Germs on the Big Screen: 11 Infectious Movies

Nosferatu (1922)

disease, fear, infection, infect, contamination, quarantine, spread, pandemic, epidemic, outbreak

A vampire hides his deadly activities with the help the bubonic plague, also known as the Black Death, in the 1922 film 'Nosferatu.' (Image credit: Reel Media International)

Infection themes run rampant in modern-day vampire movies such as "Blade" and "Underworld," but one classic silent film paired a vampire legend with the real plague known as the Black Death. The sinister Count Orlok of "Nosferatu" cloaks his vampire feeding through the spread of bubonic plague, a bacterial-caused disease which ravaged Europe and Asia repeatedly throughout history. Famous movie scenes include the plague arriving on Orlok's coffin-laden boat, with rats running ashore and spreading their deadly cargo of microbes. This has eerie historical parallels — gravediggers in 16th century Venice actually made a similar connection between supposed vampires and the Black Death, without having modern medicine's knowledge of the plague.

Jeremy Hsu
Jeremy has written for publications such as Popular Science, Scientific American Mind and Reader's Digest Asia. He obtained his masters degree in science journalism from New York University, and completed his undergraduate education in the history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania.