Best Dracula Actors – the most memorable fanged Count
Renfield is hitting theaters soon and the world is excited to see Nic Cage’s take on Dracula. But up to now who are he best Dracula Actors?
With Renfield hitting theaters soon, Dracula is once again on everyone’s mind. This time he’ll be played by everyone’s favorite eccentric actor Nic Cage. As soon as it was announced that he would be playing the Prince Of Darkness, fans were excited to see what he would bring to the role. How will he stack up against some of the best versions of the fanged Count? First, we must come up with our list of the Best Dracula Actors!
Christian Camargo – Penny Dreadful (2016)
While Universal was trying to figure out how to create their Dark Universe, over on Showtime, Penny Dreadful was already doing a fantastic job beating them to the punch. The series pulled together literary versions of Frankenstein’s monster, the wolfman, Dorian Gray, and eventually Dracula himself. Christian Camargo played Dr. Alexander Sweet in Season Three, who begins to seduce Eva Green’s Vanessa Ives. It is revealed later that this doctor is, in fact, the Count himself, making him an unconventional addition to the Best Dracula Actors list. Carmargo brought out the seductive side of the vampire while later revealing just how deadly he could be.
His version of Dracula appeared in the kid’s film The Monster Squad but brought a lot of menace to the role. He appears in town with his other monster friends, looking for Van Helsing’s diary. Our group of young heroes crosses paths with him multiple times and only barely escape with their lives. Dracula has no problem using some dynamite to blow up their tree house and sees no problem with wanting a group of children killed. He was so terrifying in the role that child actor Ashley Bank legitimately screamed for her life during their face-to-face confrontation. Cage’s version in Renfield seems a little darker and funnier than this version, but Regehr scared a whole generation of movie fans. We would for sure list him as one of the best on-screen Dracula portrayals.
In 1979, Werner Herzog remade the classic vampire tale, and in a twist of genius casting, put Klaus Kinski in the title role. His version of Dracula is more animalistic in its approach. He doesn’t seduce his victim but instead drinks from them in their sleep. His creepy look harkens back to the Max Schreck version but has even less humanity than that film put on display. With his giant lips and sharp teeth, he seems more like a leech than anything that can pass for human. Even though the performance from Kinski is completely strange (from Kinski? Go figure), it still is one of the best on-screen versions of Dracula. It’s probably safe to bet that Cage’s version in Renfield will take less inspiration from this one.
Jack Palance – Dracula (1974)
With the popularity of Dan Curtis’s series like Dark Shadows and his Kolchak TV movies, he decided to turn his attention to bringing Dracula to the small screen. He teamed up with his usual collaborator Richard Matheson to bring it to life. They cast Jack Palance, and he brings an edge of pathos to the character. In this version, he sees a woman that reminds him of his long-dead wife. We see a little more of the character’s humanity as he tries to find the one thing that used to make him happy. He’ll get it no matter who he has to kill.
This fictional take on the making of Nosferatu turns Max Schreck into an actual vampire. The director F. W. Murnau brings aboard this strange actor who suddenly seems too well-equipped to play the famed vampire. Dafoe disappears into the role of the strange creature. The interactions between him and the rest of the cast is fantastic to watch, and Murnau getting frustrated that he won’t stop killing the cast is great. A strange meta performance but still ranks as one of the best on-screen Dracula portrayals even if it’s by technicality.
I don’t think it will be a shock to say that Gary Oldman is an amazing actor. Francis Ford Coppola cast him as Dracula for his 1992 big-budget story version. They used some of the best state-of-the-art effects to transform Oldman during different stages of his rejuvenation. He starts out as a decrepit old man, and as he feeds, he ages backward until he becomes a spry young man. Oldman plays the character perfectly, and you can see how easily seductive he is. At the same turn, there is a danger underneath that seeps through onto the screen. Easy to see why he’s a contender for the best on-screen Dracula.
When sound was first introduced to films, studios would sometimes make foreign language versions as well with different actors on the same sets and using the same costumes. For the 1931 Dracula, they shot the English version with Bela Lugosi during the day, and then another crew would come in to shoot the Spanish Language version at night.
When compared, Villarias’ version of the character isn’t quite as stiff as Lugosi’s. His expressions and movements were more free-flowing and set this version apart. This, along with making the female leads sexier due to less stringent film codes in other countries, made this version of the story stand out from its English counterpart. Some even like it better than the Todd Browning film that everyone knows. Should be interesting to see if it’s closer to Cage’s take on the character in Renfield.
Max Schreck – Nosferatu (1922)
Even if someone hasn’t seen this film they definitely know the look of Max Schreck in the film. It has transcended the film and lodged itself so completely in pop culture that a single image of the film is enough for people to recognize it. This silent film from Germany used light and shadow to give Schrek’s Count Orlok (we all know it’s really Dracula) such a commanding presence in the film. His look and mannerisms have given generations the creeps just by looking at him. The filmmakers were sued by Stoker’s estate and lost. All film copies were to be destroyed, but a few survived, which is good for history as this version of the character might just be the creepiest it has ever been.
When Universal’s monster series began to grow long in the tooth (pun intended), they began to shift away from some of the classic monsters and move more into the atomic-age films that had started to become popular. Across the pond, Hammer Films decided to do their own version of these classic creatures. Christopher Lee was cast, and his take on Dracula was something audiences hadn’t seen up to that point.
His version was very proper and dignified, but once he went into his blood-lust, he became savage and unhinged. You were in trouble if you were unlucky enough to come across him at this stage. He bared his fangs and hissed while his eyes became bloodshot and unsettled. The switch almost happens instantly. You could be having a thoroughly normal conversation, but he would suddenly go into a rage, and there would be no way to calm him down until he was able to dine. A scary portrayal of the character for sure. Should be interesting to see if Cage borrows some of Lee’s intensity for Renfield.
Bela Lugosi – Dracula (1931)
Until the world finally turns to dust and escapes into the vacuum of space, no other actor will be as associated with the character of Dracula as Bela Lugosi. His slow walk and deep gaze became a stereotype for how the character was portrayed in every version afterward. His menacing stare and slow walk toward his victim became the stereotype for every characterization of Dracula. It will be interesting to see what Nic Cage took from this version in Renfield.
Even when Lugosi would return to the role in the Abbott and Costello movies, his presence was enough to send a chill down your spine even with all the comedy going on around him. The simple delivery of the line, “Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!” is enough to send Lugosi to the Dracula hall of fame. Even with a smile on his face, the darkness in his performance is bone-chilling.
Who do you think is the best on-screen Dracula? Are you excited for Renfield? Let us know in the comments.