You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Back to IndieWire

The 24 Most Important Vampire TV Shows Ever, Ranked

From older classics like "Dark Shadows" to modern favorites like "The Vampire Diaries," a comprehensive look at the most notable favorites of the undead genre.

Shutterstock

Today is the 20th anniversary of the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” premiere, and the day that “The Vampire Diaries” airs its series finale — a day sure to go down in broadcast history as Vampire TV Day.

But those two shows are far from the only ones to depict bloodsuckers (to use a pejorative term) on screen, and IndieWire has dusted off the TV crypt to unearth a ranker of our favorite fangs.

Yes, we know there’s a lot at stake here.

READ MORE: 20 Years After ‘Buffy,’ Have Vampire TV Shows Met Their True Death?

Some rules for this list: At least one of the series regulars has to be a vampire. Also, no kids shows (sorry, “My Babysitter’s A Vampire”), no animation (sorry, “Count Duckula”), no foreign language shows (sorry, South Korea — wow, you guys like vampires) and no miniseries or anthology series (which is why “American Horror Story: Hotel” and either version of “Salem’s Lot” will not be found below).

Upcoming shows like “Let the Right One In” and “Castlevania” were also left off the list, for the obvious reason that we hadn’t seen them yet. And there may be one or two other omissions, based entirely on the fact that some of the most obscure potential entries were impossible to evaluate due to, well, their obscurity. (For example, the 1990-1991 syndicated program “Dracula: The Series” is a bit hard to track down.)

Here are the criteria used to evaluate these shows: General quality of execution, as well as innovation as it comes to exploring the nature of vampirism. This doesn’t specifically mean adherence to any particular pre-established or traditional mythology, but instead originality in terms of using vampire tropes to service the storytelling.

Watching a lot of shows about vampires at once highlights the tropes that haunt the genre — the way these stories are rich with themes of ostracization, romance, and death. It also highlights how the shows which are very good at tackling the subject matter are great… But a lot of them struggle.

24. “Hemlock Grove” (2013-2015)

Hemlock Grove Famke Janssen

Eli Roth’s “Hemlock Grove” features a pretty neat cast, including Famke Janssen, Joel de la Fuente, Dougray Scott and Lily Taylor. What it technically doesn’t feature is vampires. Instead, the immortal creatures who crave blood are called “upirs,” a real term from European folklore — but basically what making up the term does is let them rewrite the vampire rules to some degree. “Hemlock Grove” was a mess of a show beyond its incredibly gross and bloody effects, but did feature some interesting tweaks to the vampire mythos. The catch is, in order to learn about them you have to watch “Hemlock Grove.” And I cannot recommend that experience.

Where to Watch: Streaming on Netflix

23. “The Lair”  (2007-2009)

Okay, I probably could have gotten away without including this one, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see what an explicitly gay take on vampirism might look like. Unfortunately, the Here Media series, which ran for three seasons (beating a lot of the other shows on this list) has the aesthetics and production value of porn — boring softcore porn, at that. Also, the only exciting bit of innovation on the vampire front is doubling the fangs. Disappointing all around.

Where to Watch: Available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon

22. “Dark Shadows” (1991)

No Merchandising. Editorial Use OnlyMandatory Credit: Photo by SNAP/REX/Shutterstock (390864gg)FILM STILLS OF 'DARK SHADOWS - TV' WITH 1991, ENSEMBLE IN 1991VARIOUS

The most notable thing about NBC’s attempt to revive the iconic ’60s soap opera is the casting of 10-year-old Joseph Gordon-Levitt as ancient Daniel Collins and his descendent David — it’s a hilarious performance, to be honest, due to how downright sociopathic Gordon-Levitt comes across. Barely making it to 12 episodes, the series feels incredibly dated, and Ben Cross fails to make much of an impact as Barnabas.

Where to Watch: Streaming on Hulu

21. “Blade: The Series” (2006)

“Blade” as a franchise is on the surface simple, but features some pretty wackadoo qualities (like, the city “Blade: Trinity” takes place in uses Esperanto as a second language). “Blade: The Series” had potential to live up to that, especially as it made the interesting choice to create a lady protagonist (Jill Wagner as Krista, a former combat medic-turned-vampire) who was pretty compelling. Here are my two major complaints: It’s the kind of show that finds a way to murder a hooker within the first five minutes of the pilot — despite some interesting twists at the end, the cliches did pile up. Also, the charm of the “Blade” films is at least 90 percent driven by Wesley Snipes. And nothing in “Blade: The Series” is as cool as this:

Sorry, Kirk “Sticky” Jones. You did your best. But nothing tops blowing a kiss to your own car.

