“The Walking Dead” is back, “World War Z” set records last year for zombie-movie production costs and box office dollars, and you can’t go more than 10 minutes without seeing a zombie reference somewhere. Yes, the dead have taken over.
And as “World War Z” helped further the tranformation of what defines a zombie, so too have we updated our zombie movie rankings to be more inclusive of those films where beings a virus-infected sprinter is just as bona-fide as a shuffling decomposer.
While some people may think that the zombie genre has jumped the shark, we remind you that zombies have aleady fought a shark (see No. 8), so jumping was the next logical evolution.
30. ‘Cemetery Man’ (1994)
(a.k.a. Dellamorte Dellamore)
Before he was helping Julia Roberts try to find true love in “My Best Friend’s Wedding” or voicing Prince Charming in “Shrek 2,” Rupert Everett was playing a cemetery worker who just wants someone to love. This film, which becomes a mess and falls in on itself about three-quarters of the way through, nevertheless features a number of entertaining scenes and situations, including a pack of zombie boy scouts, and a living dead severed head (in a bride’s veil) as one of the main character’s love interests. If anything, this film is an original. Next
29. ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (Remake, 1990)
This is the first remake of the classic, directed by gore effects maestro Tom Savini (probably best known as playing the role of Sex Machine in “From Dusk Till Dawn”). While this film stays true to the original script through much of the film, it does not stand up to the original. But given that the original is one of the all-time greats, this remake is still a solid zombie film when judged on it’s own merits. The changes in character and plot along the way lead to an entertaining twist in the ending. Plus, you get to see Tony Todd killing zombies in his pre-”Candyman” days. Next
28. ‘Plague of the Zombies’ (1966)
This horror gem of mid-’60s British cinema is set in the English countryside, where a mysterious ailment is killing off a small village’s populace. It takes a while for the zombies to get their screen time, as the movie progresses at first like a mystery as a newly arrived doctor tries to get a handle on the situation. Once they appear, the living dead here are indeed scary, and the film has once of the best rising-from-the-grave scenes of all time. Next
27. ‘Dance of the Dead’ (2008)
A surprisingly entertaining movie in the vast wasteland of modern zombie comedies, this one keeps the mood light while maintaining some good zombie-killing action. Most enjoyable were the scenes involving a punk rock band holding the living dead at bay and two teenage zombies overcoming their inhibitions and making out in a school bathroom. Perfect for the disaffected, high school zombie-loving crowd. Next
26. The Dead (2010)
It's nice that in the landscape of modern zombie movies dominated by the sprinting infected, there is still room for the good old-fashioned shuffle.
The Dead also brings a new setting to the genre — the African desert. Much of the film is dominated by long stretches of a dialogue-less safari — and that's not a bad thing. The search for resources and the resourcefulness of the traveling duo of survivors makes for a realistic (yes, realistic in a zombie apocalypse sense, shut up) journey. Next
25. ‘Dead Snow’ (2009)
The best Nazi Zombie movie ever made. Granted, there are only two others, but this one’s the best.
“Dead Snow” is a pretty straightforward modern zombie flick with equal parts gore and humor. It’s like a twisted combination of the video games Resident Evil and Wolfenstein, with a dash of the movie “Evil Dead II” thrown in, and served over a bed of virgin Norwegian snow. Next
24. ‘Planet Terror’ (2007)
While “Planet Terror” didn’t receive as much praise from the moviegoing public as its Grindhouse double-feature partner “Death Proof,” Robert Rodriguez’s over-the-top homage to the genre was still an entertaining ride. Though it doesn’t really break any new ground, it does have some memorable moments... Hello, Rose McGowan’s machine-gun leg! Nice to meet you, Quentin Tarantino’s leprous body parts! Also top-notch: the use of a helicopter as a zombie-killing weapon. Next
23. ‘White Zombie’ (1932)
A very different film than many on the list, “White Zombie” is the grandfather of the American zombie film, whose influence is felt everywhere from movies to music (as the band with the same name can attest). The movie is highlighted by Bela Lugosi at his creepy best, surprisingly scary looking zombies, and an important lesson for all zombie movies to come: You can’t kill—or even slow down—a zombie by shooting it in the chest. Next
22. ‘Land of the Dead’ (2005)
