37 Best Vampire Movies to Sink Your Teeth Into
Whether you're in the mood for something silly, scary, or sparkly, these vampire films are a bloody good time.
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The best vampire movies of all time
Since 1897, when Bram Stoker published Dracula, the archetypal tale of a Transylvanian count cursed to subsist on human blood in order to be blessed with immortality (and a bunch of nifty party tricks), the Western world has craved stories about the creatures of the night that had long appeared in folklore around the globe. Since 1922, when Nosferatu creeped silently around a castle nibbling on the innocent, they’ve also rushed to theaters to see vampires terrorizing towns, telling jokes, fighting with werewolves, and even falling in love. Each new generation of entertainers takes a stab at what is now a very crowded and successful field of film, and this list covers the best vampire movies to come out of that cinematic experimentation.
While you may or may not consider them the best movies of all time, there are plenty of options for fang-boys and fang-girls, whether you’re in the mood for scary movies, romantic movies, royal movies, action movies, or ones based on best-selling vampire books. In the mood for more of a monster mashup, a funny movie, or even a bloodsucking mockumentary? Hollywood has made some of those, too, and they’re pretty delicious.
How we chose our favorite vampire movies
The reasons we can’t stop gushing about these movies vary. Some were box-office blockbusters, and others found cult followings through midnight showings and word of mouth. Some racked up critical acclaim and awards, while others were fan favorites and guilty pleasures. A few are even master classes in the macabre that revolutionized moviemaking or provided larger commentary on the era in which they are made. And some are just really, really funny. No matter which you chose to watch, they’re not “just for Halloween movies,” and we guarantee they will suck you in.
The Lost Boys
Memorable quote: “You’re a creature of the night Michael, just like out of a comic book…. Oh, you wait till Mom finds out, buddy!”
Director Joel Schumacher set out to make a fresh, flashy summer blockbuster about two brothers whose overwhelmed single mom moves them to a coastal California town that happens to be “a haven for the undead” that was a little scary, a little funny, and a lot sexy. With help from Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz, Jason Patric, the two Coreys (Feldman and Haim), and a killer soundtrack, he did just that and so much more, resurrecting the big-budget vampire genre and redefining how an entire generation looked at these creatures of the night.
As for the plot, Michael is sucked unknowingly into the night life because of a girl. Lucikly, his younger brother falls in with a couple of comic book geeks whose expertise comes in handy when it’s time to stop Sutherland and his crew, and save his brother and mom.
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Like The Lost Boys, which debuted the same year, Near Dark begins when Caleb, a naive young looker (Adrian Pasdar), crosses paths with Mae, a girl he can’t resist despite her problematic circle of friends. In this neo-Western thriller directed by cowriter Kathryn Bigelow, the characters roam the American West in a blacked-out RV and leave a trail of eviscerated bodies in their wake.
The conflict arises when Caleb isn’t down with the murderous element of their relationship, which makes Mae like him more. Her family, not so much. Reframing a vampire coven as a dysfunctional nuclear family living the #vanlife is genius, and all of the relationships are layered, hinting at Bigelow’s future in Oscar-caliber filmmaking. And here’s a bonus: The makeshift family of undead drifters includes Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, and Jenette Goldstein from Aliens—which, incidentally, was directed by Bigelow’s ex-husband, James Cameron.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Memorable quote: “I have crossed oceans of time to find you.”
It may be yet another book-to-movie adaptation of the seminal vampire novel, but Francis Ford Coppola’s rendition is far from run-of-the-mill or repetitive. Using sumptuous color, ornate sets, creepy makeup, and extravagant costumes, he creates an immersive visual experience that earned the film three Oscars. Avoiding the cheesy campiness that previous Draculas had used, Coppola instead leans into the novel’s eroticism and Dracula’s tunnel vision in regard to Mina, whom he believes is his true love reincarnated. The fated romance, framed by top-notch directing and acting, almost has you excusing his evil ways. It also doesn’t hurt that this vampire movie is peppered with marquee stars including Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, and, of course, Gary Oldman as Dracula himself.
Let the Right One In
Memorable quote: “I’m 12. But I’ve been 12 for a long time.”
