It’s true, not much beats a big bowl of popcorn and Dracula on the big screen. He’s a horror icon and the most popular character in the genre. There have been over 200 films with various portrayals of Dracula over the years and they have ranged from grotesque and terrifying to mesmerizing and sexy - and sometimes ridiculously hilarious.
Before we had Dracula on film, he haunted the pages of the 1897 gothic horror novel by Bram Stoker. Stoker spent seven years researching vampires and European folklore before penning the classic, and a vivid nightmare (brought on by too much mayo-covered crab meat) of a vampire king rising from the grave dropped everything into place for him.
For years, the Dracula in movies was a direct adaptation from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Then, little by little, new aspects were added to the mythos. This list contains just some of the hundreds of takes on Dracula through the ages.
In 1931, Count Dracula arrives in England in the form of Bela Lugosi. With a tip of his hat and a flip of his cape, Lugosi successfully coined the iconic image of Dracula that literally everyone conjures up at just the mention of the classic creature of the night.
This film’s atmosphere was exceptionally dark and mysterious, especially for the 1930s, and Lugosi’s mesmerizing performance truly made the film. As Variety wrote, "It is difficult to think of anybody who could quite match the performance in the vampire part of Bela Lugosi, even to the faint flavor of foreign speech that fits so neatly."
In 1922, Max Schreck was the chilling, grotesque creature of the night that gave Dracula a more demonic than human vibe. While based on Bram Stoker’s book, Schreck’s performance lacked the flamboyance of many other portrayals (in a very good way). Without his creepy, animalistic take on Count Orlok’s character, Nosferatu may not have become the highly influential silent film that it is.
The worst thing about this film would have to be Keanu Reeves attempting a British accent as Jonathan Harker. Gary Oldman as Dracula, however, was masterful. The 1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one of the more popular versions with modern audiences. The film was romance-heavy, but there was also gore, action, and nudity to appease the masses. Gary Oldman was everything Dracula could and should be: frightening, unpredictable, seductive, and in many ways, tragic.
Christopher Lee’s portrayal of Dracula has been described as the most seductive of them all. As the consensus on Rotten Tomatoes states of Lee’s performance, "Trading gore for grandeur, Horror of Dracula marks an impressive turn for inveterate Christopher Lee as the titular vampire, and a typical Hammer mood that makes aristocracy quite sexy."
While he’s no Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee’s screen presence is undeniable and this role gave him much deserved fame. The film, while eerie in atmosphere, lacked gore - which could be considered a huge plus for the more sophisticated genre fans. The film was well-received as a whole; critics and viewers seem to agree that the charisma and sex appeal Lee gave Dracula is still unrivaled to this very day.