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Every Hammer Dracula Film Ranked, According to Critics

Before playing Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels, Christopher Lee’s most famous role was as Hammer Film’s version of Count Dracula. For a generation of horror fans, Lee was the definitive master vampire, and the biggest box-office draw for Hammer Studios. Even as the quality of the sequels declined and Lee himself grew weary of playing the character, he was still a commanding presence in every film he appeared in for the franchise.

Here’s a ranking of all nine of Hammer’s Dracula films according to their ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and, in the case of the original film in the franchise, Horror of Dracula — the only one with an official ranking on Metacritic — the average between its Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores.

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The Satanic Rites of Dracula – Rotten Tomatoes: 20 Percent

Christopher Lee’s last official performance as Dracula for Hammer Films was in 1973’s The Satanic Rites of Dracula. By this point the franchise had moved to modern day England and had lost the Gothic charm of its early films. Despite only five reviews listed on Rotten Tomatoes, its 20 percent rating reflects critics negative consensus on the film. Film Frenzy writer Matt Brunson explains, “The plotting is often downright silly, and the climax, with Dracula having to contend with a pesky thorn bush, is borderline risible.”

Dracula A.D. 1972 – Rotten Tomatoes: 22 Percent

When a franchise that’s firmly entrenched in the nineteenth century decides to leap into modern times, as Hammer’s Dracula does in Dracula A.D. 1972, it’s usually a sign said franchise has jumped the shark. The one plus side is that Peter Cushing returns to the series in the film as both Abraham Van Helsing, and his descendant, Lorrimer Van Helsing. Reviews were obviously not great, but Entertainment Weekly critic Chris Nashawaty summed it up best, writing, “Dracula A.D. 1972 isn’t a great movie. But it is an undeniable hoot to watch especially if, like the Count, ‘you’ve got an eye for London’s hot pants…’ and who doesn’t, really?”

Scars of Dracula – Rotten Tomatoes: 33 Percent

The beginning of 1970’s Scars of Dracula features the franchise’s laziest Dracula resurrection, in which the Count is revived when a bat drips blood onto the vampire’s ashes. By this time, Hammer was struggling financially, and the Dracula series suffered because of it. Scars‘ small budget shows, and it was the Studio’s last Dracula film to take place in the nineteenth century. This film was actually the third time Lee played the vampire in 1970. Not only did he star in another Hammer film, Taste the Blood of Dracula, he also starred in the non-Hammer Count Dracula, whose version of the character was more accurate to Bram Stoker’s novel.

RELATED: Avengers: What Happened LAST Time Dracula Tried to Make a Vampire State?

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires – Rotten Tomatoes: 40 Percent

The last and most bizarre of Hammer’s Dracula films, 1974’s The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, is a Kung-Fu film featuring vampires. Two actors play Dracula in this movie, but Lee isn’t one of them; John Forbes-Robertson doesn’t come close to filling Lee’s shoes and neither does Shen Chan, whose character is actually possessed by Dracula. At least Peter Cushing returns to play Van Helsing one last time in a movie Alternate Ending‘s Tim Brayton calls, “Silly beyond words, but it’s the kind of silly that’s also incredible fun and awesome, especially if you are or once were or ever wanted to be a 12-year-old boy.”

Taste the Blood of Dracula – Rotten Tomatoes: 67 Percent

Having already played the Count in three of the previous four films in Hammer’s series, Lee was glad actor Ralph Bates was taking over as the new main vampire in 1970’s Taste the Blood of Dracula. However Hammer’s American distributor refused to release the film unless Lee appeared, so he reluctantly returned to ensure the picture saw the light of day. Even though Lee was growing weary of playing the titular character, the movie still has a fresh 67 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Brides of Dracula – Rotten Tomatoes: 75 Percent

Despite Lee’s absence in 1960’s The Brides of Dracula, this first sequel to the original Hammer Dracula manages to stand strong on its own thanks to director Terence Fisher’s engaging visuals, the performances by the female vampire brides and Peter Cushing’s return as Van Helsing. Three quarters of critics approve of the sequel on Rotten Tomatoes. Time Out critic Tom Milne called the movie, “Patchy but striking, and directed with Fisher’s usual flair.”

RELATED: How The Batman Absolutely Annihilated Dracula

Horror of Dracula – Average Score: 78.5

It’s surprising 1958’s Horror of Dracula, the original movie that kicked off Hammer’s franchise, is not at the top of this list, but it’s still the highest rated of the series on Rotten Tomatoes, where it boasts a 90 percent. However, it only received a 67 on Metacritic; although that’s a good score for the aggregator, it weighs down the average total. Despite its ranking, if there’s only one film in this series you’re going to watch, it should be this one. Lee’s first outing as Dracula made him a household name as he reunited with his Curse of Frankenstein co-star Peter Cushing who plays Abraham Van Helsing. The first Dracula movie to be filmed in color included plenty of moments that shocked audiences of the 1950s, and it is one of the finest cinematic adaptations of Bram Stoker’s novel.

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave – Rotten Tomatoes: 80 Percent

While Lee only agreed to return as Dracula in 1968’s Dracula Has Risen From the Grave in order to help Hammer Films stay afloat financially, his performance still mesmerized audiences. Risen from the Grave offers a twist on the typical vampire-hunting protagonist by making the lead hero an atheist instead of a Christian, and the movie’s plot explores how his lack of faith helps Dracula. The film received an 80 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, where Cinefantastique‘s Steve Biodrowski writes, “…former cinematographer Freddie Francis does a spectacular job in the director’s chair, milking every scene for maximum visual impact…”

Dracula: Prince of Darkness – Rotten Tomatoes: 80 Percent

Eight years following the release of the original classic, Christopher Lee made his triumphant return as Dracula in the third film in the series, 1966’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness. The Count’s resurrection is brilliantly gruesome, with his servants taking the blood of innocent victims to bring him back. Even though he never speaks in the film, Lee still shines as the Count. As to why he had no lines, Lee explained, “The reason was very simple. I read the script and saw the dialogue! I said to Hammer, if you think I’m going to say any of these lines, you’re very much mistaken.”

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