(Welcome to Year of the Vampire, a series examining the greatest, strangest, and sometimes overlooked vampire movies of all time in honor of "Nosferatu," which turns 100 this year.)
Over the last century, vampire movies have gone in and out of style without ever really going away. Just when you think they're slain and no longer relevant, they have a way of rising from their coffins and reinventing themselves in new and interesting ways. In 2022, the writers and editors of /Film have taken an in-depth look at this hundred-year-old movie genre, and now it's time for us to curl up in the corner of our Parisian air well and wait for the sunlight of 2023 to hit us.
This is the last entry in the Year of the Vampire series, a 12-month project held together by spit, glue, and a dedication to seeing this thing through the way a red-haired OCD vampire would if they were counting scattered sunflower seeds. If you're just now joining us, you can see the full list of 20th-century vampire movies that we've covered here.
In the end, counting 21st-century films — including the final 21, listed below — we'll have profiled 90 vampire movies. Add to that our features on "True Blood" and 9 other TV titles, and what you have is a grand total of 100 years, 100 screen tales of the vampire variety. Eat your heart out, American Film Institute (or at least proffer a neck vein).
Before we spotlight final recommendations, here's the complete alphabetical list of 21st-century vampire films that we've featured up to this point.
Every 21st-Century Vampire Movie We've Covered
30 Days of Night (2007)
Blood Red Sky (2021)
Doctor Sleep (2019)
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Hotel Transylvania (2012)
Let Me In (2010)
Let the Right One In (2008)
The Moth Diaries (2011)
My Sucky Teen Romance (2011)
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Queen of the Damned (2002)
Scooby-Doo and the Legend of the Vampire (2003)
Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
The Transfiguration (2016)
What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
All in all, I'd say we've compiled a pretty decent "blood bucket" list and genre resource for anyone who wants to see as many vampire movies as they can (and then maybe dip their quill in blood and apply all the knowledge they've absorbed to writing their own vampire script).
Without further ado, here's the final, juicy, blood-red batch of 21 vampire movies from the 21st century to consider—along with some individual observations about them to consider. Let's be real: some of these flicks come more recommended than others. All of them passed the crucial vampire initiation rite of, "Am I interested enough to watch this?"
Blood: The Last Vampire (2000)
Clocking in at a mere 48 minutes, "Blood: The Last Vampire" just barely meets the minimum length for a feature film (as defined by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), though its stateside release in 2001 had sources like ICv2 and The Austin Chronicle calling it Japan's "first fully digital animated" movie. The plot follows a vampire hunter named Saya who goes undercover at an American high school on Tokyo's Yokota Air Base circa 1966. A couple of shapeshifting, bat-like Chiropterans have infiltrated the student body, and it's up to Saya and her rusty sword to stop them.
Though "Blood: The Last Vampire" was a best-selling DVD — the fastest seller in Manga Entertainment's catalog to date — its release strategy, incorporating a limited theatrical run and streaming premiere, was also ahead of its time. Production I.G., the studio behind "Ghost in the Shell," "The End of Evangelion," and "The Origin of O-Ren" animated chapter in "Kill Bill Vol. 1," has a blurb from "Avatar" director James Cameron on its website, proclaiming "Blood" the new "standard of top quality in digital animation." That the 2D/3D animation looks hand-drawn is just a testament to its technical ingenuity.
Dracula 2000 (2000)
If you're thirsting for some Vitamin C (and/or Virgin Megastore) in your vampire movie diet, "Dracula 2000" has said pop star on the ceiling in a floating love scene with Gerard Butler. "It is better than chocolate," she admits. And she's just one of the three sexy brides of Dracula this century, together with Jennifer Esposito and Jeri Ryan. Christopher Plummer plays Van Helsing and Johnny Lee Miller plays your 18-to-34-male-moviegoer surrogate, a guy named Simon. Several other recognizable faces, including Omar Epps, flit in and out of the movie like bats.
