50+ 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 across multiple categories to help you narrow your search.

A zombie from a popular 90s movie
A zombie portrayed in the Night of the Living Dead (1990) remake by Tom Savini.

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 distinct subgenres of zombie movies have formed over time. This list gives a brief description of many of these different categories, with some of the best (and best/worst) examples of the subgenre.

Zombies from Shaun of the Dead (2004).
A zombie horde from Shaun of the Dead (2004).

Categories included here range from the earliest voodoo-inspired films to zombie types, to how different countries approach zombies in movies. Of course, many of the films listed below could fall into multiple categories, but for the sake of variety, no film has been repeated. Also, for those of you looking just for zombie comedies, a huge subgenre on its own, we’ve made a list for that too: Funny Zombie Movies. For the rest of you, read on to discover the history and horror of zombies on film!

Voodoo Zombies

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.

White Zombie (1932)

Bela Lugosi and Madge Bellamy in White Zombie (1932).
The makers of White Zombie were sued by playwright Kenneth Webb for copyright infringement on his 1932 play Zombie. Webb lost his case.

White Zombie is often cited as the first feature-length zombie film ever made. The story involves a young couple, Madeline and Neil, who travel to Haiti to get married. The couple stays at the extravagant house of a plantation owner, but their host has ulterior motives involving a local voodoo master and a plot to steal Madeline from Neil. White Zombie wasn’t well received when it came out, but it is worth seeking out for its historical significance and a fun performance from Bela Lugosi as voodoo master “Murder” Legendre.

King of the Zombies (1941)

A voodoo ceremony in King of the Zombies (1941).
Bela Lugosi and Peter Lorre were both considered for the role of the villain in King of the Zombies, but Henry Victor (of 1932’s Freaks) eventually got the part.

A plane crash in the Caribbean strands three men on a remote island that just so happens to be the home of Dr. Miklos Sangre. The men have no choice but to stay the night in Sangre’s mansion, and one of the men quickly discovers that the doctor has a cadre of zombies under his control. King of the Zombies is one of the earliest zombie comedies, and even though the portrayal of Mantan Moreland’s servant character hasn’t aged particularly well, the movie is still a minor classic of the zombie genre.

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.

The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

The Plague of the Zombies (1966).
The Plague of the Zombies was shot back-to-back with another Hammer horror film, The Reptile (1966), which used many of the same sets.

People in a small Corish village are dying at an alarming rate, and it’s even more alarming when the bodies of the dead come up missing from their coffins. The local doctor and his mentor investigate the deaths and disappearances, but their efforts may already be too late as reports of dead men walking start to come in. The Plague of the Zombies came out during production company Hammer’s great run during the 1960s. Even though it falls firmly within the category of voodoo zombies, its imagery of rotting corpses would influence the look of other types of zombies in later films.

The Serpent And The Rainbow (1988)

Wes Craven's The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988).
The Serpent and the Rainbow was inspired by the non-fiction book of the same name by Wade Davis.

Directed by Wes Craven, The Serpent and the Rainbow tells the story of an anthropologist, Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman), investigating Haitian Vodou practices to determine what drug is used to turn people into zombies. Alan’s time in Haiti becomes a nightmare when he crosses a Vodou master who isn’t interested in sharing his secrets. The Serpent and the Rainbow takes a very different approach to its zombies, portraying them in a more realistic manner. Even with all of its its fantastic imagery, Wes Craven manages to ground the zombie movie in a twisted reality which adds a completely different kind of scare to the genre.

Romero-style Zombies

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 exist, but this section is devoted the purest form of Romero’s classic zombie.

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 shifted 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.

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.

Day Of The Dead (1985)

Day of the Dead (1985).
George A. Romero’s original idea for Day of the Dead was much more expansive, but after disputes cut his budget in half, he had to scale the movie down.

With Day of the Dead, writer/director George A. Romero continued to increase the gore of his zombie series thanks to returning effects artist Tom Savini and his crew including Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger. The movie takes place mostly in an underground bunker which houses a scientific research team and the group of soldiers meant to protect them. The movie movie didn’t fare as well as the previous entries did upon release, but it has gained a considerable following in the decades since. Romero even cited it as his favorite among his original three Dead movies.

Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Tony Todd in Night of the Living Dead (1990).
Copyright issues relating to the 1968 original led to Romero and fellow filmmakers not making much money on Night of the Living Dead. The 1990 remake was a way to get the story copyrighted while making a decent profit.

George A. Romero went on to write and direct three more Dead films years later, but his style of zombies were also seen in countless films by other filmmakers. The 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead was written by Romero himself, and it was produced by original co-writer John Russo and original producer Russell Streiner. Tom Savini moved into the director’s chair for this version which stands up as one of the better remakes in horror history. The film has only minor differences from the original’s plot, and Tony Todd and Patricia Tallman play Ben and Barbara in a way that honors the original while updating their characters in smart and effective ways.

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.

Fast Zombies

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.

House of the Dead (2003)

Ona Grauer in House of the Dead (2003).
Uwe Boll embraced the video game when making House of the Dead (2003), inserting actual game footage into certain scenes and giving characters a “game over” screen when they die.

Okay, so, House of the Dead may not be what most people would call a “great” movie, but for the right audience, it is a ton of campy fun. It is the first of many video game adaptations directed by German filmmaker Uwe Boll, and it features, among others, actors Ellie Cornell (Halloween 4 & 5), Clint Howard (Ice Cream Man), and Jurgen Prochnow (Das Boot). The film is about a group of people who head to a rave on a remote island only to find everyone either dead or zombified. The zombies on the island run, jump, flip, and throw axes in this hilariously over-the-top movie.

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 original story that stood on its own while paying tribute to the broader premise of the movie. 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.

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 the 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 shift 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 zombies. REC is shot in a found footage style, and it delivers intense scares at a rapid pace.

Zombieland (2009)

Zombieland (2009).
Zombieland was originally envisioned as a television series.

Zombieland is a zombie comedy (or zomedy if you’re into portmanteaus) starring Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, and Abigail Breslin as a group of survivors looking to find sanctuary during a zombie apocalypse. The movie is a fun take on zombie movies that overtook Dawn of the Dead (2004) as the top-grossing zombie film in history up to that point. As entertaining as the main cast is, the cameo by Bill Murray is quite possibly the best scene in the film.

Army of the Dead (2021)

Army of the Dead (2021).
In a tough decision for the actor, Dave Bautista chose to star in Army of the Dead rather than appear in James Gunn’s Suicide Squad (2021).

Zack Snyder returned to the zombie genre in 2021 with Army of the Dead. In the seventeen years since Dawn of the Dead (2004), Snyder and his work had become quite a popular topic of discussion among certain online film communities. There were a lot of people with a lot of different expectations waiting for Army of the Dead to hit theaters and Netflix in 2021, and what they got was a zombie/heist movie heavy on action and some mysteriously complex zombie lore. Not only do the zombies run in Army of the Dead, they also have the capacity to love. With a cast led by the great Dave Bautista, Army of the Dead is a fun mish-mash of genres.

Demonic 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.

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.

Demons (1985)

Demons (1985).
Demons was directed by Lamerto Bava who co-wrote the script with Dario Argento, Dardano Sacchetti, and Franco Ferrini.

Demons is about as close as you’ll find to a classic zombie movie with a demonic source. This Italian gore-fest is about a group of people trapped inside a movie theater while demon-possessed zombies attack in increasing numbers. The infection/possession starts when a person cuts herself with a mysterious mask and transforms into a fanged and clawed zombie. Her attacks turn others, and the number of infected quickly spreads. As with many demonic zombie movies, there is a bit of magic involved, but Demons is mostly just a fantastically violent movie with fast zombies powered by demonic rage.

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.

Night of the Demons (1988)

Amelia Kinkade in Night of the Demons (1988).
Frank Welker, the voice of Fred from the original Scooby-Doo cartoons, reportedly provided the demonic voice for the main demon in Night of the Demons.

