The enduring appeal of the bloodsucking ponce has never been better articulated than by Bela Lugosi himself (as played by Martin Landau). "The pure horror," Lugosi explains, "it both repels and attracts them. Because in their collective unconsciousness, they have the agony of childbirth. The blood. The blood is horror. Take my word for it. You want to score with a young lady, you take her to see Dracula." With that in mind, here's a list that was unusually hard to create (in the interest of diversity, I've limited myself to one Dracula and one Orlok).
1. Count Orlok (Max Schreck), Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens "Schreck" is the German word for "fright," and while this would have been a great pseudonym for the actor who first embodied Dracula (sporting his own pseudonym), it's a hundred times more awesome that Schreck was the dude's real name. Proof, in my mind, that Schreck was born to play the tortured, feral count - it's more than a performance, its one of the definitive images in horror. Klaus Kinski gave the role a palpable sadness, and Willem Dafoe turned it into sharp satire, but it's Schreck that really earns his surname.
2. Dracula (Gary Oldman), Bram Stoker's Dracula Coppola's version of Dracula is uneven and famously features a particuarly terrible Keanu Reeves performance. Still, it's my favorite Dracula, thanks to its visual opulence and the magnificent titular performance. Bela Lugosi is the most iconic, Christopher Lee is the scariest, and Frank Langella is the permiest. But Oldman is amazing here, his Dracula ranging from warrior to feeble old man to bummed Goth dude without ever becoming jarring or incoherent - this Dracula is a multilayered monster, driven equally by satanic instinct and human desire, and the Count has never been so compelling. Plus, gotta love purple-tinted shades.
3. Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve), The Hunger She's a pianist, she seduces Susan Sarandon, she's into Bauhaus, and she's trapped David Bowie in a coffin in her attic. Case closed.
4. Martin Madahas (John Amplas), Martin Possibly the creepiest vampire listed here, Martin is a vampire who can appear in sunlight, has no particular superpowers, and lacks fangs (a razorblade does the trick). Director George A. Romero never quite tells you whether the teenage-looking Martin is crazy or if he is, somehow, an 84-year-old bloodsucker, and Amplas' deadpan performance enhances the film's effectieve ambiguity. The monster here is competely unremarkable, which makes the bloodletting all the more unsettling.
5. Severen (Bill Paxton), Near Dark The coolest in a movie filled with cool vampires, Severen looks badass in leather, even more badass with a blistering sunburn, and gives the coolest possible delivery of the line "Finger-lickin' good."
6. Countess Elisabeth Nodosheen (Ingrid Pitt), Countess Dracula It's one thing to have large breasts. It's another to have large breasts that look nifty when covered in blood. Pitt, in a semifictional Elizabeth Bathory biopic, achieves the latter. And for some reason, I really respect this fact.
7. Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon), Fright Night Dandridge, who moves in next door to a horror-loving teen, is walking subtext. An impeccably dressed, sexually ambiguous 80's archetype, Dandridge flirts with the hero's mother, seduces his closeted friend, and nearly turns his girlfriend to the dark side before they've ever knocked boots. Fright Night, for all its laughs, has always felt weirdly dark and nihilistic, and a lot of this is thanks to Sarandon, cheerfully embodying a fanged corruptor of the youth and imparting an important message to the film's young audience: fear yuppies.
8. Ralphie Glick (Ronnie Scribner), Salem's Lot Typically I don't like to lump in TV movies with features. But I'll make an exception, as the above scene scared the bejesus out of the eight-year-old me and gave me nightmares for a week.
9. Max (Edward Herrmann), The Lost Boys Every time I come home to my wife watching Herrmann as the wealthy, doddering grandfather on Gilmore Girls, I can only think about the predictable but still excellent reveal at the end of Joel Schumacher's only watchable movie. Plus, Max's subsequent destruction, set to "La Cucaracha," is endlessly rewatchable (I have a friend who made The Lost Boys his first DVD purchase just so he could watch the ending in 5.1 surround).
10. Space Girl (Mathilda May), Lifeforce Because any list of the best vampires is incomplete without at least one naked space vampire.