It's officially autumn: the days are getting shorter, the rain is getting heavier, and it’s time to start stocking up on Vitamin D3 again.
One silver lining of this season shift is that Halloween is just around the corner – the time of the year when there are few better things to do than to snuggle under a gigantic duvet and watch a really scary film.
Here we pick nine of the best vampire films of all time, perfect for thrills and chills – and even a few laughs – this spooky season.
What We Do In The Shadows (2014)
This hilarious vampire mockumentary film was turned into a successful four-season-long FX series, but the original film has a special place in our hearts. The New Zealand horror-comedy (written and directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi) follows the lives of several hapless vampires who all live together in the modern day in Wellington. They’re really old – one of the housemates, Vladislav, is 862 years old for example – and as you can imagine they get up to a whole barrel of antics as they wander the streets looking for people to kill, going to clubs and sparring with the city’s werewolf population.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
American-Iranian film director Ana Lily Amirpour’s feature film debut is a hilarious Iranian vampire Western – yes, a very narrow genre indeed. Filmed entirely in black and white, the film clearly references the neo-noir genre, but really, it’s a very cool comedy. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night tells the story of a complicated, skateboard-riding vampire, “The Girl” (who is played by Sheila Vand), who kills men that disrespect women. With a great soundtrack from Iranian band Kiosk, and with a strong female lead, there’s a lot to love about this Indie favourite.
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska star as Eve, Adam and Ava in this fantasy comedy from Jim Jarmusch. Adam and Eve are vampire lovers, who are centuries into their very long lives and have become somewhat disillusioned with it. Ava is Eve’s younger sister, who is also a vampire and ends up crashing Adam and Eve’s insular world. The film received mixed reviews, with some people finding the hipster vampire couple a bit annoying; others, however, thoroughly enjoyed their flamboyance and singular nature. The film was listed as number 72 on the BBC’s 2016 list of the 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century.
Nearly every film Park Chan-wook has ever made has been pretty bonkers, so his take on the vampire genre was always going to be a bit shocking. Thirst, which is loosely based on Émile Zola’s 1867 novel Thérèse Raquin, is predictably very strange, telling the story of Sang-hyun (played marvellously by Song Kang-ho, who is now best known for his leading role in Parasite), a Catholic priest, who becomes a vampire after a dodgy blood transfusion.
“This is not a story of high school emos who are Saving Themselves,” said one reviewer. “It is a story of grown-up vampires having penetrative sex, vampires who commit murder, vampires who wrestle spiritually with the notion that their lifestyle is a version of the Christian sacrament.”
Let the Right One In (2008)
This Swedish film adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s acclaimed vampire novel was a huge success as soon as it was released. It was called “deadly grim”, “a painful portrayal of an urgent relationship”, and possessed “invention and stamina, a rich arterial flow of fear”.
Set in the Swedish winter in 1981, the story is about a bullied 12-year-old boy, Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), who develops a relationship with a very strange girl Eli (Lina Leandersson), who is in fact a vampire. The Guardian said, “some movies, while never quite attaining masterpiece status, nonetheless have a monumental WTF-factor. This is one such.” Empire said, “In contrast to the currently hot flavours of fear – torture porn, girlie ghosts, kung fu monsters – this is horror, rooted in love.”
Matt Reeves made an English language version, Let Me In, in 2010, which starred Richard Jenkins, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Elias Koteas, and was also well received (it has 88 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes) but the TV series adaptation, which was released by Showtime in 2022, failed to reach the heady heights of its predecessors.
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
The plot of this Nineties film from Neil Jordan is all there in the name. Brad Pitt stars as Louis de Pointe du Lac, a vampire who is being interviewed in modern-day San Francisco by reporter Daniel Molloy (Christian Slater). The film follows the story of his life which he recounts to Molloy, from when he first became a vampire in 1791, to his antics with Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise) and the story of how they turned 10-year-old Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) into a vampire, thus creating a kind of family for themselves.
The film, which was based on the 1976 novel by Anne Rice, was updated as an AMC TV series in 2022. But the series split reviewers: “Jones has created a paradoxical work that’s more sexual yet less sexy than its forebears,” said The Guardian.
The Hunger (1988)
An erotic vampire horror from Tony Scott starring Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie and Susan Sarandon? Yes please. Loosely based on the 1981 novel of the same name by Whitley Strieber, The Hunger is about doctor Sarah Roberts, who ends up getting involved with a vampire couple, Miriam Blaylock (Deneuve ) and John Blaylock (Bowie). Love triangles with vampires are tricky things, it turns out, and everything ends really badly.
The film has mixed reviews, with some critics at the time arguing it was too esoteric and too artsy for its own good. But over the years The Hunger has become a bit of a cult classic. It’s surreal, so be ready for a bit of a strange watch, but there are beautiful shots and Deneuve is utterly beguiling.
The Lost Boys (1987)
This fantastic black comedy from Joel Schumacher is about two brothers, Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim), and their recently divorced mum Lucy (Dianne Wiest), who all move to a small California town where (ominously) people keep going missing. The boys meet a gang of bikers via Michael’s love interest Star (Jami Gertz) but when they agree to join, strange things start happening.
The Lost Boys is arguably the first time a younger, sexier, more fun vampire iteration was presented on screen – you can thank Schumacher, at least in part, for your Twilight-style vampire hunks.
At over 100 years old, this silent German Expressionist horror is still widely regarded as one of the best vampire films of all time. Loosely based on Bram Stoker’s novel, director FW Murnau’s film tells the story of an estate agent, Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim), who is sent to Transylvania by his boss to visit a client, the strange Count Orlok (Max Schreck), who is planning to buy a property. From the very off all the signs are saying that Hutter should be fearful of Orlok, but Hutter pushes on.