75. Vampires (1998)
In a movie that’s more about the deep and abiding romance between two vampire hunters than it is about the vampires themselves, John Carpenter crafted a love letter to vampire cinema that also seems to kind of hate vampire cinema. In Vampires, the creatures are merciless, beastly, bearing none of the elegance or culture of those in an Anne Rice novel, just bent on killing all humans with maximum savagery. As Jack Crow (James Woods)—resident swaggering, ice-cold motherfucker who, when he was a young boy, witnessed his own parents become vampires, setting him on a lifetime of bitter vampire extermination—tells one of many priests in this film, “Forget whatever you’ve seen in the movies: they don’t turn into bats, crosses don’t work.” Joined by his infatuated life companion, Anthony Montoya (Daniel Baldwin), Jack combs the American Southwest for the agents of the devil, brutally murdering every single one (just stabbing these vampires’ chests until each one’s a mangled, yellow-red pulp, screaming, “Die! Die!” the whole time), eventually learning that nothing matters, life sucks, and everything you know and hold dear will be horribly wiped from the face of the earth—except for when the forces of evil are defeated by the powerful emotional connection between two slayers. Love, apparently, conquers all. —Dom Sinacola
74. Son of Dracula (1943)
The roster of actors featured in the original Universal monsters series could be confusingly incestuous when it comes to criss-crossing roles, and that’s how we end up with a Son of Dracula film starring The Wolf Man himself, Lon Chaney Jr. in the vampire role. The film is notable for being the first instance of the now eye-rolling “Count Alucard” moniker, which is of course simply “Dracula” spelled backwards. In fact, it’s never truly clear whether Chaney’s vampire in this film is really the “son of Dracula” or is simply a different version of Dracula himself. Regardless, the plot involves the Hungarian vampire visiting New Orleans to seek a woman who is herself hoping to use the vampire’s gifts to achieve immortality. It’s stylishly shot, but Chaney makes a somewhat awkward, paunchy Dracula, without much of the panache or presence that came so easily to the mesmerizing Lugosi. Today, the film still has some admirers, but the Dracula sequels in general produced by Universal never reached close to the heights of its Frankenstein sequels, and Lon Chaney Jr. has continued to be much more celebrated in his werewolf roles. —Jim Vorel
73. Vamps (2012)
A vampire comedy from the mind of Amy Heckerling, the director behind Clueless and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Vamps offers up a sharp, if candy-colored take on the concept of vampires adapting to modern life. Krysten Ritter and Alicia Silverstone play two socialite vamps whose lives come under scrutiny after Ritter’s character begins dating the son of Van Helsing (played, in a hilarious twist, by Wallace Shawn). Content with its tongue-in-cheek approach, the film whizzes by, fueled effectively on a healthy amount of wit and inspired supporting turns from the likes of Justin Kirk, Sigourney Weaver and Malcolm McDowell. —M.R.
72. Bloodsucking Bastards (2015)
Even ignoring the casting, Bloodsucking Bastards almost feels designed to appeal to the Whedonite crowd. Its sense of humor blends self-awareness and self-deprecation in equal measure, it’s in love with monsters and mythology, and it folds a handful of genres into one messy, stilted blueprint. A workplace-vampire-romantic-horror-comedy? Sure—though in 2015, all vampire satires come in second behind Jemaine Clement’s and Taika Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows, a genius-level send-up of hemo-gobbler tropes and clichés that melds parody with a surprising, and surprisingly affecting, surplus of heart. With Bloodsucking Bastards, director Brian O’Connell takes a somewhat more focused route: Drop the emotion and the sweetness, aim squarely for quips and copious amounts of carnage. —Andy Crump
71. Dracula (1979)
1979 had no shortage of Dracula movies, with George Hamilton’s Love at First Bite storming the box office and Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre enrapturing the arthouse crowd. Between the two, John Badham’s Dracula probably came across as stodgy and overly traditional. It’s certainly a shame because there is much to appreciate about Badham’s more romantic take on the Bram Stoker novel. Sure, Frank Langella may not be the most obvious choice for the Count, but here he both captures the character’s mesmerizing charm and highlights the more sensitive soul behind the monster—important qualities given the emphasis the film places on the romance between him and Mina. Also of note—the elder Sir Laurence Olivier hamming it up as Van Helsing. —M.R.
