It has been a couple of months since we did a “top ten” list here on The Cinephiliacs (that being the ten worst horror movies of all time), so with the season being a good time for this specific theme, let’s do another, focusing on the best vampire films. Now, there are so many vampire movies, some old, some new, some in-between, and I can’t name them all. Here, I will try to represent different eras, styles and such. I could do ten pre-50’s vampire films, and I could do ten post-90’s also, but I will have to calm myself and try to give the best of all worlds, so bear with me.
Included with each entry on the list will be a “unique vampirism” section where I will highlight what makes the vampires so unique in that specific film.
In no order in particular (feel free to put them in an order for yourself though), here is the list.
Let the Right One In
Oskar, a 12 year old boy in 1982 Stockholm, is bullied, and befriends a neighbour, a girl named Eli. He begins to develop a crush on her. Oh, and she’s a vampire. It’s a story about friendship, survival and love, and has a distinctive look, great performances from its two young leads, and is one of the very best vampire movies ever made, quite simply. Effective, moving and haunting, the setting, and the gritty realism to the visuals, offer something truly unique.
Unique Vampirism: Child Vampire. Reclusive and subtle.
The Lost Boys
Santa Clara, the vampire capital of the world. Sam and Michael, two brothers who are new to the area, discover the seedy and fangtastic underworld that exists in their new town. With the most mulleted and hair-metal-esque blood-suckers in film history, and a bath filled with garlic and holy water, this is a film that is beloved for good reason. Say hello to the night and get lost in the shadows of one of the very best vampire movies of all time, and one of the greatest 80’s flicks too. Kiefer Sutherland with a blonde mullet, channelling the spirit of Billy Idol and Bela Lugosi to deliver a great performance as David and with a wicked cast of 80’s mainstays, this is a defining moment of the 80’s.
Unique Vampirism: 80’s Style Rocker Vamps.
Legendary director F.W Murnau took Dracula to the screen, with Max Schreck as Count Orlok, delivering the creepiest vampire ever in the process. Silent but deadly, there are so many iconic scenes here, and it shows that a command of the screen is vital to creating something truly special. Schreck made Orlok eternal with his performance, solidly planting it into film history and placing the bar at a height never to be reached by anyone else. Just phenomenal.
Unique Vampirism: Silent and exceptionally creepy. The scariest vampire ever created.
If there is a single vampire film that personifies “iconic”, it is this. Bela Lugosi, as Count Dracula, (Dracula, 1931) is a snapshot of horror imagery, a true movie monster that is almost an unofficial logo to horror and vampire films. His delivery of dialogue is dramatic, the film is wonderfully dark and gothic, and while it has laughable moments in terms of effects, from today’s standards (see the bat at the window scene) it is undoubtedly one of the greatest films of all time, and one of the very best in the vamp sub-genre.
Unique Vampirism: Iconic image of a vampire. Truly the face of the genre.
Interview With A Vampire
Based on a novel by Anne Rice, this 90’s romanticised vampire flick stars Hollywood heavyweight talent like Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, and uses wonderful gothic settings and a top class cast to deliver a terrific script. It feels epic, it feels big, and it delivers. A true classic of a vampire film, featuring most of the things a fan of the fangers would crave.
Unique Vampirism: Romantic and sexy. Leave your gore at the door.
Only Lover’s Left Alive
A beautifully dark, mystical and musical film from Jim Jarmusch with Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as two long-term lovers who juggle their lives as creatures of the night with a need for culture and all the beautiful things that come with eternal life. It shows the painful torment of immortality in a way seldom scene in the genre, and the unique energy and brilliantly dreamlike tone of the film had me hooked from the start. One of the best vampire films in the modern era, and possibly my vote for the strongest in the last 30+ years.
Unique Vampirism: Musically poetic, worldly and cultured. Vampires without the hunt.
Guillermo Del Toro directs this wonderful and strange film that deals with vampires in a very different way, exploring an ancient golden device that gives its owner eternal life, leaving a train of chaos in its wake. With fantastic performances from Federico Luppi and Ron Perlman, Del Toro crafted something truly unique and memorable here, with his signature dark fantasy style that is as beautiful as it is haunting. So original, and such a wonderful tale, this list would be incomplete without it.
Unique Vampirism: Melancholy and truly different. A vampire film that people forget is a vampire film.
30 Days of Night
David Slade directs an adaptation of a best-selling comic book series about a town in Alaska that falls under a sheath of darkness for one month, and in that time a gang of vampires come to feed and find victims. With horror imagery, including some frightening vampire designs, and a very cool cinematography, 30 Days of Night is an action packed horror actioner that keeps things interesting for its duration. A cast featuring Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Ben Foster and others, it’s a survival horror film and one of the best modern vampire movies that I’ve seen.
Unique Vampirism: Modern, brutal and flesh ripping monsters. Giant teeth. No romance here.
From Dusk ‘Till Dawn
Robert Rodriguez’s stylish and balls-out vampire romp is about as fun as a vampire movie can be. Spawning sequels and a television show, this is one of those films that uses gore, practical effects, insane characters and grit to create something memorable and thoroughly entertaining. With a cast featuring the likes of George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino and Juliette Lewis, the strip club filled with bikers, and Tom Savini with a pop-up cock-gun, it’s hard to argue about this being one of the finest vamp flicks of all time. It just is.
Unique Vampirism: Strippers with fangs and bikers with leather and sharp teeth. The bad-ass vamps.
Tobe Hooper, ah, Tobe, how you have made me smile with your films. Now, I’m a huge Texas Chainsaw Massacre fan, but I also love this weird, gory, bright and fantastic vampire film, Lifeforce. With a science fiction edge and a horror heart, this, on a personal level, is one of my favourite movies in general, so it was impossible for me to leave it off this list. Underrated, completely mad, and purely exciting, Lifeforce takes the vampire in another direction, allowing the villains to suck life from their victims in lightening like bursts, rather than pints of blood for puncture wounds in a victims’ neck. Sexy, gory and hilarious, Hooper hit it out of the park again with this one.
Unique Vampirism: Naked space vampires covered in blood. ‘Nuff said.