Bloodsuckers, creatures of the night, the undead – vampires have fascinated and terrified us for centuries. From early folklore to modern pop culture, these immortal beings capture our imagination like no other monster. Their allure is undeniable, whether they are portrayed as tragic heroes, seductive lovers, or purely evil villains.
In film, vampires have left an indelible mark across genres, from gothic horror classics to action blockbusters. There’s just something about their mystical nature that translates so well to the screen. This article will guide you through an enthralling journey of the 20 best vampire movies ever made. From iconic originals like Nosferatu to modern favorites like What We Do In The Shadows, we’ve compiled a killer list that every fan should see.
Get your fangs ready as we sink our teeth into the greatest vampire films that continue to entrance us after all this time. Suspend your disbelief and enter worlds filled with creatures of the night, forbidden romances, and plenty of bloodletting. Just make sure to wear some garlic and have a stake handy!
Table of Contents
What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
Breaking the conventional portrayal of vampires, “What We Do in the Shadows” (2014), orchestrated by the brilliant duo of Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, offers a refreshing take on vampire-themed movies. Like Rob Reiner’s renowned rock and roll-themed satire, “This Is Spinal Tap”, this unique film manages to spoof and celebrate vampire cinema simultaneously.
Indeed, “What We Do in the Shadows” is a delightful exploration through the rich legacy of vampire cinema, infused with a delightful comedic touch. It unabashedly highlights the absurdity of some traditional vampire tropes, including their notorious feeding habits, yet manages to do so with such charm and wit that you can’t help but be entertained.
The film has proven to be a significant achievement in not only the realm of vampire movies or horror comedies but the broader comedy genre. Since its release in 2014, it has made an indelible mark due to its sharp humor, memorable quotes, deep understanding of vampire lore, and overall entertainment value. Its appeal extends even to the casual viewer, not just the fanatics of the vampire genre. Remember, they’re werewolves, not swear-wolves!
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Stepping into the thrilling realm of “From Dusk Till Dawn” (1996), you’ll find yourself wrapped up in a thrilling narrative that expertly combines the unpredictability of crime dramas with the spine-chilling elements of vampire horror. The film was designed to provide the feel of two distinct genres seamlessly merged into a single, unforgettable cinematic journey, much like what the “Grindhouse” aspired to deliver.
In this suspenseful tale, audiences follow two ruthlessly natural-born criminals, portrayed by George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino. The plot follows their daring crime spree across banks and convenience stores, with a direction pointing them south of the border. Their story takes a chilling twist when they kidnap a faith-driven man (Harvey Keitel) and his daughter (Juliette Lewis), taking a detour at the infamous Titty Twister to commemorate their successful crossing into Mexico.
However, the night at the club quickly spirals into chaos as a fight breaks out over the club’s alluring siren (Salma Hayek), subsequently revealing the shocking truth – the Twister is actually a covert gathering place for vampires. Thus begins the second act of this adrenaline-pumping film, where surviving until dawn becomes the only goal. Robert Rodriguez’s direction artfully emphasizes the monstrous traits of the night demons while also drawing attention to the sadistic nature of the criminal brothers. Through the morally upright character of Keitel, the film invites viewers to question their own enjoyment of the story’s darker aspects.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”, released in 2014, stands out as a remarkable and unique entrant in the world of vampire cinema. This striking debut from new filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour demonstrates a mature grasp of horror that rivals seasoned directors. Showcased through the stunning black-and-white palette of this Iranian vampire narrative, Amirpour’s film bursts with color and depth in its thematic expression.
The film shines with Sheila Vand’s mesmerizing performance. Amidst a potent blend of skateboarding culture, indie rock vibes, and reverent nods to iconic vampire films, Vand’s solitary vampire prowls the night, giving this tale a fresh and modern edge. Her character wanders the shadowy corners of Bad City, pursuing romantic connections while meting out her own brand of justice.
