Raising the stakes: the 25 best vampire TV shows, ranked – The A.V. Club

Vampires might have experienced an explosion in popularity in the mid-2000s, but they’ve always been lurking in the darkness. From the vampy (and campy) 1960s soap opera Dark Shadows to new series like Interview With The Vampire and Vampire Academy, the genre just won’t die. And there’s something for everyone, too: if you’re looking for steamy romance, True Blood has your back. Want some action, violence, and general debauchery? Try Preacher. Craving some totally irreverent, absurd comedy? What We Do In The Shadows is for you. If there’s one thing this list of the best vampire TV shows proves, it’s that vampires have been around forever—and they’re not going anywhere, even if we drive a wooden stake through their hearts.
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Hemlock Grove is based on the 2012 novel of the same name by Brian McGreevy, who codeveloped this Netflix series produced by Eli Roth. Set in the fictional struggling steel town of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania, the show focuses on Peter Rumancek (Landon Liboiron), a Romani teenager suspected of being a werewolf … which he is. The town’s primary employer is the Godfrey Institute for Biomedical Technologies, headed by the vampire Olivia Godfrey (Famke Janssen) and her son, Roman Godfrey (future Pennywise clown Bill Skarsgård). The first season, which follows the book more closely, is the best as it explores the unlikely friendship/rivalry between impoverished Peter and rich-boy Roman. The two subsequent seasons deviated from the source material and were mostly forgettable. All three seasons are being pulled from Netflix on October 22, 2022, so if you’re curious, binge the series (or at least the first season) before it gets staked. [Robert DeSalvo]3 / 27
Blade: The Series had great action and lots of gore—which is exactly what you’d want from anything Blade-related—but it was missing a crucial element that made the film trilogy work: Wesley Snipes. Though the series is a continuation of the films, Snipes didn’t return, leaving the role to be filled by Sticky Fingaz. To be fair, Fingaz does a great job as the titular half-vampire vampire hunter, but it’s simply impossible to fill Snipes’ shoes. The series probably would’ve been much better off if it had just started over in a new continuity and distanced itself from the films, but the lack of Snipes was a dealbreaker for viewers, and Blade: The Series was canceled after one season. [Jen Lennon]4 / 27
Vampire Academy is still pretty new, which is why it’s lower on our list, but this freshman YA drama is off to a solid start. Set at a supernatural boarding school (think Hogwarts for vampires), the series follows Vasilisa “Lissa” Dragomir (Daniela Nieves) and Rosemarie “Rose” Hathaway (Sisi Stringer). Lissa comes from vampire royalty, and Rose is sworn to protect her. Come for the perfectly campy plot, stay for the surprisingly in-depth world-building and vampire history. [Jen Lennon]5 / 27
Moonlight centers on self-loathing vampire Mick St. John (Alex O’Loughlin), who tells the audience in the series’ first episode that “being a vampire sucks,” so he spends his (long, long) life trying to make up for his monstrous nature. Mick’s particular brand of self-flagellation involves taking on cases as a private investigator that he’s uniquely equipped to solve. In the series, which also features Veronica Mars’ Jason Dohring as Mick’s sire (an older vampire who teaches new vamps how to cope with the more inconvenient parts of their existence), Mick pursues a mystery involving a woman who looks just like his former wife Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon), whom Mick believes to be dead. Though critics generally derided the series’ cheesy dialogue, its unique world was well worth exploring; unfortunately, the 2008 writers’ strike threw a wrench into the show that it couldn’t recover from, and it was canceled after one season. [Jen Lennon]6 / 27
