Zombies have dominated cinema for decades, since since they first appeared on the big screen. The undead have been a staple of horror films and television for more than half a century, reshaping and reshaping our collective psyche in the process. Even as zombies have the inherent uncanny of being neither dead nor living, or an old friend who has turned into a mindless foe, they are also an empty metaphor, ready to mirror the fears and foes of any year they emerge in.
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List of the greatest zombie movies, from mindless blood-splattered fun to brains and intestines exploding guts, from gonzo gorefests to genre-bending hybrids and even a family favorite. Assemble your equipment (anyone have a cricket bat?) and get ready to go.
20) Planet Terror (2007)
Go-go dancer, bioweapon gone wrong, and Texas townspeople converted into shuffling, pustulous monsters are just a few of the characters in Robert Rodriguez’s trash-tastic Grindhouse double-bill with Quentin Tarantino. Its B-movie roots are evident in the film’s overdubbed dialogue, rough editing, and missing reels, all of which contribute to Planet Terror’s swelling tongue. In the end, Cherry Darling’s severed limb is replaced with a machine gun by Rose McGowan’s hero Cherry Darling, which is a ridiculously entertaining twist. Now, let’s all say: My motto is “I’m going to eat your brains and learn from your wisdom!””
19) Dead Snow (2009)
Tommy Wirkola’s Norwegian comedy-horror helped popularize Nazi Zombies at the same time as it became a Call of Duty staple, combining cinema’s two most lasting villains. A box of gold loot mistakenly summons a Nazi horde when a group of kids goes on an Easter vacation in a chilly Scandinavian cottage. Using real-life accounts of Nazis’ interest in the occult, this story’s idea leans into the unabashedly pulpy potential of its story premise. In a burst of campy shlock, the white substance swiftly turns red – especially when the survivors equip themselves with power tools.
18) ParaNorman (2012)
A zombie film, but one aimed at children, of course! The stop-motion animation studio Laika, fresh from its generation-traumatizing hit Coraline, delivered a horror adventure for the whole family. The title character, Norman, is an outcast who has the ability to communicate with the dead. This comes in useful when a witch’s spell causes the village graveyard to fill with wandering corpses. Unusual in that it does not rely on gore to save the day, but rather on compassion and understanding to do so (due to the film’s intended audience).
17) The Girl With All The Gifts (2016)
Colm McCarthy’s adaptation of Mike Carey’s novel is a sophisticated and intellectual reworking of the zombie genre, with genre thrills thrown in for good measure. Zombies in this case are caused by a fungal pathogen resembling that seen in The Last of Us, which has infected nearly everyone. The tale, on the other hand, centers on little Melanie, who is being taught by Gemma Arterton’s teacher Helen in a fortified facility with a lot of guns. Melanie, a “second-generation” hungry who can think and feel as well as eat human flesh, may hold the key to the future.
16) Rec 2 (2009)
A team of body-cam-wearing troops is sent into the tower block to collect a sample, and this second dose of panic-inducing found-footage terror is nearly as powerful as the previous film. As a followup, it’s more action-oriented than the original, but it also has some interesting thoughts about zombies and religion. It’s especially impressive because it manages to keep the first-person notion intact while switching perspectives.
15) Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)
The Italian director Lucio Fulci’s picture, known for its really horrifying effects, was intended as a quasi-sequel to Dawn Of The Dead and returned zombie mythology to its black magic-inspired roots. A voodoo curse has caused a zombie outbreak on the Caribbean island of Matul, and the film, Zombie Flesh Eaters, depicts the undead shufflers in various states of decomposition, often covered with (actual) maggots. The film is also known as Zombi 2, because Dawn Of The Dead was marketed as Zombi in Italy. The ‘Video Nasty’ incident was sparked by a famous sequence involving some close-up eyeball injury, and though it’s a cult classic, it’s more liked by die-hard zombie fans than reviewers. The confrontation between zombies and sharks, which is incredibly deadly, earns extra points.