“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” seamlessly intertwines sweet dream-like moments with harsh realities, enhanced by an undertone of spaghetti Western influences. It emerges as a compelling narrative of vigilantism, a haunting portrayal of star-crossed love, and a chilling commentary on the predatory nature of men. Throughout, Amirpour stakes her claim as an innovative and captivating filmmaker who has since lived up to the promise she demonstrated in one of the best vampire movies.
Venturing into the dark, hidden world of the “Underworld” franchise, the first film, released in 2003, introduces us to an unseen, age-old conflict between vampires and Lycans. This clandestine war, concealed from the eyes of humanity, opens up an intricate universe filled with myths, legends, and fearsome creatures.
Our guide into this shadowy realm is Selene, an elite warrior serving the vampire cause against the Lycans. Her life and convictions, however, take an abrupt turn with the arrival of a seemingly ordinary human, Michael Corvin. With his entrance, Selene’s world becomes a whirlwind of upheaval and deception, revealing centuries of carefully concealed secrets and betrayals.
As the layers of conspiracy are peeled back, Selene finds herself on a treacherous path, one that sees her defying her own kind in a desperate bid for survival. She grapples with committing acts of treason, falling into a love that’s forbidden, and challenging everything she’s been taught, making “Underworld” an intensely gripping tale. With its fast-paced action sequences and deeply intricate plot, “Underworld” stands tall in the pantheon of the best vampire movies, setting a high bar for the rest of the franchise.
Fright Night (1985)
“Fright Night” is a quintessential supernatural horror flick that perfectly encapsulates the flamboyant style and charm that defined the cinematic landscape of the 80s. The story revolves around Charley Brewster, an ordinary teenager who starts noticing some rather unusual behavior from his new neighbor. Despite his growing concerns, he finds himself isolated as no one in his close circle is ready to entertain the idea that the new resident in their peaceful neighborhood could be a vampire.
With no one else to turn to, Charley seeks help from an unlikely ally – Peter Vincent, a has-been actor whose glory days have long faded. Together, they form an unexpected team and embark on a daring mission to save their community from the menacing vampire next door. Upon its release, “Fright Night” was met with overwhelming positive response, and its popularity has led to a sequel and a remake, cementing its status as a cult classic. Its successful blend of horror, humor, and 80s nostalgia makes it a strong contender for one of the best vampire movies ever made.
” Nadja”, an early gem from filmmaker Michael Almereyda, tends to be overshadowed by the wave of American independent films that defined the 90s. However, its unique spin on the legendary tales of Dracula and Van Helsing sets it apart in the realm of vampire cinema. In this riveting tale, the iconic Van Helsing character is represented by a clueless Martin Donovan and a rambling Peter Fonda, injecting a touch of humor into the narrative.
Almereyda’s striking use of black-and-white cinematography adds a layer of sumptuousness to the intense power struggles within Dracula’s family. Elina Lowensohn portrays Nadja, Dracula’s daughter, and Jared Harris plays her complex and estranged brother, with both performances adding depth and tension to the narrative. Almereyda expertly explores the weight of their immortal existence, their psychological traumas resulting from their beastly natures, and the inherent menace they pose.
Rather than relying on cheap thrills, “Nadja” manages to haunt the audience in a way few vampire films do, sticking with viewers long after the credits roll. This subtly chilling approach, coupled with its innovative take on vampire lore, positions “Nadja” among the best vampire movies that should not be overlooked.
The Hunger (1983)
When thinking of iconic cinema that significantly influenced lesbian representation, “The Hunger,” released in 1983, comes to mind. This provocative and stylish erotic thriller was so influential that filmmakers Rose Troche and Guinever Turner noted its ubiquity in lesbian bars as an inspiration for their 1994 Sundance success, “Go Fish.”
