50. Rabid (1977)
Another instance where the term “vampire” is debatable, this early work from Canadian body horror maestro David Cronenberg nevertheless offers a valuable and engrossing (not to mention, distinctively gross) interpretation of the typical vampire tale. Rather than emerging as some sort of mystical evil force, the vampires of Rabid are the result of a biological mutation caused when a young woman crashes her motorcycle and develops a very phallic-looking stinger under her armpit. The obtrusion subsequently develops a craving a blood, spreading a vampiric disease that turns those infected into rabid animals. Like the best horror filmmakers, Cronenberg filters this admittedly absurd premise through a very personal lens, highlighting a society gone to paranoia and frenzy after the supposed “liberation” of the 1960s. And while the film is burdened by a sporadically undercooked script and the stilted acting of noted porn star Marilyn Chambers, it remains a valuable insight into the mind of a future film master. —M.R.
49. Fright Night (1985)
I don’t think anyone will argue that the original Fright Night will ever stand alongside the more classic horror movies of the ’80s … but, by God, if it isn’t still a ton of fun. Certainly, for any major horror junkie, the idea of being the one person who can correctly spot a vampire must serve as some brand of wish fulfillment. In any case, that’s precisely what happens to Charley Brewster when Chris Sarandon’s enigmatic Jerry moves into the neighborhood. Recruiting help from both his friend Evil Ed (a fantastically over-the-top Stephen Geoffreys) and horror-actor-turned-late-night-TV-host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall at his curmudgeonly finest), Charley attempts to gather evidence that his new neighbor secretly wants to eat him. Though some of the make-up effects and dialogue are sheer ’80s cornball, the film skates by on its genial, tongue-in-cheek approach as well as Sarandon’s debonair turn as the vampire-next-door. —M.R.
48. Thirst (1979)
Taking its inspiration from the vampiric folklore of Elizabeth Bathory, Australia’s Thirst centers on a woman who discovers that she might share a bloodline with Bathory herself. Abducted by a shady organization of so-called “super men” who feast upon human blood, she must work to escape captivity before they brainwash her into becoming one of their own. Setting aside the distractingly dated ’70s facial hair, Thirst works as a trippy bit of psychedelic horror, with the obligatory political undertones. (The cult conceivably acts as a stand-in for a number of government organizations or societal gatherings.) Though not nearly as notable as the 2009 Park Chan-wook novel for which it shares its title, Thirst is a worthwhile experience for those horror fans looking for something off the beaten path. —M.R.
47. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
It took Christopher Lee eight years to be talked into returning for this, the first of six times he reprised the Dracula character for Hammer between 1966 – 1973. It’s now fairly common knowledge that Lee didn’t particularly enjoy playing Dracula in the sequels—he seemed to want to branch out, but was repeatedly talked into returning for both his own profit and to literally provide jobs for members of the crew. Still, Hammer managed to produce a very fun, suitably creepy sequel in Prince of Darkness, which approximates a film in the “old dark house” subgenre when a group of travelers gets stranded in Dracula’s castle and lead to his resurrection. It’s not so grandiose as Horror of Dracula, and there’s no Van Helsing, but Lee is great in his physical performance—he commands the screen anytime he appears. Notable is the fact that Dracula has literally zero lines in this film, something Lee later claimed was because he refused to say them after reading the script: “If you think I’m going to say any of these lines, you’re very much mistaken. They were quite appalling.” It’s rather amazing that, despite this, the film manages to be one of the more watchable, professional-feeling of the Hammer Dracula series. The moral of the story is that Christopher Lee could get a lot of mileage out of a hiss and some bared fangs. —Jim Vorel
46. Stake Land (2010)
Take Romero’s classic Day of the Dead, put it above ground, and swap out the brain-eating undead for the bloodsucking variety. But play the whole thing way straighter. Also, shoot the apocalyptic setting for maximum atmosphere… You know what? Forget Day of the Dead. Jim Mickle’s vampire wasteland road trip is a pretty damned original genre mash. Like 30 Days of Night, the majority of vamps here are feral beasts—the kind that require any living survivors to gravitate toward a badass undead killer like Mister (Nick Damici, who also co-wrote). Like Mickle’s similarly visually striking follow-up, We Are What We Are, Stake Land is a beautiful—if narratively flawed at times—slice of horror for those who like to sink their teeth into some spectacular cinematography on the side. —Scott Wold
45. Dracula’s Daughter (1936)
