When most people think of vampires, Dracula is likely the first one that comes to mind. The tale of the Transylvanian count wasn’t an immediate commercial success but became popular after the turn of the century. Since Dracula made his way to the silver screen, there have been other memorable vampires added to the cultural zeitgeist.
In every medium, vampires have continued to saturate the culture, from Nosferatu to Sesame Street. But which are the best and most popular vampires besides Dracula?
Updated on October 9th, 2021 by Amanda Bruce: Though Dracula might have been the blueprint most writers liked to base their vampires on for a long time, they’ve come a long way in modern movies and literature. Some of the most popular vampires today aren’t those living in dark castles or kidnapping people. Instead, they’re vampires who long to embrace their humanity again. Vampire mythology gets reinvented with series like The Vampire Diaries or The Twilight Saga as more writers explore them.
20 Rosalie Hale (The Twilight Saga)
Bella and Edward might be the main characters in The Twilight Saga, but they definitely aren’t the only (or most interesting) vampires in the franchise. Rosalie Hale is, arguably, one of the more compelling characters, as book fans can attest.
She initially seems like an angry, and even a shallow person, concerned with appearance and keeping her family separate from Bella. In reality, she’s fiercely loyal, someone who has learned from the mistakes of her past, and a vampire who would rather be experiencing a human life that was cut short. She’s not the typical vampire so often portrayed in media, and that makes her a fan favorite in the saga.
19 Morbius (Marvel Comics)
While most vampires in pop culture clearly get their inspiration (and mythology) from Dracula, Morbius is a little different. He’s based in science fiction instead of the supernatural. Originally a Spider-Man villain, Morbius’ vampire-like abilities are the result of an experiment, not a bite.
Over the years, the character has become less of a villain and more of a sympathetic antihero. He actually spends a lot of his stories fighting crime, but also trying to figure out how to “cure” his vampirism, something other vampires don’t really get the chance to do in their own mythologies. He’s remained popular since 1971, and is getting his own live action movie, showing he’s got staying power.
18 Juliet van Heusen (Wizards of Waverly Place)
Not all of the vampires in popular culture are at the center of dark and brooding stories. Some of them are part of children’s programming, providing new takes on the mythology for the audience, which is exactly what Wizards Of Waverly Place does when it introduces Juliet.
Meant to be Romeo & Juliet inspired, the series introduces both vampires and werewolves and gives the Russo siblings love interests from the warring factions. Juliet is a sweetheart compared to most other pop culture vampires, though some of her storylines in Wizards Of Waverly Place don’t actually make sense in the long run. She gives a fresh take on vampire lore that is kid-friendly.
17 Selene (Underworld)
Underworld also explores the dynamics between werewolves and vampires, something a lot of supernatural franchises have come to do in the years since both creatures emerged in literature.
The difference here is that vampires aren’t the villains. Most vampire stories might feature one or two good guys, but they often make up the bulk of the villains. That’s not the case for Selene. She’s the hero of her story, just trying to do the right thing, but ends up stuck in the middle of an ancient war. While not every chapter of the movie franchise is beloved, Selena makes for an intriguing heroine as she struggles to maintain a delicate balance in her world.
16 Katherine Pierce (The Vampire Diaries)
When it comes to The Vampire Diaries, the story is largely Elena’s. She’s the human-turned-vampire that the audience is supposed to invest in. When her vampire doppelgänger Katherine is introduced, however, the audience has a whole new character to be fascinated by.
Katherine is actually a lot like Twilight’s Rosalie in that she’s introduced in a very specific way, only for the audience to find out that there’s a lot more to her story later. Though she’s the series main antagonist, she really just wants the chance to live out the life she was robbed of. It’s easy to empathize with Katherine, no matter how many bad deeds she commits, because she just wants the chance to live without being on the run.
15 Jubilee (Marvel Comics)
Though Jubilee was everywhere associated with the X-Men in the 1990s, it was years later that she was transformed into a vampire in Marvel comics. Not every X-Men fan loved her “firework” abilities as a mutant, but her vampire story made a lot of fans wonder what was next for her.
She’s not someone who crosses vampires accidentally, but instead, is used as bait to lure the X-Men into a trap. Unfortunately, Jubilee’s bite does turn her into a vampire for a long time. During that time, she bonds with X-23 as proteges of Wolverine, and eventually becomes a teacher for a new generation of mutants. Becoming a vampire gave writers a fresh perspective on her character, and adding her to the long list of mutant teachers is an inspired choice.