“The Hunger” is deeply rooted in a tradition of lesbian vampire narratives that can be traced back to 1936’s “Dracula’s Daughter” and even earlier in literature from the late 19th century. Elevating this well-established theme to new heights, “The Hunger” presents Catherine Deneuve as a mesmerizing enchantress coping with the demise of her long-term partner, played by David Bowie. Her captivating allure draws in a young doctor, portrayed by Susan Sarandon, creating a complicated and intriguing love triangle.
With its striking 80s aesthetic, a tantalizing slow burn narrative, and a climax drenched in blood, “The Hunger” provides a thrilling cinematic experience. The film offers a satisfying treat for those with a penchant for Sapphic vampire narratives, and its continued influence ensures its place among the best vampire movies and solidifies its status as an unassailable cult classic.
Perhaps one of the most polarizing entries in the list of best vampire movies, “Twilight” undeniably left an indelible mark on both popular culture and the vampire genre. Its unique emphasis on teenage angst and romance ushered in a new era of vampire narratives.
The story unravels around Bella, a reclusive high school student portrayed by Kristen Stewart, whose life takes a dramatic turn upon meeting the enigmatic Edward, played by Robert Pattinson. Their intense connection spirals into a complex interplay of emotions and secrets, impacting not just their lives but the entire supernatural community as well.
Although it may lack the typical sophistication often associated with vampire films, “Twilight” brilliantly encapsulates the raw emotional essence of teenage life—a signature characteristic of director Catherine Hardwicke’s work. The film’s immense popularity catapulted its cast into stardom and gave birth to multiple sequels, solidifying its status in the pantheon of vampire cinema. Regardless of the mixed opinions it evokes, its influence on the genre and cultural impact makes “Twilight” a must-watch for vampire movie enthusiasts.
Near Dark (1987)
In an era before the concept of vampire romance became a standard trope, director Kathryn Bigelow introduced a tantalizing love story that continues to captivate audiences, “Near Dark.” This film brings together two unlikely lovers, Adrian Pasdar and Jenny Wright, whose chance encounter spirals into an unanticipated whirlwind of passion.
After their sudden rendezvous, Pasdar finds himself under the sunlight, a deadly scenario for a vampire. His only escape is to venture through the scenic Oklahoma plains with Wright and her vampire clan, comprised of Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, and Lance Henriksen from the acclaimed Aliens series.
Each cast member delivers an excellent performance, but Lance Henriksen, playing Jesse, the weathered clan leader, captivates the most. To further anchor this film in the Western genre, Jesse is old enough to have served in the American Civil War, a detail that adds depth to the character. Combining a genuine romance with action and horror, and enhanced by its superb cinematography, “Near Dark” cements its position as a classic in the vampire genre. Coincidentally, this gem arrived the same year as “The Lost Boys” in 1987, making it a remarkable year for vampire movie lovers.
Ganja & Hess (1973)
In the annals of vampire cinema, “Ganja & Hess” stands as a unique and insightful exploration of topics such as sexuality, religion, and African-American identity. Directed by Bill Gunn, this 1973 masterpiece used the vampire genre as an allegorical tool to represent addiction.
The story centers around anthropologist Hess Green, who gains immortality and an insatiable bloodlust after being stabbed by his mentally unstable assistant, George Meda, with an ancient ceremonial dagger. When George’s wife Ganja starts searching for her missing husband, she develops a strange and dark romance with Hess.
However, reducing “Ganja & Hess” to a simple metaphor or allegory wouldn’t do justice to the film’s intricate plot. Initially, the movie was shelved by its distributor due to dissatisfaction with Gunn’s highly stylized version. The film was later acquired by another company, Heritage, who significantly edited it and released it under various titles without Gunn’s consent.
For many years, only this modified version was accessible to viewers. Thankfully, after four decades, Kino Lorber re-released “Ganja & Hess” in its original glory, as envisioned by Gunn. This film, chosen for the Critics’ Week at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, was eventually remade by Spike Lee in 2014 as “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.” Its unique approach to the vampire genre and complex themes make “Ganja & Hess” an unforgettable addition to the list of the best vampire movies.
