17+ Best Zombie Movies

With so many different types of zombie films out there, it can be difficult to find just the right type of zombie movie you want to watch. Collected here are some of the greatest zombie movies ever to help you in your search.

Dawn of the Dead (2004) is a good remake and an awesome zombie movie.

The zombie film is a genre that will never die. What started out as a niche subgenre of horror has expanded into a full-fledged genre of its own. The zombie infestation of film (and pop culture in general) is so widespread that it can be difficult to choose which movies to watch. This list helps narrow down the search with the very best zombie movies ever made. Also included below is a brief overview of the different types of zombie movies out there, so you can better pick the right zombie for you current mood and tastes.

Best Zombie Movies, Ranked

17. Dawn Of The Dead (2004)

Dawn of the Dead (2004).
Dawn of the Dead (2004) was Zack Snyder’s first feature film as a director.

For the remake of Dawn of the Dead, producers wanted a full reimagining of Romero’s story that stood on its own while paying tribute to the broader premise of the original. Screenwriter James Gunn, whose biggest script prior to this was Scooby-Doo (2002), used the shopping mall setting, but beyond that he allowed the story to flow in its own way. Director Zack Snyder wanted to have his zombies run as a way to add a heightened sense of danger, and the fast undead also served to set his movie even further apart from Romero’s original.

16. Prince of Darkness (1987)

Prince of Darkness (1987).
John Carpenter wrote Prince o Darkness under the pseudonym Martin Quatermass as a nod to writer Nigel Kneale and his famous character Bernard Quatermass.

John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness has some rather complex demonic zombie lore. The story involves a mysterious and possibly sentient cylinder of fluid being investigated by a quantum physicist at the request of a priest. The most direct approach for zombification is through ingestion of the fluid. The liquid can move on its own, and it is spit by those who are already possessed. The fluid also has the ability to influence those with weak minds without ever making contact with them. It’s debatable whether the origin of the liquid is truly demonic, but the effect is still the same. These people, some of who are clearly the dead brought back to life, move and act like demonic zombies.

15. Slither (2006)

Slither (2006).
Though the alien slugs in Slither bear a strong resemblance to those seen in Night of the Creeps (1986), James Gunn has stated that David Cronenberg’s Shivers (1975) was one of his main influences.

Though he would later become more famous for his blockbuster films including the Guardians of the Galaxy series and Suicide Squad (2021), filmmaker James Gunn’s first feature film as a director was Slither (2006). In Slither, an alien parasite lands on Earth and infects a man named Grant Grant (Michael Rooker). Grant transforms into a tentacle monster and breeds alien slugs that turn the townsfolk into hive-minded zombies. It is then up to Police Chief Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) to save the day in his rather inept yet charismatic way.

14. I Walked With a Zombie (1943)

Darby Jones in I Walked With a Zombie (1943).
Darby Jones plays Carrefour, a visually imposing character that would be the actor’s most famous role.

A young nurse named Betsy (Francis Dee) accepts a job caring for a sick woman at a sugar plantation on a Caribbean island, but she ends up in the middle of family drama involving antagonistic brothers and voodoo practices. I Walked With a Zombie is more sophisticated than many of the zombie movies that had come before. It carries an undercurrent of sadness with its story, and it has unmistakable allusions to the injustice and indignity of slavery through its dialogue and visuals.

13. Cemetery Man (aka Dellamorte Dellamore) (1994)

Rupert Everett and Anna Falchi in Cemetery Man (1994).
The Spanish title for Cemetery Man translates to My Girlfriend is a Zombie.

Cemetery Man is a zombie movie about love that takes place in a cemetery where the dead don’t stay dead. The cemetery’s caretaker, Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett), has some unhealthy romantic interests involving making love to a widow on her husband’s grave, but his assistant, Gnaghi, is arguably even worse. Gnaghi falls in love with a young woman who happens to be decapitated. Undeterred, Gnaghi digs her up and takes her zombified head back to live with him. That’s not even close to the end of the story, but some things deserve to be seen rather than explained.

12. REC (2007)

REC (2007).
Quarantine (2008), starring Jennifer Carpenter, is an American remake of REC (2007) which comes close to being a shot-for-shot copy of the Spanish original.

