The 67 Best Zombie Movies Ever Made - A Countdown
Here we are.
We have seen and revisited dozens of titles to reach this ultimate countdown.
Yes, we may still have slipped a few titles. Yes, there are still more great zombie movies to come. But overall, this is a great compendium of the very best that the cinematic zombies can offer.
There's everything in here. Movie-within-a-movie, comedy, indie drama, blockbuster action, gore, and splatstick. Little-known gems and mega-known classics. Zombies created by voodoo, satanic rituals, viral infections or comets. These could be called zombies, infected, undead, demons, etc. One thing is sure, they would love to eat you.
Why 67 picks? Welp, it's a great number. It's a perfect halfway between the bland 50 and the exhaustive 100.
And that's the main idea of this "the best zombie movies ever made" list, to offer a deep introduction to the undead genre.
67) Nightmare City (1980)
Umberto Lenzi's mess is one of those movies that you have to see for yourself. It's one of those entertaining hot garbage films that's incredibly funny for the wrong reasons and also generates a deserved cult status.
The creatures incredibly work because they are halfway between lazy makeup work and true visual horror. They're also the first fast zombies in the history of cinema. That's a landmark.
Its absurd and unnecessary ending is one of the moments I have laughed the most in front of a screen. That must count for something.
66) Hard Rock Zombies (1985)
This was originally going to be just a couple of minutes of a fictional movie that was going to be watched by the characters in the movie American Drive-In. A movie-within-the-movie. But after counting the money, the crazy and wonderful minds of Cannon decided to shoot two movies for the price of one. Thus was born Hard Rock Zombies.
This is an amateur disaster that looks like it was edited by a filmmaking student, but is full of really bizarre and disturbing moments like a zombie dwarf that eats himself, or Adolf Hitler trying to electrocute a Heavy Metal band.
It's just wonderful.
65) The Plague Of The Zombies (1966)
This little Hammer gem is one of the indispensable ones from the Pre-Romero era.
Not only does it have a great 1860 England setting and a zombie design that would end up visually influencing the genre, but its rhythm—surprisingly—is quite good even by today's standards.
In addition, its story revolves around a cult of privileged white men who create zombies to have a free workforce in the reactivation of a mine. By 1966 standards, that was an interesting and progressive narrative leap.
64) The Battery (2012)
This is the slow-burn little indie gem of the list. Jeremy Gardner's debut uses a baseball analogy to explore American culture, focusing on a world ravaged by a zombie outbreak.
The chemistry between Gardner (yes, he also played one of the lead characters) and Adam Cronheim is the best calling card of this film. They're two very different characters, with different stances on survival, forced to join forces to increase their chances.
It's one of the best examples that even in the zombie context, it's possible to create a compelling, character-driven social drama about trust and hopelessness.
63) [REC] 3: Genesis (2012)
The first sequel after the creative divorce of Paco Plaza and Jaume Balagueró was an infernal wedding full of blood, dismemberments and chainsaws.
Having perhaps exhausted the found footage narrative device, Paco Plaza flipped the script. He converted this story, which unbelievably remains within the same universe, to one of the best self-parodies of all time.
[REC] 3 is full of memorable characters, like Tuna or Mencu. But of all, is Clara (Leticia Dolera) who steals the spotlight, resizing the bridezilla concept to really unbelievable levels.
62) Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)
A sophisticated biker and an anguished woman have to unmask the real people responsible for a zombie outbreak in a small European rural town, while the prejudices and laziness of the local police force end up pointing them out as the main suspects.
This film's greatest merit and contribution to the genre is its cruel story about how miscommunication and mistrust between humans end up being what really condemns the characters. It practically initiated that narrative tendency in which humans end up being more monstrous than zombies.
61) Zombie Ass: Toilet Of The Dead (2011)
This movie is the embodiment of the phrase "You can do anything within this genre".
In an absolute display of "That's Japan for you", this movie is the ultimate test for those who consider themselves open-minded. Relentlessly eschatological, this creative disgust is filled with OMFG moments that will unleash laughter and cringe reactions.
Surprisingly, and way under a mound of zombies, excrement, blood, and tapeworms, the film offers a message about not limiting our actions through the opinions of third parties. And boy, did director Noboru Iguchi really embodied that message.
60) The Serpent And The Rainbow (1988)
Wes Craven (Nightmare On Elm Street), proving the genius of horror that he is, faced the zombie genre in a unique way.
Using the outdated trope of the voodoo ritual to create zombies, this film uses Haiti and its real historical context of the bloody dictatorship of "Baby Doc" Duvalier to supply fresh air to the story.
