Ranked: The Best and Worst Vampire Movies of the Past 30 Years

Which of these movies will live forever?

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The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009) $309m
Twilight (2008) $213m
Interview with the Vampire (1994) $200m
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) $158m
Van Helsing (2004) $154m
Highest Grossing Vampire Movies*

* U.S. grosses only; adjusted for inflation. Source: Box Office Mojo

From the Twilight phenomenon in print and at the multiplex to the ever-growing True Blood and The Vampire Diaries viewership on TV, the Undead have never been hotter. But Dracula and his ilk have fascinated and repulsed movie audiences ever since Max Schreck’s spider-fingered Count Orlock first crept from his crypt in 1922’s Nosferatu.

Currently, advance ticket sales are high for the moody teenage vamps, werewolves, and the women who love them in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, which opens Wednesday. The latest Twilight film builds on the tortured love triangle between sparkling vampire Edward, impossibly cut werewolf Jacob, and brooding high school senior Bella as they cope with recent murders in nearby Seattle as well as their hormones.

Vampirism has often served as an easy metaphor for issues as diverse as desire, identity, isolation, and excess: In the ’80s, fear of deadly STDs such as AIDS (not to mention single moms) informed Fright Night and The Lost Boys, while Nicolas Cage’s masterfully unhinged performance in Vampire’s Kiss skewered yuppiedom. These days, the rights of the disenfranchised are just under the surface on True Blood, while institutional corruption and gunplay reign in films like the shallow but kinetic Underworld series and the recent Daybreakers. And in a twist on race, characters like Blade popularize half-human, half-vampire creatures sometimes known as dhampirs who have been forced to choose between the human and vampire worlds.

While the sharp-fanged types have always compelled moviegoers to some extent, we are currently in the midst of a longer-than-usual period in pop culture where bloodsuckers -- mostly attractive ones -- reign supreme. The classic vampiric qualities of immortality, power, and sex are appealingly escapist during this post-millennial era of deep recession, amoral business and political practices, and skyrocketing health care costs. But other bloodsuckers are purely monstrous, with recent film vampires like those in the underrated 30 Days of Night or I Am Legend crossing over into the sci-fi zombie apocalypse territory of 28 Days Later.

Below, we take a look at some of the best- and worst-reviewed vampire movies of the past 30 years. (We have also added several movies not in our database that we felt were deserving of making the list.)

