Vampires are one of the most popular and beloved monsters in fiction. Often a metaphor for how humanity preys on one another, countless interpretations of the vampire have hit the big screen.
Viewers all know Dracula and Twilight, but for every major vampire movie, there are hundreds more that don’t get the love they deserve. Some are small indie movies, and some are made by all-time great filmmakers, but each of these vampire movies deserves audiences’ attention.
Updated on January 23rd, 2023, by Hannah Saab:
With the highly-anticipated horror-comedy film Renfield set to premiere on April 14, 2023, it’s the perfect time to delve into some underrated vampire flicks from a variety of genres.
1 ‘Near Dark’ (1987)
Like with a lot of monsters, the setting of a vampire story is integral to the story told. For example, Bram Stoker‘s Dracula is a specifically European story. Similarly, Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow‘s neo-Western horror movie, Near Dark, is a wholly American vampire movie. It turns the American landscape into a world of smoke and neon hiding unimaginable horrors inside.
The movie follows a farmer’s son as he gets brought into the world of vampires by a roaming group of vampire outlaws. The cast is incredible, featuring the likes of Lance Henriksen, Jeanette Goldstein and the iconic Bill Paxton. Like many American stories, Near Dark is a movie about a person trying to find their place in the wide-open American frontier. It’s a dangerous world out there, and you never know what’s hiding in the fog.
2 ‘The Hunger’ (1983)
David Bowie was one of those celebrities who were so eccentric and creative that if you were told he was a vampire, you might believe it. His acting career is not as well-known as his music career, but he starred in several movies worth checking out.
The Hunger, directed by film legend Tony Scott, stars Bowie and Catherine Deneuve as a pair of vampires who get entangled in a love triangle when they meet gerontologist Sarah Roberts, played by Susan Sarandon. The movie is full of Scott’s incredibly vibrant and unique style and embraces the bizarre sexuality often associated with vampires. It’s a special movie that has been overlooked for too long.
3 ‘The Addiction’ (1995)
Abel Ferrara is an indie movie legend, proving time and time again that he can do the most with small budgets, making indie classics like King Of New York, Ms. 45 and Bad Lieutenant. His low-budget take on the vampire movie is just as special.
The Addiction stars Lili Taylor as Kathleen Conklin, a grad student in New York City who becomes a vampire after being bit by a strange woman. She then struggles to come to terms with her new existence and ever-present hunger. The film’s cast is incredible, featuring Taylor, Christopher Walken, Edie Falco and Michael Imperioli. It’s the kind of vampire movie they don’t make anymore. There aren’t any big special effects or action scenes, but it’s more than worth your time.
4 ‘Nosferatu The Vampyre’ (1979)
Nosferatu is one of the most iconic big-screen vampires, second only to Bela Lugosi‘s Dracula. The original F.W. Murnau silent film, an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, has been remade on several occasions, including the upcoming Robert Eggers movie. When remaking Nosferatu, notorious German auteur Werner Herzog, best known for his documentaries, probably wouldn’t be your first choice, but his adaptation is a truly special film that no one else could have made.
Herzog’s muse and mortal enemy, Klaus Kinski, plays the vampire to frightening perfection, embodying the ever-present sense of dread throughout the film. Somehow, Herzog combines the modern film sensibilities of 1979 with touches of the German expressionism of the original film to make a movie that feels wholly unique.
5 ‘Queen of the Damned’ (2002)
Interview With the Vampire is a beloved classic of vampire cinema. However, many people don’t know that there is a sequel. It doesn’t have Tom Cruise, but Queen of the Damned features his character Lestat, now played by Stuart Townsend, as he becomes a rock star and wakes the infamous queen of all vampires, played by Aaliyah, from her ancient slumber.
While Interview With The Vampire finds some elegance in its story, Queen of the Damned goes full-on pulp horror, embracing the silliness inherent to its plot. It’s a weird turn for the franchise but taken on its own, Queen of the Damned is an entertaining, wild horror movie absolutely worth your time.
6 ‘Let Me In’ (2010)
The Swedish horror novel, Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist has been adapted multiple times, including a beloved Swedish movie and a new TV show on Showtime. However, one adaptation often forgotten about is Matt Reeves‘ American feature film, Let Me In.
The movie follows a young boy named Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who befriends a young girl named Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz), unaware that she is a vampire. The two young actors anchoring the movie have gone on to incredible careers, including an Oscar nomination for McPhee. Their talent is obvious, carrying the weight of the film on their backs. Reeves also went on to bigger things, heading the newest big-screen take on The Batman. Let Me In is proof of all of their immense talents, crafting a beautiful and scary story about friendship and the lengths people will go not to be alone.
