The terrorizing Translyvanian, Dracula, is one the most iconic monsters in the world, with his coffin, white skin, castle, brides, and his ability to turn into a wolf, bat, or mist and disability to withstand the sun or garlic. After all, Dracula movies are some of the best because of these dynamics.
Written in 1897 and based at least partially on Vlad the Impaler of Wallachia (who was born in Transylvania, a member of the House of Drăculești), Bram Stoker’s Dracula has been popular since its first publication. No wonder early filmmakers were quick to adapt the story into films about Dracula, enabling the character to successfully feature in more than 200 film adaptations around the world.
Hopefully, throwbacks are here to stay and there will be more movies and TV series( also ballet) about Count Dracula yet to come. For now, check out our
List of the best movie versions of Dracula:
Dracula’s history in cinema may have inspired the ever evolving rendition of his story, yet they all owe it to the pioneer of the 1921 Nosferatu, the best Dracula ever. This film is a classic that is at the pinnacle amongst the earliest horror films. As noted in a review by Roger Ebert, “Here is the story of Dracula before it was buried alive in clichés, jokes, TV skits, cartoons and more than 30 other films. The film is in awe of its material. It seems to really believe in vampires.” Mere words don’t do the artistry of Nosferatu justice, nor has time quashed its impact as a purely visceral experience. It remains haunting in a way modern film can’t even comprehend, and few Dracula films have managed to replicate it in the passing century.
Nosferatu got audiences acquainted with vampire mythology and also created a tone for cinematic horror which we love today, that continues to reverberate through the genre.
A true landmark for Dracula movies, and horror films in general, the irony lies in the fact that one of the greatest Dracula movies ever made, was actually supposed to be a vampire movie?
The story goes that Albin Grau, occult enthusiast and co-founder of the studio behind Nosferatu, got the idea to produce a vampire film. Albin Grau commissioned screenwriter Henrik Galeen to pen a production based on Bram Stoker’s novel, which contemporary literary critics gushed over for its poetry and rhythm. But when the Bram Stoker estate refused to grant permission to the production company, the script was reworked to avoid copyright infringement. If the Bram Stoker estate had gotten their way, this movie would no longer exist.
It didn’t work, and the studio filed for bankruptcy soon after the film’s release. All copies of the film were to be destroyed by a court order.
After winning a copyright suit, a court ruled in favor of the Stokers and declared all copies of F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, a stunning but unofficial Dracula adaptation that should be destroyed. Fortunately thanks to international distribution, a few prints survived and now Nosferatu is widely agreed upon to be one of silent cinema’s undisputed classics has its ability to linger — hauntingly, agelessly, like Dracula himself.
Bela Lugosi’s legacy has lived through years and years of technological vision boxes that show us the 1931 film, Dracula in different sizes. Our TVs may come and go but Dracula will remain rooted and regarded by many as one of the best vampire films of all time.
Tod Browning’s adaptation is almost single-handedly responsible for the vampire films audiences enjoy today, with its intense and moody atmosphere and pitch-perfect casting. Although this is the film that helped to birth the Golden Age of horror it gets a bad rap these days. Contemporary critics dismiss its direction as staid and struggle to overlook how clichéd Bela Lugosi’s parodied performance as the Count has become (very similar to the Dick Van Dyke accent from Mary Poppins being the go to accent for British impersonation).
These critics forget that such films that leave an everlasting impression( both in imagery and imitation) are classics for a reason. Today, Bela Lugosi’s over-the-top pronunciation and demeanour have become the stuff of cheap Halloween costumes these days, but at the inception of this character, this was the first vampire film to fully execute ideas that maybe the sexual allure of the vampire is more terrifying to audiences than the visceral terror of death. The Tod Browning film takes itself completely seriously with no comedic relief from the fear, as was common with horror films in the ‘20s and ‘30s (like the Addams Family) nor is there a sense that everything’s going to be alright in the end, avoiding a cliched happy ending.
Bela Lugosi was so adept at the part thanks to his years of experience playing it on stage, though that didn’t stop Universal from almost not casting him. Thanks to the hands of fate, audiences were introduced to his singular presence, and Lugosi’s legacy continues to this day through imitation and more.
The film itself is often regarded as a classic of cinema, horror or otherwise. The story is derived primarily from Bram Stoker’s book, but it also pulls scenes from the early film Nosferatu that never appeared in the original text. Though the cast outside of Bela Lugosi is regarded as fairly mediocre, the film boasts luscious cinematography and is held together by the sheer power of the star’s presence.
