With the release of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 so tantalizingly close, my thoughts naturally turn to vampires. These fearsome creatures of the night and their varying degrees of sexiness were, not too long ago, an obsession with many of us, and while their mesmerism has somewhat faded in favor of a plethora of alternate paranormal paramours—weres, demons, angels, the fae, so very etc.—there can be no denying that their immortal appeal continues to be timeless.
Here then, in honor of the soulmated Cullen clan, are the most romantic tales ever told in vampire film, be they relationships involving vampires or their prey… or frequently both…
Oh, and BEWARE SPOILERS.
10. Coré and Léo
Trouble Every Day (2001)
Played by Alex Descas and Béatrice Dalle
French filmmaker Claire Denis’s bilingual, unnecessarily perplexing, largely silent film about…well, I’m still not entirely sure what it’s about…is not for the faint of heart. It is hard work for very little pay off, and the sight of Vincent Gallo’s 1970s porn star moustache is creepier by far than the images of blood and gore that pervade this so-called “erotic horror.” But Trouble Every Day does have its redeeming features, including an intriguing vampire-as-science-experiment back story (once we eventually get to it), and the tender love of former researcher Léo and his bedeviled Coré, whose uncontrollable thirst for blood leads her to pick up lonely truck drivers along lonely road—and whom Léo loves so much that he cleans her up afterwards, with hardly even a cross word, before locking her once again in their home, clearly hoping that this time she won’t escape. The fact that she is incapable of sharing his feelings, wantonly, explicitly having her way with a neighborhood kid before ripping out his jugular, in no way diminishes the simple beauty of Léo’s heartbreaking, if misguided, devotion. Also, gotta love names with accents in them! That said, unless you’re a particular fan of French Extremism (and who, outside of film school, is?) maybe give this one a miss.
9. Michael and Star
The Lost Boys (1987)
Played by Jason Patric and Jami Gertz
Moving into the ocean town of Santa Carla, California, photogenic high schoolers Michael and Sam (Corey Haim) have no idea they were also moving into the orbit of a coven of teenage vampires. Before long, Michael meets doe-eyed damsel in distress, Star, and is so captivated he allows himself to become embroiled in the dark designs of the groups’ charismatic leader, David (Kiefer Sutherland)—and soon finds himself becoming a vampire, because that’s what happens when you drink from strange bottles at parties, kids. Happily, with the aid of Sam and his new vampire hunting, comic geek buddies (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander), Michael and Star are saved from an eternity of listening to New Wave and wearing way too much eyeliner, and are given a chance at a normal teenage love. (So, they’ll probably be broken up by the end of the summer.)
8. Stephen and Anne
The Wisdom of Crocodiles (1998)
Based on the novel by Paul Hoffman
Played by Jude Law and Elina Löwensohn
Poor Stephen. All he wants is to find that perfect girl who will love him and make all of his hunger, all of his pain, disappear. Time after time, he meets a troubled someone, induces her to fall in love with him, and yet when he eventually drinks deeply of her blood—oh, yes, Stephen is a vampire serial killer—he is left with an uncomfortable after-effect, a kidney stone-like crystal distilled of all her ambivalence towards him. Into his life comes Anne, an exotic, complicated, headstrong engineer who immediately strikes his fancy, even as he is under suspicion over the death of his last girlfriend. Choosing Anne as his next meal, Stephen sets about winning her affections, but before long is completely smitten; with his body weakening for lack of her love can he bring himself to end her life (and their life together), or might Anne be the one who will, at last, set him free? (Answer: kind of. In a way. It’s not a happy ending, is what I’m saying.)
7. Buffy and Pike
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
Played by Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry
Long before there was the tortured might-have-been of Buffy/Angel, the much-maligned tenderness of Buffy/Riley or the violent, disturbing passion of Buffy/Spike, there was Buffy and her snarky beau Pike in the original movie. She, a valley girl cheerleader who suddenly finds herself with the superpowers of a predestined Vampire Slayer; he, a perennial slacker caught up in the craziness; together they battle against the minions of vampire lord Lothos (Rutger Hauer), cracking wise and falling hard—sometimes literally—in this light-hearted vampire romp from angst-master Joss Whedon, who is reportedly very unhappy with how his script was altered and who refuses to even consider it related to his follow-up hit TV show. (Sorry, Joss, but I happen to love it, and always have.)
6. Priest and Priestess
Based on the graphic novel by Min-Woo Hyung
Played by Paul Bettany and Maggie Q
In a theocratic dystopia brought about by, of all things, vampires, certain physically-blessed individuals are pressed into service as the ultimate weapons against the ravening hordes of not-at-all-sexy monsters preying upon humanity. Among these austere ranks are the nameless Priest and Priestess, their forbidden desire little spoken but positively electric in the few moments devoted to it onscreen. Then they creatively slaughter vampires together. It’s so romantic.