The 10 Best Vampire Movies, 1980-2010
Movie Year Netflix Metascore Users
1 Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary 2003 84 9.5
Guy Maddin's stylized direction enhances the Royal Winnipeg Ballet company's take on Bram Stoker's classic Dracula story in this silent, mostly black-and-white film that pays homage to early cinema. This Canadian television production was given a very limited theatrical release after receiving rave reviews and buzz, but like previous Maddin films (including The Saddest Music in the World), it wasn't for everyone.
  Budget: $1.6m U.S. Gross: <$0.1m
2 Let the Right One In 2008 82 8.5
A lonely, bullied 12-year-old befriends the new mysterious "girl" in his building in this gorgeous, unsettling Swedish film based on the novel of the same name. The film's unforgettable climax is both horrifying and beautiful. Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) is currently helming an American remake that is said to have toned down some of the more "controversial" themes of the original (pedophilia, homosexuality).
  Budget: $4m U.S. Gross: $2.1m
3 Fright Night 1985 n/a n/a
Teenage horror-movie aficionado Charley (William Ragsdale) seeks the help of a washed-up horror-movie actor (Roddy McDowall) when he's unable to convince his girlfriend, his mother, his best friend, and the authorities that his new, debonair neighbor (Chris Sarandon) is a dangerous vampire. This horror spoof was a surprise summer hit and spawned a less-successful sequel. Colin Farrell will be taking on the vampire role in the upcoming reboot. You're so cool, Brewster!
  Budget: $9m U.S. Gross: $24.9m
4 Thirst 2009 73 6.6
After a sick priest begins to thirst for blood following a transfusion, spiritual angst, gore, and an adulterous love triangle ensue. This critically lauded South Korean film won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2009 and takes themes from Émile Zola’s decidedly unsupernatural naturalist novel Thérèse Raquin.
  Budget: $5m U.S. Gross: $0.3m
5 Shadow of the Vampire 2000 71 7.0
This fictionalized making-of tale rides on the conceit that Nosferatu's iconic vampire was played by an actual bloodsucker (a grotesquely made-up Willem Dafoe). The film, which utilizes silent film techniques such as intertitles, engages both filmmaking and horror tropes as director F.W. Murnau (John Malkovich) struggles to complete his vision despite the increasingly dire circumstances caused by his all- too-Method lead actor. Dafoe was nominated for an Oscar for his surprisingly tragic portrayal.
  Budget: $8m U.S. Gross: $8.3m
6 Cronos 1994 70 8.1
An insectlike device injects an antique dealer with a solution that causes him to regain his vitality but also crave blood. An unsavory businessman and his nephew are also after the device. Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth) provided both script and direction for his surreal Mexican feature debut.
  Budget: $2m U.S. Gross: $0.6m
7 I Am Legend 2007 65 6.9
This loose adaptation of Richard Mathison's post-apocalyptic novella stars Will Smith as a solitary scientist who spends his days zooming around an empty NYC with his dog, trying to discover a cure for a virus that has turned most of humanity into seemingly mindless, UV-intolerant ghouls who resemble zombies more than traditional vamps. With its uneasy mix of action, effects, and character study, the film falls apart towards the end, though the original ending (available on DVD) restores some of the momentum. Dog lovers should beware.
  Budget: $150m U.S. Gross: $256.4m
8 The Lost Boys 1987 63 9.7
When his family moves to the sleepy California beach town that also happens to be the murder capital of the world, Jason Patric's new buddies turn out to be more than just hoodlums. Joel Schumacher's classic '80s thriller features the two Coreys (Haim and Feldman) as Patric's brother and one half of a vampire-hunting duo, respectively, as well as a mulleted pre-24 Kiefer Sutherland at his hottest and most menacing and Jami Gertz as a hippie-vampy love interest named "Star."
  Budget: $8.5m U.S. Gross: $32.2m
9 Near Dark 1987 n/a n/a
Recent Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) directed this gritty cult classic that features a doe-eyed Adrian Pasdar (Heroes) as a young Oklahoman who falls in with white trash vampires played by the likes of Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, and Lance Henrickson. At the time of its release, audiences weren't sure what to make of this biker-vampire-Western hybrid, though many critics dug the film.
  Budget: $5m U.S. Gross: $3.4m
10 Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust 2001 62 9.5
In this stylish anime film, set in a post-apocalyptic future populated by vampires and demons, a half-breed vampire hunter (the be-caped and stallion-riding "D," channeling The Man With No Name) is hired by a wealthy man to find his daughter, who has seemingly been kidnapped by a vampire. Based on the Vampire Hunter D graphic novels of Hideyuki Kikuchi, the movie received a very limited American release.
  Budget: n/a U.S. Gross: $0.2m
The 5 Worst Vampire Movies, 1980-2010
  Movie Year Netflix Metascore Users
1 Transylmania 2009 8 3.4
This low-budget horror farce about American foreign exchange students partying it up and encountering vamps, succubi, and bongs in Romania had one of the worst opening weekends in film history, averaging just $262 per screen. Mad Men's Patrick Cavanaugh should have stuck to Smitty instead of taking part in this ill-advised spoof.
  Budget: n/a U.S. Gross: $0.4m
2 BloodRayne 2006 18 8.1
The half-human daughter (Kristanna Loken) of a powerful vampire (Ben Kingsley) defies her father's desire for her to become a full-on vamp, instead teaming up with Brimstone Society vampire hunters Michael Madsen, Michelle Rodriguez and Matt Davis. Billy Zane and Udo Kier also show up for a vampaycheck in this panned videogame adaptation directed by the unmistakable Uwe Boll.
  Budget: $25m U.S. Gross: $2.4m
3 Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000 2000 26 7.0
The Dracula story was updated for the new millennium in this Wes Craven-produced critical dud. Unwitting thieves steal a giant silver coffin from vampire hunter Van Helsing's descendant and open it, conveniently releasing the bloodsucking Count into New Orleans, where he senses a telepathic connection with Van Helsing's estranged daughter.
  Budget: $54m U.S. Gross: $33m
4 Vampire in Brooklyn 1995 27 9.0
Eddie Murphy stars as the suave Witherspoon Maximillian, a Caribbean vampire who crashes into Brooklyn in pursuit of his future mate: the sassy Rita Vender (Angela Bassett), NYPD detective and -- unbeknownst to her -- half-vampire. With cringe-inducing '90s fashion and slapstick moments, Wes Craven's uncomfortable mix of comedy, horror, and romance is often deadly misguided.
  Budget: $14m U.S. Gross: $19.8
5 Blood: The Last Vampire 2009 28 7.6
Half-vampire vampire hunter Saya (Gianna Jun) is sent to an American military base in Japan to investigate and destroy a powerful vampire who is hiding out there. Despite Jun's sympathetic performance, the live-action film was critically drubbed and should not be confused with the similarly-plotted but superior 2000 anime original.
  Budget: $35m U.S. Gross: $0.3m

