A little over 100 years ago, Nosferatu, an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula, was released. The film, the very first vampire film and one of the first horror films ever made, was directed by F.W. Murnau, arguably the silent era's most influential filmmaker. Murnau's classic is a notable example of the German Expressionism artistic movement, which went on to heavily influence many of the horror films of the 1930s and the film noir genre that blossomed in the 1940s.
In the decades since Nosferatu, audiences have remained fascinated by the undead monsters that traditionally consume human blood, making vampires a popular horror staple. These feared creatures of the night have been open to many interpretations, which has led to a vast array of vampire films, each reflective of its era.
Which leads us to the present day. Where should one even begin with the vampire genre? Is the appropriate thing to do to start with the films of the past and to work one's way forward? Or should one start with modern interpretations reflective of our modern era and fears? What if one is intrigued with the concept of vampires but doesn't quite have the nerves for a horror film?
Well fear not! From the gorehound to the faint of heart, chances are that everyone will want to add something on this list to their watchlist. Here’s a wide range of vampire films to satisfy any thirst.
Exactly what constitutes horror in the first place is still being debated to this day since it bleeds (sometimes literally) into other genres, but these are all movies that should scratch that itch. From the latest Stephen King adaptations to sprawling epics with a touch of supernatural menace, scroll down for a few titles to watch out for… if you dare, that is.
The film that started it all. This classic tells the tale of Count Orlok (Max Schreck), a vampire that has taken up a bloodthirsty interest in Ellen Hutter (Greta Schröder), the wife of his real estate agent Thomas (Gustav von Wangenheim). Filmed during the German Expressionist movement era of cinema, Murnau's film provides a surreal take on its source material. The making of the film was dramatized in the Oscar-nominated 2000 horror drama Shadow of the Vampire (Best Supporting Actor (Willem Dafoe) and Best Makeup).
"Listen to them. The children of the night. What music they make." That's the iconic line of dialogue spoken by Bela Lugosi in Tod Browning's seminal horror classic Dracula from 1931. The film popularized the vampire genre as we know it today. Featuring Lugosi in his most famous role as Count Dracula, the supporting cast is made up of David Manners, Helen Chandler, Dwight Frye, and Edward Van Sloan. Based on Stoker's novel, the film tells the tale of Count Dracula as he moves from Transylvania to England in search of fresh blood from living victims, and Van Helsing (Von Sloan) trying to stop him. The commercial and critical success of Dracula prompted Universal Studios to make many more monster movies in the following years, such as 1931's Frankenstein, 1933's The Invisible Man, and 1941's The Wolf Man.
Dracula's Daughter (1936)
The sequel to 1931’s Dracula, Dracula’s Daughter, directed by Lambert Hillyer, stars Gloria Holden as Countess Marya Zaleska – the titular daughter of the infamous count – as she seeks to break the vampiric curse placed upon her by her father by destroying his body. Eventually her less than successful journey forces her to cross paths with Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan, reprising his role from the original film) for a final confrontation. Dracula’s Daughter featured some lesbianic overtones, which was unheard of at the time, and went on to inspire writers such as Anne Rice, author of TheVampire Chronicles series.
Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
The third entry in the Dracula series from Hammer Film Productions, Dracula: Prince of Darkness sees the return of Christopher Lee’s portrayal of the infamous vampire. Directed by Terence Fisher, the film follows four English tourists as they’re unsuspectingly lured to the castle of Count Dracula, where he is waiting to be resurrected. With a cast featuring Barbara Shelley and Andrew Keir, Dracula: Prince of Darkness takes on a tone more in line with slasher films, with its central location and the picking off of unsuspecting victims by Lee’s Dracula. The film is also known for Lee's nearly silent performance.
