There is probably no other monster that has dominated books, movies and television quite like the vampire. They are oft portrayed as the symbolism of sexuality that women are helpless against or sometimes they’re just a psychotic monster with a thirst for blood, in either case they have fascinated people for over a hundred years. Films or books about Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Mummy or even the poor Creature From the Black Lagoon if all combined couldn’t compete with the sheer output of vampire entertainment. Now picking a top list of favorite vampires films is no easy task given the volume to choose from so I decided to not include films about the king of the undead himself, Dracula. This just brings it down to a more manageable number. So with no further ado here are my top ten favorite movies about vampires.
When one thinks of director Joel Schumacher the disastrous Batman & Robin movie leaps to mind, but back in the eighties he made a very popular film called St. Elmo’s Fire that gave us the Brat Pack, and then a year later he gives a bit of that sensibility to a movie about vampires. Thus The Lost Boys were born. Two brothers find themselves in the murder capital of America, staying in place without even a television set, and soon find themselves mixed up with a dangerous group of teens that turn out to be vampires. Kiefer Sutherland is the stand-out performer in this film as the leader of “Lost Boys” He and his gang could easily put the hurt on any sparkly vampires if they ever dared to visit Santa Carla. An excellent cast with an even better soundtrack makes this a worthy watch.
This is a film that works even better if you manage to see it without knowing it’s about vampires as Robert Rodriguez starts off the film like a cool crime drama, with two badass bank robbers the Gecko Brothers (George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino) knocking over a bank. While fleeing the law they take a small family as hostages, and that is when the film suddenly takes a complete left turn as the group find themselves at a bar that is actually a home to a coven of vampires. The bar itself has been in this location for centuries as a trap for unwary travelers. Special shout out to Salma Hayek as the beautiful vampire dancer Santanico Pandemonium. Also you simply have to admire a film that has Harvey Keitel wielding a shot-gun/cross and includes Tom Savini as a crotch-gun toting killer named Sex Machine.
When you think vampires one doesn’t usually think of science fiction but author Colin Wilson did when he wrote his book “The Space Vampires” where a group of astronauts on a mission to study Halley’s Comet come across a huge derelict spacecraft. On board they find strange desiccated remains of bat like creatures, but also three humanoid figures, two males and one beautiful female (Mathilda May) who are in some form of suspended animation. Unfortunately for them, and eventually the people of Earth, they bring them aboard their ship which makes it way home, and which eventually leads to a vampire plague that turns much of London into a zombie apocalypse. This is a fun vampire film by legendary horror director Tobe Hooper, and one that answers the age old question, “What would Steve Railsback and Patrick Stewart look like kissing?”
Let’s get one thing out here right off the bat *snicker* Ingrid Pitt is sex personified, and in this film she plays Carmilla a vampire who seduces a young woman out from under her families noses. Now I’m not saying lesbian vampires can make any film better but…oh hell who am I kidding, lesbian vampires do make any film better. This is one of the few Hammer vampire films that don’t deal with Dracula, but it does have Peter Cushing, so it’s got that going for it. Though it has the standard Gothic setting it is a bit of tonal departure from the earlier Hammer films, but director Roy Ward Baker still brings some nice creepy elements to the story.
Based on the first book in Anne Rice’s ever popular series we get director Neil Jordan and an all-star cast with a story that follows the undead life of vampire Louis de Pointe du Luc (Brad Pitt), and all his trials and tribulations. Much ado was made when it was announced that Tom Cruise was going play the charismatic vampire Lestat, Anne Rice made it publicly known that she wasn’t happy with the choice (when writing the book she pictured Rutger Hauer), but after seeing the movie she wrote Cruise an apology. And rightly so as his performance brings most of the film’s entertainment value, as Louis is a pretty wishy-washy character, so without Cruise’s roguish vamp the film would have been quite dull. Sad that the studio felt it necessary to remove the homosexual relationship between Louis and Lestat that is a major element of the book. Special shout-out to Kirsten Dunst as the vampire girl trapped forever in a twelve year old body.
I can’t see anyone disagreeing with me when I say that the second installment of the Blade Trilogy is easily the best. The first Blade directed by Stephen Norrington was a decent action flick, and one of the rare comic to screen translations that worked, while the third film directed by hack David S. Goyer would easily get a spot on a top “Worst Vampire Movies” list, but Guillermo del Toro‘s Blade II is just balls to the wall awesome. Blade (Wesley Snipes) is forced to team-up with a group of vampires to fight an even deadlier menace called “The Reapers” a vampire strain that preys on vampires as well as humans. The action sequences are fantastic, and any moment between Blade and Blood Pack member Reinhardt (Ron Perlman) is pure gold.
