on Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles book series (like Queen of the Damned), which I’ve loved for as long as I can remember.
Second, this is another one of those visually intense films that I can’t help but get sucked into.
Third, there’s plenty of eye candy for the female viewers (about time). I’m not a big fan of Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in that sense, but Christian Slater and Antonio Banderas (a much younger Banderas have you) more than make up for it. It’s interesting to see the differences in sex appeal in vampire movies more targeted towards women (not the movies as a whole, but the male characters) as opposed to the female sex objects in more male-oriented vampire flicks (read: usually cheap and trashy). Just saying.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, this film seemed to bring out the best in actors that I normally don’t enjoy watching (namely Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Kirsten Dunst). In fact, I still hold that this is Dunst’s best role to date. I actually buy Cruise’s intensity in the role of Lestat. And I really believe the emotional struggles of Louis as played by Pitt. I can’t help it. As much as I don’t like them, I love them in this film.
So while many people may not feel Interview with the Vampire is necessarily worthy of a top pick, I do. And today that call is mine to make. But I invite you to leave a comment and share your own favorite vampire movie (and be sure to tell us why you love it)!
Disclaimer: All images, photos, screenshots, trailers, clips, and other material used in this article are believed to be covered by fair use rights under U.S. copyright law, being used for the purpose of identification in the context of reviews or critiques.