The premise of this engaging British horror-comedy series is that a ghost (Annie, played by Lenora Crichlow), a vampire (Mitchell, played by Aidan Turner) and a werewolf (George, played by Russell Tovey) share a home in Bristol and attempt to fit into the community while keeping their supernatural identities a secret. Mitchell, who constantly battles his need to drink blood like an addict, develops a romantic relationship with Annie before Turner departed the series at the end of season three to appear as the dwarf Kíli in The Hobbit movies. Being Human aired for five seasons on BBC Three and spawned an American remake, which aired for four seasons on Syfy. [Robert DeSalvo]7 / 27
Nighttime homicide detective/centuries-old vampire Nick Knight (Geraint Wyn Davies) seeks to atone for his sins by taking down criminals and to be cured of his vampirism. He’s paired with a wisecracking daytime partner and romantically drawn to a witty pathologist who knows his secret, and we get parallel storylines from his distant past. Forever Knight charms because of its legit philosophical musings, macabre and goofy humor, and Davies’ spirited performances. Essential episode: Season three’s “Jane Doe” which recalls how Knight’s unempathic master Lucien LaCroix (the brooding Nigel Bennett) once sought to turn a human whose inner evil scared even him. [Bryan Reesman]8 / 27
Poltergeist director Tobe Hooper’s Emmy-nominated mini-series Salem’s Lot still raises hairs today thanks to a strong cast, solid make-up and visual effects, and visceral production design highlighted in the decaying Marsten House. The eternally infamous image of a vampire child floating outside of (and later through) an upper-story bedroom window—no digital trickery, creepy AF—messed up a lot of Gen X kids. It remains effectively eerie today. Not all early Stephen King adaptations hold up equally well, but this classic take still has plenty of bite. King’s story was a major influence on Mike Flanagan’s Midnight Mass. [Bryan Reesman]9 / 27
This flagship series of the now-defunct El Rey Network was developed by Robert Rodriguez, the director of the 1996 movie From Dusk Till Dawn. In the series, two career-criminal brothers (Seth and Richie Gecko, played by D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz, respectively) commandeer a family’s RV and flee to the Mexican border after a botched bank robbery leaves several people dead in the dust. At a border strip club, the ragtag group encounters a cult of snakelike vampires, including the seductive Santanico Pandemonium (Eiza González). The ongoing conflict between the Gecko brothers and the snakelike vampires continued for three sexy, action-packed seasons. Although From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series was never officially cancelled, the actors’ contracts expired in 2016 and the El Rey Network ceased operations in 2020, so a fourth season seems unlikely. You can still binge the complete series on Netflix. [Robert DeSalvo]10 / 27
Lush, atmospheric, and of course, sexy, A Discovery Of Witches (based on Deborah Harkness’ All Souls trilogy) is Twilight for the grown-up set, a buttoned-up British cousin of the southern wilds of True Blood. In this case, it’s not a human who falls in love with the ageless vampire, it’s a witch–a relationship which, surprise surprise, is strictly forbidden in the supernatural world. Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer are the gorgeous and hypnotic couple at the center of our story, which swings from contemporary supernatural fantasy to twisty historical mystery, and all the while achingly romantic. If dark academia’s your thing, this one delivers the rich aesthetics of Oxford while weaving a story that will have you alternately swooning and on the edge of your seat. [Mary Kate Carr]
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You wouldn’t be blamed for going into AMC’s Interview With The Vampire adaptation expecting little more than gothic junk food. But creator Rolin Jones breathes new life (er … undeath) into Anne Rice’s beloved horror novel, updating the story to tackle issues that pop culture wasn’t ready for in 1976—or 1994. Here, vampiric narrator Louis de Pointe du Lac is a gay Creole Black man whose relationship with his white lover/maker Lestat is as sexy as it is thorny. And unlike the many dreary adaptations out there, Interview isn’t afraid to be as pulpy and fun as its source material, all while sacrificing none of its smarts. Add in magnetic performances from its central cast, and you’ve got this season’s blood-soaked must-see. [Jenna Scherer]12 / 27