Hammer Horror Dracula (1958)
Aside from the legendary Bela Lugosi, the late and larger than life Sir Christopher Lee is easily one of the best Draculas of all time. Sir Lee made his debut in the highly regarded 1958 Horror of Dracula, which sequeled a nine-film franchise. The film features Peter Cushing as Dracula’s ever-present foe Van Helsing, as well as Melissa Stribling, Carol Marsh, and Michael Gough. Like many of the other Dracula films, the 1958 Horror of Dracula largely follows Bram Stoker’s original text. Unlike many others, Horror of Dracula’s story lives up to its impeccable cast and a well-crafted script from screenwriter Jimmy Sangster.
As it is so well-written, all of the other elements of the film are elevated. Director Terence Fisher creates the requisite mood, and the capable cast flushes out the material beautifully, especially Cushing, who is arguably the best film Van Helsing to date. Visually, Horror of Dracula established many of the modern flourishes expected from a vampire film: prominent fangs, glowing red eyes, pre-made wooden stakes. Through it all, Lee — like Lugosi before him — towers over the film, oozing charisma and terror in equal measure while playing off his talented castmates. It solidified Lee as a force to be reckoned with, though like Lugosi before him, also resulted in industry typecasting for much of his career because casting directors couldn’t see him as anything other than Dracula. Unlike Lugosi, Lee eventually broke from Dracula and is remembered for an illustrious career.
Interestingly, this film revived the horror for a new age in the 1950s, causing cinematic controversy with the censors and making the count fresh for audiences who thought vampires had gotten outdated. After a few years of devolving into an imitable parody, Dracula became not only scary again but impossibly regal thanks to the grandeur of the looming voice and characteristics of Sir Christopher Lee. By expanding the boundaries of what could be shown in British cinema in the ’50s, Dracula openly celebrated sexuality and gore of the story. Hammer Horror Dracula made eight sequels to Dracula, and over the years moved on, with the films getting taken less seriously and more self-consciously silly.
House of Dracula (1945)
In 1944, Frankenstein’s monster (Glenn Strange), the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney, Jr.), and Dracula (John Carradine) joined forces to attend a terror party at Frank’s in House of Frankenstein.
Murder, mayhem, and of course, romance fills the air and House of Frankenstein was received well enough for Universal Pictures to get the band back together in 1945’s House of Dracula. After learning of a Mad Doctor (Onslow Stevens) with the cure for vampirism, Dracula flies himself over to Vasaria to pay him a visit. Meanwhile, Lawrence Talbot (a.k.a. the Wolf Man) arrives looking for a cure himself. As Dracula waits for his procedure, the Wolf Man and the Mad Doc form what might be called a friendship, which culminates in the pair discovering Frankenstein’s monster in a cave, cradling the skeleton of the late Dr. Neimann (from House of Frankenstein).
This proved the last time any of the legendary monsters would grace the screen for many years, but it wasn’t a bad way for the band to break up.
Universal Studios had another go at the Dracula tale in the 70s, after House of Dracula, handing over the directorial reins to John Badham. Nearly 20 years before Coppola threw his hat in the vampire adaptation ring, John directed Dracula in 1979 (who had just made the mega-hit Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta). Like Coppola’s version, John Badham’s Dracula leaned into the romantic aspects of the novel, going so far as to make its tagline “A Love Story.” Unlike the 1992 Dracula, this adaptation pulled more from the 1924 stage adaptation, in which Abraham Van Helsing (Laurence Olivier) investigates a mysterious illness that leads him directly to Count Dracula himself. As in the play, the film features a sick Mina van Helsing (Jan Francis), who meets Dracula (Frank Langella) and invites him over for dinner (a clear rookie mistake). When Mina mysteriously dies, Van Helsing is brought in to investigate.
Nowadays, this adaptation isn’t talked about as much, but it remains one of the most unfortunately underrated takes on Dracula. Visually, this is the closest film that has come to capturing the gothic allure of the novel (thanks to the stage production design inspired by Edward Gorey mentioned below), and it’s the first Dracula to fully embrace the idea of Dracula as a poetic romantic hero. Frank Langella as Dracula may be the most alluring Dracula based on pure romantic plots. Ever so the gentleman and so graceful leaving you distracted from the fact that he’s going to kill all these people.
In addition, a lot of the story changes don’t make sense: Lucy and Mina are swapped for no apparent reason, Mina is now a Van Helsing and Lucy is Dr. Jack Seward’s daughter instead of being her suitor, but this is a story that’s all about love, sex and intimacy. True, it may have one of cinema’s most unusual sex scenes, as Dracula and Mina’s feverish wedding night sequence was shot by Maurce Binder, best known for his work and expertise behind the James Bond title sequences.
