6 Essential Zombie Movies!!!

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Not that you asked, but I probably don’t like the zombie genre as much as a lot of you. For starters, I feel like its over saturated. You can’t go more than a month without another one hitting the direct-to-DVD/VOD market. I also don’t find them particularly compelling as creatures. They lack personality and, fast or slow, they’re cognitively… stupid. I also feel like a lot of filmmakers latch onto them because of their popularity, not because they’re particularly engaged by them. In the process they forget that the most compelling part of this sub genre isn’t the creatures – it’s usually the survivors and their response to the undead horde.

As with anything, there are exceptions. Some zombie movies are great! This usually happens when the filmmakers are willing to take risks with the material instead of just coasting on the sweeping hordes of the undead. It’s why the Warm Bodies trailer actually looks like a LOT of fun and why what we’ve seen of World War Z looks a little bit like more of the same. Miracles like the original Dawn Of The Dead happened because people like George A. Romero weren’t coasting on the popularity of the creature, they were using it to say something new.

Head inside for 6 Essential Zombie Movies. And beware, I limited myself to only 1 Romero film!!! Otherwise this list would have been a bit different.

DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)

Much has been said about the sociopolitical nature of George A. Romero’s masterwork, and that undercurrent certainly contributes to its greatness. Equally as effective to me is the film’s sublime visual aesthetic. It’s a sour, pungent 70′s look that feels much more dangerous because you can almost smell society decaying. It’s zombies are basic in design, which renders them more human (or recognizably and recently ex-human) and thus more terrifying.

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD

Has there ever been a more punk-rock film about the undead to make it into wide release? An unrelentingly fun and giddily gory romp that’s not afraid to address the government’s likely response should something like this ever actually happen. Bless you, Dan O’Bannon.

ZOMBIE aka ZOMBI 2

Of course we had to include Lucio Fulci’s hallmark film. The Italian influence on the zombie genre is crucial, especially for gore hounds. Again, this has a gritty and grainy aesthetic that only heightens the queasy effect of the film. Plus, any film that knows the inherent entertainment value in throwing a shark into the mix deserves high praise.

28 DAYS LATER

I can already hear some of you guys going, “but they’re not dead! It’s the rage virus! They’re not zombies! It’s not the same!” So what? For all intents and purposes, this is a zombie movie. One that redefined the genre and reintroduced zombies to the aughts.

SHAUN OF THE DEAD

A bona fide modern classic. A hilarious and knowing coming of age tale. An ideal showcase for Edgar Wright’s visual talents and the switch watch script he wrote with Simon Pegg. It’s also a warm-hearted argument for friendship after death that has your back way more than that Bub from Day Of The Dead.

ZOMBIELAND

Remember in my intro when I said that the survivors and their response will always be more important than the depiction of the zombies themselves? This is a great example. The zombies here are fine, but this movie is really an optimistic look at how a makeshift family might begin to organize itself in a post-apocalyptic landscape. And it’s f*cking entertaining as hell.

 
  • doomas10

    all great choices and distinguished sub genres of the zombie genre – Return of the living dead is awesome. while not particular scary, I saw this when I was 5 and that freakin zombie – pic – scared the shit out of me. Even now it scares me…crepy f***!

    • Michael Limberg

      I don’t care if you try to defend it within the article itself, 28 Days Later is a horrible choice. But, yes, you are correct. Except for the fact that there are no zombies in it, it is a zombie movie. And except for the fact that a cat is not a dog, a cat is a dog. Call me what you like, the only thing I expect from a zombie movies is, you know, zombies. Walking dead people. Corpses. So I’m a purist. Kill me. (Then perhaps I’d be a zombie too…which might be fun.)

      • Michael Limberg

        Sorry doomas, that was meant to be a comment on the article, not a reply to your comment. Stupid pain in the ass computer…to respond to yours, yes, Return of the Living Dead is awesome.