5. Caleb and Mae
Near Dark (1987)
Played by Adrian Pasdar and Jenny Wright
Caleb can barely believe his eyes when he spies a blonde beauty in tight blue jeans on the street in his small Oklahoma town. Before long, he gets her alone—or does she get him alone?—and after a little light sexual harassment (Sure, I’ll drive you home “… but you’re gonna have to kiss me first.”) he finds himself bitten on the neck. Now marked for death, he is kidnapped by Mae’s vampire “family,” only to become one of them when they realize he has been turned. There follows a brief idyll in which Caleb and Mae become better acquainted and he joins in her favorite hobbies: stargazing, being unnaturally pale, the random killing of bystanders, what have you. But their headlong descent into a full-on Bonnie and Clyde and Friends murder spree is derailed by Caleb’s lingering humanity, and it is a forlorn Mae who is left wondering what she did wrong when her lost love refuses to rejoin her in eternity. (My tip: try taking a shower once in a while, vampire chick. Being made undead against your will is no excuse for poor hygiene.) In the end, though, hey, there’s a very simple cure for vampirism, so that’s lucky! Which I guess means they live happily ever after, except no, not really, because they’re not vampires any more.
4. Louis and Lestat
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Based on the novel by Anne Rice
Played by Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise
When Lestat brought Louis into his dark eternal life, he did it to stave off the loneliness. A consummate showman, he needed nothing so much as an adoring audience, and while Louis never quite drunk the Kool-Aid, he at least provided Lestat with the handsome companionship his esthetic sense craved, along with an equally handsome fortune. By turns inseparable, contemptuous, devoted and indifferent, theirs was never an easy life together, and many may even question whether it can be called a romance at all. H&H’s Charli Mac referred to Louis as an “abused spouse” in her long-ago post Louis & Lestat: Interview with the Vampire’s Supercouple, and, well, yeah. Particularly book-Louis. But on film, the Pitt/Cruise dynamic is so scintillating and the vagaries of their tempestuous dealings so hypnotic that it is hard to think of them as anything other than a particularly dysfunctional pairing upon whom time and immortality, co-dependence and betrayal, exact their tragic, soul-rending toll. Sigh.
3. Eben and Stella
30 Days of Night (2007)
Based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles
Played by Josh Hartnett and Melissa George
You gotta feel bad for lovely young Stella. There she is, finally about to rid herself of the frozen wastes of Alaska and the small town sheriff husband she has (despite his being Josh Hartnett) come to despise, when what should happen but she misses her plane, is stranded in icy temperatures for the annual month-long darkness their almost-Arctic town experiences, and moreover said town is then overrun with vampires, for whom darkness, as we all know, is something of a preference. As the days till the sun rises again slowly, tragically, adrenaline-pumpingly tick down, Stella and Eben face the death of each other and everyone they know and eventually manage to almost wordlessly reconcile, only to suffer the final ignominy of a noble self-sacrifice that is no less upsetting for being utterly expected.
2. Selene and Michael
Underworld (2003) and Underworld: Evolution (2006)
Played by Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman
There are those that would, and do, dismiss the Underworld movies as fanboy-pandering celebrations of Kate Beckinsale in black leather shooting at stuff with really big guns. And while this is not entirely untrue, at the heart of these movies is also the star-crossed, indeed mythical species-crossed, love of ancient vampire Selene and the newly-werewolfed Michael, two lost souls who find each other amid the darkness and the horror of the long-running vampire/lycan war. That Selene is a Death Dealer, a ruthless killing machine, and Michael a do-gooding medical intern is only a small example of the many impediments to their union, but in the end their mutual attractiveness prevails, to the disgust of both the vampire and lycan clans. According to Underworld: Awakening, the two later have themselves a hybrid kid; on the other hand, let’s pretend I didn’t just mention Underworld: Awakening. It offends my sensibilities.
HONORABLE UNDERWORLD MENTION: Lucian and Sonja, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans.
1. Edward and Bella
Based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer
Played by Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart
The scent of her blood is his addiction, his every move is her obsession, and together they represent the most controversial teenage romance of modern times. Is she too dependent, is he too controlling, is she too desperate to change for him, is he too willing to let her, is she too inarticulate, is he too stalkery? Who even cares, when their story is so utterly absorbing and their earthly avatars so damned appealing? While their continuing romantic escapades do have their charms—well, okay, not so much New Moon—it is in their first meetings, first kisses and first thrilling web searches that this couple enchant, making Catherine Hardwicke’s lyrical adaptation of the first novel in the series a joy to watch again and again, if for nothing more than the awesome vampire baseball scene.
HONORABLE TWILIGHT MENTIONS: Jasper and Alice, Carlisle and Esme.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: The Hunger, Let the Right One In, Blood and Donuts, My Best Friend is a Vampire, The Lesbian Vampire Killers, Blade.
Rachel Hyland is Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.