Vampire lore has been an obsession of literature, art, and pop culture for hundreds of years. In the last decade or so, there has been an influx in vampires in young adult fiction, paired with an influx of young adult fiction in popular culture. As a result, the vampire routine started to feel played out, and people even started actively hating on it. Vampires have now been put in a really uncomfortable homogenizing category of teen romance, which has subsequently made it difficult to defend the many vampire stories some of us still hold precious.
Creators of vampire fiction pre the teen-craze have also found themselves looking to defend their work. To great effect, Joss Whedon’s ongoing Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic series presented a storyline in which the Big Bad was named “Twilight.” Meanwhile, Steven King and Scott Snyder embarked on a new horror comic book series, American Vampire, which cynically stated that the bloody goodness of the vampire had recently been “hijacked by a lot of soft-focus romance.”
The truth is, there isn’t one right way to do vampires. The mythology was popularized by Bram Stoker in his 19th-century Gothic novel, in which the main plot involved Dracula compelling women to fall in love with him. The romance is built into the core. And yet, that dangerous allure elicits a sense of horror that reminds us that the vampire is, first and foremost, a monster. But, whether you like them broody and romantic or straight up bloodthirsty, you have to admit – it’d be great to have one back you up in a fight.
15 Vampirella (Vampirella)
Like the infamous Blade, this original bad girl has all of the strengths of a vampire, and none of the weaknesses. It makes her especially tantalizing. Initially inspired by pop culture icon, Barbarella, the Vampirella comic series was relaunched in the 1990s using a more mainstream angle. She became defined by her moral ambiguity and violent tendencies. In addition to the typical vampire powers like outstanding reflexes, agility, and a healing factor, Vampirella is also endowed with super-speed. And even though a stake through the heart will take her out, she can walk in the daylight – which means she can have your back anytime, night or day. Not to mention those glamourous Dracula-inspired powers, like mesmerizing and summoning bats. Where, you ask, does such a powerful woman come from? She’s the daughter of Lillith and a demon, obviously.
14 Eli (Let The Right One In)
She may be small, but it would be a deadly mistake to underestimate her. In fact, her child-like appearance is her greatest weapon. Posing as a pre-pubescent girl (notably, in the novel she was born a boy), Eli is able to live in shadows, virtually unnoticed. With a grown man wrapped around her little finger, doing her dirty work for her, Eli proves to be infinitely wise. She is observant and manipulative; add bloodlust to the list and you have a force not to be reckoned with. Though usually calm and mysterious, Eli has a stern side, and it’s not one you would want to be on. When pushed, her rage is palpable, and enough to bring a grown man to tears. When in a pinch, she can take to the shadows to spot an easy victim. Though murder doesn’t seem to be her favorite pastime, she’s more than capable of it, and it doesn’t seem to bother her all that much.
13 Dracula (Penny Dreadful)
As if it’s not enough that he’s a fallen angel, brother of Lucifer, banished to Earth – he’s also the master of all vampires. Clearly, this incarnation of Dracula does not lack in the way of power. A master of manipulation, he uses a variety of personas (even his human form is a ruse) to lure and deceive. I know, I know, those are not great qualities in a partner; but if you did manage to make a genuine ally of him, you would then reap the benefits of his cunning ways. Of course, then you’d have to discuss the elephant in the room – that he’s bent on destroying the world. Or, he’d use mind control on you to make it less of an issue. And that’s just one of his super-abilities. He is also endowed with the typical Dracula lore stuff, like shapeshifting and being able to transform into green mist.
12 Marlow (30 Days of Night)
Though Marlow was only a supporting character in the original comic series, the film adaptation gave him a leadership role as an elder vampire who still gives some of us nightmares. Marlowe is all about the slaughter and would probably not be at all interested in having your back under any circumstances – but if he did, he would be the only weapon you’d need. When he and his minions invaded the dark, Alaskan, town, it seemed impossible that anyone would make it out alive. Also, he’s pretty insecure; instructing his followers not to turn anyone because he doesn’t want competition. But those who lack confidence can be the most dangerous since they always have something to prove. Marlowe is no exception and proves to be a ruthless, callous, lunatic.
