Stories about Vampire hunters have in many ways always interested me more than stories that focus on the Vampires themselves. I generally tend to prefer my Vampires to be evil, bloodthirsty, vicious monsters. Naturally something that’s about people who kill them is going to portray them that way rather than as misunderstood victims.
In this article I am going to run through my 10 favourite Vampire hunters. I will not be including Vampire hunters who are actually Vampires or monsters themselves such as Angel, Blade or Spike. I feel they deserve their own category. This will only be looking at human characters who kill Vampires.
10/ Peter Vincent (Fright Night)
Played by the late great Roddy McDowell (in what was one of his favourite roles.) This character was named after the horror actors Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. He was really more based on Peter Cushing however who was best known for playing Van Helsing.
Vincent is as a washed up horror star who hosts a late night tv series about horror movies called Fright Night. He is soon forced to deal with a real Vampire named Jerry Daindridge however when a fan of his called Charley Brewster, who is Jerry’s neighbour, comes to Peter for help.
It was a fairly original idea at the time of someone who was only a horror actor being forced to deal with a real monster, and one that we would later see replicated in other cult films such as My Name is Bruce and Galaxy Quest.
Though Peter starts out as a complete coward. Eventually he overcomes his fear and helps Charlie slay Jerry and save his girlfriend. I always liked Vincent not just because he was funny, but because he was a very human character. He certainly wasn’t a classical, dashing hero. At times he was selfish, greedy, and cowardly, yet at the end of the day he does do the right thing and helps to slay the evil demon.
I felt he was a more believable hero in some ways who always remained likable even in spite of his faults. Roddy McDowell managed to find the right balance of adding plenty of humour, yet some pathos to the character who in some ways was quite a sad lonely person longing for a time when he was relevant.
McDowell would go on to reprise his role in one sequel to the original which saw Vincent go up against Jerry’s Vampiric sister Regina. Sadly the sequel was not quite as strong, but it was still a fairly enjoyable horror flick overall. My only problem was that it really just the same story as the first film, but with a Vampire going after Charley rather than his girlfriend.
The character of Vincent would return in a 2011 remake where he was played by former Doctor Who David Tennant. This version of Peter was actually shown to know about Vampires and had an extensive knowledge of them. He still didn’t hunt them however as he was a miserable coward. By the end of the film however much like the original he faces his fear and helps Charlie slay Jerry. It was quite a nice twist to have a character know about Vampires and be interested in studying them, yet not actively hunt them. David Tennant put in a good performance, but the definitive Peter Vincent will always be Roddy McDowell to me.
9/ Gordon Walker (Supernatural)
The Vampire hunter isn’t always the good guy as seen with Gordon Walker who is in Dean Winchesters words “a sadistic bastard”.
Gordon began hunting Vampires when his beloved sister was abducted and turned into one of the undead. Gordon apparently later tracked her down and killed her. By his own admission. He didn’t blink once as he knew it wasn’t his sister anymore.
Gordon later earned a fearsome reputation among both Vampires and hunters. Ellen Harville described him as a good hunter the same way that Hannibal Lecter is a good psychiatrist.
Despite this when he first meets the Winchesters, Dean ends up taking a shine to Gordon after they kill a Vampire together. It doesn’t take Dean long however to see Gordon for what he truly is, when Gordon captures a friendly, reformed Vampire named Lenore and begins to brutally torture her. This causes both of the Winchesters to turn on him. Gordon soon comes into conflict with the Winchester a second time after finding out from a Demon that Sam is destined to be the vessel for Lucifer himself. Gordon goes as far as to try and kill Sam.
Following another showdown with Sam and Dean, Gordon is kidnapped by a Vampire named Dixon who turns him into one of his own kind as a punishment.
After becoming the very thing he hates the most. Gordon still tries to kill Sam and Dean for the greater good of humanity, but is ultimately killed by Sam who takes his head off with a piece of barbed wire.
Gordon to me was an excellent character. He was undoubtedly a villain, but at the same time you could understand where he was coming from. Ultimately he was right about Sam being the Anti Christ. Sam later frees the Devil himself! Unintentionally of course, but still he did kind of kick the apocalypse off. Whilst the Winchesters managed to stop the Devil, pretty much all of the shit that’s happened since, Eve being free, Leviathans being free, civil war in Heaven etc, has been fallout from the Devil getting free.
At the end of the day if Gordon had killed Sam, just think of how many people would still be alive today.
However the best thing about Gordon is his ultimate fate of being turned into a Vampire. It’s horrible the way that Gordon is completely aware of how evil he has become, yet is unable to control his Vampiric urges and ends up turning a young girl into a Vampire and tearing his best friends heart out with his bare hands!
Worse than that however is the way that as a Vampire his soul will be condemned to purgatory forever. In Supernatural supernatural creatures souls do not go to either heaven or hell. Instead they go to purgatory, which is an endless forest, where they are forced to hunt each other forever.
Gordon therefore will now be forced to roam those endless woods as the very thing that he hates the most, hunting, killing other monsters and being killed by other monsters only to be reborn again and again for all eternity.
