Horror doesn’t have to be horrific, but even when it is, there’s still the potential for hilarity. As a serious zombie aficionado, and as a lover of all things comedic, I always try to find horror movies that have a good twist or at least something amusing in them. If I can’t laugh while the main character is being disemboweled, then I may pass it over for something else. Admittedly, this means my taste is horror movies might be a bit skewed, but it also means that I know about a lot of good, funny zombie movies. This list is my top ten, presented in no particular order of humor or horror.
This awesomely funny movie is relatively unknown. It was made in 2003 in Australia and deals with a group of survivors in a small fishing town who suddenly have to fight the undead. As a plus, there are alien invaders. The best part is Marion, played by Mungo McKay, who seems to always have a gun somewhere, including after all his clothing has had to be removed. (And, yes, another character comments on where the guns could possibly have come from since Marion is naked.) It has a number of awesome “gimmes,” including a total nod to video games when a character, looking for a key, suddenly spots the glint above the door and is able to get into the house to save himself. The end is a twist that will have you shaking your head and slapping your forehead.
IMDb gives it a 5.5 and Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 31%, although the audience gave it a 45%. So while it might not be for everyone, if you’re looking for something that didn’t make it onto the radar of a lot of zombie lovers, this is one for you!
Return of the Living Dead I
A true classic of humorous horror, Return of the Living Dead came out in 1985. The summary on IMDb is possibly one of the best one-sentence summaries you can find: “When a bumbling pair of employees at a medical supply warehouse accidentally release a deadly gas into the air, the vapors cause the dead to re-animate as they go on a rampage.”
Some of the classic scenes involve a half-dog in the medical supply warehouse who comes to life and tries to run (tragic and funny, all at the same time!), and one of the most famous lines: “Send more paramedics!” One important thing to note about the zombies in this series: they retain their intelligence, and they cannot be killed, only contained.
This movie is obviously dated, being almost 30 years old now, but it is still funny, and it gives you a great look at the beginning of the humorous zombie/horror genre. IMDb gives it a 7.2 and Rotten Tomatoes gives it a whopping 90%. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t delay. All your zombie viewing will be forever affected.
Return of the Living Dead II
Because we all know that the sequels always suck, it’s important to bring this one up because it doesn’t! This came out three years after the original. It may not have quite the charm of the original, but it doesn’t disappoint in the genre. Instead of having a medical supply warehouse, this is simply a few kids opening up some barrels. Which, of course, is exactly what the workers did in the first movie that caused the zombie outbreak. Potentially the best scene is at the beginning, though, when the characters from the first movie do a guest shot and ask each other if this all seems familiar. But it doesn’t disappoint during the movie, either. An excellent example is when a zombie responds to a cry for help and tells the character to come to the hospital. The doctor asks the zombie who the president is, and the zombie replies, “Harry Truman.” Whoops!
Yes, this is a sequel, and a lot of people complain it’s too similar to the original, but that’s part of the humor in it. Don’t watch it without watching Part I first. This one only gets a 5.5 on IMDb, but it has no rating on Rotten Tomatoes yet. While I can highly recommend the first two in this series, part III, which came out in 1993, is not one I can give a thumbs up. It got a 5.7 on IMDb but only a 38% on Rotten Tomatoes, and I have to agree with Rotten Tomatoes this time. The third one simply doesn’t have the fun of the first two, but if you’re looking for gore, then it might be the right one for you—the main character’s girlfriend discovers that she can keep the craving for brains down by mutilating herself. Not bad for the blood, but not as good as the first two.
Shaun of the Dead
Made by super-cool mega-nerd Simon Pegg, this movie is meant for zombie movie lovers who want some romance and humor in their horror. It was billed as a “zom-rom-com,” and it doesn’t disappoint. The plot is simple—zombies. A good guy who wants to save his loser roommate, the girlfriend who recently dumped him, and his mom. And, of course, zombies are all over the place. Luckily, they aren’t very bright, and they aren’t very fast.
The gore in this movie is a bit tamped down compared to many other modern zombie movies, especially when you consider this came out in 2004, but the gore isn’t needed. The movie has no problem carrying the viewer along, although when I’ve watched it with people who haven’t seen a zombie movie before, they often miss the jokes, so be warned that this may not be the place to start if you don’t like zombie movies.
Critics even loved it, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it a whopping 91% and IMDb ranking it at 8.0.
Ed and His Dead Mother
Another “classic,” Ed and His Dead Mother stars Steve Buscemi and Miriam Margolyes. Ed is a momma’s boy who can’t take it when his mother dies, and so he pays a firm who promises to bring her back, good as new. Yes, she comes back. And as long as she eats cockroaches on a regular basis, then all is okay. But, of course, something has to go wrong, and next thing you know, Mom is trying to chainsaw the dog and finish off some houseguests. While she’s never called the z-word, it’s pretty clear what has happened, and Ed has to really sever the connection with her.
