Best Vampire Movies Header

Vampires haven’t been scary for decades. When you think of the scariest horror films, vampires are rarely mentioned. They have their appeal, of course, but what would that be? The vampire has been more consistently popular than other monsters over the years. Werewolves? They have their moments. Mummies? Forget about it.

The vampire mythology, like the bloodsuckers themselves, has never really died.  There is a tendency within the best vampire movies to twist and push the mythology. In one film, crucifix = protection. In another, a crucifix is nothing but a trinket. This constant renegotiation of mythology is one of the reasons for its longevity. Let’s review the best vampire movies and appreciate what makes the great ones so good.

01

THE BEST NEW VAMPIRE MOVIES

new blood

Brief Overview

In with the new

There has been a lot of exciting developments in recent vampire movies. Most interestingly, they are now often the protagonists of the story. The mysterious and aloof Count has become the teenage girl in an existential crisis.

Does this shift suggest something about our current collective experience? Or is it simply the next stage in the evolution of the vampire mythos?

This move to "heavier" and "prettier" films is due in part to the filmmakers entering the genre. What used to be the territory of low-budget B-movies is now the playground for auteurs.

Because of this, we don't have many huge, commercially successful vampire movies. What we have instead are more creative and elevated artistic expressions.

The last few years have given us a lot of great examples of vampire movies. Here is a short list of the best.

1.1 neil jordan's return

Byzantium (2012)

Eighteen years after completing Interview with the Vampire, Neil Jordan returns to vampires. It is a different tone, theme and aesthetic than his previous film but it flew under the radar upon its release.

Like many recent entries in the genre, Jordan's film aims for poetic beauty and strong characters. The vampiric disease/condition becomes a metaphor for something deeper in these characters. It's something they live but not without difficulty.

Outside the characters, the imagery is equally stunning. From the cliffside vistas to neon urbanity, there any number of visual stunners in the film. Topping them all, of course, is the waterfall of blood.

Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan carry the film as outsiders on the run from a "brotherhood" of vampires who despise their inclusion. The love story is, in fact, centered on teenagers but manages to avoid some of the pitfalls of Twilight. Take a look below:

There is some thematic overlap between this film and Interview with the Vampire, but they are very different films. Jordan described this film as a kind of "feminist" version of Anne Rice's story in Interview. Byzantium succeeds in telling a modern and relevant version of an old-fashioned story.

1.2 where did you come from?

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

This film came out of nowhere. It's an audacious debut from Ana Lily Amirpour, both exciting and completely unique.

It is an example of what happens when you give a well-worn concept like the vampire to an artist with a strong yet personal vision.

Amirpour dubbed it "the first Iranian vampire Western" so you know right away this will be different. But while a lot of films can be "different," it still needs to actually be good.

And this is.

Best Vampire Movies a girl walks home alone at night

The Best New Vampire Movies: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

There is no shortage of successful elements here. The black and white imagery captures the haunting ghost town setting. The throwbacks to '50s greaser culture play against echoes of a Sergio Leone Western.

The film is not one thing. It is many things brought together in a dizzying and dazzling display.

1.3 chan-wook at it again

Thirst (2009)

It shouldn't be a surprise that Park Chan-wook would give us something very different. And very good.

Park is one of the strongest Korean filmmakers working today. If you've seen his "Vengeance Trilogy," you can assume that his take on the vampire wouldn't skimp on the blood. And you'd be correct.

Park's unique and striking presentation of violence has made his films captivating. It is extreme but it is honest. There is little exploitation in this violence because it is always tied to the theme.

Like so many of the best vampire movies, there is a love story at the center. But it isn't romantic in any classical definition. It is twisted, bizarre and unapologetic. It caters to no one. You're either on board or you're not.

Best Vampire Movies Thirst

The Best New Vampire Movies: Thirst

The film challenges the concepts of what vampires can be while keeping so much of the mythology at the core.

1.4 reimagining old themes

Let The Right One In (2008)

One theme that some vampire movies hint at is the tragedy of it all. Being immortal would be a complete drag and some vampire stories flirt with that idea. This one centers on it.

Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is lonely and bullied. Eli (Lina Leandersson) has lived in isolation for centuries. Thus, they become the perfect match. Their need for each other becomes unbreakable, even when the bodies start accumulating.

