Believe it or not, Zombie movies are actually a pretty diverse sub-genre. They range from straight up horror movies and gorefests to low-budget campy films to outright comedies. Hell, earlier this year there was even a Zombie rom com (“Warm Bodies”)!
10) Dead Alive (1992)
Peter Jackson’s 1992 gross out zombie comedy is more batshit crazy than I can even explain. A young man with an overbearing mother tries to protect her after she’s been infected by the virus. Instead, he winds up turning their home into zombie central. Played for laughs, zombies get killed in the grossest, goriest, funniest ways possible. There’s a massive zombie slaughter scene with a lawnmower that will leave you wanting a shower afterwards! Zombie tea parties, zombie intestines, and don’t forget the zombie baby!
9) Return of the Living Dead (1985)
The zombie movie genre has no shortage of campy films, but few have established the kind of cult following that “Return of the Living Dead” has. With its punk rock fashion sensibilities, animatronic zombies, B-Movie queen Linnea Quigley, and the introduction of the zombie refrain “Brainnnnnnsss…” into the zombie lexicon, “Return of the Living Dead” is an unforgettable 80s classic. Based on a novel by “Night of the Living Dead” co-writer John Russo, it went on to spawn four sequels and create its own influence on the genre.
8) Zombie (aka Zombi 2) (1979)
In case anyone needs any incentive to check this one out, it features a scene where a zombie fights a shark. No kidding involved, a zombie fights a shark. The rest of the movie is a straight forward, dead rising from their graves on a small tropical island gorefest featuring 1970s level special effects and makeup! The zombies shamble but outnumber their prey, leading to lots of undead feasting! Directed by noted giallo director Lucio Fulci, this one has no shortage of blood and guts. AND a zombie fights a shark! What’s not to love?
7) “Zombieland” (2009)
This zombie comedy introduces us to the “Zombie Rules” including “Cardio”, “The Double Tap” and “Wear Seat Belts”. A small group of ragtag survivors forms after a brief period of mistrust (“Mistrust” meaning robbing each other at gunpoint). Together they make their way to Pacific Playland, as it’s just as good a destination as any. Along the way, attachments form, Twinkies are sought, and we get one of the greatest cameos ever! It’s a fun comedy set in the midst of the zombie apocalypse! A sequel has been much conjectured about, but at this point it’s reportedly not in motion.
6) “Dawn of the Dead” (2004)
Zack Snyder takes Romero’s 1978 classic and turns it into a modern action/horror film. Solid acting and directing and modern production values make this one notable. As a group of survivors gather in a cleared out shopping mall, the people turn out to pose more danger to each other than the zombies do. As they prepare to make their exodus, will their band be able to pull together and do what needs to be done to make it out alive? Starring Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames, this film is one that gives remakes a good name.
5) “[Rec]” (2007)
A TV crew following a team of fire fighters on a routine night winds up on a call to a building that’s ground zero for a burgeoning outbreak. While the cops and fire fighters investigate the call, the center for disease control quarantines the building. The TV crew and rescue workers are left trapped inside, wandering around a dark, zombie filled building with no hope for escape. This 2007 Spanish film is small-scale zombie terror at its best. It’s already spawned two sequels and an English language remake!
4) “Shaun of the Dead” (2004)
“Shaun of the Dead” takes the stereotypical zombie apocalypse and inserts two slacker buddies as the unlikely heroes. Though the world is falling apart around them, Shaun and Ed still head for the pub. Their thinking? “It’s safe”. Gathering a small group of people close to them, they brave the zombie outbreak trying to reach the safety of their local bar. Hilarity, romance, and zombie battling action ensue. One of the most famous horror-comedies of all time, it also introduced the world to the comedy duo of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg.
3) “28 Days Later” (2002)
Though it wasn’t the first movie ever to feature zombies that could run, it certainly felt as though Danny Boyle introduced the world to the concept of “Fast Zombies” with this horror story of an outbreak that devastates the population of Britain. In an unforgettable scene to start the movie, Cillian Murphy’s character awakens to an empty London. As with all good zombie movies, the humans in the film are just as frightening as the zombies, and the “safety” that gets reached is just as dangerous as what the survivors are fleeing.
2) “Dawn of the Dead” (1978)
George A Romero’s follow-up to his classic “Night of the Living Dead”, “Dawn of the Dead” gives the requisite dosage of zombie action, coupled with a scathing indictment of the American culture of consumerism. Many point to the shambling zombies wandering the mall as American shopping send up, but in my opinion it’s the period of contentment the survivors go through when their material needs are met that’s the most damning! As long as we have our “stuff”, who cares what hell rages outside our gates? Classic movie from the master of the genre!
1) “Night of the Living Dead” (1968)
This is the movie that started it all. There may have been movies about zombies prior to this, but they were of the voodoo kind, not the flesh-eating undead variety. George A Romero’s low-budget, independently made horror film redefined the very term. Released pre-MPAA, it was highly controversial for its shocking levels of violence. Its classic, massively influential place in movie history, coupled with the shockingly brilliant ending that retroactively makes the film a condemnation of racism makes “Night of the Living Dead” the greatest zombie movie ever made!
Well, there you have it folks. The Top Ten Zombie Movies!
What do you think? Any that I have too high or too low? Did I make any glaring omissions? Any that I’ve included that you don’t think belong?
Let’s hear it!!