11 Alucard (Hellsing)
The anime character Alucard (which, if you missed that, is “Dracula” spelled backward) is one of the most powerful depictions of vampire abilities. This stems from his transformation from Human to Vampire being a direct curse from God. While most vampires are understood as being part demon, Alucard was not left with any human part of himself. As a distinctly pure vampire, he has some unique powers, like walking through walls and dematerializing. After being defeated by a Hellsing (yes, like Van Helsing, the vampire hunter), Alucard became a servant to the family. In this capacity he proves himself to be pretty useful. He protects them and fights by their side. Basically, he’s one hell of a pet. He does, however, manage to form real bonds with people, which makes him an even trustier ally.
10 Benny (Supernatural)
Benny is everything that makes a TV vampire great. He’s not the villain, but he’s not the hero. He can be a badass without being a bad guy. Maybe he once was, but he changed. And, of course, he did it for love. Make no mistake, though, Benny is no hopeless romantic, nor does he shimmer in the sunlight. With a dark past as a pirate, Benny has a lot of troubling layers – can you say identity crisis? After turning his life around for love, and then losing that love, Benny finds himself in purgatory. It’s there that he proves himself to be a worthy partner. He helps Dean get back to Earth and is himself resurrected. He’s troubled in his new life, and well aware of the damage he is capable of if he’s not careful. And even though things don’t exactly work out for Benny, the good he’s done can’t be discounted.
9 Severen (Near Dark)
Severen, as portrayed by Bill Paxton… chills. This is one scary dude. As soon as he appears on-screen with his biker persona (in a horror-western, no less), there’s the immediate sense that he is not someone with whom you want to mess around. In fact, best to stay on his good side – you know, in case you need him as a back up one day. Some depictions of vampires focus on blood as just a necessity, others times you get something less human; feral even. But once in a while, you get a vampire who is portrayed as simply psychotic. His human element prevents Severen from being a pure monster and gives him a serial-killer-esque vibe that is arguably far more terrifying. You can’t help but think this was never a good guy. Watching him antagonize a bar full of innocent folks, just for a little murderous fun, definitely, implies it’s better to be in the clan than anywhere else Severen might be.
8 Skinner Sweet and Pearl (American Vampire)
American Vampire offers one of the grittiest portrayals of the vampire anti-hero in all of popular culture. The comic book series, developed by Steven King and Scott Snyder, is a horror masterpiece, designed to remind us what vampires are meant to be – dark, dangerous, menaces to society. A foreword by Steven King denounces depictions of vampires as “pallid detectives who drink bloody marys…; lovelorn southern gentlemen; anorexic teenage girls; boy-toys with big dewy eyes.” So in this comic book series, vampires are all about the thrill of the kill. Skinner Sweet is a lone, selfish type, whose idea of a good time includes buckets of blood and screaming victims. Pearl, on the other hand, is far more the antihero type than the straight up villain. But that doesn’t mean she won’t tear you to pieces if you even look at her wrong. It’s her nature, after all, thanks to Sweet (the maker she’d rather impale than thank). Either way, who doesn’t want vicious on their side in a fight?
7 Eric and Pam (True Blood)
Eric and Pam might be TV’s best vampire-dynamic-duo yet. Though the fact that Eric is her maker means their dynamic is technically that of a Father/Daughter relationship, it plays out on screen as something closer to a partnership; think, Big Brother/Little Sister. Either way, they share a special bond which is all the more intriguing because it’s grounded in a non-romantic love. Pam is vicious and cold, with some unstoppable one-liners, but her loyalty to Eric never wavers. And, as it turns out, for all her bitchiness, she cares more than she lets on. As for Eric, Pam means the world to him, plus he respects her. And, in general, he has some deep-seeded heroism that makes him a very interesting antagonist turned ally. Together, their power unequivocal. Sure, they are typically self-motivated, but that they revel in violence is only one more reason to have them on your team.
6 Nomak (Blade 2)
Technically, Nomak is a Reaper, not a vampire. But really all that means is he a Super Vampire. An uber vamp, if you will. He is stronger, faster and, most importantly, his heart is encased in bone so as to avoid that unfortunate little staking weakness vampires tend to have. It’s no surprise Nomak is fraught with a superiority complex. As the main antagonist in the Blade sequel, he’s all about wiping out the meek vampire race. Even though he is susceptible to daylight, and can be stabbed in the heart if you get the angle just right, it’s fair to say Nomak is pretty close to being indestructible. To top it all off, he’s particularly intelligent and an expert in hand-to-hand combat.