Night of the Demons is an incredibly fun low-budget horror movie set on Halloween night. When a group of teenagers hold a séance during a party at an old mortuary, they unleash a force that may doom them all. The first victim, scream queen Linnea Quigley, becomes a demonic zombie by inhaling whatever force was woken by the séance, and the rest of the undead are created though physical contact and violent murder. The rules of these demonic zombies may be a bit inconsistent, but the movie is a cult classic everyone should put into their Halloween movie marathons.

Demon Wind (1990)

Demon Wind (1990).
Lou Diamond Phillips is rumored to appear in Demon Wind as a demon/zombie, though his role is uncredited.

By 1990, demonic zombie films had fallen quite far from their earlier prominence. One standout from a campy and cult perspective is Demon Wind. The story is about a man who travels with a group of friends to an old abandoned shack to try to learn more about his family’s history. What he finds is a demonic curse that attempts to trap and kill everyone who comes near the shack. Demon Wind contains all sorts of different demon clichés, but it also has a good number of zombies brought to life by unnatural forces. The movie isn’t “good” in any normal use of the word, but its ridiculousness has a charm that is hard to deny.

Infected Zombies

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. There is often hope of containing an outbreak of infected undead, while unexplained undead offer a more hopeless situation.

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 those who are already dead. 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.

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.

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.

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.

Grindhouse: Planet Terror (2007)

Rose McGowan in Planet Terror (2007).
Robert Rodriguez came up with the initial idea for Planet Terror while working on The Faculty in 1998.

The zombies in Planet Terror, Robert Rodriguez’s half of the Grindhouse double feature, are created by a chemical bio-weapon that mutates them into grotesque, boil-covered monstrosities. The movie itself is an homage to campy exploitation movies, and it fully embraces the ridiculousness of that type of film. Planet Terror is an action/horror/comedy featuring a great cast as they try to survive the beginning of a worldwide zombie outbreak.

Pontypool (2008)

Pontypool (2008).
Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio broadcast from 1938 was a partial inspiration for Pontypool.

A small-town radio host becomes the central figure in a zombie outbreak in Pontypool. The host, Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie), along with the few other people holed up in his radio station begin to piece together what is causing the zombie infection, but their discovery may be too late as the hordes close in on them. Pontypool contains one of the most unique methods of infection in any zombie movie ever. I won’t spoil it here, because if you’re a zombie fan and you’re never seen Pontypool, then you should experience it without knowing what it’s really all about.

Sci-Fi Zombies

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. There are a very wide range of sci-fi zombie films, so here are just a few examples illustrating the category’s diversity.

The Earth Dies Screaming (1964)

The Earth Dies Screaming (1964).
Screenwriter Harry Spalding has said that he hated the title The Earth Dies Screaming.

In The Earth Dies Screaming, an American jet test pilot finds himself in a small town in England where most of the population has been killed. The pilot teams up with a group of fellow survivors, and they discover that alien robots have invaded, killing off most people in an initial attack and turning some of the surviving humans into white-eyed zombies with their touch of death. The movie was directed by Terence Fisher who is probably best known by his prolific and influential work in Hammer horror films including The Curse of Frankenstein (1957).

The Alien Dead (1980)

The Alien Dead (1980).
The Alien Dead was one of the last films of Buster Crabbe, the actor best known for playing Flash Gordon and Billy the Kid in the 30s and 40s.

Directed and co-written by Fred Olen Ray, an influential purveyor of low-budget schlock, The Alien Dead is about people in a small town in the American south who are turned into zombies after a meteor crashes down to Earth. The Alien Dead mostly follows a traditional slowing-moving-corpse style of zombie movie with their origins being the only thing that really ties the film to science fiction. It’s also not a very good movie, but it’s great for fans of cheap and cheesy flicks.

Night Of The Comet (1984)

Alex Brown in Night of the Comet (1984).
The working title for Night of the Comet was the very descriptive Teenage Mutant Horror Comet Zombies.