This one didn’t have that much critical acclaim, only earning 5.9 on IMDb and a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, but what do they know? This is among my top echelon of humorous zombie flicks every time.
Dead Alive was also released under the name “Brain Dead.” The best part—it was directed by Peter Jackson. Yes, that Peter Jackson. It came out back in 1993 in the US, and it is hysterically funny while being one of the bloodiest movies you will ever see. There’s this one scene that involves a lawnmower inside a house. And that’s all I’ll say about the lawnmower scene. The basic plot is that a loser is trying to keep his girlfriend while still taking care of his zombie mother who turned into a zombie due to a monkey bite. There are plenty of things for zombie mom to eat, including dogs, nurses, friends, and neighbors.
Perhaps it’s the Peter Jackson magic, but this one managed a 7.6 on IMDb and an extremely respectable 86% over at Rotten Tomatoes.
This was a movie I wasn’t sure about when I first heard about it, and I actually rented it and didn’t watch it at first. Then it showed up through Amazon Instant Video, and I watched it. And wow. So the movie, released in 2006, takes place in a world where, if you don’t pay enough money when you die, you come back as a zombie and are placed out as a slave. There’s a collar around your neck that keeps you from eating the people you’re serving. One of the neighbors is the typical dirty old man who has a young female zombie on his “staff.” But the main character is a young boy who’s best friend is his zombie, aptly named Fido, as if he’s a loyal dog. Unfortunately, Fido manages to eat a neighbor, and then things just start to go wrong.
One thing about this movie is that it isn’t all just comedy and horror—it definitely has some dramatic overtones and seems to be trying to make a statement. To me, that makes it a stronger movie, even if it does feel a bit overwrought here and there.
IMDb is pretty fond of it, too, ranking it at a 6.8, and Rotten Tomatoes gave it a nice 71%.
Zombieland came out in 2009, and it was funny, and it had zombies. If I had been putting these in order of my favorites, this would have actually come in last. It is really a zombie comedy for those who don’t really know zombie comedies. Now, that’s not a bad thing, but it really seemed to miss the mark in some scenes, and while I did go see it in the theater, I haven’t watched it since. There just weren’t enough zombies, and some scenes just didn’t have the tension that a good zombie movie should have imbued throughout.
For those who are not familiar with the zombie comedy, it’s a good start. It goes over the basic rules, and the gore that’s in it is well done. The slower scenes may be refreshing if you aren’t used to the splatter, and Bill Murray was a total bonus. He very well might have been the funniest part of the whole movie.
It was extremely well received when it came out, and it earned 7.7 at IMDb and 90% at Rotten Tomatoes.
Another movie was missed by a lot of otherwise happy zombie viewers was Doghouse, a British horror comedy from 2009. The title comes from the concept that the men in the movie are in the doghouse (i.e. in trouble with the women in their lives). They decide to take a manly weekend away, but when they get to their destination, it turns out that all the women in the town have been turned into zombies and are busily eating all the men. Whoops. This one is heavy on the gore, but also hysterically funny, so it all evens out. Some reviews thought it was misogynistic, but I have to disagree—but I can’t tell you why unless you’ve seen the movie already or it will ruin it when you learn the cause for the zombiism.
IMDb gave it a nice average 6.8, but Rotten Tomatoes panned it with a 48%. But what do they know? Ignore them and enjoy an evening of men on the run from hungry zombie babes.
Army of Darkness
It has Bruce Campbell, so that should be enough to get you to watch it right there! But just in case that doesn’t do it for you, the plot alone should make you giggle—a clerk at “S-Mart” (no, it’s not K-Mart, really!!) is transported back to 1300 A.D. where he has to battle an army of the undead in order to retrieve the Necronomicon. Oh, and Campbell is missing a hand, so he’s replaced it with a chainsaw. And he has his “boomstick” (shotgun). And at one point, he messes up and winds up fighting a duplicate of himself.
Sam Raimi really did it here in this 1992 classic, but I have to admit to being a huge fan of Raimi’s horror comedies, whether or not they have dead things in them. I’m not the only one in love with this film, though. IMDb gave it a whopping 7.6 and Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 70%. Maybe not the best ratings ever, but for those who love any of the series (including Evil Dead and Evil Dead II), then this is a total must see.
Michele Salzberg on August 01, 2018:
Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse 2015, was funny, the writing was great.
Katherine Sanger (author) from Texas on November 17, 2016:
Thanks, Ash - I will definitely check that one out!
Ash on November 10, 2016:
I survived a Zombie Holocaust is worth a look! :)
Chantelle Porter from Ann Arbor on November 14, 2015:
I loved Zombieland. I have to admit it's the only movie on the list I've seen. I'll check the others out. Great article.
amandajoyshapiro on February 25, 2013:
This is great post. So many people don't realize there are zombie comedies. Even though I voted for Zombieland, I also love My Boyfriend's Back. If you are interested, find my hub, Pick Your Favorite Zombie to see some other titles.