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12 Memorable Portrayals Of Dracula

Jonathan Rhys Meyers will be donning fangs in NBC’s upcoming limited series Dracula, but he’s far from the first to play the Count. Here’s a look at some of the more memorable portrayals through the years.

1. Max Schreck (1922’s Nosferatu)

Technically, Max Schreck played “Count Orlok” in Nosferatu, but that’s only because they couldn’t get the rights to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Regardless, this remains one of the most iconic versions of the character. And after nearly a century he’s still terrifying, showing how much you can do with some makeup and a legitimately creepy actor.

2. Bela Lugosi (1931’s Dracula)

Universal Pictures

Undoubtedly the most famous Dracula of them all, Lugosi’s portrayal established many of the conventions that we still see in movies and TV — the style, the charm, the accent. The line “I never drink … wine” was unique to the film but has been added to subsequent Dracula adaptations. Lugosi’s Dracula has also been parodied endlessly, as on Sesame Street with Count Von Count.

3. Gloria Holden (1936’s Dracula’s Daughter)

Universal Pictures

OK, so she’s not the Dracula, but she’s a Dracula, and that has to count for something. As Countess Marya Zaleska, Holden is every bit as seductive and intimidating as Lugosi. I mean, those eyebrows alone! There’s also plenty of lesbian subtext — this vampire prefers the ladies, too — which has helped make Dracula’s Daughter something of a cult classic.

4. Christopher Lee (1958’s House of Dracula)

Warner Bros.

Christopher Lee earns the distinction of playing Dracula more times than anyone else on this list. He started with House of Dracula (simply Dracula outside of the U.S.) and continued in Dracula: Prince of Darkness, Dracula Has Risen From the Grave, and Taste the Blood of Dracula, among others. None of these captured the spirit and horror of the character like Lee’s first Dracula film, though.

5. Udo Kier (1974’s Blood for Dracula)

You know what Dracula needed? The Andy Warhol treatment. Blood for Dracula (also known as Andy Warhol’s Dracula) is about as off-the-wall as you’d expect. Though not quite as explicit as Flesh for Frankenstein, it still faced censorship battles. Udo Kier makes Dracula his own, though it’s hunky Joe Dallesandro who gets most of the attention.

6. Frank Langella (1979’s Dracula)

Universal Pictures

Frank Langella wasn’t eager to translate his stage performance as Dracula to the screen, but the resulting film helped cement his role as the Count. While the movie itself was a modest success, Langella earned rave reviews. Roger Ebert wrote, “This Dracula restores the character to the purity of its first film appearances, in F. W. Murnau’s 1923 Nosferatu and Bela Lugosi’s 1931 version.”

7. Gary Oldman (1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula)

Columbia Pictures

What’s different about Oldman’s portrayal is that he gets to be both a withered wrinkly Dracula and a young, hip (note the glasses!) version of the Count. It’s actually the older version of Dracula that has been more influential in pop culture — the ridiculous hair alone is impossible to forget. Despite the movie being a bit hit or miss, Oldman’s Dracula is fondly remembered.

8. Leslie Nielsen (1995’s Dracula: Dead and Loving It)

Columbia Pictures

They can’t all be serious. Nielsen’s Count, as conceived by Mel Brooks, is not exactly scary, but he does manage to poke fun at plenty of Dracula tropes. Stylistically, he’s influenced by Gary Oldman’s Dracula, although he maintains the Lugosi accent throughout. It’s all very silly, which is part of why the film was reviled by critics. But Nielsen’s portrayal is fun, and the movie has attracted fans since its initial release.

9. Gerard Butler (2000’s Dracula 2000)

Dimension Films

Look, sometimes a movie is memorable for being not very good. Before he straddled the line between action star and romcom lead, Gerard Butler was a modern-day Dracula. He certainly looks the part (epic hair alert!), and he’s far from the worst thing about Dracula 2000. Don’t bother with the sequels, though — Butler’s not in those direct-to-DVD nightmares.

10. Rudolf Martin (2000’s “Buffy vs. Dracula,” Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

20th Century Fox

It was only a matter of time before Buffy the Vampire Slayer encountered the most famous vampire of them all. While the episode itself is only so-so, Martin’s Dracula is pitch-perfect. The character actually reappeared in the Buffy comics, which is pretty impressive given how little screentime he had on the show. But seriously, so sexy. Is it any wonder Xander fell under his thrall?

11. Dominic Purcell (2004’s Blade: Trinity)

New Line Cinema

Sorry, haters, the Blade trilogy is criminally underrated, and Dominic Purcell is too hot to not be included on a list of memorable Draculas. Technically, his character’s name is Drake, but it’s explained that he’s also gone by “Dracula” and several other monikers throughout his very lengthy existence. Look, it’s all completely ridiculous, so you’re just going to have to give in and appreciate Blade: Trinity for what it is.

12. Marc Warren (2006’s Dracula)

BBC

For the BBC telefilm adaptation of Dracula, the titular vampire went younger. Too young, according to some, like The SF, Horror and Fantasy Film Review, who called Warren’s Dracula “too cute and boyish.” But he was also praised for his sex appeal and magnetism, which are essential aspects of the role. If only that combination of allure and danger had worked when Warren appeared on The Good Wife.

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