The loneliness is supported by the frozen and barren Swedish landscape. It is also paralleled in the slow-paced editing.  The violence is juxtaposed with the 'nothingness' of the environment.

After decades of vampire movies, evolution is almost a necessity. As rich and fruitful as Bram Stoker's original conception has been, we need fresh blood. We need strong artists who grasp what's at the core of these stories and can reanimate their mythology.

Let the Right One In is the perfect example of that process and one of the best vampire movies of all time.

1.5 impressive visual style

30 Days of Night (2007)

Coming off his strong debut feature Hard Candy, David Slade had set his bar high. Cutting his teeth on music videos, Slade's visual style works well here.

The film emulates the stark and abstract qualities of the graphic novel. The contrast between the night sky and snow-covered landscapes gives a nice visual juxtaposition. The color palette, too, is drained of life.

There is an interesting crossover here: the subjects are vampires but the plot and setting feel more in line with a zombie film. We have a town overrun with monsters and a group of survivors trying to wait it out.

The plot is such a no-brainer for a vampire movie, it's amazing no one got it sooner. There are some minor plot issues but these are forgivable when you consider all it gets right.

Danny Huston is a formidable villain, for one. The vampires themselves are a creation all their own. From their exaggerated physical features to their linguist-created, clicking language.

Much credit is due to Steve Niles' original comic but the film is a solid and strong entry into the vampire canon.

02

THE BEST OLD VAMPIRE MOVIES

Old Blood

Brief Overview

Recognizing the classics

The first wave of the best vampire movies come straight from Bram Stoker's original 1897 novel. Naturally, the storylines overlap quite a bit but these films shine in different ways.

We can't discuss the best vampire movies without acknowledging where they began. The settings and themes might be outdated but the essence of the entire genre is distilled here.

If you haven't read Stoker's landmark novel, put it on your list.

In the meantime, let's take a trip back almost 100 years to the beginning of it all. 

2.1 palpable and plagiarized?

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922)

F.W. Murnau did not have the rights to make a film out of Stoker's Dracula origin story. So, a name change here and another one there and he's off to make the movie. Turns out, he didn't make it different enough and the Stoker heirs sued the production. They demanded that all existing prints of the film be destroyed. Lucky for us, they didn't get them all.

While it is definitely a plagiarized work, every vampire movie since owes a debt to Nosferatu.

Let's start with the fact that Max Schreck's make-up and performance is still terrifying today. It's even a stretch to call it make-up because it looks 100% real. This idea is explored to great results in Shadow of the Vampire (see below) that suggests it might not have been make-up at all...

Now let's talk about the bold use of light and shadow. Murnau's refinement of German Expressionist tendencies is a masterstroke. Horror filmmakers learned early on that what we don't see is scarier than what we do. The shadow of a monster moving along a wall is all we need. 

If you're a horror fan but allergic to silent film, suck it up (wink) and watch one of the first and best vampire movies of all time.

2.2 ICONIC FOR ETERNITY

Dracula (1931)

Rarely is an actor and a role more closely linked than Bela Lugosi as Dracula. The Hungarian actor laid the groundwork as the definitive Count. That legacy lives on today.

The accent might have evolved into caricature but Lugosi's demeanor and smoldering power are what defines Dracula. He is both refined and demonic. Reserved but compelling. Charming and seductive.

We also need to mention Dwight Frye's turn as Renfield. The mania in his eyes after becoming the Count's servant is exquisite.

Director Tod Browning's best decision was to hire cinematographer Karl Freund. The German cameraman arrived in Hollywood and brought his mastery of light and shadow with him. Freund and Dracula set the standard for Universal's now-iconic cycle of monster movies.

And while we're here, the Spanish language version they shot at the same time is a triumph all its own.

2.3 style that still works

Vampyr (1932)

Nosferatu and Dracula will go down as the O.G. best vampire movies. But this lesser-known film rounds out the unholy trinity.

Directed by Danish filmmaker Carl Theodore Dreyer, more and more people are discovering its greatness. Based on different source material, there are no clear ties to Stoker (finally!).

What is immediately striking about the film is the imagery. European filmmakers were always a bit more sophisticated with the camera in the silent era.

This film is no exception.