It’s easy to forget that there was a time in horror where a successful film couldn’t automatically be assumed to spawn a dozen sequels. Case in point: Universal’s original 1931 Dracula with Bela Lugosi, which was a huge success but didn’t spawn an immediate sequel. It finally got one in 1936, but Dracula’s Daughter is an unconventional film that instead stars Gloria Holden as the countess daughter of Dracula, without an appearance by Lugosi. Also unusual is the general attitude of the Countess, who yearns for a cure for her vampirism and a chance to live life as a mortal woman in the daylight. She’s a reluctant, romantic vampire who is portrayed as something of a tragic antihero or unwilling monster. The performances, by and large, are actually better than in the original Dracula, but the absence of Lugosi himself looms large. The film didn’t duplicate the success of the original, and the Countess certainly didn’t become a horror icon like the titular character in Universal’s Bride of Frankenstein a year earlier. It fits snugly into the classic Universal lineage, but is easily glossed over. —Jim Vorel
44. Fright Night (2011)
I went into the 2011 Fright Night remake not expecting very much, and came out pleasantly surprised. It’s one of the better modern vampire movies to get left out of conversations on modern vampire movies, presumably because it’s a remake, but this Fright Night is undoubtedly its own film. Colin Farrell is frankly spectacular as “Jerry the vampire,” a character who positively radiates smarmy menace from the moment we meet him. Anton Yelchin is likable as this go-round’s protagonist, but the film is really all about Farrell and a great supporting turn from the Tenth Doctor himself, David Tennant, as magician Peter Vincent. The FX and gore feel visceral and suitably icky, but it’s the moments of Farrell confidently stalking his way through the sets that should win over fans of the original. He seems so very in-control and completely invested in the little details of his character that his modern, hedonistic vampire transcends stereotypes of the genre to be one of the most genuinely threatening and capable ghouls we’ve seen in the past decade. —Jim Vorel
43. Byzantium (2012)
Ten years after bringing studly vampires to the forefront of pop culture with the Anne Rice adaptation, Interview with a Vampire, Irish director Neil Jordan returns to the world of the bloodsuckers with the female-themed Byzantium. Starring Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan as a mother-daughter vampire team on the run, the film trades in the warm hue of the New Orleans nightlife for the cold expanse of an Irish coastal town. Upon taking refuge in a rundown hotel, Eleanor (Ronan) falls in love with a young, sickly boy. Desperate for someone to share her secrets with, Eleanor weaves him the story of how she and mother came to be on the lam. Predictably, the film’s major strength emerges whenever Arterton and Ronan share the screen. What’s most impressive is how the two manage to somehow sell their mother-daughter dynamic despite only being eight years apart in age. Unfortunately, the rest of the film suffers from a unfocused script and several listless sequences. Still, Jordan knows how to put together a cool-looking movie and Byzantiumrepresents one of his most stylish excursions to date. —M.R.
42. The Last Man on Earth (1964)
Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel has had three adaptations and three disservices to its source material, which pains me to write, because The Last Man on Earth still has a lot of other great things going for it—foremost among them, Vincent Price. The great Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan, the titular last man, who spends all his waking hours of sunlight hunting vampires who were created by a plague that wiped out humanity. Unlike the 2007 adaptation with Will Smith, we actually are introduced to some moral ambiguity with his character when it turns out the vampires aren’t quite as monstrous as he may have believed. Rather, they’re capable of being quite intelligent and civilized, although the lesser ones have the mindlessness of zombies—the film was actually a fairly prominent influence on Romero’s Night of the Living Dead a few years later, with its protagonist holed up in a house with monsters on the doorstep. It combines the atmosphere and gothic beauty of a Hammer Horror film with the bonus of Price hamming it up as a vampire-killing doctor prone to philosophizing. It’s clear, by the way, that these creatures actually are vampires, unlike in I Am Legend, where their sunlight sensitivity is really the only sign. Here it’s the whole shebang: Garlic, sunlight, mirrors, it’s all there. —Jim Vorel
41. The Brides of Dracula (1960)
