Vampire movies have had a rough time, as a go to readily identifiable villain, they have a pretty high frequency of being utterly horrible. Many of them are utterly abysmal, that those that aren’t deserve special mention. Here’s a list devoted to vampire movies which are actually good.
Special Mention: Embrace of the Vampire
This movie gets a special mention. This list is meant to be for good vampire movies, and by every measurable statistic, Embrace of the Vampire is a horrible, horrible flick. So why does it get on this list? Because of its immense importance to me as a teenager, as Alyssa Milano is nude and having sex with just about everyone in this movie. As a 14 year old, her lesbian and three way encounters. Milano did the film in order to get rid of her “good girl” image, and I’m only hoping that other young actresses follow suit (come on, Emma Watson!) Yes, it’s a crap movie, but so much nudity!
15. Near Dark
Kathryn Bigelow, who won a bundle of Oscars for Hurt Locker last year, is the director behind this vampire flick which was part of a wave of more serious takes on the genre in the late 80s. While critically acclaimed, Near Dark didn’t do well at the box office, struggling to make much, and didn’t even exceed its budget while in theaters. However, it became a cult hit, helped majorly by convincing performances from Bill Paxton and Lance Henricksen, both of whom can always be relied on to pull out all the stops on a genre piece. There was a remake in the works, which has thankfully since been killed.
Underworld is the very definition of a slick, modern take on the vampire myths. The sequels are all completely unwatchable, but the original 2003 flick was a solid action story about the eternal war between vampires and werewolves, why do genre flicks always pit those two against each other? Can’t we have some other horror species in the mix? Lets get some creatures of the black lagoon involved! While the plot itself and the attempt to create a hybrid vampire/werewolf is laughably bad, the action, special effects, and overall tone of the film were great.
13. Blade 2
Blade showed us that it was possible to make a comic book movie that doesn’t suck. Blade Trinity wasn’t as bad as everyone lets on, and Ryan Reynolds and Parker Posey were both them and the Pomeranian. Blade 2, however, was where the series shone. Creep master Guillermo Del Toro directed this entry in the trilogy, and it was miles better than either of the other flicks, mostly because of his directing chops, and uncanny abilities to make creatures that are really creepy. Their three-way jaws and suckers were the stuff of nightmares, and Snipes was at his ass-kicking best.
12. Shadow of the Vampire
Shadow of the Vampire is a vampire movie about a vampire movie. Wait, what? Keep with me here, it’s actually a great concept. One of the most famous, and arguably the original, vampire film is Nosferatu, the legendary silent horror that introduced the myth of the Vampire to the big screen. Shadow of the Vampire is about the making of that film, if the actor who played Nosferatu actually was a vampire. Somewhere between horror and a comedy, the actor who plays Nosferatu wears no makeup, and has a habit of killing off the film crew, much to the consternation of the director. Both Willem Dafoe and John Malkovich are in amazing form, playing off each other remarkably in this alternatively hilarious and scary film.
11. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
I tend to avoid anime on these lists, not through any bias, but merely because the genre is so immensely huge that as soon as I add one from their ranks, a thousand more crow to used too, placing themselves against the weight of live action cinema the world over. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is something special in my mind. Written and directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, it uses his characteristic hyper fight scenes, plentiful blood, and intense use of shadows. The character and world design for Bloodlust are absolutely amazing, and some of my favorite parts of the film are just looking at the world around them, and the wondrously terrifying post-apocalyptic world they inhabit.
10. Lost Boys
Dated and filled with horrible 80s fashion, Lost Boys still remains a firm favorite for geeks of a certain age, who remember when it came out, and when the brat pack were cool. Released in 1987, it’s a who’s who of young actors who went on to have substance abuse problems, and the last time anyone remembers Joel Schumacher doing anything that wasn’t unwatchable camp. While undeniably shallow, Lost Boys is also incredibly fun, and while the styles and action may be horridly old and ugly, it’s still worth watching and enjoying, especially checking out all the young stars before they completely destroyed their lives. There was a direct to DVD sequel. It wasn’t good. Let’s just leave it at that.
Korean director Park Chan is the madman behind Oldboy, and the other two films in the vengeance trilogy: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, you know when he took on the vampire movie it would be brilliantly shot and utterly twisted. Thirst is all that and more, about a Priest turned vampire through a failed medical experiment, who falls in love with his friend’s wife. Far more than most vampire flicks, it deals with the emotions and horrors of being a vampire, especially to one so devoted to a life of asceticism and restraint as a priest. Visceral without being overly disgusting, Thirst still manages to make you wince occasionally, but remains an utterly amazing film.
