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The 28 best vampire movies you'll want to sink your teeth into

Take a bite outta these scary, funny and often gory tales about Dracula and beyond.
/ Source: TODAY

Nobody likes a leech — yet vampires are another story for some reason. Feared and despised generally, they're also mythic creatures of mystery and romance. And that makes them perfect for filmmakers who want to tell all kinds of stories in the form of vampire movies, fit for Halloween night.

"They appeal to the sadist that dwells in all of us," award-winning author Steven Van Patten, author of the “Brookwater’s Curse” series, tells TODAY. "A powerful, beautiful god or demon-like being who sees us for what we are and has decided, for whatever reason to make us theirs while lesser humans are considered only worthy to be consumed as one would a protein shake.

"As the audience, we know the vampire could easily take the object of their desire by force, but instead leads with pleasant conversation," Van Patten continues. "And we know the vampire is taking this route because like us, the vampire wants to be loved for who he or she is. The whole immortality this is just icing on the blood cake."

Something about vampire movies, then, just gets our blood up. There are dozens of all stripes, from monstrous murderers to sparkly anti-heroes, from the '80s, '90s, and 2000s and beyond, all with a single-minded goal: To survive. And in that, we have a lot in common.

To make a vampire movie work, though, it takes an actor willing to commit to the role and good writing, says Van Patten. "Anyone can put together a schlock film with some creepy nut biting people in the neck," he says. "What I want is an exploration. I want commentary on modern society from someone who's been alive for centuries. Between meals it would make sense that a vampire would have some opinions on the world around him."

And so, with the thoughtful, if monstrous, vampire of film history in mind, we have dug up (or opened the coffin on) some of our all-time favorite denizens of the undead, ranging from romance staples to old classics and more modern fare. Time to sink your teeth into this list, with picks available on Netflix, Hulu and beyond.

‘Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror’ (1922)

The movie that started it all — at least, in terms of vampires depicted in movies. An unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's "Dracula," the movie features Max Schreck as a truly odious worm of a vampire (and about as far from a romantic hero as you can get) who really makes you think he's been living in a coffin. That said, it looks old and is a silent film, which may undercut the immediate horror for modern viewers.

'Dracula' (1931)

OK, now we're getting somewhere. Bela Lugosi's incredible performance might seem cliched now, but only because every other vampire film owes some of its DNA to his portrayal, or the film itself. There's Dracula's slave Renfield, the journey to England, Mina and Lucy (who attract the vampire's attention) and most of the well-established tale. That said, did you realize Dracula had three wives back in Transylvania? We need more on these ladies!

'Daughters of Darkness' (1971)

Newlyweds Stefan and Valerie check into a seafront hotel in winter and come across a mysterious countess and her “secretary.” Stefan proves himself to be an abuser and philanderer, and the countess and secretary rally around the new bride. A series of bloody falls outs some of them as blood-drinkers, and there can only be one survivor among the four, in the end.

'Ganja and Hess (1973)'

An anthropologist becomes a vampire after his assistant stabs him, using an ancient cursed dagger, before taking his own life. Having survived his wound, the anthropologist drinks his assailant’s blood and becomes a full vamp. Eventually he becomes entangled in a love affair with the assistant’s widow, and he turns her into a vampire, too. But all is not perfect in paradise: religion gets in the way of these bloodsuckers having their happily bloody after.

‘Martin’ (1978)

If a person bites like a vampire and says he's a vampire and goes by the nickname "The Count," is that person a vampire? The titular young man of "Martin" sure thinks he is, which basically makes him one. That belief leads him to run around biting people and drinking their blood, yet the traditional magic methods to repel him don't seem to work. Horror master George Romero is at the peak of his game in this darkly-funny but gory film that proves nobody's immune to a stake through the chest.

'Dracula (1979)

Dracula! Live and in color, with a tagline that calls it a “love story”? Perhaps this is yet another twist of the stake in the heart of vampire-as-monster, particularly with the smoldering Frank Langella in the title role. As Van Patten notes, the film is “not exactly faithful to Bram Stoker’s original,” but “Langella’s performance was amazing.”

'Nosferatu, the Vampyre' (1979)

Nearly 60 years after "Nosferatu," Werner Herzog (in his pre-documentary days) decided to hire Klaus Kinski as the titular vampire and remake the film in his own, bleak (and sometimes bleakly funny) style. It's a perfect marriage of 1970s art house, horror and Herzog's directorial style. Yes, it's in German and you'll have to read subtitles, but Kinski is a creepy marvel in the role — and with him playing the hungry undead, it's easy to see why the mysterious romance of the whole thing started up for a new generation.

