Ever since I was a kid, I have always loved me some zombie movies. Zombies movies were always kind of a niche genre, and only hardcore zombie fans like myself or horror movie fans ever really enjoyed or actually sought out these films, but thanks largely to the success of AMC’s The Walking Dead, zombies have successfully made the crossover into the mainstream. But with that, brings hundreds upon hundreds of new zombie movies, most worst then the next. With so many zombie films available these days, if you are new to the zombie genre, which ones should you watch? In today’s interesting and fact-filled article, we will discuss my personal favorite top 13 zombie movies of all time. Don’t agree with my list? Tough shit, write your own list. Enjoy!
13- Resident Evil (2002)
I was a huge fan of the Resident Evil game franchise for PlayStation as a kid. I mean a game where you can walk around, solve puzzles, battle “Lickers”, and shoot zombies in the face, sign me up. But as most of us know, just about any movie inspired by a video game fails horribly (case in point: Mario Brothers, Silent Hill, Tomb Raider, Max Payne, Doom, House of the Dead, the list goes on and on), so going into this movie I really didn’t expect very much. But I genuinely liked the story, and the horror aspect that was achieved. The movie itself was more of an adaptation of the game, rather than a literal translation, and the casting was also good in my opinion with Milla Jovovich, James Purefoy (whom you may know as the villain from The Following), and Michelle Rodriguez. The main antagonist remains the same, zombies mutated after coming into contact with the dreaded T-virus, but most of the other elements were new, and the characters were all given backstories not really explored by the games. I consider this one kind of an unexpected gem, and worth at least a view.
Fun Fact: A newspaper in Racoon City reads “The Dead Walk!” This is a direct reference to Day of the Dead (1985), in which a newspaper at the beginning of the film reads the same.
12- Planet Terror (2007)
Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have collaborated before in the past, with Tarantino writing and Rodriguez directing one of my favorite flicks From Dusk Til Dawn. The two decided to once again team up for the double feature Grindhouse, with Rodriguez behind Planet Terror and Tarantino at the helm of Death Proof for the double billing. The movies were an homage to an earlier generation of 1970’s exploitation films, and Planet Terror was made to look like a gritty throw-back. The story itself is more of a tribute to the zombie film genre, and it has it all with a mysterious drifter, zombies, evil military units, and a one-legged exotic dancer with a machine-gun stump. The movie is funny, cheesy, dark, and just an all around fun time. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Fun Fact: The main character’s name is El Wray. In Robert Rodriguez’s earlier movie, From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), Seth Gecko is trying to get to a place called El Ray.
11- Zombieland (2009)
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big Jessie Eisenberg fan, to me he kinda seems like a carbon copy of Michael Cera, and I kind of hate Michael Cera, because both of them always seem to play the same character over and over, but what the hell, I liked this movie. Woody Harrelson alone makes it worth watching, and the greatest part of all has to be the cameo by Bill Murray, who plays himself in the movie. Essentially the film picks up on the onslaught of a zombie apocalypse, and the main characters have to do what they can to survive and avoid road-thieves, while having a little fun in the process, and searching for the worlds last Twinkie. The movie is obviously more comedy and action than horror, but if the story is good, that works for me. They seem to keep doing zombie movies over and over again, and while most fail to be entertaining and vastly suck, with Zombieland they got it right.
Fun Fact: In Bill Murray’s mansion, Woody Harrelson’s character mentions that he is a big fan of all his movies. Harrelson starred in Kingpin (1996) with Murray.
10- Cemetery Man aka Dellamorte Dellamore (1994)
Most people either love or hate this movie. I personally love it, but I do like some weird shit. The film was originally released as Dellamorte Dellamore, which loosely translates to “Of Death, of Love”, and tells the story of an Italian cemetery groundskeeper named Dellamorte (played by Rupert Everett) who searches for love, while defending the townspeople from zombies. He comes to find that after several days of being buried, some of the recently deceased return, to attack the living. He attempts to get help from the local authorities, but is asked to fill out endless paperwork, and decides it’s just easier to shoot them. When it was released in the US, they changed the title to “Cemetery Man” in attempts to ham it up for us Americans (and this is why we cannot have nice things), and the film was pitched as a comedy so it wasn’t very successful here in it’s short theatrical run, and soon found itself in VHS purgatory. But it’s definitely dark, and very interesting, and if you haven’t seen it, you should check it out if you are in the mood for something creative and unusual. The most artistic zombie movie you will ever find.
Fun Fact: In the late 90’s when Rupert Everett gained some popularity in America, he approached director Michele Soavi about doing an Americanized remake of Dellamorte Dellamore. It never materialized though. Somebody make this happen.
9- Day Of The Dead (1985)
Day Of The Dead is probably my least favorite of the “Dead” trilogy by George A. Romero, but if you viewed it separately from the other two, it is still a fine zombie film. It’s kind of like how if you were at a bar and Khloe Kardashian walked up to you alone and asked you to take her home, you would be totally into it, but if she was standing next to her sisters Kim and Kourtney, you would just be kind of “meh” about her. So basically what I am saying is that Day Of The Dead is Khloe Kardashian. In Day, the world has already become overrun with zombies, and scientists and military personnel stationed in an underground bunker work together to find a cure. When results are not produced, tensions escalate between the scientists and the soldiers, and eventually the two teams find themselves pitted against each other, in a bloody underground war. If you have already seen Night Of The Living Dead and Dawn Of The Dead, then Day Of The Dead is a must see.
