What are the best vampire movies of all time? Myths and folklore about vampiric creatures have existed for centuries, and as such, horror movie filmmakers have been drawing from these sources practically since the dawn of cinema.
In fact, the French production The House of the Devil, one of the earliest monster movies to utilise tropes associated with vampires, predates the publishing of Bram Stoker’s Dracula by a year, coming out in 1896. We’ve had a great many films on bloodsuckers since then from all around the world. That means there’s a lot to choose from if you’re looking for some gothic romance or just good bloody violence.
Picking the best vampire movies, then, is no easy task. But we love our crypts and coffins, and so we’ve the greatest films you should seek out if you’ve got a craving you can’t quench. These range from classics to modern greats, and quieter drama movies to outright action movies. Like the best werewolf movies, these are all are best enjoyed with the curtains drawn, and the lights down, though be careful of what lurks in the shadows.
What are the best vampire movies?
- Near Dark
- The Hunger
- Let The Right One In
- From Dusk Till Dawn
- Dracula (1931)
- A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
- Only Lovers Left Alive
- The Blood Spattered Bride
Vampires have always been cool, but in the ’80s they were especially awesome. The Lost Boys made them seem like the answer to adulthood, partying all night to slumber during the day. Near Dark, directed by Kathryn Bigelow from a script she co-wrote with Eric Red, features vampires living off the grid as nomads out in the American south.
One of the tribe’s number, Mae, converts another drifter, Caleb, and some aren’t happy when he’s forced to join the group. The upheaval causes chaos that swiftly descends into violence from erratic members Jesse and Severan. Echoes of American history can be found in the subtext, but Bigelow’s usage of acid Western visual ideas suggest this is far more about who wishes to have our blood in the here and now.
As much a ghost movie as it is about vampires, the ethereal nature of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Vampyr makes it a truly haunting experience. An occultist, Allan Gray, discovers a small French town is being terrorised by a local demonic entity that drains people of their lifeforce.
He undergoes hallucinations of his own death in his pursuit of the demon, who resides in a dimly lit castle (where else?). Spirits are disturbed by all the racket, demonstrating this is a meeting point between one life and the next. An eerie film, to say the least.
The first feature from horror stalwart Guillermo del Toro is a bloody curio on the dangers of eternal life. An alchemist invents a mechanism to prolong existence, at the cost of an insatiable need for blood. Centuries later, an inquisitive antiquer discovers the gadget and begins to undergo a heinous transformation.
Many of del Toro’s fingerprints are clearly visible, like his fascination with biomechanical body horror and a general squeamishness. So too is a real human warmth and longing, nascent but very much present.
Tony Scott’s vampiric love triangle featuring David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve as immortal bloodsuckers who entrance Susan Sarandon shows remarkable restraint in not succumbing to total eroticism. Bowie plays a French cellist from the 18th century, John, a suitor converted by Miriam (Deneuve), now living with her in New York City. When he stops sleeping, he sees a specialist, Sarah (Sarandon), and eventually, the three become knotted.
Eternal sensuality and longing are clothed in ’80s gothic pastiche. At times it’s like it’s all the film can do not to directly make a pass at the viewer. Deneuve and Bowie are truly betrothed as Sarandon tries her hardest to resist temptation. Impossible when it feels this good.
Let The Right One In
Adapted from John Ajvide Lindqvist’s bestselling novel, Tomas Alfredson creates a delicate romance movie by sidestepping much of the horror in the source material. Two young children in Stockholm, Oskar and Eli, are drawn together out of loneliness and isolation. As they bond, Oskar gets closer to learning exactly why it is he can only see Eli at night.
Scripted by Lindqvist himself, Let The Right One In is sombre without being mournful, tapping into the optimism its two leads give each other. Kåre Hedebrant brings a light stoicism to Oskar, met by Lina Leandersson’s glassy-eyed innocence as Eli. Downbeat but gentle.
From Dusk Till Dawn
Even if Robert Rodiguez’s was just a straight neo-Western, it’d be great. George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino as bank-robbing brothers trying to keep a hold of the family they’ve taken hostage is just a wicked premise. That it flips like it does, when it does, into an effects-driven blowout full of vampires and torn-up bodies in a roadside saloon makes it spectacular.
