For centuries, man has always been intrigued by what lies beyond the mortal realms. Such is the fascination with the afterlife that it has influenced folklore and even urban legends. And nothing does it better than vampire tales. Making their way from the pages of books to the big screen, here are some of the best vampire movies that viewers have loved.
The vampire genre has added an extra dimension to horror movies such that throughout the history of cinema, vampire lore has made a definitive mark for itself. Legend has it that vampires are nocturnal eternal creatures who hunt for victims to satiate their thirst for blood from dusk till dawn and cannot withstand the sun.
Every vampire movie experiments with these themes and juxtaposes the story either against a modern city, like in the Underworld franchise (2003–2016), or a traditional eerie town, as in the case of A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014), or with one of the evergreen cult favourites, Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931), which depicted the awakening of Count Dracula.
Sharp fangs, bloodthirsty walking dead, a vampire slayer like Van Helsing, spooky surroundings and an occasional love subplot — vampire films have long engaged audiences with these themes and aspects that go beyond the horror genre showcasing ghosts and haunted houses. What makes them even more interesting is that these creatures mostly appear as normal humans, and some of them can be perfectly at ease with mortal beings.
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Here are some of the best vampire movies that you must add to your watchlist
Directed by: Tod Browning
Cast: Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula, Helen Chandler as Mina Seward, Dwight Frye as Renfield, Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing
Synopsis: After a rough journey, Renfield arrives at Dracula’s castle to settle the transaction of Carfax Abbey in London. Count Dracula is a vampire who bites Renfield and turns him into one of his slaves. When the two arrive in London, the evil Count looks for female victims. He meets Mina and turns his evil gaze on her.
Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel and a 1924 broadway play by Hamilton Deane form this film’s foundation which marks the debut of Count Dracula in Universal Pictures and paves the way for several Dracula flicks and adaptations.
Impeccable use of lighting and Browning’s adept mastery over his skills, enhancing Lugosi’s sinister character, especially his cloak and fangs, make this movie an evergreen vampire film.
Directed by: F.W. Murnau
Cast: Max Schreck as Graf Orlok, Greta Schröder as Ellen, Gustav von Wangenheim as Huttler
Synopsis: The film reimagines the character of Count Dracula and introduces the more ferocious Count Graf Orlok.
Real estate agent Hutter is summoned by Count Orlok to his Transylvanian castle as he wishes to buy another house in Wisborough. While he succeeds in selling the home opposite his and his wife Ellen’s home to the count, Hutter begins to feel ominous occurrences. He soon realises Ellen is trapped and that the count is actually vampire Nosferatu.
One of the best vampire movies from the silent film period, Nosferatu remains as scary as it had been a century ago when it was released. Nothing is dreamy or romantic about this horror classic, and Schreck’s unfiltered monstrosity and devilish portrayal revolutionised the way of cinematic storytelling.
Watch Nosferatu here.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Gary Oldman as Dracula, Winona Ryder as Mina Murray, Anthony Hopkins as Professor Abraham Van Helsing, Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker
Synopsis: The film follows Jonathan, a young barrister who is held captive by a ruthless yet soulful Count Dracula in a suburban European town. Dracula travels to London after being mesmerised by an image of Jonathan’s fiancée, Mina, who looks exactly like Dracula’s dead wife. The vampire then unleashes a sense of terror and horror after he takes the lives of many of Mina’s friends.
Coppola adapts Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel of the same name into this epic period vampire film. Devoid of computer-based CGI, it was his vision to work with only those special effects which would be available on set. Thus, the resulting flick is a grand spectacle with werewolf costumes and bursting arteries.
Awards won: Oscars for Best Costume Design, Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing and Best Makeup at the 1993 Academy Awards, among other accolades at various events.
Watch Bram Stoker’s Dracula here.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)
Directed by: Ana Lily Amirpour
Cast: Sheila Vand as The Girl, Arash Marandi as Arash, Marshall Manesh as Hossein ‘The Junkie.’
Synopsis: The monochrome vampire film is based in a grim and dismal Iranian town named Bad City where a lonely female vampire, The Girl, keeps vigil. The fang-toothed girl seeks out men who have done some wrong or disrespected women and has some gory ways to rectify their misdoings.
Ranked among the best vampire movies, the Persian-language horror movie began as a crowd-funded project but soon garnered attention and became a noted independent title. Amirpour takes the idea of a simple vampire story and turns it into a social commentary while keeping the entertainment and spooky fervour high with an outstanding soundtrack.