Fun Fact: On the special edition DVD, director George A. Romero claims this is his favorite film out of the original “dead trilogy”.
8- Zombi 2 aka Zombie (1979)
Zombi 2 is the unofficial sequel to Dawn Of The Dead, by Italian director Lucio Fulci, also known for his work of The Beyond, and House By The Cemetery. Upon release, it was banned in the UK for it’s violent content, which only adds to it’s legend. Unlike most of the other zombie movies on this list, Zombi 2 takes place on a tropical island in the Virgin Islands. Many have speculated that the video game Dead Island was inspired by this movie, and I could totally buy it. Without getting to deep into the plot itself, I can tell you that the movie has quite a few memorable scenes, such as a woman having her eye impaled onto a wooden shard, and a fucking zombie battling an actual shark underwater… I’m not even kidding. That alone is perhaps the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in a zombie film, and the guy that played that zombie had balls of steel. Much like Cemetery Man, this movie is foreign, but everyone in the film speaks English, so no subtitles are necessary. A must see.
Fun Fact: As shown in trailers before the film was released, airline “barf bags” were handed out to theater moviegoers due to the unusually high amount of violence and gore for a horror film of that time.
7- Dead Alive aka Brain Dead (1992)
Here is another great hidden gem that from my experience not a lot of people have seen. Directed by Peter Jackson before he was busy dressing up people like Hobbits and making Lord Of The Rings films, Dead Alive (aka Brain Dead) is one of the goriest zombie movies of all time. A result of the rape of tree monkeys on Skull Island by plague-carrying rats, the Sumatran Rat-Monkey terrorizes an Indonesian island, until it is captured and brought to a zoo in New Zealand, where it eventually bites our main protagonist Lionel’s mother, turning her into a flesh-eating monster. Lionel attempts to keep his mother locked in the basement, unsure of what to do, and from there the problem only grows, as she escapes and begins to infect others, resulting in a massive showdown leading to perhaps the greatest arc ever in a zombie movie… all I will say is it included hundreds of zombies, and one man with a lawn mower. Gory, gory, gory fun, and Simon Pegg has recently wrote that the film was one of his biggest sources of inspiration for his film Shaun Of The Dead. No Hobbits were harmed in the making of this film, only Sumatran Rat-Monkeys.
Fun Fact: 300 liters of fake blood was used in the final scene of the film.
6- 28 Days Later (2002)
When you hand over a zombie script to Danny Boyle, director of Trainspotting, you better expect something epic. 28 Days Later was released roughly around the same time as Shaun Of The Dead, and the two British films really breathed new life into the dying zombie genre, essentially bringing it back from the dead. While Shaun Of The Dead took a more playful approach to the zombie apocalypse, 28 Days Later re-ignited the horror and fear like few other films have in the recent decade. Our main character Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakens in a hospital in Britain, to find that everyone is missing. Hit by a car while on his bicycle making a delivery, he had been in a coma for about four weeks. He wanders out through the hospital, into the streets, seeing no sign of anyone. It isn’t until he wanders into a church, where he sees someone, or more like something: a crawling, gasping, scratching, red-eyed priest, spitting blood, and clearly undead. You can imagine there’s quite a learning curve leaving the normal world, and waking up in the aftermath of a full-blown zombie apocalypse. The Walking Dead is quite similar to 28 Days Later, come to think of it. The movie is exciting and intense, and the zombies are ferocious and vicious. Leave it to the British to make a “bloody” good zombie movie. If you like The Walking Dead, you should love 28 Days Later.
Fun Fact: Horror novelist Stephen King bought out an entire showing of the film in New York City.
5- Dawn Of The Dead (2004)
Typically I say “fuck remakes”, they are usually Hollywood’s attempt at suckling extra cash from an otherwise tapped-out movie. But the remake of the original 1978 Dawn Of The Dead is revered by some as better than the original. The story is essentially the same, a group of strangers band together and take shelter in a mall from a growing army of zombies, but that is about the only thing this version has in common with the original, the story has been updated, and it’s much more high-octane than the 1978 version. Also it has Ving Rhames, which is pretty awesome. If I ever had to deal with a zombie apocalypse, you can sure as shit bet that I’d want Ving Rhames backing me up. The movie is exciting and fast-paced, the story is excellent, and the editing is superb. Do yourself a favor and check this one out!
Fun Fact: Actors Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger and Tom Savini all appeared in the original 1978 version of this film, but playing different characters. Ken Foree delivers the tagline he delivered as “Peter” from the 1978 version of Dawn of the Dead; “When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth.”