Take a scene in which the lead character, Allen Grey, imagines himself buried alive. We have the oblique angles of Grey's face as the coffin lid lowers into place. The lid has a tiny window and we share his POV as the coffin is carried to the cemetery. For 1932, this is flat-out experimental filmmaking and it still resonates today.

Best Vampire Movies Vampyr

Vampyr's original movie poster

For anyone who assumes that silent film is limited to static wide shots and overacting, this will change your mind.

03

THE BEST 70s VAMPIRE MOVIES

Make it a Bloody Mary

they do exist

70s Vampires

Vampire movies weren't exactly the most popular horror subgenre in the 1970s. The decade was defined by darker and contemporary horrors. That doesn't mean that we didn't get any vampire movies.

We did. And they're very interesting entries in the vampire canon.

Here are some of the best '70s vampire movies.

3.1 re-interpretation

Blacula (1972)

​Blaxploitation movies are a fascinating subject on their own. From a filmmaking standpoint, they aren't known for their "quality." But from a cultural perspective, they represent some of the most exciting films of the era.

If we run Bram Stoker's mythology through the blaxploitation lens, we get Blacula. The film repurposes the themes and commentary through the African and African-American experience. The process of reinterpretation has given academics and theorists plenty to discuss.

Best Vampire Movies Blacula

The Best 70s Vampire Movies: Blacula

And it has given the fans of vampire movies one helluva good time.

Blacula inspired a small run of black vampire movies, including a sequel called Scream, Blacula, Scream. Another film released a year later worth checking out is Ganja & Hess. 

3.2 herzog elevates material

Nosferatu, The Vampyre (1979)

Famed filmmaker Werner Herzog tackles this remake of Nosferatu. Shot in color, the images still manage to capture the dread of the original.

Klaus Kinski, a frequent Herzog collaborator, embodies Dracula with similar cold menace. It is a performance that echoes Max Schreck's Count Orlok without slipping into parody.

The same can be said about the entire film. Remakes can be treacherous if handled without care. Herzog's film is a loving tribute to the vampire classic but also steps out of the box in intriguing ways..

Kinski's Dracula is not only monstrous. There is a humanity to him that elevates the material beyond a simple carbon copy.

3.3 successful adaptations

Salem's Lot (1979)

As far as adaptations of Stephen King's novels, this might be one of the best. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is because it was expanded from a feature film to a TV miniseries. With a running time over 3 hours, we can invest a lot more in these characters and the story.

Directed by horror elite Tobe Hooper, this films manages to honor the past by bringing it to the present. Barlow's creature design/make-up is clearly inspired by Nosferatu but takes it further. The small-town setting effectively closes the gap between Transylvania and your own neighborhood. 

Best Vampire Movies Salem

The Best 70s Vampire Movies: Salem’s Lot

Because this was made for television, we don't get into the more gruesome aspects but it is chilling nonetheless. It's perfect for younger audiences dipping their toes into horror.

04

THE BEST 80S VAMPIRE MOVIES

PLAYING WITH GENRES

bela lugosi is dead

80s Vampire Movies

With exceptions, the 1970s kept vampire movies close to their gothic roots. The 1980s brought them fully out of the Victorian and into the present. In addition to the change in settings, these films also played with the genre in interesting ways.

By this point, audiences know all about vampires. What these films capture is that “knowing” and it allows the characters be just as knowledgeable. These aren’t just people experiencing vampires in a vacuum. They are fans of the best vampire movies dealing with vampires in their own meta-fictional lives.

Here are some of the best vampire movies from the Reagan Years.

4.1 coming together

Fright Night (1985)

Fright Night bridges the gap between classical and modern notions of the vampire. Sometimes the torch is passed slowly over time. Sometimes this transition can be achieved in a single film like Fright Night.

Any horror fan will tell you that practical effects and make-up are the way to go. Even if those effects become painfully dated, they remain a badge of honor. Fright Night makes this a priority and manages to be quite effective.

Chris Sarandon brings his usual slimy charm as the vampire next door. And Roddy McDowall excels as horror TV personality, Peter Vincent.

This is Tom Holland's first directed film and he would give a similar love/fun for the genre to his later work. With nods to the "castles and cobwebs," Tom Holland's film ushers the vampire mythology into contemporary suburbia.