What do you think?

What vampire movies would top your own personal best (or worst) list? Let us know in the comments section below.

We're sorry, but comments are closed for this article.

Comments (103)

  • James  

    "Let The Right One In" is without a doubt the best vampire movie ever made. I feel the reason some people may not like it is because they do not "get" the many different levels this masterpiece works on. Also, the film only hints at many of the complexities and supporting characters the book more fully enriches. The American reimaging, "Let Me In", is exactly that, a reimaging and not a remake at all and is equally an outstanding film. I highly recommend both. ENJOY!

  • C. Ladura  

    Oh, 30 Days of Night blows too.

  • C. Ladura  

    To everyone who were whining over Blade / Interview / Underworld Saga not making the list: Those movies suck dick and you should feel bad for liking them.

    Yeah, I don't agree with the list, either, but that doesn't mean I like utter sh*t.

  • Bill  

    How could you not include James Woods' fantastic "Vampires?"

  • meeks  

    the good ones:
    Interview with a vampire
    Queen of the damned
    Let the right one in
    Thirst
    Blade
    vampire girl vs frankenstein girl
    shadow of the vampire
    blood manga version
    mr vampire
    underworld
    fright night
    30 days of night
    the bad:
    razor blade smile
    le6ion of the dead
    twilight

  • Jesse Capp  

    Why isn't The Hunger on any of these lists? David Bowie, Catherine Daneuve, and Susan Sarandon, what more could you ask for? Possibly the most innovative twist on the vampire genre EVER! And I don't care what anyone says, Dracula 2000 was a very very good vampire movie. Gerard Butler as Dracula is fangtastic and he is so young and skinny, he is barely recognizable.

  • martine  

    I HATED Let the Right one in. What a pile of crap. Just some idiot writer trying to shock us with the story of a buggered little boy /girl vampire that is conniving and seducing a grown man into his service. So sort of reverse pedophilia. Then it befriends a little snotty boy loser, and they make a touching(pun intended) twosome. I threw up.

  • JHabby  

    Interview with a vampire, bram stoker's dracula and from dusk till dawn! should be on the list and so does underworld (lol)... Don't get me wrong but the twilight series actually presents a somewhat fresh, young and positive ( and apparently cute) approach to vampirism (which is lame but a good flick if ur with a chick ^_^ )... I still love the Bloodthirsy true dracula movies though...

  • MrKnowItAll  

    I am legend and blood lust, I have no idea what they're doing on the top list there. u forgot 30 days of night that is a true vampire movie. vampires john carpenter
    dracula bram stroker
    underworld (decent) blood &amp; donuts
    interview with the vampire
    and btw dracula 2000 and the 3 sequals are rather good actually
    cuz they follow the vampire rules, and it's classic story line about dracula who can't die, even when they kill him. only way to destroy him is to take him into yrself. that I liked so. wth lol

  • shaky  

    i think the best vampires movies i have ever watched are TRUE BLOOD &amp; VAMPIRE DIARY

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