For the first Hammer sequel to 1958’s instantly iconic Horror of Dracula, the studio was unable to wrangle Christopher Lee into reprising the role—something they’d have much more success with in the future. Rather, they set out to make a film about the cult and brides of Lee’s take on Dracula, in a film that sometimes has more in common with the Bram Stoker novel than the movie that preceded it. Peter Cushing thankfully returns to lend a steady hand as vampire hunter Van Helsing, bringing his usual refinement and conviction to the role. He’s actually a real badass in this one too, staking the undead and even devising a rather gruesome home remedy for vampire bites at one point. The plot is a little circuitous and it’s undermined a tad by having a villain who comes across as a foppish “Count Dracula” clone, but the titular vampire brides are a highlight, as is the campiness of Cushing bringing his thespian talents and zeal to the role. It’s a sequel with less gravitas than the original, which is what you’ll get when the trailer advertises the female lead as “France’s latest sex kitten.” —Jim Vorel
40. Day Watch (2006)
Day Watch is the sequel to Night Watch in which we learn that the world is in balance because of a centuries-old truce between the dark-siders and the light-siders who live amongst we clueless mortals. The truce is strained when one of the light guys, Anton, is suspected of murdering a couple of dark side vampires while searching for the mystical “Chalk of Fate.” He’s also looking for his son who has gone to the dark side. And he’s dealing with temporarily inhabiting the body of a woman who used to be an owl. Needless to say, Day Watch can be a tad confusing despite the fact that we are quickly updated on what happened in the first film. But the acting is superb, the dialogue is incredibly sharp and humorous, and the effects are amazing. Even the subtitles are entertaining as the words change color, bounce and crash into pieces. —Tim Basham
39. Mr. Vampire (1985)
This flick will, within moments, have you checking your drink to be sure you haven’t been drugged. Responsible for first bringing the so-called jiangshi subgenre into vogue in Hong Kong filmmaking, Mr. Vampire is an utterly bizarre but compellingly original creation that blends a classic kung fu movie with horror and elements of ancient Chinese folklore/mythology. The vampires in question (there’s more than one) are the Eastern variety of “hopping” vamp, which move by holding their arms straight out in front of them and jumping around with little bunny hops. Oh, and you can repel them by holding your breath. The movie is a cinematic fever dream, which a few seconds of the trailer, with its flying heads and hopping vampires, should make abundantly clear. This is about the furthest a cinematic vampire can possibly travel from the Lugosi stereotype, and the results are hilariously strange. —Jim Vorel
38. Afflicted (2013)
Shot on a shoestring budget with minimal crew, Afflicted is a masterclass in resourcefulness. The story follows two Canadian travelers (played by the film’s writing/directing team Derek Lee and Clif Prowse) as they trapeze through Europe. During a drunken hook-up, however one of them begins demonstrating bizarre symptoms, including an aversion to sunlight, unnatural strength and a hunger that no food can satisfy. Think An American Werewolf in London as a found-footage film (albeit, with more of a serious tone) and you have some idea of what to expect. It’s a wonderful gem of a movie for any horror fan and more than enough reason to look forward to Lee and Prowse’s future projects. —M.R.
37. The Monster Squad (1987)
It was always obvious Count Dracula (Duncan Regehr) would be the leader: After all, it’s the vampire royalty who was once famous-monster-hunter Abraham Van Helsing’s arch nemesis, who assembles all the old Universal Monsters to help him plunge the world into eternal darkness, who would never in a million centuries let some snot-nosed dork kick him in the “nards” (unlike the Wolfman, who was kicked in the nards—hard). Fred Dekker’s The Monster Squad affirms the classic notion that the Grandaddy of all vampires would also be the most nefarious of all the classic Hellspawn, demonstrating his serious leadership material should the time ever come to rally the supernatural heavyweights and show the humans what’s what. Yup, the film even alludes to the Holocaust—the implication being that Count Dracula is worse than Hitler. So who better to face a small group of pubescent boys with slingshots and no combat training than the original source and mid-’80s manifestation of all evil on earth? —D.S.
36. 30 Days of Night (2007)
With sparkly, emo vampires being all the rage amongst tweens and slash/fic enthusiasts at the time, the big screen adaptation of Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s comic book miniseries, 30 Days of Night, could easily be seen as something of a balm for true horror fans. There are no tragic or misunderstood monsters as far as the guyliner’d eye can see; the vampires here—led by Danny Huston’s vicious Marlow—are savage, pitiless, bloodsucking ghouls. Despite the unfortunate blank space in the center of the film where town sheriff Josh Harnett’s command of the screen should be, the movie faithfully captures the source material’s terror of a small Alaskan town falling prey to ravenous creatures, and dawn is an entire, excruciating month away. —S.W.
35. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
I can’t help but wonder, watching From Dusk Till Dawn, what the film might have looked like if Robert Rodriguez wrote it as well, rather than Quentin Tarantino. Would the Mexican vampire element have been introduced before the halfway mark? Probably. But there’s Tarantino for you, not content to tell one story—instead, he delivers what almost becomes two entirely separate movies starring the same characters. In the first half we get a crime dramedy about a pair of sociopathic brothers on the lam, taking hostages down the Mexico. When they finally get there, the switch flips and it turns into a gory vampire western. Both halves are entertaining in their own way, although genre purists who went in expecting a vampire film were probably perplexed by the lead-in to the payoff. That payoff is satisfyingly pulpy, though, and there’s a certain pleasure in going back to see the earlier era of George Clooney, when he thought the idea of fighting Mexican vampires seemed like a good career move. We never get all that much background on the vampires themselves, except the suggestion that they’ve been around for a good long while, just waiting for a chance to go up against Tom Savini wielding a codpiece gun. —Jim Vorel
34. The Addiction (1995)
Lili Taylor stars as Kathleen Conklin, an NYU student who one night finds herself attacked and bitten by a female vampire. Being a philosophy student (and because this is a Abel Ferrara joint), Kathleen quickly takes her deteriorating condition as a cue for existential ruminations. Tapping into the foreboding grittiness of the New York setting, Ferrara uses vampirism as a stand-in for the decay that comes with the likes of modern metropolitan living and drug addiction. (Conklin is even recommended William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch at one point.) As with every Ferrara production, this is no light affair, but it nevertheless stands as one of the director’s best, most essential works. —M.R.
33. Let Me In (2010)
Practically more supernatural a creature than its starring monster, Let Me In is not only an Americanized adaptation of a foreign film that isn’t a waste of everyone’s time, it’s arguably superior than the film it’s based upon. Like the original Swedish film, Let the Right One In, Matt Reeves’ update teases a remarkable amount of tension and intrigue through meticulous plotting and arresting imagery. Though set in Los Alamos, New Mexico, rather than Stockholm, the choice of place for relocation initially seems an odd one—but it turns out it’s not the icy Swedish darkness that harbors the sense of unease. It’s the isolation of a 12-year-old boy, neglected by parents and any real parental figure. Owen’s (Kodi Smit-McPhee) bond with the eternally youthful vampire Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz) is as effective and chilling here as it is in the original, thanks in no small part to its two phenomenal young leads. No question there’s a modern horror classic here, from the unlikeliest of origins. —S.W.
32. The Lost Boys (1987)
If vampires are among the original heartthrobs, it makes all the more sense for Joel Schumacher—he of Brat Pack and other generic onscreen glossiness—to have doubled down with a Tiger Beat collage of ’80s teen idols: Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Jami Gertz and the Coreys (Haim and Feldman). Patric and Haim are siblings who sense something is amiss in their new coastal California town, where a lot of people have gone missing lately. While Patric’s Michael falls in with hottie Star (Gertz) and her gang leader/vamp BF David (Sutherland), Haim’s Sam bonds with the nerdy vampire-hunting Frog brothers, Edgar and Allan (get it?), at the local comic book store. It’s super slick, cheesy and a nostalgia trip for the pre-Twilight generation. Schumacher scores bonus points for casting Dianne Wiest as a newly single mom, Edward Herrmann as her suspicious new suitor, and Barnard Hughes as the boys’ curmudgeonly gramps. Despite its titular hat tip to J.M. Barrie, The Lost Boys is about as deep as a baby’s premolars, but don’t let that stop you from “vamping out.” —A.S.
31. Trouble Every Day (1987)
With a filmography that includes socially conscious, lyrical dramas such as Chocolat, Nenette and Boni and White Material, nothing about French filmmaker Claire Denis’ career suggests her capable of making a gory, hardcore horror flick wherein, at one point, a bout of oral sex turns very deadly. Yet, that’s precisely what happened (to the disappointment of many critics) with the equally lyrical, yet fantastically gruesome Trouble Every Day. Vincent Gallo stars as a young newlywed who arranges his honeymoon with the express purpose of meeting up with a colleague’s beautiful, yet sick wife. Eventually, it becomes clear that the wife is (literally) bloodthirsty, and Gallo’s character soon enters her orbit. Sure, the antagonist is not a “vampire” in the traditional sense, but it’s clear that Denis and co-screenwriter Jean-Pol Fargeau are toying with vampire lore and the sexual connotations therein. Certainly not a film for all tastes, but one that will linger in any viewer’s mind long after credits have rolled. —M.R.
30. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Based on the 1897 Gothic horror classic, Francis Ford Coppola’s unabashedly over-the-top adaptation is at times as chuckle-worthy as it is impressive. The period detail and production design is sumptuous, and the traditional, non-CGI special effects—a deliberate nod by Coppola to the novel’s turn-of-the-century origins, which coincided with early filmmaking—are the stuff of lavish spectacle. Be it Gary Oldman (relishing the role, and some masterful makeup) as the soulful but ruthless bloodsucker, Winona Ryder as his long-lost love, or Anthony Hopkins as the equally storied Dr. Van Helsing, nothing about the film or its performances is subtle—and that’s before we get to Keanu Reeves. Try as he might as the British lawyer fiancé to Ryder’s Mina, Reeves can’t help but flail onscreen, a Ted out of water among an ensemble that also includes Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes and a marvelous Tom Waits as R.M. Renfield. When Coppola’s overwrought romantic vision works, it’s intoxicating. When it doesn’t, it’s an operatic circle jerk, albeit a still riveting one. —A.S.
29. Night Watch (2004)
A huge hit in its native Russia, Night Watch is a preposterous celluloid Rorschach blot, the backstory and main narratives of which are too feverishly convoluted to summarize. But it works. As an epic about Good and Evil warriors scrapping on the streets of modern Moscow, the film is blissfully free of faux history lessons from the Obi-Wan and Elrond School of Film Exposition. The audience is tossed into a 1,000-year conflict involving witches, curses, vampires, shapeshifters and hypersonic public-utility vehicles and told to sink or swim. Thus, Night Watch feels like Harry Potter’s first week at Hogwarts—crammed with the giddy culture shock of constant discovery.—Michael Marano
28. Cronos (1993)
Even working with a small budget in his first feature film, the vitality of Guillermo Del Toro’s imagination was immediately on full display in Cronos, his Mexican vampire horror drama. Reflecting themes and visual elements that the director has continued to refine in The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth and Crimson Peak, Cronos is a simply told but visually striking story about an antique shop owner who is slowly and unwittingly transformed into a vampire-like creature after a 450-year-old mechanical device clamps onto his arm and refuses to let go. At first he enjoys the new vitality of the transformation, before other parties come hunting for the device, turning the movie into almost a vampire crime story, as it were. Regardless, Cronos features a very sympathetic vampire at its core, an old man who is simply thrilled by what at first appears to be a new lease on life but eventually requires deadly sacrifices. It’s certainly not Del Toro’s most spellbinding feature, but it was an excellent debut. —Jim Vorel
27. Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968)
My personal favorite title of the Hammer Dracula sequels, just narrowly edging out Taste the Blood of Dracula, may also be the best of the sequels overall. It’s a fresh take on the story, rather than another rehashing of the Van Helsing/vampire hunter story, centered around the romance of a young couple, including Hammer Horror bombshell Veronica Carlson. The young protagonist Paul (there always seems to be someone named Paul in these movies) makes a very unusual vampire killer for one reason in particular—he’s an atheist! Therefore unable to use the powers of faith and holy symbols (the cross, holy water, etc.) as weapons, he’s at a severe disadvantage as a bloodshot-eyed Christopher Lee targets his bride-to-be. Another thing that stands apart in Dracula Has Risen From the Grave is Hammer’s apparent intent to create a “sexier,” more adult-charged atmosphere for the film and the series. More care seems to have been put into sexualizing the characters, which amps up the gothic romance in an appealingly cheesy way—just look at the poster, for god’s sake. Ravishing! This is the last of the “classical”-feeling Dracula movies in the Hammer series—after this, they get progressively weirder. —Jim Vorel
26. Blacula (1972)
The production of Blacula is on the amateurish side, but you can at least say it’s a better film than the silly title might suggest, and much better than the other blaxploitation horror flicks it inspired such as the godawful Blackenstein. Also unique: You’re probably not going to find another film on the list where the rampaging vampire is released because a pair of gay interior decorators buy his Transylvanian coffin as a furnishing for their L.A. apartment. The actual vampire is Mamuwalde, an African prince of some kind who was vampirized by Dracula for daring to seek his help in stopping the slave trade in 1780. In doing so, you establish a classic blaxploitation anti-hero—even if he’s killing people in L.A. to stay alive, Mamuwalde is immediately lionized with the title of freedom fighter and liberator. The movie is also a soul-gothic story of doomed lovers, reincarnated over the centuries in the style of The Mummy. It’s quite the hokey watch in 2015, but with the right crowd—especially film fans who are blaxploitation-savvy—it’s an indispensable slice of the early ’70s urbanization of horror. —Jim Vorel