14) World War Z (2013)
When compared to other zombie movies, World War Z distinguishes out as the only one that goes all out. Marc Forster’s film presents the zombie movie as a summer action spectacle with a worldwide pandemic threatening global collapse, starring Brad Pitt and a substantial studio budget. Unlike most zombie movies, this one offers creative widescreen visuals of zombie swarms — large groups of the undead racing together, swarming over one another in insect-like mounds, and able to mount walls with sheer force of will.
13) Zombieland (2009)
Ruben Fleischer’s hilarious zom-com debuted just as the zombie sub-genre was poised for a revival towards the end of the decade. Columbus, played by Jesse Eisenberg, is a cautious loner who is doing his best to survive the undead apocalypse by following a set of rules that are meant to wink at the audience. After meeting Woody Harrelson’s Twinkie-obsessed, tough as nails Tallahassee, Emma Stone’s wittily sardonic Wichita, and Abigail Breslin’s innocent Little Rock, he forms his own little family. Iconic Bill Murray’s cameo plus the short running time make this a funhouse ride of a zombie flick that finishes in a real carnival set-piece.
12) Dawn Of The Dead (2004)
It wasn’t an easy effort to remake Romero’s classic work. Zack Snyder, on the other hand, produced a worthy reincarnation early in his career, based on a script by James Gunn. In addition to the controversial decision to use fast-zombie characters, which create frenzied survival moments with a tangible sense of panic, the virus spreads and society rapidly collapses, creating a riveting opening act. Early signs of Snyder’s great sense of cinematic style and several surprisingly unsettling topics can be found in this suitably bloody and horrific short film, like what happens when a pregnant woman is bitten?
11) One Cut Of The Dead (2019)
That the film’s opening minutes look like a particularly haphazard horror movie is totally on purpose would be a disservice to Shin’ichiro Ueda’s delightful, joyous shocks. When a zombie outbreak threatens the production of a film directed by a novice, the director finds himself in over his head. What’s next? Honestly, you’ll just have to check it out for yourself. But it’s a film that bursts with inventiveness, one that manages to reimagine the zombie movie in a whole new way while still demonstrating great heart. This is a movie that will go down in history as a classic.
10) The Return Of The Living Dead (1985)
When compared to Romero’s seriousness, Dan O’Bannon’s comedic horror film gave a more boisterous perspective on the zombie thriller, down to its tagline: ‘They’re returned from the grave and eager to party!'” A world where Romero’s films exist but their laws do not apply is the setting for Return Of The Living Dead, where the locals quickly find that headshots will not suffice. Even before 28 Days Later, O’Bannon came up with the running dead, represented zombies with a specific thirst for the brains, and gave them the ability to talk, he explored the possibilities of zombies. The Cramps and The Damned provide the soundtrack to this gooey, gruesome film.
9) Re-Animator (1985)
Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator is based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft and gives a new take on the undead. In this scene, Jeffrey Combs’ deranged professor Herbert West creates a lime-green liquid capable of reviving dead animal tissue, which he promptly begins using on the bodies of the deceased (some of whom he has killed himself). The’re-agent’, a mounting mound of zombified corpses, and, um, a severed head oral sex scene are all part of the action. Even by the gore-soaked ’80s standards, it’s a bloody mess of a horror/comedy mix. It’s nevertheless sickeningly entertaining thanks to a crisp storyline and a bravura attitude.
8) Rec (2007)
In contrast to found-footage horror, Spanish horror is more diverse. At ground zero of a zombie breakout in the claustrophobic confines of an apartment complex, Rec used the shooting-style to its fullest extent. In spite of the fact that Rec is shot entirely handheld, the camerawork is remarkably steady owing to Ferran Terraza’s Manu, who is filming a news reel with reporter Angela (Manuela Velasco), who happens to be in the wrong location at the wrong moment in the film. Extremely unsettling, especially when the camera switches to night vision mode, revealing a cast of characters who are more intelligent than the ordinary person.