Awards won: Special mention at the 2015 Bucharest International Film Festival and nominated for best film; won the best cinematography at the 2015 Dublin International Film Festival; nominated for best feature at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
Watch A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night here.
The Lost Boys (1987)
Directed by: Joel Schumacher
Cast: Kiefer Sutherland as David, Jason Patric as Michael, Corey Haim as Sam, Dianne Wiest as Lucy, Corey Feldman as Edgar Frog, Jamison Newlander as Alan Frog
Synopsis: Michael and Sam are human siblings who move to a coastal California town where something doesn’t feel right and missing people’s cases are on a surge. While Michael gels with a group of local boys, Sam bonds with nerdy vampire hunter brothers — Edgar and Alan (clever, isn’t it?). Soon the young kids realise the bunch of guys his brother is friends with are vampires and what follows is a gory blood splash.
The Lost Boys is an entertaining and cheesy watch with equal doses of drama and action. Schumacher does an amazingly commendable job by making vampires the heartthrobs in the film that casts top-tier actors of the ’80s.
Awards won: Won best horror film at the 1988 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA; Haim and Bernard Hughes were nominated for best performance by a younger actor and best supporting actor, respectively.
Watch The Lost Boys here.
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Fright Night (2011)
Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Cast: Anton Yelchin as Charley Brewster, Colin Farrell as Jerry Dandridge, David Tennant as Peter Vincent, Toni Collette as Jane Brewster
Synopsis: Charley is a young man who suspects his neighbour Jerry is a bloodsucking vampire with a thirst for his mother’s blood. In fact, Jerry is also the one responsible for a slew of deaths over the past few days. When no one believes Charley, he appoints Peter, a Los Angeles vampire hunter, to kill this monster.
Craig Gillespie’s remake of the 1985 Tom Holland movie of the same name builds on the same plot and adds layers of horror along with an overall racy pace. This 2011 vampire movie has an edge over the original, which also has a decent dose of jump scares and thrill as well as comic relief. Jerry’s dreadful fangs gnawing on life and thrilling special effects juxtaposed against bouts of laughter induced by Peter make Fright Night one of the best vampire movies.
Watch Fright Night here.
Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)
Directed by: Neil Jordan
Cast: Brad Pitt as Louis, Tom Cruise as Lestat, Kirsten Dunst as Claudia, Christian Slater as Malloy
Synopsis: Based on Anne Rice’s 1976 gothic novel of the same name which is set in 1791 Spanish Louisiana, this is one of those vampire movies that chronicles the life of the bloodsuckers who are banished to eternity and are left undead.
Set against a grim San Francisco backdrop, the film is based on a tell-all interview where a nearly two-century-old vampire Louis speaks to Malloy. He tells him all about his life. Meanwhile, Lestat, another vampire, has developed a decedent European demeanour, and the two have an adopted young girl named Claudia.
Awards won: Oscar nominations for best art direction and best music; won BAFTA Awards for cinematography and production; Dunst was nominated for the best supporting role at the 1995 Golden Globes.
Watch Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles here.
Ganja & Hess (1973)
Directed by: Bill Gunn
Cast: Duane Jones as Dr Hess Green, Marlene Clark and Ganja Mede, Bill Gunn as George Meda
Synopsis: The film revolves around Ganja, a wealthy widow, who enters a short-lived romance with her deceased husband’s boss, anthropologist Hess. Hess is turned into a bloodsucker with incredible control over his powers when his assistant stabbed him with a mythical dagger cast with a spell by an African vampire tribe.
It involves a dark romance and is equally important for being the first movie in this genre to cast black protagonists in that era.
Watch Ganja & Hess here.
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Tilda Swinton as Eve, Tom Hiddleston as Adam, Mia Wasikowska as Ava, John Hurt as Christopher Marlowe, Anton Yelchin as Ian
Synopsis: Adam and Eve are a vampire couple married for centuries and very much in love. While Adam is a popular musician in a desolate Detroit, the sophisticated Eve lives on the other end of the world in Tangiers. When the sun rises each day, the two are left heartbroken and depressed over the sorry state of the modern human world. In fact, they don’t kill just to satiate their thirst; instead, they rely on close aides for human blood. Adam disguises as Dr Faust to get blood from a local blood bank while Eve seeks help from Christopher.
