The vampire is one of the most enduring figures in world mythology. The image of the undead, blood-sucking fiend has been a powerful metaphor for evil and damnation since ancient times. Many believe this creature came from folklore about corpses rising from their graves, particularly in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.
As you’ll see in this list, vampires have been portrayed as everything from sexy to disgusting to sexy again. They’ve had a starring role in comedy, drama, horror, fantasy and science fiction. They’ve saved the world on multiple occasions and they’ve destroyed it just as often (if not more). They’ve inspired some of the greatest works of art ever made, and they’re also responsible for some of the worst movies ever made.
In the 1980s, the vampire craze was in full swing. In the 1970s, the first wave of vampire movies began with Universal’s release of Hammer’s The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. A few years later, John Carpenter gave us one of the top horror/vampire films ever made: Halloween. Around that same time, a few more vampire movies were made, including Vampire Circus and The Hunger.
In ’82 we got Poltergeist II, which featured a very creepy performance by Zelda Rubinstein as an evil witch. Then in ’83 we got Return of the Living Dead and Fright Night, both excellent vampire movies that are still enjoyed today. In 1985 we got Fright Night Part 2 and Day of the Dead, two more excellent films that are still highly entertaining to watch today.
A few years later in 1988 there was another resurgence of vampire films with Near Dark and The Lost Boys. These two films helped to establish what would become known as “The Lost Boys” style of vampires: basically attractive vampires who aren’t blood-thirsty monsters but instead party-going rock stars of the night.
These films were followed by such films as 1990’s Night Angel, 1992’s Innocent Blood, 1994’s The Crow and 1994’s Interview with the Vampire. In 1994 alone there were three vampire movies released: Interview with the Vampire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Crow. In the late 1980s/early 1990s, it seemed like vampires were everywhere.
I’ve selected 4 of my favorite vampire movies from the 1980s. I encourage you to watch as many of these as possible. I suggest starting with the first three: The Lost Boys, Near Dark and Fright Night.
1 – Vamp (1986)
Director: Richard Wenk
This 1986 film is a great film that is often overlooked by most people. It’s a fun, funny and entertaining vampire movie that is both campy and gory at the same time. It’s one of my favorite vampire movies that came out in the 1980s. Fans of The Lost Boys will love this one since it has a similar feel to it. The story is about two nerdy high school students who run across an old, sexy vampire lady who needs to feed on the blood of young virgins. She lures them into her web and they fall for it. The only problem is that she’s old enough to be their mother, and what she has in mind for them is not sex.
2 – Near Dark (1987)
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
This 1987 vampire movie is an excellent film that features a great cast of actors including Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein and Adrian Pasdar. It was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who went on to direct such films as Point Break (1991), Strange Days (1995) and The Hurt Locker (2008).
This movie has been described as a “cult classic” by many critics and fans of vampire movies. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a well-made vampire movie with a great story with good characters and acting.
This movie won four awards at the 1988 Fantasporto Film Festival: Audience Award (also known as the Silver Méliès Award), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Jenny Wright), Best Make-Up Artist and Special Award For Originality. It also won the prize for Best Actress at the 1988 Sitges Film Festival, and was nominated for the Best Film and Best Special Effects (Gerry Lively).
3 – Fright Night (1985)
Director: Tom Holland
This is one of the most well-known vampire movies from the 1980s. It stars William Ragsdale as Charley Brewster, Chris Sarandon as Jerry Dandrige and Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent. It’s about a young man named Charley Brewster who discovers that his new neighbor, Jerry Dandrige, is a vampire. He must enlist the help of a washed-up horror movie host named Peter Vincent to kill Dandrige before he kills him.
The movie spawned two sequels: Part 2 (1989) and Return of the Living Dead: Rave from the Grave (2005). It also inspired two remakes: Fright Night (2011) and Fright Night 2 (2013).
In 2002 it was selected by Empire Magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. In 2001 it was ranked #55 on Bravo TV’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments for the scene where Jerry attacks Charley by turning into an animated bat. In 2013 it made the list of the 100 Best Horror Movies as chosen by the American Film Institute.
4 – Vampire’s Kiss (1988)
Director: Robert Bierman
This film is about a self-absorbed, egotistical and narcissistic novelist (Griffin Dunne) who becomes obsessed with a woman at a publishing party. Through her, he finds himself involved in a bizarre relationship with a vampire (played by David Bowie). The movie is dark and gory and it was hard to watch at times, but it’s well done and definitely worth checking out. It features an excellent performance by David Bowie as the vampire. He is very creepy in this role.
I think this movie is underrated and should be better known among vampire movie fans. I think many people were turned off by the fact that it’s not about a typical vampire, but instead uses the vampire as a metaphor for drug addiction or alcoholism.