If you want to understand Guillermo Del Toro’s The Strain—developed from novels created by Del Toro and writer Chuck Hogan, after Hollywood initially balked at the idea back in the mid-2000s—you need look no further than its chief protagonists: Two CDC agents, a Holocaust survivor, and a New York city exterminator. Perfect heroes for a show that imagined vampirism as both a physical and a social contagion, corrupting bodies and souls alike, whether with worms—lots of worms, so many worms, many of them crawling into and out of people’s eyes—or the fruits of collaboration. [William Hughes]13 / 27
Bad news, folks: The vampires won. Such is the hook of Syfy’s well-received post-apocalyptic series (which, no, has no connection to the Hugh Jackman movie of the same name). Kelly Overton stars as the titular hunter, who wakes from a coma to find herself in a world where the sun has been blocked out by volcanic ash, transforming the planet into a vamps’ playground. The good news is that Vanessa Van Helsing’s blood can turn vampires back into humans; the bad is that the ruling bloodsuckers really, really don’t want that to happen. Van Helsing wasn’t afraid to go silly or serious across its four-season run, as its whims demanded; this is a series that really tried to wrestle at times with what it’d be like to have your humanity re-imposed on you after years of monstrousness, and had Dracula pretend to be the President so that she could go live in the White House. Truly, Vampire America is a land of contrasts. [William Hughes]14 / 27
It’s the rare TV show that can feature a blood-sucking, immortal vampire as one of its protagonists—and then relegate that fact to side-story importance, at best. But such is the wide-ranging and endlessly profane nature of Preacher, where Joseph Gilgun’s vampire Cassidy sometimes seemed to possess that undead status for little more reason than to give the show an unkillable punching bag to really wail on (or torture, or chop into tiny little pieces) from time to time. Like Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s original comics, TV Cassidy does eventually get his own set of cult-y vampire frenemies to contend with during the show’s third season—even if its rapid-fire pacing never had the time to dive into the slow-burn reveal of how awful a person an unkillable, charming, consequence-free hedonist might be to actually invite into your life. [William Hughes]15 / 27
Hellsing Ultimate is the second anime adaptation of the Hellsing manga, but it’s far superior in terms of quality. The series focuses on Sir Integra Hellsing, the newly appointed head of the Hellsing organization, which secretly works with the British government to address supernatural threats. What’s unique about Hellsing Ultimate, though, is how quickly it ramps up the stakes and tension. By episode two, there’s an army of vampire Nazis planning to start World War III. It’s bloody, it’s violent, it’s over-the-top ridiculous; Hellsing Ultimate is the rare vampire anime that’s actually worth sinking your teeth into. [Jen Lennon]16 / 27
Inspired by the classic video game series of the same name, Castlevania’s story is set in motion when Count Dracula’s wife is accused of witchcraft and burnt at the stake. This wrongful act, of course, enrages the lord of the undead who responds by summoning hordes of demons to wreak revenge-fueled havoc on the people of Wallachia. That’s when monster hunter Trevor Belmont shows up to take on Dracula’s dark forces, and he’s not alone, either. Joining him are other familiar names from the game’s mythology, such as Dracula’s half-human son Alucard and elemental priestess Sypha Belnades. But don’t let the fact that this animated series is based on a video game make you think this is just kid’s stuff—it actually leans into hard R-rated territory and it’s loaded with adult themes, sex, geysers of blood, and unflinching violence.