However, things take a different turn when Eve’s younger sister Ava crashes at their place with an excuse to party and gets involved with Adam’s musician human friend, Ian.
Fusing an indie rock theme with the vampire genre, this film is a rather cool and upbeat take on the horror stereotype associated with the bloodsuckers.
Awards won: 2013 Cannes Soundtrack Award; nominated for the Palme d’Or the same year.
Watch Only Lovers Left Alive here.
Directed by: Park Chan-wook
Cast: Song Kang-ho as Sang-hyun, Kim Ok-bin as Tae-ju, Hee-jin Choi as Nurse Sa, Seo Dong-soo as Hyo-sung
Synopsis: When a devout Catholic priest, Sang-hyun, voluntarily helps in developing a vaccine during a lethal viral outbreak, he is actually punished for his service and is almost killed. He miraculously survives after a blood transfusion only to realise that he is condemned to eternity. On waking up, Sang-hyun develops a taste for human blood and flesh and begins exploring this side of the dark realm along with another vampire, Tae-ju.
With stellar performances from the entire star cast, this is one of the highly acclaimed vampire films and is the first commercial Korean movie to show full male nudity.
Awards won: Park Chan-wook bagged the best film award (jury prize) at Cannes Film Festival, which was tied with Fish Tank; the film was nominated for Palme d’Or; Jeon Hyoung Lee won the best special effects prize at the 2010 Asian Film Awards.
Watch Thirst here.
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Directed by: John Carpenter
Cast: James Woods as Jack Crow, Daniel Baldwin as Anthony Montoya, Sheryl Lee as Katrina, Thomas Ian Griffith as Jan Valek
Synopsis: Jack Crow is a gritty Vatican-approved vampire hunter leading a pack of fearless vampire killers who are determined to eradicate the whole race of bloodsuckers from the face of the planet. All the evil joins forces when he faces Jan, a thirsty vampire in search of a magical talisman which will allow him to stay out even in the sun.
Vampires eschews the well-tried recipes of typical vampire films. Instead of showing the reign of horror by vampires, it focuses on a love story of two vampire slayers.
Awards won: James Woods won the best actor; John Carpenter won the best music at the 1999 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films; the film bagged the best makeup award on the same platform.
Watch Vampires here.
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: George Clooney as Seth Gecko, Quentin Tarantino as Richard Gecko, Salma Hayek as Santanico Pandemonium
Synopsis: The Seth brothers are naturally adept criminals who kidnap a father and their sons and head south of the US. They halt to celebrate at the Twitty Twister bar where they get into a squabble with a diabolic gang of vampires. To survive till dawn, the kidnappers have to fight with all their might.
Co-written by Tarantino, the film is quite an entertaining watch with sultry dance numbers by Hayek really setting the gangster mood.
Awards won: George Clooney won the best actor at the 1996 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA; Rodriguez and Tarantino were nominated for best director and writer awards, respectively.
Watch From Dusk Till Dawn here.
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Federico Luppi as Jesus Gris, Ron Perlman as Angel de la Guardia, Margarita Isabel as Mercedes
Synopsis: Jesus is an antique dealer who stumbles upon an ancient, mysterious device named Cronos hidden inside an old statue while he is cleaning it. He soon finds out its true powers and how Cronos grants eternal life to its owners. However, he soon falls prey to severe consequences.
Cronos explores quite a different side of the vampire genre as an old simpleton is suddenly turned into a vampire. He has a harrowing time because of the device and is made to suffer.
Awards won: Guillermo del Toro won the Mercedes-Benz Award and was nominated for the Golden Camera Award at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival.
Watch Cronos here.
Let the Right One In (2008)
Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
Cast: Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar, Lina Leandersson as Eli, Per Ragnar as Håkan, Henrik Dahl as Erik
Synopsis: Adapted from a John Ajvide Lindqvist novel of the same name, the film is a coming-of-age story of Oskar, a 12-year-old bullied school kid who seeks revenge. One day, a man named Håkan and his supposed young daughter Eli move in as his neighbours, and Oskar befriends her. Soon, Oskar learns about her strange need for human blood and her connection with a slew of murders in the block and must find a way to survive.
Awards won: Nominated for Best Film not in the English Language at the 2010 BAFTA Awards; won in the best international film category at 2009 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA.