Writer/Director Tom Holland is clearly a fan of the Hammer vampire films, though his film takes place in the present and not some gothic manor house it does contain the character of Peter Vincent Vampire Slayer (Roddy McDowall), who is a clear homage to the Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. Our modern vampire hunters consist of William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, and Stephen Geoffreys as Evil Ed, and they are all great as the three teens that must do battle with the undead when they discover a vampire has moved in next door. Chris Sarandon as vampire Jerry Dandrige gives us the cool and collected master vampire who just seems tickled pink that this small group of heroes thinks they can take him on. We did get a Fright Night remake in 2011, a rare case is of a remake that does not only not suck, but brings some interesting ideas of its own to the project, and Colin Farrell‘s Jerry is just as chilling as Sarandon’s.
Mid-Western vampires traveling around in a Winnebago seems like an odd premise, but Writer/Director Kathryn Bigelow manages to create a taught thrill ride of horror movie with a dash of love story to spice it up. Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) meets Mae (Jenny Wright) only it’s not your typical boy meets girl, its boy meets vampire, but instead of drinking him dry Mae turns him and he is forced to join her “Family” or die. Her family is made up of Jesse (Lance Henriksen), Diamond Back (Jenette Goldstein), Severen (Bill Paxton) Trivia Note: All three played Colonial Marines together in Aliens, and Homer (Joshua John Miller) who, like Kirsten in Interview with the Vampire, isn’t all that happy about being an immortal stuck in a kid’s body. The film focuses on poor Caleb’s inability to be a ruthless killer and his real family trying to track him down. The conflict of the two worlds is a nice backdrop for a kind of Romeo and Juliet vampire story, but also the film is loaded with some very overwhelming carnage.
This is my favorite film by director Tony Scott and one of the most interesting takes on vampires, and is based on the book by Whitley Strieber where six thousand year old immortal vampire Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve) chooses a human to join her in eternal life, but her latest paramour John (David Bowie) finds out, at the age of 300, that he is now rapidly aging. He goes to see Dr. Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon) who works in the field of gerontology in the hopes that her studies in rapid aging can help him. Eventually Miriam and Sarah’s paths cross and Miriam proceeds to seduce the good doctor with obvious designs on making her the next in a long list of partners. This is a beautiful stylized film, and its cast is just as beautiful, and as mentioned before what’s not to love about lesbian vampires or in this case bisexual ones. It’s the horror of this story that makes it stand out among other vampire movies, there are no fangs here, instead the killer vampires seduce their victims then stab them in the jugular, and then drink the blood out of crystal flutes. But that isn’t even the most horrifying aspect, it’s that all of Miriam’s lovers are still alive, just withered mummified husks that she stores in her attic, where they wait for eternity.
This Swedish vampire film directed by Tomas Alfredson earns the top spot simply for being one of the creepiest vampire love stories I’ve ever seen. Based on the novel of the same name by author John Ajvide Lindqvist, it’s about Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) a disturbed 12 year old boy who befriends Eli (Lina Leandersson), a young girl that has just recently moved into the apartment next door. This story deals with the difficulties of being a vampire in the modern world, especially if you are forever trapped in the body of a little girl. A vampire needs blood, and if killing and draining your victims is what you need to do well eventually that kind of thing is going to get noticed by the police, so Eli moves around a lot and leaves the killing to her human guardian Håkan (Henrik Dahl) who poses as her father. When one of his attempted blood harvesting goes badly Eli is forced to feed on her own. This is not a good thing for anyone involved. Eli is a monster, but you can’t help feel for her, the relationship she has with Oskar is quite touching, and it is the sweet but tragic ending, with all its horrifying implications, that make this my favorite vampire film. An English version was made just two years later starring Chloë Grace Moretz as the vampire girl and Kodi Smit-McPhee as the boy she befriends. This remake entitled Let Me In (2010) directed by Matt Reeves is just about good enough to share the top spot with the original. There are several elements in the American remake that I like quite a bit better than the Swedish original. So I kind of want to call this a tie for first.
So there you have it my top 10 favorite vampire films that I highly recommend you track down, that is if you haven’t already seen them of course. You won’t be disappointed.
Honorable mention goes to The Night Stalker (1972), a made for TV movie starring Darren McGavin as Karl Kolchak, an abrasive newspaper reporter who, while investigating a series of murders in Las Vegas that involve women being drained of blood, finds himself facing terrifying monster. But can it actually be a vampire? Kolchak thinks so, but nobody of course believes him, so it is up to him to stake the monster himself. Screenplay was written by the legendary Richard Matheson, and which was later made into the series Kolchak: The Night Stalker Sadly it only lasted one season.