Like other vampire movies in the '80s, the setting becomes as familiar as possible. In fact, one can see the suburbs as a major trend in all genres during the ‘80s. Like Poltergeist before it, Fright Night brings evil into the home where we used to be safe.

4.2 classic 80s film

The Lost Boys (1987)

Some films are forever tied to their time and place. Such is the case with The Lost Boys, an "80s movie" if there ever was one. Knowing that, any appreciation for Joel Schumacher's film must start with its "80s-ness."

Where should we start? The sexy, oiled-up saxophonist? The loud 'n' proud mullets and leather jackets?

Or the dynamic duo of Corey Haim and Corey Feldman?

The intended audience is perfectly represented on-screen. Teenage boys who read comics and know the secrets to vampire hunting. The in-jokes and meta qualities help keep the movie from being overly serious.

Kiefer Sutherland brings menace and cruelty as the gang's leader. The Santa Cruz boardwalk is an inspired location. It represents the innocence of boyhood soon to be lost. The dark and violent underbelly then forces them into adulthood.

4.3 "livening" up the genre

Near Dark (1987)

One of the greats, Kathryn Bigelow's film is an exciting jump in vampire evolution. Like so many of the great vampire movies, Near Dark understands the mythology inside and out.

Like a jazz musician, it has the confidence to take the genre in unexpected directions. The most noticeable differences are the themes and influences of the Western. Bigelow transposes the gothic castles in Romania for the dusty and bright hardpan.

The soundtrack adds another layer of generic complication. It's not a looming, classical score or even a twangy echo of "Home on the Range." It is a synthesizer-driven slice of '80s cheese by decade mainstays Tangerine Dream.

Bill Paxton's unhinged performance as Severen is pretty fantastic. There's something truly satisfying about watching an actor revel in such insanity. Lance Henriksen's shines, again, with his gritty-cool demeanor. And underrated chameleon Jeannette Goldstein keeps it all together.

For some, revisionist movies like this stray too far from the norm. For the rest of us, we appreciate the effort to make something as "old-fashioned" as vampires exciting again.

05

THE BEST 90s VAMPIRE MOVIES

HOLLYWOOD GETS BACK INTO IT

drink from me, live forever

90s Vampire Movies

The last decade of the century continues the evolution of the vampire film. The '80s vampire movies tended to be more playful with dark comedy and more self-awareness. And '90s vampire movies brought some seriousness back into the genre.

The decade also sees vampire movies getting larger budgets and bigger stars. Hollywood gets back into the vampire business and hasn't really left since. The films put out by the major studios find their success in keeping the mythology familiar.

At the same time, independent filmmakers are carving new and creative paths through that same mythology.

For fans of vampire movies, it was a good decade.

5.1 more vampire adaptations

Interview with the Vampire (1992)

Another adaptation but this time using Anne Rice's celebrated novel, written almost 20 years earlier. The scale of the film reaches for the operatic and manages to bring in some dark humor as well.

Rice's novel sets out to give us a brand new vampire mythos. We still have the 18th Century gothic settings but there is a clear disconnect with Stoker. Rice ditches the repression and explores the creatures' inherent sexuality.

Our new central figure is Lestat, played by Tom Cruise. His casting way debated by both fans of the book and Rice, herself. True there is no automatic reason why Cruise would fit in the role.

But then we saw what he did with it and the detractors cried pardon. Cruise is relishing this role. You can see how much fun he had by stepping completely out of his comfort zone.

This film tackles a theme that will come to define the genre in the last few years. The existential conundrum of immortality.

5.2 intellectuals and vampires

The Addiction (1995)

Abel Ferrara's moody, B&W meditation is in a class all its own.

If the title isn't obvious, the film is a metaphor for drug addiction and follows a similar narrative arc.

Lily Taylor plays Kathleen, a philosophy grad student working on her dissertation. The academic setting might seem odd but it presents an interesting opportunity. Now, the existential questions surrounding vampires can be discussed directly. "Self-revelation is annihilation of self," Kathleen says.

That's the kind of movie this is.

Best Vampire Movies Addiction

90s Best Vampire Films

But don't let the intellectualism dissuade you. The blood still flows as openly as the ruminations on Dante.

This is a stylish and effective piece of the vampire canon. 

5.3 brand new tale

Cronos (1993)

You've probably seen most of Guillermo del Toro's movies like Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth, and Pacific Rim. But have you seen his first feature film, Cronos?