Where to Watch: Available for purchase on iTunes

20. “Blood Ties” (2007)

Based on the novels by Tanya Huff, this super-Canadian procedural (what is it about vampires that makes them so good at solving crime? Especially in Canada?) features some solid chemistry between leads Christina Cox and Kyle Schmid, but suffers from all the worst aspects of low-budget Canadian production without much of the charm that comes with it. Though, bonus points for the weirdness of the show’s central vampire being a graphic novelist. (Don’t call them comic books.)

Where to Watch: Unavailable on digital platforms (sorry)

19. “Kindred the Embraced” (1996)

There are a lot of vampire shows on this list, but this is the only one that was (vaguely) based on a role-playing game. “Kindred” didn’t really do anything new with the idea of what it means to be a vampire, but it did find something new to do with the genre by treating the different vampire clans like rival mobs. “‘The Godfather’ with vampires” is actually a pretty compelling pitch. Too bad the show didn’t live up to it.

Where to Watch: Unavailable on digital platforms (sorry)

18. “Dracula” (2013–2014)

This show was on NBC just three years ago. Did you remember it existed? I’d bet money you forgot. You might not have even known it was airing at the time. Looking back, “Dracula” makes some interesting choices — like the fact that it’s a period piece, set in Victorian London and invoking a bit of a steampunk vibe. But it also doesn’t show a ton of interest in letting Dracula (played by a pretty solid Jonathan Rhys Meyers) be, y’know, a vampire. And that comparatively bloodless approach might be why this one slipped quickly into obscurity.

Where to Watch: Available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon

17. “Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments” (2016)

SHADOWHUNTERS - Freeform's "Shadowhunters" stars Harry Shum Jr. as Magnus Bane, Matthew Daddario as Alec Lightwood, Dominic Sherwood as Jace Wayland, Katherine McNamara as Clary Fray, Alberto Rosende as Simon Lewis, Emeraude Toubia as Isabelle Lightwood and Isaiah Mustafa as Luke Garroway. (Freeform/Justin Stephens)

There’s charm to this Freeform adaptation of the fan favorite book series, but this gets its position on the list due to the fact that there are, like, barely vampires in the show. Sure, one series regular gets turned almost immediately in Season 1, and vampire politics make up a portion of the plot, but it’s just one facet of the supernatural drama.

Where to Watch: Streaming on Freeform.com and Hulu

16. “From Dusk till Dawn: The Series” (2014-2016)

From Dusk Till Dawn

“From Dusk till Dawn” doesn’t continue the story of the 1996 Robert Rodriguez movie — it instead goes for a pure reboot approach, with a less interesting cast (we’ll always miss George Clooney and Salma Hayek) but an expanded scope of interest. The influence of Mesoamerican culture gives the show a unique twist that a lot of these other shows don’t share. Too bad Quentin Tarantino wasn’t writing the dialogue.

Where to Watch: Streaming on Netflix

15. “Moonlight” (2007-2008)

Take a moment to get the Barry Jenkins jokes out of your system. While there were plenty of bright spots in CBS’s 2007-2008 drama — including a stellar performance by “Veronica Mars’s” Jason Dohring — the show couldn’t find its footing in time to ensure a renewal. Shockingly, CBS proved not to be the place for this particular brand of oddball supernatural procedural. Yes, it was originally paired with “Ghost Whisperer,” but it’s hard to figure out what the hell kind of show you’re making when a WGA strike shuts things down. Point is, “Moonlight” was weird. Its for-real tagline: “Only in Los Angeles could a vampire be a hero.”

Where to Watch: Available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon

14. “Ultraviolet” (1998)

A remarkable cast — Jack Davenport! The lady who played Jane in the BBC “Pride and Prejudice”! Stephen Moyer! Idris freakin’ Elba! — and some interesting ideas about vampirism go a long way here, but unfortunately the show has too slow a start to prove fully engaging. There’s a lot of promise in taking a not-so-black-and-white approach to the vampire cause, but it unfortunately goes unfulfilled. (And yes, congrats to Moyer for appearing in two of the shows on this list. Technically, he’s not a series regular, but he’s important enough as a character for him, and this series, to warrant inclusion.)

