True to the genre, the popularity of zombie movies is in a constant state of rising and falling. In recent years there have been new takes on old tropes, and audiences are hungry for the latest interpretation of the living dead. On the surface these movies are energy-filled action stories, but zombie movies have often served as platforms to share social commentary on human nature and our own inner demons. With the release of Zombieland: Double Tap set for October 18, we thought we would highlight some of the best zombie movies of all time!
RESIDENT EVIL (2002)
Alice (Milla Jovovich), Matt (Eric Mabius), and Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) in Resident Evil (2002)
The jump from video game to major movie can be a tough venture to tackle, but Resident Evil was able to add some exciting new moments to zombie lore. It is a difficult task to work against the largest corporation and the smartest AI in the world, and that’s before we even get to the zombies. Honestly, the laser hall alone is enough reason to get this movie on the list.
THE HORDE (2009)
Ouessem (Jean-Pierre Martins) in The Horde (2009)
The Horde (original title: La Horde) begins as a movie about crooked cops conducting a raid on a gang hideout. During the raid the zombie outbreak begins, and the two groups are forced to join together to survive. The tension never lifts, even in moments of relative safety, as neither group can fully bring themselves to trust the other. At least they all know how to use guns.
TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016)
Soo-an (Su-an Kim) in Train to Busan (2016)
If you haven’t heard of the movie Train to Busan, do yourself a favor and add it to your list. The movie tracks a group of survivors on a train as a zombie outbreak erupts throughout Korea. Each stop on the tracks brings its own challenges as the group fights to make it to the safety of Busan, a city that has been secured by the military. If you think your commute is bad, then this will put it in perspective.
DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004)
While it can be difficult for a remake to hit the same level as the original, there is enough in Dawn of the Dead to bring audiences back for a long time. It’s no mystery why that is when you realize Zack Snyder and James Gunn helmed the project. It’s a little bit of an understatement to say their careers have gone well since. The movie brought the same terrifying appeal of the original while managing to add some new horror of its own. Fair warning, if you’re pregnant you may want to save this one for later.
THE EVIL DEAD (1981)
Bridget Hoffman in The Evil Dead (1981)
Speaking of young talent, would you believe the undiscovered Sam Raimi was only 21 when he released The Evil Dead in 1981? Since then, the movie has grown to be a cult classic and has even spurred a popular musical show. The plot is simple in premise, but the execution and the addition of topline dark comedy is where this movie shines.
Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) and 406 (Amber Heard) in Zombieland (2009)
Sporting a strong cast of Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin (plus BILL FREAKING MURRAY), this movie blended comedy and horror swiftly and seamlessly. Guided by his survival rules, Columbus (Eisenberg) navigates the United States of Zombieland with his group of misfits. The journey never takes itself too seriously, but that somehow works to add a genuine sense of human emotion to the story. If you have a friend who isn’t the biggest zombie fan, then this is a good starter movie for them.
28 DAYS LATER (2002)
Frank (Brendan Gleeson), Jim (Cillian Murphy), and Selena (Naomie Harris) in 28 Days Later (2002)
The zombies of 28 Days Later are fast—like really, really fast. Watch the zombies of the original Night of the Living Dead at 10x the speed, and you’re getting close. The audience was as surprised as anyone when the “Rage Virus” hit the UK in 2004. The frenetic speed and insatiable hunger of the zombies helped to kick off the return of the living dead to the big screen and inspired a new generation of filmmakers to take on the genre.
SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004)
Liz (Kate Ashfield) and Shaun (Simon Pegg) in Shaun of the Dead (2004)
The genre of this movie has been described as a Rom-Com-Zom, and indeed it highlights elements from all three categories. You’ll notice familiar elements like the diversified survivor group and the goal of making it somewhere “safe.” But make no mistake, this is no cheap parody of the genre. The story makes fun of tropes from past zombie movies while also shedding light on how they will find new life in the modern era. In the end you have a well-constructed, wonderfully paced movie that became an integral part of the genre it celebrates.
DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
(left to right) Francine (Gaylen Ross), Stephen (David Emge), Peter (Ken Foree), and Roger (Scott H. Reiniger) in Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Romero followed his first installment with a new perspective on the zombie outbreak. We go from a small group of survivors barricaded in a house to a SWAT team raid on an apartment block, and a quiet graveyard in the countryside to a crowded mall in the city. In addition to scope, the tone of the movie opts to replace some of the despair of the original with high-energy action. Though the scale is larger, the smaller, interpersonal conflicts and social commentary remain earning Dawn of the Dead a spot on our best zombie movie list.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)
Night of the Living Dead is the movie that formed our interpretation of the modern zombie and awoke the fascination of generations to come. George A. Romero is a household name because of his crafty work with the undead, and it all started here. While it is hard to compare the visuals to our modern-day CGI equivalents, suffice it to say, the storytelling is as strong as ever, and we still get chills listening to the TV announcements as the house of survivors slowly learn their fate. There is simply no other comparison when it comes to classic zombie movies.
Zombieland: Double Tap comes to Regal on October 18th.