The story of Dracula has been the basis for numerous films and plays. Stoker himself wrote the first theatrical adaptation, which was presented at the Lyceum Theatre on 18 May 1897 under the title Dracula, or The Undead shortly before the novel's publication and performed only once, in order to establish his own copyright for such adaptations. This adaption was first published only a century later in October 1997. The first motion picture to feature Dracula was Dracula's Death, produced in Hungary in 1921. The now-lost film, however, was not an adaptation of Stoker's novel, but featured an original story.
F. W. Murnau's unauthorised film adaptation Nosferatu was released in 1922, and the popularity of the novel increased considerably, owing to an attempt by Stoker's widow to have the film removed from public circulation. Prana Film, the production company, had been unable to obtain permission to adapt the story from Bram's widow Florence Stoker, so screenwriter Henrik Galeen was told to alter numerous details to avoid legal trouble. Galeen transplanted the action of the story from 1890s England to 1830s Germany and reworked several characters, dropping some (such as Lucy and all three of her suitors), and renaming others (Dracula became Orlok, Jonathan Harker became Thomas Hutter, Mina became Ellen, and so on). This attempt failed to avoid a court case, however; Florence Stoker sued Prana Film, and all copies of the film were ordered to be destroyed. However, the company was bankrupt, and Stoker only recovered her legal fees in damages. Some copies survived and found their way into theatres. Eventually, Florence Stoker gave up the fight against public displays of the film. Subsequent rereleases of the film have typically undone some of the changes, such as restoring the original character names (a practice also followed by Werner Herzog in his 1979 remake of Murnau's film Nosferatu the Vampyre).
Florence Stoker licensed the story to playwright Hamilton Deane, whose 1924 stage play adaptation toured England for several years before settling down in London. In 1927, American stage producer Horace Liveright hired John L. Balderston to revise Deane's script in advance of its American premiere. Balderston significantly compressed the story, most notably consolidating or removing several characters. The Deane play and its Balderston revisions introduced an expanded role and history for Renfield, who now replaced Jonathan Harker as Dracula's solicitor in the first part of the story; combined Mina Harker and Lucy Westenra into a single character (named Lucy); and omitted both Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris entirely. When the play premiered in New York, it was with Bela Lugosi in the title role, and with Edward van Sloan as Abraham Van Helsing, roles which both actors (as well as Herbert Bunston as Dr. Seward) reprised for the English-language version of the 1931 Universal Studios film production. The 1931 film was one of the most commercially successful adaptations of the story to date; it and the Deane/Balderston play that preceded it set the standard for film and television adaptations of the story, with the alterations to the novel becoming standard for later adaptations for decades to come. Universal Studios continued to feature the character of Dracula in many of their horror films from the 1930s and 1940s.
In 1958, British film company Hammer Film Productions followed the success of its The Curse of Frankenstein from the previous year with Dracula, released in the US as The Horror of Dracula, directed by Terence Fisher. Fisher's production featured Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. It was an international hit for Hammer Film, and Lee fixed the image of the fanged vampire in popular culture. Both Lee and Cushing reprised their roles multiple times over the next decade and a half, concluding with The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (with Cushing but not Lee) in 1974. Christopher Lee also took on the role of Dracula in Count Dracula, a 1970 Spanish-Italian-German coproduction notable for its adherence to the plot of the original novel. Playing the part of Renfield in that version was Klaus Kinski, who later played Dracula himself in 1979's Nosferatu the Vampyre.
In 1977, the BBC made Count Dracula, a 155-minute adaptation for television starring Louis Jourdan. Later film adaptations include John Badham's 1979 Dracula, starring Frank Langella and inspired by the 1977 Broadway revival of the Deane/Hamilton play, and Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 Bram Stoker's Dracula, starring Gary Oldman. The character of Count Dracula has remained popular over the years, and many films have used the character as a villain, while others have named him in their titles, including Dracula's Daughter and The Brides of Dracula. As of 2009, an estimated 217 films feature Dracula in a major role, a number second only to Sherlock Holmes (223 films). A large number of these appearances are not adaptations of Stoker's novel, but merely feature the character in an unrelated story.