Zakes Mokae is the dictatorial leader of The Tonton Macoute. Bill Pullman is a white anthropologist who wants to appropriate ancestral Afro-Caribbean knowledge so that American pharmaceutical companies can earn more billions. The only innocents seem to be the zombies.
59) Warm Bodies (2013)
This movie directed by Jonathan Levine is one of the very rare occasions in which the plot is narrated from the zombie's point of view.
Nicholas Hoult in zombie mode manages to reactivate his heart by falling in love with the--still human--Teresa Palmer. His inner voice (which guide us with constants voiceovers) is still very lucid, but his declining body fails him.
Both manage to develop a relationship that soon becomes quite intense. But first, they will have to survive other uber-zombies and the radicalized anti-zombie humans (such as John Malkovich, who plays Palmer's father and a military man. You know, the perfect father-in-law).
It has zombies, blood and several jokes, but in the core, this is a universal, engaging story about misunderstood love.
58) Night of The Living Dead (1990)
Tom Savini updating the iconic George A. Romero film is a nice cinematic passing of the torch that must be experienced. This update comes, in addition, with a great twist in the form of Patricia Tallman, who plays one of the best female badass lead characters of the genre.
Unfortunately, Tom Savini had to deal with post-Cannon producer Menahem Golan. His madness of saying "yes" to everything had already gone and, consequently, many of Savini's good edgy ideas were left out. Golan just wanted something not too risky.
Go watch it. Worst case scenario, you will end up being an expert in nailing boards in the windows of your house.
57) I Walked With a Zombie (1943)
Despise being a movie from 1943, I Walked With A Zombie displays a great amount of elegance, intelligence, darkness and an absolute sense of awareness about the horrors of slavery.
Framed in an incredibly depressing aura (the real lead character is emo as fuck), this story about a nurse assigned to take care of the (zombie?) wife of a sugar plantation owner of a Caribbean Island, moves more in the suspense realm than in horror.
This movie has a unique atmosphere, one that many recent films will surely envy.
56) The Cured (2017)
In that little sub-genre called "ex-zombies reintroduced to society," The Cured is definitely one of its best exponents.
With a not-so-subtle IRA symbolism, the story follows a group of "cured" (former zombies who remember all the details of the horrors they committed when infected) that suffer strong rejection from the rest of society. Slowly and progressively, and thanks to a radical leader/sociopath, this sector of society will resort to more violent tactics so that their voices will be heard and their rights restored.
It also has great performances by Ellen Page, Sam Keeley, and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor.
55) Zombie Strippers! (2008)
This movie literally started as a joke between Jay Lee and his friends. And thank God for that.
Zombie Strippers! has all the dignity that a project with Robert Englund (You know, Freddy Krueger) and Jenna Jameson (you know, the retired mega pornstar) sharing the spotlight can have. But this movie doesn't exist for dignity, but to establish a rivalry between zombie strippers and human strippers. And yes, sometimes, that's exactly what cinema needs.
Also, it has a political satire undertone that although it's quite cartoonish, it's still unexpected and clever.
54) Cooties (2014)
Cooties has to be the favorite zombie movie of all elementary teachers around the world. It's impossible not to imagine them laughing cathartically at some of the sequences involving some frenzy little kids getting owned.
The story focuses on a group of teachers (led by Elijah Wood, Alison Pill, and Rainn Wilson) who must survive a virus that only affects their young students. In other words, teachers must make their way to the point of hitting, firing and kicking to survive a horde of violent little cannibals.
This is a violent and gross analogy about the difficult profession of teaching, created by the minds behind Glee and Saw.
53) Overlord (2018)
J.J. Abrams produced what many believed was going to be the fourth installment of the Cloverfield saga. But no, this story has nothing to do with giant alien monsters.
With a very charismatic squad that features the performances of Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell and John Magaro, this is a fantastic epic war blockbuster set on D-Day, that also includes Nazi zombie experiments in the basement of a French church.
Watching a B-movie premise with the budget of a Bad Robot production is proof enough that we live in beautiful times.
52) Dead & Breakfast (2004)
This is undoubtedly a rare hybrid between horror comedy, gore and a folk musical. That sole description should be engaging enough, but the film also manages to not disappoint in any of its sub-genres.
In addition, it has a cast that is TV royalty by today standards. We're talking about some very young Jeremy Sisto, Erik Palladino, Portia De Rossi and Bianca Lawson battling zombies rednecks in a small Bed & Breakfast.
And, oh! David Carradine plays a classic old mysterious guy and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is the town's cocky sheriff.
