Since the first publication of Dracula in 1897, vampires have haunted the imagination of horror fans around the world. Even over a century later, adaptations of Bram Stoker’s novel are still in the works, with countless more bloodsucking characters continuing to take inspiration from the infamous count.
Moving into the modern era, a range of vampires have graced both the small and silver screen – as well as serving as nightmare fuel in countless comics and games and vampire slot machines. We’ve seen vampires depicted as beasts, seducers, villains and victims across horror cinema and television. Join us for a trip through horror history as we reveal our picks for the top ten most memorable vampire characters – one per decade!
1920s – Count Orlock
Though not the first vampire film, Nosferatu was the first film to popularise the concept on screen and introduce the public to the mythos of these creatures. An unauthorized re-imagining of Dracula, the film underwent legal difficulties which almost resulted in all copies being destroyed. A few survived however, allowing horror fans an opportunity to see the vampire as imagined in the 1920s. The fact that the film is silent doesn’t detract from it’s overall eeriness, and Count Orlock’s startling appearance is etched into the mind of many viewers.
1930s – Dracula (Universal)
It really couldn’t have been any other vampire to take the spot for the 1930s. Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of the Count is what most people visualise when they think ‘vampires’. Released in 1931, the Universal film kickstarted the Universal Monsters franchise. Based on the stage play of Stoker’s novel, the film thrilled audiences on release and continues to influence pop culture today. Lugosi brought the charm and elegance of the Count to the role, as well as the characteristic vocal delivery and menacing smile that we still associate with the vampire.
1940s – Dracula (Universal)
Horror icon John Carradine took over the role of Dracula in the Universal series in the 1940s. Universal put out a few more monster movies in this decade, but we have to give a mention to The House of Frankenstein. Among the first cinematic horror crossovers, the film saw Dracula appear on screen alongside Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man.
1950s – Dracula (Hammer)
The 50s is when Dracula really started to bring the scares, with the first Dracula adaptation to be made in colour being released in 1958. The UK horror film was first in the series of Hammer Horror films starring Christopher Lee as Count Dracula and Peter Cushing as Doctor Van Helsing.
1960s – Billy the Kid Versus Dracula
While it’s not a good film by any means, the 1960s is when Hollywood began to take vampires a little less seriously. Suddenly the nightmarish beasts could be comedy stars; and the first wave of parody, tongue in cheek vampires hit the screen. This one makes the list for highlighting this transition – and having one of the most bizarre film titles in horror history.
1970s – Blacula
The film that prompted the blaxploitation- horror sub-genre, Blacula tells the story of 18th-century African prince named Mamuwalde, who is turned into a vampire by Count Dracula after Dracula refused to help Mamuwalde suppress the slave trade. Though it seems to divide horror fans today, the film was an important milestone for the vampire film – in demonstrating that vampires did not have to fit the ‘look’ established by Lugosi, and that vampires of many races and backgrounds could exist.
1980s – The Lost Boys
The 80s is crammed with iconic and memorable vampire movies! In perhaps it’s greatest decade, a number of the most celebrated vampire films were released. We’ve selected The Lost Boys as the most influential of the bunch, credited with revitalising the vampire mythos for a younger audience. By making the vampires young, attractive and charming, an entirely new generation were captured by the creatures.
1990s – Claudia
Stylish, gothic and a hit when released in 1994 – Interview with the Vampire furthered the idea of desirable yet troubled vampire characters. More of a dark romance than a straight up horror film, the adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel was a hit with audiences outside of dedicated horror fans. While not the main character, young Claudia brings dark humour to the tale which is told over several centuries
2000s – Eli
Sweedish vampire film Let The Right One In captured the imaginations of horror fans in 2008 with it’s tragic depiction of a child vampire who befriends a bullied boy. It’s often considered the best modern vampire movie, with gorgeous cinematography, a compelling story and incredible performances from the young stars. An American remake followed, but we’d urge horror fans to watch the original version!
2010s – Viago, Vladislav, Deacon, and Petyr
Finishing up the countdown is mockumentary-comedy vampire film What We Do in the Shadows which follows a group of vampires who live together in Wellington. The cult classic film pays loving homage to the long history of vampires in pop culture – making it the perfect end to your history vampire viewing list!