The best zombie films of all time – in no particular order – are:
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
The godfather of gore-fests, George A Romero’s sequel to Night of the Living Dead traps two SWAT policemen, a helicopter pilot and his reporter girlfriend in a zombie-infested shopping mall. Before the zombies get in though, they have a whale of a time rampaging through the shops – one of the earliest (and best) examples of the zombie film as social satire. A zombie film with, er, brains.
The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)
A surprisingly intelligent, lyrical variation on the zombie theme from Spanish director Jorge Grau, made in England with a Spanish/Italian cast and crew. Contains one of the more novel means of revivification – ultra-sonic waves used by farmers as a new kind of pesticide create undead pests instead. Sound is fundamental to the movie – the 70s score mixes synths with heartbeats, howls and ghastly death-rattle noises – though the attention to sonic detail didn’t stretch to the frankly hilarious attempts at British accents.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
George Romero invented the modern zombie with this micro-budget chiller, in which armies of flesh-eating 'ghouls' rise from the dead. It laid down the 'rules' of the zombie film, from the shuffling, cannibal undead that could only be killed by "removing the head or destroying the brain" to the social satire underpinning the genre – the film was inspired by the social unrest caused by the Vietnam War. Horror cinema would never be the same again.
28 Days Later (2002)
Alright, alright… it’s (technically) not a zombie flick, but Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later has all the ingredients: a deserted London, an bite-borne disease (Rage), and the Infected (said disease’s zombie-like afflicted). Cue lots of breathy scenes, much biting and the collapse of society. Ace. And largely responsible for the modern trend towards zombies that run instead of shuffling.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
The first – and best – film of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy (comprising Shaun, Hot Fuzz and the yet-to-be-produced The World’s End) pits store worker Shaun (Pegg) against the zombie horde as he attempts to rescue his girlfriend and his flatmate. This zom-rom-com's scares are thin on the ground, but laughs willingly take their place.
More after the break...
This ingenious thriller is set in a small-town Canadian radio station, where the staff find themselves covering the outbreak of a virus that turns its victims into bloodthirsty cannibals. The film’s creators insist that it isn’t a zombie film, but like 28 Days Later it has enough similarities with the genre to warrant inclusion in this list. And it has a killer twist: the virus is memetic – it’s spread by language, not by biting.
Zombi 2 (1979)
Zombie. Versus. Shark. That scene alone would justify Zombi 2’s inclusion in any top 10. Variously titled Zombi 2, Zombie and Zombie Flesh Eaters, Lucio Fulci’s Dawn of the Dead sequel/knock-off is a little light on plot and character development, but conjured up some of the most arresting, surreal imagery in the zombie genre – from the aforementioned aquatic battle to the infamous “video nasty” sequence in which an eyeball and a wooden splinter interact with predictably gruesome consequences.
Long before Peter Jackson brought The Lord of the Rings from page to screen, he directed Braindead, a zombie comedy horror film which is regarded as one of the goriest films of all time. The final scene sees a man being stuffed in to the womb of his gargantuan zombie mother before cutting his way out. One to add to the 'do not watch while eating' list.
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
"Let’s head on down into that cellar and carve ourselves a witch." That’s just one of the many great lines from Bruce Campbell's Ash, the chainsaw-for-an-arm hero that takes on the dead after the Necronomicon (Book of the Dead) unleashes hell. Groovy.
Blood spewing zombies and wise cracking turns from Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson put this squarely in the zom-com genre. Two loner guys, one in search of his family and the other in search of the last surviving Twinkie, meet up with two sisters hoping to reach an amusement park haven in the midst of the United States of Zombieland. And colour us easily pleased, but there’s a great actor-zombie cameo.
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