8. Night Watch
The Watch trilogy, Night Watch, Day Watch and the in-production Twilight Watch, are a series of wonderfully twisted Russian action films about a war in Russia between two supernatural sides, good and evil though neither are particularly pleasant. The Night Watch keeps an eye on the dark and evil ones, the Day Watch polices the good ones, and an uneasy truce remains. Vampires feature heavily in the plot, usually on the side of darkness, but there’s so much more than just bloodsuckers in this creepy and violent series. Set among the scum, grime and crumbling ruins of Russia, you come out feeling like that nation is somewhere so alien and weird that you can’t even comprehend it. The creators also realized they had a chance to have the film do well in English speaking nations, so took the time to do something really interesting with subtitles, having the animate and interact with the scenes on screen.
Black and white, silent, and terrifying or at least by 1920s standards, Nosferatu is the great of all vampire movies. Far removed from the the glamorous and sexy vampires that modern myth makes them to be, the Count in Nosferatu was a hideous creature of the night, beyond ugly, a cause of terror, an unholy monster of unimaginable power. The company that made Nosferatu soon went bankrupt, because the film was an unauthorized version of Dracula they couldn’t gain the rights to the title, so they changed a few key names here and there, but the courts ruled it was still too close to the original, and the company folded. An amazing look at the birth of cinema, the tense atmosphere and amazing makeup still make it an incredibly watchable film after all these years.
6. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
An attempt to at least vaguely stick to the plot of the original novel, the 1992 Dracula was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and while far from perfect, is arguably the best straight interpretation of the Dracula myths. Cutting out much of the crap that has accumulated since the original novel, Coppola told a sumptuous and terrifying story of the original Count. More memorable for the sets, costumes and makeup, it’s still a great story, and Gary Oldman as Dracula is one of the greatest castings that humanity has ever done, a man absolutely perfect for the role.
5. From Dusk Till Dawn
Violent, funny, and incredibly over the top, Robert Rodriguez From Dusk Till Dawn is half chase movie, half vampire action flick. Two outlaw brothers are on the run from the law, and take a preacher and his kids hostage along the way, trying to get to a safe in Mexico. A strip club across the border, which happens to be run by a cadre of vampires. All of Rodriguez’ friends are in this: Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel, Cheech Marin, Salma Hayek, and Danny Trejo. Salma Hayek as a stripper vampire queen, what more can you freaking ask for? There are a host of horrible sequels, all of which are to be avoided, but the original remains a bloody, fun and action vampire slaying flick.
4. Dracula (1931)
When people think “Dracula”, it’s the 1931 version that remains the most prominent in their mind, even if they’ve never seen it. Bela Lugosi’s commanding performance as the European count, with his deliberate pacing, stiff movements, and stilted accent rapidly became the accepting version of Dracula, and a source of infinite retreads and parodies. Without Lugosi’s Dracula, we wouldn’t have vampires as we know them today, and even worse we wouldn’t have Sesame Street’s the Count! Viewed as the pinnacle of horror in 1931, it was the first officially licensed film adaptation of the classic novel, and a major gamble during the days of the depression. The movie was an instant smash, and permanently cemented itself in the mind of the world as the definitive portrayal of the story.
Guillermo Del Toro arrived into international prominence thanks to the twisted genius of this bilingual vampire flick, which spends as much time on the horror of becoming a vampire as it does on the amazing power that it confers. Del Toro twisted the myth on its head, abandoning the traditional methods of blood exchange to produce vampirism, instead focusing on a horrible mechanical device which can confer eternal life but at an extreme price. This strange insect like creation is the fulcrum of the movie, and Del Toro’s amazing body horror slowly builds and builds in this amazing film. The scene near the beginning where Jesus first discovers his thirst for blood by licking up the spill from a bloody nose in a bathroom is just so wonderfully creepy.
2. Interview With A Vampire
Vampires have always been about sex. Whether abstinent, forbidden, embraced or forced, vampirism has always been a metaphor for physical lust and carnal desire. When Anne Rice got into the vampire chronicles, she made it clearer than ever, writing sex fueled romps that became fantasy fodder for thousands of women. And then it came to the big screen. 1994’s production of Interview With A Vampire starred beautiful men, sumptuous scenery, and more fluffy shirts than you can shake a crucifix at. Yeah, there was a huge amount of homoerotic undertones, but lets face facts: many, many women find that incredibly hot. Due to this film, a generation of protogoths suddenly developed a fixation on vampires and flowing outfits. As much as I make fun, it’s one of the most heartfelt and humanizing looks at the curse of vampirism.
1. Let The Right One
Highly recommended vampire movie. Swedish vampire film Let The Right One In and the subsequent oddly competent American remake are in my mind the finest vampire films ever produced. I desperately don’t want to spoil the twists and turns of the plot for anyone who hasn’t seen it, suffice to say there’s a bullied young boy in 1980s Stockholm, who meets a girl vampire who appears to be his own age. As much for its cinematography as for its part romance part horror story, Let The Right One In is shot beautifully, with painstaking care made to recreate the early 80s and its one of the only films I’ve seen that manages to portray the vampires as both terrifying and people deserving of sympathy. It’s a beautiful tragic film, which everyone should watch.