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
When the modern-day vampire personas of the Twilight saga surrender their dramatic intensity for a more nonchalant demeanor, you’d find something akin to the characters Adam (portrayed by Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (played by Tilda Swinton). They are the effortlessly stylish and eternally bored vampires that take center stage in Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive.”
Diverting from the usual supernatural tropes, this film focuses on the existential woes of its vampire characters, a common theme found in many of Jarmusch’s works. It’s indeed refreshing to discover that even the undead in Jarmusch’s universe have a vibrant zest for life and the capability to reflect on it with a nuanced combination of wit and melancholy.
If you can attune to the movie’s slow-paced rhythm, and its characters’ stoic demeanors, “Only Lovers Left Alive” delivers a thoughtful message about the necessity of moving on, even when the drive to do so seems to be waning. As Swinton’s character sighs wistfully about the past, lamenting, “It’s over for us, isn’t it?” the movie subtly suggests that Jarmusch, one of America’s leading contemporary filmmakers, still has a wealth of insight to share. “Only Lovers Left Alive” is a delightful entry in the repertoire of the best vampire movies.
George A. Romero, renowned for his creation “Night of the Living Dead,” also has lesser-known works that often slip under the radar when discussing his illustrious legacy. Among these is “Martin,” a film that boldly challenges and reimagines traditional horror mythologies. This film’s narrative centers around the eponymous teenager’s psychological conviction of his own vampirism, an unusual perspective in vampire stories.
Unlike traditional bloodsuckers, Martin obtains his blood via syringes and is a far cry from the seductive vampire stereotype. Romero’s fascination with the vampire narrative stems from an almost clinical curiosity, transforming as the story progresses into a psychologically discomforting, ominous tale.
Not designed to instill terror, “Martin” instead induces a sense of unsettling unease. Even several decades after its release, this inventive masterpiece retains its uniqueness in a genre that often replicates familiar tropes. Amid imitators and aspirants, “Martin” holds its own as a distinct narrative, highlighting its creativity and solidifying its place among the best vampire movies.
Presenting an offbeat take on vampires and society’s taboos, renowned director Park Chan-wook’s “Thirst” offers an enthralling exploration of desire. Each character seems to crave something, a thirst that Chan-wook beautifully portrays through traditional and unorthodox vampire narratives.
When a Catholic priest is transformed into a vampire and a disillusioned wife longs for a forbidden, everlasting romance, their worlds collide in a gripping and often disquieting manner. The ensuing narrative spiral into chaos, encompassing abductions, murders, and ruminations on eternal captivity, is masterfully unhinged.
Chan-wook’s visionary treatment of vampire themes ventures into creatively dangerous territory, inviting viewers to challenge their perceptions of this established genre. “Thirst” culminates in one of the most memorable and striking endings in horror cinema, marking it as a standout entry in the catalog of the best vampire movies.
Interview With The Vampire (1994)
Anne Rice’s literary works, so inherently cinematic in their composition, have curiously not been adapted as frequently as one might expect. However, Neil Jordan’s 1994 rendition of “Interview With The Vampire,” the first of Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, set an impressive precedent with its sumptuous and mature approach to the genre. Echoing the stylistic sensibilities of Jordan’s own 1984 classic, “The Company Of Wolves,” and the later film “Byzantium,” the movie paints a rich tapestry of vampire life.
Interestingly, aside from Christian Slater’s journalist character who conducts the titular interview, the narrative is almost completely devoid of ordinary humans. The film offers an intimate glimpse into the nightly routine of the undead, highlighting their petty internal disputes over grandiose gothic drama.
Despite initial casting controversies, both Brad Pitt, as Louis, and Tom Cruise, as Lestat, shine in their roles. Cruise, in a departure from his usual roles, superbly exploits the darker elements of his movie-star persona, a trait he would later revisit in “Magnolia” and “Collateral.”