      • DisturbedPixie

        I have to always disagree with people about what counts as a zombie. I think the alien infected people in many sci fi films are basically zombies and so are those infected with rage. Though they may not exactly be dead, as in their heart doesn’t pump blood, but they are more or less braindead and loss their sense of reason/humanity. And I hate using the term “infected” because you can’t say I love “the infected horror films”, to describe the Crazies or 28 Days Later. And while you can say I love those “parasitic alien films”, it feels a little forced. I see them as sci fi zombies much of the time, like Night of the Creeps/Night of the Comet/Slither/They Came from Within. Considering there are several vampire/zombie films, and it’s all fiction, I think we can say there is not one type of zombie. there are still some people that think zombies only are brain eaters, or zombies can never run or a reasoning zombie doesn’t count even if their flesh is falling off. I think we can leave a little space for subegnres of zombies, and less than definition style zombies. I think they are all basically trying to scare us in the same way, that we will stop being who we are but we will keep walking. I think that’s the whole point really.

  • Sethal

    Maybe the best list I’ve read here on BD. Good choices all around mate.

  • Jamesy

    Great list, i cant really disagree with any of the choices, if there was room for one more however I would have to pick “Day of the Dead” many would say it was the weaker of the original three films but for the amazing special effects and general “all hope is lost” atmosphere the film creates it is definitely worth a mention.

    • DisturbedPixie

      I personally prefer day of the dead to dawn of the dead, and I think I’m often alone on that, but I love Bub, and Fido really reminded me of Bub. So I would include them both in my top 10 zombie flicks.

      • Falk

        I agree Day of the Dead had better effects and story. Long live Bub

  • Seal_Clubber

    No original “Night of the Living Dead”? Good choices but I would remove “Return” and put in “Night Of” ….

    • DisturbedPixie

      I have to agree that Night of the living dead is the most important of all zombie films. I grew up watching that when I was still wearing diapers at night. Gotta love those unrated horror classics that kids get away with watching and borrowing from the library.

  • Jamesy

    Im glad Dawn was chosen instead of Night, i know it was the first in the series and bla bla, but really Dawn of the Dead did so much more for the zombie genre, its stands on its own as perhaps the perfect zombie movie.

    • DisturbedPixie

      I strongly disagree that it is above Night or close to perfect. The most annoying thing to me has the awful zombie make up. I get they didn’t realize the makeup would look blue on film, but it did, and I can’t stand it. Plus the film kept changing tone through out, and it felt jumbled. And it wasn’t scary. It was funny at many times, and enjoyable defiantly, but not once was I thinking “That monk is terrifying!” or “ahh, motorcycle gangs!” The female character also seemed so helpless. As a woman, I like the female characters too grow more than just being able to fly a helicopter. Most of the time, she just sat on her butt. I much prefer the female protagonist in Day of The Dead, or the growth of Barbara in Night. Maybe it was her acting that did it for me, but I loved how Barbara changed in that first one. Not exactly bad ass, or final girl/scream queen, but she lasted so long considering how catatonic she was for the most part.

  • http://thefilmpolice.blogspot.com/ Armand DC

    Dear Evan, surprised that Dead Alive didn’t made it to your list. It always struck me that it was your kind of movie. :-) Splendid list, anyway.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wigcherink Nick Wigcherink

    I agree Dead Alive should have made it, otherwise a great list. Could you do a list of the best unknown horror movies. I need some ideas of films to see.

  • diapers

    Superb list. I’ll chime in with the dudes above regarding Dead Alive. And I would also like to see a list of good unknowns, zombie or otherwise, purely for selfish reasons… so that I can see some stuff I missed out on.

  • djblack1313

    AWESOME LIST! but get ready for the “28 DAYS LATER infected aren’t zombies!!!!” whiners. LOL. excellent list!

  • SuperKilla

    All good choices, agree also with “Dead Alive”, “Day of the dead” and I would also throw “Planet terror” in there and maybe “Pet Cemetery”.

  • Lionel-Cosgrove

    Agreed! With the addition of DEAD ALIVE, this list would be perfect.

  • Kainrich

    Good list. I agree with everything but Zombieland, but then again i’m not sure if i can think of anything really that great to take it’s place. Except for “Night”, but I think “Dawn” pretty much sums up that movie and then some. Dead Alive maybe? Whatever, at least Murray and Harrelson are in it ;)

  • djblack1313

    i also have to add the DAWN remake as being in my top 5 movies ever. so i have to include that one. also Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD!

