Ghosts are ubiquitous and zombies have had their moments of dominance, but of all the classic horror monsters, vampires have the strongest claim for the greatest film legacy. The vampire genre is nearly as old as cinema itself, with F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu” scaring up audiences in 1922, followed by the countless iterations that came in its shadow. Every era and every filmmaking country has since taken up its own spins on the myth of the vampire, from Universal Studios’ “Dracula” series beginning with Tod Browning’s Bram Stoker adaptation in 1931, all the way up to Iranian-American director Ana Lily Amirpour’s indie feminist twist “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” in 2014.
2023 though, has not exactly been a banner year for brilliant takes on the horror genre’s most iconic creatures of the night. Sure, there have been plenty of movies starring vampires; it’s just that most of them haven’t been very good. Two vastly different Dracula takes — the comedic “Renfield” and the monster flick “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” — arrived in theaters with a massive thud. “El Conde,” Pablo Larraín’s black comedy film that reimagines Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as a 250-year-old vampire, received attention for its creative premise but received somewhat muted reviews out of the Venice Film Festival. You’ll have to go back a few years to find a genuine all-time great vampire flick, regardless of how many memes “Morbius” spawned in 2022.
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All that said, film vampires still have plenty of blood flowing in their undead veins. It doesn’t have a release date, but one of the most highly anticipated upcoming horror films is Robert Eggers’ reimagining of the original “Nosferatu,” featuring Bill Skarsgard as the devious Count Orlok. Focus Features will distribute the film — also starring Nicholas Hoult, Lily-Rose Depp, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Emma Corrin, and Willem Dafoe — at an undisclosed date, but hopefully sooner than later. While we wait anxiously for Eggers’ interpretation of the original vampire story, why not sink your teeth into the great entries in the vampire canon that have spawned since?
While the genre has generated many a bloody classic — too many to count, in fact — IndieWire has rounded up staff favorites that also happen to represent an exhaustive cross-section of vampire homages, including Francis Ford Coppola’s controversial, romantic ode “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” in 1992, Park Chan-wook’s erotic South Korean take “Thirst,” Europe’s 1971 lesbian imagining “Daughters of Darkness,” the 2014 mockumentary “What We Do in the Shadows,” and more.
In honor of the 2023 Halloween season, we refreshed and updated our list of the greatest vampire movies of all time. The picks range from comedic, irreverent takes and Hollywood blockbusters to gory fright fests and introspective arthouse features. Read on to see IndieWire’s picks of the top 20 vampire movies below. We promise they don’t suck.
With editorial contributions by Chris O’Fault, Ryan Lattanzio, Jude Dry, Tambay Obenson, Christian Blauvelt, Eric Kohn, and Zack Sharf. [Editor’s note: this list was originally published in October 2019 and has been updated multiple times since.]
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