The Top 10 Portrayals of Dracula from Movies and Television
As Dracula is the most portrayed character in film history, who are the best of the best to play the ultimate vampire?
For this list, we are looking only at characters who are Dracula and named such. While Nosferatu is an adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel, the character isn't truly Dracula and will be excluded from this list. It might be nitpicking, but the decision has been made!
And fair warning, I can guarantee you that the two likilest performances that you're expecting to take the top spot on this list are there, but not at the top. Don't agree with the list? Give us your top picks in the comments!
'Dracula 2000' is a stinker, no denying it. But Butler's performance along with the interesting take on the origin of the character is what makes this rendition noteworthy. In an attempt to give a rational explanation for Dracula's weakness to silver (a lesser known weapon) and Christian symbols, its revealed that Dracula is actually Judas, and his vampirism is a punishment for his betrayal of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.
Rudolf Martin doesn't have the wide-spread appreciation and reputation he deserves. Known mainly for bit parts in movies like 'Swordfish' and as the first recurring villain on the show 'NCIS', his most fan-beloved appearance was a one-off episode of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'. In the premier of the 5th season, Dracula comes to Sunnydale to make Buffy his bride. Martin is able to throw back to a Bela Lugosi-style performance while making it seem fitting for a TV show in 2000. His performance as Dracula went over so well that he also appeared as Vlad the Impaler in the biographical Dracula movie later that same year, and was brought back to the Buffy series when it was adapted to comics books.
Lon Chaney Jr. proved himself to be the most versatile actor in the age of classic Universal Monster Movies, being the only actor to portray the Wolfman, the Mummy, Frankenstein's Monster, and even Dracula. 12 years after Bela Lugosi made the character famous, Chaney took over the role in the 3rd Universal Pictures Dracula movie, 'Son of Dracula', to positive reviews from audiences and critics.
Nearly 90 years later and its still a little known fact among average audiences that there were actually two versions of the 1931 Universal Pictures 'Dracula'. While the Bela Lugosi version was filmed during the day, a Spanish-language version was filmed at night using the same script and sets. Though the Lugosi version is better known, the Spanish version is regularly considered to be the better-executed film, taking advantage of more complex filming techniques and better overall performances, especially from Carlos Villarias who gave his Dracula a more crazed and threatening side than Lugosi's.
The only voice-over performance on this list, Graham McTavish's take on Castlevania's Dracula finally gave a great voice and personality to a character that had laughable performances in video games previously. With McTavish, you feel the pain and loss in Dracula's past, and ultimately feel a sense of compassion and understanding for why he turned into a monster.
After his Tony Award nominated performance as the character on Broadway, Frank Langella became the American response to Christopher Lee's run as the iconic character. Langella was praised for his performance in the big-screen version, which helped establish and popularize the romanticized tone for the character.
This is where I know I'm losing some people, placing the best known Dracula in the #4 spot, but hear me out...
As iconic as Lugosi was in the part, it hasn't aged well. Its hard to look at the 1931 classic and understand why it scared audiences of the day. And when Lugosi finally reprised the role 17 years later in 'Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein', the aging Lugosi was even less intimidating. We cannot deny that Lugosi is a main reason for the longevity of the character, but he's definitely been surpassed.
Christopher Lee, the man who has played Dracula more than anyone, tops Lugosi's Dracula by making the character dark and intimidating. However, he's not in the overall top spot because there are a few appearances that taint the overall image of Lee as Dracula. Though Lee was concerned about being typecast, he constantly appeared in Hammer Dracula films, and even Dracula films by other studios, ranging from serious to slapstick. And with several of the Hammer films, Lee's Dracula was an afterthought, added in to an existing film idea. And the lack of attention to the character showed as there were some scripts so bad that Lee reportedly refused to say the lines and kept Dracula silent for the bulk of several films.
People love to make fun of Gary Oldman's Dracula for the hairstyle when he first meets Jonathan Harker. And while it is ridiculous, that should not cast a shadow over the rest of his amazing performance that really should have warranted an Oscar nomination. Oldman is the first actor to give us a well-rounded performance of Dracula, seeing him as a monster, as a warrior, and as a lover. Oldman nails every facet of Dracula and every form of the character, young and old, and is the highlight of every scene he's in.
The vastly underappreciated Duncan Regehr is truly the best Dracula of all time for the simple fact that he took the cliche 1930s Lugosi style and made it scary again in the 1980s. The Lugosi look was used for every parody you could think of, with George Hamilton and Jim Carrey donning the medallion and cape for ridiculous (but enjoyable) comedies. There's no reason this kind of Dracula should have worked in the 1980s, but Regehr carries himself with a regal class that makes his Dracula scary, intimidating, and impressive against the odds.