The Hunger (1983)
Directed by Tony Scott, The Hunger is a vampire film that embraces goth subculture featuring underground fashion and the use of music by Bauhaus. The film stars Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie as age-old vampires Miriam and John as they develop a romantic relationship with Sarah (Susan Sarandon). The Hunger stands out as an exploration of themes involving polyamory, the loss of a romantic partner, a romantic lesbian relationship, and the fear of aging, all while exploring the age old myth of the vampire – all the way to ancient Egyptian influences.
Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)
Based on the 1976 novel of the same name by Anne Rice, Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles provides a more romantic take on the vampire mythos. Directed by Neil Jordan and featuring an all-star cast of Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Slater, Stephen Rea and Antonio Banderas, the film tells the story of Louis (Pitt) as he recounts his relationship with the famous vampire Lestat (Cruise) and their transformation of a 10-year-old girl (Dunst) into a creature of the night. The film was nominated for two Oscars, Best Art Direction and Best Original Score.
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Borrowing from Western and horror influences, From Dusk Till Dawn tells the tale of two robbing brothers, played by George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino, as they cross the Mexican border on the run from the law. Unfortunate news for them, they find themselves holed up in a strip bar run and populated with bloodthirsty vampires. Featuring the trademark style of director Robert Rodriguez, From Dusk Till Dawn is a loud, bloody, action-packed vampire film with a unique Mexican setting.
Directed by Stephen Norrington and starring Wesley Snipes as the title character from Marvel Comics, Blade broke away from traditional expectations. The film follows Blade, a half-human/half-vampire hunter that has dedicated his life to hunting down vampires that prey on the living. Eventually his self-imposed quest forces him to face the dangerous Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) for an action-packed showdown. Blade broke away from other traditions as well with its focus on action over horror, and featured a vampire as its protagonist.
Directed by Park Chan-wook, Thirst tells the story of Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho), a devout Catholic priest who undergoes an experimental medical procedure in hopes of being cured of the Emmanuel Virus. The procedure has horrific effects, leaving him craving human blood to the point where he steals it from hospitals rather than resorting to murder. If that wasn’t horrifying enough, he strikes up a romance with Tae-ju (Kim Ok-vin), the unhappy wife of his childhood friend. Thirst presents the traditional vampire tale with a new spin involving a crisis of faith and infidelity, ultimately presenting a tragedy. The film won the Jury Prize and was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
Fright Night (2011)
A remake of the 1985 film of the same name, Fright Night is a raunchy teen comedy take on the vampire genre. When teenager Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin) discovers his mysterious new neighbor, Jerry (Colin Farrell), is a dangerous vampire, he and his girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots) are forced to face him head-on to save his mother (Toni Collette). Directed by Craig Gillespie, Fright Night pays tribute to what came before while being a fresh new take for audiences to sink their teeth into.
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Featuring the unique punk aesthetic of acclaimed director Jim Jarmusch, Only Lovers Left Alive focuses on the centuries-old romance of vampires Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) as they attempt to keep their relationship going while dealing with Eve’s uncontrollable younger sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska). With a dry sense of humor, a unique setting, and powerful performances, Only Lovers Left Alive is a unique tale in the long-standing history of the vampire film and the power of everlasting love.
What We Do In The Shadows (2014)
The brainchild of writer-directors and stars Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi, What We Do In The Shadows is a mockumentary that documents a group of vampires that live together in modern day Wellington, New Zealand, and the shenanigans that they get into. A biting send up of vampire tropes, What We Do In The Shadows went on to spawn a spin-off comedy series titled Wellington Paranormal.
Doctor Sleep (2019)
Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, Doctor Sleep picks up over 30 years after the events of The Shining and follows Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) as he protects a young girl, Abra (Kyliegh Curran), from the True Knot Cult. The cult, led by Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), seeks out people with “the shining” supernatural ability and feeds off of their life essence. Though not a vampire film in the traditional sense, it still follows the trope of its villains feeding off of other humans to live. Directed by Mike Flanagan, the film also provides an emotional tale dealing with the themes of PTSD and addiction.
By Reyna Cervantes