After Earth passes through the tail of a comet, the skies turn red and the streets are littered with red dust which used to be human beings. Of the people who survived the extinction-level event, many of them have become zombies who viciously attack those left unaffected. Night of the Comet is a glorious sci-fi comedy that has developed sizable cult following in the decades since its release.

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.

Night Of The Creeps (1986)

Night of the Creeps (1986).
Many of the characters in Night of the Creeps have the last names of famous filmmakers including George A. Romero, Tobe Hooper, David Cronenberg, and others

In an homage to alien invasion and zombie films of the past, Night of the Creeps is an intentionally campy cult classic about alien slugs that burrow into people’s brains. The slug-like parasites turn people into zombies, causing a college campus to resemble a zombie apocalypse. Night of the Creeps is packed with references to films and filmmakers, and it makes it clear that writer/director Fred Dekker is a huge horror nerd who made this movie for fellow horror nerds.

Slither (2006)

Slither (2006).
Though the alien slugs in Slither bear a strong resemblance to those seen in Night of the Creeps, 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 as a director was Slither (2006). Gunn had previous experience with zombies when he wrote the script for Dawn of the Dead (2004), but Slither takes a very different approach. 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.

European Zombies

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 films in the genre. 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.

Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972)

Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972).
Writer/director Amando de Ossorio considers his walking dead to be more like vampires or mummies, but their resemblance to zombies is hard to deny.

The first in a series of Blind Dead films, Tombs of the Blind Dead is a Spanish film about a group of ancient knight who are cursed to emerge from their tombs every night as blind, skeletal zombies. People who are unfortunate enough to be present when the Knights wake up are killed in horrible ways. The film is an eerie entry in the zombie canon, with its undead having their own unique and unrelenting way of stalking their victims.

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974)

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974).
Let Sleeping Corpses Lie is set in England, but it was filmed primarily in Italy.

Also known as The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, the walking dead in Let Sleeping Corpses Lie are brought to a semblance of life by ultra-sonic radiation created as a form of pesticide. This Spanish/Italian production is set up a bit like a mystery film, with a man and woman forced to investigate what is really happening in a small town when local authorities dismiss their claims of the undead. There are some great scenes of claustrophobic zombie terror late in the movie, making Let Sleeping Corpses Lie an underrated classic.

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) 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 being overrun with rotting corpses eating people while voodoo drums can be heard in the distance.

City of the Living Dead (1980)

City of the Living Dead (1980).
Wind machines and 22 pounds of live maggots were used in a particularly memorable supernatural attack in City of the Living Dead.

City of the Living Dead is the first part of Lucio Fulci’s “Gates of Hell” thematic trilogy which also includes The Beyond (1981) and The House by the Cemetery (1981). In City of the Living Dead, a psychic woman and a journalist find themselves as the only hope of saving humanity when the gates of Hell begin to open after the suicide of a priest. The dead are beginning to rise, and in a few days they will overwhelm the world. City of the Living Dead features some of Fulci’s most iconic and grotesque sequences, including a woman who becomes possessed by the dead priest and vomits up her own intestines.

Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (1981)

Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (1981).
This Italian movie has had many titles, including Burial Ground, Nights of Terror, Zombie Horror, and The Zombie Dead.

Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror is a wild zombie movie that features the well-used setup of a group of people trapped in a large house as the walking dead approach. What makes this movie stand out is how bizarrely some of its ideas and situations are handled. For one thing, the zombies themselves (brought to life when an archeologist uncovers an ancient tomb) were constructed with some laughably goofy makeup and other effects. Most notably though, the movie includes a questionable subplot of a young boy (played by an adult actor named Pietro Barzocchini) who has a disturbingly apparent Oedipus complex involving his mother. The zombie violence is a ton of fun though, and the movie is worth watching if only for how bonkers it is.

Japanese Zombies

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.

Junk (2000)

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.

Junk blends a yakuza crime movie with classic zombie films like Day of the Dead (1985) and Re-Animator (1985). A group of thieves plan to meet a yakuza gang at an abandoned factory to discuss selling their stolen goods, but when they arrive, they stumble upon a secret military plot to reanimate the dead. Junk is full of action and light on story, but it’s a fun and gory time for fans of low-budget zombie goodness.