7) Braindead (1992)
Peter Jackson created a name for himself in New Zealand with his gory Kiwi zombie picture, which has been dubbed the ‘goriest movie ever made.’ Romero and Raimi’s influence can be seen in the cartoon splatstick that is on exhibit. Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme) gets caught in a bind when his mother is bitten by a ‘Sumatran rat-monkey’ while stalking her son at the zoo in 1957. Is she dead? Afterwards, he resurrects. In fact, this is just the start.
6) Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
‘They’re coming for you, Barbra!’ he yelled. George A. Romero pioneered the contemporary zombie film with his maiden feature directorial effort. Zombies return from the dead in this independent film, shot in grainy black-and-white on a shoestring budget, which established the most important facets of zombie lore (bodies returning from the grave, killing them for good) and established Romero as a filmmaker adept at genre-inflected social commentary. By hiding Ben, Barbra, and others in a rural farmhouse, Romero focuses on American racism, the Vietnam War’s lingering traumatic effects, and American citizens’ realization that their biggest adversary may be themselves.
5) Train To Busan (2016)
A train full of undead. Director Yeon Sang-ho of Korea uses a tight interior setting (and other scenes in more open environments) to produce frightening scenes that will have you holding your breath. To watch the zombies in Train To Busan is to be awestruck by their aggression and animalistic contortion of their limbs and spines. The end result is visually stunning and suspenseful, with a strong cast led by Ma Dong-gigantic seok’s hero Sang-hwa.
4) Shaun Of The Dead (2004)
Edgar Wright drew inspiration from Romero and Richard Curtis for the ultimate rom-zom-com for his movie debut. David O. Russell is the narrator. A zombie outbreak in London forces Shaun to grow up, commit to Liz (Kate Ashfield), settle out his step-issues, dad’s and give away his best friend Ed to Liz’s boyfriend, Nick Frost (Nick Frost). Despite the fact that it’s a zombie movie, complete with plenty of blood and guts, well-executed jump scares, and heartfelt goodbyes, Shaun uses a cricket bat to combat the zombies and develops plans to hide in the local pub, the film also indulges in some British comedy. Glorious.
3) 28 Days Later (2002)
It’s not a zombie movie, say the purists. Assuming that they’re technically correct, they’re also completely wrong: Danny Boyle’s film about a fatal, rage-inducing sickness reimagined and redefined what a zombie film could be. With an iconic start that sees Cillian Murphy as hospitalized Jim awaken to a deserted London, the film is a gritty and riveting piece of filmmaking. Alex Garland’s screenplay shows that the surviving humans are equally as dangerous as the rage illness.
2) Day Of The Dead (1985)
It’s a more contemplative conclusion to Romero’s groundbreaking original Dead trilogy, but it’s nonetheless a strong work with a furious resonance that continues to reverberate. As the zombie apocalypse deepens, Day finds the non-infected populace diminishing, scientists and soldiers who have survived crumbling under the strain, and the undead themselves evolving. With a cognitive function that shows that not all of the undead are mindless creatures, Bub is a real-life zombie hero. Atmospheric in its depiction of human infighting and the futility of combat, Day is an ominous and dismal film that takes place largely within the confines of an underground bunker.
1) Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
For those who consider Night of the Living Dead to have been the first modern zombie film, Dawn of the Dead represents the genre’s “coming-of-age.” Chaos and panic have replaced the haunting tone of its predecessors, as the apocalypse continues to spread and survivors hunker down in a local mall. This initially appears like a great location for survival, with plenty of resources, but it turns out that the zombies are drawn to the spot they were trained to spend their time and money on while they were still alive. Tom Savini’s visceral effects and satirical images make this yet another effective piece of satire, but Romero tells a riveting, nightmarish tale that draws on the horrific things he saw as a Vietnam War photographer.