The original Twilight eclipsed this foreign fang film at the box office in 2008, but there’s no doubt that this coming-of-age tale imported from Sweden is far superior cinema. Set in 1982 in a snowy Stockholm suburb, it follows the perpetually bullied Oskar, whose revenge fantasies start to morph into attainable goals after he befriends his peculiar, strong, and encouraging new neighbor, Eli. As their bond grows, Oskar starts connecting the dots—she hates the sun, doesn’t eat, needs to be invited in, appears in town as a string of mysterious deaths start occurring—and must determine how much he can excuse about his first love.
It’s a moody genre masterpiece sure to please any fan of slow-burn storytelling. It does a fantastic job of building suspense by leaving some of the action and gore out of frame, and the tween leads are much better actors than they have any business being at their age. Just be warned that this is not a Halloween movie for kids.
What We Do in the Shadows
Memorable quote: “I go for a look which I call dead but delicious.”
Before it was one of the best TV shows on Hulu, What We Do in the Shadows graced the big screen. But instead of following a quartet of Staten Island vampires and their loyal, lovable familiar Guillermo, another film crew “documented” the daily life of four immortal flatmates in New Zealand. Vladislav the Poker (Jermaine Clement), 17th-century dandy Viago (Taika Waititi), 183-year-old traveling salesman Deacon, and Petyr (an 8,000-year-old Nosferatu type) are struggling to survive in the modern world and deal with relatable things like chore wheels, roomie conflicts, and getting into the hottest clubs. After an intended victim is turned by Petyr, they must teach the new vamp the ropes. Outrageously chortle-inducing and irreverent, the mockumentary was written and directed by Clement and Waititi, who clearly love and respect the age-old tropes they take to task. If you enjoy this, here are some other scary-funny movies to consume.
Only Lovers Left Alive
Director: Jim Jarmusch
You think you’re depressed about the state of current affairs? Imagine if you’d been watching the downward trajectory of humans for centuries like Adam (Tom Hiddleston), a cerebral and fragile reclusive musician/vampire who feeds on existential dread and black-market hospital blood in Detroit. Hearing of his despair, his long longtime lover, Eve (Tilda Swinton), rushes from Tangiers to lift his spirits. The reunion works wonders…until Eve’s wild little sister shows up.
Swinton and Hiddleston are a mesmerizing pairing, cleverly matched in effortless wit, undeniable sexual energy, and their ability to hold the audience’s attention. This is a thinking man’s vampire movie, and the more versed the viewer is in classic literature, the funnier it becomes. It unfolds in the hypnotic rhythm of underground alt-rock, and it’s ultimately a beautiful emo love story and one of the best examples of Jim Jarmusch’s peculiar, wry brand of creative genius.
Rated: Not rated
Director: F. W. Murnau
This black-and-white tale of terror is the one that started it all. An unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, it became a masterpiece that created an entire horror movie subcategory and influenced generations of macabre mavens. Max Schreck’s Count Orlok also created a distinct look for subsequent movie vampires with his pointy ears, razor-sharp teeth, long fingernails, bald head, and beady eyes. German expressionist F.W. Murnau’s tradecraft (i.e., shadows creeping up walls, stark contrasts of light and dark spaces, interesting angles that elongate limbs and statures, shooting up at the menacing villain’s visage, etc.) have been copied so often that they’ve become touchstones. This vampire flick didn’t even need memorable movie quotes—or even a single line of dialogue—to give nightmares to audiences.
Interview with the Vampire
Memorable quote: “You’re a vampire who never knew what life was until it ran out in a red gush over your lips.”
Based on the Anne Rice’s beloved first novel, this is the emotional, guilt-ridden, and bloody life story of vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt), who has agreed to recount all 200 years of it to a reporter (Christian Slater) like a verbal memoir. The flashbacks start with the man who turned him, Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise), and continue through the saga of their on again-off again relationship, as well as with the cute but psychotic daughter Lestat sires (Kirsten Dunst). In this blockbuster, director Neil Jordan creates a feast for the eyes, starting with the smoldering cast and finishing with the extravagant set pieces and Sandy Powell costumes.
Memorable quote: “He came to me. He opened a vein in his arm, and he made me drink.”
While Nosferatu may have kick-started the genre, it was director Tod Browning’s vision, which debuted nine years later, and Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of the lifeless lothario as equally alluring and alarming, that turned the Count into an enduring Halloween costume, cultural icon, and sex symbol. Based on Stoker’s book, one of the best horror books of all time, and a hit 1924 Broadway play, the slow pace, black-and-white film stock, and antiquated phrasings may bore younger generations, but they drive home the point that without this version, there would be no Lestat, no Edward Cullen, no Eric Northman, and no Salvatore brothers.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Memorable quote: “I didn’t even break a nail.”