After two decades of waiting, many George Romero fans were somewhat disappointed in the horror icon’s fourth installment in his zombie series. While it’s true that it doesn’t stack up to the previous three, “Land” nonetheless is a top quality zombie flick. Despite some disappointing performances by Dennis Hopper and John Leguizamo, the movie still packs in the thrills. Most notable: the ultimate zombie killing machine, Dead Reckoning. Next
21. ‘Versus’ (2000)
Can’t get enough of martial arts movies? Have an undying love for zombies? Then look no further. The only Asian zombie film on the list, “Versus” is worth watching for the fast-paced Samurai-style battles between the living and the dead. Plus, there’s a bad guy who looks and acts like a Japanese version of Benicio Del Toro. Next
20. Pontypool (2008)]
The genius of this movie is the set-up: A small-town shock jock running an early morning talk show during a snow storm — with only a producer keeping him company — as he slowly learns that nothing is normal outside the windowless studio. And while the reports of strange happenings and violence creep closer, he has only his voice to keep others — and himself — company. That the monsters lurking closer aren't your traditional walking dead doesn't really matter — this is a clever take on the genre. Next
19. ‘Warm Bodies’ (2013)
A zombie romance movie? Yep. While its premise reminds a bit the nonsensical and annoying living/dead lovefest of the “Twilight” series, this film works because it doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously—it’s much more self aware. A fun tale set in a post-apocalypic Ameriscape, “Warm Bodies” creates its own rules for what zombies are, and what they can be come. Next
18. ‘Zombieland’ (2009)
This film really translates the unabashed glee that comes from battling hordes of zombies in a video game. Taking its cues from games like Dead Rising and books like Max Brooks’ “Zombie Survival Guide,” “Zombieland” is all about finding new and ridiculous ways to take down the living dead. Woody Harrelson plays the video-game-character-like role, while Jesse Eisenberg does his best Michael Cera impersonation. Although the actual theme park setting arrives a little late in the movie, it serves as a perfect playground for zombie battles. The movie also has one of the best cameos in recent memory. Next
17. ‘Zeder’ (1982)
(a.k.a. Revenge of the Dead)
This Italian horror classic, which was released on video in the US with misleading cover art and titled “Revenge of the Dead,” is less a zombie movie and more a supernatural mystery, although it does feature the living dead so we’re including it on the list. The movie can seem a bit slow at times, but if you’re a fan of the show “Lost,” some of the scenes and ideas explored in this film may seem a little familiar. Next
16. ‘28 Days Later’ (2002)
Purists will likely argue against this movie on the technicality that the “zombies” are not really the living dead, but rather virus-plagued monsters. “28 Days Later” nonetheless deserves a spot on the list because of it’s huge influence on the nature of zombie films that followed it. The movie not only popularized the fast-running zombie of many modern films, but was also a good post-apocalyptic survival story to boot. Next
15. ‘I Walked with a Zombie’ (1943)
Gorgeous little thriller from famed producer Val Lewton, filled with creepy black-and-white atmosphere and featuring Carrefour, the best zombie in any movie that you don’t actually see gnawing on human gristle. Get past the formulaic romantic setup and the reward is riveting, quiet terror — 1940s style. The walk through the cornfield as the titular zombie is pulled toward the secret voodoo ceremony is good stuff. Next
14.‘Let Sleeping Corpses Lie’ (1975)
(a.k.a. The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue)
A straight-up zombie film for the zombie film lover. “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie” has fantastic and realistic zombies of the “freshly dead” variety. It also features some graphic and long sequences of them chowing down on human flesh like they’re at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Next
13. ‘Fido’ (2006)
If you’ve ever fantasized about having your own zombie pet, zombie bodyguard, or zombie housekeeper, then “Fido” is your kind of movie. It’s been described as a cross between “Night of the Living Dead” and “Lassie,” although it is clearly a comedy film. Fido is a house-broken zombie thanks to a collar that renders him harmless and obedient—most of the time. Billy Connelly plays the title character, and offers probably the best acting job done by anyone portraying the living dead. Next
12 ‘World War Z’ (2013)
Now, if you've read the Max Brooks-penned novel of the same name you likely recognized nothing — nothing — about the movie. Despite a completely different plot, characters, and zombies that couldn't be less recognizable, the movie does a great job of capturing the global impact of a fast-spreading zombie pandemic. The sheer massive scale of action scenes are unmatched in zombie movie history.