Directed by "Scream" trilogy editor Patrick Lussier, "Dracula 2000" is the kind of guilty pleasure where you can watch it, secretly enjoy every minute of it, then wonder what that says about your taste and why the movie isn't more well-liked. Cinematographer Peter Pau won an Oscar for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," released the same year, and there is some wirework here, along with an interesting new origin for Dracula that explains why he detests crosses, silver, and all things Christian.
Blade II (2002)
"Blade II" serves as the vampire superhero bridge between "Cronos" and "Hellboy" in Guillermo del Toro's filmography. It feels somewhat like the same sketch of ideas as the monster-loving director's book and TV series "The Strain." An autopsy walks us through the physiology of the Reavers, a breed of super-vampires whose tongues transmit a virus, just like the Strigoi on "The Strain." Thomas Kretschmann even plays a bald, pointy-eared, marble-skinned vampire master whose hoodie-wearing son hates him and goes rogue on him, à la the Master and Quinlan on that show.
"Blade II" retcons the implied death of Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) from the first "Blade" movie, while Norman Reedus and del Toro regular Ron Perlman show up in new roles. This time, Blade (Wesley Snipes) teams up with the vampires, leading a black-clad Blood Pack of them down into the sewers. "Underworld" followed them down there a year later.
Night Watch (2004)
Before he made "Wanted" or made a big push for the Screenlife format, director Timur Bekmambetov cut his teeth, you might say, on a Russian-language vampire film. In the world of "Night Watch," bloodsuckers are but one breed of urban fantasy creature. There are also witches, were-owls (or whatever you want to call shape-shifting owl women), and other such supernatural beings.
The Light and Dark Others, as they're collectively known, have formed two respective police forces, the Night Watch and Day Watch, to keep each other in line during a centuries-old stalemate. Konstantin Khabensky, later seen affixing plastic explosives to rats with peanut butter in "Wanted," plays Anton Gorodetsky. He's a Light vampire Other who hunts other Dark vampires. In an inversion of the usual trope, the Dark vamps can render themselves invisible to everything but mirrors, making it necessary to enter a lifeforce-draining realm called the Gloom to see them. It's all a bit much, but hey, even in Moscow in the mid-2000s, TVs could be seen airing "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" episodes like "Buffy vs. Dracula."
I Am Legend (2007)
If they could do with "I Am Legend" what George Lucas tried with the "Star Wars" Trilogy Special Edition — updating the effects and replacing the CG "Darkseekers" — it might be a better movie. The tragedy of it is, Amalgamated Dynamics, the same practical effects studio that saw its much better-looking animatronic Green Goblin makeup for "Spider-Man" go unused in favor of "Power Rangers" armor, had worked up some prosthetic monster makeup for "I Am Legend" that could have stood the test of time.
Think about Will Smith's character, Robert Neville, and his faithful dog, Sam (played by two German Shepherds, Abbey and Kona), driving around that deserted Manhattan cityscape. Now imagine if, when they ventured into that shadowy bank building where we first see the Darkseekers, the creatures had looked more like gnarly 17th-century wax figures come to life. As it is, the third adaptation of Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" novel, after "The Last Man on Earth" and "The Omega Man," remains a flawed, gamer-FX, blockbuster vision of the vampire post-apocalypse.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)
It's hard to ignore the commercial footprint of "Twilight" in any overview of the vampire movie genre in the 21st century. The first sequel, "New Moon," broke the box-office record for biggest midnight opening, and lest you think it was only vampires in the audience, it also broke the record for biggest single-day opening.
When her sparkly vampire boyfriend breaks up with her and skips town, Bella (Kristen Stewart) starts fixing up motorcycles with her friend Jacob (emphasis on "friend," since the whole "Team Edward" versus "Team Jacob" thing belies a rather lop-sided love triangle). Unfortunately, Bella tends to form unhealthy relationships with guys who abandon her, and Jacob, "someone who laughs at the gore that makes weaker men vomit," shortly becomes the shirtless member of a local werewolf gang.