Written by acclaimed comic book writer Warren Ellis and beautifully animated by Powerhouse Animation Studios (the same talented folks behind Netflix’s Blood Of Zeus and Masters Of The Universe: Revelation), Castlevania is a riveting tale of revenge with an explosive final season that will leave you bloodthirsty for more. [Gil Macias]17 / 27
It’s difficult to imagine it now, but once upon a network schedule there was a gothic soap opera that aired every single weekday and had a regular audience of seven to nine million viewers. Running from 1966 to 1971, Dark Shadows delivered more than 1,200 episodes of supernatural melodrama set in the town of Collinsport, Maine. It starred Jonathan Frid as vampire Barnabas Collins, an ancestor of the town’s wealthy Collins family. As he searches for his lost love Josette he gradually transforms from a sinister villain into a more heroic figure over the course of the series. If you only know about the Johnny Depp-starring film based on the TV series, do yourself a favor and look up some episodes from the original source material. They’re available to stream for free right now on Tubi and Pluto TV and they’re absolutely wild. [Cindy White]18 / 27
Admittedly, Legacies doesn’t hold a candle to The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. But it still stands on its own because, despite being the third show of this franchise, it manages to find its unique voice. The series follows a teenage Hope (Danielle Rose Russell)—the “tribrid” daughter of Klaus and Hayley—who is one of the most powerful vampires alive. She attends the Salvatore School run by TVD’s Alaric Saltzman (Matt Davis). Legacies has a fresher vibe because of its “monster-of-the-week” format that TVD and TO didn’t possess. The longer arcs are mostly devoted to Hope and her fellow students learning about their powers while battling literal and inner demons. The shortest of all three series, Legacies is an unexpected delight. [Saloni Gajjar]19 / 27
It comes as no surprise that The Vampire Diaries’ best season led to The Originals. Who wouldn’t want to see more of the Mikaelson siblings? Season three of the flagship series introduces the first vampires to ever exist. Klaus (Joseph Morgan), Elijah (Daniel Gillies), Rebekah (Claire Holt), and two more of their siblings have been around for thousands of years, and yet they haven’t overcome their rivalries and issues. Family drama can bring down even the strongest of them all, huh? The Originals takes the Mikaleson family from Mystic Falls back to their home in New Orleans because Klaus, a vampire, and Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin), a werewolf, are expecting a baby after hooking up one night. The premise is bonkers, but much like TVD, The Originals is grounded in familial elements and excellent, good-looking actors having a fun time messing around with the occult. It only helps that the show is set in a spooky NOLA, adding all the vampiric vibes needed to make The Originals a pretty fun time.[Saloni Gajjar]20 / 27
The title of this Showtime horror-drama refers to penny dreadfuls, which were cheap serial publications featuring lurid material that were popular in 19th-century Britain. On Penny Dreadful, Eva Green plays Vanessa Ives, a mysterious and powerful medium whose life intersects with several characters popular in Gothic fiction, including Dorian Gray, Mina Harker, Abraham Van Helsing, Victor Frankenstein, Henry Jekyll and, yes, Dracula. The latter, played by Christian Camargo, is introduced in season three as the brother of Lucifer and first vampire who disguises himself as a friendly zoologist to seduce Vanessa. It all leads up to a shocking and planned conclusion that stunned viewers at the time because no one knew that Vanessa’s story had reached its conclusion. The excellent spin-off series Penny Dreadful: City of Angels arrived in 2020, but it had nothing to do with Vanessa Ives, vampires or the characters established in the original Penny Dreadful, which ran for three seasons. [Robert DeSalvo]21 / 27
Hear me out: With its long eight-season run, The Vampire Diaries has cemented itself as one of the most entertaining and binge-worthy supernatural dramas of all time. I mean, its popularity birthed a goddamn vampire franchise for The CW. Julie Plec’s adaptation of L.J. Smith’s novels might’ve felt like Twilight-lite to many viewers because it was released a year after the movie, and it features a love triangle to boot. But TVD started by fleshing out its mythological lore using surprisingly grounded family elements, whether it’s Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) coping with the loss of her parents, or two centuries-old vampire brothers—Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley)—reuniting after years apart only to fall for the same girl … again.
