Our Definitive List Of Zombie Movies You Have To See Before Zombies Take Over The World
Wire-wrapped baseball bat, chainsaw, Molotov, or unlimited magazines—bring your weapon of choice as we run through a list of our favorite films featuring the undead!
Just when we thought movie audiences had taken a break from zombie flicks, Netflix serves up Army of the Dead and it earns a spot on the Top 10 trending movies among Filipino viewers for weeks.
Violent at times but silly in most, Army of the Dead has reawakened interest in the zombie horror sub-genre with many people scrambling to get their hands on the best zombie movies ever made. Since the first ever zombie was shown all the way back in 1932 (the film was White Zombie), the genre has gone through a hundred and one makeovers and expansions, gaining fans from all the world who can't enough of the genre's excitement, adventure, and drama. Plus, checking out how zombies are re-invented every time and the stories behind how zombies come to be in the first place is always a treat!
With Army of the Dead still going strong, we suggest you complement it with some of its precursors that are worth (or even worthier) of your time.
Below are 10 of our picks for the most definitive zombie movies you have to watch—all before civilized society falls in a zombie apocalypse, of course.
28 Days Later
Release date: 2002
Why you should see it: It's the film that resurrected (get it?) the zombie genre in the 20th century, carving a permanent place for zombies in pop culture for all time. Also, it feels terrifyingly real.
Our main guy, Jim (played by Peaky Blinders' Cillian Murphy, no less) wakes up at a hospital only to find that the building is empty and in total disarray—and so is the entire city of London. With no soul in sight, he's left to trace back the events that lead up to what's now a post-apocalyptic society (and possibly planet), but his quiet, desolate search is interrupted by violent encounters with what he eventually learns are virus-infected people. He runs into a handful of survivors, but as in all crisis situations, not everyone is full of selflessness and kindness.
The drama and thrills that unfold in this movie are eclipsed by the revelation of how the disaster started. Seeing as we're still living through a pandemic allegedly caused by issues relating to animal diseases transferring to humans, this'll hit close to home, one hundred percent.
Bonus: The film's sequel, 28 Weeks Later, that came out in 2007 is just as good.
Release date: 2008
Why you should see it: If you thought you could survive a zombie apocalypse by staying safe from zombie-inflicted bites and gashes, let's see how you feel when you learn that the infection can travel through sound, too.
Thanks to Canada, we have a zombie film that reinvigorates our fear of the undead. In a time when mainstream moviegoers were being fed with all-too-familiar zombie gimmicks and scare points (e.g.: government lab has a security beach, biochemical weapon is accidentally released, human experiment goes wrong, and what have you) Pontypool managed to re-angle the origins of a zombie-infested world.
The film bring us to a tiny radio station in Ontario where existence is dreary. One day, the resident DJ comes face to face a woman behaving oddly and sooner than later (read: mechanically repeating a word as blood and thickened saliva dribbling down her mouth as she staggers away), he finds himself face to face with a whole hoard of flesh-eating monsters. He cloisters himself in a little hideout for temporary safety.
Whether or not our DJ makes it out alive isn't the film's clincher. The movie's take on how a virus can get you—and does not require a bite or wound inflicted by an infected—is the best part.
Shaun of the Dead
Release date: 2004
Why you should see it: It's one of the few movies that succeed in marrying comedy and horror without resulting in tacky, un-funny gags. Plus points are awarded for a great soundtrack and the bromance chemistry between on and off-screen best buds Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
Everyone knows someone who refuses to watch a horror movie because it'll give them nightmares. Shaun of the Dead was made for your buddies like this, not because it offers some light scares, but because it's absolutely hilarious that it's impossible for them not to appreciate it.
It kicks off with an introduction of main characters, their lives, the friendships, and the love triangles (the last two of which play a central role in all the bloody fun that ensues). Really, Shaun of the Dead almost feels like it was originally written as a slice of life film portraying of ordinary British folks going about their ordinary days and the zombie element was just an afterthought, but the results are truly a standard-setter for the zombie genre.
As our survivors fall in and out of love, get their revenge on jerk coworkers, and protect the neighborhood pub from an infestation of the walking dead, we get scene after scene of zombie-killing fun with a great songs to set the tone, to boot. This is definitely the kind of movie you'll watch so often that you'll be able to recite its best dialogue perfectly in no time.
Release date: 2007
Why you should see it: If you're a masochistic horror fan, this was made for you. The claustrophobia, handheld cam film style, and deathly tense atmosphere culminate in this thrill ride you'll wear like a badge of honor after you get through it.
Did you know that Spain produces pretty great horror movies, too?
REC is definitely a good entry point for Spanish horror, and it's so good that the US couldn't help but make an American remake (which is also worth seeing. It's called Quarantine).
Riding on the coat tails of the found footage genre (think Blairwitch Project), what you'll see in REC is what went down in just one night. It begins with a rather mundane intro; we have an ambitious reporter assigned to report on a story she knows no one will care about, and then something catches her and her crew's attention. They find themselves in an apartment building where residents are alarmed by strange noises coming from a unit. As everyone gathers in a lobby and authorities investigate the things going bump in the dead of night, a rude awakening awaits them.
REC gets better as it goes on. The last 20 minutes or so are the film's crowning glory because they're the most claustrophobic. Those left standing find themselves crawling about small, dark spaces with limited light source to guide the way as monsters lurk around them. Any sudden movements and sounds spell immediate, painful death.
Train to Busan
Release date: 2016
Why you should see it: We know, we know. Train to Busan needs little introduction, but for the few who have yet to feast on this juicy, bloody piece of meat of a movie, it's exciting all the way through and so well-paced. Though it includes lots of familiar plot points, it still manages to tug on heartstrings and gets you to hold your breath.
