A Vampire Novelist’s Top 10 Vampire Movies

by | Mar 1, 2021 | Film + TV, Vampires

It goes without saying that as a writer of vampire novels, I am also a lover of vampire film and movies. But there are so many horrible vampire movies that it’s tough to slog through them all.

We need more serious, quality vampire films and less parody/comedy (I’m not knocking vampire comedy per se, because good ones do exist, but the appalling ones choke them out). If vampire stories are treated more seriously, they will attract more serious directors and actors. As it is now, playing a vampire is seen as a bit of a knock (depending on who’s behind the camera). A wealth of vampire novels old and new is just begging to be taken to the screen (ahem…mine for example). I think Vauquelin would make an excellent vampire portrayal on the big screen (although he certainly would not welcome the extra attention it would bring him…unlike Lestat, he isn’t one for the limelight). And, like many vampire aficionados, I have Opinions. You may disagree…let me know in the comments.

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

10. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

The film that spawned the series! I am not usually a fan of vampire comedy, but the cast and writing in this film make it irresistible. I love the different personalities portrayed, and the shenanigans that erupt from vampiric roommates. Each character plays on the stereoptypical vampire tropes, and the movie is just plain fun. I enjoyed the spinoff television series as well, but for me, it lacks the pizzazz of the film. Still fun to watch.

Nick: “Twilight!”
Deacon: “Shut up, Nick! You’re not Twilight.” đź’Ż

9. Suck (2009)

A rock’n’roll vampire comedy/parody with a beautiful aesthetic. A member of a medicore rock band is enticed by a vampire at a show…and their success skyrockets overnight. Dimitri Coats was outstanding as Queenie, an ancient vampire with a top-shelf creep factor. His non-blinking gaze and alluring curly mop are…to die for. Plus…Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop! Not exactly canon, but trust me…watch this. It’s a fun ride.

8. Dracula 2000 (2000)

I was skeptical about watching this one, but Wes Craven delivers (as he is wont to do). Gerard Butler makes a fantastic (and sexy as hell) Dracula, in what was one of his earliest roles. The film addresses what would happen if Dracula was resurrected after many years dormant and kept under lock and key. Technology and sci-fi buffs will love this, but what I found interesting was the connection between vampires and Judas, and why vampires are weakened by silver. I won’t spoil it, but this film is surprisingly good.

7. The Hunger (1983)

David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve are the ultimate sexy immortal vampires. I mean, just look at them. If only Bowie had actually been a vampire. Sigh.

A tale of vampiric boredom, betrayal, and how undying love might not always last forever.

The aesthetics of this film are beautiful, and the cruelty and pain of immortality is palpable.

6. Mark of the Vampire (1935)

 I hate spoilers, so if you haven’t seen this one, I won’t give away the  surprise ending. This is high gothic filmmaking. The aesthetics alone are worth the watch, and we see the debut of the original Goth Girl, Carroll Borland, who is fantastic as Luna.

This film was obviously capitalizing on the success of BĂ©la Lugosi in Dracula (1931), but in an odd way it could almost be a sequel. The one thing that never seems to be explained is Count Mora’s strange bloody wound. If anyone know’s the reason for this, let me know. I love this film and watch it several times a year.

TOP: BĂ©la Lugosi as Count Mora and Carroll Borland as Luna in Mark of the Vampire (1935). BOTTOM: Lugosi.

Read Nicole Eigener’s Beguiled by Night: A Vampire Tale to meet Vauquelin, a vampire for the ages

5. Dark Shadows (2012)

Everyone hates this movie, apparently. Not me. Do I hate remakes? Generally. Do I hate remakes that abandon the original? Definitely. Regardless. I love Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows and it will always be one of my favorite vampire films, no matter what forthcoming releases attempt to knock it from its perch. Johnny Depp as a vampire: what more could you want?

And by the way: I am pro-Johnny Depp – #justiceforjohnnydepp. If anyone could nail the concept of a vampire returning to life after 200 years underground, it’s JD. But he isn’t the only jewel in this film: Eva Green, my love, is heavenly as Angelique, the jilted lover dead-set on revenge. Look: the original Dark Shadows was a SOAP OPERA. Like Dynasty with vampires.Why wouldn’t Tim Burton take a humorous approach? He upped the camp, played with the vampire tropes, and delivered up beautiful ghosts.