51) Pet Sematary Two (1992)
The sequel to the Mary Lambert classic no longer has Stephen King on board, and it shows. It also didn't help the fact that the best ideas of the director were shot down by Paramount Pictures.
But even with one-dimensional characters, half cliched ideas and some unnecessarily cruel twists (just for the sake of it), Pet Sematary Two has too many iconic moments recorded in our imaginary to ignore it.
Clancy Brown is perfect as the sheriff-stepfather-of-hell-turned-creepy-unpredictable-zombie. This is also little John Connor (Edward Furlong)'s second most famous movie.
50) Shock Waves (1977)
A group of tourists led by Brook Adams and Luke Halpin is shipwrecked on a mysterious island with only one giant abandoned mansion. Who lives there? An ex-Nazi leader of a commando of what are now aquatic Nazi zombies. That's right. Aquatic. Nazi. Zombies.
The poor tourists, of course, will be hunted one by one.
In Shock Waves, gore and violence are scarce but the suspense and terrifying atmosphere is plenty and of great quality.
Still not convinced? Well, know that Peter Cushing plays the old German ex-SS commander with a horrible scar on his face. And he fucking rules.
49) The Girl With All The Gifts (2016)
I'll be intense. The movie justifies it.
The best thing about The Girl With All The Gift is the treatment of the inevitable. The human race is doomed to be surpassed for the next evolutive step and there is really nothing to be done about it.
This is a great movie about excluded characters who are unable to develop their own personality. In a very twisted way, this is also a great story about self-acceptance.
In addition, it has a wonderful cast, with Glenn Close, Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine and breakthrough sensation Sennia Nanua.
48) The Night Eats The World (2018)
A young French man goes to his ex-girlfriend's house to retrieve some of his belongings. The deeply uncomfortable moment is marked by a party and the hostile attitude of the new boyfriend. The only way that the situation could be worse if that, somehow, he was forced to stay locked in that apartment due to a zombie outbreak.
That's exactly what happens.
This is one of the most plausible, genuine and real zombie outbreaks stories of all time. It's impossible not to identify with Sam and realize that many of us would make many of his same decisions.
47) Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972)
A group of unbearable, entitled and snobbish actors from a theater group decides to spend the weekend on an island used as a cemetery for deranged killers (because that's a thing?). Their idiotic and privileged attitude gets worse when they start doing a one-up on who knows more about satanic rites.
The unnecessary cruelty that the characters display with the tombs and corpses only "for the lulz" makes the viewer end up hating practically all the human protagonists.
So when the zombies finally arrive, the catharsis is delicious. And that was the plan. This is perhaps the only movie where the audience ends up cheering the mindless zombies.
46) Life After Beth (2014)
The always odd but addictive Aubrey Plaza (Beth) and Dane DeHaan are the protagonists of this story about the end of love. Everything revolves around a relationship that's organically ending, but whose natural flow is interrupted by a tragic accident that ends up taking Beth's life.
The twist is that Beth will return in zombie mode, complicating all possible social dynamics around her.
This movie has some tonal inconsistency, but it has several memorable scenes that make it more than recommended. In addition, under all the layers of dark comedy and zombie disgust, there is an interesting and warm story about overcoming emotional losses.
45) Resident Evil (2002)
The first adaptation of Capcom's emblematic videogame--responsible for keeping the popularity of zombies afloat in its worst decade, the 90s--is a flawed but indispensable piece of pop culture of the beginning of the 21st century.
Paul W.S. Anderson has always been a more visual director than a deep one, and that's more than evident in this movie.
This is a classic/guilty pleasure full of iconic moments, like that killer lasers tribute to Cube or the iconic Milla Jovovich air kicking a zombie dog in slow-mo while Nine Inch Nails' Fist F**k is blasting on the background.
44) My Boyfriend’s Back (1993)
Director Bob Balaban, channeling his Eerie Indiana years, created this high-school rom-com in the early 90s about a boy (Andrew Lowery) who is so obsessed with his high school crush (Traci Lind), that after dying victim of a theft-going-wrong, manages to return in zombie mode so he won't miss his prom dance.
It also includes some fantastic performances by Edward Herrmann and Mary Beth Hurt, Matthew Fox as the popular jock and Philip Seymour Hoffman as a psycho bully.
This little gem of deadpan humor deserves to be rescued from oblivion.
43) Cemetery Man (1994)
This is probably the very last great Italian artistic horror film of the great post-Giallo era. Michele Soavi worked for years alongside legendary figures such as Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci, and that's why the film has that absolute Italian look that craftily solves the scarce budget.
