James-Bond-Countdown

30 Essential Zombie Movies

The zombie: Without remorse and pity, driven by a single hunger, and damn near impossible to put down permanently. There have been times since their introduction into movies in the 1930s where it felt like we’d never see a zombie movie again. Then there are eras of the opposite, where you couldn’t stick your arm out in a multiplex without a shambling ghoul nearby, ready to chomp. And since we’ve been in feast mode over the last decade-plus, we’re taking a big bite with our guide to the 30 Essential Zombie Movies that you need to watch!

While zombie movies have been for more than 80 years (in 1932 we got White Zombie, in 1943 I Walked With a Zombie), it’s commonly accepted the subgenre as we know it today didn’t rise until 1968, when George A. Romero unleashed Night of the Living Dead. An independent film with a budget barely above six figures, Night enthralled audiences with its mysterious plot, shocking gore, progressive casting and social commentary, and, natch, the unforgettable hordes of the gaunt, hungry undead. Crowned the godfather of zombies, Romero made five more Dead movies, the best of which are featured in this guide, including Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead.

Despite Romero’s efforts, it would still be a long shuffle into the early 2000s before zombies would break out of horror niche and crawl all over pop culture. Highlights from the pre-2000 era include splatter comedies like Return of the Living Dead and Dead Alive, Lucio Fulci’s eye-splitting and shark-wrestling Zombi 2, and H.P. Lovecraft adaptation Re-Animator.

The success of the Resident Evil video games revealed an audience appetite hitherto untapped, inspiring a gushing fount of zombie movies released between 2000 and 2005. Now we got to see the true versatility of the zombie movie. There was the loving spoofery of Shaun of the Dead. The blockbuster theatrics of the Resident Evil adaptation. Cutting-edge, gritty filmmaking with 28 Days Later. Japanese kinetic action in Versus, and most recently the creative, micro-budget One Cut of the Dead.

Ever since, zombies have shown no sign of slowing down. (Some have even figured out how to run.) TV show The Walking Dead is an obvious behemoth to point towards, but in the film world, zombies have made their way into found footage ([REC]), rom-com (Warm Bodies), and grindhouse throwbacks (Planet Terror).

And with this guide, we sought to capture those many moods, the various sensitivities that make up the zombie movie. Most featured here are Fresh and Certified Fresh, and of course we’re including a few Rotten movies. They may not have gotten the highest critical marks, but offer just as much color, life, and odor to this list. With that, it’s time to use your braaaaains and dig deep into the best zombie movies to watch!

#30
#30
Adjusted Score: 80673%
Critics Consensus: Valley Girl culture satire Night of the Comet gets lots of mileage out of its slapstick sci-fi zombie approach.
Synopsis: After a rare comet sighting, teen sisters Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Samantha (Kelli Maroney) find that they're among the... [More]
Directed By: Thom Eberhardt

#29

Juan of the Dead (2011)
83%

#29
Adjusted Score: 82152%
Critics Consensus: Filled with wild splatter slapstick, Juan of the Dead also deftly uses its zombie premise as an undead Trojan horse for insightful political commentary.
Synopsis: When the dead rise and attack the living, Juan starts a zombie-killing business, until he has to save his small... [More]
Directed By: Alejandro Brugués

#28

Little Monsters (2019)
79%

#28
Adjusted Score: 86488%
Critics Consensus: Led by typically outstanding work from Lupita Nyong'o, Little Monsters is a horror/rom-com hybrid that proves the zombie genre still has fresh brains to savor.
Synopsis: ... [More]
Directed By: Abe Forsythe

#27

Wild Zero (2000)
100%

#27
Adjusted Score: 24606%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Ace saves his heroes from alien invaders that turn people into zombies.... [More]
Directed By: Tetsuro Takeuchi

#26
Adjusted Score: 51835%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Scooby (Scott Innes) and the rest of the Mystery, Inc., crew encounter creepy characters at a haunted house on a... [More]
Directed By: Jim Stenstrum

#25

Resident Evil (2002)
36%

#25
Adjusted Score: 39148%
Critics Consensus: Like other video game adapations, Resident Evil is loud, violent, formulaic, and cheesy.
Synopsis: Based on the popular video game, Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez star as the leaders of a commando team who... [More]
Directed By: Paul W.S. Anderson

