He was most famous for his title role in Tod Browning's Dracula (1931) (building on the stage role). The film was a success, but Lugosi was typecast as a horror heavy with such movies as White Zombie and Scared to Death. Later on, the acting jobs dried up and he became addicted to morphine.
Late in his life, he again got to star in movies, albeit lousy ones. Ed Wood, a long-time fan of Lugosi's, offered him numerous roles in his films, always playing some variant of a mad scientist/vampire type, even in movies in which such a role made no sense -- such as Glen or Glenda. The biographical film Ed Wood, by Tim Burton, portrayed Wood's relationship with Lugosi, who was played by Martin Landau.
One of Lugosi's most infamous roles was in a movie that was released after he was dead. Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space featured footage of Lugosi -- who died during filming -- interspersed with a double who looked nothing like him, and Lugosi got top billing for the movie.
He was also the subject of a song by gothic rock band Bauhaus entitled Bela Lugosi's Dead.