However, it’s Kirsten Dunst, merely 12 years old at the time, who truly stands out as Claudia, the ancient vampire trapped in a child’s body—a character initially considered unfilmable due to her complex nature. Dunst brings a chilling believability to Claudia, enhancing the film’s stature in the list of the best vampire movies.
Famed for its esteemed horror creations, Hammer Horror laid the groundwork for its lasting legacy with the 1958 adaptation of “Dracula.” Helmed by the unmatched director Terence Fisher and penned by Jimmy Sangster, this rendition of Dracula introduced audiences to the dynamic duo of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee—Lee notably delivering lines for the first time. Characterized by its vivid color palette, sensual allure, and generous bloodshed, this version of Dracula refined the recipe that would fuel the studio’s success for the coming years.
Sangster’s audacious screenplay cleverly deconstructed and reimagined Bram Stoker’s original novel, setting the narrative on a liberating path. By confining and redefining the settings to Romania, and cutting half of the original characters, Sangster left audiences with a streamlined adventure that put a new spin on the tale. Jonathan Harker, originally a real estate agent in Stoker’s tale, is here portrayed as a secret agent for Cushing’s swashbuckling Van Helsing, operating undercover as Dracula’s librarian.
Lee’s Dracula is a refined and magnetically attractive figure, exhibiting an intriguing blend of sophistication and savagery. Hammer would go on to create more iconic vampire films like “Kiss Of The Vampire,” “Brides Of Dracula,” and “Twins Of Evil,” but it’s in this 1958 Dracula that the studio truly found its gothic rhythm, making it one of the best vampire movies in cinema history.
The Lost Boys (1987)
Marking a significant cultural milestone for multiple generations, Joel Schumacher’s “The Lost Boys” firmly stands atop the list of best vampire movies, even after 35 years. Schumacher’s magnum opus cleverly transcends its multi-genre structure, offering a unique blend of teen drama, horror, and comedy that resonates with audiences of all ages.
It’s a teen-focused narrative that does not shy away from depicting graphic violence and visceral horror. Despite its horror elements, “The Lost Boys” manages to integrate genuine humor, while maintaining an undercurrent of suspense. The movie presents a spectrum of characters that allows viewers to choose their preferred group, from the loveable trio of Cory Haim and the Frog Brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander), to the irresistible allure of the edgier, older clan led by Kiefer Sutherland and Alex Winter.
The film contemporizes the established vampire tropes without appearing derivative or excessively nostalgic. Although encapsulating its era, “The Lost Boys” has aged remarkably well, with only Tim Cappello, the glossy, semi-naked saxophonist, drawing occasional chuckles from the meme-loving internet community in recent times.
Never having faded into obscurity, “The Lost Boys” continues to be acknowledged as a timeless classic. Its unceasing allure and enduring coolness have solidified its place in the realm of the best vampire movies.
Let the Right One In (2008)
In the year when the vampire genre was simmering hot with the debut of the “Twilight” series in 2008, another chillingly enchanting vampire story was subtly stealing the limelight. That was Tomas Alfredson’s “Let the Right One In,” a Swedish gothic romance presenting an atmospheric exploration of an unusual friendship between a 12-year-old boy and a young female vampire.
The film thrives on the remarkable chemistry between young actors Kare Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson, offering an almost sensual tension between these two adolescent characters while continuously maintaining an air of eerie poeticism. The snowy, isolating backdrop reflects the lonely existence of the young protagonist and enhances the sense of mystery that arises from the introduction of his supernatural friend, who unexpectedly becomes a protector against local bullies.
Blending Spielberg-esque childlike wonder with the terrifying realities lurking at the edges of the frame, Alfredson’s masterful storytelling subtly hints at threatening elements while leaving enough room for the audience’s imagination to complete the picture. With skillful subtlety, Alfredson employs elusive details about the vampire’s nature—pairing the macabre power with an innocent childlike exterior—to sustain an unsettling atmosphere teeming with potential horrors. His unique approach culminates in an unforgettable line when the stoic Eli tells Oskar, “I’m 12, but I’ve been 12 for a long time.”