I'd be lying if I said I'd never spoken the words, "We can't be friends anymore," with as much rainy teen angst as Taylor Lautner puts behind them. But this is as far as I ever got with the "Twilight" movies. When Edward (Robert Pattinson) says, "You just don't belong in my world, Bella," I felt like that was author Stephanie Meyer talking to me.
Stake Land (2010)
Directed by Jim Mickle ("Cold in July"), "Stake Land" hit theaters the same month that "The Walking Dead" premiered. Comparisons between the two would be inevitable; this is basically the indie vampire version of that show's zombie apocalypse. That means dreary music, rusted-out backwoods locations, and characters who are somewhat ciphers. "We don't do history," says grizzled vampire hunter Mister (co-writer Nick Damici), as if he rejects the notion of talking or having a backstory.
To reach the fabled New Eden, Mister, his YA sidekick, and a nun played by Kelly McGillis must first make their way across an America populated by would-be rapists, offscreen cannibals, "Christian crazies," and improbably beautiful survivors, one being a pregnant roadhouse singer and hitchhiker. Another obvious point of comparison for their adventures would be the 2009 film adaptation of "The Road."
"Stake Land" has its moments, like when a flashlight lands on a vampire in the rafters, and it drops the baby it's drinking. Yet the movie also struggles to rise above genre cliches. The dialogue and plot lack self-awareness, and the voiceover doesn't add much besides false profundity. It did foresee the coming "vamp pandemic," though.
Fright Night (2011)
As remakes go, you could do a whole lot worse than "Fright Night." It has a great cast, led by the late Anton Yelchin, who reteamed with Imogen Poots in "Green Room." And the idea of the "vampire next door" (now, with hidden murder hallways) still pays dividends.
Where it loses points is by straightwashing its predecessor. Gone is the vampire Jerry's live-in male carpenter from the first movie, along with the part where Charley's mom says, "My luck, he's probably gay." In its place, Toni Collette's character sees only a heteronormative option for (literal) lady killer Colin Farrell. "A guy that good-looking, still single? Bad bet. He is a player."
Meanwhile, David Tennant's Vegas version of Peter Vincent (played by Roddy McDowall in the original) is now a burping ball-scratcher who brags, "I f***** her," and offers his manspread while his showgirl lover, Ginger, offers her cleavage in his penthouse. (In the script by "Buffy" writer-producer Marti Noxon, Ginger's just named, "Sexy Assistant.") It's as if the filmmakers heard the famous line, "You're so cool, Brewster," and thought, "You know what? Brewster should be cool. And our movie should be more alpha-male."
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)
Like "Dracula 2000," "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" wasn't a home run at the box office, and critics weren't kind to it, either. But at the risk of damning with faint praise, I'll say this much for it: I streamed this flick with low expectations a decade after its release, and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It helps if you've read the mash-up novel on which it's based. Screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith adapted his own book for director Timur Bekmambetov, who was a vampire veteran by this point.
A common complaint about "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" is that it's too po-faced and doesn't lean into the full absurd potential of its title enough. The idea that vampires were behind slavery is also rather negationist, but I digress. In addition to Benjamin Walker as young beardless Abe, the cast includes Dominic Cooper and Anthony Mackie, both players in the "Captain America" film series. Maybe if "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" had a tone like a Marvel movie or if they had put a stovepipe hat on Will Ferrell and played it completely for laughs, people would have liked it more.
Kiss Of The Damned (2012)
Anyone who's a fan of movies like "The Vampire Lovers," "Daughters of Darkness," and "The Hunger," might enjoy "Kiss of the Damned," which feels like a throwback to the erotically charged, European-inflected vampire films of the 1970s and early '80s. Josephine de La Baume plays a conflicted bloodsucker named Djuna who meets a screenwriter (Milo Ventimiglia) in a video store and proceeds to fall in love: introducing him to both chained and unchained sensual wonders along with the upper crust of vampire society.