Where to Watch: Streaming on Hulu

13. “The Munsters”/”The Munsters Today” (1964-1966, 1987-1991)

Basically acknowledged on a universal level as an “Addams Family” rip-off in its initial incarnation, the 60s-era “Munsters” was pretty charming on a basic sitcom level. I mean, the premise makes no sense — how do Frankenstein’s monster and Dracula’s daughter give birth to a werewolf??? — which is why I can’t rank it much higher than this. To be honest, the original cast was more charming than the late-80s revival replacements, but respect to “The Munsters Today” for creating a plot device to explain the revival 20 years later. (Bryan Fuller tried a full-on reboot of the series with “Mockingbird Lane” in 2012, but it might have been too weird for its time.)

Where to Watch: “The Munsters” can unofficially be watched on YouTube — “The Munsters Today” is streaming on Hulu

12. “The Gates” (2010)

Vampires are only one of the types of supernatural creatures which live in the secret gated community at the center of this short-lived ABC drama. But from the opening scene, they’re clearly an important part of the action, especially given how the show was invested in exploring the idea of vampires attempting to blend into normal society. And Rhona Mitra gives a compelling performance as a woman torn between desires and worlds.

Where to Watch: Streaming on Hulu and Netflix

11. “The Strain” (2014-2017)

THE STRAIN -- Pictured: Rupert Penry-Jones as Quinlan. CR: Michael Muller/FX

This story of a vampire outbreak that brings first New York City, then the world, to the brink of apocalypse plays more like a zombie story than a vampire one. And like “The Walking Dead,” the FX series created by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan is at its most captivating when it focuses on society’s collapse, and its effects on the core characters. But it does also feature some truly terrifying vampires… well, vampire-ish, anyway.

Where to Watch: Streaming on Hulu

10. “Van Helsing” (2016)

VAN HELSING -- "Help Me" Episode 101 -- Pictured: Rukiya Bernard as Doc -- (Photo by: Dan Power/Helsing S1 Productions/Syfy)

Rukiya Bernard in “Van Helsing.”

Dan Power/Helsing S1 Productions/Syfy

The new Syfy drama brings some interesting twists to the vampire mythos — like the notion that there’s a cure from vampirism. But more memorable is Neil LaBute’s character-focused approach to the series, which makes for intimate, quiet storytelling in a genre which can quite often be very loud.

Where to Watch: Streaming on Syfy.com

9. “The Originals” (2013-present)

The Originals

Do you like your vampire dramas with mythology denser than a dwarf star? Then “The Originals” is definitely for you, launching from the jump into a family drama embedded in the deep history of its characters. Spun off from “The Vampire Diaries” but finding its own flavor, the show made a bold choice in spotlighting a collection of characters who technically fall more on the side of evil than good — one that’s proved intriguing.

Where to Watch: Streaming on Netflix

8. “Preacher” (2016-present)

Joseph Gilgun as Cassidy - Preacher _ Season 1, Episode 9 - Photo Credit: Lewis Jacobs/Sony Pictures Television/AMC

Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogan and Sam Catlin deserve a lot of credit for taking the vampire tropes we remember well and giving them a fresh feel, making Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) both incredibly charming and incredibly violent. Blood practically oozes out of the screen during his initial introduction, in which Cassidy lays waste to an entire private plane of religious fanatics, and the show continued to mine his supernatural nature in captivating and unsettling ways.

Where to Watch: Available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon

7. “Being Human” UK/US (2008-2013, 2011-2014)

A vampire, a werewolf and a ghost become roommates — wackiness ensues. Well, wackiness and a compelling narrative that embraces the obviously comedic elements of its premise while also centering the drama around character, not plot. I’m anticipating some shouting over the decision to group both versions of the series together, but there’s good reason for it. The original UK version begins with the stronger ensemble, but by the end of its run had completely changed over to a new cast of supernatural folks, and suffered as a result. Meanwhile, the North American remake stretched out its narrative in different ways (due to episode count) but was relatively consistent in quality for all four seasons. Both versions have their fans (it’s more than likely your favorite version is the one you saw first). But either way, it’s a fresh spin on the supernatural genre (especially in comparison to other shows on this list) and one which delves vigorously into what it means to be a vampire.

