The 1980s were a seminal time for the horror genre. It was the decade of slasher films and when the genre began to become deconstructed as audiences became more familiar with the tropes present in horror films. It was also a great time for films involving vampires, which is why we are ranking the best 1980s vampire movies.
Screenwriters and directors have much to learn from the genre. Vampires are rife with symbolism, and many of these films come with amazing shots you can learn from. On the other hand, there are some films on this list that show you precisely what NOT to do for your project. For horror filmmakers, these are the next 20 vampire films to sink your teeth into.
80s Vampire Movies
20. The Keep (1983)
Before Michael Mann would direct such classics as Heat and Collateral, he directed The Keep, a movie that’s about vampires in the loosest sense imaginable. The monster resembles more of a Cavity Creep than Dracula. However, there are hints of the talent behind the camera with some truly arthouse shots. The only issue is the studio intervened and prevented Mann from releasing the cut he wanted. What’s left is a mess but an intriguing one nonetheless.
Old Vampire Movies From the 80s
19. Transylvania 6-5000 (1985)
Transylvania 6-5000 sees two reporters heading off to Transylvania to investigate a Frankenstein’s monster sighting, and they come across vampires. There are a few PG-rated thrills along the way, and it’s fun to see a young Jeff Goldblum chew through the scenery. There’s far worse children’s horror entertainment out there, but it still leads to you wanting something more.
1980s Vampire Movies
18. A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987)
Salem’s Lot is a horror classic from the 70s. The belated sequel has largely been forgotten and for good reason. It doesn’t retain any of the main cast from the original, and the scares are decidedly fewer. The characterizations are weak, and the SFX couldn’t scare a toddler, which is why it’s often left out of vampire film discussions.
A RETURN TO SALEM’S LOT
- Trivia: The film is the feature-length debut of future party girl Tara Reid.
- RT Tomatometer Score: N/A
- Where to watch
Best 1980s Vampire Movies
17. My Best Friend Is a Vampire (1988)
My Best Friend Is a Vampire clearly tries to bank on the success of Teen Wolf, but it just doesn’t have the same charm. It’s one of the few kid-friendly vampire flicks out there, so parents have little to fear. The film sort of touches on hot-button issues, such as teen pregnancy and homosexuality, but it never follows any of these themes through.
MY BEST FRIEND IS A VAMPIRE
Best 80s Vampire Movies
16. Fright Night 2 (1989)
The first Fright Night has an intriguing angle reminiscent of Rear Window. Fright Night 2 is a by-the-books vampire horror film without any interesting plot device. Somehow, the effects got worse, which is probably why they are covered up with so much smoke consistent throughout the film.
FRIGHT NIGHT 2
Vampire Films 1980s
15. The Lair of the White Worm (1988)
The Lair of the White Worm is based on a Bram Stoker novel although it's far less lauded than his seminal Dracula. The 1988 movie is an incredibly bizarre work, going back and forth from a British comedy to a monster movie. There are far better horror/comedy hybrids from the era that won’t give you whiplash from how suddenly it changes tones.
THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM
80s Vampire Movies List
14. Mr. Vampire (1985)
Mr. Vampire is a comedic Kung-Fu movie that just so happens to have vampires. It never takes itself seriously, and that’s what makes it work so spectacularly. It’s perfect for people trying to get away from the Bela Lugosi version of the vampire as these ones can be warded off by simply holding your breath. The rules don’t make sense, but they don’t have to. It’s just plain fun.
- Trivia: Filming lasted for over five months.
- RT Tomatometer Score: N/A
- Where to watch
The Best 1980s Vampire Movies
13. Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1989)
When Bruce Campbell is involved, you know a film is destined for cult status. Sundown blends elements of the classic western with horror to create something wholly unique. While it never fully delivers on the insanity promised, it keeps a light tone throughout, making it a vampire flick for people who aren’t interested in copious amounts of blood.
SUNDOWN: The VAMPIRE IN RETREAT
- Trivia: The film never received a proper theatrical release after Vestron Pictures shut down.
- RT Tomatometer Score: N/A
- Where to watch
Best Vampire Films 1980s
12. Once Bitten (1985)
Featuring the film debut of Jim Carrey, Once Bitten is often forgotten but is typically loved by those looking for some cheesy vampire action. Carrey is more restrained than you would assume, but you can still find many of the hallmarks he would carry into future projects. It’s fun and silly but for those wanting a vampire flick with some substance, they’ll need to look elsewhere.