The plot of "Kiss of the Damned," which flew in under the bat radar from writer-director Xan Cassavetes, also shares certain similarities with "Only Lovers Left Alive," in that it involves Djuna's loose cannon of a vampire sister, Mimi (Roxane Mesquida), coming to visit and stirring up trouble. Anna Mouglalis makes an impression as a vampire leader who's quit drinking human blood in favor of stage acting (not the Théâtre des Vampires type). Michael Rapaport plays a human house guest and Riley Keough plays a sacrificial virgin. There's a "deer ex machina," but otherwise, "Kiss of the Damned" gets the job done.
Rigor Mortis (2013)
Directed by Juno Mak and co-produced by Takashi Shimizu ("The Grudge"), "Rigor Mortis" assembles several veteran actors of Hong Kong's "Mr. Vampire" movie series for a strange blend of martial arts, ghost possession, and Chinese hopping vampires. Whereas "Mr. Vampire" was an action comedy with bits of horror, however, "Rigor Mortis" is a less mirthful affair. Chin Siu-ho plays a despondent onetime film star who moves into a run-down apartment building, where kids aren't safe from coin-masked vampires and grieving widows are driven to shocking acts of violence.
One neighbor, Yau (Anthony Chan, who played Priest Four Eyes in "Mr. Vampire"), carries on the legacy of his father, a vampire-hunting Taoist priest. Through him, we're reminded of the region-specific idea that the undead fear glutinous rice. "In the old days," he explains, "all successful vampire hunters had special relationships with the best rice shops." When there are no vampires left, vampire hunters are left to become cooks.
Though "Rigor Mortis" could probably stand to connect the dots a bit better for viewers unschooled in the hopping vampire tradition, unique local lore like this helps keep it afloat.
Dracula Untold (2014)
"Sometimes the world doesn't need another hero. Sometimes what it needs is a monster." And sometimes that monster needs to have a hero's origin and superpowers, enabling him to take on an army of a thousand men.
Written by the "Morbius" team of Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, "Dracula Untold" features another guy with long dark hair standing at the mouth of a cave as bats fly out at him. He's an improbable family man named Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans), and at the beginning, you'll see him in red armor, kneeling with a cross on the battlefield, where a voiceover unfolds as impaled bodies are backlit by an orange sky.
The obvious mimicry of "Bram Stoker's Dracula" soon transitions into a dark fantasy tale that does hold glimmers of potential, like the sight of Charles Dance as a cave-dwelling Master Vampire. "Dracula Untold" also rounds up the usual vampire suspects of Sarah Gadon ("The Moth Diaries") and Dominic Cooper ("Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter") for a failed franchise starter with an ending that feels like a cross between "Iron Man" and "Captain America: The First Avenger." "Let the [Dark Universe] games begin" … and end with "The Mummy."
Bloodsucking Bastards (2015)
Available in some places as "Bloodsucking Bosses," this movie's alternate title sells its premise better. Pedro Pascal will soon take on mushroom zombies in "The Last of Us," but in "Bloodsucking Bastards," he's the new vampire sales manager in an office that gets very little sunlight.
The script for "Bloodsucking Bastards" is co-written by "Dr. God," and when you realize this means a comedy group composed of all white guys, most of whom co-star opposite Fran Kranz ("The Cabin in the Woods"), it's not that surprising. The movie falls back on unabashed contrivances, like a Black character sacrificing themself to save a white one, that feel like they could have been written in 2005, when "The Office" premiered, rather than 2015.
Emma Fitzpatrick's character, referred to offhand as "Awesome Amanda," recalls Amazing Amy in "Gone Girl" and that book's "Cool Girl" monologue (about the make-believe persona of "a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who'd like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them.") Still, despite some annoying bro humor, "Bloodsucking Bastards" is a "bam-snap," 84-minute diversion that might be worth it for Pascal.