4- Return Of The Living Dead (1985)
I can trace the roots of my love for zombie movies back to Return Of The Living Dead. As a kid, for some reason my parents had this on VHS, and I had to have watched it dozens and dozens of times. George A. Romero and John Russo originally collaborated together on the original Night Of The Living Dead, however the two had disagreements about how the fictional zombie world should move forward. George A. Romero envisioned shambling, menacing zombies that did not speak, only moan. Russo envisioned running zombies, that not only spoke, but were cognizant to their plight, and able to converse (often humorously) with their victims. The falling out resulted in Russo obtaining the rights to “Of The Living Dead”, which is why the second Romero zombie movie was titled Dawn Of The Dead, rather than Dawn Of The Living Dead. Return Of The Living Dead is also credited with being the first movie where zombies specifically craved brains, which is common place with most of zombie culture these days. The story centers around a young trainee’s first day at a medical supply warehouse, and he is shown erroneously sent canisters of dead bodies through a military mix-up that are stored in the basement, speculated by his new co-worker as actual zombies from the movie Night Of The Living Dead. The inept warehouse employees then accidentally release the gas contained within the canisters, which funnels through the warehouse, reanimating many of the corpses kept for medical purposes, as well as skeletons, and split-dogs for veterinarian training. Meanwhile, the trainee’s group of punk-rock friends arrive to pick him up, awaiting the end of his shift, and growing restless, they decide to party and drink beer at a nearby cemetery. Attempting to cover up their accident, the two warehouse employees chop up the reanimated bodies, and carry them to a local crematorium, where the bodies are burned, however the smoke from the corpses rises up into the clouds, and the ashes begin to rain over the cemetery, resulting in horror-hijinx for all. Braiiiiins!
Fun Fact: Comedian Doug Benson stated on The Talking Dead that he played several zombies in this film, during his time when he was a frequent extra on movie sets.
3- Shaun Of The Dead (2004)
I have to honestly say it was very, very hard for me not to put this movie in the number one spot. I first saw Shaun Of The Dead when I was about 22 years old, and I very well might have seen this movie over a hundred times. I’ve legitimately watched this so often that I have burned through three copies of this DVD, simply from being over-played. Directed by Edgar Wright and staring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Shaun Of The Dead was born from an episode of Spaced that was created originally by Wright and Pegg, in which the main character plays Resident Evil the entire episode, and also kicked off the first (and my favorite) of the Wright/Pegg/Frost trio of films that also included Hot Fuzz and At World’s End. The movie has so many subtle and unsubtle throwbacks and references to earlier zombie movies, and is literally full of Easter eggs of trivia and homages, and George A. Romero has even said something to the likes that this is the only zombie movie he likes (that he didn’t make). Romero liked it so much, he even put Pegg and Frost in his zombie flick Land Of The Dead. If you haven’t seen it, fucking stop what you are doing right now and watch it. If you have seen it, you probably need to watch it again. It’s that fucking great.
Fun Fact: When Philip (Bill Nighy) is leaving Shaun’s (Simon Pegg) place of work, we see quickly that the name of the store is Foree Electric. Ken Foree starred in Dawn of the Dead (1978) and had a cameo in Dawn of the Dead (2004).
2- Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
What can I say, this movie started it all, and ushered in the modern era of zombie movies. It changed the original zombie premise of people being enslaved by voodoo witch doctors, to actual people returning from the dead, to feast on flesh. Shot for $114,000 by a young film student named George A. Romero, Night Of The Living Dead would go on to earn over 42 million at the box office, and completely alter the direction of not just zombie movies, but horror movies forever. In an interesting twist, the MPAA was not created until a month after the release, so with no rating system in place, the movie essentially was open to people of all ages, and the film was considerably graphic compared to it’s peers of the time (however to today’s standards is fairly mild). This is where it all began, and a must see for anyone who even mildly enjoys zombie culture.
Fun Fact: Readers Digest tried to warn people away from watching the film in 1968 by claiming if it’s ever watched, it will inspire cannibalism.
1- Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
Generally regarded as the greatest zombie film of all time, I would have to wholeheartedly agree. Dawn Of The Dead is an epic zombie story, that picks up somewhere along the lines of where Night Of The Living Dead ended, but shows the zombie apocalypse on a much larger scale. A female news reporter, her pilot boyfriend, and two friends and members of the Philadelphia SWAT team flee the city in a news chopper, eventually running across a suburban mall, in which they stop for shelter. While in the mall, they pilfer supplies from the stores, battles the zombies inside and outside of the mall, and basically set up home. This is where the movie get’s really good. If you’ve ever played Dead Rising, the video game where you go around inside of a mall infested with zombies, and use whatever you please from the stores as weapons, you know what I mean. The film itself was the highest grossing of all of the Dead series, and received mostly positive praise, even Roger Ebert gave it four out of four stars and proclaimed it “one of the best horror films ever made”, and ranked on the The New York Time’s “The Best 100 Movies Ever Made” list. A must must must see for any zombie fan.
Fun Fact: The Monroeville Mall, which was the location for the movie, is still open to this day, and in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. The mall holds an annual zombie-walk.
Do you agree with this list? What’s your favorite zombie movie? Have you ever ate someone’s brains…? Tell me in the comments!