One of the most striking things about the stage adaptation is that it was designed by Master of All Things Spooky Edward Gorey. The film, while not designed by Gorey himself, has echoes of the stage play’s design, including a beautiful glass matte painting of the Castle Dracula, painted by Albert Whitlock. It’s full of creeping shadows and gloomy corridors that seem to ache as the characters descend deeper into Dracula’s madness. It’s so effective in its mood-building, it’s still highly regarded today by fans. Unlike other versions of the character, Langella saw Dracula as a heartless, charmless creature, completely detached from humanity yet tugging at the heartstrings of viewers. As such, the love story in the film is intense, both to its benefit and detriment, but there’s no denying that Langella’s performance is one for the ages.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Keep in mind that the aesthetics of Bram Stoker’s Dracula do most of the work, with detailed costumes and exclusively practical effects. Guy Maddin, a Canadian auteur, was very much inspired by this unconventional style when he directed Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary (2002)
Everyone’s made their jokes about Keanu Reeves’ atrocious English accent and the less than stellar sexual chemistry between Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder helps to deepen the story’s emotional core, plus if one were to have a dreamy cast for the adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel using actors from the ’90s, they might just come up with this impressive ensemble that graced 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula!
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the film also stars Anthony Hopkins, and character actors such as Richard E. Grant, Cary Elwes, Sadie Frost, and even Tom Waits.
Following decades of campy B-movie relegation, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was acclaimed for bringing a sense of gravity back to the story. Instead of putting the bloodsucker into yet another strange happenstance, the film looks back to the source material and emerges with a gothic romance. Coppola insisted that all visual effects were executed practically, even going so far as to fire the entire VFX team. So, no CGI. The film altered the aesthetics of vampire movies for years to come, inspiring a new generation of representation for the creatures of the night that can be felt today. Though there was some on-set drama, (everything from terrifying makeup to an accidental marriage), it didn’t bleed into the end result, which still stands as one of the best vampire films of all time.
Often called”the Master of Horror,” the late Wes Craven’s exquisite work as a writer, director and producer of slasher films, justifies the title.
In addition to being responsible for Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, and The Hills Have Eyes (the 1977 original), Wes Craven also, unfortunately, hitched his name to a few complete flops. Dracula 2000 is easily one of the most embarrassing examples. As was a frequent plot device at the turn of the millennium, Dracula 2000 sought to take a classic character (guess who) and pull him into the sleek and sexy 21st century. While vampires typically live forever, Dracula would probably have been better off dead.
Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary (2002)
Even before Bram Stoker’s even sold his novels, he created and directed its first theatrical adaptation! Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary blurred the lines between narrative film and filmed ballet. Who knew Dracula could be so versatile?
The story was adapted by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and directed by Guy Maddin, a Canadian auteur. A filmmaker known for doing unconventional films, Guy chose to produce the performance as if it were any other film, utilizing close-ups and editing techniques more common to mainstream cinema than theatrical documentation.
His movie adaptation of Dracula is actually a cinematic version of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s adaptation of the novel, which he filmed for CBC in 2002. Additionally, Maddin shot it much like his other work, in the style of a silent film: black and white, featuring dialogue cards, uses old-school cinematic techniques like smearing Vaseline on the camera lens to make things look more dream-like, and adds flecks of color through CGI, and even going so far as to reproduce 1920s practical effects.
As for the ballet itself, the material is considered one of the most faithful to Stoker’s original work, but while others have emphasized themes of sexuality or disease, among others, Maddin chose to emphasize xenophobia, hammering the point home by casting a man of color playing the lead role, a Chinese actor and ballet dancer Zhang Wei-Qiang as Dracula. Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary is an odd bird, but it’s also easily one of the best Dracula films ever made.
In terms of how good this Dracula movie is, this is one deliriously off-the-wall take, all in all, this is certainly the most unique take on Dracula out there.
Dracula Untold (2014)
2014’s Dracula Untold was the first big budget movie featuring Dracula since Dracula 2000. That’s really a shame since a character as theatrical as Dracula definitely deserves movie studios shelling out big bucks for its production. The movie was produced by Universal Studios in order to retain its rights to the characters.
In the movie, Luke Evans stars as the titular character who climbs into a cave to meet with a vampire who transforms Evans into a vampire by offering him his blood. The movie takes place during the 15th century when the Turkish Caliphate used to forcibly capture young European Christian boys and train them to become Janissaries in their army. One of those boys grew up to be the dreaded Vlad the Impaler. As per the movie, Vlad the Impaler returns to Transylvania to govern his people and give up his brutal ways.
The peace doesn’t last long as the Caliphate demands Vlad’s son to be taken for training as a soldier for with the Caliphate. Vlad’s refusal is taken as a declaration of war and the small Eastern European Kingdom has to face the might of the Turkish Caliphate. In order to save his people, Vlad is forced to meet the mysterious Caligula (played by Charles Dance) and take his power. Armed with the strength of over 100 men and a command over all the creatures of the night, Vlad becomes Dracula and attacks the Turkish army.