He’ll also no doubt have to face the Vampires he killed as well as his sister again. I always loved this aspect of Supernatural lore as it was just so viciously cruel that the people who became monsters were truly damned for all eternity. In other works of fiction when someone who is a monster is killed, their soul is normally released, but here they are condemned to live in a place worse than hell regardless of whether they were a good person or not.
As bad as Gordon is, you can’t help but feel bad for him as he is some ways could be seen as the most tragic character in the entire series.
8/ Rupert Giles (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Okay I know what you are thinking. Giles is really more of a book guy than a Vampire hunter, but still he has killed more than his fair share of Vampires over the course of the series. He’s chopped their heads off, burned them, he even killed a Vampire with a twig!
Giles was always I’d say my fourth favourite character in the Buffyverse after Spike (1), Faith (2) and Angel (3).
I always liked Giles because he was like a modern day version of Peter Cushing as Van Helsing or Jon Pertwee’s version of the Doctor. Like them at first glance he didn’t seem that dangerous. He was much older, stuffy, posh, refined, wore tweed jackets, but underneath the fuddy duddy exterior he was someone that actually you really did not want to mess with.
Giles was responsible for killing and foiling some of the most dangerous villains of the series.
His most notable accomplishments include the following.
He broke the spell of a powerful witch who had given Buffy a magical terminal illness.
He fought off an old one with an axe.
He set fire to the warehouse of Angelus, one of the most dangerous Vampires of all time and savagely beat the Vampire to a bloody pulp with a flaming baseball bat.
He withstood torture from Angelus the most sadistic Vampire and didn’t break after hours. Angelus was eventually forced to use illusions of Jenny to trick him.
In an episode called The Wish, Cordelia unknowingly makes a wish to a Vengeance Demon called Anyanka that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale. As a result of this the Master rose and took over Sunnydale. Most of the population of Sunnydale are either turned into Vampires (including Xander and Willow), horribly killed, or kept in cages and tortured, Angel is kept in a cage and tortured every day by Willow who calls him her puppy, Cordelia is also horribly killed and when Buffy shows up she too is later killed by the Master who snaps her neck like a twig. Giles however figures out what has happened, summons Anyanka, steals her necklace (which is her power source) and smashes it, returning everything back to how it was. (As well as ridding the world of a powerful demon Anyanka too.) Had it not been for Giles all of the main cast would be dead.
He blew up the Mayor a 100 foot long snake.
He came up with the spell and the plan that killed Adam the main villain of the 4th series.
He broke one of Glory’s most loyal Demon minions in seconds by whispering something in his ear so horrible that he would rather betray Glory, a Hell Goddess, than not tell Giles what he wanted!
He technically killed Glory, a god with his bare hands when she morphed back into Ben, a human, by smothering him to death.
He faced Willow the most powerful witch in the series, granted he was given power by other witches but still.
Giles may not have been the most powerful character in Buffy but he still has a very impressive list of accomplishments nonetheless. He deserves a place on any best Vampire hunters list.
7/ Jack Crow (Vampires)
The star of John Carpenters somewhat underrated gore fest of a Vampire film. Jack Crow was played by James Woods and is really, really nasty guy. He isn’t an out and out villain, but he isn’t exactly a knight in shining armour either.
The character fits the violent, bleak tone of the film. Jack is someone who lives a hellish existence on the road, fighting with the most vicious and brutal Vampires.
Woods really holds nothing back in his performance and makes Crow every bit as vicious as the Vampires he kills. There is nothing he isn’t prepared to do from torturing priests to beating up women to get what he needs. Even his own team mates aren’t so keen on him. He is a true anti hero in every sense of the word.
6/ Faith Lehane (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Someone who would be too wild even for Jack Crow’s team of Vampire hunters, Faith is an all around excellent character who goes from an unstable wild card, to an outright villain, to a tragic mess, to a reformed hero.
The role made a star out of Eliza Dushku who would go on to star in two more genre series Dollhouse and Tru Calling, though she will always probably be the most remembered for Faith.
Eliza was absolutely sensational as Faith. She was sexy, frightening, tragic and vulnerable all at the same time. The great thing about Faith was even at her worst she was never evil. Just someone who couldn’t own up to her mistakes. When she killed someone, rather than admit what she did she just ended up digging herself into a bigger hole, where there is seemingly no way for her to return. Ultimately however Angel that ends up helping her to reform which later led to her saving him when he became Angelus in a nice twist.
Though Faith was a fully fledged hero who helped save the day by the end of her time in Buffy, sadly Eliza Dushku turned down the chance to star in her own series. Joss Whedon had intended for there to be a spin off about Spike and Faith travelling the world together but Eliza was busy with Tru Calling, so Spike crossed over into Angel. I would have loved a Spike and Faith spin off. They were by far my favourite characters and I really wished they had gone back to it after Angel finished, but sadly it was not meant to be.
Still Faith’s time on both shows is enough to establish her as one of the most interesting and nuanced Vampire killers of all time.
5/ Captain Kronos (Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter)
From Hammer’s underrated classic, Kronos is a swashbuckling hero who travels the world killing Vampires to avenge his family.
