The irony is hard to miss: the zombie fandom is well and alive in the heart of all media. From TV, to games, to comics; we have seen the undead anyone and everyone around the most ill fated (or insanely lucky) protagonists, as the audience we are just dying for more. The movie industry has not been left out, and some may even argue that this is actually where the infection originally started. We totally agree with that -and to further prove that point, here are 10 of the most crucial zombie flicks to date (in no particular order too). Oh, and just a quick note to anyone who might be looking for “I Am Legend”, you won’t find it here; that film is about vampires, not zombies.
1. Night of the Living Dead
We are not going to count the sheer number of times that people have endlessly named George A. Romero’s cult hit as the source of all things shambling, rotting, and hungry for brains. Because the fact of the matter is, this is truly where it started.
What was originally a film that had socio-political undertones (at least, we think it does) has now become the flagship of all things zombie. Before this film, zombies were a thing of the voodoo lore, and people mostly associated “undead” with ghouls, walking skeletons, and of course, vampires.
In the Night of Living Dead, we saw it all: the shambling corpses clumsily moving about, the infectious bites, but most important of all, the fact that when put into truly dire situations, the living will certainly turn on each other. Romero’s work set the bar and the standard for us all, and it is perfectly fine to follow.
Certainly not the movie most folks have been expecting, but yes, Zombieland IS the zombie movie that is most reflective of the new world. The film is less about human drama and more on what young adults are more likely to prioritize once shit hits the proverbial fan and the undead start eating the living. The humor in the film is very tongue-in-cheek, and points out most of the basic things that characters fail to do in traditional zombie themed stories. The protagonist’s “rules” also portray a few of the most common things that people need to survive a typical Hollywood style zombie outbreak (if not the real world counterpart, at the very least). Let’s not forget the fact that Zombieland dialogue is also smart and funny, making it a movie truly worth watching.
3. World War Z
The irony here is that while the book this film was based on is one of the best zombie themed books ever made, the movie itself had little to no relation to the story in the book. The end result however, was still impressive and great to watch (and makes us wonder why there was even a book-tie-up in the first place).
In this film, Brad Pitt plays the role of a UN investigator trying to get to the bottom of the origin of where the undead came from. While this question is never answered, he accidentally manages to figure out what it takes to fight them off. Anyway, that is not the reason why this film is so good.
This film is on our list for sheer, fabulous, zombie-Armageddon eye-candy and it’s also spawned a fun first person mobile shooter although not as well received as an independent game known as Zombie World War. Because really, considering the amount of firepower a typical army or military group has, a bunch of slow moving, clumsy corpses can hardly be considered a realistic threat. The menace of zombies on this film however, surpasses that limitation, and turns the zombies into a giant mass with the force of structured chaos that devours anything in its’ path.
4. 28 Days Later / 28 Weeks Later
This is one of the first films to actually say it: virus. The sheer word alone turned the whole zombie threat into something that humanity could not fight on a basic level. A group of terrorists or an evil warlock with ancient voodoo powers would be something you can “arm yourself” against. But a virus was a faceless and bodiless entity that possessed neither malice nor goodwill. It just infects, and this made the zombies of 28 much scarier. Oh, let us also not forget the simple fact that this is also most widely known film where you would see zombies run and chase their targets with all the skill and tenacity that a living being would have.
The sequel, 28 Weeks Later, continued the first film’s dark and serious undertone, and proceeded to paint humanity as continuously stumbling upon itself and allowing the zombies to wreak even more havoc than it should. Now, we are going out on a limb here and cut to the chase: many purists consider the infected of 28 as “infected raging humans” instead of zombies, and second, that it was Dawn of the Dead that ‘started’ running zombies. The science and technicalities don’t really matter. These two movies deliver the exact kind of thrill that other ‘zombie’ movies do, and in the end, that is all that counts.
