We couldn’t quite make room on the top ten list for something as obscure and bizarre as Rockula, Luca Bercovici’s comedic rock opera vampire movie from 1990, but if you’ve ever actually seen this compelling little oddity then know the scene in question. 1980’s comic actor Dean Cameron stars as Ralph, a vampire who’s hundreds of years old and a virgin. When he finally meets the right girl she’s swiftly killed with a hambone by a pirate with a rhinestone peg leg… every time. It’s been centuries now, and when Ralph meets his reincarnated lady love and takes her home to meet his vampire mother she treats her to an impromptu musical number, for no other reason than because she’s played by Tony “Hey Mickey” Basil. The result (above) is pretty darned unforgettable, just like the rest of Rockula. Good luck getting that little ditty out of your head as you read the rest of our top ten list…
Although most vampire movie lovers wouldn’t call it a “good” scene, there’s no denying that the sparkle scene in Twilight is now an iconic moment in vampire mythology. Yes, apparently vampires sparkle now, as the 100-year-old Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) bares his soul – and, pointedly, his chest – to teenaged Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), who is seduced by his beauty. Sunlight is no longer a threat, it’s a minor inconvenience that has the side effect of looking awesome. Will vampires ever be the same again? We think so, but now they’ll always have this one ridiculous (and unusually popular) moment they’ll never be able to live down, like the Adam West years are to Batman.
Then again, if you’re a Twi-Hard, then this scene is on our list because it’s “amazing” or something. Your call.
Fred Dekker’s cult classic kids movie Monster Squad is a cult classic because it’s smart, funny, well acted and – for kids at any rate – pretty darned scary. As a group of youngsters do battle with the likes of Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolfman and The Gillman in their hometown, they’re confronted with all kinds of legitimate dangers, like when The Mummy latches onto their speeding car, or when Dracula chucks sticks of dynamite at the hero’s house. But the best moment, and the one that traumatized little kids for years to come, is when Dracula himself (Duncan Regehr, later TV’s Zorro) spies the amulet he needs to win the day in the hands of a little girl. He walks slowly over to her, snapping necks as he goes, then clutches her cute little face, lifts her above the ground, and says, “Give me the amulet, you bitch!” It’s so badass it’s scary, and for a kid’s film it’s so scary – she’s barely in elementary school, remember? – that it’s badass.
The original Fright Night may be the better movie, but Fright Night II isn’t bad at all, really. It’s got a werewolf on roller skates, how bad can it be? But the most memorable moment in the whole Fright Night franchise comes when Ernie Sabella, a psychiatrist turned vampire, gets a stake in his heart. He laughs because it’s not in far enough to kill him, but then his psychiatric training kicks in, and the compassionate care-provider shoves the stake in all the way, killing himself rather than costing his victim their self-esteem. Good doctor. Bad vampire. Great scene.
Not much depth to this scene, but then again it’s Blade we’re talking about here. Fun movie, but hot heavy on the subtext. Wesley Snipes stars as a half-human/half-vampire who spends his time murdering bloodsuckers who have fully integrated into society. They even have their own raves, jumping around in tubthumping ecstasy as sprinklers rain deep red blood down upon them. Sexy, disgusting, orgiastic and gruesome, it’s an original and iconic opening for a film that afterwards would turn out to be just a straightforward action/horror hybrid, albeit a really good one.
Now Oscar winner, then genre filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow’s second film Near Dark didn’t get much attention when it was first released, thanks in large part to the release of the similar vampire classic The Lost Boys just a few months prior. But Bigelow’s film has a harder edge to it, as Heroes star Adrian Pasdar unwittingly joins a gang of vampires slaughtering their way across the American south. Aliens stars Lance Henrikson, Jenette Goldstein and Bill Paxton play most of the vampire gang, joined by Jenny Wright and Joshua John Miller. They’re willing to give Pasdar a chance to join their nightly murder sprees, but only after he proves himself a killer. So they bring him to a dive bar and proceed to massacre the patrons in an epic fashion (Bill Paxton slits throats with his spurs). It’s one of the most thoroughly memorable vampire slaughter scenes in movie history.
Not many actors get Oscar nominations for playing a vampire, but Willem Dafoe did in E. Elias Merhige’s 2000 film Shadow of the Vampire, an unusual high-concept film which posits that the star of F.W. Murnau’s early vampire classic Nosferatu was, in fact, an actual vampire. In the best scene of a pretty damned good movie, Dafoe gives a heartbreaking performance as Count Orlok ponders Bram Stoker’s classic novel from the vampire’s perspective. It breaks his heart to think of poor Dracula, trying in vain to remember how to prepare food for Jonathan Harker, or how to make a bed after hundreds of years in isolation. Afterwards, Count Orlok eats a bat. Sad, a little funny, and brilliant.
Picking just one scene from Joel Schumacher’s vampire classic The Lost Boys was so damned difficult that we’re fudging this one a bit. From the rebellious bridge sequence to the hilarious dinner party to the whole “My brother’s a vampire!” bit, straight on through the awesome vampire massacre finale. And then of course there’s that last line of dialogue, which may be one of the best last lines in movie history. Schumacher gets a lot of flack for his Batman movies, but he’s made a few classics in his time, and The Lost Boys tops that list. What an excellent vampire movie…
Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer series might be better and more popular than the original 1992 movie, but the film has its high points too. The highest of all came from Paul Reubens, his career still smarting from the public nudity scandal, playing Rutger Hauer’s number one lackey. Staked in the heart by Buffy Summer (Kristy Swanson), he proceeds to milk his death for every moment that it’s worth, “Oohing” and “Arghing” and kicking walls for longer than any death scene has a right to go… even into the closing credits. Dramatically significant? No. Funny as all hell? Hell yeah.
Carl Theodor Dreyer is considered by many to be one of the greatest movie directors who ever lived. Although his The Passion of Joan of Arc and Gertrud are generally thought to be his best works, his dreamlike vampire movie Vampyr is also one of the best early horror movies. Slow and quiet (it was his first sound film so he didn’t rely on it much), the story of a man who tries to rescue his new ladylove and her sister from the clutches of a vampire. The highlight of the film is an extended dream sequence in which the hero, Nicolas de Gunzberg, envisions his own funeral from the perspective of his own corpse. Watching the coffin lid nailed shut and the curious faces of passersby, the film cuts back and forth from his disturbingly open-eyed corpse and what it would see were it alive… or perhaps it is. The iconic scene only narrowly misses our #1 spot because you could argue that there isn’t technically a vampire in it, but it’s an unsettling look at life beyond death, inspired by vampirism.
Tomas Alfredson’s 2002 Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In is already considered a classic of the genre, and with good cause. It’s a solemn tale of a young boy, Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), befriended by the possibly ancient child vampire Eli (Lina Leandersson), who may want friendship from our protagonist or may have other plans entirely. Their relationship is solidified in a classic scene towards the end of the film, when local bullies are drowning Oskar in a swimming pool. The camera stays with Oskar under the water as a macabre commotion plays out behind him, punctuated by his nemesis’s severed head falling into the water behind him. They say that the scariest horror stories depend on what you don’t see. In Alfredson’s film, you see just enough to wish you hadn’t. A wonderful, terrifying moment in a wonderful, terrifying film.