But, battling with time, Cemetery Man is so tonally odd, that its unpredictability seemed strategic. This film aspires to have deeper artistic connotations, but many of its efforts seem focused on comedy and parody.
But somehow it works wonderfully. Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) is simply a unique character. Like this movie.
42) Black Sheep (2006)
The fear of the countryside has always been a constant in horror, and this dark comedy from New Zealand double down on that.
This is the story of a man who denies his past after developing (rightly) a phobia of sheep. Years later, and after having become the black sheep (ooooh, clever title, huh?) of the family, he decides to return to his childhood farm to close some family matters.
Of course, dealing with his past will include dealing with a flock of violent zombie sheep.
The level of absurdity of the plot grows exponentially (I mean, there are even were-lamb-zombies at some point), but the work of Weta Workshop in the special effects department makes the gags land perfectly.
41) Pet Sematary (1989)
Mary Lambert's adaptation of Stephen King's novel (who also wrote the script) is undoubtedly one of the best horror films of the 80s.
From the great performance of Fred Gwynne to the horrific adaptations of creatures Gage and Zelda, this film is just full of iconic moments.
The Pet Sematary's zombies are just one of the most unpredictable and therefore, disturbing undead on modern cinema. Their biggest threat is not physical but at the psychological level. They are the embodiment of all loss, suffering and death mean.
That's some Stephen King for you.
40) The Grapes Of Death (1978)
A whole crop of contaminated grapes ends up turning a local rural wine into the agent of infection of a virus that turns people into violent killers.
This is the most French zombie movie ever shot. I mean, we are talking about psycho zombies created by drinking wine. In a movie whose director and one of the lead actresses were important names in the erotic movies industry at the same time. S*xual tension, wines, and small villas.
That's enough reason to watch it.
39) Dead Heat (1988)
Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo must dismantle a gang of thieves who appear to be immune to bullets. In the process of the investigation, they discover that a pharmaceutical company is experimenting with the revival of corpses and apparently that knowledge is being used by criminal minds.
The police duo will then face the most bizarre situations, such as battling an entire army of animal ingredients (because they're, after all, revived corpses) in a Chinese restaurant. You know that sounds awesome.
A trashy buddy cop movie based on the late '80s based on mutant zombies used as criminal LA gangs? We're all in.
38) Day Of The Dead (1985)
Day Of The Dead concentrates too much time on how clumsy humans communications are, but once the zombies finally arrive, we're talking about the most visceral and legendary special effects third act ever captured on screen. This was a legendary makeup team that included Tom Savini and Greg Nicotero, among others.
This film also offers the legendary zombie Bub, an amazing John Harrison soundtrack, and the amazing, chilling and improvised Captain Rhodes' line "Choke on em!", Among other gems.
This could be the least epic entry of the original Romero trilogy but is still an undeniable masterpiece within the genre.
37) Fido (2006)
Clearly influenced by the video game Fallout, Andrew Currie and Dennis Heaton decided to create a story set in a 1950 America where the country just survived a zombie outbreak.
The result is a fantastic dark comedy that visually reminds us of old Hollywood melodramas, Douglas Sirk's films and Disney's live-action movies, but centered on a story with a multinational corporation using zombies as slaves in the suburbia-White-Fences culture of post-war America.
The contrast between the naive narrative and the cynical social critique is just fantastic and unique. In addition, the whole thing is strengthened by great performances by Carrie-Anne Moss, Dylan Baker, and Billy Connolly.
36) Sugar Hill (1974)
A photographer named Sugar Hill (Marki Bey), who deliciously embodies the feminine funky afro style of the '70s, decides to ask for help to the myths and rituals of her ancestors' voodoo bloodline to unleash revenge on the criminal mafia that murdered her love.
The result is the appearance of Baron Samedi, an army of loyal zombies and many creative kills made around Afro-Caribbean traditions. It's just a blast.
Sugar Hill is the only zombie blaxploitation movie you need to see. It has it all.
35) Planet Terror (2007)
The bombastic and over-the-top tribute of Robert Rodriguez (and Quentin Tarantino, who practically co-directed this film) to the B-movies and the grindhouse theaters, has in its heart one of the most disgusting and bloody zombie infestations captured on screen.
With a fancy cast that includes Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Bruce Willis, Josh Brolin, and Michael Parks, this insanity has mad scientists, corrupt military, idiotic sheriffs and even a go-go dancer with a machine gun/grenade launcher as a false leg.
34) Dawn of the Dead (2004)
To have made a remake of the ultimate zombie movie and end up releasing a popular film with its own personality is perhaps the greatest achievement on Zack Snyder's career.
The idea worked because Snyder didn't try to emulate the corrosive social criticism of Romero's masterpiece but instead focused on designing big, satisfactory action and violent sequences.
In addition, with all the horrendous things that happen in this movie (there is a newborn baby, among other hopeless things), it's refreshing and unexpected to watch a zombie story where humans actually change and start thinking communally, for a stronger survival chance.
33) City of the Living Dead (1980)
Of all the filmography of the godfather of Gore Lucio Fulci, this must be the one that has the worst script of all. The story is confusing, convoluted, full of too many characters that appear and disappear. It even has such an unstable ending, that until today many believe that the true conclusion was lost somehow and the editor had to solve with what little he had.
And still, the cult behind this movie is immense. And rightfully so. Fulci is a visual master and this nightmare about a little town struck by the curse of a priest is full of memorable and really disturbing sequences, even by 2019 standards.
This is just an essential movie.
32) Pontypool (2008)
This is the most unlikely zombie movie ever made. And one of the most original too.
Everything happens inside a radio station, where star DJ/announcer Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie) begins to receive reports about the end of the world and must decide whether to disclose the information or wait for more confirmations.
Pontypool has several layers of meta interpretation about the power of words, mass-hysteria and the influence of the media in the creation of opinion matrixes.
And for those who don't want to dig a lot into its symbols, there's still a fantastic thriller at the core, where the horror happens more in what we imagine is happening. That's true narrative power.
31) Dead & Buried (1981)
A small fishing village is systematically murdering the tourist families that pass through the place. Mysteriously, these people are also reappearing in the village, but with another identity and a newfound provincial attitude.
This disturbing thriller has the amazing work of the legendary Stan Winston in the special effects, which is fundamental in giving realism to an absolutely bonkers plot.
Dead and Buried is a perfect mix between a serious and well-designed horror setting with a crazy borderline-absurd plot that could easily be a Rated R episode of The Twilight Zone.
Come on, you know that sounds awesome.
30) Beyond Re-Animator (2003)
The resurrection of the Re-Animator saga came 13 years later and with a not-so-obvious allied country: Spain.
As usual, the story follows the arrogant, psychopathic "Aspergy" Dr. Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) in his obsessive quest to find the ultimate serum of immortality.
But this time, a corrupt prison will be the stage for West's experiments, which of course will mean a gigantic amount of horrendous and sick creatures.
This movie is well placed between the nice craftsmanship of Re-Animator and the total insanity of Bride of the Re-Animator.
29) Burial Ground (1981)
This film doesn't go around the bush with unnecessary things like a plot or character development. From the very beginning, Andrea Bianchi launches three horny snobby couples in a creepy Tuscan mansion where a "professor" has unintentionally unleashed a curse that has caused the dead to emerge from their graves.
With a creepy incestuous sub-plot starring the creepiest "kid" of modern horror (Peter Bark), and one of the best and terrifying zombie lineups of all time (no, seriously, the work in the makeup department is just amazing), this is an essential zombie movie.
28) Night Of The Comet (1984)
The passage of a comet has turned almost the entire population into dust and turned a few survivors into bloodthirsty zombies. Only a handful of humans have managed to emerge unharmed from the entire apocalyptic process.
Those protagonists are the too-80'-fashion icons sisters Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Samantha (Kelli Maroney), who together with "Rico Suave" Hector (Robert Beltran) must face an organization called Think Tank that basically collects humans and turn them into blood bags, to cover the needs of some infected not-quite-zombie people.
This is, by far, the quintessential zombie movie of the Halley generation.
27) Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
The fourth installment of the unstable but successful saga starring Milla Jovovich marked the return of Paul W.S. Anderson to the director's chair and a whole renewed attitude towards the franchise.
Because, for the first time, this movie looks free to wallow in its beautiful visual candy and absurd and unreal badass moments. There is no attempt to justify decisions or to strengthen the plot (which never worked in the previous films anyway).
Thanks to that (and the parallel success of the video game Resident Evil 5) we have unexplained giant zombies with massive axes and the first appearance of Chris Redfield in the series.
Yes, everything in Afterlife is hollow, but it's also incredibly entertaining and gorgeous-looking.
26) The Beyond (1981)
Lucio Fulci's most acclaimed work is a must-stop for any horror enthusiast.
This is true hell, shown in a surreal and mystical way. The characters are inside a nightmare where, like in dreams, the plot doesn’t have to have coherence. Instead, there are different horrendous scenarios of fear, mystery, and despair.
This is really a movie about the most unknown side of darkness. Fulci seems to unleash all his demons against the audience, creating the most bloody, raw and painful sequences of his filmography.
An absolute classic.
25) I Am A Hero (2015)
A full year before Train To Busan, this film was really the one that marked the postponed massification of zombies in the Asian cinematic culture.
Based on the manga of the same name created by Kengo Hanazawa, this fantastic story follows an assistant manga artist on his way from-zero-to-hero.
It also has one of the best zombie designs in recent memory, with all the undead having an unpredictable trait of behavior from their previous human life.
It is terrifying, cathartic and highly entertaining. Strangely, it's also kinda unknown in the rest of the world. Let's change that.
24) Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead (2014)
The plot of this movie seems straight out of a fantastic Australian dystopian comic. A meteor shower (apparently fulfilling an apocalyptic passage of the Bible) has led to a massive zombie infection. All flammable liquids have ceased to be effective. Only the blood and the breath of zombies work as fuel now. There's a character that can telepathically control the undead.
All this in a context that reminds too much of Mad Max.
Director Kiah Roache-Turner, in his debut, makes us swallow his fiction with amazing speed, intensity, and confidence. The merit is vast: This is one of the most rock-and-roll, badass zombie movies ever made.
23) Re-Animator (1985)
The introduction of the legendary and deranged Dr. Herbert West into the world is an absolute horror and splatter classic.
An unethical obsession to obtain the serum of immortality is what moves Dr. West to perform the most horrendous and creepy experiments. Jeffrey Combs’ performance is enigmatic, disturbing and strategically over-the-top. West works as a protagonist, antagonist and even an antihero.
This is an exquisite odd movie, with a definitely campy tone that feeds on dry humor and a good dose of body horror and gratuitous nudity.
22) Wild Zero (1999)
From the early decision to make a horror comedy full of rock, zombies, and aliens, at a time when Japan was having massive success with gore and serious horror, director Tetsuro Takeuchi and screenwriter Satoshi Takagi were determined to transgress all the rules.
Wild Zero is not only incredibly woke (the main love relationship is between a man and a trans woman), but it's a blast. We're talking about a story full of exploding heads, electricity bursts, fire-spitting microphones, motorcycles and electric guitars that are also samurai swords.
This is without a doubt the most punk and progressive zombie movie ever filmed.
21) Survival Of The Dead (2009)
Romero's last film doesn't have the respect it deserves.
Since Dawn Of The Dead, we haven't seen the iconic director so focused on the story rather than on the flashy theatrics of the genre. There are characters with full arches, dialogues that don't sound stiff and an interesting moral diatribe at the center of the conflict. It's the culmination of the master's narrative evolution, the one obsessed with getting zombies and humans to coexist.
If that doesn't move you, at least know that this is a Romero's Zombie existentialist western movie. If that doesn't motivate you, I honestly don't know what else I could do.
20) Poultrygeist: Night Of The Chicken Dead (2006)
Troma couldn't stay out of this list.
Weirdly enough, Troma didn't attack the zombie genre in many opportunities. This is its best one at it. And in classic Troma fashion, is full of politically incorrect mockery of virtually everyone involved. Nobody is safe: Left, right, rich, poor, Christians, Muslims, heterosexuals, homosexuals, all are victims of some hardcore, gross and offensive joke.
In addition, it has contaminated fried chicken that turns its guests into zombies. And it's also a musical.
This movie could be at the very end of this list and surely the decision would have the same amount of rejection and support. That's how polarizing (and necessary) this madness is for the genre.
19) One Cut of The Dead (2017)
Do you know that narrative gag in which a horrific scene is interrupted with a “cut!" yell and everything turns out to be really the shooting of a movie?
Do you know that pathetic gag of putting the blooper reel in the final credits to earn some cheap laughs?
Well, One Cut Of The Dead is the incredible exception to both rules. It uses both ideas to create a fantastic meta-comedy about the struggles of amateur filmmaking.
Unpredictable, full of clever jokes and a good amount of fictional zombies, this movie is one of the best of the genre in recent years.
18) [REC] (2007)
The found-footage gem of Spanish directors Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero is much more than just a visual gimmick.
The story of [REC] is about demon zombies terrorizing the families of a building in Barcelona, but it's also a story about the paranoia of living in a community. So many different family dynamics exposed and forced to suddenly survive together end up being prejudiced and having an absurd power dynamic.
It also has La Niña Medeiros (played by Javier Botet, an actor with Marfan Syndrome), one of the most terrifying characters of modern horror.
This is, for now, the best found-footage horror movie ever created. Sorry, The Blair Witch Project.