70. Captain Kronos—Vampire Hunter (1974)
Another latter-day Hammer horror film worthy of rediscovery, Captain Kronos follows the adventures of the titular character—a swashbuckling vampire hunter with exemplary sword skills and a very Nordic face. Accompanied by his hunchbacked assistant, Kronos acts as a Van Helsing-type figure, serving as a dispatcher of his bloodsucking nemeses. It’s certainly a shame this film didn’t result in the kind of B-grade franchise afforded to other Hammer productions, as the company shuttered shortly thereafter. Still, as the lone entry to the series, Captain Kronos is a fun bit of vampire-centric escapism. —M.R.
69. The Vampire Circus (1972)
At the time of its release, The Vampire Circus stood as a Hail Mary experiment from Hammer. Set in 19th century Austria, the film centers on a town that has been ravaged by a plague. Looking for escape from their grim existences, the villagers flock to a newly arrived circus that promises exotic attractions. The problem? The circus also brings a vampire who preys upon the town’s children. Drenched in Gothic atmosphere and excessively gory even by Hammer standards, Vampire Circus represents one of the company’s last notable horror installments before the late ’70s brought about its inevitable decline. —M.R.
68. Deafula (1975)
Despite its modest production values, Deafula holds a special place in film history—namely, it marks the first time that a film has been performed completely in sign language (voiceover was employed later for non-ASL-friendly audiences). Photographed in black-and-white, the film retains the classic feel of the Universal horror movies, albeit with some less than stellar make-up, costuming and production design work. What the film lacks in resources, however, it makes up for with sheer weirdness. There’s something surreal, yet somewhat inspiring seeing a group of actors signing their lines to one another. It gives the film an off-kilter energy that informs every scene. —M.R.
67. Innocent Blood (1992)
Fresh off the success of her star-making turn in Luc Besson’s Nikita, French actress Anne Parillaud made her following appearance in John Landis’ horror-action yarn as Marie, a vampire who, in many ways, serves as the proto-Dexter, as she only kills and feasts on criminals. Unfortunately, one night, after a series of poor decisions, she ends up giving vampiric powers to a psychotic mob boss. She then must team up with an undercover cop to bring him down. As a film, Innocent Blood is pretty much a mess, but—considering it mixes horror, action and crime drama, not to mention a dash of buddy cop dynamics for good measure—that’s almost to be expected. Bolstered by an incredible supporting cast of character actors (Robert Loggia, Tony Sirico, Luis Guzman) and some top-notch action, Innocent Blood is an incredibly underrated, film-nerd-friendly installment in Landis’ filmography. —M.R.
66. Hotel Transylvania (2012)
Though dismissed by some as yet another juvenile Adam Sandler vehicle (only this time with an eye towards kiddie audiences), Hotel Transylvania delivers to a surprising degree, displaying a buoyant giddiness and nonstop energy that is utterly infectious. Much of this could be attributed to the work of animation god Genndy Tartakovsky (he of Samurai Jack, Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Lab fame). The gags come as hard and fast as any Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker production, with many cast members doing some of their best comedic work in years. Though perhaps overly exhausting and annoying for some, Hotel Transylvania displays an ambition and dedication to its craft that feels sorely lacking in many mainstream theatrical movies aimed at children. —M.R.
65. Yakuza Apocalypse (2015)
Is there possibly anything I could say about Yakuza Apocalypse that a combination of the title and the attachment of director Takashi Miike doesn’t already imply? Per its moniker, the story centers on a sect of the yakuza and its various idiosyncratic members. There’s Kamiura, a legendary gangster whose secret vampirism allows him to slash through his enemies like butter. Then there’s Kageyama, a wannabe Yakuza whose allergy to tattoo ink prevents him from getting officially branded. Oh, and the hordes of yakuza vampires that Kamiura has imprisoned under a restaurant. Needless to say, the film, with its combination of bombastic superviolence, broad slapstick and excessive gore, represents Miike at his most cartoonishly crazed. The director starts at a sprint and never lets up. In all likelihood, the film will not climb to the top of the Japanese auteur’s ever-expanding filmography anytime soon. That being said, you won’t find many other vampire movies that are this consistently unhinged. —M.R.
