Cover Story

20 Greatest Vampires

A look at the most unforgettable bloodsuckers, from ''True Blood'''s Bill and Eric to ''Underworld'''s Selene

1. Lestat

Without Lestat, there would be no Twilight. Until Anne Rice introduced the character in her 1976 novel, Interview With the Vampire, the undead had all the sex appeal of Bela Lugosi in plastic fangs. But her handsome blond creation — Tom Cruise dyed his hair to play the role in the 1994 movie — was a new sort of bloodsucker. Foppishly charming, endearingly tortured, and always trendy no matter what the century, he became the template for all culturally relevant vampires since.

2. Christopher Lee's Dracula

He was an evil Sith lord in the Star Wars saga and threatened James Bond as Scaramanga, but Lee will always be remembered — especially by cowering beauties in their gauzy negligees — for his suave, silent, and really, really thirsty Count Dracula from a string of Hammer horror films in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s.

3. Bela Lugosi's Dracula

With his billowing black cape and heavily accented delivery (''I never drink...wine''), Lugosi's portrayal of Dracula in the 1931 film adaptation of Stoker's novel remains the one by which all others are judged. Unfortunately, Lugosi, who campaigned hard for the role, became so associated with the charming count that the life quickly drained out of his career.

4. Edward Cullen
FROM TWILIGHT

To Bella Swan (and author Stephenie Meyer), Edward Cullen — with his alabaster skin, unkempt hair, and lanky frame — is the undead ideal. But add songwriting skills, piano-playing prowess, and 100 years of wisdom packaged into a 17-year-old's physique, and the two women may have a point. Robert Pattinson masters the tousled hair and tortured gaze every Twilight fan expects. Even men agree. ''He becomes this perfect creature,'' says New Moon director Chris Weitz of his star. ''Plus he photographs like nothing I've ever seen.''

5. Bill and Eric
FROM TRUE BLOOD

Even in the world of HBO, it all comes down to choosing between a brunet and a blond. While dark-haired Bill (Stephen Moyer) exudes genteel Southern values, Eric (Alexander Skarsg岤) thrills with bad-boy mystique. Their battle for control of Sookie (Anna Paquin) has not only fueled season 2 of the hit series but also polarized fans into two camps — with a bonfire blazing in each.

6. Asa Vajda
FROM 1960'S BLACK SUNDAY

''Look into my eyes...Embrace me. You will die!'' warns the beautiful and deadly Asa (Barbara Steele) in Italian horror maestro Mario Bava's cult hit. Five decades later, Steele's villainess remains one of the most scarily seductive vamps in film history.

7. Angel

As portrayed by the dreamy David Boreanaz on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and later in a spin-off series of his very own, Angel was sort of like a vamp Fonzie: effortlessly cool, with meticulously coiffed hair and a fondness for black leather. Sexual tension between him and Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) simmered, but unfortunately for the couple, their horizontal mambo unlocked Angel's dark side and transformed him into one helluva mean ex-boyfriend (see: unleashing demons).

8. Mr. Barlow
FROM SALEM'S LOT

In the 1979 miniseries based on Stephen King's novel, the bat-fanged Mr. Barlow (Reggie Nalder) didn't say much. Instead, he let his assistant, Mr. Straker (James Mason), do the talking while he terrifies a sleepy Maine town — not to mention millions of TV viewers.

9. Schuyler Van Alen
FROM MELISSA DE LA CRUZ'S BLUE BLOODS SERIES

Teen vamp Schuyler likes to toy with things way beyond her years: schoolmate Jack Force, a Blue Blood — or ancient vampire — who must cycle through lifetimes bonded to someone who isn't her; and Silver Bloods, who prey on their Bluer cousins. Fans came for the romance but stayed for the slow-build family and murder mysteries.

10. Gary Oldman's Dracula

Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 adaptation of Stoker's novel has long been regarded as especially sensitive and accurate — largely because the director emphasized romance almost as much as horror. Oldman reveals the vampire for what he really is: a guy who's still hung up on his late wife. ''I have crossed oceans of time...'' he tells the reincarnation of his long-dead beloved, played by Winona Ryder. It's as heartbreaking a performance as you're likely to find in a movie that also features Keanu Reeves.


More Vampires Are Coming

BOOKS
A Practical Guide to Vampires by Lisa Trutkoff Trumbauer (Aug. 11)

V Is for...Vampire: A Vampire Island Story by Adele Griffin (Sept. 3)

Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon (Sept. 15)

The Van Alen Legacy: A Blue Bloods Novel by Melissa de la Cruz (Oct. 6)

Tempted by P.C. and Kristin Cast (Oct. 27)

How to Be a Vampire by Amy Gray (Nov. 10)

MOVIES
The Vampire's Assistant (Oct. 23)

The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Nov. 20)

TV
The Vampire Diaries (Sept. 10)

DVD
Dark Shadows: The Haunting of Collinwood (Sept. 15)

The Hunger, Season 2 (Oct. 13)

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