17) Train to Busan (2016)
A bunch of survivors enduring ultra-violent and fast zombies inside a train that is not going to stop until Busan. Nuff Said.
All in full-blown Korean cinema style: That is, a fantastic allegory about the class struggle (much like Snowpiercer), a family moving drama in the core (a father-daughter relationship) and really disturbing gore.
The development of its multiple characters, considering the context, the devilish fast pace, and the short duration, is a feat that makes clear the talent of director Yeon Sang-ho and writer Park Joo-suk.
Train to Busan is one of the most recent movies that makes you believe that the zombie genre is alive and well.
16) Land Of The Dead (2005)
This film is the celebration of a George A. Romero who--perhaps for the first time in his career--had a big budget to be able to fulfill his ambitions.
And although this movie is usually belittled precisely because it doesn't have that indie feel, the truth is that this is, by far, the zombie master's funniest movie.
This is a full-blown dystopia filled with colorful, over-the-top and memorable characters that look like they're drawn from a Heavy Metal Magazine comic. It also has the performances of Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento, John Leguizamo, Simon Baker and a great zombie cameo by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg.
15) Bride Of Re-Animator (1989)
The sequel above the original? I'm willing to assume responsibility for that blasphemy for the simple fact that madness and amusement are immensely greater here.
From the very fact that Cain and West continue to work together, this is the madness that it promises to be. I mean, the villain is a talking head that has bat wings instead of ears, for example.
It also has the most misogynistic plotline, with a woman Frankenstein-built with the "best parts" of other women. It's simply wonderful insanity that must be experienced.
14) Night of The Living Dead (1968)
This is the one that started everything. The one that took the zombies away from the voodoo and the mad scientists and started to popularize them in the pop culture as symbols of many other things. The legacy of this work by George A. Romero is just invaluable.
And yes, for many of you it may be a blasphemy that a film that practically opened the genre isn't ranked on the top 5. But sincerely, just as time has given it its legacy, it has also made it age kinda badly.
Also, I don't see any of you fighting for the zoetrope on #1 spot of this list. You ungrateful bastards, without a zoetrope we wouldn't have cinema in the first place.
13) Demons (1985)
A deceived audience is lured to a screening where demons will be literally invoked on the screen to attack them, kill them and turn them into new demons.
That script written by Lamberto Bava, Franco Ferrini, Dardano Sacchetti and the master Dario Argento, seemed to have a lot more depth than what it shows. This is evidently a subtle sarcastic parody about the villainization of the arts.
If everything else fails, we still have a memorable climactic scene in which a wannabe-Ash decapitates demons with a katana while masterfully driving a motorcycle inside the movie theater, with heavy metal band Accept scoring the sequence. That's just amazing.
12) Juan of the Dead (2014)
The first ever Cuban zombie movie? Yes, please!
A Cuban context is undoubtedly a perfect place for a good movie about zombies. And this work by Alejandro Brugués doesn't disappoint. There is a frank critique of hunger, blockade, and deficiencies under Castro's regime. There are, of course, Cuban rafters and domino parties. There's a socialist, combative spirit underneath of it all.
This movie is a great way to learn about the rare wonder that is Cuba and its endless contradictions. I don't think there is another zombie movie that can say the same about their country of origin. Well, maybe the number one movie on this ranking.
11) Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (2014)
Learning from the mistakes of the first Dead Snow, this sequel begins its bonkers tone from the very beginning and ends up delivering a vastly superior movie.
We are talking about a movie that has an army undead Russian soldiers against Nazi zombies. And the commitment to that mad idea is absolute. That's why the film cares very little about ethical values and political correctness. And it makes perfect sense: after all, Nazi zombies are the enemy. There cannot be any limits in their horrific acts of brutality.
This is one of those cinematic wonders that will make you laugh out loud, knowing that you're damned to hell for it.
10) ParaNorman (2012)
First and foremost, we're talking about a Laika movie. That is top-quality stop-motion animation. We are talking about 9,000 different faces used for just one main character or 12 months to animate just ONE complex scene. That level of dedication and craftsmanship of this movie is just amazing.
But in addition, the story combines a profound recognition to the genre (there are dozens of easter eggs and tributes to other horror films throughout the plot) with a tale about resentment and the need for forgiveness.
This is, by far, the best animation about zombies ever made throughout the history of cinema.
9) Zombi 2 (1979)
The great Lucio Fulci has several deserved entries on this list. But of all his films, is Zombi 2 (AKA Zombie Flesh Eater) which not only is a straight-up zombie movie (no demons or dreamlike scenarios) but also one of his best films technically speaking.
