Warning: This list may contain traces of spoilers, and may have come into contact with spoilers from other movies.
Anybody who knows me knows that I love zombie movies, and I love them dearly. My adoration for tales of the undead is so ingrained in my being, so deeply a part of who I am, that I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t love a good zombie picture. I have watched so many zombie movies that I don’t even know what the first zombie movie I ever saw was. I’m just that obsessed. So I thought that I might as well lay out what I consider to be the five greatest zombie movies ever made. Please note that this is being written on September 1st, 2010, because there are always new zombie films being produced, vying for places on this list.
5. Return of the Living Dead
A ballsy, hilarious zombie comedy (zombedy?), Return of the Living Dead presupposes that the events of George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead were based on reality, and that the dead came back to life as the result of a weird chemical: 245 Trioxin. When a punk kid and the boss of his new job spill Trioxin all over themselves in the basement of a medical facility, they inadvertantly set off a chain of events leading towards a zombie uprising! This movie is awesome for so many reasons – not the least of which is its 80’s punk rock soundtrack featuring songs like “The Surfin’ Dead”!. Stand out moments include a zombie using an ambulance radio to ask for more paramedics, and any appearence of the legendary Tarman! Also note, this is the movie that made zombies saying “Braaaains!” a pop culture cliche!
4. 28 Days Later
Okay, okay, nitpickers. I hear you. It’s not TECHNICALLY a zombie movie. But c’mon, people, it’s obvious that this terrific film was inspired by zombie films and features “infected” that are basically zombies, so let’s not split hairs, shall we? Instead, let us celebrate this bleak, scary, and often bittersweet portrayal of a world where only a handful of people are still people and not bloodthirsty cannibals. This is the first film that I took note of Cillian Murphy, and he gives an awesome performance here. This is also the first film that really made me love the filmmaking of Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Shallow Grave and The Beach were all solid movies, but nothing panders to me like zombies) – the man is an expert director. Also, much like Return of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later has a top-notch soundtrack. Standout moments include the entire first twenty to thirty minutes and any scene with Brendan Gleeson.
This was director Ruben Fleischer’s first feature film, and man, what a debut! Zombieland gives fans of the genre the two things they love most: gore and comedy, and it delivers both in spades. Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson make a hilarious zombie-fighting duo, and by the end of the film you just can’t help but love ’em. A zombie parody for the modern age, Zombieland has a great story that both parodies and pays homage to the zombie movies of recent years – for example, the zombies run, just like in 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead (2004). Stand-out moments include every moment spent with Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee, a zombie-infested amusement park, and the greatest cameo of all time.
2. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
You may be calling “Blasphemy!” right now, but I don’t care. Zack Snyder did the impossible by taking the premise of George Romero’s seminal zombie masterpiece Dawn of the Dead and managing to improve upon it. Instead of just a handful of survivors fighting a gang of bikers, we get a motley crew of rednecks, bimbos and badasses blasting zombie after zombie as they try to defend the shopping mall they’ve holed up in from the onslaught of the running dead! Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames are both so cool in this film, the gore is plentiful, and Snyder’s visual style seems tailor-made for this kind of movie. Stand-out moments include a game of celebrity incognito with a horde of zombies, a killer opening sequence, and a ZOMBABY!
1. Shaun of the Dead
Is anybody surprised that I picked Shaun of the Dead as the best zombie movie ever made? No. Wanna know why? Because it IS the best zombie movie ever made, and not only that, it’s one of the best comedies ever made too! Shaun of the Dead delivers on all fronts, and is one of those rare zombie movies that actually appeals to people who aren’t fans of the genre. The characters, particularly Shaun and Ed, are so endearing that you want to go to the pub with them and have a beer, then bash in a few zombie heads on the way home. I could go on and on about all the ways this movie rules, but chances are you’ve already seen it and know exactly what I’m talking about. Stand-out moments include the entire movie.
BONUS: Night of the Living Dorks
Night of the Living Dorks is essentially Teen Wolf meets American Pie with zombies, which should be stupid, but amazingly this film is actually really entertaining. And although it’s undeniably dumb, you just can’t help but laugh at it. Stand-out moments include the character named Wurst in the original language version, but Wiener in the American dub. Oh, and it should be mentioned that Night of the Living Dorks should be viewed with dubbing, otherwise the jokes aren’t nearly as funny.
Dawn of the Dead
Night of the Living Dead
Day of the Dead