While documenting the nightly routine of a fire department for a television show, reporter Angela (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman become trapped inside a locked-down building while accompanying firemen on a call. Residents in the apartment are becoming unnaturally aggressive, and the people they attack are seemingly becoming infected with whatever is causing their shifts in personality. The dwindling group of survivors must band together to try to survive the night in an enclosed space with an increasing number of very fast zombie-like monsters. REC is shot in a found footage style, and it delivers intense scares at a rapid pace.

11. Re-Animator (1985)

David Gale in Re-Animator (1985).
Director Stuart Gordon followed up Re-Animator with another Lovecraft film the following year, From Beyond (1986).

Re-Animator falls into the “mad scientist” category of sci-fi zombie films. Jeffrey Combs stars as Herbert West, a medical student who experiments with bringing the dead back to life. Not all of his experiments work out so well, causing some of his subjects to turn dangerously violent. Re-Animator is based on “Herbert West-Reanimator” by H.P. Lovecraft, and it was originally going to be a period piece developed for the stage before eventually turning into a modern story told as a feature film.

10. Braindead, aka, Dead Alive (1992)

Braindead / Dead Alive (1992).
The Sumatran Rat Monkey that starts the zombie infection in Braindead comes from Skull Island, a reference to the island better known as the home of King Kong.

After Lionel’s mother is bitten by a Sumatran Rat Monkey at a zoo, she becomes sick and dies. Lionel tries to hide his mother’s sickness and her subsequent reanimation after death, but things spin out of control as his mother continues to infect others with her zombie virus. Those new zombies go on to infect even more people, compounding the situation exponentially. Braindead (known as Dead Alive in North America) is a goofy and gory zombie comedy from director Peter Jackson.

9. Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

Night of the Living Dead (1968).
George A. Romero has stated that much of the inspiration for Night of the Living Dead‘s script (co-written by Romero and John Russo) came from Richard Matheson’s novel about zombie-like vampires, I Am Legend.

Night of the Living Dead is the movie that changed the world’s perception of zombies and created a format that has been emulated time and time again. Its story of a group of strangers forced to barricade themselves in an old house as zombies gather outside might feel cliché, but that’s because this is the movie that popularized the cliché. The film was controversial during its time for its depiction of violence, but it is widely regarded as one of the top horror films of all time.

8. One Cut Of The Dead (2017)

One Cut of the Dead (2017).
Made for about $25,000, One Cut of the Dead grossed over a thousand times its budget.

One Cut of the Dead burst into worldwide acclaim and popularity thanks to its clever writing and unexpectedly wonderful take on zombie movies. To say too much about the plot would ruin the film’s experience, so all that can really be said without spoiling everything is that the movie begins with a crew making a low-budget zombie film. What follows is a journey that will keep you guessing and laughing the entire time.

7. The Evil Dead (1981)

Ellen Sandweiss in The Evil Dead (1981).
Evil Dead‘s original title was Book of the Dead, but it was changed on the advice of distributor Irvin Shapiro who thought it wasn’t catchy enough.

Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead is the quintessential demonic zombie movie. The setup isn’t so dissimilar from a movie like Night of the Living Dead (1968). A group of people try to survive the night in an isolated cabin in the woods as a mysterious force turns them into the murderous undead one by one. Though the undead in the larger Evil Dead franchise would later be referred to as “Deadites” which would differentiate them even more from regular zombies, this first film treats possession a lot like an infection passed through physical contact (whether the contact is from attacks by other possessed people, an invisible force, or living trees).

6. The Return Of The Living Dead (1985)

Thom Mathews and Beverly Randolph in The Return of the Living Dead (1985).
The Return of the Living Dead is directed by Dan O’Bannon, the writer of the screenplay for Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979).

The zombies in The Return of the Living Dead are brought to life when two bumbling workers at a medical supply company accidentally break open a barrel containing a chemical gas called 2-4-5 Trioxin. The gas kills and reanimates anyone who breathes it in directly, and it has the ability to revive the corpses of the already dead (humans and animals). This becomes a major problem in the movie when one of the living dead is cremated, only to have the smoke from its body mix with clouds to cause Trioxin-laced rain to fall in a nearby cemetery.

5. Zombi 2 (1979)

Zombi 2 (1979).
Zombi 2 is part of a large and confusing array of film franchises, with different countries making up their own franchises consisting of largely unrelated zombie films.