#24

Cemetery Man (1995)
60%

#24
Adjusted Score: 61381%
Critics Consensus: Cemetery Man will frustrate viewers seeking narrative cohesion or coherence, but this surreal blend of humor and horror should satisfy B-movie fans in the mood for quirk.
Synopsis: Something is causing the dead to rise from their graves as flesh-eating zombies, and cemetery custodian Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett)... [More]
Directed By: Michele Soavi

#23

Deathdream (1974)
83%

#23
Adjusted Score: 83616%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When a Vietnam war casualty (Richard Backus) returns to his parents (John Marley, Lynn Carlin), he prowls in search of... [More]
Directed By: Bob Clark

#22

28 Weeks Later (2007)
71%

#22
Adjusted Score: 78395%
Critics Consensus: While 28 Weeks Later lacks the humanism that made 28 Days Later a classic, it's made up with fantastic atmosphere and punchy direction.
Synopsis: Six months after the original epidemic, the rage virus has all but annihilated the population of the British Isles. Nevertheless... [More]

#21

Versus (2000)
75%

#21
Adjusted Score: 59055%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: An escaped prisoner (Tak Sakaguchi) and a mysterious young woman (Chieko Misaka) face an onslaught of indestructible undead fighters in... [More]
Directed By: Ryûhei Kitamura

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 74382%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Fraternity pledges (Jason Lively, Steve Marshall) pull a prank with a frozen body and let sluglike creatures loose on campus.... [More]
Directed By: Fred Dekker

#19
#19
Adjusted Score: 91408%
Critics Consensus: Evocative direction by Jacques Tourneur collides with the low-rent production values of exploitateer Val Lewton in I Walked with a Zombie, a sultry sleeper that's simultaneously smarmy, eloquent and fascinating.
Synopsis: Canadian nurse Betsey Connell (Frances Dee) is hired to care for Jessica Holland (Christine Gordon), a woman on a Caribbean... [More]
Directed By: Jacques Tourneur

#18

Warm Bodies (2013)
81%

#18
Adjusted Score: 90774%
Critics Consensus: Warm Bodies offers a sweet, well-acted spin on a genre that all too often lives down to its brain-dead protagonists.
Synopsis: A terrible plague has left the planet's population divided between zombies and humans. An unusual zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult)... [More]
Directed By: Jonathan Levine

#17

Planet Terror (2007)
76%

#17
Adjusted Score: 75241%
Critics Consensus: A cool and hip grindhouse throwback, Planet Terror is an unpredictable zombie thrillride.
Synopsis: An ordinary evening in a small Texas town becomes a grisly nightmare when a horde of flesh-eating zombies goes on... [More]
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 44351%
Critics Consensus: Zombi 2 is an absurdly graphic zombie movie legendary for some gory scenes and nothing in between.
Synopsis: A New York reporter (Ian McCulloch) follows a woman (Tisa Farrow) to an island where a doctor (Richard Johnson) faces... [More]
Directed By: Lucio Fulci

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 86864%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A cop does not realize that those responsible for several murders are the living dead.... [More]
Directed By: Jorge Grau

#14

World War Z (2013)
66%

#14
Adjusted Score: 79381%
Critics Consensus: It's uneven and diverges from the source book, but World War Z still brings smart, fast-moving thrills and a solid performance from Brad Pitt to the zombie genre.
Synopsis: When former U.N. investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and his family get stuck in urban gridlock, he senses that it's... [More]
Directed By: Marc Forster

#13

Dawn of the Dead (2004)
76%

#13
Adjusted Score: 82005%
Critics Consensus: A kinetic, violent and surprisingly worthy remake of George Romero's horror classic that pays homage to the original while working on its own terms.
Synopsis: When her husband is attacked by a zombified neighbor, Ana (Sarah Polley) manages to escape, only to realize her entire... [More]
Directed By: Zack Snyder

#12

Day of the Dead (1985)
83%

#12
Adjusted Score: 85438%
Critics Consensus: Day of the Dead may arguably be the least haunting entry in George A. Romero's undead trilogy, but it will give audiences' plenty to chew on with its shocking gore and scathing view of society.
Synopsis: The living dead regroup above while humans (Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joseph Pilato) sweat it out below in a Florida... [More]
Directed By: George A. Romero

