Vampire Movies That Aren't Actually About Vampires

Over 300 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of Vampire Movies That Aren't Actually About Vampires
Voting Rules
Vote up the movies that best re-vamp the vampire.

Okay, yeah, we admit it: Vampire movies have been done to death (no pun intended). But many modern vampire movies like A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night know that and subvert expectations by doing something different with the formula - or not even using the "v" word at all. Then again, vampire movies have been twisting and turning the mythos since the dawn of the moving picture. Even Nosferatu, the silent classic from 1922, is a remake of Dracula with the serial numbers filed off - and a strikingly different look for the Count.

From romantic vampire movies to sterile scientific takes to ambiguous art films and bleak coming-of-age stories, there are plenty of movies out there that do something very different with the standard bloodsucker than Bela Lugosi's velvet capes or Christopher Lee's fangs. Here are a handful of vampire flicks - from the earliest days of cinema through modern vampire movies - that aren't really about vampires, or that do something unexpected with the mythology.

  • 1
    205 VOTES

    Maybe better known for starring David Bowie than for being Tony Scott's directorial debut, The Hunger is perhaps even better known for its status as a goth anthem. It's hard to beat David Bowie and nightclub scenes set to Bauhaus music for goth appeal, after all.

    The story follows a pair of vampire lovers (Bowie and Catherine Deneuve) who become involved in a love triangle with a doctor (Susan Sarandon) as they discover that, while Bowie's character may have eternal life, he is experiencing rapid aging. The highly stylized film has a 52% on Rotten Tomatoes, which calls it "stylish yet hollow," but it has developed a cult following, especially in the goth community.

    • Actors: Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Susan Sarandon, Cliff DeYoung, Beth Ehlers
    • Released: 1983
    • Directed by: Tony Scott
    205 votes

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  • 2
    142 VOTES

    The "Cronos device" is a little golden machine that looks like an insect - and has an actual insect inside - that can give you eternal life, but only if you feed on fresh blood. That's the basic premise of Guillermo del Toro's directorial debut, which stars Argentinean actor Federico Luppi, as well as Ron Perlman, who would go on to work with del Toro many more times over the years.

    "A vampire film where the word vampire is never used," as it says in del Toro's book Cabinet of Curiosities, Cronos is a movie "about immortality and how we want time to stop." Jesús Gris, the film's vampire, is not the villain; he's an old man who at first uses the device to simply reclaim some of his youth and vitality, only to find that his addiction to it is too dangerous, even without the predations of an obsessed industrialist (Claudio Brook) and his brutish nephew (Perlman).

    • Actors: Federico Luppi, Ron Perlman, Claudio Brook, Margarita Isabel, Tamara Shanath
    • Released: 1993
    • Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
    142 votes

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  • 3
    124 VOTES

    Directed by Tobe Hooper from a screenplay by Dan O'Bannon and Don Jakoby, Lifeforce has been called "an obvious tribute to Nigel Kneale's Quatermass" with "deep roots in Lovecraft's mythos," according to Lurker in the Lobby, a book on the cinematic adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft's fiction, written by Andrew Migliore and John Strysik. Based on a novel by Colin Wilson, the film follows a spaceship that discovers a massive, seemingly derelict craft in the tail of Halley's Comet, a setup that should sound relatively familiar to fans of O'Bannon's Alien.

    Unlike that film's fiendish Xenomorph, however, these "space vampires" initially take the form of beautiful, unclothed humans - the main one is played by French actress Mathilda May, without a stitch of clothing - who feed on the "life force" of human beings and leave behind only shriveled husks that then rise to feed on more life force themselves and so on, leading to an apocalyptic ending sequence in a devastated London. The film also stars Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, and Patrick Stewart.

    • Actors: Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, Mathilda May, Patrick Stewart, Michael Gothard
    • Released: 1985
    • Directed by: Tobe Hooper
    124 votes

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  • 4
    111 VOTES

    Based on F. Paul Wilson's 1981 novel of the same name, Michael Mann's The Keep is "a preposterous mess" that Wilson himself called, "Visually intriguing, but otherwise utterly incomprehensible." This is probably in part because Mann's original version of the film was more than 200 minutes long, with the studio making judicious edits to bring it down to a mere 96 minutes.

    The story involves a group of Nazis during WWII who seize a Romanian castle (the eponymous "keep") and inadvertently free an ancient entity known as Radu Molasar. Initially taking the form of a smoky energy, Molasar eventually takes on a humanoid form, and its presence begins to affect not only the Germans themselves, but also the residents of a nearby village. Classic vampire stuff, especially when Molasar's ancient enemy and functional Van Helsing Glaeken (Scott Glenn) shows up.

    Besides German soldiers fighting an ancient evil entity, The Keep boasts music by Tangerine Dream and starring turns by the likes of Jürgen Prochnow, Gabriel Byrne, and Ian McKellen.

    • Actors: Ian McKellen, Gabriel Byrne, Scott Glenn, Alberta Watson, Robert Prosky
    • Released: 1983
    • Directed by: Michael Mann
    111 votes

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  • 5
    102 VOTES

    George Romero called this low-key 1978 vampire picture his "favorite" of his own films, a movie that Michael Weldon's Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film describes as, "Too disturbing, bleak, and personal to have been a financial hit, even at midnight showings."

    That Martin was also Romero's first collaboration with special effects artist Tom Savini, who would later provide effects for many of Romero's other films, including Dawn and Day of the Dead, may lead newcomers to expect a gruesome gore piece, but Martin is, instead, understated, intensely intimate, and ultimately ambiguous about whether or not the title character (played by John Amplas) is an actual vampire or merely an unhinged kid.

    • Actors: John Amplas, Lincoln Maazel, Christine Forrest, Elyane Nadeau, Tom Savini
    • Released: 1978
    • Directed by: George A. Romero
    102 votes
  • Being adapted from the novel of the same name by Bram Stoker, it would make sense to expect Ken Russell's The Lair of the White Worm to be at least vampire-adjacent. And there's certainly something vampiric about the snake-worshipping priestess (Amanda Donohoe) who is the villain of the piece - besides her massive, snake-like fangs. But this is a Ken Russell movie, so there's also plenty of camp and weirdness going around - what other vampire movie features a very young Hugh Grant putting speakers on the roof of his ancestral manor to play snake charmer music in order to lure out the villain?

    Besides Stoker's original novel, Russell pulled in elements of the legendary Lambton Worm from County Durham in England to add to the plot, which also lends the film one of the most unlikely theme songs in horror history.

    • Actors: Amanda Donohoe, Hugh Grant, Catherine Oxenberg, Peter Capaldi, Sammi Davis
    • Released: 1988
    • Directed by: Ken Russell
    115 votes

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