Zombies might not be the hottest topic right now, but for true fans, they never get old (maybe just a bit more rotten). Nonetheless, the last few years have seen zombies shuffle into the spotlight like never before with between a third and a half of all zombie movies ever made released in the last decade. Even zombie comics, video games and series have risen in popularity. This begs the question: Why have zombie movies become so popular recently?
The answer probably lies in the nature of the threats humanity currently faces. Zombies are an excellent metaphor for the threat of cyberattacks, climate change, economic crises, terrorism and especially pandemics. Zombies also tap into our aversion to anything that falls into the uncanny valley, which is inhabited by anything that closely resembles a human being but isn’t actually human.
Whatever the reason, zombies and zombie movies are hugely popular. Even though there are almost countless zombie movies available, a few stand out as some of the best zombie movies ever made, and this list is made up of my personal favorites.
“Night of the Living Dead” (1968)
Despite the fact that the word zombie was never spoken in “Night of the Living Dead,” it is undoubtedly the most important zombie movie ever made. This groundbreaking movie by the now-legendary George Romero established the main principle of the zombie genre: Zombies are reanimated corpses hungry for human flesh and only truly die when their brains are destroyed. Every zombie movie made since has been compared to Romero’s classic in one way or another. Even back in 1968, Romero used zombies as a metaphor for what he thought was wrong with the world, such as racism, sexism and consumerism. In addition to being a pivotal movie in the genre, “Night of the Living Dead” is considered to be one of the best zombie movies ever made.
“Dawn of the Dead” (1978)
Lucky for zombie fans everywhere, “Night of the Living Dead” didn’t get zombies out of Romero’s system. He went on to make another zombie genre classic, “Dawn of the Dead,” a decade later. Again, Romero used zombies as a metaphor for the world’s problems, this time with the zombies lumbering around a shopping mall looking for something to consume, just as normal shoppers do. Along with a more satirical and interesting plot, “Dawn of the Dead” also introduced better special effects to the genre. Tom Savini created truly believable gore that had viewers cringing. “Dawn of the Dead” bears a nihilistic tone that has become a feature of most zombie apocalypse movies that have been made since.
“Re-Animator” is a modernized adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s episodic novella “Herbert West–Reanimator.” Director Stuart Gordon introduced a scientific element into this cult classic by telling the story of a mad scientist who brings back the dead with a syringe of glowing green reanimation agent. Many zombie movies have since included some scientific aspects or plot lines. “Re-Animator” also contained an element of black humor, which has also become a staple of the zombie genre.
“Evil Dead 2” (1987)
While not starring your typical zombies, “Evil Dead 2” has its fair share of reanimated corpses and definitely deserves a mention on this list. “Evil Dead 2” is basically a remake of “Evil Dead” from 1981, but Sam Raimi really raised the stakes with it. He produced a fast-paced horror comedy packed with comic violence and gore that’s still one of the funniest zombie movies out there. “Evil Dead 2” went on to change audiences’ attitudes to zombies by making them quite comical.
“28 Days Later” (2002)
Sadly, there was a bit of a lull in zombie movies in the 1990s, but they certainly came back with a vengeance in the early 2000s. Similar to “Evil Dead 2,” “28 Days Later” isn’t about typical zombies but living people infected with a virus that fills them with uncontrollable rage and instinct to kill every living creature they meet. Despite this, it’s an excellent movie that had a major influence on other zombie movies. Just as Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” expressed his frustration and fears with the world he lived in, “28 Days Later” deals with modern fears, such as pandemics and terrorism. It also increases the danger by making zombies move quickly, which has become an increasingly popular feature of recent zombie movies.
“Shaun of the Dead” (2004)
While “28 Days Later” made zombies scary again, “Shaun of the Dead” made them funnier than ever before. This combination of terror and comedy has created a new trend in modern zombie movies, and “Shaun of the Dead” is a perfect example of this type of zombie movie. It’s filled with hilarious scenes as well as a few really terrifying scenes. “Shaun of the Dead” also makes a wry, satirical comment about the digital age where many people are permanently on autopilot.
These are my favorite zombie movies, so I’d definitely recommend watching them. The older movies, such as “Night of the Living Dead” and “Evil Dead 2” might be a bit difficult to get hold of, but there are a few sites that stream them. Some of the more recent movies, such as “Shaun of the Dead” and “28 Days Later”, are available on streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu. You’ll also be able to find other excellent zombie movies on most popular streaming services. If you’re going to download or stream any of these movies, especially if you’re accessing overseas content, it’s a good idea to invest in a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to avoid geo-blocking. That way you’ll have access to these legendary zombie movies and many others.
Have I missed any zombie movies that should be on this list? Let me know what you think in the comments section.