And Brad Pitt. Next
11. ‘Day of the Dead’ (1985)
Part three of what was once George Romero’s zombie trilogy (he’s made two more since), “Day” initially received tepid reception because it doesn’t quite match the impact of the previous two movies (”Dawn” and “Night”). Nevertheless, time makes the heart grow fonder, and “Day” has stood up to be one of the genre’s best films over the years. It is especially useful for one of the main characters’ scientific examination of the zombies’ physiology and psychology, providing more insight than any other film into what makes zombies tick. Next
10. ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (Remake, 2004)
It’s somewhat unfortunate that this film had to take place in a shopping mall and serve as a remake of Romero’s classic, as aside from the setting it is a completely different movie—and a good one at that. If you’re a Romero purist who is willing to suspend belief in the idea that zombies can’t run, just imagine this film is called “Plague of the Quick” or something, and enjoy the thrills. Among some great scenes, this film provides answers to such burning questions as, “What happens if a pregnant woman becomes a zombie?” The DVD gets bonus points for its extra featurette following the gun shop owner’s video diary of his daily survival. Next
9. ‘Deadgirl’ (2008)
By far the most disturbing zombie film on the list, “Deadgirl” is a completely different and original take on the zombie movie. Where some films try to get across the point that it’s not the zombies who are the monsters, but humans themselves, no movie really pulls it off like this one. The film delves into the deranged psyches of bored suburban teenage boys, and exposes the different levels of depraved morals among them. This is not a film to watch on date night. Next
8. ‘Zombie’ (1979)
(a.k.a. Zombi 2)
The best of the Italian zombie factory of the late ‘70s and ‘80s, director Lucio Fulci’s film is probably best known for its underwater encounter between a zombie and a shark. But it also had the most gruesome scene ever filmed featuring an eyeball—that is until 2005’s “Hostel” trumped it. Another memorable moment features a great sequence of the living dead rising from the earth—Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” had nothing on Fulci in that department. Next
7. 'Re-Animator' (1985)
Also originally left off the list, due to owing as much to the classic monster Frankenstein as it does Romero, we've rectified our transgression because, well, this movie includes cadavers coming back to life and attacking people (as well as a talking dismembered head). Said cadavers are granted a second life thanks to the brilliantly devious Herbert West, who preforms his laboratory experiments at a fictional New England university to increasing degrees of horrible, horrible success.
6 'Rec' (2007)
This Spanish film is the only one on this list shot in single-camera, "Blair Witch" found-footage style. (It was remade in the United States as "Quarantine" in 2008 — not a bad attempt, but the original is better). All the action take place inside a Barcelona apartment building that becomes overrun as a quick-spreading infection turns residents and rescuers alike into mindless, violent attackers. Plenty of moments to make you jump out of your seat. (Note: This was left off the original list due to our then-tighter zombie-definition rules. We’ve decided: This qualifies.) Next
5. ‘Shaun of the Dead’ (2004)
The top modern zombie movie (post-2000), “Shaun of the Dead” incorporates the best of zombie comedy films—with realistic walking dead, ample gore, and fun use of everyday items to fight off zombies (like the famous record-throwing scene)—without getting too silly. Plus, the scene where the survivors “play dead” can serve as a educational film for zombie walk newbies everywhere.
Pictured from left: Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. Next
4. ‘The Return of the Living Dead’ (1985)
Although Romero purists will marginalize John Russo’s post-Night-of-the-Living-Dead impact on the zombie movie genre, “The Return of the Living Dead” had an indelible impact in two ways. First, it featured fast-moving zombies decades before they became mainstream in modern day zombie movies. Second, it introduced the zombie call-to-arms, “Braaaains!” Next
3. ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1968)
“They’re coming to get you, Barbara,” jokes Johnny to his sister at the beginning of George Romero’s classic, which pretty much created the entire genre. Little does Johnny know that they’re coming for him too, as he becomes the first zombie attack victim.
Although it has been remade twice (the decent 1990 version and the horrible 2006 debacle in 3D), the original is just as chilling as anything that has come from the genre since. This movie forces you to think about every possible stronghold, weak point, and escape route in your house. Next
2. ‘Dead Alive’ (1992)
Peter Jackson’s blood-splattered comedic masterpiece may be the goriest film on the list, but it’s so over-the-top that it’s actually funny. This movie will do two things to you: Make you squeamish about eating soup and give you grand fantasies of fighting the undead every time you mow the lawn. Next
1. ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978)
Romero took the reins of the genre he created with “Night of the Living Dead” and followed it up with “Dawn of the Dead” — the greatest zombie flick of all time. The film’s immediate focus is the action inside a suburban mall, where a band of survivors try to keep swarms of undead at bay. However, it’s the setup to the zombie apocalypse at the beginning of the film—where the world tried to make sense of it all—that really makes it resonate. The world is forced to cope with the inevitability of a slow, plodding, violent end. And yet there is still hope. Kind of. Back to the beginning
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