Although the 2010 remake by Matt Reeves effectively captured the essence of the original, it’s Alfredson’s pioneering version that stands as an unmatched horror masterpiece. The precision in every suspense-filled silence ratchets up the chilling anticipation of what lurks around the corner, making “Let the Right One In” one of the best vampire movies of its time.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Francis Ford Coppola brought Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” to life with a level of opulence rarely seen in the realm of gothic horror. This creature-feature is not just a thrilling horror experience but a grand spectacle, merging classic storytelling with the epic scale of a blockbuster.
Coppola’s commitment to using only on-set and in-camera effects resulted in a visually stunning extravaganza, from startlingly realistic werewolf costumes to pulsating arteries superimposed onto Winona Ryder. The film’s performances are unforgettable, with Gary Oldman’s dominant portrayal of Count Dracula and Anthony Hopkins’ delightfully candid rendition of Van Helsing taking center stage. Also worth noting are Keanu Reeves’ adventurous attempt at a British accent for Jonathan Harker, and Tom Waits’ mesmerizing descent into madness as Renfield.
Coppola pays homage to the grandeur of Old Hollywood while pushing the boundaries of his Dracula production with a touch of ’90s excess. In terms of vampire movies, it’s hard to rival the sheer cinematic indulgence of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” It presents an exceptional benchmark for vampires in cinema, reiterating its status among the best vampire movies ever made.
“Blade” is a spectacular portrayal of the transition from comic book to silver screen, bringing to life the intricate tale of the half-vampire, half-human vigilante on a self-imposed mission to eradicate the vampire population. The choice of casting Wesley Snipes for the role of Blade was nothing short of a masterstroke, as he singularly elevated the character to unparalleled heights.
Snipes flawlessly embodies the darkly brooding daywalker burdened by personal vendettas, who’s unwaveringly committed to cleanse the world from its vampire scourge. Blade’s distinctive characteristics stem from a vampire’s attack on his mother during her pregnancy, bestowing him with incredible vampire-like abilities. Yet, this double-edged sword of a legacy also curses him with the insatiable thirst for blood that defines his vampire adversaries. This internal conflict intensifies Blade’s contempt for vampires and shapes the dramatic narrative of the movie.
“Blade” is a high-octane film punctuated with mind-blowing fight sequences that lend it a raw, stylish edge. Although the narrative revolves around the familiar trope of saving humanity from an evil force, it delivers this theme with remarkable authenticity and unique flair. With its captivating storyline and gripping performances, “Blade” undoubtedly deserves its position among the best vampire movies.
Recognized as the pioneering beacon of vampire cinema, F. W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu” started as an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic novel, “Dracula.” It ultimately culminated as one of the most seminal horror movies to have ever graced the big screen. Max Schreck’s silent performance as the vampire Count Orlok is a hallmark in the annals of horror, narrating the eerie tale of a Transylvanian vampire who develops a frightening obsession for a real estate agent’s wife, culminating in horrifying and heart-wrenching repercussions.
Murnau expertly reinterpreted Stoker’s iconic vampire story through his distinctive lens of German Expressionism. The result was a visually spellbinding atmosphere teeming with ominous shadows, striking contrasts between light and dark spaces, and a palpable sense of dread. The timeless visuals of Orlok’s shadow menacingly ascending a wall, or the camera focusing upwards at the grotesquely elongated figure of Orlok, remain iconic symbols of the horror genre.
The true essence of “Nosferatu’s” horror is embedded within its filmmaking craft, making it an exceptional silent film that continues to invoke fear even after a century. Its contribution to vampire cinema is undeniable, thereby solidifying its place as one of the best vampire movies ever made.