#11
#11
Adjusted Score: 104895%
Critics Consensus: Brainy and bloody in equal measure, One Cut of the Dead reanimates the moribund zombie genre with a refreshing blend of formal daring and clever satire.
Synopsis: Real zombies attack a hack director and a film crew who are shooting a low budget zombie film in an... [More]
Directed By: Shinichiro Ueda

#10
Adjusted Score: 93859%
Critics Consensus: A punk take on the zombie genre, The Return of the Living Dead injects a healthy dose of '80s silliness to the flesh-consuming.
Synopsis: When foreman Frank (James Karen) shows new employee Freddy (Thom Mathews) a secret military experiment in a supply warehouse, the... [More]
Directed By: Dan O'Bannon

#9

Dead Alive (1992)
88%

#9
Adjusted Score: 91681%
Critics Consensus: The delightfully gonzo tale of a lovestruck teen and his zombified mother, Dead Alive is extremely gory and exceedingly good fun, thanks to Peter Jackson's affection for the tastelessly sublime.
Synopsis: Overprotective mother Vera Cosgrove (Elizabeth Moody), spying on her grown son, Lionel (Timothy Balme), as he visits the zoo with... [More]
Directed By: Peter Jackson

#8

Re-Animator (1985)
93%

#8
Adjusted Score: 98724%
Critics Consensus: Perfectly mixing humor and horror, the only thing more effective than Re-Animator's gory scares are its dry, deadpan jokes.
Synopsis: A medical student (Jeffrey Combs) brings his headless professor back from the dead with a special serum.... [More]
Directed By: Stuart Gordon

#7

Rec (2007)
89%

#7
Adjusted Score: 89626%
Critics Consensus: Plunging viewers into the nightmarish hellscape of an apartment complex under siege, [Rec] proves that found footage can still be used as an effective delivery mechanism for sparse, economic horror.
Synopsis: A reporter (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman record the horrifying outbreak of a disease that turns humans into vicious cannibals.... [More]

#6

28 Days Later (2002)
87%

#6
Adjusted Score: 94206%
Critics Consensus: Kinetically directed by Danny Boyle, 28 Days Later is both a terrifying zombie movie and a sharp political allegory.
Synopsis: A group of misguided animal rights activists free a caged chimp infected with the "Rage" virus from a medical research... [More]
Directed By: Danny Boyle

#5

Zombieland (2009)
89%

#5
Adjusted Score: 98555%
Critics Consensus: Wickedly funny and featuring plenty of gore, Zombieland is proof that the zombie subgenre is far from dead.
Synopsis: After a virus turns most people into zombies, the world's surviving humans remain locked in an ongoing battle against the... [More]
Directed By: Ruben Fleischer

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 106021%
Critics Consensus: George A. Romero's debut set the template for the zombie film, and features tight editing, realistic gore, and a sly political undercurrent.
Synopsis: A disparate group of individuals takes refuge in an abandoned house when corpses begin to leave the graveyard in search... [More]
Directed By: George A. Romero

#3

Train to Busan (2016)
94%

#3
Adjusted Score: 100803%
Critics Consensus: Train to Busan delivers a thrillingly unique -- and purely entertaining -- take on the zombie genre, with fully realized characters and plenty of social commentary to underscore the bursts of skillfully staged action.
Synopsis: A man (Gong Yoo), his estranged daughter and other passengers become trapped on a speeding train during a zombie outbreak... [More]
Directed By: Yeon Sang-ho

#2
#2
Adjusted Score: 98830%
Critics Consensus: Shaun of the Dead cleverly balances scares and witty satire, making for a bloody good zombie movie with loads of wit.
Synopsis: Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a 30-something loser with a dull, easy existence. When he's not working at the electronics store,... [More]
Directed By: Edgar Wright

#1

Dawn of the Dead (1978)
94%

#1
Adjusted Score: 97630%
Critics Consensus: One of the most compelling and entertaining zombie films ever, Dawn of the Dead perfectly blends pure horror and gore with social commentary on material society.
Synopsis: As hordes of zombies swarm over the U.S., the terrified populace tries everything in their power to escape the attack... [More]
Directed By: George Romero

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