The show’s lexicon quickly expanded to include doppelgängers, witches, werewolves, hybrids, tribrids, travelers, sirens, and so much more. And through it all, TVD mostly had a lot of fun, despite some dragged-out seasons in the middle (Mostly after Elena transitioned into a vampire herself). The show found a niche spot with its blend of humor and romance, all packaged together in early seasons as a high school drama. Let’s not forget the fun never-ending twists and crackling season finales. Never has a show had more fun expanding its vampire-related folklore. It’s no Buffy, to be sure, but TVD was a perfect 2000s foray into the genre. [Saloni Gajjar]22 / 27
Based on Charlaine Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries novels, HBO’s True Blood premiered in 2008 and was decidedly aimed at more mature audiences than fans of the sparkly, PG-13 vampires in Twilight, which opened in theaters the same year. Set in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, True Blood imagines a world in which vampires can “come out of the coffin” thanks to a new synthetic blood substitute marketed as Tru Blood. Anna Paquin plays fairy-waitress Sookie Stackhouse, whose magical blood is irresistible to vampires such as Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) and Fangtasia bar operator Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård). Although the series lost focus and veered closer to camp as the seasons went by and supernatural beings such as witches, werewolves, and werepanthers were introduced, the core love triangle of Sookie, Bill, and Eric as well as the stellar supporting cast had viewers hooked on this Southern gothic decadence for several summers. A reboot/reimagining of the hit series is currently in development. [Robert DeSalvo]23 / 27
Some would say Angel is actually better than Buffy, the show it spun off from. And in some ways that’s true. It’s certainly more mature in tone, allowing it to tackle darker and more complex issues. It lasted for five seasons and didn’t face the growing pains of its protagonist graduating from high school. Angel himself, the vampire with a soul, might be the least interesting thing about it. It was the supporting cast members who really made it sing, sometimes literally at the demon-owned karaoke bar Caritas. They included a couple of Buffy holdovers, Wesley (Alexis Denisof) and Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter who, it’s worth noting, went through some harrowing experiences behind the scenes), and some appealing new blood like vampire hunter Charles Gunn (J. August Richards) and Winifred “Fred” Burkle (Amy Acker), a shy nerd who later becomes possessed by an ancient demon. It had a better ending than Buffy, too. [Cindy White]
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Midnight Mass never calls its central monster a vampire— in fact, to the bewitching priest who makes it manifest, it’s an “angel” that wreaks havoc on remote Crockett Island in Mike Flanagan’s sinister Netflix miniseries. The plague-like problems the vampire brings to the island prove formidable from the beginning — but it’s not until the back half that the monster’s insidious nature really rings true. Not only is the creature frighteningly realized, the worship it garners is a sly nod to Hollywood’s obsession with seductive bloodsuckers and their perceived baseball prowess. Angel or demon, this is a creature that will break through the skin, and stay there. [Hattie Lindert]25 / 27
In 2019, one documentary crew took to recording a household of vampire roommates in Staten Island, and from there arose one of the funniest offerings about these blood-sucking fiends. What We Do In The Shadows not only honors but expands upon the vampire lore and media of the past, making them hornier, gayer, and more oblivious to modern society than ever before. Each character truly brings something dynamic and special to the series, never relying solely on their charms. With four seasons under its belt, What We Do In The Shadows has remained sharp, with each new episode feeling like its own little treat. [Gabrielle Sanchez]26 / 27
Whatever you may think about its creator now, there’s no denying the cultural impact Buffy The Vampire Slayer once had, and continues to have to this day. No one was prepared for this series—based on a middling film that fizzled at the box office and was buried on The WB on Monday nights after Seventh Heaven—to be as good or as popular as it was. Who couldn’t relate to the central concept of high school as a literal hell? It popularized a now-familiar hybrid format that mixes episodic “monster of the week” episodes with a serialized “big bad” story arc sprinkled in throughout the season, leading up to a climactic confrontation in the finale. And it gave us an imperfect, relatable heroine to root for in Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy.
Not only did the show’s success change the trajectory of an entire TV network, its influence extended to fashion, music, and even the way we use language. It was also one of the first TV shows to have an active internet fandom, thanks to its official posting board The Bronze, where the cast and creators would regularly mingle with a community of fans. It boosted the notoriety of previously known stars like Gellar and Anthony Stewart Head, and launched the careers of newcomers like David Boreanaz, Alyson Hannigan, and Seth Green. It’s for those reasons—amounting to so much more than the contributions of any one single person—that we celebrate this groundbreaking series as the top vampire show of all time. [Cindy White]27 / 27


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