Is there anyone who hasn't seen this Korean masterpiece?
Aside from the fact that it stars Gong Yoo, Train to Busan is Korean cinema at its finest. The acting is superb (which, we admit, sometimes takes a backseat in horror movies that prioritize VFX and jump scares more than anything), the zombies are terrifying, and the struggles are realistic. That's probably what places this movie a notch above the rest; that it's not just a matter of making it out alive, but it sheds a light on the human condition when times are at their toughest.
At its climax, you'll be audibly cheering for our main characters to make it through and shedding real tears when things don't go as planned. The train chases and what happens when the train finally stops at the end of the tracks will either make you hide behind your hands or your unblinking eyes glued to the screen.
For those who've ridden trains during their travels abroad or commutes right here in Manila, you'll never see your co-passengers and crowded train cues the same way ever again.
Night of the Living Dead
Release date: 1968
Why you should see it: Let's talk OG zombie film for a moment. The George Romero classic from the late 60s paved the way for the zombie genre to become a legitimate horror sub-genre and without this cinematic gem, we wouldn't have all the great modern zombie movies we do today.
Serious movie buffs won't need to be informed about who George Romero is, but if his is a name you're hearing only now, thank him for his creativity and willingness to push the horror envelope. He's an icon of the zombie genre, contributing to its strong beginnings as a pop culture phenomenon.
His 1968 hit Night of the Living Dead has spawned countless of copycats over the years, so if you want to get your zombie movie education right, see it!
This movie doesn't waste any time introducing its baddies—corpses exploding from the soil in a cemetery, hunting down unsuspecting small town folk who have no idea how to defend themselves from an unknown enemy. If you're familiar with the horror movie setting staple of a farmhouse sitting in the middle of a prairie with only an attic/basement for survivors to take shelter in, Night of the Living Dead helped establish that.
The whole film documents the life or death struggles of strangers brought to the said farmhouse and forced to get along. As more and more humans get turned into zombies, tensions also escalate between our main characters and in the end, you'll be glad to see some of them die deserving deaths.
Release date: 1985
Why you should see it: It's a look at what happens when an oddball scientist finds solutions to questions want to ask, but no one wants answered.
The 80s was a treasure trove for the weirdest, most original horror films there ever were. And things can't get any better with horror king himself, H.P. Lovecraft, providing source material.
Enter, Re-Animator, a film about medical students taking things way, way too far. (Can you tell where this is going?).
After an unfortunate event at school, one of these students takes his frustrations out on a corpse he gets his hands on at the university morgue. Convinced that he's capable of bringing it back to life—and partly in revenge for being embarrassed by people who didn't believe in him—he conducts an illegal, immoral experiment.
Things spiral out of control way too quickly. People finally believe him, but there's so much more to worry about now that the dead aren't exactly staying dead.
Release date: 2013
Why you should see it: Well, have you ever imagined a zombie movie that could also double as a feel-good teen romance even grownups can enjoy?
Warm Bodies is a cute watch. Now "cute" isn't what we'd normally say about zombie films, but this one really is!
It did surprisingly well at the box office, but for good reason. It's about a zombie boy who meets a human girl, and after spending time together, he starts to re-gain abilities only the living have, like falling in love, leaning in for a kiss, and wanting to hold hands. It's a bittersweet ending, but what else can you expect from a romance that forms between a dead, unfeeling boy and a girl with blood still running through her veins? It's campy at some points, but it all works together to create a cohesive whole.
It has a lot of touching moments and genuine laughs peppered all throughout, and they're all lovely enough to make even adult audiences go "Awww" right on cue.
World War Z
Release date: 2013
Why you should see it: It's an exercise of imagination. It makes you picture, and live through, a world where the human race fights for survival against zombies that have evolved into a somewhat organized worldwide military unit capable of strategizing deadly attacks.
Hello, Brad Pitt!
The Oscar-winning actor treats us to this non-stop zombie adventure where the fate of the world rests in the hands of a capable and brave few. What World War Z's heroes are up against aren't your ordinary zombies; they're capable of decision-making, communication, and boy, do they move fast! That's probably the scariest thing about this movie; that its zombies are not the slow, uncoordinated lumps of rotting meat we're used to, but rather, living dead that are more like resurrected members of the best SWAT teams there ever were.
World War Z is essentially an end of the world movie fueled by adrenaline-powered CGI high-speed car chases, collapsing buildings, and decimated city landscapes, but it's a good watch, overall. There's this one scene in particular that deserves applause because of how tense it is. In it, let's just say that Brad Pitt comes dangerously close to zombies and how he escapes is the stuff that makes Hollywood films so great.
Not a lot of zombie films get that big budget blockbuster feel to it, but World War Z is definitely one of them.
Dawn of the Dead
Release date: 1978
Why you should see it: It's gory, bloody, and squelchy in all the right ways. And, it's more than just a fun trip for ultimate horror fans. It's an allegory for something much deeper.
Alright so we couldn't help ourselves, and we included a second title by George Romero.
Dawn of the Dead came out a year after Night of the Living Dead, and while it serves up plot lines you've seen before, people love this film because of a totally other reason.
It's supposed to be an allegory of how society had become more materialistic than ever (considering it was made in 1978, this theme probably applies to 2021 living better than it did then) and how our fixation on material things eventually leads to our downfall.
This time, characters find themselves barricaded in a shopping mall where they must protect themselves against wave after wave of zombies, but alas, are distracted by easy access to all the fancy (and free) stuff surrounding them.
See for yourself what happens when they forget that what matters above all is human life, and not earthly riches.