The 1980s was a great decade for horror movies – and wherever you find horror, you usually find vampires. Of course, as the 80s had such a distinctive personality and aesthetic, this made for a number of unique takes on the legendary blood-suckers. Here, ranked in order of greatness, are what we consider to be the best vampire movies made in the 80s. Did your favourite make the list?
15. The Monster Club
It may have first hit screens in 1981, but The Monster Club – directed by Hammer veteran Roy Ward Baker, and starring horror icons Vincent Price and John Carradine – is a product of a different, earlier time.
An anthology horror featuring several unrelated spooky stories, all told by Price’s seasoned vampire in the monsters-only nightclub of the title, The Monster Club is notable for being the only film in which Price played a bloodsucker.
14. The Living Dead Girl
Like many of French director Jean Rollin’s movies, notorious for their excessive sex and violence, The Living Dead Girl was either banned outright or heavily censored in most countries following its initial release.
Starring Françoise Blanchard stars as the young woman of the title, who returns from the grave with a hunger for human blood, The Living Dead Girl will be by turns too arty and too absurd for most tastes, but it has a distinctively French take on vampirism.
13. Vampire in Venice
Klaus Kinski established himself as a master of the macabre with his lead role in 1979’s Nosferatu the Vampyre. Nine years later, Kinski made a semi-sequel in Vampire in Venice, which sees Nosferatu reborn to nibble the necks of scantily clad beauties in 20th century Venice.
Given its troubled production (four directors called the shots in all), it’s not surprising that Vampire in Venice has a shambolic feel, but it works thanks to stylish visuals, a cheesy but fun synth score and charismatic performances from Kinski and Christopher Plummer, as the film’s de facto Van Helsing.
Written and directed by Anthony Hickox, 1988’s Waxwork sees a bunch of college kids (headed up by Zach Galligan of Gremlins) visit a mysterious wax museum whose monstrous attractions come to life. One of these attractions, of course, is none other than Dracula himself.
A fun blend of classic horror motifs mashed together in an unmistakably 80s fashion, Waxwork’s monstrous menagerie also includes werewolves, mummies, zombies, Frankenstein’s monster and more. It proved a big enough hit to spawn a sequel, 1992’s Waxwork II: Lost in Time.
11. Vampire’s Kiss
Nicolas Cage wasn’t always synonymous with over-acting, but that all changed with Vampire’s Kiss, an outlandish comedy horror starring Cage as a literary agent who comes to believe he’s turning into a vampire after he’s bitten in the neck during a one-night stand.
Because of Cage’s outrageously eccentric performance, Vampire’s Kiss has developed a reputation as a so-bad-it’s-good cult classic. However, it wasn’t by accident that Cage went so far over the top; fundamentally, Vampire’s Kiss is an absurdist comedy, one to laugh with rather than laugh at.
10. The Lair of the White Worm
Based very loosely on the novel by Dracula creator Bram Stoker, The Lair of the White Worm showcases esteemed British director Ken Russell at his most unabashedly over-the-top.
Hugh Grant and Peter Capaldi make early appearances in White Worm, but Amanda Donohoe steals the show as Lady Sylvia Marsh, a bold and enigmatic seductress who turns out to be the undead high priestess of an ancient snake god.
9. Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat
Between his star turns in Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, B-movie icon Bruce Campbell appeared in this cult tongue-in-cheek mash-up of Gothic horror and Western from Waxwork director Anthony Hickox.
The erstwhile Ash takes a supporting role as Robert Van Helsing, a descendant of the legendary vampire hunter who arrives in the remote desert town of Purgatory intent on wiping out its colony of the undead, led by progressive-minded vampire David Carradine.
This gaudy blend of grisly horror and trashy teen comedy sees a trio of dim-witted college boys venture out to the wrong side of the tracks in the hopes of hiring a stripper for a frat party – but who ultimately find themselves under attack by a horde of vampires.
Grace Jones stars as titular ‘vamp’ Katrina, who doesn’t say a single word, but speaks volumes with her dress sense. An influence on the later From Dusk Till Dawn, Vamp is still very much its own animal, and a ferocious one at that, boasting a striking red/green colour scheme and hordes of aggressive undead antagonists.