Great 80s Vampire Movies
11. Vamp (1986)
Top 10 Vampire Movies From the 80s
10. Vampire Hunter D (1985)
For anime fans, Vampire Hunter D is essential watching. It was one of the first feature-length anime films to come to the forefront, and the animation is still gorgeous to this day. The backdrops are hauntingly beautiful, and while the action gets a little campy at times, it all leads to a thrilling finale.
VAMPIRE HUNTER D
Good 1980s Vampire Movies
9. Lifeforce (1985)
Lifeforce has space vampires who drain people of their life energy rather than suck their blood. It’s an 80s B-movie in every way you want with ample nudity and sickening effects. It’s not for the faint of heart, but for the right crowd, it’s a great late-night watch.
List of the Best 1980s Vampire Movies
8. Waxwork (1988)
Waxwork has vampires, zombies, and werewolves, making for an entertaining horror/comedy that feels right at home in the 80s. While you might go into this film thinking its a typical 80s B-movie, it actually has a lot more atmosphere than most would give it credit for. Combined with the intertextuality present by referencing other horror films, you end up with a loving homage to the genre that offers plenty of frights.
80s Vampire Movies List for Filmmakers
7. To Die For (1989)
In To Die For, a Los Angeles real estate agent falls in love with Vlad the Impaler who goes to war with his long-lost brother in the modern era. It’s a film that combines the romance associated with vampires with plenty of bloody action. It’s one of the more underrated vampire gems from the decade, but if you can ever find it (it was a direct-to-TV movie), it’s worth a watch.
TO DIE FOR
Ranking the Best 1980s Vampire Movies
6. The Monster Squad (1987)
THE MONSTER SQUAD
The Best 1980s Vampire Movies, Ranked
5. Fright Night (1985)
The 80s were a time when slashers overtook traditional monsters in the cinema. Fright Night comments on this fact and suggest vampires can still be plenty scary, and it mostly succeeds. Much like The Monster Squad, it’s a product of its time, and that’s readily evidence in the makeup. However, the film has its tongue firmly in its cheek, and all it asks is for you to come along for a fun ride.
Old Vampire Movies From the 80s, Ranked
4. The Hunger (1983)
With sensuality, masterfully-shot violence, and a first-class cast, The Hunger is an underrated gem in the realm of 80s vampire movies. Even with all of that, the most compelling part of the film is its rumination on the loneliness experienced by immortality. Turning other people into vampires makes sense when all you want is someone by your side forever. The cinematography is stunning, and it continues to influence horror properties to this day.
Best 1980s Vampire Movies List
3. Near Dark (1987)
Attempting to ground vampires in reality is somewhat of a doomed effort. But if any film has come close to succeeding in that endeavor, it’s Near Dark. Director Kathryn Bigelow brings Western elements into a vampire story, doing away with elegance usually reserved for these films and bringing the monsters down into the dirt.
And yet, the relationship between Caleb and Mae is genuinely sweet. The romance never descends into the overly sentimental, making for a uniquely American vampire story.
Great 1980s Vampire Movies
2. Vampire’s Kiss (1988)
These days, most people remember Vampire’s Kiss for Nicolas Cage’s outrageous performance, and by gum, it’s certainly Cage doing a lot of acting. While the intention of the film overall is to make you laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, it will also make you tremble with terror. There are no half-measures in this film, and even if you don’t agree with all of the directorial choices, you can't help but respect them for making something so bizarrely wonderful.
The Best 1980s Vampire Movies for Horror Fans
1. The Lost Boys (1987)
The Lost Boys manages to get everything right with its vampires. They’re scary. They’re sexy. And the whole film is filled with that 80s movie charm that forever intertwines it with the era. The performances are top notch, and as soon as it ends, you want to watch it again. It’s a vampire film that could have only existed in the 80s, which is why perhaps it’s best a reboot never gets off the ground.
THE LOST BOYS
20 Best Werewolf Movies
Vampires are plenty scary, but there’s another creature of the night to watch out for. After you’ve watched some classic 80s vampire films, make sure to check out our list of the best werewolf movies ever made.