We could better describe iconic scenes such as the underwater zombie that bites a real shark (you hear it), the iconic, bloody scene of an eye impaled with a wood splinter (an absolute classic of gore cinema) or the great score of Fabio Brizzi. But the bottom line is this: With Zombi 2, we are already entering the Olympus part of this ranking.
8) Braindead (1992)
Before The Lord Of The Rings, Peter Jackson had already created a masterpiece, in another context.
Jackson, obviously inspired by Sam Raimi, ends up creating his own kind of New Zealand splatter, with a great script about the relationship of an adult with the women of his life. All bathed with dozens of gallons of fake blood.
It's a deranged film, full of equally disgusting and hilarious scenes (giant baby zombie anyone?), With an anachronistic, disturbing and cartoonish atmosphere that makes clear the masterful talent of its creator.
7) Zombieland (2009)
Zombieland arrived a little late to the party, but its presence was completely necessary.
This was the first mega-blockbuster box-office hit of the genre, with a fancy cast (Woody Harrelson! Emma Stone! Bill Murray!), dozens of creative deaths and an amusement park as the final zombie playground.
It was the final exhibit that zombies weren't only loved by a cult fanbase, but that they were ready for a massive audience. Months later, World War Z and The Walking Dead would come to take advantage of that broken glass ceiling.
6) The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
This is the film that introduced us to the Tarman and the iconic concept of the zombie obsessed with eating human brains.
Dan O'Bannon, an sporadic but assured machine of originality, established those iconic concepts in a zombie comedy. And in a time when no one was doing that, this movie marked the awakening of the horror comedy. That alone is an absolutely gigantic achievement.
But in addition, this movie is a delicious time capsule full of 80's punks and a boombox. Simply essential.
5) Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Edgar Wright is the master of visual comedy and just for that rightful badge of honor, this film deserves this position in this ranking. His direction and the way he edits the shots is simply a master class of cinematic narrative.
But in addition, Shaun of the Dead showed that it was possible to make a great universal comedy with zombies and not only about zombies, opening the doors to a whole new generation of independent authors.
The first of the Cornetto Trilogy is the favorite of many. And without a doubt, is the one in which the fantastic Pegg-Frost duo has better chemistry.
4) Demons 2 (1986)
Lamberto Bava uses the sequel of Demons to mock the villainization of the TV. He used such a corrosive sarcasm that even today there must be people who took the premise quite literally and erroneously.
Also, its high-rise building, yuppie context is simply a fabulous playground for lots of idiotic and fantastic mini-stories. Bodybuilders vs Demons, demons children attacking pregnant women and even an undead rappeling down are just some of the bonkers and legendary moments of this movie.
Oh, and the cinematography of Gianlorenzo Battaglia keeps Demons 2 at the highest aesthetic level of the genre. It's a fantastic mix.
3) Evil Dead 2 (1987)
Sam Raimi mixed the slapstick of his childhood's cartoons with a low budget creepy horror and ended up creating the splatstick and Ash Williams in the process.
Evil Dead 2 is indispensable for anyone who claims to love cinema. This is one of the best endurance, creative, and love tales for cinema ever made. Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell faced the obstacles of this saga with such brilliance, that they practically became cinema icons after this.
There are too many iconic moments in this movie to list them. Just know that you will be effectively entertained and disturbed by this frenzied festival of fake blood, prosthetics and overacting. Evil Dead II and Demons 2 are the best zombie movies of the 1980s, probably the most fun and creative decade for the genre.
2) 28 Days Later (2002)
This digital handheld piece by director Danny Boyle woke a sleepy giant by itself. Just like that, the zombie genre was renewed for the new generations. Fear of viral epidemics, social violence, and fast infected replaced the appetite for brains and cemetery mindless slow zombies.
Everything is perfect in this movie. From the performances of Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, and Brendan Gleeson, to its wonderful soundtrack, to the immediacy and feel of the low resolution of his camera. An absolute classic that re-zombified the zombie.
Jim walking the desolate streets of London remains one of the most effective nightmares of the modern era.
1) Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
What else can be written about this absolute masterpiece of George A. Romero?
This is, without a doubt, the quintessential best zombie movie of all time. Even 40 years after its premiere, it still offers food for thoughts, zombies, and humans.
The story of a group of survivors trying to redo their everyday life in a shopping mall while the undead tries to enter the same place is the perfect mix between social commentary, horror and a horde of unforgettable zombies.
It's basically the reason why this best zombie movies ever made list exists.
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© 2019 Sam Shepards