Here are the best zombie movies ever
May marked the most important month of the year. No, we’re not talking about the start of summer, silly. We’re talking about Zombie Awareness Month!
Yes, it’s a thing and it involves a 31-day campaign organized by the Zombie Research Society (also a thing) to educate people about causes, prevention, and preparation for a potential future zombie pandemic. The threat of a zombie apocalypse is real, people! (Or at least it is according to the Zombie Research Society).
What better way to prepare for an all out undead battle than to watch every single great zombie flick to sharpen up on your slaughtering skills? So load up those automatics, sharpen those machetes, and get ready to finish those flesh-eating fuckers (but not before checking out the Film Daily guide to the world’s best zombie flicks, ranked for your viewing pleasure).
24. Cooties (2014)
A mysterious virus sweeps across an elementary school, turning the young students into a feral swarm of undead brats. Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings) plays a character tasked with leading a motley crew of hapless teachers (played by a cast including Rainn Wilson, Jack McBrayer, and Jorge Garcia) into a delirious fight for survival, full of gross-out moments and dark humor.
23. Resident Evil (2002)
Okay, alright, so this isn’t the best zombie film (or franchise) ever made. It’s not even one of the better game adaptations! But there’s just something incredibly charming and entertaining about Paul W.S. Anderson’s popcorn buster. Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element) and Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious) both make for compelling, badass leads and the story is as serious and as campy as it needs to be during every respective beat. It’s a hoot!
22. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
By all accounts, Zack Snyder’s remake of zombie master George A. Romero’s 1978 influential classic shouldn’t be this great. Make no mistake, it certainly has its flaws, but it’s also superbly entertaining with one of the best opening scenes of any zombie ever. Plus, it stars Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction) and Mekhi Phifer (8 Mile) for crying out loud! It’s hard to be mad at that casting.
21. Fido (2006)
This horror comedy from director Andrew Currie (Mile Zero) is a hilarious window into what would happen in a world where zombies and humans could live together in harmony. With a 50s, sci-fi beat, a company called Zomcon has been able to control the zombie population and domesticate them to become menial workers and pets for humans.
The premise for Fido is unique and for that we commend Currie, but unfortunately it fell a little flat when it came to the laughs and the scares.
20. The Horde (2009)
There’s no denying the French really know how to do horrors. Adding to the list of such blood-splattered wonders as Martyrs, Inside, and High Tension is The Horde, about a posse of crooked cops and malevolent gangsters who must work together against their biggest enemy of all – a horde of brain-hungry zombies.
What it lacks in rich dialogue, The Horde makes up for with strong performances from Claude Perron (Amélie), Jean-Pierre Martins (Empire of the Wolves), and Eriq Ebouaney (Hitman), as well as a truly crafted depiction of the undead.
19. Land of the Dead (2005)
In the fourth of Romero’s six Living Dead movies, it’s by no means the best. However, it did mark an exciting change in the auteur’s style in that the zombies had started to evolve, now capable of making plans, communicating, and doing more than basically shuffling about in a quest for brains.
We also can’t deny the cheeky performance from John Leguizamo (Spawn), who brings personality to the role alongside Asia Argento (Marie Antoinette) and Simon Baker (The Mentalist).
18. Otto; or Up With Dead People (2008)
The undead need love too, folks! As Bruce LaBruce’s horny zombie romance proves, death does little to dampen desire. This underrated and unusual zombie film features plenty of explicit gay sex scenes, some tender romance, and a captivating lead in Jey Crisfar.
17. Planet Terror (2007)
Robert Rodriguez’s and Quentin Tarantino’s homage to the exploitation grindhouse era was an absolute joy, with the former’s contribution Planet Terror turning an ordinary evening in a small Texas town into a grisly nightmare when a horde of flesh-eating zombies takes over.
Planet Terror features everything you could ever want from a grindhouse zombie flick, including a testicle-collecting villain, Tarantino getting staked in the eye, and Rose McGowan (Charmed) with a machine gun leg. “No, the other way!”
16. Zombieland (2009)
Ruben Fleischer’s irreverent zombie comedy arrived during a hot moment for the genre and offers a shrewd subversion of undead tropes.
Featuring terrific performances from Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Woody Harrelson (Natural Born Killers), Emma Stone (La La Land), and Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) and a phenomenally funny surprise appearance from Bill Murray (Lost in Translation) as himself, Zombieland is fiendishly good fun.
15. Day of the Dead (1985)
“First came the night, then came the dawn, now comes the most eagerly awaited day in horror film history!” In the third in Romero’s Night of the Living Dead series, the living dead regroup while a small team of soldiers and scientists (including characters played by Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, and Joseph Pilato) sweat it out in an underground bunker.
While the characters aren’t as likeable as those in Day of the Dead’s predecessors and the satire is less sharp, the zombies are improved and there’s still plenty of claustrophobic, gory fun to be had.
14. Dead Snow (2009)
A Nazi zombie horror we never knew we needed (but definitely did), Tommy Wirkola’s genre mashup is a true experimentation in B-movie madness. Packed to the brim with horror cliches, blood-drenched gore, suited & booted braineaters, and wicked satire, Dead Snow is a masterclass in how to make a horror comedy with finesse.