Directed by horror legend Tobe Hooper and produced by the notorious Cannon Films, Lifeforce gives the undead an otherworldly twist, as it centres on a vampiric threat inadvertently brought back to Earth from a space mission. Rather than drinking blood, these vampires drain vital ‘life energy’ from humans.
The utterly bizarre sci-fi horror epic stars Steve Railsback, Peter Firth and Frank Finlay, but you’ll be forgiven for not remembering any cast members other than Mathilda May, playing an alien vampire who spends almost all her screen time with no clothes on. Lifeforce can be criticised on many levels, but it can never be called boring.
6. Mr Vampire
This 1985 Hong Kong horror comedy presents us with a distinctly eastern take on the vampire. Lam Ching-ying takes the lead as a Taoist priest who specialises in expunging evil spirits, but when one such job goes wrong he finds himself afflicted with the curse of the undead.
In contrast with European-style vampire movies, Mr Vampire draws on the Chinese folklore of the jiangshi, aka hopping vampires. Produced by Hong Kong superstar Sammo Hung, Mr Vampire blends elements of kung fu comedy with supernatural horror to enjoyably madcap effect.
5. The Hunger
You’d never guess it was the work of the man who would go on to make such mainstream blockbusters as Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop II, but 1983’s The Hunger was indeed the feature film debut of director Tony Scott, and it’s a strikingly abstract piece of work.
Imbued with a genuinely dreamlike quality, The Hunger follows metropolitan vampire couple Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie in their relationship with Susan Sarandon’s Sarah, a scientist researching the ageing process.
4. Near Dark
An early film from director Kathryn Bigelow, Near Dark depicts a group of vampires travelling through dustbowl America in a blacked-out RV, drinking blood and raising hell. Along the way, good-hearted vampire Mae (Jenny Wright) bites small-town boy Caleb (Adrian Pasdar), involuntarily making him part of the family.
A flop on release, today Near Dark is renowned as a moody, thoroughly atmospheric horror with a hard edge, which blends vampire horror with hints of the Western, albeit very much in a modern context.
3. The Monster Squad
In 1987’s The Monster Squad, Dracula teams up with Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolf Man, the Mummy and the Gill-Man with plans to conquer the world, but he has not reckoned upon a plucky gang of monster-mad middle schoolers, who set out to stop him.
Co-written and directed by Fred Dekker, The Monster Squad is an early example of PG-13 horror. It may be light-hearted and geared towards kids, but the film also features one of the most charismatic Dracula performances of them all in Duncan Regehr, who plays the iconic vampire with an arch, Shakespearean flourish.
2. The Lost Boys
Like Near Dark and The Monster Squad, The Lost Boys opened in 1987 – but it proved such a massive hit that its competitors barely registered. Director Joel Schumacher’s teen-friendly vampire movie sees Jason Patric’s Michael initiated into a gang of undead bad boy bikers, headed up by David (a magnetic Kiefer Sutherland).
Hugely influential on many of the teen-oriented horror movies that have come since (such as The Craft), The Lost Boys enjoys an enthusiastic following to this day. Its fashions, music and MTV-inspired editing may be a bit dated today, but the film perfectly encapsulates the feeling of late 80s adolescence – except with vampires.
1. Fright Night
In terms of storytelling, character-building, special effects, atmosphere and sheer enjoyability, no 80s vampire movie holds up as well today as Fright Night. A potent blend of old-school spookiness and ever-so-80s flashiness, writer-director Tom Holland’s 1985 romp centres on horror-mad teenager Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale), who realises that next-door neighbour Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is one of the undead.
The excellent cast is rounded out by Amanda Bearse as Charlie’s long-suffering girlfriend Amy, Roddy McDowall as has-been horror actor Peter Vincent who is unwillingly drafted in to help, and Stephen Geoffreys as Charlie’s anarchic friend ‘Evil’ Ed, who delivers the film’s most memorable line: “Oh, you’re so cool, Brewster!”