Surprising to no one, del Toro's originality was present from the beginning. Rather than dip from the Stoker well for the 100th time, he concocts a brand new tale. In fact, it's debatable whether this is a vampire movie at all. There are no fangs, no biting necks, no garlic or crucifixes. Our lead character, Gris, does develop a taste for blood and sunlight does burn. 

It also shares themes of immortality and the allure of recaptured youth. For all vampires, there is a moral price to pay for eternal life. Cronos focuses that idea on Gris as he negotiates his new abilities.

It also shares themes of immortality and the allure of recaptured youth. For all vampires, there is a moral price to pay for eternal life. Cronos focuses that idea on Gris as he negotiates his new abilities.

06

THE BEST FUNNY VAMPIRE MOVIES

HILARITY AND HELL

go to hell, murnau

Funny Vampire Movies

We can't expect something as popular as the vampire to live for decades without poking a little fun at it. We can't take a bloodsucking monster seriously once it becomes a puppet on Sesame Street.

Or can we?

The funny vampire movie has a rich tradition of its own. Homage and parody only make sense once a property or character has reached a certain status. The films on this list have found ways to find humor in the mythology while respecting it at the same time.

Here are some of the best funny vampire movies.

6.1 bela lugosi returns

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

17 years after his iconic performance as Count Dracula, Bela Lugosi returns. During these years, Lugosi made a career out of playing villains and monsters.

It's inspiring to see an actor send up their own character and who better to make that happen then Abbott and Costello. By the late '40s, the Universal monster cycle had given us the classics. Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Wolfman.

Universal's decision to put them all into this film is pure marketing genius. This is the MCU before Marvel even existed.

6.2 vampires vs valley girls?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

This film should have been doomed to straight-to-video hell.

The premise is an echo of the teen-horror exploits of the '50s but the film's humor helps avoid that fate. 

It's a Sharknado-level crossover at a time when the "valley girl" and vampires were ripe for parody.

A cheerleader who hunts vampires doesn't sound so ridiculous these days. We've seen extreme mash-ups like these since Buffy opened the doors.

We love what we love. And we love combinations of those things even more.

Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry are perfect choices as '90s high schoolers. Donald Sutherland's gravitas delightfully balances Swanson's valley girl. And Paul Reubens is a delight as the baddie vampire.

It's highly possible that this film benefits from the huge success of the Buffy TV show made years later. Either way, this film is one of the pillars of the funny vampire movie canon.

6.3 vampire movies with vampire movies

Shadow of the Vampire

What if Max Schreck, the actor in the original Nosferatu, wasn't acting at all? What if he really was a vampire and Murnau cast him for his "authenticity"?

Such is the proposition of this fictionalized piece of vampire movie lore.

Willem Dafoe gives us an outstanding performance as Schreck. John Malkovich plays Murnau as obsessed with capturing his vision as Schreck is with dining on human blood

For fans of horror cinema, the premise is a dream come true. A movie about movies is one thing. A movie that suggests a creature like Count Orlok is more than just a "method" actor is exquisite material.

It’s a funny and sincere love letter to one of the best vampire movies ever.

6.4 one of the funniest

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

From the creative minds behind Flight of the Conchords, we have the This is Spinal Tap of vampire movies. In many ways, this film is one of the smartest and funniest capstones to the entire history of vampire movies.

The mockumentary style is the perfect delivery system for this homage. It allows for the in-jokes and references to come naturally.

It also collapses the distance between our world and theirs. Bringing the fans closer to the objects of their affection.

You can imagine this premise handled by less competent hands being a disaster. Writer/directors Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement are in complete control of this material. Based on their previous work, this isn't that surprising.

The film is young, especially in vampire years, but its status as a vampire classic is already confirmed.

07

THE MOST ROMANTIC VAMPIRE MOVIES

Endless Love

eternal love

Romantic Vampire Movies

Vampire movies are not only about sucking blood. Sure, immortal creatures that have fangs and can turn into bats are scary.

Or, at least, they were.

So, the appeal has to come from something else. And that something is the romance inherent in the mythology. What's more powerful than love?

Eternal love.

It's idealized, sure. It's poetic and perhaps a little childish. But that doesn't mean people don't respond to such notions. We can revel in fantastic concepts like vampires and eternal love for two hours.

