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The 7 Most Badass Pre-“Twilight” Vampires

From Blade to Lestat, these movie bloodsuckers were the real deal.

Let’s be honest: Twilight ruined vampires. The once fierce, manly, blood-sucking creatures of the night were rendered glittery wimps thanks to the tween franchise. But Jim Jarmusch’s new flick Only Lovers Left Alive, which opens April 11, reminds us that once upon a time, vampires used to be cool. In the film, Tom Hiddleston plays a depressed musician who also happens to be undead, in a story that recalls the pre-Twilight days when vampires were brutal and interesting and didn’t fly around in the sunlight. Here are the seven coolest vampires from movies that pre-date Edward Cullen.

Character: Dracula
Movie: Dracula (1992)
Played by: Gary Oldman

Dracula in any incarnation obviously belongs on every list of the best vampires, but Gary Oldman’s portrayal of the character in Francis Ford Coppola’s version of the story is arguably the craziest. He’s dangerous, seductive, and he can turn into a really weird bat. Honorary mention to Bella Lugosi’s portrayal in the 1931 Dracula, a performance that proves special effects are not important when it comes to being super creepy.

Character: Severen
Movie: Near Dark (1987)
Played by: Bill Paxton

Before Bill Paxton chased tornados in Twister and became a Mormon in Big Love, he played a frenetic vampire in Kathryn Bigelow’s horror film Near Dark. His Severen is totally off the rails and completely cruel – and he loves every moment of it. He gets in bar fights and wears sunglasses indoors (which, as we all know, are both hallmarks of coolness). You’ll probably never look at Paxton the same way again.

Character: Nosferatu
Movie: Nosferatu (1922)
Played by: Max Schreck

Nosferatu was the first on-screen vampire, and he remains the most terrifying. He wasn’t pretty or some kind of heartthrob, but instead looked like a crazy rat-man with sunken eyes and long, long, long fingers. He wasn’t trying to impress the ladies or convince a sullen teenage girl to love him; he just wanted some blood. See? You shouldn’t have to try to be cool. Honorary mention to Willem Dafoe, who reimagined the role in 2000’s Shadow of the Vampire, a film about the making of the original Nosferatu that supposes Schreck was actually a real vampire. 

Character: Blade
Movie: Blade (1998), Blade II (2002), and Blade: Trinity (2004)
Played by: Wesley Snipes

OK, so technically Blade is only a half-vampire, but he could still kick the ass of any vampire from Twilight. Based on the Marvel comic book character, Blade is ruthless and aggressive – and always willing to kill a bunch of a people. He’s on Team Good, choosing to fight off evil vampires to protect the human race - which may not put him at the cool kids table. But it’s nice to imagine that Wesley Snipes has your back in a dark alley.  

Character: Lestat
Movie: Interview With the Vampire (1994)
Played by: Tom Cruise

Lestat was like the original rock star, indulging in human blood and beautiful women. For this character, who’s a bit of a sadist, being a vampire is about power and lust – two things he harnesses with glee. Bonus: He brings a mopey, reluctant Brad Pitt along for the ride, proving that every good vampire needs a good wingman.

Character: David
Movie: The Lost Boys (1987)
Played by: Kiefer Sutherland

A vampire named David shouldn’t be as unquestionably cool as Kiefer Sutherland’s character in the ‘80s flick The Lost Boys. As the leader of a gang of teenage vampires, he’s the worst incarnation of peer pressure, always goading the other kids into dangerous stunts (that include drinking people’s blood). Of all the movie vampires, he’s also the coolest-looking, with punk rock hair, a leather jacket, and a hot girlfriend. It’s a bummer he’s the bad guy.

Character: Jesus Gris
Movie: Cronos (1993)
Played by: Federico Luppi

In Guillermo Del Toro’s highly underrated movie Cronos, a mysterious device gives its owner eternal life and a serious desire for blood. Jesus Gris, although not technically a vampire, happens upon this device and transforms from an old man to a vigorous youth who just wants to lick blood off the floor. Del Toro has continued his fascination with vampires (he directed Blade II), but Jesus Gris represents one of the strangest and most compelling versions of the movie vampire to date.
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