7 ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ (1992)
When you think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, chances are you think of the iconic and beloved TV show with Sarah Michelle Gellar. There’s a chance you didn’t even realize there was a movie. Is the movie better than the show? No, it’s actually pretty different from the show, but it’s still worth watching.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer stars Kristy Swanson as the titular Buffy, a normal high school cheerleader who finds out her destiny is to become a vampire hunter. It’s a fun idea to take the glossy Valley Girl world of Los Angeles the movie is set in and throw in a dose of darkness. It’s much lighter than the show and takes itself less seriously. The movie also features a very nice and very 1990s supporting cast, including Donald Sutherland, Luke Perry, Rutger Hauer, David Arquette and Paul Reubens. If you’re a Buffy fan, you should check out the movie to see where it all started.
8 ‘Vampire’s Kiss’ (1988)
You could argue that Vampire’s Kiss isn’t actually a vampire movie. It’s all about how you interpret the strange events unfolding in the story. Chances are, you’ve seen a glimpse of Nicolas Cage‘s incredibly insane performance as a man who drifts quickly into pure madness since his facial expressions have been turned into countless memes. But a gif doesn’t do his performance justice.
The movie stars Cage as Peter Loew, a literary agent whose life mainly consists of picking up women at every club in New York City and short stories. Then, after a mysterious woman bites him, he becomes convinced he’s becoming a vampire. The movie’s fun comes from the audience trying to decipher whether he’s a vampire or just suffering from a severe case of rabies. Either way, he goes full-on bonkers and makes an incredibly entertaining movie.
9 ‘Cronos’ (1993)
Guillermo del Toro loves monsters. This is obvious throughout his entire filmography, from The Shape of Water to Hellboy to his smaller horror movies from the early part of his career, like his debut feature, Cronos. Cronos is a vampire movie unlike any you’ve ever seen.
The movie takes place in Mexico and follows Federico Luppi as Jesus Gris, an antique shop owner. He finds a device that can grant eternal life and a dangerously powerful thirst for blood. Meanwhile, a rich man named De la Guardia (Claudio Brook) and his nephew Angel, played by del Toro regular Ron Perlman, want the device and will do anything to get it. It’s a weird, scary and heartfelt vampire movie with that signature Guillermo del Toro pulpy sensibility that brings it all together into a truly special movie.
10 ‘Thirst’ (2009)
Park Chan-wook is one of the greatest living filmmakers in the world. He’s responsible for bonafide classics like Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, and The Handmaiden, but one of his greatest movies, which doesn’t get talked about nearly enough, is the brilliant vampire thriller, Thirst.
Thirst stars Song Kang-ho, best known for his collaborations with another Korean auteur, Oscar-winner Bong Joon-ho, as a priest whose faith is put to the test when he becomes a vampire after a failed medical experiment. The movie is slick, sexy and very scary. As South Korean culture continues to take over America, Thirst is the perfect movie to watch for a take on the vampire, unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
11 ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ (2013)
Only Lovers Left Alive isn’t your typical vampire film. Directed by Jim Jarmusch, the vampire movie gives a dark, moody and intellectual perspective on the vampire genre, instead of sparkling, attractive vampires and trite one-liners. It follows a disillusioned couple (Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston) as they struggle to survive as vampires in the modern world and in the face of immortality.
The on-screen chemistry between Hiddleston and Swinton as the centuries-old vampire lovers, Adam and Eve, will enchant viewers. The eclectic visuals and brooding soundtrack of the film certainly contribute to its charm. Of course, the most impressive aspect is the movie’s unique take on the vampire genre, as well as its ability to brilliantly depict the ennui of immortality. Only Lovers Left Alive is an innovative vampire film with a cool, indie style and a strong touch of existential malaise. It’s a must-see for everyone who enjoys eccentric, arthouse movies and is bored of the same old vampire clichés.
12 ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ (2014)
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a gorgeous, black-and-white indie darling set in a fictional Iranian ghost town known as “Bad City,” where people are tormented by an enigmatic, chador-wearing vampire. Sheila Vand‘s performance as the vampire, known only as “The Girl,” is delicate and nuanced, elevating the entire masterpiece.
The film’s unusual combination of horror, neo-noir and arthouse elements will captivate audiences. Its beautiful cinematography, which includes lengthy, dreamy tracking shots, adds to its allure. Its unique take on the vampire genre, as well as its strong feminist undertones, perfectly complements its examination of gender, class and power relations in Iranian society. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a vampire film that defies expectations by delivering an exceptional, stylish and thought-provoking perspective of the genre.
13 ’30 Days of Night’ (2007)
30 Days of Night is a horror film set in the small town of Barrow, Alaska, where the sun sets for 30 days straight, plunging the community into darkness. The locals now worry about more than just the darkness, as a horde of hungry vampires commanded by the charismatic Marlow (Danny Huston) arrives to feast on the residents.
Directed by David Slade, the film will keep audiences on the edge of their seats from beginning to end, increasing the suspense and gore with each passing night. The film’s all-star cast also served to elevate the material, with Josh Hartnett as the town’s sheriff offering a powerful, stoic performance and Danny Huston as the vampire commander delivering a sinister turn. The film’s strong sense of atmosphere, as well as its ability to make the most of its lonely, icy environment, contribute to its grim realism.