Though marketed in Italy as a sequel to Dawn of the Dead (which was re-edited and titled Zombi in Italy), Zombi 2 (also known as Zombie and Zombie Flesh Eaters) has only a few superficial connections to George A. Romero’s film. Rather, Zombi 2 is Italian director Lucio Fulci’s masterpiece of zombie gore that is distinctly different from Romero’s film. A woman (Tisa Farrow) joins with a journalist (Ian McCulloch) to travel to a Caribbean island to investigate why her father’s boat ended up drifting into a New York harbor without him on it (though there was a zombie on board). What they discover is an island overrun with rotting corpses eating people while voodoo drums can be heard in the distance.

4. Shaun Of The Dead (2004)

Shaun of the Dead (2004).
Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg made cameos as zombies in George A Romero’s Land of the Dead (2005) which was released the year after Shaun of the Dead.

Shaun of the Dead is one of the rare zombie comedies that gets the balance of humor and seriousness exactly right. Simon Pegg stars as Shaun, an underachieving retail salesman who gets dumped by his girlfriend. When a zombie apocalypse breaks out, Shaun tries to sort his life out with the help of his even more underachieving best friend Ed (Nick Frost). Pegg co-wrote the script with director Edgar Wright, and their love of zombie movies, especially Romero’s zombie movies, is clear with all of the loving homages and references sprinkled throughout the film.

3. 28 Days Later (2002)

Cillian Murphy in 28 Days Later (2002).
In addition to Romero’s Dead films, inspiration for 28 Days Later also came from the 1962 film Day of the Triffids and the Resident Evil video games.

Writer/director Danny Boyle made a huge impact with 28 Days Later. Though Boyle doesn’t necessarily consider his film to be a zombie movie in the truest sense, the influences of George A. Romero on the film are unmistakable. Even so, Boyle’s zombies are quite different from Romero’s. A virus that causes people to be overcome with rage has spread at a rapid pace, and Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up from a coma 28 days after the infections began. We follow Jim as he does his best to protect himself and his newfound friends from hordes of fast and highly-aggressive people. These zombies aren’t the dead brought back to life, but they still helped usher in a new wave of zombie films over the ensuing years.

2. Train To Busan (2016)

Train to Busan (2016).
An animated prequel, Seoul Station, was released about a month after Train to Busan.

Train to Busan is the zombie film that sparked South Korea’s interest in the genre. It is a fantastic film with great characters, fun action, tense moments, and a surprising amount of heart. The movie takes place almost entirely on a moving train headed to the city of Busan. A zombie outbreak is occurring as the train leaves its first station, and an infected person slips on board just as the train doors close. The infection spreads quickly, creating a panic and forcing passengers to fight for survival. Personalities clash and alliances are built as a diverse group of characters weigh their morals against their instincts for survival. If you’re going to watch only one South Korean zombie movie, make it this one. But also, you should watch more South Korean zombie movies.

1. Dawn Of The Dead (1978)

David Emge in Dawn of the Dead (1978).
Italian filmmaker Dario Argento re-cut Dawn of the Dead for non-English speaking countries. Argento’s version of the film feels more action oriented.

Ten years after the release of Night of the Living Dead, George A Romero brought his version of zombies back to the screen in Dawn of the Dead. This time, special effects wizard Tom Savini brought an increased level of blood and gore to life in vivid color. With its combination of strong metaphors and ultra-violence, Dawn of the Dead is arguably the best zombie film ever made. It also established the classic combination of zombies and shopping malls.