My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To (2020)
Owen Campbell's sickly, homeschooled vampire in "My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To" plays more of a passive role in the movie, as the burden of blood-hunting falls on his brother and sister, played by Patrick Fugit and Ingrid Sophie Schram. Writer-director Jonathan Cuartas explores what happens when family members become familiars, trapping each other in a codependent relationship that sucks the life out of everyone. As victims start piling up and they find themselves at cross-purposes, quotidian bowls of blood and TV dinners give way to complications.
"My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To" was the highest-rated horror movie on Rotten Tomatoes in 2021, though it's one of those films that shows a sharp divide between the critical consensus (98% Fresh) and the audience score (58% Rotten). It's currently streaming several places (AMC+, Peacock, Prime Video, and Shudder), so judge it for yourself if you've got 89 minutes to spare.
Vampires Vs. The Bronx (2020)
While it might be reductive to say the whole Dracula myth stems from a "There goes the neighborhood" mentality, there is undoubtedly a xenophobic streak running through the vampire genre. Netflix's "Vampires vs. The Bronx" reimagines bloodsuckers as a different kind of foreign invader: one that seeks to gentrify. It's never a good sign when you have a real estate group named after "Nosferatu" director F.W. Murnau, and one of the brokers (played by Shea Wigham) is furthermore named after John William Polidori, author of the first published vampire story.
In their efforts to save the bodega and the Bronx, Miguel Martinez (Jaden Michael) and his friends look to DVD copies of "Blade" for ideas. Sarah Gadon, back from the dead after "Dracula Untold" and "The Moth Diaries," is just one of the "white people with canvas bags" who come strolling into their neighborhood around the same time that missing person posters start going up.
Method Man plays a priest and Zoe Saldana cameos as a nail salon owner. Everyone knows vampire eyes are hypnotic, but did you know their very presence makes holy water boil?
Boys From County Hell (2020)
Director Chris Baugh puts an Irish horror-comedy spin on the undead in Shudder's "Boys from County Hell," which takes the Dracula legend back to one of its possible roots: namely, the local legend Abhartach, here described as "the original vampire."
"Most people don't even know Bram Stoker was Irish, or that he got his inspiration here," says Eugene (Jack Rowan) as he leads a Canadian tourist couple out to the green field with the cairn, or pile of stones, where Abhartach is said to be buried. Stoker's "Dracula" influences may have included Sheridan Le Fanu (who wrote the lesbian vampire novella "Carmilla" and co-owned the evening newspaper where Stoker worked as a theater critic) and his own Renfield-like experience serving as the personal assistant of Sir Henry Irving, an actor he first met after reviewing his performance of "Hamlet" on the Dublin stage.
In the town of Six Mile Hill, Stoker has a pub named after him, but Eugene regards him as an out-of-towner who merely pillaged the Abhartach legend. When Eugene himself bulldozes Abhartach's cairn to make way for a bypass road, he unwittingly unleashes a walking blood magnet that can't be killed by sunlight.
Jakob's Wife (2021)
Anne Fedder is the name of "Jakob's Wife," and she's played by horror legend Barbara Crampton ("Re-Animator"). Larry Fessenden, who won an Independent Spirit Award for his 1997 vampire film "Habit," co-stars as Jakob, a small-town pastor who begins the movie by sermonizing about how husbands should love their wives the way Christ loved the church. Fessenden also cameoed as a roadhouse bartender in "Stake Land," and he co-starred in "I Sell the Dead" (which, while not strictly a vampire movie, features a scene where a bloodsucker terrorizes two grave robbers).
Anne puts up with Jakob's snoring and how he interrupts her, but she's tempted to cheat on him and doesn't have much of an identity outside that of "preacher's wife." When one of their parishioners goes missing, comedy horror ensues. Vampirism becomes a way for Anne to redefine herself apart from Jakob. It's a means of empowerment and self-actualization, but unfortunately, it does involve imbibing humans.
