According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Dracula has been adapted into a film more than any other literary character – a whopping 538 times! And Hollywood is still not short of ideas. In 2023, we’re in for at least two more big-screen spins from the Prince of Darkness, with Nicolas Cage wearing a cape and teeth Renfield before August heralds the long-delayed The Last Voyage of Demeter.
So now is a pretty perfect time to catch up on the Count’s greatest cinematic misdeeds. StrongerIt ranks his top 10 movies in order of brilliance — and the slate includes everything from Universal flagships to Adam Sandler comedies.
10. Blacula (William Crane, 1972)
Despite its funny parody title, the mastermind behind it Blacula they took their film deadly seriously. The story of Count Dracula biting an African prince and cursing him into vampirism is the first blaxploitation horror and contains a commentary on slavery that the filmmakers had to fight hard to include. Also, lead actor William Marshall’s gravitas and baritone evoke Christopher Lee’s mannerisms. The score and production value are obviously cheap, but that’s no excuse to ignore this classic.
9. Hotel Transylvania (Geni Tartakovsky, 2012)
Many saw the phrase “Adam Sandler comedy” associated with it Hotel Transylvania and, understandably, ran a mile. However, this family film is directed by Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky, who brought his emotional yet frenetic brand of animation to the big screen with this tale of Dracula opening his own hotel. Style over substance, as Peter Baynum and Robert Smigle’s writing never fails to produce laughs, but when the style is so damn dazzling, who cares?
8. Dracula (George Melford, 1931)
This is one of the sweetest bits of horror trivia: While Universal was making Tod Browning’s iconic film Dracula, the studio tried to maximize profits by giving the same sets and script to a different crew each night and shooting a Spanish-language counterpart. Directed by George Melford through a translator, this Dracula has a higher production value than its twin, though Carlos Villarias’ turn in the title role downplays Bela Lugosi’s charisma and opts for some much sillier obsession.
7. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (Terrence Fisher, 1966)
Hammer Studios’ third Dracula was the second with Christopher Lee and the last directed by Terence Fisher. Although never quite as talked about as its 1958 predecessor, The Prince of Darkness is scarier and, believe it or not, truer to the novel. Check out the scene where Dracula makes a victim drink his blood from his body, which no previous film has had the guts to adapt. The resurrection of the count at the beginning is also a perfection of practical effects.
6. Nosferatu the Vampire (Werner Herzog, 1979)
If anyone less than auteur Werner Herzog were at the helm, a remake of the most influential horror film of all time would be idiocy. However, Nosferatu the Vampire springboards from the aesthetic of the original to become a classic in its own right. Klaus Kinski is deformed into the same abomination as Count Orlok and the main scene is once again Germany, but this blossoms into its own Dracula mythos thanks to stunning cinematography and narrative twists.
5. Shadow of the Vampire (E. Elias Merhige, 2000)
Less a Dracula movie than a movie regarding Dracula movie, this meta-horror comedy uses the real-life ambiguity surrounding Max Schreck to assume that Nosferatu the star was indeed a vampire. William Dafoe elevates what could have been a one-note joke into a fully formed character, identifying with Dracula’s isolation. And the flawless makeup only enhances his disappearance in the role. John Malkovich also excels in this delivery of the madness and dedication required to create a cinematic masterpiece.
4. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola, 1992)
Although it is the most faithful adaptation of the book in Hollywood, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is more of a love letter to the birth of cinema than to the vampire legend. Francis Ford Coppola’s film confines itself to purely practical effects that date back to the silent era, which ironically makes it seem more timeless than most CGI extravaganzas of its time. Meanwhile, Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins lead an elegant (and surprisingly horny) ensemble to triumph.
3. Dracula (aka Horror Of Dracula) (Terrence Fisher, 1958)
The first color adaptation of Dracula made good use of its vibrancy, shocking modern Britain with its bright red gore so badly it had to be cut short. Admittedly, in the 2020s, this quintessential Hammer horror film is far from outrageous to watch, but it remains a must-see thanks to those spectacular sets and the chemistry between Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. You can see why the pair went on to star in numerous other monster movies.
2. Nosferatu (FW Murnau, 1922)
In the 100 years since then Nosferatu came out, almost everything changed. But one of the few constants is that Count Orlok is terrifying. The blank eyes, impassive expression and outstretched fingers make Max Schreck’s bootleg Dracula as off-putting now as it was then, while the performance remains so convincingly alien that we’ve seen other films claim the actor was actually a vampire.
Although it was once summarized as “a low-budget film made by Germans for a German audience”, Nosferatu found immortality with his simple deception and ingenious editing. Shots like Orlok rising from his coffin without moving are nestled in the darkest depths of the uncanny valley. After that, every other character, overcome with awe and fear as they cross the ocean, lends their presence the weight of the apocalypse.
The Stoker estate sought to destroy every copy of this unofficial adaptation in the 1920s – and their failure was the rest of the world’s gain. Without this film, horror would have become a much more stylistically barren landscape.
1. Dracula (Todd Browning, 1931)
In Bram Stoker’s novel, Count Dracula does not have jet-black hair. He is neither clean-shaven nor described as speaking with an Eastern European accent. These are all concoctions from Tod Browning’s original Universal monster movie – and the fact that everyone still associates them with vampires says everything about the power of 1931. Dracula.
Browning was a prolific master of silent filmmaking in the 1920s, and at the time his magnum opus began production, he was still practicing the art of the “talkie.” However, it is the uncertainty that does Dracula so creepy. It regularly falls into vast chasms of silence, broken only by dialogue or piercing sound effects, the lack of a score making every scene unpredictable.
Plus, operator Karl Freund, only four years removed from engineering science fiction Metropolis, makes every shot high art. From the tracking shot that introduces our bloodsucking villain to Van Helsing holding a hammer high above his coffin, everything would look right at home in the Tate. Then there’s the crowning glory: Bela Lugosi, who hides the savagery beneath the thinnest veneer of charm so charismatically that he will always be the benchmark for this role.
Of course, by modern standards, Dracula it’s not perfect. Those wandering bats won’t convince anyone, while some of the performances indulge in stage reenactments. However, when you look at everything it inspired—from the mainstream definition of a horror icon to the Universal monsterverse that followed—no one can deny that this is Nosferatu’s most mesmerizing moment.