Since Dark Shadows introduced vampires to television in the 1960s, one could argue that the vampire subgenre has exploded. Do the ratings for vampire shows rival that of shows about zombies? It’s gotta be close, right? With The Strain returning for another season soon, and shows like The Vampire Diaries, and Penny Dreadful showing no signs of stopping, it’s safe to say that vampires and TV work well together.
Here’s our list of the most beloved, unnerving, and memorable vampires in all of television.
15. Pam Swynford De Beaufort (True Blood)
Fans of HBO’s True Blood already know that Pam is delightfully dour and hilariously sarcastic on the show. Kristin Bauer van Straten plays Pam to perfection as the ruthless vampire who loves only Eric…until she has progeny of her own. Pam is sexy, fashionable, and annoyed with anything that interrupts her own unique brand of hedonistic excess.
Her maker is the Sheriff of Area 5, which makes her powerful by association. She also helps run Fangtasia and is annoyed and jealous of any woman who turns Eric Northman’s head. Pam is fiercely loyal to her maker, and to Tara once Pam reluctantly turns her. In fact, the only time we see Pam cry bloody vampire tears is when Eric is in mortal danger.
14. Bone Vampire (Futurama)
When Phillip J. Frye sits on a mysterious egg waiting for it to hatch, no one could have guessed that it was the lone survivor of a long dead species from the planet Doohan 6.
Doohan 6, of course, named for the late great Star Trek actor James Doohan. The Bone Vampire (aka Bonus Vampirus) is basically a ravenous blue alien with bird feet who kills its prey by sucking out its skeleton. It is a mammal? Is it a reptile? A raptor? No one knows for sure. Bone Vampires reproduces asexually, which means one errant one could populate a whole planet—which is exactly what happens. No other vampire can boast that kind of power.
13. Dracula (Penny Dreadful)
Showtime’s Penny Dreadful has been teasing us with Dracula since season one. We did a Mina Harker story, saw Abraham Van Helsing come and go…but nary a hint of the family Dracul.
In season three though, fans finally got their wish. Dr. Sweet is a fine vampire with a loyal following, with a curious way of getting others to do his bidding. His treatment of Renfield is exactly what fans were looking for, and his pursuit of Vanessa is ramping up to what promises to be an exceptional season finale. Fans love this Dracula for his mystery, sex appeal, and the stark contrast between his vampiric nature and unassuming public persona.
12. Grandpa Munster AKA Vladimir Dracula (The Munsters)
The grand patriarch of the Munster family is one of the oldest vamps on our list. Born as a human in the 1300s, Vladimir Dracula is a former Slovenian military commander and current family man. While Al Lewis is the original Grandpa Munster, he’s also been played by the likes of Robert Morse and Eddie Izzard. Grandpa is the father of Lily Munster, and has two other children (one of whom is lovely cousin Marilyn’s mother).
Though some might argue that The Munsters is just a pale imitator of The Addams Family, fans adore Grandpa for his sarcasm, his gregarious laugh, and his sweet ride. Everyone has wanted to drive the Dragula at some point in their lives — even before they heard the name Rob Zombie.
11. John Mitchell (Being Human – UK)
UK fans of the original Being Human can’t get enough of the vampire called Mitchell (even though that’s his last name). Makes sense — he’s handsome, he dresses cool, and he’s also stronger than most of the other vamps in the series.
Other vampires though, don’t always love Mitchell as much as the fans do. He pals around with werewolves, and has a paternal affection for people in a milieu where that is largely frowned upon. Even his own vampirism happened because Mitchell chose to help others rather than indulging himself. Mitchell lasted three seasons on Being Human, and got a reasonably happy ending…eventually.
10. Benny Lafitte (Supernatural)
Supernatural may seem at first glance to be one of many freak-of-the-week TV shows that focus on horror, gore, and dark fantasy. Longtime fans know that the show is also full of varied and fascinating characters with complicated backgrounds and even more complicated lives.
Benny Lafitte is one such character — as a pirate turned love interest turned vegetarian. Luckily, Benny also finds himself on a show where a character can die, come back as a vampire, then die again and end up in purgatory. Benny also got to leave purgatory and come back to earth before killing those who killed him the first time — or was it the second time? In the end, Benny was a loyal friend and a great character.
9. Jessica Hamby (True Blood)
On True Blood, vampire mania hits the American south after vampires everywhere come “out of the coffin.” While everyone else was rushing to get bitten by vamps, Jessica Hamby, was far more reluctant. Kidnapped and forced into vampirism by maker William Compton (who was sentenced to make her as punishment for killing a vampire), Jessica comes to embrace her new found freedom.
She has a difficult time learning to pace herself while draining someone, and an even more difficult time finding love. But fans adore Jessica for her beauty, sweetness, and because she reminds us all a little of ourselves.
Thankfully, Deborah Ann Woll’s career hasn’t fallen off one bit since hanging up the fangs. She can currently be seen starring in Netflix’s breakout Marvel Comics sensation, Daredevil.
8. Marceline Abadeer (Adventure Time)
Even if you’ve never watched Adventure Time (and seriously, why haven’t you?), you’re bound to find something to like about Marceline the Vampire Queen. Technically, she’s a hybrid of both vampire and demon; and her father is the ruler of the Nightosphere. You’d think the ruler of the Nightosphere could buy his own fries, but no.