It is established that there are many different breeds of Vampire in Kronos, and often when hunting them he will have to try all the different options of killing them before he finds the one that works. One scene sees Kronos hang a Vampire, stake him and even try and burn him before he discovers how to kill it.
Whilst Kronos had more of a straight forward personality than some of the others on this list, the idea of a swashbuckling hero fighting various different types of Vampire around the world was an inspired idea and it’s a shame that it wasn’t expanded on.
4/ Rachel Van Helsing (Tomb of Dracula)
In much the same way as Cushing’s Van Helsing set the template for the later more cerebral, posh English Vampire hunter like Rupert Giles. Rachel was really the one set the template for the more physical female Vampire hunters like Buffy.
Rachel was the descendant of the original Van Helsing who battled Dracula in the 1970’s in Marvels Tomb of Dracula. (Joss Whedon himself has cited this series as one of his biggest influences on both Buffy and Angel.)
Though not quite as interesting a character as the later Buffy and Faith, Rachel nevertheless was a fairly original idea back in the 70’s of a more physical, female Vampire hunter. She was also the first to revert the idea of the helpless blonde girl who is torn apart by monsters. Finally Rachel much like the later Buffy was also a somewhat more reluctant Vampire hunter, who just wanted a normal life.
Sadly Rachel remains relatively obscure even to this day, though the character of Abigail Whistler in Blade Trinity was based off of her.
3/ Mr Vampire/ Master Kau (Mr Vampire Film Series)
Played by the late Lam Ching Ying, Master Kau or Mr Vampire as he was nicknamed was a taoist priest who used magical spells and enchantments to ward off demons, ghosts and Vampires.
He appeared in his own film series as well as a crossover film series which saw him team up with Sammo Hung’s demon fighter from Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind, who is simply nicknamed the fat man.
The Mr Vampire film series naturally incorporated Chinese mythology and therefore its Vampires were somewhat different to those we see in Western movies. They were as single minded as animals, couldn’t speak, could only roar, and could only really be killed by magic (Though they don’t like the sun.) They were hideously ugly as well and had virtually limitless strength. One entry in the series however, Vampire vs Vampire would see Mr Vampire take on a more European Vampire.
Lam Ching Ying was one of the best action stars there has ever been. The fight scenes are very creative, often a great mix of stunning visuals and dark humour.
If you haven’t seen any of these films then you should check them out. There are 5 Mr Vampire films, 2 Crossover films, Spooky Encounters and The Dead and the Deadly, as well as Vampire vs Vampire and Magic Cop. There is also a remake trilogy called New Mr Vampire and a Mr Vampire tv series too. Sadly I have not yet had a chance to view the television series. I’d say my favourites are the first two Mr Vampire films and Vampire vs Vampire, though they are all entertaining in their own way.
Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
One of the most iconic fictional characters of all time. Buffy Summers is Joss Whedon’s most enduring creation and was really in many ways the perfect superhero. She always felt like a real believable character regardless of how larger than life the situations she was in where.
Buffy is the chosen one, the one girl in all the world gifted with the strength and skill to hunt the Vampires, the Demons and the forces of darkness. Over the course of her own series she saves the world about 10 times, the entire multiverse once, and kills literally hundreds of Vampires, Demons, Zombies, and even hellgods!
Sarah Michelle Gellar who played the role for 7 years was excellent as the character. A large part of the reason the show was able to cross so many genres, was due to Sarah’s versatility as an actress. She could do everything from tragedy, to comedy, and above all else made Buffy seem like a grounded and relatable character. Almost 20 years on, Buffy remains a genre icon, with there having been more essays written about the Buffy series than any other.
Overall I’d Buffy is the most famous Vampire hunter of all time after only Van Helsing himself.
1/ Van Helsing, Peter Cushing Version (Hammer Dracula Series)
Van Helsing is the most famous Vampire hunter and by far away the greatest and most enduring version of Van Helsing is Peter Cushing’s in the Hammer Dracula series.
It was in many ways Cushing’s Van Helsing that made the character into the ultimate Vampire killer.
In the novel Van Helsing is an eccentric professor who has studied Vampires, but he does not actively hunt them. He has a normal life and does not devote his entire existence to destroying them. In fact he doesn’t even kill Dracula.
Cushing’s Van Helsing reimagined the character as someone who devotes his entire life to exterminating Vampires. He tracks them from town to town,fights with them, knows more about them than anyone else, and as a result has no normal life.
This would go on to influence nearly all future interpretations of the character as well as other Vampire hunter characters such as Captain Kronos, the Winchesters and even Giles.
To this day Cushing remains more associated with the character than any other actor, so much so that in many ways his name has become associated with Vampire hunters too.
Whilst Cushing brought many iconic characters to life from Winston Smith to Victor Frankenstein. I think its safe to say that Van Helsing was really his most iconic part and for me his Van Helsing is still the greatest of all Vampire hunters.
Great post! This makes for a good partner post with my recent one, “Top Vampire Kills.” I probably would have put Peter Vincent higher in my list but I’m sure happy with Peter Cushing at the top 🙂
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