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

Which of these movies will live forever?

Image
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)

  • Mitch Tough  

    Let the Right One In (from Sweden) is simply outstanding. (I hear they're going to make an Americanized version of it, which is obviously a mistake.) Rent that sucker immediately. (NPI)

  • jer  

    My lord, what a collection of unholy crap. Funny comparing this article to the one you did a couple weeks ago on Vampire TV Shows -- I far prefer those!

  • Mark Redfern  

    What about The Hunger? That movie was pretty cool. David Bowie! Bauhaus performed in the opening scene! Plus Twilight should be on the worst list! The Lost Boys sequel was terrible as well. But Let the Right One In is amazing. And what about Bram Stoker's Dracula (questionable accents from Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder, but amazing visuals).

  • Anya  

    I loathe Bram Stoker's Dracula. The Hunger does rock. The Lost Boys Sequel was direct-to-DVD...

  • Kyu  

    I actually liked blood the last vampire movie, It took the Anime and and did the movie exactly like the anime movie and fleshed out giving more story. If you went into the movie think of it as a vampire movie then yes it wasn't great, but if you watched and watched the original anime movie then it was great movie.

    I would put the twilight saga up for worst vampire movies, over Blood last vampire.

  • Pepp  

    Where is Vamp? The Grace Jones vampire flick. I oddly can't decide if it is a best or worst.

  • stab116  

    why is i am legend on the list?

  • LokiRN  

    +1 for Lost Boys and Near Dark

    What about----- 30 Days of Night??? Really liked it!

    WHY- I am Legend?

  • LokiRN  

    OOPS
    I just looked up the Metascore for 30 Days- Didn't realise it had such average/mixed reviews..

  • Tupac Shakur  

    Let the Right One In sucks. That movie was pretty boring to be honest and overrated.

    Lost Boys was really good, for an unconventional vampire movie, and Keifer Sutherland was badass.

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