The small-screen Buffy is arguably one of the best teen TV shows ever made, with fans pledging Scooby Gang–level loyalty to Sarah Michelle Gellar. But the truth is, outside of the basic plot about a high school chosen one needing to rid her high school and the world of vampires, the versions are tonally different, and both have their merits.
The movie version, starring Kristy Swanson, has a cult following, and it’s both funny and campy. This slayer is a ditsier, more stereotypical popular girl archetype. She talks about L.A., boys, and clothes in a way that will remind you of Cher from Clueless (even though Cher came years later). In fact, the movie wound up being far sillier than screenwriter Joss Whedon had intended, and that led him to pitch the darker TV edition. While this film didn’t win over critics, it did decently at the box office, and pop culture hindsight has also been kind. Plus, young Luke Perry is a dreamboat, and Paul “Pee-Wee Herman” Reubens’ over-the-top acting choices as a bloodsucker “obviously having a bad hair day” are inspired.
Memorable quote: “I don’t want to be a vampire. I’m a day person.”
To sustain her eternal youth and infinite foxiness, an ancient vampiress (Lauren Hutton) must drink the blood of male virgins. She uses that aforementioned beauty and a series of revealing outfits to get it in this comic caper whose true legacy is being Jim Carrey’s first substantial movie role. He plays a bumbling L.A. high schooler she sets her sights on. Some of the humor in this ’80s movie didn’t age well, but for the most part, it’s a harmless time capsule of feathered bangs, jean skirts, and “did you lose it yet?” jokes.
Director: Tony Scott
Although underappreciated by the masses when it was released, this erotic vampire thriller based on a 1981 Whitley Strieber novel enjoyed a long life as a cult classic, championed by goth kids, lesbians, and David Bowie fans. It flipped gender norms as the posh, calculated vampire Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) seeks companionship with a fresher face (Susan Sarandon) after her partner of centuries (Bowie) develops chronic insomnia and begins to age at an alarming rate. She’s the seducer and the predator, while he glowers in their Manhattan townhouse and contemplates his lost looks and mortality.
Hindsight, changing tastes, and the clear influence it had on future filmmakers made some recant their “all style, no substance” judgments. Unapologetically sensual, ineffably cool, and infinitely informed by Tony Scott’s start in music videos, his first feature is a fever dream of pop-music cues, billowy curtains, steamy close-ups, fast cuts, and high-contrast lighting.
Shadow of the Vampire
Memorable quote: “How dare you destroy my photographer? Why not the script girl?”
Eight decades after Nosferatu changed the film industry forever, Steven Katz (The Knick) wrote a brilliant making-of screenplay that took viewers behind-the-scenes of the 1920s production and postulated that the reason it was so petrifying and realistic was because its goblin-like lead was indeed a vampire. Willem Dafoe is so pitch-perfect as Max Schreck/Count Orlok/the thorn in director Murnau’s side (yet another amazing showing by John Malkovich), you almost accept the premise as possible. (We still think Dafoe was robbed at the Oscars that year.) Wickedly original, it is as much a send-up of Hollywood and temperamental artists as it is a vampire movie.
Memorable quote: “Classic human paranoia. Human blood is so fatty, and you never know where it’s been. I use a blood substitute. Either Near Blood or Blood Beaters. You can’t tell the difference.”
Dracula has been a lot of things over the year—warrior, royal, ladies’ man, monster, lover, and, in this animated film, a hotelier. The Count has converted his castle into a monsters-only luxury resort where vampires, mummies, werewolves, ghosts, and assorted ghouls can vacation in peace without having to worry about humans and their torches and pitchforks. But all hell breaks loose when a backpacker wanders in and falls for his daughter, Mavis. Dracula and his pals use all their scare tactics to send him packing before other humans invade their happy place. With an A-list voice cast that includes Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, Selena Gomez, and CeeLo Green, this is lightly freaky fun for the whole family.
Director: Guillermo del Toro
This subtitled spookfest about an antiques dealer who stumbles upon an ancient scarab-shaped device and is bewitched by the immortality it grants was how most film fanatics outside of Mexico were introduced to the singular talents of Guillermo del Toro. And when you take in the audacious visuals (many accomplished on camera instead of in post) and unconventional storytelling of this low-budget movie, it makes sense that he will eventually blow our collective minds with Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, and The Shape of Water. It also stars his frequent collaborator Ron Perlman as a mystery man named Angel who hunts for the dealer and the device.