Day Shift (2022)
There's precious little pool cleaning, and initially, precious little vampire hunting after the first scene of this Netflix action comedy, starring Jamie Foxx as a vampire-hunting pool cleaner in sunny L.A. Once "Day Shift" finally gets down to business, it feels like it leads the viewer on a car chase down the same "Terminator 2" spillway we've seen onscreen a thousand times before. However, under stuntman-turned-filmmaker J.J. Perry's direction, there's an honest attempt at world-building as "Day Shift" moves from a knock-down, drag-out fight with an elderly bloodsucker into an environment where vampire hunters have unionized and fangs can be pawned for cash.
If you're in the mood for a time-waster, there's still some fun to be had with a flick where Snoop Dogg wields a Gatling gun in a cowboy hat and uber vampires that can survive having their heads cut off.
The Invitation (2022)
In "The Invitation," someone calls Nathalie Emmanuel a "halfling." Wrong fantasy franchise. Like Jacob Anderson, Emmanuel has traded servitude to Daenerys Targaryen on "Game of Thrones" for a starring vampire role this year. "The Invitation" flips the usual vampires-must-be-invited scenario by summoning her character, Evie, to an all-white wedding at an estate called New Carfax Abbey, presided over by a charming British lord named De Ville. (Just call him Mr. Devil). It's "Get Out" meets "Dracula" meets "Twilight," a Gothic romance that mingles race with relationship drama.
Sean Pertwee's Mr. Field (as in, Renfield) puts a different spin on his role as Batman's butler on "Gotham." The maid offers Evie chamomile tea but also warns her that the window in her mirrorless room is barred against carnivorous shrikes that have been known to impale children's eyes. With hints like that, you'd think Evie would be quicker to catch on. When her hosts finally reveal their true nature, though, it feels like she's the last one to figure out what kind of movie she's in. And even then, she needs repeated rescuing. Like, maybe you shouldn't have been so quick to overlook the guy's stalker-ish Twitter file on you?
House Of Darkness (2022)
"Before Sunrise" isn't a vampire movie (despite its title), but if it were, it might look something like "House of Darkness." Note to guys: if a beautiful woman takes you back to her dark, candlelit country estate, and exits the deathly quiet room to make you a stiff drink, don't get on the phone and brag to your buddies about how you're going to score with her tonight and give them the play-by-play tomorrow.
Justin Long and Kate Bosworth play two people who met at a bar offscreen but are already back at her manor when this single-location film, shot at Dromberg Castle in Arkansas, begins. Their character names aren't revealed until after the 30-minute mark, and hers could be considered a spoiler, but it's enough to say that he is Hap and he's hapless, while she's in full command of the situation at all times. Playwright-turned-filmmaker Neil LaBute taught us the terrors of the bees in his "Wicker Man" remake; in "House of Darkness," he betrays his theater roots with a tense dialogue to nowhere unexpected.
Blood Relatives (2022)
Character actor Noah Segan, who has appeared in every one of Rian Johnson's films, wrote, directed, and stars in this dramedy about a Yiddish vampire's reluctant road trip with his newly discovered, half-human teenage daughter. Released to Shudder late last month, "Blood Relatives" has charm to spare, though its pulse weakens as the film wears on. It's a road movie that paradoxically struggles to overcome a sense of narrative inertia.
Parents might respond to the thread of a dad giving life lessons in vampirism to a teen. Conveniently, all the victims here have a way of not-so-subtly signposting they're bad people, so we don't feel bad when the vamps slaughter them. The family that slays together, stays together, controlling minds and "crisscrossing the country in vintage muscle cars."
Considering the uncomfortable parallels between the iconography of Count Orlok in "Nosferatu" and antisemitic imagery of the early-to-mid-20th century, it's somewhat fitting to end the Year of the Vampire with a movie where the protagonist is a Holocaust survivor spouting lines like, "Be a mensch. Be a person." With films such as "Renfield," "Salem's Lot," and "The Last Voyage of the Demeter" on the way in 2023, the vampire movie genre shows no signs of slowing down, and true to its immortal nature, it will probably outlive us all.
Read this next: The 95 Best Horror Movies Ever
The post Year of the Vampire: 21 21st-Century Vampire Films to End the Rain of Blood appeared first on /Film.