Vampires and their bloodthirst have long been used to explore themes of love and desire. Many of the most well-known vampire stories in pop culture are full of repressed lust and hidden love in the shadows—plus plenty of violence.
These eight romantic vampire movies all show thirsty vampires pursuing their cravings, whether they're hungry for something scandalous and bloody or something sweet and secretive.
Fair warning, though: since a few of these movies are horror, they don't all end with a happily-ever-after. Romance with the undead often comes with an expiration date—and a toe tag.
Bram Stoker's Dracula
With a love triangle that almost makes you root for the bad guy, Bram Stoker's Dracula gives us a heartbreaking origin story for the world's most notorious vampire.
After fighting in the Crusades, the infamous Vlad (Gary Oldman) returns home to find his beloved dead, having committed suicide after she was tricked into thinking he'd perished. Vlad takes the news badly: he stabs a cross and renounces God.
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Four hundred years later, he's become the vampire of legend. When Vlad is visited by Jonathan (Keanu Reeves) on business, he discovers the young man's fiancée Mina (Winona Ryder) bears an uncanny resemblance to his lost love.
Despite her good heart and love for Jonathan, Mina is seduced by the count, who appears to her as a prince, eventually telling her one of the swooniest lines in vampire romance: "I have crossed oceans of time to find you."
This South Korean horror film won the Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Festival.Thirst is not only one of the most well-received vampire horror films in recent years, it's also a romance that alternates between being strange, adorable, and terrifying.
Catholic priest Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) is a kind and generous man who volunteers to test out a vaccine. But the experiment kills the other test subjects, leaving Sang-hyun the sole survivor—and forever changed. He discovers he has new abilities, and needs. Including an undeniable need for blood.
Once he reunites with a childhood friend, Sang-hyun also feels forbidden passion for the man’s wife, Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin), an overworked young woman with a quirky demeanor.
Sang-hyun and Tae-ju succumb to their illicit passion in incredibly sexy and beautifully shot scenes. Equally wonderful are the small moments of sweetness along the way, as when Sang-hyun lifts a barefoot Tae-ju to put her feet into his own shoes—or when Tae-ju tells him, "Vampires are ... cuter than I thought."
Twilight is likely the most polarizing movie on this list, but since it kick-started the hearts of millions and launched a film franchise, no list of romantic vampire films is complete without it.
Mere mortal girl Bella (Kristen Stewart) is new to the sunshine-deprived town of Forks, Washington, and when she meets mysterious Edward (Robert Pattinson), she's drawn to him. But Edward is a vampire, and Bella's blood is like coconut LaCroix to him: pretty irresistible.
Once Edward learns to master his thirst (mostly) and comes clean to Bella, they enjoy the romance of long walks in the woods, meeting each other's family, and repressing their desires lest Edward suck her dry.
Whether you're a fan or not, Twilight works because it has so many delicious romance tropes stacked on top of each other: the mysterious bad boy, forbidden romance, and fated mates, just to name a few.
Probably known more for Kate Beckinsale's starring role as a butt-kicking vampire fighter in black leather, the first movie in the Underworld franchise nevertheless contains a lovely forbidden romance.
Selene (Beckinsale) has fought on the side of vampires against the lycans since the mangy beasts killed her family. But once she watches lycans trying to target a particular human, Michael Corbin (Scott Speedman), she suspects she hasn't been told the full story about the longtime feud between creatures.
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Despite Michael already being bitten by a wolf, Selene abducts him to find out what’s really going on. In the meantime she protects him, even though he’s becoming a werewolf, her sworn enemy. If love is about sacrifice, Selene makes a big leap here by risking the wrath of her own species—including an elder vampire who’s a father figure to her—to save her werewolf lover.
Only Lovers Left Alive
A 2013 film starring Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, and Tilda Swinton's hair, Only Lovers Left Alive will make you believe that long-term relationships can actually survive death, as long as occasional separate vacations are built in.
Vampires Adam and Eve (yes, really) have been married for centuries, but at the beginning of the film they're living apart, Eve in Tangier and Adam in Detroit. Though Adam has spent his undeath inspiring musicians and scientists, he's bored and depressed. When Eve realizes this, she packs her books and travels to be with him, chiding him out of his despondency, getting him out of the house, and serving as #hairgoals for other vamps with her voluminous blond tresses.
The two face challenges with blood shortages and Eve's wild sister, but otherwise they're the vampire couple everyone's envious of: talented, industrious, lazily sensual, and together drinking blood at the end.
A late ‘90s British thriller starring a young Jude Law, Immortality follows Steven (Law), a vampire with a thing for getting women to fall for him before he bites and kills them, because apparently love tastes better.
But when he meets Anne (Elina Lowensohn), she doesn’t fall that easily, and Steven works harder at the romance thing, including but not limited to protecting her from ne’er-do-wells. He’s so good at it, you almost forget his end game. Or maybe that’s just because he’s British and he’s Jude Law and he just wants to be human already. Ladies, form an orderly queue.
Kiss of the Damned
A surreal erotic thriller, Kiss of the Damned begins with the first stirrings of romance between writer Paolo (Milo Ventigmilia) and vampire Djuna (Josephine de La Baume). Djuna tries to push Paolo away, lest she drain him. But Paolo wants her so badly, he shows up at her locked door.
There, in one of the movie’s best scenes, they make out through the narrow gap the door chain allows. Through his persistence, Paolo works his way into Djuna’s life—and bed—overcoming her fear and shame, and letting her turn him into a vampire. The two enter an undying romance, facing some of the usual challenges of infidelity, family, and bloodthirst.
With its strange atmosphere, Kiss of the Damned is best watched after a few glasses of wine, especially since the cultured undead in the film are drinking many, many glasses of red stuff.
Let the Right One In
A story so sweet that its shocking violence sneaks up on you, the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In is about 12-year-old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a boy growing up in the 1980s suburbs of Stockholm. Despite being shy and bullied, he befriends Eli (Lina Leandersson), a girl who lives next door.
Eli is secretly a vampire, and after her caretaker dies protecting her, she grows closer to the smitten Oskar. He soon realizes what she is, but his feelings for her are so strong that she persuades him to not only accept her, but help her get fresh blood. The tenderness between the two characters is very touching, you almost don’t realize you’re watching Eli dismember one of her steady’s bullies. If love means having somebody else’s back, Eli takes it to a whole other level.
Featured still from "Only Lovers Left Alive" via Soda Pictures