14 Raphael Santiago (Shadowhunters)
There have been two different adaptations of novels that make up The Mortal Instruments. Shadowhunters, the TV series, strays farther from the source material than the movie, but it also delves farther into the mythology surrounding the various Downworlders in the series, like Raphael and his fellow vampires.
Though vampires are initially painted as villains, Raphael becomes an ally of the titular characters, protecting the vampires in his clan while still helping to stop the more dangerous villains of the series. Raphael’s relationship with Isabelle in Shadowhunters also provides an interesting take on the relationship between vampires and humans as she becomes addicted to his venom, and he just wants to help her. It’s never romantic, and he never wants to turn her, which is a change from other modern media.
13 Alice Cullen (The Twilight Saga)
Vampires have a lot of different abilities in different stories. Most often, there’s superior senses, strength, and reflexes. Sometimes, there’s turning into a bat. For The Twilight Saga, the abilities are extensions of their human personalities. Alice has visions of the future. It makes her unique in pop culture since that is one skill usually reserved for portrayals of witches instead.
Alice also doesn’t have a dark or brooding bone in her body. She’s a bubbly optimist, which makes her incredibly fun to watch considering how dark Alice’s backstory is. Alice is the type of character the audience wishes they could be friends with – whether she’s a vampire or not.
12 Damon Salvatore (The Vampire Diaries)
When Damon makes his Vampire Diaries debut, he appears to be a wildcard. He’s not entirely interested in blending in with humans, appears to not care who he hurts, and is just out to have a good time with his vampire abilities. Of course, that’s not all entirely true, and he becomes one of the most layered and interesting characters over the course of the series.
Like Katherine, the more the audience learns about Damon, the more they become interested in him. It’s hard to imagine that the audience forgives the person who routinely uses his vampire compulsion to get his way in his first few appearances, putting Elena and everyone she cares about in danger. He easily becomes one of the most beloved characters of the series once he opens up emotionally and the audience gets to see who he really is.
11 Carmilla Karnstein (Carmilla)
The webseries Carmilla tells its story through a vlogging format. While its story is much shorter than most of the others that audiences consume about vampires, it definitely stands up against plenty of TV series as a classic. That’s largely in part thanks to the love story of Carmilla and Laura.
Though Carmilla is hundreds of years old, she’s still beholden to the vampire who adopted her after she was turned. That results in her having to bring sacrifices to her “mother” on a regular basis. Carmilla’s story sees her finally stand up to her as she falls in love with her roommate, Laura, who is supposed to be one of those sacrifices. While most vampire stories feature romance as secondary to the action, Carmilla does the opposite, making her one of the most popular vampires in modern stories.
10 Bill Compton (True Blood)
When True Blood premiered in 2008, it was right in the midst of another vampire craze. Americans wanted a mysterious and s3xy vampire, and they got it in the form of Bill Compton, played by British actor Stephen Moyer. Compton, who’d lived and died in the Antebellum South and who wanted nothing more than to be treated no differently than humans stole the heart of Sookie Stackhouse and every other red-blooded American girl.
Fans loved how he gave Sookie a respite from her telepathy abilities and how their romance was classic but his treatment of her was modern. Despite Bill’s genteel nature, he never let people forget he was a vampire, a fact that became especially frightening in the series’s fifth and sixth seasons.
9 Barnabas Collins (Dark Shadows)
The Dark Shadows series satisfied the needs of vampire fans in the late sixties, especially with the iconic vampire, Barnabas Collins. Though he could be manipulative and aloof, Barnabas was also a charismatic vampire who was overall liked by those around him.
Played initially by Jonathan Frid, Barnabas’s arc from being just a blood-thirsty vampire to being a blood-thirsty vampire who cared about and saved his family is part of what made him such a memorable character. Despite his evolution, Barnabas is still considered a villain; in 2013, TV Guide added him to their list of the nastiest villains of all time.
8 Spike (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
When most people think of the vampires of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, their first thought is usually Angel. Though Buffy’s first love was a great character whose evolution throughout the series is great to watch, it is Spike who stands out as a more memorable character. Spike, also known as William the Bloody, was a fearsome vampire who had killed several vampire slayers before he even set foot into Sunnydale.
Throughout the show, Spike’s changing loyalty made him an unpredictable yet intriguing character. One minute he’s setting traps to kill Buffy and the next minute he’s in love with her. Spike sacrificed himself multiple times for Buffy and the Scooby Gang, and though he was under-appreciated, Buffy always relied on Spike for help.
7 Marceline The Vampire Queen (Adventure Time)
Adventure Time was a cartoon beloved by adults and kids alike. Though the show’s main focus is the duo, Jake and Finn, Marceline the Vampire Queen was a wonderful addition to the group, and is consistently considered one of the show’s best characters. Not only is she a positive role model for kids — she’s a strong, funny female who plays bass and isn’t a damsel in distress — but she adds a lot of humor and spunk to the show.
Additionally, her storyline often shows the struggle one might have with being themselves and taking the steps to finally love and appreciate oneself.
6 Jerry Dandridge (Fright Night)
Played by Chris Sarandon, Jerry is the epitome of the tall, dark, and handsome vampire in Fright Night. He moves to Rancho Corvalis and just wants to do his own thing, but begins terrorizing his neighbor, Charley after he realizes Jerry is a vampire.
Jerry’s vampiric abilities harken back to the old school views of vampires; he cannot enter a home unless he’s invited, he can hypnotize people, and he’s able to turn into a bat. Though the audience knows that Charley will likely win the fight, Jerry is such a formidable and cunning villain that there are a few moments where it seems like Jerry might succeed.
5 Akasha (Queen Of The Damned)
Though the movie version of Queen of the Damned was not as beloved as the book, the vampires of the film are still iconic, and none more so than Akasha. The Queen of the Damned herself was played by the late Aaliyah, and though it was one of her only movie credits, she brought the kind of seductive, rage-filled attitude that the character required.
Akasha is the world’s oldest vampire who spent centuries as a living statue. When she awakens, she begins to kill vampires. Those who she can’t kill she offers a chance to join her crusade to start a new world order. Simultaneously nihilistic and longing for a different world, Akasha is what happens when a vampire has lived for so long that they begin to feel empty.
4 David (The Lost Boys)
The Lost Boys is has risen to the status of a cult classic, in part because of Keifer Sutherland’s character, David. He’s all leather jacket and motorcycle and holier than thou attitude, yet somehow audiences are just as drawn to him as Michael and Starr are.
When he’s not sleeping upside down like a bat with his fellow vampires, David is cruising the Santa Carla (in reality, the Santa Cruz) beach boardwalk for his next meal. David is an anarchist who has establishes a powerful hold over everyone that he meets. He has no problem with drinking blood to stay alive. In fact, he seems to relish the chance to cause more destruction.
3 The Countess (American Horror Story: Hotel)
Season five of American Horror Story gave fans many memorable characters including Liz Taylor, James Patrick March, and most especially, The Countess. Played by Lady Gaga, The Countess is a woman determined to keep her power no matter the cost. Despite this, she has several moments of caring for those around her; she is responsible for helping Liz Taylor accept who she is, and she truly loves the children she’s come to care for.
In addition to her stunning wardrobe and seductive nature, The Countess is a strong vampire who isn’t afraid to stand up to the men in her life, especially her husband, the serial killer James Patrick March. She is one of the only characters in the American Horror Story franchise that fans both root for and against.
2 Lestat De Lioncourt (The Vampire Chronicles)
Lestat is perhaps the second most memorable vampire of Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, and one of the most famous vampires in pop culture. A golden-haired Frenchman with a penchant for bespoke suits and rock music, Lestat is a creature who operates by his own moral compass.
In Interview With The Vampire, he tortures a pair of brothel workers before killing them, but he can also be seen doting on Claudia and Louis. In Queen of The Damned, he becomes Akasha’s consort but decides not to follow her after realizing her plans would kill every vampire he cares about. His complex nature only makes fans like him even more.
1 Blade (Blade)
Though Blade is a dhampir (half-vampire, half-human), he is still one of the most enduring figures of the vampire zeitgeist. He’s a crusader who fights vampires but he also struggles with his own blood lust. Blade is also a collaborative figure, much more than other vampires.
He has formed a family with Whistler and eventually Hannibal King, something that makes him weaker and stronger at the same time. In the movies, he’s played by Wesley Snipes (though Mahershala Ali will take the mantle in the upcoming Marvel movie), who imbues the character with a Shaft-like swagger. He’s a vampire, he’s a fighter, and he’s just so cool.