13. Pontypool (2008)
Stephen McHattie (The Fountain) gives a stunning performance alongside Lisa Houle (Boiling Point) and Georgina Reilly (Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal) as the radio host who interprets the outbreak of a deadly virus that takes over the small Ontario town in which he’s stationed.
Bruce McDonald (Hard Core Logo) skillfully builds suspense in the claustrophobic confines of the basement studio while writer Tony Burgess (Saturn’s Rings) peppers the script with macabre wit, all culminating to offer the most innovative spin on the zombie-apocalypse premise we’d seen in years.
12. Re-Animator (1985)
“Once you wake up the dead, you’ve got a real mess on your hands!” No shit! Stuart Gordon’s offbeat, gory comedy horror plays on the mad scientist trope by adding flesh eaters into the mix.
Starring Jeffrey Combs (The Frighteners) as a medical student who brings his headless professor back from the dead with a special green serum, Re-Animator is clever with its handling of sex, humor, and gore; as such, 33 years since its release and the film remains a classic in both the zombie and horror-comedy canons.
11. Night of the Comet (1984)
Yes, it’s outrageously 80s and yes, the zombies are far from scary. But Thom Eberhardt’s Night of the Comet is a truly enjoyable throwback to 50s sci fi and one of the ultimate feminist horrors, seeing the big-haired heroines Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Sammy (Kelli Maroney) fighting against cannibal zombies and a sinister group of scientists after a comet wipes out most of the Earth’s population.
10. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
The iconic zom-rom-com sees Simon Pegg (Star Trek) and Nick Frost (Paul) opting to sit out a zombie infestation in the safety of their local pub. Except enjoying a pint and waiting for the whole thing to blow over isn’t really an option, as hordes of the undead destroy the place and everyone they love. Edgar Wright’s feature length directorial debut is funny, heartfelt, and horrifying.
9. Rec (2007)
Intense, violent, and packed full of suspenseful scares, Rec is without a doubt one of the best horror films from the 00s. Jaume Balagueró (Sleep Tight) & Paco Plaza (Veronica) used the found footage technique to great effect, following a television reporter (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman (Pablo Rosso) as they attempt to both film and survive the horrifying outbreak of a disease that turns humans into vicious flesh-hungry beasts.
8. Train to Busan (2016)
Sang-ho Yeon’s commuter nightmare gave the genre a tense, taut reinvigoration with a story full of stirring social commentary and emotional beats that had us sobbing by the finale.
7. 28 Days Later (2002)
Redefining zombie lore right down to how they moved and what their primal motivations are, 28 Days Later is one of the most innovative takes on a classic movie monster ever made. Starring Cillian Murphy (Inception) as a man waking up to a disturbing desolate world and Naomie Harris (Moonlight) as the woman he teams up with for survival, the movie reshapes everything we know and love about zombies.
6. The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Featuring a slew of iconic characters including daft punk Suicide (Mark Venturini), graveyard horndog Trash (Linnea Quigley), and the brain-craving Tarman (Allan Trautman), Dan O’Bannon’s Return of the Living Dead is still one of the funniest and silliest films of the genre.
5. Zombi 2 (1979)
Firstly, we need to take a moment to appreciate Fabio Frizzi’s soundtrack for this movie, which is easily one of the most underrated and funkiest horror scores ever made. Next, Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 (a.k.a. Zombie Flesh Eaters) is just a rogue gem of a horror movie that does whatever the hell it likes, whenever it likes.
Where else will you ever see a zombie fight an actual shark? Nowhere. At least nowhere near as great as this movie does anyway. And don’t even get us started on that eye splinter scene because it still gives us the shivers.
4. Dead Alive (1992)
Easily the kookiest, most irreverent zombie movie ever made, Peter Jackson’s cult horror is loaded with quotable one-liners (“I kick arse for the Lord!”), an infamous scene in which a lawnmower is used to dispatch the living dead, and the ugliest, most mischievous undead baby you will ever see on screen. Yes, it’s an absolute masterpiece.
3. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Considered by storied critic Roger Ebert and many others “one of the best horror films ever made”, Romero’s second Night of the Living Dead feature is a well crafted zombie flick set within a shopping mall, used in great effect by the auteur to offer a satirical view on American consumerist society.
Similar to its predecessor, Dawn of the Dead is a well-blended mix of undead gore and social commentary, with outstanding performances from the likes of David Emge (Basket Case 2), Ken Foree (Halloween), and Scott H. Reiniger (Knightriders).
2. The Evil Dead (1981)
Sam Raimi’s iconic low-budget horror launched his career and that of beloved B-Movie titan Bruce Campbell (Bubba Ho-Tep) while also setting a new precedent for horror. The entire Evil Dead trilogy is a masterstroke of genius, but the first is by far the scariest and most innovative of them all.
1. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The one that started it all and arguably the one by which every other zombie film is still compared to and constructed upon. Romero’s haunting zombie flick is full of (apparently unintentional) social commentary and plenty of sinister scenes that continue to be startling to this day. Duane Jones (Ganja & Hess) made a formidable hero in 1968 and he still resonates as an incredible lead to this day.