Memorable quote: “He is a strannnnge dude.”
One of the top-grossing films of 1972, William Crain’s blaxplotation classic was revolutionary in its day. A dogeared page in the history book of Black cinema, it ushered in a deluge of copycats, and it’s often credited as a precursor to movies such as Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Us, as well as the Candyman reboot. In it, an African prince (classically trained Shakespearean actor William Marshall) travels through Europe with his wife to drum up support to stop the enslavement of the Ibani tribe. On his trip, he encounters Dracula, who happens to be an unrepentant racist. Dracula turns Prince Mamuwalde into a vampire before sealing him in a coffin and killing his wife. When Mamuwalde awakens 200 years later in 1970s Los Angeles, he’s pissed off…and hungry. Be warned: Blacula is a product of its time, and some of the jokes are a bit off-color.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Rated: Not rated
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Just when you think the vampire-movie genre is all tapped out, a haunting story like this comes along and restores your faith in inhumanity as subject matter. Written in Farsi and subtitled in English, it revolves around a chador-cloaked vampire girl who wanders the streets of her desolate town. She picks off predators like drug dealers, pimps, and addicts, rendering the city a little safer for normal girls.
It’s a jumble of elements: female empowerment, revenge fantasy, Western, and supernatural scary movie. We never get an origin story for this promising young woman, see her peers, or even really establish where or when the action is unfolding. And your experience of the film will be slightly different depending on what language you speak. Amirpour most certainly worships at the altar of Jim Jarmusch and David Lynch, but also finds ways to make weird, dream-like sequences her own.
Director: Guillermo del Toro
This franchise is an all-around good time, and you really can’t go wrong with any of its three movies. The 1998 original, the first successful Marvel Entertainment production, introduces the Daywalker (Wesley Snipes), a sarcastic half-breed with ninja moves, sick motorcycles, and lots of leather—all of which he uses to eradicate bloodsuckers. And the third one benefits from Ryan Reynolds’ signature charisma and quips. But ultimately, the second movie slices ahead with del Toro at the helm. Everything that worked in the first movie is leveled up as Blade is forced to work with a group of elite vamp fighters so he can curb a new and bigger threat.
Memorable quote: “I’m fighting this bat off all alone, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t get really turned on. I was a little drunk.”
Nicolas Cage is at his best in this vampire movie–adjacent portrait of a man who thinks he’s turning into a vampire after a woman (Jennifer Beals) bites his neck and claims she’s a creature of the night. He goes through the motions, including avoiding daylight and creating a coffin-like place to sleep with his upturned couch, but he might also just be experiencing a psychotic break. Cage grows more and more unbridled in his acting choices as the character becomes more and more unhinged. This movie is brimming with quirkiness—he passes a mime fight on the street, chases pigeons, and buys plastic fangs—but it has a dark, seedy underbelly.
Memorable quote: “My mother lives on human blood and has done for two centuries. I am 16…forever. It’s my burden.”
Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan, who also directed Interview with a Vampire, returns to the world of bloodletting, but this time, he delivers a less glossy, more intimate allegory. Clara is on the run from a mysterious brotherhood, with her brooding kid, Eleanor, in tow. To evade detection, Gemma demands absolute secrecy and makes her living off the books as a sex worker. Her strategy has worked for hundreds of years, as both women are “sucreants.” (Imagine a pre-Stoker version of the undead that doesn’t possess superpowers and can walk among us in daylight.) But Eleanor’s teenage angst has had a lot of time to build up, and by the time she meets a beautiful boy in the British seaside town they’re currently hiding out in, she is ready to burst…and, as they say, loose lips sink ships.
It’s cinema for grown-ups that unfurls slowly, wallows in its melancholia, emphasizes acting over action, and meditates on memory, sacrifice, mother-daughter relationships, trust, and classism. Yep, this is a vampire drama that will make you think!
Memorable quote: “You’re in the middle of a war that’s been raging for the better part of a thousand years, a blood feud between vampires and lycans.”
