Although zombies have been a part of West African folklore for centuries, the rest of the world received a film introduction to the undead in the 1932 film White Zombie, directed by Victor Halperin and starring Bela Lugosi. In the film, a young man falls for an unavailable woman. Deciding he doesn’t have time to seduce her the normal way, he opts to turn her into a zombie that will do his bidding. White Zombie was the first in a long list of films featuring the undead.
Today zombies have become part of a world wide culture of movies, books and video games. Maybe it’s because of our fascination with life after death or maybe just because we like shooting dead people without any moral issues. Whatever be the reason zombies are riding a wave of popularity right now.
Here are five of the best zombie movies of all time.
5. Night of the Living Dead (1968): This horror classic cost only $114,000 to make and grossed $30 million. When it came out, many deemed the film explicit and irresponsible. The Library of Congress disagreed. In 1999, the Library of Congress selected the film for preservation, calling it “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” In the black-and-white film, seven characters are trapped in a Pennsylvania farmhouse where they are attacked by undead monsters. Although the word “zombie” is never used in the film, zombies are effectively what the titular “living dead” were.
4. Dawn of the Dead (1978): Ten years after Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero wrote and directed this sequel about the growing zombie epidemic that is now sweeping the Philadelphia area. Four characters hole up in an abandoned shopping mall while trying to fight off the zombies and a militant biker gang. Dawn of the Dead brings the zombie apocalypse to life in vivid color. Like its predecessor, Dawn of the Dead was made on a relatively modest budget ($650,000) and was a boon at the box office, grossing an estimated $55 million.
3. Re-Animator (1985): Re-Animator was one of the first zombie films to bring humor into the mix. Combining horror, gore and comedy was a great move that has given rise to its own genre. The film tells the story of a medical student’s experiments gone awry. In the process of studying regeneration, the student reanimates corpses. What ensues is comedic, campy and filled with gore. The film has developed a cult following and began a tradition of zombie horror-comedies (see Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, Warm Bodies).
2. 28 Days Later (2002): Many debate whether 28 Days Later is actually a zombie film, since the zombie-like characters are actually living people infected with a virus. But there’s no debating that the ensuing horror is right in line with zombie apocalypse fiction. In the film, animal rights activists are infected with this rage-causing virus while attempting to free chimpanzees from a London lab. Twenty-eight days later, the city is a wasteland. Jim, the film’s protagonist, wakes up from a coma and must navigate this new world that is infested with flesh eating zombies.
1. Shaun of the Dead (2004): Following in the comedic tradition of Re-Animator, Shaun of the Dead tells the story of a regular guy looking to turn his life around – all while navigating the increasing undead population in London. Shiftless Shaun finds that he must become the hero if he wants to win back his girlfriend and save his mother from impending doom. The movie is part of the Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy which features Hot Fuzz and The World’s End.