More Great Zombie Movies

  • White Zombie (1932) – Bela Lugosi stars as a voodoo master in what is often cited as the first feature-length zombie movie ever made.
  • Plague of the Zombies (1966) – This movie from legendary horror producers Hammer Films was a strong influence on the modern look of rotted, undead zombies.
  • Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972) – Bob Clark (A Christmas Story, Black Christmas) directs this dark comedy about a theater troupe who accidently wake the dead on a small island.
  • Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972) – In this Spanish movie, people are stalked by a group of ancient knights cursed to come back to life every night as zombies.
  • Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974) – Also known as The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, this movie features corpses brought back to life by ultra-sonic radiation.
  • Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (1981) – This cheap European zombie flick has some wild ideas, including a subplot about a boy (played by an adult actor) who has a disturbingly apparent Oedipus complex.
  • Night of the Comet (1984) – Earth flies through the tail of a comet which kills most people on the planet, and most of the survivors turn into zombies.
  • Day of the Dead (1985) – The third of George Romero’s classic zombie movies is likely the goriest of the series.
  • Demons (1985) – Demonically possessed zombies run amok in a movie theater in this amazing low-budget shocker from Italian director Lamberto Bava.
  • Night of the Creeps (1986) – Alien slugs burrow into the brains of people on a college campus, turning them into zombies in this horror comedy.
  • The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) – Wes Craven’s take on zombies goes for a more balanced approach than most voodoo movies, though it still contains the director’s trademark violence and nightmares.
  • Night of the Living Dead (1990) – Starring Tony Todd and directed by special effects master Tom Savini, this new version of George Romero’s classic updates the original characters to give the movie a welcome new feeling.
  • Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993) – A young man revives his dead girlfriend, but now, self-inflicted pain is the only thing that can keep her mind off of her insatiable hunger for brains.
  • Bio-Zombie (1998) – Two small-time criminals try to stay alive in a shopping mall during a zombie outbreak in this Hong Kong zombie comedy.
  • Versus (2000) – Zombie and yakuza films collide in this glorious Japanese action/horror movie.
  • Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies (2001) – A zombie infection only affecting teenage girls which causes “Near Death Happiness” is the basis for this head-shakingly silly Japanese zombie movie.
  • House of the Dead (2003) – Okay, “great” is a gross exaggeration, but this video-game-based zombie movie from Uwe Boll is fun despite (or because of) how awful it is.
  • Grindhouse: Planet Terror (2007) – Robert Rodriguez pays tribute to campy exploitation movies with this bonkers action/horror/zombie movie starring Rose McGowan with a machine gun for a leg.
  • Pontypool (2008) – In one of the most unique zombie movies ever made, a radio host in a small Canadian town stays on the air as a mysterious zombie outbreak rages.
  • Zombieland (2009) – Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, and Abigail Breslin are great in this zomedy (zombie comedy).
  • Warm Bodies (2013) – Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer star as star-crossed lovers with one big problem, he’s a zombie, but she isn’t.
  • Zombie for Sale (2019) – A struggling family tries to monetize zombification for its revitalizing benefits in this South Korean zombie comedy.
  • Army of the Dead (2021) – Zack Snyder’s return to zombie movies was met with a divisive reaction from audiences, but it’s combination of action, horror, and sci-fi is fun for the right audience.

Types of Zombie Films

Zombie movies have been around for nearly 100 years, so it’s natural that many different variations on the movie monster would evolve over time. This section provides a quick crash-course in the different types of zombies out there.

Voodoo Zombies

King of the Zombies (1941).
King of the Zombies (1941) is an early example of a voodoo-inspired zombie movie.

The earliest zombie movies came out at a time when public interest in Haitian Vodou was high thanks to the 1929 book The Magic Island by William Seabrook. The book chronicles the author’s travels in Haiti and his experiences with a voodoo priestess. Movies inspired by Seabrook’s work tend to focus on voodoo ceremonies as a form of mind control.

The zombies in these films are sometimes described as the dead brought back to life, but their status as living or dead is usually quite debatable. More often than not, the voodoo-powered zombies in early films seem more like living people who are hypnotized rather than the actual living dead. That would change somewhat over time as zombie films evolved, but regardless of the time, the main villain of these films is usually a voodoo master and not the zombies themselves.

Romero-style Zombies (Slow Zombies)

Day of the Dead (1985).
George A. Romero’s zombies evolved over the course of his movies, and they began to show intelligence in Day of the Dead (1985).

George A. Romero is considered to be the father of the modern zombie movie. His series of zombie films that began with Night of the Living Dead in 1968 changed the way people thought about the zombies on film. Though voodoo zombies may be either dead or alive depending on the film, a Romero zombie is a walking corpse that can only be killed by destroying the brain. Romero’s living dead may retain a fraction of their living personality, and some of them have shown the capacity to learn, but for the most part they are slow moving, mindless creatures driven by the compulsion to eat human flesh. Many variations of the Romero zombie have evolved over time, each with their own specific twists on the classic zombie formula.

Fast Zombies

Army of the Dead (2021).
Zack Snyder helped popularize fast zombies in Dawn of the Dead (2004), and he further tweaked what a fast zombie could be with Army of the Dead (2021) seen here.