    • DisturbedPixie

      love day of the dead… way more than dawn of the dead too. Not as much as Night though, because it was my first horror movie and as a young girl who wanted to stab my ahole father with a trowel… I did/do love the zombie daughter scene.

  • Joe-Banger

    The first 3 are the best zombie films ever made.

  • Rops

    It may be because I just watched it again this weekend, but I’d have to say Planet Terror should get an honorable mention. It’s just too ridiculous not too include.

    That said, Dawn and Return are probably my favorite zombie movies, so I approve.

  • xAshleyMariex

    The last 2 shouldn’t been on the list, i mean WHERE THE FUCK IS DEAD ALIVE :I

  • spabbster

    28 days later was a complete ripoff of an 80s movie called the rage take it of the list

    • Falk

      Agreed it wasn’t even good.

  • Ravinus

    Great list. It may be the first time that I’ve read a “list” article and didn’t punch my screen. That being said, I’m partial to Day of the Dead.

  • Michael Limberg

    I don’t care if you try to defend it within the article itself, 28 Days Later is a horrible choice. But, yes, you are correct. Except for the fact that there are no zombies in it, it is a zombie movie. And except for the fact that a cat is not a dog, a cat is a dog. Call me what you like, the only thing I expect from a zombie movies is, you know, zombies. Walking dead people. Corpses. So I’m a purist. Kill me. (Then perhaps I’d be a zombie too…which might be fun. And judging by my ability to correctly post today, I’m half-way there…)

  • MinaDoll7

    I know it’s not really a “zombie-virus” (it’s an evil-possession-virus), but how about [REC]? Isn’t it the first found footage film on “zombies”? It made the experience even more intense!

  • j.c

    I would put Re-Animator in as well. It has reanimated corpses making it a zombie film almost by definition alone.

  • Mr.Mirage

    Limiting yourself to six, I think you did fairly well.
    To the 28 Days disparaging, well… Tombs Of The Blind Dead is, essentially, a zombie movie, but not in the sense that Romero was reaching for with NotLD. I prefer (something with which you can make a hat, should you like) to think of them as plague films… and going down that path, for shits n giggles, run NotLD first, then watch Contagion… not that far apart, really.

  • Pali-Azzar

    Remove “Zombieland” (It’s cute. I don’t like cute) and replace it with “Re-Animator.”

  • homodrome

    I would say Zombieland stands out as not essential and definitely should be replaced with Night Of The Living Dead. Which is truly TRULY essential!

  • Joe-Banger

    Evan is entitled to his opinion, but I agree that night of the living dead, Dead-alive, and Re-animator should be on here or another list with the first three films listed.

  • Alabama-Sharp

    Yeah, Night of the Living Dead should be grandfathered in. Almost automatically. It is, like, the grandfather of the genre…

  • viking1983

    I would go with day of the dead, dawn of the dead(both versions) and zombieland as my favourites

  • dead-dad1210

    Wheres the original Night of the Living Dead?

  • undertaker78

    My essential zombie movie choices would have been:

    1) Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
    2) The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
    3) Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)
    4) 28 Days Later (2002)
    5) Dawn Of The Dead (2004)
    6) [●REC] (2007)

    • Evil-Dick

      Much better list!

  • Evil-Dick

    The remake of Dawn of the Dead was superior!

  • Myra Sanders

    i like that movie all scene because that was fantastic i really like that kind of movie’s

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  • livingdeadgirlEDF

    shaun and 28 days, na there r better zombie movies out there then them two, kinda slow but The dead was a decent one, liked how they went back to the old zombies in that movie.. great article though :) and a list with romero would been awesome.. LOL

  • darkscarecrow

    I’m sorry, but I would not consider Zombieland or Shawn of the Dead “Essential” zombie films. Granted they were descent films as far as comedy-horror goes, however 28 Days later was about a virus and not a zombie film at all. I personally liked “The Horde”. A little French zombie film that is hardly recognized. It received good reviews on this site and could be a sequel or even a prequel to any of the truly great film’s of this genre. Esp. Zack Snyder’s wonderful remake of Dawn of the Dead. Only it’s set in Paris and you are there as the dead start returning to life.