'The Hunger' (1983)

You know the tide has turned for movie vampires when David Bowie turns up as one. In "The Hunger," he and Catherine Deneuve are the sexiest, trendiest vamps on the block and they're haunting new wave clubs for their latest victims. Meanwhile, though, Bowie's vamp is about at the end of his lifespan (or at least, his useful lifespan) and that means Susan Sarandon is on tap (so to speak) to take his place. Is it a good movie? Sometimes. Is it coherent? Occasionally. But who cares: It's David Bowie and he's playing the cello.

'Fright Night' (1985)

There are two "Fright Night" films out there, the 1985 original and 2011 remake, and both are worthy contenders — but purists will insist on the '80s as being the one and only (even if the new one stars Colin Farrell). Both deal with a teenager who discovers his new neighbor is a vampire, and his stumbling efforts to clean up the neighborhood. The addition of a B-level celebrity (in the original a former vampire hunter turned TV host, in the remake he's a magician) who gets enlisted to the cause adds some dark levity and a welcome fresh breeze to the concept.

'Near Dark' (1987)

Future Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker") made her debut in a spectacular fashion with this film about a young man who gets involved with a nomadic band of vampires. But there's one who seems to be on his side (as well as being a vampire) and, well, who knew you could get a blood transfusion to fix the sickness of vampirism?

'The Lost Boys' (1987)

Funny, sexy, scary and very 1980s, "Lost Boys" is least believable because of the idea that vampires would voluntarily relocate to a sunny beachside town. But if you get beyond that, "Lost Boys" is a fun romp with a stellar cast (Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman and Dianne Wiest) as vampires, vampire hunters, and the new kid in town who seems primed to fall prey (in more ways than one) to the vampire biker gang.

'Vampire’s Kiss' (1988)

Vampires continue to infiltrate Hollywood movies in unique ways, and in the late 1980s they were amusing ways. Enter Nic Cage, who never saw a role he couldn't take a big bite out of. Here, he's a yuppie literary agent who's also going mad, and appears to get bitten by a vampire he picked up at a nightclub. Did it happen? Well, like "Martin" in the 1978 movie above, that may not even matter. Be it madness or be it vampirism, if you start craving blood there's only one direction you're likely to go in: under the couch, holding a wooden stake.

'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' (1992)

When you’re in high school, everyone has plans for your life — and in cheerleader Buffy’s case, that means learning how to become her generation’s vampire slayer, with help from a Watcher who’s meant to show her the way. But vampire kings and teenage hormones get in the way, and Buffy has to learn on her own quickly.

'Bram Stoker’s Dracula' (1992)

By the early 1990s, the characters having the most fun in vampire movies were, often, the vampires itself. Witness Gary Oldman grinning his way through white pancake makeup and a beehive hairdo as Keanu Reeves (dubious accent and all) and Winona Ryder act out Stoker's genre-creating novel all over again. It's fun, and gory and just plain good fun, because the actors are having the time of their lives. And deaths.

'Cronos' (1993)

The film that introduced Guillermo del Toro to the feature world, “Cronos” is not your typical vampire film. In this tale, a centuries-old scarab contains both a mechanism and an insect that injects its victims with a solution that provides eternal life … but also makes them thirsty for blood. Things get nastier as the latest victim tries to resist his urges and possibly find the strength to destroy the device.

'Nadja' (1994)

You know you're into the 1990s when indie films were taking their own stab at the vampire genre. This indie film has a handmade feel that is part art-student, part David Lynch (which is good, since Lynch is not only an executive producer, he turns up as a morgue receptionist). The plot hits on some of the usual notes: a family of vampires are being hunted by Van Helsing; the character of Lucy also plays a key role. A good one to add to your list if you've seen all the others.

‘Interview with the Vampire’ (1994)

Indie directors and actors weren’t the only ones making vampire movies in the 1990s; A-listers like Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise also wanted in on the action, turning Anne Rice’s 1976 seminal book into a big-budget film. In the movie, Pitt’s vampire talks with a reporter about how Cruise’s neck biter turned him into the undead, and how they spent their centuries together (and roped in a child, played by Kirsten Dunst, into their bloody family). AMC has a series version all teed up that adapts the novel again, set to start airing Oct. 2.