Versus (2000)

Versus (2000).
Writer/director Ryuhei Kitamura has said that Versus was inspired by The Evil Dead (1981) and Highlander (1986).

Versus is one of the early and most popular Japanese zombie movies to blend over-the-top action sequences with the undead. The movie tells the story of an escaped prisoner who finds himself fighting against zombies and a yakuza gang while in a forest that contains one of the 666 portals to hell. The action is bloody and brilliant, making Versus a perfect gateway to Japanese zombie movies for martial arts films.

Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies (2001)

Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies (2001).
In Stacy, we see an advertisement for a cute and trendy chainsaw called, in Engrish, “Blues Campbell’s Right Hand 2.”

In this film, also referred to just as Stacy, a worldwide phenomenon is causing girls from the ages of 15 to 17 to die and come back as zombies. The young women glisten with a blue phosphorescent powder called “Butterfly Twinkle Powder,” and they suffer from a manic state of “Near Death Happiness” in the days before their transformation. Nothing can be done about their fatal situations, and the only solution devised so far is to chop the girls into pieces once they turn, a process known as a “Repeat Kill.” There is also a government force dedicated to disposing of Stacies (which is what the zombified girls are referred to as) which is called the “Romero Repeat Kill Troops.” This movie is weird.

Onechanbara: The Movie (2008)

Onechanbara: The Movie (2008).
“Onechanbara” is a portmanteau of “onee-chan,” a term for one’s older sister or for a young adult woman, and “chanbara,” a Japanese genre of films containing sword fighting.

Based on the OneeChanbara series of video games, Onechanbara: The Movie takes place in a near future where the dead have been brought back to life. Aya, clad in a bikini and cowboy hat, leads the battle to end the zombie menace with a series of campy action sequences as she uses her katana to hack and slash her way through hordes of the undead. The story is a bit more involved than that, but the real draw here is obviously the hero of the movie herself. A sequel, Onechanbara Beauty: The Movie – Vortex, was released in 2009.

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.

South Korean Zombies

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.

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.

Rampant (2018)

Rampant (2018).
Rampant is very similar to the Netflix series Kingdom (2019), though Kingdom is a better production overall.

Rampant is a period film that takes place in the latter half of South Korea’s Joseon dynasty. A prince, Lee Chung, returns to his home from a decade abroad and becomes entangled in a plot to overtake the throne. Not only that, but zombies have begun to infest the kingdom. Lee Chung, though selfish and arrogant at first, must overcome his own selfishness to save his homeland. Rampant is a beautiful film with great action sequences, though its story and plot aren’t as strong as other South Korean zombie films of the time.

Zombie For Sale (2019)

Zombie for Sale (2019).
Zombie for Sale is the debut film of director Lee Min-jae.

Most South Korean zombie movies are tense and frightening, but Zombie For Sale is one of the rare zombie comedies from the country. The story focuses on a family who is struggling to make enough money, but their luck changes when a zombie escapes from a pharmaceutical company. They learn that a bite from the zombie has some unexpected benefits, and they attempt to monetize their discovery.

#Alive (2020)

Alive (2020).
#Alive was adapted from the script for the American film Alone by writer Matt Naylor. #Alive and Alone were both released in 2020.

A young man, Oh Joon-woo, is trapped alone in his family’s apartment during a zombie outbreak in #Alive. Viewers stay with Joon-woo as his supplies dwindle and his spirits sink to a dangerously low point. He might not be as alone as he thought though, and that might just give him reason enough to fight to stay alive. #Alive is a great South Korean zombie film about isolation, and with its focus on a singular main character who is often alone, it is a nice contrast to some of the bigger and more action-packed South Korean zombie movies.

Peninsula (2020)

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

Peninsula is a standalone sequel to Train to Busan (2016). The entire country of South Korea has been quarantined because of its zombie outbreak, and many of the country’s residents became trapped there when foreign countries began to refuse refugees because of fear of spreading the zombie infection. Four years later, a South Korean soldier who escaped to Hong Kong is recruited by Chinese gangsters to go back to South Korea (known as “the peninsula”) to retrieve millions of American dollars abandoned in a truck. The soldier goes with a few fellow survivors, but they discover the humans still alive on the peninsula may be just as dangerous as the zombies. Peninsula doesn’t quite recapture the heart of Train to Busan, but regardless, it’s still a fun action/horror movie.

Zombie Romances

This last category is one that is often overlooked (probably for good reason). Though not a terribly popular subgenre, the zombie romance is a thing that really does exist. It usually exists as a subplot of a movie that would better fit in any number of other categories, but it’s still there, and it deserves to be highlighted. Here is a small collection of films where a romance between the living and the dead play at least some role in the overall progression of the film’s plot.

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972)

Alan Ormsby in Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (1972).
Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things was directed by Bob Clark, the filmmaker who also directed Black Christmas (1974), A Christmas Story (1983), and Porky’s (1981).

In Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, a theater troupe ventures out to an island at the request of the troupe’s mean-spirited director, Alan. Alan has plans to torment his crew by scaring them into believing that he can raise the dead with a magic spell. His plan works better than he’d expected, but before the cemetery empties its occupants, Alan digs up a corpse to take back to the abandoned house he’s chosen for the night’s lodging. What starts as a joke takes a turn for the strange when Alan forces his crew to take part in a wedding between himself and the corpse. This may not be a romance in the truest sense, but Alan does seem to develop some sort of relationship with the dead guy before the film is over.

Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993)

Melinda Clarke in Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993).
Return of the Living Dead 3 eschews the humor of the previous entries in the series in favor of a tragic romance, though there is still some dark humor to be found.

Return of the Living Dead 3 is kind of like Romeo and Juliet, but Juliet is a zombie who eats brains and is into extreme forms of body modification. Curt is in love with Julie, but Curt’s father, a Colonel in the US military working on a secret project to use zombies as weapons, disapproves of their relationship. When Curt runs away with Julie, a motorcycle accident breaks Julie’s neck, killing her. Curt brings Julie back to life using the chemicals his father works with, but Julie quickly develops an insatiable craving for brains. However, the love between Julie and Curt lives on even with one of them dead, so they do what they can to stay together.

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.

Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) works as the caretaker in a cemetery where the dead don’t stay dead. Dellamorte has some unhealthy romantic interests of his own involving making love to a widow on her husband’s grave, but his assistant, Gnaghi, is the real focus of this entry. Gnaghi falls in love with a young woman, but there’s a problem. The young woman was 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.

Bio-Zombie (1998)

Emotion Cheung and Angela Tong in Bio-Zombie (1998).
Bio-Zombie was directed by Wilson Yip who went on to direct films in the Ip Man series starring Donnie Yen.

The romance in Bio-Zombie isn’t a huge part of the film, but it plays a role in the survival of one of the main characters. Bio-Zombie is a Hong Kong zombie comedy in the vein of Dawn of the Dead (1978). When a misplaced bioweapon begins turning people in a shopping mall into zombies, two workers/thieves try to lead a group of survivors to safety. One of those survivors, a woman named Rolls, is the object of desire for a nerdy sushi chef in one of the mall’s restaurants. When the chef is turned into a zombie, his love for Rolls is maintained, and he attempts to protect her from other zombies trying to eat her. The chef also tries to feed Rolls a piece of human-finger sushi.

Warm Bodies (2013)

Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer in Warm Bodies (2013).
Warm Bodies is based on the novel of the same name by author Isaac Marion.

You will believe a zombie can love in Warm Bodies, a romantic comedy with zombies. A zombie by the name of R (Nicholas Hoult) sees the very-much-alive Julie (Teresa Palmer) while she is making a run for supplies. It’s love at first sight for R, and his love only increases after he devours Julie’s boyfriend’s brain. R protects Julie from the other undead, and the pair form an unlikely bond that only grows as they spend more time together.

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.