With a mix of gothic horror, action, and forbidden love, the Underworld franchise has spawned five films, but the OG far outclasses its successors. It has the unfair advantage of being the first look into this distinctive world that pits sexy, sophisticated vampires against brutish lycans (werewolves). The war has been waging for centuries, and one of the coven’s best weapons is Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a gorgeous and highly skilled Death Dealer whose recent interaction with an equally hot human (Scott Speedman) being hunted by the beasts makes her question her directive to kill him. In her quest to figure out what her enemies want from him, she discovers the narrative her family has been feeding her is a lie. The vibe is dark and broody, the post-Matrix wire work graceful and fluid, and the Beckinsale-Speedman chemistry will have you biting your lips.
Director: Park Chan-wook
Lightly inspired by an Émile Zola novel, this dark South Korean morality tale took home the Jury Prize at Cannes. It’s about a priest who volunteers to be infected with a fatal virus sweeping through the world in order to test a clinic’s experimental cures. Nothing works, but an infusion brings him back from death’s door. But like with Pet Sematary, sometimes dead is better, and in this case, the man of the cloth now craves blood and carnal pleasures. Racked with guilt, he tries to behave, stealing blood from the hospital and assisting people who want to die. Eventually, he turns to a woman he’s sleeping with and quickly regrets it, as her bloodlust is unchecked. Subtext about ethics, evil, and a touch of religious hypocrisy is slammed between scenes of violence, eroticism, uncomfortable humor, and genuine tenderness.
From Dusk Till Dawn
Memorable quote: “If you try to run, I’ve got six little friends, and they can all run faster than you can.”
After robbing a liquor store and killing yet another Texas Ranger, the sociopathic Gecko Brothers (George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino) carjack a Winnebago with a preacher (Harvey Keitel) and his kids still in it and hightail it to Mexico to escape the manhunt. They seek refuge in a border strip joint, where they are treated to a beguiling and busty performance by Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek). Unfortunately, they’ve unknowingly walked into a lair of thirsty creatures, and there aren’t enough beer goggles in the world to unsee this nightmare.
Since it’s written by Tarantino, expect salty language and rapid-fire pop culture references, and sarcasm. This vampire movie is also peppered with director Robert Rodriguez’s loud, flashy trademarks, including aggressive music, in-your-face machismo, lots of gunfire, and a part for Danny Trejo.
Memorable quote: “It’s all superhero stuff, right? What if I’m not the hero? What if I’m the bad guy?”
Based on the best-selling teen books by Stephenie Meyer, the Twilight saga is a vastly popular YA riff on universal teenage emotions filtered through the lens of vampires and werewolves. Part of the zeitgeist, the franchise grossed a whopping $3.3 billion at the box office. Each chapter has its pro and cons, but the original had to do more with way less money. It built the world of the vegetarian vamp family who lived in harmony with the humans in their Pacific Northwest town—that is, until Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) moves to town and falls in love with sparkly vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson). She discovers his secret, demands a forever kind of love if you know what we mean, and inadvertently reignites wars with both werewolves and a powerful secret vamp council.
The epic plays out over five movies with progressively bigger budgets and bigger stars, but the first feels more intimate and relatable, with the goofiness of crushes and first love, as well as the fierceness behind a parent’s need to protect their offspring. It was also guided by a female director (Catherine Hardwicke).
Memorable quote: “Shouldn’t lose your temper, Charley. It isn’t polite.”
Horny high schooler Charley has a new neighbor, and he sucks…literally. But no one believes the new guy on the block is a bloodsucker, not the kid’s mom or the cops or even his girlfriend. But Jerry knows he knows, and Charley seeks help from an actor in a scary TV show. It looks a little dated and campy now, but back in the day, it was the height of horror coming from one of the genre’s most prolific and respected directors/writers, Tom Holland (no, not that Tom Holland), who also hand a hand in Psycho II, Child’s Play, The Stranger Within, and Tales from the Crypt. It was both ahead of its time—mixing jokes and scares—and extremely ’80s with its sexy innuendo, new-wave pop songs, and clueless parents.
Memorable quote: “That is a terrible vampire name. Jerry?”
It’s rare, but some remakes are worth watching, and this reboot with a very sexy and sinister Colin Farrell as the unfriendly neighborhood batman and the gone-too-soon Anton Yelchin as the sorry Charley who discovers the terrible truth is one of them. It remains faithful to the original, which means Charley still has sex on the brain, lives with his single mom (Toni Collette), deduces that a string of murders can be traced back to Jerry, tries to gather evidence, and enlists the help of a TV star (David Tennant). It also means Jerry knows he’s on to him and comes after him and everyone he loves. While the action is slicker and the kills are more graphic, the movie also retains the humor element and, in fact, ratchets it up a notch.