The movie isn’t a tongue-in-cheek, slapstick adaptation of the Dracula lore, it’s a serious and grim reboot. It even humanizes Dracula to an extent, as viewers will eventually start caring for Dracula, his wife and his son. The cinematography, set design and visual effects are also stunning (the ‘bat smash’ is definitely the highlight). Dracula Untold is a great reboot of the Dracula character and essential viewing for all fans of the character.
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
Unlike other adaptations, Herzog’s film was a direct adaptation of the original Nosferatu and as such, aesthetically breaks from most modern Dracula renditions. Gone are the perfectly slicked-back black hair and the dashing red cape. Instead, Klaus Kinski’s Count Orlock dons a simple black garb — high-collared, long-sleeved, and beautifully creepy. His scalp is bald, his pointed ears prominent, dark circles sit under his eyes, and rodent-like incisors hang from his mouth. A far cry from the romantic idealized version of Dracula popularized by Universal Pictures, Nosferatu the Vampyre is truly the stuff of nightmares.
And yet, like most Dracula stories, Nosferatu the Vampyre is, at its heart, a romance. When the Count falls in love with the portrait of a young Lucy (Isabelle Adjani), he moves in next door. When it turns out Lucy is more interested in regular human men like Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz), Orlock is a little less than pleased. When Lucy discovers that the string of deaths in her hometown (previously attributed to diseased rats) is actually Orlock’s doing, she’s even less pleased. An animal cruelty scandal aside, Herzog’s Nosferatu is a haunting film, driven by the director’s singular perspective and striking directorial eye. Thanks to the film’s strong production value, some may even prefer it to the original.
Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)
Filmmakers can do a lot with horror and comedy to interesting effect (see Shaun of the Dead or Hotel Transylvania), but the parody is by far the most common intentional interplay between the two. However, while a bad horror film can be funny, bad parody is usually just bad. Dracula: Dead and Loving It almost goes one step further into actually becoming depressing, mostly because it’s not only one of Mel Brooks’ weakest films, but also his last.
Dracula: Dead and Loving It could’ve been the amazing spiritual successor to one of Brooks’ best and most loved films, Young Frankenstein. Most of the cast, like Brooks, were veterans of Hollywood comedy who should’ve been more than capable, and of course the source material — the 1931 Dracula starring Bela Lugosi, is ripe for parody. Somehow, like most of Brooks’ later films, the ingredients just didn’t quite come together. Thankfully, Mel Brooks’ other films aren’t going anywhere, and there are plenty of other vampire films with comedic value, even if some of them weren’t meant to have any.
Blood for Dracula (1974)
While most people have seen Andy Warhols famous silkscreens, most probably aren’t aware of his film career. And really, that’s completely understandable, because while Blood for Dracula and its companion film Flesh for Frankenstein were both advertised under Warhol’s name, no one has ever figured out what exactly he contributed to either. Despite the billing, the film was written and directed by Paul Morrissey, a friend of Warhol known for his experimental filmmaking.
The story is a violent and sexually explicit pseudo-parody of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, in which the titular character must only feast on virgin blood and is dying due to a lack of virgins in Transylvania. After relocating to a heavily Catholic area of Italy, hoping to have better luck with his virgin problem, the vampiric lord enters into a deal with a wealthy estate owner to marry one of his four daughters, all of whom are supposed virgins. Hijinks ensue (some of which are deeply problematic) in what is undoubtedly one of the single most bizarre narrative films ever made. But Blood for Dracula has since gained a cult following, precisely because of just how strange it is.
Love at First Bite (1979)
Imagine that you are more than a hundred years old, living in a manor you’ve owned since before the concept of sliced bread. You may murder here and there to sustain your life force, but otherwise keep to yourself. Then one day the government shows up at your giant castle door and takes it all away. But why? For some gymnasts who need a new facility, and this is Communist Romania. So what’s an exiled immigrant vampire to do? Move to New York, of course!
In the 1972 horror-comedy Love at First Bite, starring George Hamilton in the central role, Dracula does just that. After learning about the wonders of the new world (Blood banks! Free love! Discotheques!), Dracula makes the big move across the Atlantic. He meets a beautiful model named Cindy (Susan Saint James), who he believes to be a reincarnation of his long-dead lover. Unfortunately, she has a boyfriend who just so happens to be the grandson of none other than the original Dracula hater, Van Helsing. Like a vampire-laden Shakespearean farce, Love at First Bite is an excellent addition to the Dracula lexicon because of just how different it is from any Dracula film. It was well-received by audiences at the time (though not always by critics), in large part because it was one of the first Dracula films to nail the vampire humor. As the times went on, the jokes don’t always hit, but all in all, it’s a sweet and funny take on Dracula.