And then we can get back to what's real. The following films approach these romantic ideas from very different perspectives. But they are also human perspectives as they, too, were once human.

7.1 80s, love, and vampires

The Hunger (1983)

The Hunger is a visual marriage between the vampire and '80s cool.  The film's detractors argue that it is merely style over substance.

But what style!

The film is completely inseparable from its era but that's where it's charm lies. It is a modernist take on the vampire, even down the opening credits soundtracked by Bauhaus' "Bela Lugosi is Dead." 

The film pushes the sexuality that has always been suppressed in the genre. This includes elements of the lesbian vampire movie that could only be seen in European art films.

Critics didn't care for this one all that much but it lives on as a cult classic.

7.2 existentialism and vampires

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Nobody does somber like Jim Jarmusch. His characters are often cool-y detached from their worlds so his take on the vampire is a natural fit.

Tilda Swinton (Eve) and Tom Hiddleston (Adam) are centuries-old. Married but living a world apart, Adam's lust for life is minimal. While vampire movies tend to focus on the newness of becoming immortal, here we see the aftermath.

The centuries have worn them down.

The costumes, hair/make-up, and production design suggest certain 'emo' cliches. But Jarmusch is smart enough to push beyond that. These characters are cool but their existential crises are real.

The love between Eve and Adam isn't romantic, per se. It is deeper than that and the actors pull this off wonderfully. Top it all off with a killer soundtrack and this becomes one of the genre's best.

7.3 iconic adaptation

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of Bram Stoker's original novel is bold. In every way. When we speak of "operatic," this is what we mean. The production design, the original score, the performances...everything is BIG and BOLD.

Gary Oldman's role as the Count is worth the price of admission alone. The Oscar-winning make-up helps but Oldman absolutely owns this role.

Let's not forget Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing and Tom Waits as Renfield. We can debate who is "more perfect" for their role but either way, they're killing it.

Casting Keanu Reeves might not make immediate sense. But his dopey/earnest persona actually works for Jonathan Harker's naïveté. And his weakness as an actor (or character) only makes Oldman's that much more powerful.

Wojciech Kilar's brooding and emphatic score is required listening. Just not at night when you're alone.

There might not be another adaptation of Stoker's novel that works on so many levels. This is the definitive version.

08

BEST ACTION VAMPIRE MOVIES

Let's Kill Some Vampires

how they came to be

Best Vampire Action Movies

For decades, Dracula and his descendants rarely strayed outside of "horror."

But that changes in the '90s when Hollywood starts producing action vampire movies. These hybrids found the sweet spot between both genres without compromising much.

Action fans will still get their firepower and explosive set-pieces. 

Horror fans will also get their bloody fix (now with higher body counts!). Here are a few of the best action vampire movies, in all their violent and gory glory.

8.1 a cult classic

From Dusk Till Dawn

Before Grindhouse, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez concocted this exploitation gem. With a script by the former and direction by the latter, From Dusk Till Dawn is a whole lotta fun.

The first half is a witty, yet disturbing, cool-crime-caper. The second half is a full-on vampire massacre. The combination is an impressive bait-and-switch and an instant cult classic.

Despite the copious amounts of blood 'n' guts, the film also surprises with moments of genuine sympathy. It might be easy to write off a movie like this that can't be bothered with character development. The violence is extreme to the point of comedy but it's not without some emotional resonance.

George Clooney does his best to break free of his E.R. persona and succeeds. Tarantino gives some of his best acting here.

Apparently, the secret is to not direct himself. Harvey Keitel is great as a grieving father struggling with his faith. And, of course, the practical creature effects by KNB deserve applause of its own. The CGI, on the other hand, hasn't aged well but that only adds to its B-movie charm.

8.2 a fun one

Vampires (1998)

The best action vampire movies don't skimp on either the action or the vampires. And that's exactly what John Carpenter set out to do. He set the film in the Southwest and made it like a kick-ass Western.

James Woods isn't necessarily the textbook action hero but he can crack wise like the best of them. For a film like this, you've got to approach it with a wink and a nod to the audience.

We all know why we're here, so let's just kill some vampires.

In this way, Carpenter's film isn't a "good movie" but it is a great action vampire movie. Roger Ebert might write it off as fun but dumb, but it's unlikely Carpenter was aiming for critical praise.