Marceline is a sensitive and moody vampire queen who doesn’t take crap from anyone, and can hold a grudge for a very, very long time — she’s over 1,000 years old. She knows the Ice King, and is bestest buddies with Finn and Jake. Fans love her, even though we all know that she never really rode a giant goldfish.
7. Eric Northman (True Blood)
Yes, this list includes Eric Northman, but not Bill Compton (um, spoiler alert). That’s because while these men have much in common, Eric Northman is far better at being a vampire. He’s older, stronger, smarter, more ruthless, and he actually lives through the end of the series.
HBO’s Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) grew up as Viking royalty who, after the murder of his parents, went after the cultish wolves who committed the deed. The Russell Edgington storyline alone is reason enough to adore Eric Northman, but his devotion to his maker, Godric, is also surprising and deeply moving. Sure, he’s pushy, smug, and arrogant, but fans love Eric.
6. Proinsias Cassidy (Preacher)
AMC’s Preacher is only a few episodes in, but Proinsias Cassidy has already made a strong impression on fans and comic readers alike. We’ve already seen him create a bloodbath or two, and we know that the sun does a number on him. Viewers know that Cassidy is Irish, and we assume he’s pretty old. In truth, he’s barely been a vampire for 100 years, which isn’t very long in vampire years.
Without giving away any major spoilers from the source material, Cassidy’s friendship with Jesse promises to extend to other heroes, villains, pursuers, and the lovely Tulip. Joseph Gilgun plays Cassidy (whose first name hasn’t been mentioned on the show yet) to perfection, so we know we can only expect bigger, better, and bloodier things from him.
5. Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
This is, of course, the role that set James Marster’s feet on the path to sci-fi super stardom. Since playing the fan-fave vampire Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Marsters has appeared on some of the best sci-fi in recent years: including Torchwood, Battlestar Galactica, Smallville, and Caprica (which was cancelled WAY too soon).
As Spike, he went from villain to comrade to comic relief — and even to Buffy’s love interest for a time. Fans were pretty bummed when, instead of getting the promised Spike spinoff movie, he died in the Buffy series finale. Still, Spike was a huge breakout character and has remained a fan favorite.
4. Countess Elizabeth (American Horror Story: Hotel)
If you ask fans of American Horror Story what they like best about the show, it’s characters. Always the incredible, varied, delightfully damaged characters. When Jessica Lange left the show after Freakshow, it was assumed that she’d leave a gaping hole where the hot blonde should be.
Enter Lady Gaga and Countess Elizabeth. Her excellent fashion sense, droll demeanor, and penchant for exquisite jaw lines made her a fan fave from episode one. We loved her progression from mousey Hollywood extra to paramour to one of the greatest lovers in history…before she meets her unceremonious end. A clear homage to Bathory, Countess Elizabeth deserves to pop back in a future AHS season.
3. Count Von Count (Sesame Street)
Have you ever met someone who doesn’t love The Count? Unlikely, right? This Romanian math-obsessed puppet was modeled after Lugosi’s Dracula, only a little more purple. The Count loves to count, and gets a sad when there’s nothing around to tally up.
The Count premiered in Sesame Street’s fourth season, which is before most of us were watching. The Count’s “children” are bats, and he’s had a few Countesses over the years, though none stuck with him for very long. Sadly, the haunted laugh and lightning strikes in The Count’s counting were discontinued in the early 80s since it frightened some tiny kids. And after all, math is already scary enough.
2. Ralphie Glick (Salem’s Lot 1979)
Fans of Tobe Hooper’s made-for-TV vampire film may not remember the name of this kid, but they know that he’s scary as hell. Based on an early novel by horror master Stephen King, Salem’s Lot details a small town succumbing to a growing menace of slow zombie-like vampires. They’re led by Kurt Barlow and helped by super-strong human Straker (an incredible James Mason). Ralphie is the first resident of the small town to become vampire. He immediately infects his brother, who then goes after the boy’s close friend.
1. Barnabas Collins (Dark Shadows)
To appreciate the original Barnabas Collins, we must first wash our minds of that horrible Johnny Depp movie — the one Tim Burton should be locked up for.
Next, think back to a time when TV dramas were inspired by the Bronte sisters, Edgar Allan Poe, and Arthur Miller. Now imagine a dark soap opera with sprawling mansions, tortured rich people, and all manner of hubris. In the second year of this, a vampire named Barnabas Collins was introduced for a limited run (think Ben Linus from LOST). Within a few weeks, Barnabas became a stand-out favorite character and the focal point of the show. This was largely due to a spectacularly dark but vulnerable performance by Jonathan Frid as TV’s first vampire. Never seen the REAL Barnabas Collins? The movie is a good place to start.
Honorable Mention: Count Chocula
This guy never had his own show, but he’s recognized the world over as the face of the chocolate variety of monster cereals. While some flavors have fallen by the wayside (when’s the last time you saw a box of Yummy Mummy or Fruit Brute?), Count Chocula’s fake marshmallowy goodness still finds its way into tummies across the US. Sure, Frankenberry exists, for people who are into that sort of thing, but chocolate is the obvious choice for most kids. Sure, we could argue that a chocolate-loving vampire doesn’t make much sense, but neither does a rabbit wanting to eat a cereal that’s made for human children.
Did we forget your favorite TV vampire? Let us know in the comments…it’s the only way we’ll learn.