The Best Dracula In Movies Takes On Many Iconic Horror Forms, See The Best Draculas

By Brian Myers | Updated

The title character from Irish author Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula has been played by dozens of actors on the stage and screen. While each one brings his own uniqueness to the part, only a handful could truly compete to be in the best Dracula movies.

Bela Lugosi – The Classic Dracula


Lugosi first wore the Dracula cape in the Broadway stage production of Dracula shortly after immigrating to the United States from Hungary. In 1931, Lugosi was cast to play the character in the first talkie, kicking off the golden age of Universal Studios monsters.

Lugosi’s height and statuesque features, combined with his slow and deliberate delivery (he had learned English several years earlier phonetically), created a character that was equally menacing and charismatic. Though he only played Dracula one more time (in the 1948 comedy Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein), Lugosi was essentially typecast after the massive success of the 1931 film and never achieved the level of stardom that he richly deserved.

Max Schreck – The Monstrous Dracula

The 1922 film Nosferatu was the first true screen adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, though the German production took certain liberties so that it could (unsuccessfully) avoid copyright infringement. The film’s antagonist was Count Orlok, played to perfection by Max Schreck.

On camera, Schreck’s tall and thin figure meshes with his rodent-like appearance to generate a vampire that is more horrific than the handsome Dracula that was imagined by Stoker. Director F.W. Murnau was able to create an atmosphere within every frame that Schreck’s character was able to thrive. An early entry in cinematic horror for sure, but it truly set the bar for what it takes to be one of the best Dracula movies.

Christopher Lee – Dracula For A New Age

With Universal’s golden age of horror coming to an end, Britain’s Hammer Studios resurrected the classic monster characters in full, bloody color. Following the success of the 1957 film The Curse of Frankenstein, the studio put director Terence Fisher at the helm of the studio’s sophomore entry, Dracula, in 1958.

Hammer cast Christopher Lee as the Count, a role that the iconic actor reprised nine more times in the next 15 years. Lee has the distinction of playing Dracula the most on theater screens, most often opposite Peter Cushing.

Lee Made History

Lee was the first to play the vampire Count in color and gave audiences a truly terrifying performance. Tall, handsome, and graceful, Lee could pivot and transform into the stuff nightmares are made from by contorting his face and baring his fangs. Considered by many fans and critics to have mastered the role even better than Lugosi, Lee’s efforts took Hammer Studios to the next level as it made one of the best Dracula movies.

Gary Oldman – The Best Dracula

Though he only played the character once, Gary Oldman deserves the distinction of portraying the greatest creature of the night. Part of why Oldman pulled off such a masterful performance was the nature of how the storyline unfolds, showing Vlad Dracula in several different forms. When the film opens, Oldman is represented as a young warrior in the 15th century, presenting a portrayal of Dracula like never seen before in a major theatrical release.

As the film progresses, Oldman’s Dracula is a withered and creepy old man who finds his way to London to see the reincarnation of his long-dead bride. Here, audiences see a different look and demeanor for the Count, as he shows up looking young and full of life.

A Multi-Faceted Lord Of The Night Puts Oldman Over The Top

Oldman’s role makes the 1992 film one of the best Dracula movies but is certainly helped along with the big-budget production’s incredible sets, vivid costumes, and realistic (for the time) special effects. While the competition for being the “best” Dracula is stiff, Oldman’s singular portrayal puts him at the top.