John Carpenter will go down as one of the best horror directors. Vampires won't be the one he's remembered for but that's ok. He's got films like The Thing, Halloween, and The Fog ready for that responsibility.

8.3 a new hero

Blade (1998)

Before Marvel's world dominance, there was Blade. The film avoided any trappings as a "comic book movie" and brought us a new hero and mythology.

The action is top-notch. It embraces the adrenaline-soaked machismo of all the great '90s action movies. Wesley Snipes brings his physicality and action star chops to the front. His charisma elevates what could have been self-important and lifeless.

Blade's backstory as a half-vampire vampire hunter is pure "comic book." There is a purity to these characterizations that make them accessible to younger readers. But they also capture the qualities of the heroes of antiquity. Greek gods have similar qualities but few have cooler trench coats.

Music will often put a timestamp on a movie which goes unnoticed until later viewings. Blade's soundtrack leans heavily into late-century techno, which hasn't aged all that well. At the same time, we remember that not every film needs to be timeless. 

Guillermo Del Toro's sequel in 2002 is also well-regarded as it builds and refines the character. Blade Trinity also has its charms but the first two entries in the series are where the money is at.

8.4 virus plus vampires

Daybreakers (2009)

Five years after Blade Trinity and in the middle of the Underworld franchise, we have a diamond in the rough. It's a high concept, futuristic fable in which vampires have taken over.

The remaining humans are in hiding or kept in food banks.

Daybreakers captures the dystopian vibe of its contemporaries but smartly pushes beyond it. The tone and look of the film are cold but the action keeps things from getting too serious.

For all the good guys he plays, Sam Neill really digs in with his villains. And Willem Dafoe gets to stretch his action hero muscles. Ethan Hawke is a serviceable lead. His character is torn between two worlds and he provides enough humanity to make that struggle compelling.

If we're judging the films in this category on their own terms, they are quite successful. Give us some scary vampires, a lot of firepower mix the two together, and we're happy. If you can find a unique an interesting angle or give us a premise that evolves the mythology?

Even better.

09

THE BEST VAMPIRE AND WEREWOLF MOVIES

A Clash of Fangs and Fur

creatures clashing

The Joining of Vampires and Werewolves

The crossover idea goes back decades. On paper, combining monsters would help evolve and revitalize them. There is nothing about the vampire and werewolf mythologies that suggest they belong together. Despite sharing the same regional background, they exist completely independent of each other.

And yet, in the last two decades, two franchises found massive successive in their union.

In preparation for our next article on the best werewolf movies, here is a brief crossover appreciation.

9.1 critics vs fans

Underworld (2003-2016)

No doubt thanks to the success of Blade and Blade II, Underworld extends the era of the action vampire movie. The franchise (so far) includes 5 films over 13 years, amassing over a half billion dollars worldwide.

Critics have found the series to be little more than forgettable. But the fans have really embraced it. Consider the fourth film, Underworld: Awakening. It has 27% on Rotten Tomatoes score and an A- Cinemascore.

They must be doing something right.

Let's take a moment to recognize that Underworld gives us a female-led action film. This is not the first film to do this, of course. But it pre-dates what we've seen lately like Lucy, Salt or Wonder Woman.

9.2 teenage dream

Twilight (2008-2012)

There are a lot of opinions about Twilight. For every blogger snarking at "vampires who sparkle," there are dozens of die-hard fans.

More than the romantic vampire movies discussed above, Twilight understands the appeal. For teenagers, the idea of eternal love is a seductive one.

This pure belief that love will last forever can be fully realized in vampires. When you cast heartthrobs like Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, you've got a recipe for success.

Twilight focuses on the romantic drama between the characters. It uses the vampire and werewolf mythologies as a backdrop. For purist horror fans, a backlash is inevitable. But there's no denying that these films meant something to young audiences.

With 5 films released in 5 years, the Twilight series is a textbook phenomenon. Worldwide, the films alone earned over $3 billion at the box office. You might not like them but a lot of other people did.

Up Next

The Best Zombie Movies

Had your fill of bloodsucking? Want to switch up the menu a little bit with some...brains? Check out our list of the best zombie movies and see which of the walking (un)dead came out on top.

Up Next: The Best Zombie Movies → 
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