‘The Addiction’ (1995)

The decade’s indie wave continued with another black-and-white vampire film featuring legendary indie favorites Christopher Walken and Lili Taylor. In this film, a graduate student (Taylor) goes off the rails after being bitten, then meets a vampire who’s curing his addiction to blood (Walken), with limited success. But hey, at least she’s able to defend her dissertation to get her philosophy doctorate afterward!

‘From Dusk ‘Til Dawn’ (1996)

Frankly, there just aren't enough vampire movies that also include George Clooney, which feature Quentin Tarantino in a supporting role. Fortunately, there's "Dusk 'Till Dawn," in which Clooney and Tarantino play a couple of no-good criminals who take hostages, end up in a bar populated by vampires overnight and have to dodge bullets and bites all night.

‘Vampires’ (1998)

After his parents are killed by vamps (it happens), Jack dedicates his life to eradicating the undead, and becomes the Catholic Church's "Master Slayer" in this John Carpenter film. But the vampires may have found a way to fight back, and it's a race to see who will locate the ancient relic that would allow them to walk around in daylight first.

‘Blade’ (1998)

It's hard to top Wesley Snipes as a hybrid vamp-human in "Blade" and "Blade II" (2002) who hunts the undead and has the best of both worlds: He's as strong as a vampire, but has none of their weaknesses. Plus, he's working on a cure. This is one sharp dude.

‘Shadow of the Vampire’ (2000)

Nosferatu rises again! Yep, you just can't kill the 1922 original, and "Shadow" is all about a fictionalized making of the film, where star Max Schreck is taking his vampire role a little too literally. In this retelling, they've actually cast a vamp in the lead role, and people won't stop dying until the dictatorial director says "cut."

‘Let the Right One In’ (2008)

There aren't many vampire films that tug on your heartstrings and make you root for the vampire in question; even fewer use young people as their main characters. Such is the case in the Swedish "Let the Right One In," a phrase that refers to vampires needing to be invited into a building in order to enter it. In the film, a bullied adolescent boy bonds with a strange neighbor of indeterminate gender (who seems like the same age as the boy), who starts to go after the people who've made the kid's life hard. But there's something in it for the vampire, too ... something that won't be revealed until the end. Watch this one, not the US remake from 2010, "Let Me In," which has almost none of the unsettling humanity of the original.

‘Thirst’ (2009)

A priest volunteers to be part of a medical experiment, gets a supposedly fatal disease ... yet miraculously recovers. How come? Because it turns out he's become a connoisseur of blood, and not drinking it makes the symptoms of the disease return! This South Korean production (whose Korean name means "Bat") pits a religious man against his very non-holy urges, so the question is, which will win out?

‘Byzantium’ (2012)

The love story at the core of "Byzantium" is between a mother and her daughter, who are both vampires that cross the centuries, hiding their urges and being chased by various shadowy people and organizations. Director Neil Jordan ("Interview with the Vampire") returns to his bloody ways, and the film stars both Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton.

‘What We Do in the Shadows’ (2014)

Mix vampires with the modern age, toss in a dash of "Spinal Tap"-style "documentary" filmmaking, and get talents like Taika Waititi, Matt Berry and Jermaine Clement, and you really can't miss. This film shows us all the ways vamps bumble through their daily human existences, including taking care of everyday chores like vacuuming while dealing with avoiding sunlight, Unholy Masquerades and chasing down virgins for dinner. Hilarious, and possibly only outdone by FX's ongoing series based on the film.

‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ (2013)

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are so cool, so pale and so very full of ennui over their ancient existence as vampires that they are impossible to look away from. Though married for hundreds of years, they live on opposite sides of the world (Detroit, where he hides out a a reclusive rock star; and Tangier, where she lives among books and keeps her head down). They've found ways to be supplied with the "good stuff" rather than piercing necks to get their fix, but when everything starts crumbling they're left to reconsider whether it's time to return to the old ways.

‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ (2014)

Moody and elliptical, "A Girl" has been described as the first Iranian vampire western. And while the "western" elements are a bit vague, it is about an unnamed young woman who finds herself intrigued by a struggling man who takes care of his drug-addicted father. The two strike up a curious relationship, and while she does some unspeakable things, they both hope to find a path out of their own ghost town existence together.