30 Days of Night
Memorable quote: “That cold ain’t the weather. That’s death approaching.”
A gang of vicious monsters descend on the frozen Alaska town of Barrow for an all-you-can-eat buffet just as it is about to experience its annual month of darkness. It’s a pretty wily strategy, except the vamps didn’t account for a scrappy young sheriff (Josh Hartnett at the height of his popularity) and his drive to protect his estranged wife, little brother, and the remaining still-breathing townsfolk. Produced by Sam Raimi and based on a graphic novel with a cult following, this vampire movie raises the stakes of the survive-the-night concept. Warning: A bloody and gruesome on-screen romp, it is not for the faint of heart.
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer
Memorable quote: “History prefers legends to men, nobility to brutality, soaring speeches to quiet deeds. History remembers the battle but forgets the blood. However history remembers me, it shall only remember a fraction of the truth.”
Talk about revisionist history. Russian director Timur Bekmambetov digs deep in his bag of tricks (slo-mo acrobatic action sequences, menacing fog and shadows, pyrotechnics, and punchy CGI) to turn the top hat–favoring 16th president into the Great Emancipator of heads from undead bodies. Based on a best-selling book by Seth Grahame-Smith (who was also responsible for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), the campy mashup sees vampires taking up arms alongside Confederate soldiers to bring forth a new nation of their own. Some of the connections between real-life events and the supernatural subject matter are weak, and the side characters can be a tad one-note, but if you can suspend your disbelief and just go with the (blood) flow, it’s a fun ride.
Rated: Not rated
Director: Abel Ferrara
Introverted NYU grad student Kathleen (Lili Taylor) is bitten by Casanova (Annabella Sciorra) and begins to hunger for hemoglobin in this gritty black-and-white indie. Because she’s a philosophy student and because this is an Abel Ferrara film, she uses Sartre and Nietzsche to rationalize killing drug addicts and street urchins and to assuage her guilt when she moves on to bigger targets. Then she runs into another vampire (Christopher Walken) who gives her something to chew on: He’s fought the urge long enough to pass as human. But does she ultimately want to give up her bloodlust? This vampire movie is a layered allegory of addiction and self-destruction that can also be viewed simply as a lo-fi supernatural story.
Memorable quote: “Humanity will vanish as soon as the blood does.”
A decade after a single bat caused most of the human race to become vampires and sparked a global blood shortage, the living are hunted mercilessly and farmed by greedy conglomerates like the one run by Charles Bromley (an extra hammy Sam Neill), which employs Dr. Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke). The hematologist knows that if feeding continues at the current rate, the human race will go extinct, which is why he is trying to develop synthetic blood—and a cure for vampirism. His extracurricular research is also why he is approached for help by an underground group of still-breathing rebels led by Elvis (Willem Dafoe).
Released during a glut of vampire, future dystopia, and apocalypse movies, Daybreakers was mostly overlooked when it came out. But it’s worth a proper look. Directors (and brothers) Peter and Michael Spierig spent a lot of time developing the film’s alternate reality—down to some very clever details, such as sub-walks instead of sidewalks, windows that auto-close at sunrise, and espresso-like pumps of blood for daily Starbucks orders.
Dracula: Dead and Loving It
Director: Mel Brooks
Though far from his best farce (long live Spaceballs!), the Young Frankenstein director reframes the Bela Lugosi/Bram Stoker storyline as a slapstick comedy in this classic ’90s movie. Windows are closed just as the baddie in bat form tries to fly into a woman’s bedroom, Jonathan (Steven Weber) confuses Nosferatu for Italian, and Renfield’s family jewels get stepped on repeatedly. The plot itself centers on Dracula (Leslie Nielsen) moving to Victorian London and quickly setting his sights on Mina and Lucy (Amy Yasbeck and Lysette Anthony). When Mina starts acting strangely, her fiancé calls in Van Helsing for reinforcements.
Director: Tim Burton
This adaptation of the popular supernatural TV soap from the ’60s marries macabre melodrama, ’70s kitsch, an Addams Family aesthetic, and Burton’s signature polished peculiarity. It centers on the long-gone patriarch Barnabas Collins—long gone because back in the 1780s, he made the grave mistake of not falling in love with a witch named Angelique. The enchantress convinced Barnabas’ true love to jump to her death, then cursed Barnabas with eternal life so that he’d have to live with the pain forever. In 1972, his coffin is accidentally dug up, and he returns to his Maine manor Collinwood to find it, his descendants, and his fish-canning business in disrepair. But Angelique looks as good as new and is still determined to make him love her or to destroy all the Collins clan, which now includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Lee Miller, and Chloe Grace Moretz.
