Jonathan Harker, a young London solicitor (a lawyer) travels to Transylvania (modern-day Romania) to help a rich nobleman, Count Dracula, purchase an estate in England. Dracula is planning to immigrate to England, and wants Harker to help him hammer out all the legal details. Harker is at first impressed by Dracula's suave politeness, but is soon creeped out by the Count's uncanny ability to communicate with wolves and by the lack of servants—or anyone else—in the Count's huge castle. Soon after, Harker realizes that he's a prisoner in the castle.
One evening, he tries to find an escape route... only to be discovered and almost seduced/devoured by three sexy vampire ladies (the brides of Dracula). Dracula rescues him at the last minute, and Harker realizes that Dracula is only keeping him alive to finish the real estate transaction. Harker decides to make a break for it and only barely escapes from the castle alive. He's not able to head straight back to England, though. He comes down with a severe case of brain fever because of the shock and spends many weeks recuperating in a convent in the countryside in Hungary.
Meanwhile, back in England, Harker's fiancée, Mina, is hanging out with her best friend Lucy in a seaside town. Mina's worried about Jonathan and wonders why she hasn't heard from him in so long, but Lucy can only think about her own suitors. She gets three marriage proposals in the same day by three friends: Dr. John Seward, a doctor who runs a mental hospital; Quincey Morris, an American; and Arthur Holmwood, the son of Lord Godalming (an English gentleman). She accepts Arthur Holmwood. Even though Quincey Morris and Dr. Seward are disappointed, they still stay friends with Holmwood.
Meanwhile, Dracula has arrived in England, but hasn't shown himself yet. A patient in Dr. Seward's hospital, Renfield, continually captures and eats insects, spiders, and birds and says that the "Master" is coming soon. Lucy starts acting weird—she seems to be losing blood, but no one knows where the blood's going. Her fiancé, Lord Arthur Holmwood, gets worried, and Dr. Seward sends for his friend and mentor, Van Helsing, to check her out.
Van Helsing realizes that there's a vampire involved. He's a scientist and doctor, but he's also well-versed in ancient superstitions and philosophy, so he knows what to do to kill vampires. Even after giving her multiple blood transfusions, they're not able to save Lucy, and she dies. But Van Helsing knows she's not really dead. The four men break into her tomb and catch vampire Lucy coming back from a foray in the neighboring village. They stab her in the heart and cut off her head to make sure she's really dead, and not just mostly dead.
Mina finally hears from Jonathan and goes to Budapest to pick him up. They get married at the convent where he's been recovering from his illness and come back to England. Harker, Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, Morris, and Holmwood all swear to get rid of Dracula once and for all. Mina has to hide in Dr. Seward's office at the hospital while the men go vampire-hunting. Unfortunately, Renfield knows about Dracula and invites him into the building (vampires can't enter unless they've been invited, so don't go inviting any vampires into your homes), and he starts drinking Mina's blood. The men come back in time to find her being force-fed some of Dracula's blood.
The case is now extremely urgent—if they don't catch and kill Dracula quickly, Mina will turn into a vampire like Lucy did. Dracula leads them on a spectacular chase back to Transylvania, where they finally catch up to him and kill him. Mina is saved, and they all live happily ever after. Except for Quincey Morris, who gets stabbed during the final fight.