64. Salem’s Lot (1979)
The novel Salem’s Lot stands as one the earliest signs that Stephen King was destined to be one of horror’s newest literary masters. Hollywood was quick to capitalize, with one of the earliest King adaptations being this 1979 CBS TV movie directed by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Tobe Hooper. Restricted by network standards, however, Hooper was unable to indulge in his more gritty, subversive tendencies. The result is a sprawling, frequently messy 1970s take on the haunted house film. The final product is far from perfect—David Soul makes for a wooden lead, the large supporting cast and multiple storylines renders the film meandering and unfocused and the ultimate conclusion comes across as a tad pat considering the lengthy build-up. That’s not to say there aren’t huge highlights as well—specifically, James Mason’s pitch-perfect portrayal of a mysterious antiques dealer as well as a decidedly simple, yet creepy scene involving a vampire gently knocking on a window and asking to be let in. The latter is a moment so disquieting and frightening that it almost single-handedly justifies the entire movie around it. —M.R.
63. I Am Legend (2007)
The most recent take on I Am Legend retains the name of the original 1954 novel by Richard Matheson, which is ironic given that this Will Smith vehicle is the least faithful of the story’s three adaptations overall. Smith plays protagonist Robert Neville without an ounce of moral ambiguity, which hurts any attempted theme at humanizing the so-called monsters. The “darkseekers” likewise don’t retain many vampire characteristics, except for their vulnerability to UV light. Whether they’re intelligent is kept muddled—most of the time, the monsters act like mindless animals, but somehow they also manage to set a complicated mechanical trap for Neville. The best portions of the film are the ones that embrace its post-apocalyptic surroundings, as Will Smith scavenges and forages his way through an abandoned Manhattan with his faithful dog. Some excellent characterization is set up in this way during the film’s first half, especially of Neville’s crumbling mental/social faculties, but it eventually bogs down into a bunch of narratively glossed-over CGI quasi-vampires assaulting the good doctor’s abode, even as he tries to help them (because Will Smith is an infallible hero). —Jim Vorel
62. Nadja (1994)
Another installment of the vampires-as-city-hipster subgenre, Nadja transplants the vampire mythos onto the deadpan indie dramedy of Hal Hartley. Produced by David Lynch (who also cameos as a morgue attendant), the film posits itself as a domestic drama with vampirism treated as casually as if were any other daily activity. The central character is Nadja, a young woman reflecting on the death of her father, The Count. Soon, however, Nadja and her family find themselves squaring off against Van Helsing (a wonderful Peter Fonda) and his crew. Boasting a dynamite soundtrack that features music from the likes of Portishead and My Bloody Valentine, Nadja positions itself as a strange hybrid of noir horror and Sundance quirkfest. Although the film never quite reconciles these two notions, there’s enough cool images and skill at play to make this an offbeat vampire flick worth checking out. —M.R.
61. Summer of Blood (2014)
Back in the late ’90s, indie director Onur Tukel scored his only quasi-hit with the vampire drama Drawing Blood. Nearly 15 years later, Tukel returned to that well, albeit with a more refined sensibility. Summer of Blood envisions what would happen if one were to drop vampires into the middle of a Woody Allen-esque comedy. Dissatisfied with his dull life, Eric Sparrow (played by Tukel) encounters a stranger who asks him if he wants to die. When sad-sack Eric responds in the affirmative, he is attacked and wakes up displaying vampiric tendencies. These changes make him a hit with the ladies and confident enough to quit his dead-end job. When the bloodlust becomes too intense to resist, however, Erik must figure out how to reconcile his cushy life with his newly murderous nature. A smart, witty sendup of modern life, Summer of Blood stands as one of the sharpest vampire comedies on the market. —M.R.
60. Planet of Vampires (1965)
A pair of spaceships crashes land on an unexplored planet. From there, the dead crew’s bodies are possessed by some mysterious entity, and the reanimated corpses begin preying upon the remaining survivors. Okay, yes, the title is super misleading considering that technically the monsters of this story are more zombies than vampires. But, if the title wants to refer to them as vampires, I’m considering this one for the list, primarily because it’s a gem of a B-movie that deserves a bigger audience. Long heralded as the predecessor to Ridley Scott’s Alien, Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires is an atmospheric dreadfest lurking beneath the exterior of the kind of campy B-movie one would normally see on Mystery Science 3000. It’s living proof that, even when saddled with major restrictions, Bava was a master of mood. —M.R.
59. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)
Satanic Rites of Dracula may have been the last Hammer Dracula movie to feature Christopher Lee, but there was still one more “Dracula film” left in the studio before it rode off into the sunset. The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires is probably the most absurd movie Hammer ever made, which makes sense, given that it was a co-production with famed Hong Kong kung fu experts Shaw Brothers, cashing in on the nascent martial arts craze of the time. Dracula, played by some other random guy, is only in the film for a few minutes before possessing the body of a Taoist monk and absconding to Chungking, where he leads a cabal of seven Chinese vampires. Yes, the hopping kind! What follows is a series of crazy kung fu fights with ridiculously fake-looking weaponry, flaming vampires and the return of the always delightful Peter Cushing as vampire hunter Van Helsing. Unfortunately, Cushing is really looking his age at this point, and putting him in the middle of acrobatic kung fu fights is an extremely awkward decision. There’s even a bit where he trips and falls directly into a campfire, which looks totally unintentional, but hey, you take all the stunts you can get out of a brittle, 61-year-old lead actor. It’s a colorful, crazy film that is ultimately more entertaining (in a schlocky way) than the last few tired takes on Dracula that preceded it.—Jim Vorel
58. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
Joss Whedon was none too thrilled with the treatment of his first produced film screenplay—and maintained the movie was a stand-alone, completely separate beast from the later TV series that would secure his place in pop culture history. His unhappiness aside, there’s still plenty to enjoy in this tongue-in-cheek comic horror fantasy, thanks to Whedon’s wry bon mots, smart pacing and a cast that refuses to take themselves too seriously. As the titular foe of fangs, Kristy Swanson is pitch-perfect, a reluctant heroine who muses, “All I want to do is graduate from high school, go to Europe, marry Christian Slater, and die.” Don’t we all, B.? Donald Sutherland is the sensei to Kristy Swanson’s novice stake-wielder, while Dylan, er, Luke Perry does era-appropriate heartthrob duty. And then there’s Rutger Hauer as the main bloodsucker and Paul “Pee-wee” Reubens as his ghoulish sidekick. (Hilary Swank and David Arquette show up, too.) It’s silly, self-aware fun, even if the second half falls apart in predictable fashion. —A.S.
57. Waxwork (1988)
Like The Monster Squad, Waxwork plumbs the popular consciousness of the 1980s, looking to off-brand horror archetypes to unleash a menagerie of goofy evil onto an unsuspecting world already jaded with the actual violence at the core of the villains it namedrops. And so, among the dastardly wax exhibits just waiting for the right moment to come to life is a Count-Dracula-type diorama. Upon getting too close to the models, obligatory high school skank China (Michelle Johnson) is plunged into the past to find a Victorian dinner party of raw meat and blood attended by a coterie of very attractive vampires. China, of course, is the party’s most important guest, because Dracula and his minions have plans to turn her, especially since they have her “fiancé” shackled in the basement, most of his left leg already chewed apart. China may become yet another victim of Waxwork’s weird, jarring take on sexual horror and masochism—epitomized by casting the Marquis DeSade as one of the world’s most notorious psychopaths—but her terrifying experience is only prelude to the final battle at the waxworks, in which Dracula finally makes it to the real world, transforms into a bat, and is easily decapitated with a revolver. Unlike The Monster Squad, Count Dracula isn’t the leader the monsters need—he’d just one more gruesome dude to annihilate before the final swordfight with the Marquis DeSade. Because that happens. The ’80s were a wonderful time for film. —D.S.
56. Lifeforce (1985)
Even though he’s a classic horror director, Tobe Hooper of Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame isn’t really the guy most would have expected to produce a kooky, ’80s sci-fi-infused vampire film. That is of course provided that you recognize the aliens of Lifeforce as vampires. Hooper ditches the grimy aesthetic of his earlier work and cleverly plays with the old vampire genre conventions, keeping a few bat references but ditching the blood-sucking. Rather, the “space vampires” have been updated into more cerebral, aloof killers who drain people of their life energy. Oh, and by the way—the lead “space girl,” gorgeous French actress Mathilda May, spends pretty much the entire film nude, so be ready for that. What you’re left with is a unique, sexually charged sci-fi horror mash-up, equal parts mystical and pseudo-scientific—like a feature-length Twilight Zone episode as presented by USA Up All Night in the mid-’90s. I once saw it screened as part of a 24-hour B-movie festival, and that strikes me as exactly the way to consume Lifeforce: In a half-awake haze full of nudity and desiccated victims exploding into dust. —Jim Vorel
55. Salem’s Lot (2004)
The 1979 Tobe Hooper adaptation of Salem’s Lot succeeded in some areas and failed in many others. Right upfront, the 2004 TNT re-adaptation benefits from a sleeker look, updated special effects and a cast that most productions would kill for. Besides trading in David Soul for the more charismatic (if still slightly flat) Rob Lowe, the cast also boasts Andre Braugher, Donald Sutherland, Samantha Mathis, Rutger Hauer and James Cromwell. Sutherland and Hauer, in particular, really embrace the over-the-top characters that they’re dealt. As with the original, however, there are similar missteps, including an underwhelming finale and some plotlines feel half-formed. Then again, all of these might just be the downside to adapting a book with such a large canvas. When all’s said and done, this version succeeds at being more tightly structured, with a modified ending that gives the whole proceeding a more definitive close. Certainly when placed alongside other Stephen King TV adaptations, it stands as one of the more successful ones. —M.R.
54. Interview with The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994)
Anne Rice’s 1976 gothic novel about bloodsuckers in Spanish Louisiana got the epic big-screen treatment almost two decades after its debut, and 200 years after its narrator Louis’ induction into the immortal realm. New Orleans—home to many “cities of the dead” or above-ground cemeteries, due in part to the plagues that ravaged late 18th century slums—is also the perfect setting for a grief-stricken, navel-gazing young plantation owner like Louis (played by Brad Pitt) to lose himself. Preening and stalking his way through the streets, Louis’ maker and lead vamp Lestat (Tom Cruise) embodies an otherworldly decadence and European sophistication. Cruise, whose casting was initially criticized by Rice herself, nails it as a glib, undead dandy. A preteen Kirsten Dunst steals scenes as a spitfire orphan-turned-ageless bloodsucker, while Antonio Banderas and Stephen Rea terrify in their limited screen time. Director Neil Jordan, working with cinematographer Philippe Rousselot and production designer Dante Ferretti, captures their nocturnal existence in hedonistic hues and the light of lanterns strewn throughout the French Quarter, a universe that still stands frozen in time. —A.S.
53. Vampire’s Kiss (1988)
Nicolas Cage is never more Nicolas Cage than in this dark comedy, as a hard-working, hard-partying literary agent who believes his latest one-night stand (Jennifer Beals) has bitten him. We see that yuppie Peter Loew is already mentally unstable, and his conviction in his new vampirism makes matters worse, right down to his buying a pair of plastic teeth when he fails to develop fangs naturally. Then there’s the cult image of Cage maniacally ingesting a real cockroach. (The bug-eating trait is usually a Renfield thing, for Stoker fans keeping score at home.) One man’s demented camp is another’s profound stupidity, and Vampire’s Kiss is Cage’s (shit)show, with solid, if thankless assists from Beals, Maria Conchita Alonso, Kasi Lemmons, and Elizabeth Ashley as Loew’s incredulous shrink. There’s a certain absurdist glee in watching Cage indulge his full crazy (all this, before the actor went on a late aughts haunted house- and castle-buying spree), even if his trademark scenery-chewing erraticism feels a tad stale at this point. For better or worse, there’s nothing half-assed about this all-in ridiculousness. —A.S.
52. Omega Man (1971)
The second official adaptation of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, Omega Man is, for better or for worse, a movie distinctly of its time. Everything from the production design to scenes of Charlton Heston’s Robert Neville watching Woodstock on a loop to the afro adorned head of actress Rosalind Cash screams late ’60s/early ’70s. As delightfully corny as the film can be at times, however, it also has formed an indelible impression on pop culture consciousness for a reason. Along with a solid lead performance from Heston, the production puts its notable Hollywood budget to work via several exciting action sequences—all the while, the film never hesitates to draw clear, often dour parallels between the events of the plot and the paranoia-tinged atmosphere that characterized the social environment in which it was made. —M.R.
51. Blood for Dracula (1974)
Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee brought class to their portrayals of Dracula. Frank Langella emphasized the romantic element. Max Schreck played up the monster . Udo Kier’s Dracula in Blood for Dracula is like if Animal from The Muppets decided to take a stab at portraying the Count. Kier’s portrayal is all spastic motions, hissing and puking. It’s all kinds of awesome—a strange performance that perfectly reflects Andy Warhol’s very strange take on Dracula. In this version of the story, Kier’s Dracula recruits the virginal daughters of a wealthy Italian landowner to live with him at his manor. Though he intends to drink their blood, his plan instantly derails upon learning that two of the daughters have enjoyed the company of a hunky American handyman. One part gorefest, one part Marxist manifesto and one part softcore erotica, Warhol’s film is a cornucopia of crazy ideas mixed with provocative execution. Besides recruiting regulars Joe Dallesandro and Maxime de la Falaise, Warhol also enlists the acting services of legendary Italian neorealist director Vittorio De Sica as the clueless landowner, as well as Roman Polanski in a brief cameo. —M.R.