There’s never been a better time to be a fan of vampires. Books, comics, movies, television & indie rock band names are as overrun with them as the town of Barrow, Alaska. With the release of Let Me In, the domestic remake of Let the Right One In (arguably one of the best vampire movies ever), it’s the perfect time to reflect upon other bloodsucking classics.
Below, I rank my top ten choices for the best vampire movies ever made. And while our tastes may differ (I prefer that delicacy, AB-negative), there’s one thing on which I’m pretty sure we can agree: none of the best vampires sparkle in the sunlight!
|10) DRACULA (1931)
When you think of vampires, you probably think of the granddaddy of them all: Dracula. For the influence it had on horror films alone, I must include the Bela Lugosi classic. Although the movie itself doesn’t hold up as well today as other Universal monster classics, you can’t deny the fact that when many people envision Dracula, it is Lugosi’s face they see. It’s even more remarkable that he played him only once. (Well, twice if you count Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.) In today’s environment, it takes a series of sequels to establish an iconic character.
|9) Salem’s Lot (1979)
Would any horror top ten list be complete without at least one contribution from author Stephen King? In this case, it’s this TV miniseries, a vampire story on an epic scale that took two nights to tell. And it’s the first time I remember children becoming vampires. As times change and people become numb to the same old horrors, you have to up the ante, and nothing does that better than putting a child in danger. The image of a vampire boy floating in midair has stuck with me since I first saw it.
|8) The Night Stalker (1974)
As part of ABC’s wonderful era of Tuesday night TV movies, Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows) presented a change in the way vampires were depicted from “hero”, or main focus of the movie, to “villain”, or supporting character. Darren McGavin created one of television’s most memorable characters, Carl Kolchak, in this movie and its sequel, The Night Strangler (1974), which led to a “monster of the week” series pre-dating The X-Files by 19 years. The original movie is something quite rare for a TV movie: it’s actually scary.
|7) Cronos (1993)
Guillermo del Toro wrote and directed this unusual and non-traditional vampire tale. Here, an aging antiques dealer discovers a mechanical device that eventually transforms him into a bloodthirsty, undying version of himself. Besides the interesting variation of the vampire story, Cronos offers a fascinating glimpse into the future of the great things to come from del Toro in movies like Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth.
|6) Near Dark (1987)
She’d eventually win an Oscar for directing The Hurt Locker, but in the same year as The Lost Boys, director Kathryn Bigelow gave us this stylish vampire/western hybrid. The word “vampire” is never uttered in this movie and many of the cliches are ignored, leaving interpretation to the audience. Not only is Near Dark on many other lists of the best vampire films, but also on lists of best horror films in general.
|5) Thirst (2009)
We don’t make ‘em like this in the United States. This Korean film is unflinching in its portrayal of a priest-turned-vampire due to his participation in an experiment to find a cure for a deadly virus. It’s not the bloodsucking aspects of Thirst that are as shocking, though, as the other hungers that the priest experiences. Let’s hope that this one never gets remade, because I can’t imagine the sanitized version that Hollywood would produce.
|4) House of Dark Shadows (1970)
After Dracula, I would have to say that the next most iconic vampire is the one with a conscience, Barnabas Collins. In the late 1960’s Jonathan Frid single-handedly turned the daytime soap opera Dark Shadows into a national phenomenon. Near the end of its nearly 5-year run, the cast and crew made this feature film version. Directed by series creator Dan Curtis, it was a scary movie at the time, but remains spooky and atmospheric to this day. It has the same timeless story as the TV show, but also a bigger budget.
|3) Horror of Dracula (1958)
For me, the best Dracula has been Christopher Lee. In the seven Hammer Films movies in which he appeared as the Count, Lee brings a new dimension to the role, sinking his fangs into heaving Hammer bosoms, releasing rivers of blood onto the screen in glorious Technicolor. The best in the series is undoubtedly the original, not only because of Lee but also due to his pairing with longtime screen partner Peter Cushing as Dracula’s arch nemesis, Van Helsing. Never has the duo been so dynamic together. As faithful to the novel as any adaptation has been, Horror of Dracula is a tour de force for Cushing, who turns the thrilling conclusion into a swashbuckling horror adventure.
|2) Let the Right One In (2008)
This is one of the best movies of any genre to so completely develop a mood and atmosphere for the story it’s telling. It’s not just the cold and snow of the Swedish setting, but also the music, cinematography and direction. I wouldn’t expect the American remake to come anywhere close in these areas, but if it can duplicate the tender relationship between a bullied boy and his vampire child neighbor, it could be successful in its own right.
|1) The Lost Boys (1987)
The vampires were rebellious teenagers in this mid-80’s classic. With no other movie on this list have I experienced the sense of sheer joy that I felt when I first saw The Lost Boys. The tagline says it all: “Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire.” Yes, fun. But also exciting and scary, The Lost Boys paved the way for today’s glut of emo-vampires in Twilight and The Vampire Diaries.
There you have it: my list of the top ten best vampire movies ever made. Well, so far, anyway. What did I leave off? (Interview with the Vampire? From Dusk till Dawn? Underworld?) What should I have left off? Get on the forums and let me know. Until then, to all these great movies I say, “fangs for the memories”!