The 20 Essential Vampire Movies

Our collective obsession with undead bloodsuckers didn’t begin with Edward Cullen. Cinema has a long-standing love for vampires, and the legendary monsters have provided nearly a century’s worth of creeps, screams, and, on occasion, laughs. Just in time for Halloween, here’s a rundown of the most important films within the vampire genre. 

Blood for Dracula (dir. Paul Morrissey)

Andy Warhol produced this black comedy version of the classic vampire tale, written and directed by Paul Morrissey and starring the eternally creepy Udo Kier and Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (dir. Francis Ford Coppola)

Really Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the famed director goes balls-out in this campy and gory take on the familiar horror tale, with the indelible Gary Oldman playing the title role.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (dir. Fran Rubel Kuzui)

Long before Sarah Michelle Gellar took on the role, Kristy Swanson starred in the less self-aware, yet more comedy-driven, movie about a cheerleader who learns that her destiny is to battle vampires.

Daybreakers (dir. Michael Spierig)

Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe star in this film set in a distant future in which all humans have been turned into vampires, and the basic tenets of supply and demand have left them with a dwindling supply of human blood.

Dracula (dir. Todd Browning)

Bela Lugosi made a name — and a face — for himself in this classic Universal monster movie that defined the vampire genre.

The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck (dir. Roman Polanski)

Polanski co-wrote, directed, and starred in this slapstick comedy (there’s a sentence you probably didn’t expect to read here) appearing opposite his late wife, Sharon Tate.

Fright Night (dir. Tom Holland)

There are few things worse than a vampire moving into the house next door, but at least in this case it’s a vampire played by the creepily charming Chris Sarandon.

From Dusk Till Dawn (dir. Robert Rodriguez)

A pair of bank robbers and their hostages unknowingly seek refuge in a Mexican biker bar that’s a haven for bloodsuckers.

The Hunger (dir. Tony Scott)

Anything with Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie is destined to be stellar, but a goth-y lesbian vampire movie also starring Susan Sarandon? The best.

Interview With the Vampire (dir. Neil Jordan)

Anne Rice’s soapy bestseller was turned into a gorgeous film by director Neil Jordan, and while it’s not particularly scary, it’s quite possibly the most homoerotic film of all time.

Let the Right One In (dir. Tomas Alfredson)

This Swedish horror romance about a teenage vampire and the young boy who falls in love with her is one of the best examples of the genre and immediately inspired an American remake.

The Lost Boys (dir. Joel Schumacher)

Nearly forgotten heartthob as the lead? Check. Kiefer Sutherland as the bad guy? Check. Both Coreys? Check. You’ve got yourself the perfect ’80s horror cult classic.

Near Dark (dir. Kathryn Bigelow)

In an attempt to seduce the girl of his dreams, the young protagonist of Bigelow’s horror-western accidentally joins a traveling family of vampires.

Nosferatu (dir. F.W. Murnau)

The first adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic novel was this silent effort from German expressionist director F.W. Murnau. Because the production team never managed to get the film rights, Stoker’s family later sued for copyright infringement.

Once Bitten (dir. Howard Storm)

Lauren Hutton plays a sexy vampire in desperate need of the blood of a virgin. Jim Carrey plays the only virgin in town, naturally. Hilarity ensues.

Salem’s Lot (dir. Tobe Hooper)

Technically a TV movie, Stephen King’s take on the vampire story didn’t age particularly well, but that floating vampire kid is still pretty terrifying.

Shadow of the Vampire (dir. E. Elias Merhige)

John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe star as F.W. Murau and Max Schreck, respectively, in this comedic film about the making of Nosferatu which suggests that the lead actor was in fact a vampire.

Thirst (dir. Park Chan-wook)

A priest, stricken with a deadly virus, is saved after an accidental transfusion of vampire blood. Whoops!

30 Days of Night (dir. David Slade)

When a small Alaskan town goes dark for an entire month, the residents discover that their sleepy hamlet has been infiltrated by vampires.

Vampire’s Kiss (dir. Robert Bierman)

Nicolas Cage delivers one batshit crazy performance as a New York playboy who is convinced he’s being turned into a vampire.