The claim of first ever supernatural vampire movie or Dracula based movie is often well contested. Some state that two movies came before this, a Russian movie simply titled Drakula, then another Hungarian movie titled Dracula’s Death. No prints of either exist however and in fact evidence of the former ever existing at all is sketchy at best. What we do know however is that Nosferatu does exist, obviously, and for now holds the prize for earliest known of its kind.
This bleak German expressionist film is a loose and unlicensed adaptation of Stokers Dracula novel (the stoker estate successfully sued, ordering all copies of the film to be destroyed, but some survived and the film entered the public domain). It follows somewhat the traditional story of a young man travelling to the Carpathian Mountains to visit a mysterious Count in order to help him with an estate purchase. Replace Jonathan Harker with Thomas Hutter in this case and Count Dracula with Count Orlok, the bald rat-like vampire that inspired so much since, including Stephen Kings Salems Lot.
The movie is indelibly unique, its stark cinematography portraying the typical vampire tropes of desire and infection in particular. The image of many coffins for instance, being carted through the streets of Wisborg, the fictional city setting is striking to say the least. Unique to this interpretation as well is the belief by locals that same coffins were filled by a plague epidemic brought onshore by rats instead of the true vampire epidemic among them. Other imagery such as the shadow of Orlok climbing the stairs is iconic and synonymous not just with horror but with cinema in general. Close your eyes and regardless of whether you’ve seen the movie or not, that image is possibly there, lurking in the recesses of your mind.