5. Army of Darkness (Evil Dead 3)
Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi’s 1999 film may be dated, but it is still one of the best (and campiest) movies about battling the undead that you will ever find. The film is less focused on zombies and revolves entirely around the exploits and misadventures of the lead character, Ash Williams. And that -if you are a massive film geek, is something that you should know is a great thing. Ash is cocky, idiotic, and overflowing with blind self-confidence; and somehow he still manages to trump the direst of circumstances that he finds himself in -giving Army of Darkness the hero we need in an undead apocalypse. And if you have ever wondered where the phrase “give me some sugar baby” came from, this is it.
6. Shaun of the Dead
There are a lot of film critics and purists who would prefer to bump off Zombieland from any list and put in this film. We say that the two are not equals (and neither one is more important than the other). Instead each fulfills their own role and place in the hierarchy of zombie films. Zombieland is more about the more “zombie-aware” people, and how modern cynicism (and a bit of positive thinking) can get you through the day (or apocalypse). Shaun of the Dead is all about the homages to the original zombie flicks that brought the undead into mainstream. Simon Pegg’s balance of class and crass in his humor shines through, breaking through the stereotype of “dry British comedy” and gives us (and the zombies) something more to chew on.
7. Resident Evil
Based on a video game that was a homage to horror movies, Resident Evil certainly has become one of the most recognized names in the zombie-genre. Romero’s “of the Dead” films was the great big start for zombies on the silver screen. On modern TV, AMC’s Walking Dead series is the big name to beat. In the video game industry, no other zombie themed title is bigger than Capcom’s Resident Evil games (and it came before the Walking Dead).
The film adaptation of the game takes plenty of liberties with the characters and the main details of the game’s storyline -the general concept of a major corporation using genetics to develop a virus that creates bioweapons (which are basically “zombified anythings”) still stands as the general antagonist to the story. This film makes it to this list however, not for the plot or its’ tie up to the iconic game: Resident Evil is a fun zombie film to watch because it belongs in the action movie genre more than anything else.
Yep, the zombies are still as nasty and as hungry as ever. But you have also got protagonists armed to the teeth with modern weaponry and flashy melee combat skills. Resident Evil is mindless zombie smashing fun disguised as a full length feature film -and audiences find it so fun to watch they have already made so many sequels.
Based on a book, this film is all about a fatal infection that is unlike anything else on the list: death through words. This psychological thriller is not about some sci-fi thing gone wrong or some evil fantasy magic at work; just the simple concept of how bad things can get if a “language” got infected by a virus. Yep, you can be turned into a “zombie” if you say a certain word -and the word differs from person to person.
A small town radio shock jock and the crew of the station find themselves observers to a bizarre series of events that are causing strange deaths across the area. As the danger draws near, they start learning about the nature of the problem, and must find a way to survive.
The creators of Pontypool have directly stated that their film does not have “zombies”. But just as 28 Days Later made it to the list, this one deserves a spot just for the spine tingling experience that it delivers.
9. Dead Snow
Horror and comedy are a pretty good mix, and it is quite obvious as we have got our third comedy entry with Dead Snow. This is less about direct comedy than the previous two entries and more of a tongue-in-cheek thing. The villains here are Nazi-zombies. Apparently, the film producers didn’t want the audiences getting confused about who the bad guys are. The film has all the basic elements of a modern-“slasher” flick; a group of young adults on a cabin getaway, strange curses, a hint of sex, and a lot of gore. There is no real plot aside from the protagonists attempts (and failures) to survive against the zombie attacks. The thrill is in the experience of watching, and this Norwegian film has certainly plenty of eye candy for the viewers.
10. White Zombie
Completing our list of the best undead films is none other than the original: White Zombie. Yep, Romero was only responsible for making them famous. But zombies have been in Hollywood much longer. Bega Lugosi’s film is dated, old, and highly criticized (negatively at that). But it is undeniably the first zombie related film to be ever made. Oh yes, we are talking about genuine Haitian voodoo magic and mindless living slaves as the big Z in this film. Made in 1932, White Zombie is just a couple of decades away from being a whole century old, and it shows in the work. Still, it pays to know what movie brought zombies to the silver screen in the first place.