Zombie movies are the best. If you go on a date and they don’t like zombie movies, get out. Beneath sheer entertainment, the zombie genre has managed to embody a range of collective societal fears faced over decades — everything from consumerism to racism — using the mythology of the living dead.
The concept of the zombie was derived from Haitian slaves who formed a mythology around men who died and were resurrected. Author W.B. Seabrook brought this myth to the U.S. in the book The Magic Island. He writes that a zombie is “a soulless human corpse, still dead, but taken from the grave and endowed by sorcery with a mechanical semblance of life.”
So, we dug up the best ever zombie movies that offer both visual fun and deeper thinking (if you’re up for it). What’s your guess for #1? Debate our list on Twitter @TheManualGuide.
10. Land of the Dead (2005)
What happens when zombies can walk underwater!? That’s the premise for this millennial zombie flick and movie No. 4 in George A. Romero’s “Living Dead” series. For those who don’t know, Romero is the Godfather of zombie films. Some of his earlier staples include the original Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead. This movie is just ok, but better than most of the un-dead dribble being made today. Like, there is a movie called Zombeavers. Zombie beavers, people.
9. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
When it comes to zombie comedy spoofs, I’ll play Shaun of the Dead over Zombieland every time. A gang of clueless Brits navigate a zombie apocalypse in a retelling of the quintessential zombie plot: band together, survive, fight zombies. But the film does a tremendous job at honoring the genre while poking fun at its stereotypes.
8. Resident Evil (2002)
I will watch Mila Jovovich fight zombies any day of the week. Add Michelle Rodriguez and I’m in a zombie black hole for a month. I’ll even watch movie 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 in the Resident Evil zombie/sci-fi franchise hoping they bring down that Umbrella Corp and its band of un-dead bogies. Jovovich is the lifeblood of this zombie series.
7. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
A reimagining of the 1978 classic, a small group of zombie apocalypse survivors flee to a local shopping mall and try to avoid getting bit. The film takes a big creative departure from the original and it was a good decision. This version feels like its own film, but pulls carefully and thoughtfully from Romero’s original. The acting is solid, the gore is cringy (which you want), and the pace is fast and fun.
6. Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Holy 80s perfection. Return of the Living Dead takes zombie tropes and mixes a little humor and punk aesthetic for an entertaining and quick 90-minute film. The semi-sequel to the OG classic Night of the Living Dead stands on its own feet, as one expert said, “with its far-too-long 80s graveyard softcore striptease and all.”
5. I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
Set on a Caribbean sugar plantation, a nurse comes to care for a sick woman only to be thrust into the island’s culture of zombies and voodoo. For a zombie movie made in the 40s, it avoids cliché melodramatics and highlights perfect chiaroscuro brooding. The atmosphere is on point and the slight divergence from the stereotypical horror genre is welcomed. The story is somewhat incomplete, but extra points for that old film look that makes a zombie movie just *kisses hand. Directed by the French film noir godfather, Jacques Tourneur.
4. 28 Days Later (2002)
Written by the brilliant author and screenwriter Alex Garland (see: The Beach, Ex Machina, etc.), 28 Days Later was the first great apocalypse film of the new millennium. Cillian Murphy is expertly cast, the virus plot is foolproof, and MY GOD that opening scene of a hospital patient waking up and wandering the empty streets of London.
3. Train to Busan (2016)
A man and his daughter are trapped on a bullet train during a zombie outbreak. That’s the simple version of this perfect Korean zombie film. The full storyline is arguably the most original and refreshing in all the genre, with deep character development and a clear allegory for class rebellion. Recommended by multiple zombie experts.
2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The classic zombie movie. Simply put, it must be top 3. With 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, it out-scores newer, more plot-developed zombie movies because you just don’t mess with the classics. Night of the Living Dead will forever and always be the zombie movie baseline. Fun fact: It was banned for graphic violence and gore upon release, and legend has it a version of the film is still banned in the country.
1. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
“When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.” George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is the greatest zombie movie ever made. It’s great the first time you watch it as a teen and gets better as you age. A rag-tag group of survivors escapes a mass zombie outbreak, seeking haven in an ever-symbolic American shopping mall. Shit gets gory. The budget was low, the scares are quality, and no zombie movie since has achieved such a perfect balance.
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