The Definitive Ranking Of Movie Vampires
Of all the monsters Hollywood has created in its time, the vampire is the most storied and utilized. An immortal creature with a macabre thirst for blood, some incarnations adhere to his long-held, mythic set of attributes, while others take reinvention to a wide spectrum of variations. Foreign films have added their own unique flavor to the genre, as well. So many movie vampires have either kept us up at night in fear or sent us off to bed with a smile. Here, we definitively rank film’s all-time greatest vampires.
20. Selene (Kate Beckinsale), “Underworld” (2003)
We’ll see another leather-clad, sword-wielding vampire avenger on this list, but Selene is definitely the prettier of the two. Waging a war with werewolves — like political parties, vampires and werewolves never seem to get along — she falls in love with a dopey human along the way. She may look like a supermodel, but Selene is a force to be reckoned with in the requisite cape and fangs.
19. Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), “Twilight” (2008-2012)
While a vampire can easily seduce a damsel with his hypnotic allure, this teenager did just that to a whole generation of real-life 12-year-old girls (and perhaps their mothers, too). In this world, Edward is a hero, not a villain, and even takes his mortal paramour to the prom after decapitating and burning a dangerous rival — behavior not seen in many places outside the Bronx. Part “Romeo and Juliet,” part “Harlequin Romance,” after five films of this sweeping franchise, we contemplated turning the stake on ourselves.
18. Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), “House of Dark Shadows” (1970)
A character whose popularity could not be contained within the confines of the television soap opera he saved with his mid-series introduction, Barnabas Collins took to the big screen in this story of resurrection, bloodlust and true love. Charismatic, aristocratic, and cunning, Collins elevated the role of murderous monster with a protagonistic spin.
17. The Countess (Lauren Hutton), “Once Bitten” (1985)
Even vampire movies were not immune from the pervasive ’80s let’s-lose-our-virginity narrative. The virgin in this case is an all but unknown Jim Carrey before his big screen performances became defined by sheer lunacy. Here, the future Pet Detective is dogged by the seductive Countess whose immortal beauty rests on consuming his vestal blood.
16. Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall), “Blacula” (1972)
Nicknamed Blacula here by Dracula himself, this blaxploitation icon can horrify as amply as his cracker counterparts. And 1970’s Los Angeles is the perfect chomping ground. Ladies beware — this bachelor, widowed for centuries, is on the hunt for the reincarnation of his beloved, departed wife and is finding bare necks along the way.
15. Amilyn (Paul Reubens), “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1992)
Yes, the television series that followed receives the accolades, but really, it all began with this big screen version about a shallow Valley Girl cheerleader who realizes she has been granted a greater purpose way beyond her human pyramid skills. While her most dangerous adversary is the nefarious Lothos, it is his henchman, Amilyn, who lights up the screen. Leaving his overexuberant man-child Pee-wee behind him, Reubens is frightfully funny in what may be his second-best role to date.
14. Count von Krolock (Ferdy Mayne), “The Fearless Vampire Killers” (1967)
Gentlemanly, debonair and mature, Count von Krolock still embodies much to be fearful of. Additionally, his Transylvania castle is properly ominous, and the perfect setting for an annual vampires’ ball. Even with two slayers rooting around his palatial confines, Krolock has been around long enough to keep his bloodless body cool.
13. Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve), “The Hunger” (1983)
A wealthy eighteenth-century Frenchwoman living in twentieth-century NYC with her longtime vampire husband, Miriam is a sexy, erotic musician on the prowl for supple flesh and the blood beneath it. The promise of immortality has led hubby into a false sense of security, blown apart by the discovery that such immortality comes with a hidden catch. Widely remembered for its girl-on-girl love scene, Miriam drives “The Hunger” with her sensuous desire and duplicity.
12. Queen Katrina (Grace Jones), “Vamp” (1986)
A hurricane in her own right, but silent and out for blood with a style bursting with ’80s color and glam, Jones’ fanged stripper burned her iconic beauty into this surprisingly entertaining horror/comedy. Bringing fraternity boys to their knees like a campus’ most powerful Kappa Delta, she took vampiric seductress to a whole new level, particularly clothed in Keith Haring-designed body paint.
11. Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt), “Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles” (1994)
Like teenagers and Shakespeare’s finest characters, film has taught us that vampires can also be conflicted and brooding. Louis is the finest example of this, whose initiation into the ranks of the undead has given him wealth, power, eternal beauty and fashion sense (and a serious case of guilt and loneliness). An abusive maker named Lestat doesn’t much help, either.
10. Marie (Anne Parillaud), “Innocent Blood” (1992)
It’s a horror movie. It’s a comedy. It’s a gangster film. It’s a buddy cop flick. Whatever the underrated “Innocent Blood” is, it boasts a kick-ass vampire heroine. Another Frenchwoman in NYC, she has a strong conscience, leaving her to only feast on bad guys. The city, rife with mobsters, is her perfect feeding ground. Chaos ensues, and Marie must rely on her beauty, brains and bite to survive it.
9. Marlow (Danny Huston), “30 Days of Night” (2007)
No hypnotic, seductive vampires here. They are just purely brutal killing machines. And in Barrow, Alaska, entering its one-month-long polar night, forced hibernation from the deadly sun is no longer a factor. Barrow residents are now served up to a murderous fanged horde, led by the terrifying Marlow, who is sparing with both words and mercy.
8. Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek), “From Dusk till Dawn” (1996)
Another stunning female vampire stripper on our list, this one employs a snake, bursting fire and foot-fed tequila in her act. A seductress, no doubt, until she transforms into a fanged reptilian creature of the night. With a chorus of undead showgirls at her side and the collective power to chow down on a club full of banditos, Santanico Pandemonium brings a tornado of terror to the notorious Titty Twister, showing a particular sweet tooth for Quentin Tarantino’s unhinged Richie Gecko.
7. David (Kiefer Sutherland), “The Lost Boys” (1987)
A perfect example of the California boy turned vampire, Sutherland’s bleach-blond, mulleted David is soft-spoken with a ferocious bite. Leading a small leather and tapestry-clad gang of undead peers, he lives out a sweet existence until he comes up against a force that would lead to any vampire’s ruin: the Coreys.
6. Severen (Bill Paxton), “Near Dark” (1987)
A murderous blend of psychopath and bloodsucker, Severen is the blackest sheep in a dysfunctional family of nomadic vampires rolling through small Midwestern towns in their battered, sun-blocked RV. Delighting in homicide and havoc, his boots’ razor-sharp spurs gives him an extra evil kick.
5. Blade (Wesley Snipes), “Blade” (1998)
Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe exploded, wallpapering the multiplex with one glossy superhero film after the next, there was first a solitary spark called “Blade,” a badass, leather-clad half vampire whose vengeance for the undead anointed him as humanity’s savior. He’s a one-man killing machine with an impressive arsenal of weaponry, including a samurai sword, that literally reduces his adversaries to dust.
4. Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon), “Fright Night” (1985)
As a high school teenager, it might be appealing to have a handsome bachelor as a neighbor with the ability to spy the steady procession of babes coming in to call on him. Discovering that neighbor is a vampire, however, and those babes aren’t making their way out, has its downsides. Such is the predicament for our hero of “Fright Night,” an underappreciated ’80s gem. It is Dandridge’s smooth balance of charisma and menace that thrusts him to the highest levels of this list like a bat out of hell.
3. Eli (Lina Leandersson), “Let the Right One In” (2008)
Just when we thought we knew everything about vampire movies, it took a Swedish import to prove us all wrong. A love story between a bullied 12-year-old boy and another child vampire of indeterminate sex would never make it past Hollywood’s Development suits. But audiences are grateful that Eli, this mysterious child, was given life on film thanks to thinking more advanced than our own. Spare, chilling and terrifying, with joy somehow shining through, “Let the Right One In” delivers a punch not felt from many, if any, homegrown new releases today.
2. Count Dracula (played by multiple actors in several films since 1931)
There have been countless iterations of the Count, undoubtedly the world’s most famous vampire. Here, just one spot away from film’s greatest, we give a mini-ranking-within-a-ranking of the character’s most notable representations.
5. Frank Langella in “Dracula” (1979)
One of the later strict retellings of the classic myth imbued with a heavier dose of romance, this “Dracula” was the sexiest and suavest yet — it was the ’70s, after all. Still a bit too bland and disjointed to contribute to a higher ranking, Langella does frame a seminal pose throughout that has been nonetheless highly influential to the character.
4. Gary Oldman in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992)
Not the best adaptation in the “Dracula” canon, this gothic epic seemed to be heavy on style and light on substance. But by all accounts, it seems Oldman had a ball as the legendary vampire, radiating in indelible wigs, sunglasses, hats and claws. Even his shadows were memorable.
3. George Hamilton in “Love at First Bite” (1979)
The success of this horror comedy parody, released the same year as the Langella version, may have played a part in the latter’s lackluster box office. “Bite,” however, was a big hit and you have to admit, George Hamilton is the perfect actor to play a comic version of Dracula. As for many transplants, NYC itself starts out as this Prince of Darkness’ greatest nemesis until a tenacious psychiatrist starts to dog him, as well. All played for laughs, “Bite” introduced light romantic comedy to the vampire genre right at the sunset of the disco era.
2. Bela Lugosi in “Dracula” (1931)
If Dracula is the poster child for the movie vampire, then Bela Lugosi is the poster child for the character himself. Lugosi set a high bar with his dramatic interpretation, affixing a standard by which all future vampires would be judged. One of Universal Studios classic monsters, Lugosi made this “Dracula” universal by showcasing all the Count’s elements — seducer, hypnotist, creature of culture, and depravity among them — with a zeal that we have come to expect from all filmed vampire portrayals that have succeeded his.
1. Christopher Lee in “Horror of Dracula” (1958)
Almost 30 years after Lugosi debuted the character, Lee’s performance was cemented as the best ever. He truly brought out a vampire’s sexiness like none other before and upped the ante on frightfulness and power. Lee would go on to star in several other so-called Hammer adaptations, some of which he wouldn’t even speak in; just hiss maniacally. But he created if not the classic, then the true Count Dracula of film — a monster to be both fully feared and respected.
1. Count Orlok (Max Schreck), “Nosferatu” (1922)
It’s amazing how film’s first true depiction of a vampire is its very best. This German silent film is a true masterpiece of fright, with a titular character who is literally a monster. Bald with pointy ears, nose, fangs, and claws, in only five years from now the image of Orlok will have given viewers nightmares for an entire century. “Nosferatu” proves you don’t need a cape, amulet, slick hair or accent to petrify. You can just put an unvarnished embodiment of horror onto film with the simple purpose of terrifying generation after generation of moviegoers.