As zombie films changed over time, some filmmakers wanted to differentiate their movies from what had come before. As early as 1985 (in Dan O’Bannon’s Return of the Living Dead), zombies began to run when they had previously only walked. However, fast zombies wouldn’t necessarily catch on in a big way until many years later. Movies with running zombies tend to emphasize action and adrenaline-based scares over the more claustrophobic tension of movies with the walking dead. 28 Days Later (2002) is often credited with kickstarting the modern era of fast zombies.

Demonic Zombies

Amelia Kinkade in Night of the Demons (1988).
Night of the Demons (1988) starts with demon possession, but the teens killed in the movie also come back as semi-intelligent zombies.

One type of zombie that was relatively popular in the 1980s but mostly fell out of fashion after the end of the decade is the demonic zombie. This form of monster is at the edge of what can still qualify as a true zombie before becoming something else entirely. The main factors qualifying these creatures as a type of zombie come down to huge overlaps in tropes often associated with zombie movies.

Technically, this type of zombie is possessed by some sort of demonic force, but unlike a typical demonic possession movie, these monsters are usually portrayed as dead and can cause other people to be zombified/possessed by attacking or killing them. Demonic zombies tend to keep an aspect of their living personality which is often used to taunt their potential victims. Demonic zombies usually have intelligence far beyond that of a typical zombie, though they are sometimes portrayed as mindless (or mind controlled) killing machines.

Infected Zombies

Michelle Rodriguez in Resident Evil (2002).
The zombies (and other monsters) in Resident Evil (2002) are caused by infection from the T-Virus.

Many zombie movies don’t reveal the reasons behind why the dead are coming back to life. Many others do though, and those reasons can fall into any number of different categories. One of the most common causes of a zombie apocalypse is through infection. The infection may start as a disease, a bio-weapon, or something else entirely. People are attacked, and those who aren’t killed right away tend to have a painful process of transformation before they die and come back. And in some movies, the people don’t die at all. There is often hope of containing an outbreak of infected undead, while unexplained undead offer a more hopeless situation.

Sci-Fi Zombies

The Earth Dies Screaming (1964).
Alien robots turn humas into white-eyed zombies in The Earth Dies Screaming (1964).

Beyond magic and infection, the next major cause of zombie outbreaks is through means that would be best classified as science fiction. Whether created by aliens, mad scientists, or some mysterious radiation from outer space, sci-fi zombies usually have their own sets of rules specific to each film. The zombies may be living or dead in sci-fi films, and many times, as antagonists, they are secondary to whoever (or whatever) created them.

European Zombies

City of the Living Dead (1980).
Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci made multiple movies with zombies, including City of the Living Dead (1980).

Though they don’t necessarily make up a separate subgenre, zombie films from Europe (most specifically Italy and Spain) released in the 1970s and into the 1980s were some of the most gruesome and influential zombie films ever. European exploitation films in general during this time were becoming more violent and lurid, and the zombie film was no exception. These tales of the living dead tend to be brutal with very little in the way of comic relief.

Japanese Zombies

Junk (2000).
Writer/director Atsushi Muroga has spoken openly about the movies that clearly influenced him (i.e. the movies he lifted from) while making Junk (2000).

Likely inspired by video games like the Resident Evil (aka Biohazard) series and The House of the Dead series which both began in 1996, Japan began to produce a wave of zombie films in the late 90s and into the 2000s. Japanese zombies seem to be largely inspired by George A. Romero’s films, though they often have their own spins on the lore. Many Japanese zombie movies take a serious approach, but even more have a campy or completely comedic tone.

South Korean Zombies

Peninsula (2020).
Peninsula (2020, seen here) and Train to Busan both have the same director, Yeon Sang-ho.

South Korea joined the zombie party much later than other countries, but they have produced some of the best and most exciting living dead films in a short period of time. South Korean zombies usually have their own twists on familiar zombies from the Western world, and their zombies are often fast and aggressive. The best South Korean zombie movies touch on subjects relevant to modern society while providing some intense scares. With a fresh perspective on the zombie genre, South Korea managed to make zombies terrifying again.

Further Reading

Meet The Author

Chris Catt

Chris has a degree in film studies at Temple University’s campus in Tokyo, Japan. He is a renowned expert on horror cinema.