5 Cassidy (Preacher)
When the comic series, Preacher, came to TV, it did so with a number of minor changes. However, one thing that was kept spot on was the depiction of Cassidy. This fiery Irishman is a great example of how much fun being a vampire could be. Especially if you don’t take yourself too seriously and spend all your time brooding about your violent nature (I’m looking at you, Angel). In Episode 1, we meet Cassidy on a plane. He’s pouring drinks, living it up, and doesn’t strike us as anything but a jolly-good-time. But when he senses his companions are up to no good, he goes from chum to assassin at the drop of a hat. After massacring a group of men who are supposed to be trained to fight his kind, he makes a delightful exit from the plane – sans parachute. Not one for overthinking (or under-drinking), Cassidy proves early on that he’s one hell of an ally.
4 Blade (Blade)
Blade may technically be a human-vampire hybrid, but he certainly doesn’t let that pesky humanity slow him down. On the contrary, as a comic book character, he was originally conceived as having all of the strengths of a vampire, and none of the weaknesses. Fuelled by vengeance, Blade is dedicated to destroying vampires and other supernatural forces. In other words, he’s a good guy and one you’d want on your side since he has all that super-strength and heightened senses mojo. He was, of course, portrayed by Wesley Snipes in the 1998 film adaptation, which followed Blade on his hunt for his mother’s killer, Frost. He’s goal oriented, emotionally driven, and virtually indestructible. Best of all, in the end, he always does what he thinks is right, even if it’s tough to do. Yes, you would definitely want Blade on your side.
3 3. Spike and Angel (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
Combine super-strength, extraordinary fighting skills, an aptitude for research and cooperation, and you’ve pretty much got the ideal fight partner. Throw in that these two are driven by a hero-complex and virtually nothing can go wrong. Both Spike and Angel are especially unique vampires due to their human souls, which seem to far outweigh the influence of their demonic essences. Angel’s soul gives him that distinctly broody nature which can be pretty annoying but also makes him a better fighter – he always genuinely cares about the outcome of any battle. Meanwhile, soul or no soul, Spike “reeks of humanity,” as we are told in his very first appearance, “School Hard.” He’s a pure romantic, dialed to 11, who is just as passionate when it comes to rage. Spike’s less interested in brooding, and more interest in tearing things to pieces. His bad boy edge makes him fearless, and ruthless. Yes, he’s a little unwound, but he always comes through in a fight.
2 Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Dracula may not have any clear emotional motives – he’s not driven be vengeance, anger, love, or penitence – and, admittedly, this makes him volatile. It means, like many of the antagonists and villains on this list, he’s not exactly trustworthy. That being said… He can fly, shapeshift, and hypnotize sooooo… yeah. Dracula has some incredibly impressive skills that have been way under-utilized in popular culture. Some of his best portrayals have been his original conception in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, adapted for the screen in 1931 starring Bela Lagosi. The gothic tale lacks the action-packed fight scenes we expect in vampire tales these days, but that doesn’t make him any less terrifying. He went on to be portrayed in many Universal and Hammer films before a second adaptation was produced in 1992. Not to mention, every vampire ever conceived borrows lore from this one and original. Never underestimate an authentic.
1 Vampire Batman (Batman – Vampire Trilogy)
What’s better than a tremendously rich vigilante-superhero? An immortal tremendously rich vigilante-superhero. Why not? He already has the bat-affinity thing going. In 1991, DC did what was right there in front of them, and had Batman face off with Dracula and his nest of vamps. It’s a pretty great concept. Once Batman is bitten, he loses his humanity but retains his thirst for justice. After luring the vamps into the bat-cave, Batman blows up Wayne Manor, effectively exposing the cave to the sun. Mission complete. Though a part of him is gone forever, he assures Alfred that with his new found immortality, Batman will go on forever. In killing Bruce Wayne, Dracula basically makes Batman (even more) unstoppable, which is pretty great.