Memorable quote: “My life, my job, my curse is to vanquish evil.”
Kate Beckinsale rejoins the land of the living as a local huntress who teams up with the titular vampire killer (Hugh Jackman) when he arrives in Transylvania to take on every legendary Halloween monster that director Stephen Sommers didn’t deal with in The Mummy franchise. (Though the main enemy is Dracula.) Like those blockbusters, Van Helsing has a retro creature-feature vibe that boomers will appreciate, but it also has state-of-the-art effects that today’s audiences have come to expect.
Director: George A. Romero
Though the late horror master was known more for his contributions to the zombie movie category, Romero actually said that Martin was his favorite film. The low-budget movie is about a 17-year-old named Martin, who believes he’s a vampire. But he might actually just be a psychopath who drugs his victims and uses a razor blade to slice them open for a slurp or two. Much like with Vampire’s Kiss, the audience is never 100 percent sure of what is real and what is in Martin’s head. This film is somber, deliberately paced, and psychologically twisted, and it even throws in a little social commentary about the urban decay, drugs, and crime that many cities (in this case, Pittsburgh) dealt with in the late ’70s.
Blood Red Sky
Memorable quote: “We have control of the plane. We want this little operation of ours to go off without a hitch. If not, well, use your imaginations.”
In this, one of the best scary movies on Netflix, a very ill woman traveling with her young son is on her way to receive a miracle treatment in the United States when her transatlantic flight is hijacked by terrorists looking for a big payday. They swear everyone will be freed as soon as the check clears. When they don’t make good on their promise, Nadja stops taking her meds and goes into full beast mode to protect her son and the other passengers, giving the term “red-eye” a whole new meaning. It’s a German production with an international cast that includes Dominic Purcell, Outlander‘s Graham McTavish, and Peri Baumeister.
Ganja & Hess
Memorable quote: “I will not be tortured. I will not be punished. I will not be guilty.”
Equal parts magic realism, vampire movie, art-house horror flick, scholarly treatise, and blaxploitation picture, director Bill Gunn’s Ganja & Hess is far from the average throwaway popcorn movie. A wealthy anthropologist, the titular Hess (Duane Jones), and his assistant are studying an ancient African tribe of blood drinkers. His unstable helper stabs his boss with a ceremonial knife before killing himself, and Hess awakens after the attack with a hankering for O negative. Before long, the assistant’s wife comes looking for him, has a fling with Hess, and eventually is transformed into his queen of the damned. For a time, they are both content living la vie vampire, but disillusionment and guilt come calling. While this one isn’t for all vampire-movie fans, it was influential for auteurs like Spike Lee, who based his more accessible Da Sweet Blood of Jesus on it in 2014.
Memorable quote: “You can’t be alive for 200 years and not go a little crazy.”
When college student Benny picks up two sassy singles, Zoe and Blaire, for his night job as a chauffeur, he has no idea how literally they intend to paint the town red. But as he drives them from stop to stop, his suspicion that they aren’t your average Hollywood party girls grows. Turns out they are just two of many vamps who run L.A. from the shadows, and they are settling old scores with mob bosses like Megan Fox and Euphoria‘s Sydney Sweeney in order to help Zoe’s beau move up the food chain. Filled with dance beats, glamour shots of the City of Angels, a diverse and photogenic cast, quippy lines, human kegs, and lots of leather, it gives off CW-show vibes.
Memorable quote: “Is it true what they say about priests? That you wield the hand of God?”
Graphic novels are clearly great fodder for vampire movies, as this is yet another fang film that started on bookstore shelves. TokyoPop was adapted into a Western about an order of warrior priests (and one super awesome priestess played by Maggie Q) who fought a great war against bloodsucking demons. The church declared victory, retired the soldiers of God, and maintained order and control within the walled city with lies. But when one priest’s (Paul Bettany) family is attacked and his niece is kidnapped, he tries to rally the troops once again. The monsignors command him to drop it. He disobeys, and with the help of a young sheriff, he heads outside the walls to rescue his niece and discovers an even bigger problem. This is a highly stylized smoothie that also comes in an unrated version.