Anything and everything is used as a weapon to survive. Danny Trejo tears someone’s limb off. Tom Savini stabs a vampire with a pool cue. Clooney’s attempt at a cool execution of Salma Hayek’s ringleader sends him flying across the bar. Hammy and all the better for it.
One of the great classics of horror cinema. It’s Dracula by way of German expressionism, where Max Shreck plays the pointy-eared Count Orlok, a strange aristocrat who skulks in shadowy hallways. One Thomas Hutton visits his castle in Transylvania, where some threatening behaviour indicates the Count’s planned move to a small German town mightn’t be so prosperous for the locals.
The sense of foreboding terror in director F W Murnau’s cinematography, Günther Krampf and Fritz Arno Wagner is still palpable a full 100 years from release. They were limited by only having one camera, meticulous in their blocking and framing. Shreck’s minimal performance brings an inhuman menace compared to the flamboyance of his co-stars. This would be Prana Film’s only production, and maybe this was all the studio ever needed to achieve.
Bela Lugosi might be the literal star of Dracula, but it’s the sets that command the most attention. A massive, creaky, eerie castle dwarfs the count and anyone else who sets foot in his domain. Director Tod Browning seemed infatuated, at times resting the camera such that the cast seem tiny on-screen.
All in service of Dracula’s power, a master of infatuation who ensnares anyone that gets close. Lugosi plays the legendary vampire as a pure narcissist, confidently challenging Edward Van Sloan’s Van Helsing. Nothing in Bram Stoker’s novel is coy, and though it differs from the text, this adaptation is appropriately grand.
“Some motherfuckers are always trying to ice-skate uphill.” Blade would be worthy of accolades for this line alone. Throw in the opening rave, the ostentatious effects, and the snappy editing and pace, and you have one of the better action movies of the ’90s.
It’s all held together by Steve Norrington’s muscular direction that maintains speed without losing strength in all the supernatural movement and Wesley Snipes’s electrifying performance. Whatever form the MCU’s Blade takes, it has a high bar to cross.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Though wrought with striking imagery and themes, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night glides along like the unnamed protagonist’s skateboard. An Iranian Western of sorts, Ana Lily Amirpour’s film has an elusive qaulity to it that commands your attention as it weaves through the grim underbelly of fictional setting Bad City.
A young man, Arash, is struggling between his father’s heroin habit, and a local dealer and pimp that has them under his thumb. That is, until he encounters a mysterious woman, played by Sheila Vand, who eventually leads him towards an escape. The performances and screenplay yield plenty to admire, thought they’re almost outshone just how phantasmically shot the backdrop is.
Only Lovers Left Alive
Honestly, if Tilda Swinton turned out to be some form of eternal being, would anyone be all that surprised? Her warm, enigmatic presence is perfectly suited to Jim Jarmusch’s love story centred on a couple whose long-distance relationship is less challenged by georgraphy than time.
Swinton is Eve, opposite Tom Hiddleston as Adam, vampires who live off-the-radar on blood donations. A renowned musician, Adam’s in a funk that worries Eve, and exacerbated by her younger sister, who wants more of the Lost Boys side of immortality. Jarmusch brings his typical blend of cool and poetic, and with an air of effortlessness.
The Blood Spattered Bride
Produced in the shadow of Francois Franco’s Spanish dictatorship, The Blood Spattered Bride is oozing subtext on oppression and state violence. Right after her wedding, Susan starts having graphic delusions about sexual assault that confuse her husband on their honeymoon. They change destination, but the dreams only become more vivid.
An ancient vampire is the cause, and soon her allure befalls several victims. Vicente Arada weaponises the inherent liberalism of horror to express anti-authoritarian rhetoric through the lens of bloodsucking eroticism, and even if that doesn’t appeal to you it’s got a gruesome side. Directly referenced by Tarantino in Kill Bill for a reason.
That’s all for now, you bloodsuckers! If you want more spooky stuff, check out our list of the best zombie movies of all time.