Ever since Bela Lugosi first made Madge Bellamy perform his every desire with his zombie grip in White Zombie (1932), the walking dead have been swarming and growing in number, horror's grisly cultural vanguard.
Gross and terrifying like its eponymous monster the genre is a swelling, shifting mass of filthy, bloody, nearly-identical hellbeasts with some truly recognizable standouts spilling through the shattered windows of the collective psyche.
Originally portrayed as hypnotized people enslaved with a voodoo curse--as in the delightfully obscure The Devil's Daughter (1939)--the zombies our readers came here for are probably a little more of the board-up-the-house variety. Whether you want fast zombies like in the 28 Days Later duality (2002, 2007) or the iconic slow zombies seen across the board, we know you're not here for weird, bewitched pseudo-vampires from the dawn of cinema. You want to see moaning, shambling corpses with gore in their teeth getting shot in the head. And that's okay. Us too.
Call it a cliche, but you have to watch Night of the Living Dead (1968). The history-altering classic represents the first tentative, bloody stumbles of the modern zombie renaissance. It cemented everything we now know to be true about the flesheating monsters we recognize today, from their comatose shuffle to their unstoppable hunger for human flesh.
Romero also defined zombies as a convenient metaphor for... Anything that people do, really. Initially a metaphor for the populist racism of the 60s, zombies later came to represent whatever a director felt like criticizing, from mindless consumerism in the violent, intense Dawn of the Dead (1978) to a thoughtless rejection of that same consumerism in our cult favorite Return of the Living Dead (1985). The latter is pretty sleazy and crazy but it did bring a third kind of zombie to the horde: the smart, thinking, talking undead. You see inexplicable creatures like this pop up from time to time in the weirder genre offerings like Wilson Yip's bizarre 1998 parody BioZombie and the inimitable, timeless gorefest Re-Animator (1985). Sometimes they even love, like in the 2013 rom-zom-com Warm Bodies.
Fast or slow, smart or stupid, ferocious or catatonic, zombies don't really differ too much from eachother. Recognizable by their contagious drive to eat human flesh, their inhuman groaning, the stench of death, rotting flesh, though mostly they're recognizable because they're us. Whatever it is that really scares you about zombies, go check out our definitive zombie movie hoard. We know you'll find something to grab you, pull you in, and convert you.
Top 10 Zombie Horror Movies
Night of the Living Dead
Released: 01 Oct 1968 |
Director: George A. Romero
A group of people hide from bloodthirsty zombies in a farmhouse.
Train to Busan
Released: 20 Jul 2016 |
Director: Sang-ho Yeon
While a zombie-virus breaks out in South Korea, a couple of passengers struggle to survive on the train from Seoul to Busan.
Released: 26 Apr 1996 |
Director: Michele Soavi
A cemetery man must kill the dead a second time when they become zombies.
Day of the Dead
Released: 19 Jul 1985 |
Director: George A. Romero
A small group of military officers and scientists dwell in an underground bunker as the world above is overrun by zombies.
Featured Director: George A. Romero
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A to Z
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Day of the Dead (1985)
Dead Next Door (1989)
Dead Rising: Endgame (2016)
Dead Snow (2009)
Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (2014)
Dead of Night (1974)
Diary of the Dead (2007)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)
Range 15 (2016)
Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead (2012)
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)
Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies (2001)
Survival of the Dead (2009)