Vampire movies are a dime a dozen, and most of them, quite frankly, suck, if you’ll pardon the very obvious pun. For every Bram Stoker’s Dracula, we get two or three Twilights and a Morbius with a dash of Van Helsing. This is a shame because nothing beats a great vampire flick — vampires are scary and often represent the worst of humanity — murderous blood-sucking demons unable/unwilling to control their carnal temptations — whilst ironically possessing perhaps our most sought-after superpower: immortality. When done right, a vampire film can thrill audiences with action, terror, and romance; if done poorly, you get sparkly ancient beings who dress like teenagers.
That said, here’s a list of my favorite vampire movies and the ones I find most entertaining. Keep in mind, this isn’t necessarily a list of the greatest vampire films ever produced where one would find classics such as Nosferatu and the great Bela Lugosi 1931 feature Dracula. This is merely a collection of vampire movies I turn to most often, especially around Halloween.
Let’s do this!
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Right off the bat, let me just say that Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula has plenty of flaws, the most egregious being the dubious casting of a young Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker and Winona Ryder’s overblown performance as Mina. And yet, the incredible production design, Wojciech Kilar’s terrific score, and Gary Oldman’s, ah, batty performance as the titular Dracula more than makeup for whatever shortcomings hamper this early 90s flick. An abundance of sex and gore may turn off some, but for those looking for a kinda-sorta romantic creature feature that kinda-sorta adapts Bram Stoker’s classic novel, you can’t get much better than this wild horror adventure.
Oh, and Anthony Hopkins is Van Helsing. Yeah, just roll with it.
Fright Night (1985)
Those pining for a more laid back, albeit still freaky, vampire pic should check out 1985’s Fright Night, which finds Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) teaming up with actor/vampire hunter Roddy McDowall to wage war on his vampire neighbor Jerry (a magnificent Chris Sarandon). Tom Holland’s pic is certainly not for the faint of heart, thanks to some genuinely frightening gore effects and well-timed scares, but those who take the ride will find a pic loaded with colorful characters, delightfully creepy effects, and a handful of wonderful performances. Fright Night hasn’t aged as well as one would like, but still packs a wallop.
As a bonus, the 2011 remake is likewise worth a look if only for Colin Farrell’s delectable performance as Jerry.
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino serve up a delightful mixture of sex, violence, and campy horror in From Dusk Till Dawn, perhaps the trashiest vampire flick on this list — in a good way. Starring George Clooney (in one of his best roles), Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, and Tarantino himself, Dusk starts out as a rather generic riff on Reservoir Dogs with a group of criminals evading the law following a successful heist but eventually spirals into horror when our rough riders stumble into a brothel filled with a cavern of sexy vampires led by Salma Hayek’s snake-dancing Santanico Pandemonium.
Yeah, this film is about as subtle as a hurricane, but Rodriguez’s tight direction and Tarantino’s delicious dialogue move the action along at a wicked pace, resulting in a clever, darkly amusing, even stimulating bit of pulp fiction packed with some wild twists and turns.
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Neil Jordan’s 90s gothic epic Interview with the Vampire explores the very nature of being an immortal blood-sucking demon with surprisingly emotional results. See, there are two ways to look at a vampire’s existence: on the plus side, someone like Brad Pitt’s Louis can look like young Brad Pitt forever, golden locks and all; on the negative side, our boy has to wait decades to see the sunrise via a motion picture — and even that’s not enough. It’s the simple things, people. There’s also the problem of attaining enough blood to fuel your lifeless corpse on a nightly basis, to say nothing of the problems an eternity as a vampire can inflict upon one’s personal love life. It ain’t good.
Interview looks at these issues from a unique angle, viewing its demonic subjects as pathetic creatures trapped in a life that offers few pleasures besides the occasional drop of blood. These aren’t brooding teens yearning for sparkly romance, but rather ordinary people struggling to come to terms with an extraordinary gift that requires them to be monsters. Add in an A-list cast that includes Tom Cruise (in his campiest role to date), Brad Pitt, Christian Slater, and Antonio Banderas, plus a stellar breakout performance by an extremely young Kirsten Dunst — whose pint-sized vampire must live forever trapped in an 11-year old body — and you have yourself one helluva film.
Then, if you want more, check out AMC’s excellent TV series, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. Great stuff!
Let Me In (2010)
Cinephiles will turn their noses up at me for admitting I haven’t seen the original 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In, instead skipping straight to Matt Reeves’ incredible 2010 remake. I have no idea how similar they are to one another, but the version I saw rocked me to my core. Seriously, this gets dark and is the type of dread-filled cinema that forces you to check every nook and cranny of your home before signing off for the evening. It’s wild.
The story concerns a downtrodden young boy named Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who befriends a mysterious girl named Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz). Cute, right? Well, turns out she’s a vampire, and a ruthless one at that — she’s preyed upon an older companion (Richard Jenkins) for years. But she appears at a crucial period in the kid’s life and helps him ward off bullies, pesky detectives, loneliness, and all the other weird things young kids go through with their vampire pals.
Keep in mind, this isn’t the type of film you recommend to your mother. There is no joy here, just pitch-black horror shrouded in darkness. It’s absolutely chilling and undeniably powerful. And yes, I’ll try to see the original at some point.
30 Days of Night (2007)
30 Days of Night takes a little while to get going, but once the violence starts, David Slade’s brutal epic — replete with a novel concept centered around citizens of a small town in Alaska who must ward off vampires who attack during a prolonged month of darkness — achieves the kind of morbid entertainment one yearns for on a cold, dark Saturday night.
Yes, there is plenty of violence, gore, and comic book action, but there are also real stakes at play, colorful characters — played by Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Ben Foster, and Danny Huston — worth rooting for, and the type of bad guys who deserve every ounce of brutal justice they receive.
30 Days of Night doesn’t revamp the vampire flick, but it does deliver one helluva bonkers experience that thrills as much as it chills.
Once Bitten (1985)
Don’t judge me, okay? Once Bitten may not conform to modern societal standards and doesn’t take its premise as far as it probably should have, but remains an engaging, often very funny mid-80s horror comedy. Starring Jim Carrey as a hapless teen caught in the crosshairs of Lauren Hutton’s sexy Countess, who needs his virgin blood to remain young.
Is the humor dated? Yes. Is the movie scary? No. Is it an amusing 90 minutes of vampire fun? You betcha. Here we have a movie where sex actually saves the day. What’s better than that?
The Lost Boys (1987)
I’ve seen The Lost Boys at least 100 times and I still haven’t figured out if it’s a good film. I mean, I enjoy its style — every scene is coated in a thick layer of neon red — its synth-heavy soundtrack, goofy punk rock characters led by Kiefer Sutherland’s leather-clad David Powers, and the tongue-in-cheek approach that leans on myths found in comic books and horror movies — Corey Haim, our young warrior, learns how to vanquish the gang of vampires through pop culture. There’s a lot to admire, but The Lost Boys also suffers from, perhaps, too much 80s pastiche, an uneven tone, and Jason Patric’s lump of coal central figure.
Still, it is pretty damned entertaining, and Jami Getz is beautiful … you’ll either laugh at the campy absurdity or get sucked into Joel Schumacher’s colorful world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I wouldn’t judge you either way.