Watch Let The Right One In here.
The Blade franchise (1998-2004)
Directed by: Stephen Norrington
Cast: Wesley Snipes as Blade, Stephen Dorff as Deacon Frost, Kris Kristofferson as Whistler, N’Bushe Wright as Karen
Synopsis: In the 1998 film, based on a Marvel comic superhero of the same name, Blade is a vampire hunter determined to wipe out all the evil bloodthirsty monsters from the world. When he witnesses one of them bite a human named Karen, he rushes to her rescue and soon unravels a vicious plot.
The first instalment arrived in 1998 and two more films followed — Blade II (2002) directed by Guillermo del Toro and Blade Trinity (2004) directed by David S. Goyer. While Blade II follows the protagonist as he teams up with a vampire council to eliminate a new kind of monster, Blade Trinity has the vampire-human hybrid join a group of vampire slayers to save humanity.
Awards won: The 1998 film was nominated for Best Horror Film and Best Makeup at the 1999 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA.
Watch Blade here.
Watch Blade II here.
Watch Blade Trinity here.
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The Underworld franchise (2003-2016)
Directed by: Len Wiseman
Cast: Kate Beckinsale as Selene, Scott Speedman as Michael Corvin, Shane Brolly as Kraven, Michael Sheen as Lucian
Synopsis: The 2003 film follows Selene who is a member of the brutal ‘Death Dealers’. Tasked to kill all werewolves of the earth, she finds herself torn between the Vampires and the Lycans when she uncovers the truth behind the century-old war between the two.
During the events of the film, Selene meets Michael who is bitten by a Lycan. Instead of instantly killing him, she brings him to the vampire coven as he was sought by the Lycans for reasons unknown. The other movies in the franchise follow the conflict between the two clans and include Underworld Evolution (2006), Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009), Underworld Awakening (2012) and Underworld: Blood Wars (2017).
Watch Underworld here.
Watch Underworld Evolution here.
Watch Underworld: Rise of the Lycans here.
Watch Underworld Awakening here.
Watch Underworld: Blood Wars here.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1992)
Directed by: Fran Rubel Kuzui
Cast: Kristy Swanson as Buffy, Donald Sutherland as Merrick, Luke Perry as Pike, Rutger Hauer as Lothos
Synopsis: Much before the television series of the same name created ripples in 1997, the vampire movie had introduced the bloodsucking monsters as part of an amusing horror comedy.
Buffy is a ditsy cheerleader who plays the stereotypical high school love interest of the era with Pike as the handsome heartthrob. While no one expects her to be the vampire hunter that she turns out to be, her teacher Merrick teaches her to use a stake and she does it quite adeptly.
Watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer here.
Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus (2015, USA)
Directed by: Spike Lee
Cast: Stephen Tyrone Williams as Dr Hess Greene, Zaraah Hightower as Ganja Hightower, Rami Malek as Seneschal Higginbottom
Synopsis: After anthropologist Dr Hess Greene is stabbed by his assistant with an ancient dagger which had a spell cast, he wakes up with an unquenched thirst for blood. Things further spiral out of hand when the assistant’s wife, Ganja, arrives and the two begin a whirlwind romance and Hess turns her into a vampire as well.
Veteran filmmaker Spike Lee’s modern-day take on the cult classic vampire movie Ganja and Hess (1973) started as a low kickstarter project with a very meagre budget. This experimental film seems to fall flat not in terms of performance or mishandling of the plot, but because Lee attempts to incorporate a wide range of themes, including racism, addiction, gender and politics into it.
Watch Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus here.
Vampire’s Kiss (1988)
Directed by: Robert Bierman
Cast: Nicolas Cage as Peter Loew, Jennifer Beals as Rachel, Maria Conchita Alonso as Alva Restrepo
Synopsis: Peter is a publishing agent who is under the impression that his latest romantic fling, Rachel, has bitten him and turned him into a vampire. A laughter riot follows when Peter goes on to buy a pair of plastic fans when his fangs don’t grow. Such is the extent of his insanity that he also gobbles up a whole cockroach.
This vampire story treads along the lines of dark comedy and is a refreshing take on the vampire genre.
Watch Vampire’s Kiss here.
(Main image credit: Fright Night/ © DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC. ÊAll Rights Reserved./ IMDb; Feature image credit: Dracula/ © Universal Pictures/ IMDb)