He's perhaps the most popular monster in all of horror. And yet it's been weirdly difficult to accurately portray the prince of darkness on screen — to make him as scary and evil and charismatic as he was in Bram Stoker's original novel. Here are 12 movies and TV series whose portrayal of Dracula that got it very, very wrong.
Note: This list is only including Draculas from movies and series where he was identified by name (so Orlok from Dracula 3000 is not included, despite the title). Also, no parodies or comedies, because yelling at Dracula: Dead and Loving It for being a Bad Dracula is dumb.
1) Blade Trinity
For the third and final movie in the Blade trilogy, director David Goyer decided to pit the vampire against his ultimate foe, Dracula. Except instead of being the ultimate evil, he was basically just a slice of beefcake with a penchant for eyeshadow and improbably collared shirts. He had none of Dracula's charisma, cunning, or evil; watch the above clip; seriously, no pimply goth teen should ever feel comfortable giving Dracula sass, even if he doesn't realize who he's talking to. To be honest, though, nothing was more shameful and non-Dracula-like than this Dracula's decision to call himself "Drake."
2) Dracula Vs. Frankenstein
A debacle of Ed Woodian proportions, 1971's Dracula Vs. Frankenstein doesn't really feature Dracula and Frankenstein fighting, but that's the least of its troubles. It began as a generic horror movie starring neither Frankenstein nor Dracula, but the film fell apart before it was completed, and the director decided to add Frankenstein to the footage. Then that fell apart and the director decided to add Dracula as well… by casting a former stock broker named Robert Engel as the king of vampires, supposedly because he thought Engel looked right. If you watch the above video, you can see Engel looks less like Dracula and more like Mr. Kotter from late-'70s sitcom Welcome Back Kotter. Anyways, this Dracula wants to bring the Frankenstein monster back to life for reasons unknown and as soon as Frank wakes up he attacks and Dracula is forced to kill him and doesn't pay attention to the time and the sun comes up and he dies. It's all really dumb.
3) Dracula 2000
Dracula 2000 isn't great, but it's not close to the worst movie on this list. And the twist it gives Dracula — that he's actually Judas Iscariot, who God punished with awesome vampire powers for betraying Jesus (which explains his aversion to Christian iconography and silver, after the silver he was paid for ratting out his divine buddy) — is actually pretty interesting. But as an adaptation of Dracula? It's insane. Also insane: Gerard Butler's Dracula's ability to have sex so hard he and his paramour float until they hit the ceiling.
4) Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Although not a comedy show, Buffy played the mythic villain for laughs by making him a long-haired, Anne Rice-ish vampire with a massive ego from his place in pop culture (and his noble heritage); this was cemented by the way he made comic relief character Xander his thrall. But Buffy didn't relegate him totally to a joke, since he had strange powers other vampires didn't — which ended up being a major plot point in the later Buffy comics — and even managing to get Buffy to begin to drink his blood. But even with his powers and ego, this Dracula was infinitely more ridiculous than he was intimidating or evil.
5) Dracula's Dog
Dracula isn't in much of Dracula's Dog; really, he's only there to bite a dog, turning it into a vampire so it can assault people's pets later. But why would Dracula do this? Well, because this dog prevents Dracula, in bat form, from drinking a peasant woman and Dracula was so pissed that he turned the dog instead. Suffice it to say, any movie in which a pet can outmaneuver the king of vampires is a shitty Dracula movie.
6) Van Helsing
To be fair, the Dracula of Stephen Sommers' big-budget monster action movie is pretty evil. But for some reason, this Dracula is really interested in being a father, even though his bat-babies need werewolf or Frankenstein power to be born and also he and Van Helsing are brothers chosen by God and Satan to… do… stuff. It's all weird and overcomplicated and still somehow not particularly interesting, much like the movie itself. And why the hell does this Dracula need to be killed by a werewolf? Sigh.
7) Dracula: Prince of Darkness
I hate to badmouth any of Christopher Lee's performances as Dracula in his Hammer horror movies, but for some reason Lee has absolutely zero lines in the second movie in the series. He just hissed. It's hard to portray Dracula as a being of supreme evil and horror when he's has the communication skills of an alley cat. Lee supposedly refused to say his dialogue because the lines were so dumb, but the screenwriter says he didn't write any.
8) Billy the Kid Vs. Dracula
Even if you buy the idea that Dracula has willingly chosen to wander the American west In the 1800s — which does not seem like something that would be up Dracula's alley — watching Dracula become a ranch owner is about as sad and bizarre as seeing him get outsmarted by a dog. At least he's obsessed with Billy the Kid's pretty fiancée Betty in an appropriately Dracula-ish way. But nothing is more pathetic than Billy shooting Dracula in the "climatic" finale battle to no avail, followed by Billy throwing his gun at Dracula and knocking him out for an easy staking.
9) Dario Argento's Dracula
I'm still boggled that the master of Italian horror movies such as Suspiria and Phenomena made such a neutered, bad adaptation of Dracula. The movie in general isn't scary, nor is Thomas Kretschmann's titular vampire — he seems like he's waiting in line at a bank more than he does plotting to unleash evil upon the world. Here's how messed up this movie's Dracula is: he actually becomes a giant preying mantis monster a some point, and it's still not the dumbest thing Dracula does in the movie. No, that would be when it's revealed that Dracula actually paid for the school in his little town, because obviously if Dracula is famous for something, it's his charitable nature and his championing of education.
I suppose a movie that posits that Dracula is an alien from a vampire planet named Drakulon who came to Earth after killing some kind of vampire council has given up all pretense of accuracy. I could move past the fact that The Who's Roger Daltrey is playing Dracula as a poor man's Lestat, subsuming the original character for Anne Rice's more popular vampire; I could even forgive the fact that Dracula's stage name is "Jaimie Blood." But what I cannot forgive is Dracula's ponytail in the above video of Jaimie Blood's "performance." Burn in hell, Vampirella movie.
11) Blood of Dracula's Castle
As the title may indicate, this is a deeply stupid movie. Count Dracula and his countess are squatting in a castle in Arizona. Take a minute to reread that sentence. Then, the original owner of this Arizona castle comes back, and Dracula tries to get him to sell it or leave. That's it. That's the movie — oh, although the original owner is apparently either a serial killer or a werewolf, if that matters.
Let me be totally clear — NBC's 10-episode Dracula TV series, starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, was a complete joy to watch. It was massively entertaining, and I loved it. But as an adaptation of Dracula? It was terrible — unless you remember Dracula being the hero, posing as an American industrialist, trying to invent wireless light bulbs, and buying coolant companies all as part of his insane scheme to kill the members of the ancient secret society who murdered his wife back in the 1600s. But this show is proof positive that inaccuracy doesn't necessarily always mean "bad." If only someone could remove the metaphorical stake from the show's heart to give us a second season…