High camp. High gothic.

I loved it.

No one can change my mind about this. I will fight you.

4. Interview with the Vampire (1994)

I didn’t want to like Tom Cruise in this, but…he did a good job as Lestat. We’ve all heard the stories about how Anne Rice *hated* the casting of Cruise as Lestat, but she came around, and I guess the same thing happened to me. I actually liked Tom Cruise as Lestat. It might be the only role of his career that I liked.

nterview hits all the marks of New Orleans-gothic, elegant gore, vampires through the ages.

My biggest compaint? THE NAILS. I know they had better manicurists in the 90s. There is simply no excuse for the horrible fake nails in this film.

Poster advertising Le Théâtre des Vampires from Interview with the Vampire (1994). 

3. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

I have a lot of issues with this movie, but I still love it. Keanu Reeves’ and Winona Ryder’s horrible “English” accents aren’t the least of it. Everyone tries to do something a little different with the Dracula novel, and I get that, but giving Jonathan Harker Renfield’s role was a mistake. I would much rather have seen more Tom Waits as Renfield and less Keanu Reeves period. Gary Oldman is an excellent Dracula, and his portrayal of a vampire is a gift to the genre. His acting and Eiko Ishioka’s costumes saved the film. From Vlad’s bloody red muscle armor to Mina’s confectionary ensembles and, of course, Lucy’s iconic Death Bride finery, the costumes become characters themselves. I almost wish this film could be remade, by Coppola, with better CGI and replacements for Winona and Keanu.

2. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

It would be impossible to estimate how many times I’ve seen this film.

I will preface this by saying I love Jim Jarmusch, and I will watch *anything* this man produces. So when I heard he was making a vampire film, I was beside myself with joy. He didn’t disappoint me. Leave it to Jim to conjure a vampire film that surpasses almost all others. He captured the joy and the terror and the ennui of eternal life, and added some beautiful new habits to the canon (the gloves, the gloves…I love this). Adam and Eve are archetypal vampires, and adding Christopher Marlowe to the mix was beautiful. Together for untold centuries, Adam and Eve have gone their separate ways but maintain their unbreakable connection. When Adam sends out a signal that Eve interprets as distress, she returns to him. Their blood supply is diminishing, and the way they come together is nothing short of breathtaking. Here’s a thirsty GIF of Tom Hiddleston, vampire extraordinare.

And I will add that I am an eternal Tilda Swinton stan. I adore her. I especially adore her as the vampire Eve. And I extra-extra adore her for the fact that, as Eve, she chose to pack mostly books for her travels to Adam. Heart eyes.

1. Dracula (1931)

The true original: I will die on this hill. The first authorized Dracula film was somewhat faithful to the novel, but BĂ©la Lugosi will always be Dracula to me. He owns the role. There’s a reason all stupid vampire costumes and subsequent Dracula roles all riff off of Lugosi: he redefined the look and persona for Dracula. Lugosi’s Dracula is nothing like the book description: he transformed the character completely. Dwight Fry’s enthralled Renfield with his crazed, wild eyes and maniacal laugh is unmatched. There isn’t much more I can say add to discussion of this classic that hasn’t been reiterated a thousand times, but I will say this: if you haven’t seen Dracula with Philip Glass’s modern score added, you are in for a treat. Get it here. I would have given my right arm (it’s okay, I’m left-handed) to see this live screening with the Kronos Quartet performing Glass’s magnificent score. It adds even more other-worldly splendor to the film.

Honorable Mentions

It was difficult for me to keep the list at 10. These are my other favorites, which didn’t quite make the cut.

  • Queen of the Damned (2002)
    This probably should have been in the the Top Ten, but the terrible acting (aside from Stuart Townsend as Lestat {swoon} and Aaliyah as Akasha {swoon}) kills it for me. I love the music, I love Townsend’s Lestat bravado…but the vampire council was basically a bunch of “ancient” vampires standing around with their mouths agape. Oh dear. Lestat’s creation story was intriguing, but let’s be honest…Stuart Townsend was the only thing that saved this movie. And I understand Anne Rice’s outrage at making Lestat brunette, because as an author, you have a set idea of how a character looks. Lestat is repeatedly described as blond in the Vampire Chronicles. I get this…if someone cast a blond in the role of Vauquelin, it wouldn’t be him. He’s supposed to be dark-haired. He might look like Stuart Townsend. Bonus thirsty Stuart-Lestat GIF:


    Yes you are, honey…yes you are.

  • Vampyr (1932)
    Perhaps one of the eeriest horror films to come out of the early cinema years. It has a constant sense of dread, and though the vampire is not explicit, it comes closer to the lore and irrational fear (usually of fear disease fueled by urban legends) than most modern films.
  • Near Dark (1987)
    80s vampire movies are sketchy, as are all 80s-era films. Don’t misunderstand me: I am a Gen Xer. The 80s are MY ERA. But the vampire films…not so much. This one is another story, though. It’s different. A fresh perspective on the genre, and definitely worth a watch.
  • Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922)
    Sorry, Count Orlok…you’re creepy, but I just am not in love with you. The end scene where he finally drinks blood is canon, though. Top-level vampire.
  • Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
    Klaus Kinski killed it as Nosferatu, maybe even outdoing Max Schreck in his original role. And I love Isabelle Adjani.
  • Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
    John Malkovich is genius as Murnau, and Willem Dafoe as Schreck? Amazing. This is probably the one vampire movie that lends credence to the existence of vampires.
  • Byzantium (2012)
    This is an unconventional vampire story, in that the vampires don’t drink directly from the body; instead, they pierce the veins with an archer thumb ring (like Lestat’s in Interview with the Vampire). I loved the eerie, despairing vibe of this film, but it was a bit too off-canon for me.
  • The Lost Boys (1987)
    Again…the 80s…but this is a classic none the less.
  • ‘Salem’s Lot (1979)
    This, of course, was a television mini-series. I include it because it launched my love for haemovores. Although adult Nicole doesn’t really find this film terrifying, it scared the bejeezus out of child Nicole, and set her onto a lifelong obsession with vampires. No list of vampire films would be complete without it.
  • Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
    It’s rare for me to enjoy vampire comedy, but this one is pure gold. Béla Lugosi recreates his Dracula with poise and perfection, and double-bills as Dr. Lejos. His biting of Sandra Mornay is perfection: even though his reflection shows in the mirror, which is actually what makes it so intriguing.
  • Daywalkers (2010)
    An interesting take on vampirism as a disease. Vampires have wiped out the human population and developed human “farms” to harvest their blood. They are running out of blood. My only issue with his film is that the protagonist (Ethan Hawke) wants to be cured of his vampirism. Why? It’s the same reason I never understood why Dorothy wanted to go back to gray old Kansas after visiting Oz.
  • Vampire Circus (1972)
    A British film produced by Hamme. It has all the classic Hammer hallmarks:  busty women, etc. In this story the vampires are traveling in disguise as a circus act to avenge the killing of their elder. A bit hokey at times, as many films from this era are, but a great story nonetheless.
  • 30 Days of Night (2007)
    This one is a true vampire horror film, and there are precious few of those. It’s a brilliant concept: what if vampires landed in an area that had no daylight (in this case, a month-long stretch in the middle of winter in Alaska). The vampires are unhindered until the humans’ survival instinct kicks in, and they are viscious. A great watch.
  • Fright Night (2011, with a nod to 1985)
    It’s rare for me to prefer a remake, but this one was fantastic! Great acting with nods to the original.

You may notice a distinct lack of Hammer/Christopher Lee vampire films in my lists. I adore Christopher Lee, but I’ve never been a fan of him as Dracula…he just doesn’t do it for me. This is a super unpopular opinion – I know.

Watchlist

I haven’t seen the following, but they’re on my radar…I’m always on the search for outstanding vampire films.

  • Let the Right One In (2008)
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2015)
  • Therapy for a Vampire (2016)
  • Vampire (2011)

So there you have it….a vampire novelist’s top ten vampire films. What are your favorites? Leave a comment!

1 Comment

  1. Tari

    No Frank Langella? And where’s the love for Love at First Bite?

    Reply

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