Where to Watch: Streaming on Hulu, Netflix

6. “Forever Knight” (1992-1996)

This show gets boos for naming its lead character Nick Knight. But there’s no denying that this is the great granddaddy of “vampire solves crime” procedurals, and maybe the gold standard. While the full series is unavailable for streaming, if you dig into the internets for spoilers, you’ll learn that the show featured some pretty incredible twists. And if you go to YouTube to check out an illicit bootleg or two,  you’ll discover that the show had some sharp energy and great banter, plus immediately charming chemistry between stars Geraint Wyn Davies and Catherine Disher. Plus, real talk: That is a truly badass opening credits sequence. Love those font choices.

Where to Watch: Available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon

5. “True Blood” (2008-2014)

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Hbo/REX/Shutterstock (5886290er) Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer True Blood - 2008 Hbo USA Television

The first time we saw a vampire die on “True Blood,” we knew that this show was going to be RIDIC. And that opening sequence remains an absolute gem. (Watch it here.) Later seasons definitely floundered, especially after Alan Ball left the series, but of all the shows on this list, none other dealt more explicitly and directly with the theme of how vampirism as a trope is connected with human sexuality. When “True Blood” was at its batshit best, it was a real treat.

Where to Watch: Streaming on HBO Go and HBO NOW

4. “The Vampire Diaries” (2009-2017)

The Vampire Diaries

Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec brought a lot of wit and intrigue to what might be considered the heir apparent to “Buffy.” But let’s take this opportunity to celebrate its talented cast, especially Nina Dobrev, who was asked to do double duty as multiple characters, and proved more than up to the challenge. With Dobrev’s departure at the end of Season 6, the show’s impact dropped, but it leaves us with a strong legacy of eight seasons of television and a still-running spin-off, giving it a serious leg up on a lot of other shows on this list.

Where to Watch: Streaming on The CW and Netflix

3. “Angel” (1999-2004)

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Richard Cartwright/Warner Br/REX/Shutterstock (5885508e) Charisma Carpenter, David Boreanaz, Glenn Quinn Angel - 1999-2004 Warner Bros TV USA Television

Over the course of five seasons, “Angel” took a number of different paths, but at its core it was a detective drama that just happpened to star a vampire (or two). Fierce debates rage over which season is best, but there’s no question that the “Buffy” spin-off featured at least a dozen episodes that were some of the best TV of its era, and even though it theoretically ended before its time, it went out on a creatively high note. Dark, silly, complex and compelling, it left a major impact on the genre.

Where to Watch: Streaming on Hulu, Netflix

2. “Dark Shadows” (1966-1971)

Jonathan Frid Jonathan Frid plays Barnabas Collins in the Gothic television soap opera "Dark ShadowsDark Shadows, New York, USA

It’s simply impossible to judge this 51-year-old gothic soap opera by modern standards — not only is it from a totally different time, but it operated under a totally different model: over the course of five years, 1,225 half-hour episodes were produced. That said, it’s a landmark series anchored by a truly compelling performance by Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins — many have tried to recapture the show’s magic, but none of them have succeeded. The concept of the brooding, lovestruck romantic hero/vampire on screen was born here, and deserves recognition as a result.

Where to Watch: Streaming on Hulu

1. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003)

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Richard Cartwright/20th Cent/REX/Shutterstock (5884304k)Sarah Michelle Gellar, David BoreanazBuffy The Vampire Slayer - 199720th Century Fox TelevisionUSATelevision

For exactly 20 years now, Joss Whedon’s seminal series has been changing lives on a level we are still processing. One of television’s most wildly creative dramas (with a wicked sense of humor), “Buffy” is both critically beloved and a fan favorite — rarely a common combination, but that’s what happens when a show strikes such a deep chord with its audience.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

It did not lack for flaws, including some uneven seasons, questionable narrative choices and an episode where a penis monster emerged from an old lady’s head. But damn did it take chances with its storytelling, and more importantly it became the gold standard for how to make a supernatural show so deeply connect with what it means to be human.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

There are so many unforgettable episodes and breathtaking moments from this show, so many characters who still live in our hearts. It’s been off the air for years. But more than any other show on this list, “Buffy” still slays.

Where to Watch: Streaming on Hulu, Netflix

Stay on top of the latest film and TV news! Sign up for our email newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Television and tagged , , ,


Comments

006

Were is #23?

Renee

Who made this freaking list because the way they have ordered their list is ALLLLLLL WRONG….SMFH

Joe

“Technically” an “upir” (or upior, upier) is a vampire. The term was used in Eastern Europe long before the romanticized Dracula vampire was created but not having seen the Netflix series, I’m guessing the depiction of the undead upir is nothing like the creature of Slavic legend. If it is I will be thrilled when I see it.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *