What could be more terrifying than humanoid monsters of the un-dead variety, who are tasked with the single minded mission of cannibalistic murder, typically with an emphasis on the consumption of your brain? The quick answer is ‘not much’. Which is probably the reason that movie audiences, horror movie fans in particular, have fallen in love with zombie films over the course of many decades. Sure, there’s always the gore aspect, but it could be easily argued that zombie movies are terrifying just as much for their macabre conceptual emphasis. The plausibility, no matter how remote, that the dead can rise, and seek out the living for a never ending buffet of freshly victimized human flesh. In fact, of the 10 million ways to die, there is hardly one more distasteful, wouldn’t you say? Idiots Guide has taken the time to review some of the better zombie films in history. What we’ve found is that these films run the entire gamut from gore laced with understated comedy, to outright comedy laced with sensational gore. The following list highlights the 10 greatest films of this unique subset of the horror genre…#ZombieApocalypse
#10. ‘I AM Legend’ (2007)
Surprised to see a Will Smith vehicle on this list? Frankly, so am I, yet here it is. Director Francis Lawrence‘s post-apocalyptic yarn is very well made, and Will Smith‘s Army ‘Virologist’ Robert Neville character is quite compelling, and he gets all the credit in the world for playing basically the only ‘normal’ human character in the film. This film is the intersection of first rate thriller meeting zombie apocalypse. It’s good, although it lacks the historical cache as the older films, for now.
#9. ‘Shaun of the Dead’ (2004)
Director Edgar Wright‘s production of the brilliant screenplay written by Simon Pegg, and himself is first rate. It gets many extra points for being funny as hell. Pegg, also stars in the movie as Shaun, a man trying to find his footing in life while attempting to cope and/or quell an apparent apocalyptic zombie uprising in his town. This film received BAFTA recognition which is saying quite a bit for a horror film. It’s very good.
#8. ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978)
‘Dawn of the Dead’ is the second film in cult icon Director George Romero‘s ‘Living Dead’ franchise, however it contains none of the original characters from film #1. It was made in collaboration with Italian Director Dario Argento and it’s plot has a larger, more extended societal view of a zombie apocalypse. It’s as interesting as it is gory. It’s definitely one of the all-time classics, give it a view if you’ve somehow missed it in your earthly travels.
#7. ‘World War Z’ (2013)
In many ways I found ‘World War Z’ to be a study in what a zombie apocalypse would resemble if they (zombies) were all hopped up on ‘methamphetamine’. Director Marc Forster‘s rendition of this genre is nothing if not commendable. With a production budget of approximately $125 million, it’s also the largest budget for a zombie film…ever. This film is based on a 2006 Max Brook’s novel of the same name. Yes, it’s true that it is a Brad Pitt vehicle, but much like Will Smith’s ‘I Am Legend’, it works, big budget malaise be damned. Pitt’s Gerry Lane character, a United Nations investigator who finds himself face to face with a runaway crazy zombie pandemic, just works. Really.
#6. ‘The Crazies’ (2010)
If you’re not hip to the immense acting talent of Timothy Olyphant, then you’re missing something, big. He is probably the best of the cult esteemed group of otherwise underrated Hollywood talents, but I digress. Director Breck Eisner‘s ‘The Crazies’ is really good. In fact, going in I was thinking ‘Garbage on a stick’ and then suddenly found myself more than pleasantly surprised. To the contrary, I was very impressed. Did you know that this film is actually a remake of yet another George A. Romero film of the same name from 1973? True story. In fact, he was the executive producer of this one. So, now I know why I was impressed. This film makes small town Iowa a scary ass place to be when a violence inducing ‘Trixie Virus’ that contaminates the water supply, turns people into…well you know. Definitely one of the better modern zombie films, and definitely an all-timer.
#5. ‘The Evil Dead’ (1981)
Director Sam Raimi‘s ‘The Evil Dead’ was required viewing in my High School as a right of passage. True story. This supernatural horror movie is very popular with true fans of the horror movie genre, and beyond. Plus, who doesn’t love Bruce Campbell? This film deals with a half dozen or so college students taking the as usual ill-fated vacation in a creepy, criminally secluded cabin in the woods (aren’t they all?). Then there’s the cursed audiotape that releases hordes of the undead, demons and evil spirits, to get their asses. In fact, some members of the group are lucky enough to enjoy a bout with demonic possession. Mayhem ensues. All-time classic. See it if you haven’t. Seriously.
#4. ‘The Return of the Living Dead’ (1985)
Director Dan O’Bannon‘s ‘The Return of the Living Dead’ is a another in a line of comical American Horror-Comedy films that seemed to pervade the decade of the 1980’s. Not that I’m complaining mind you, just saying. This film deals with 3 men and a group of you guessed it, teenagers, and the accidental release of an army of brain craving hyper zombies. That small town will never be the same again. This film is a classic. Side note, Romero fans may or may not be insulted…
#3. ‘Army of Darkness’ (1992)
If it wasn’t for George A. Romero‘s brilliant films, Director Sam Raimi‘s ‘Army of Darkness’ (1992) would be #1 on this list going away. This film is awesome with a capital ‘A’. A true icon of the American Horror-Comedy film genre. How great was Bruce Campbell in this film? Very. This film is the 3rd release in the ‘Evil Dead’ franchise. Think Campbell’s Ash Williams being trapped somewhere in the Middle Ages, and hilariously gory battles with card carrying members of the walking undead. I mean, what else can I say? This film is one of, if not the greatest horror/zombie films of all-time, full stop.
#2. ‘Day of the Dead’ (1985)
He’s back on the list…Director George A. Romero‘s ‘Day of the Dead’ (1985) is another quintessential American horror film in a genre that Romero basically branded. It’s the 3rd film in the ‘Living Dead’ franchise, and one of the very best. Romero himself talked about this film as a “tragedy about how a lack of human communication causes chaos and collapse even in this small little pie slice of society”. – George A. Romero. Did you get all of that? Good. See this film and the entire film series if you haven’t already. #Greatness
#1. ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1968)
How culturally significant is George A. Romero‘s ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1968)? This film was selected by the Library of Congress, and noted for it’s “culturally, historically, and/or aesthetic significance” and set for preservation in the National Film Registry. It was that significant. Not bad for a ‘little film’ produced on a microscopic $114,000 budget. The film premiered on October 1st of 1968. Then it blew people away with it’s runaway success, by grossing over $12 million at the domestic box-office, and an additional $18 million overseas. The following 50 years has seen it become the cult classic horror film of cult classic horror films. Ironically, it was originally criticized for it’s excessive violence, blood, and gore. It’s safe to say that people got over that, and real quick. Truly the #1 zombie film of all time. Hats off to George A. Romero.