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THE BEST ZOMBIE FILMS EVER

Sure, even coming up with 20 zombie movies is as hard as coming up with the 20 Best, but this collection of a score of undead classics would make for one kickass boxed set of flesh eating goodness.  I've managed to find YouTube links for all but a couple of the films, so enjoy, but be warned that some of the clips are rather loud and may contain excessive gore, so due to their extreme nature, nobody will be allowed on this website during the last 20 minutes of this article.

 

20. WHITE ZOMBIE (1932)
Released just a year after Bela Lugosi's Dracula, this movie is one of the first introductions to zombies in film history. The more gore-hungry modern zombie fan might find White Zombie to be a bit corny, but eerie atmosphere and black and white moodiness made it memorable enough for Rob Zombie to name his original band after.  You also get the fun first established film zombie rule that shooting zombies in the chest does absolutely nothing to stop them.


 

19. SHOCK WAVES (1977)
Peter Cushing leads an army of Nazi zombies!  What more do you want in a film?  A fun low budget classic with John Carradine, to boot. With all the remake madness, why not give this one a try, only have legions of Hitler zombies roaming about?


 

18. I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943)
This early underrated classic may be one of the best versions of Jane Eyre as a zombie film ever made. A very neat moody piece that's worth putting in your DVD rental queue. "All the weird black magic that the white man seldom sees!"


 

17. CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS (1972)
A horribly goofy '70s affair that has a great mixture of camp and shock worthy of any modern midnight movie festival worth its salt.


 

16. DAY OF THE DEAD (1985)
Budget cuts kept most of George Romero's third "Living Dead" film in an underground military facility, but it's not without some fantastic Tom Savini gore effects.  Sherman Howard's performance as "Bub", the zombie who learns to use a gun (and salute) is brilliant.  It didn't do too well at the box office, as it came out just weeks after Return of the Living Dead, but it's a worthy installment in the Romero zombie saga.


 

15. PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE (1959)
Sure it's considered one of the worst films ever made, but one can't deny its importance as one of the early high profile zombie movies.  Tor Johnson and Vampira are great as staggering dead ghouls brought back to life with alien science, and Bela Lugosi (who died after only minutes of footage were shot) is replaced by an actor who covers his face for the remainder of the flick.


 

14. VERSUS (2000)
One of the best zombie films you've probably never seen.  This Japanese Yakuza vs. Living Dead tale is a bit hard to follow as the tale wears on, but it's full of some of the most charismatic and crazy character actors you've ever seen.  Kung Fu, bullets, and zombies make for a great unholy trio of cheezy fun.  It's finally available on DVD in America, so check it out and enjoy!  Kenji Matsuda is brilliant as knife wielding Yakuza leader that brings to mind a '60s Batman TV show villain.


 

13. NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984)
This is one of the great '80s films that's yet to be released on DVD?  What on earth is the holdup?  A strange comet kills off most of the earth's population, and those that survive are either bloodthirsty zombies or hot cheerleader babes with guns.  A great mix of horror and "what would you do if you were the last people on earth".  Fun, scary, and entertaining all the way through.


 

12. PET SEMATARY (1989)
I had my doubts that Stephen King's novel would adapt well to film, but it really shines thanks to a great performance from Fred Gwynne, and one of the coolest zombie cats ever.  And the the song by The Ramones (above) is one kickass piece of amazement as well.


 

11. TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (1971)
This film, which spawned many sequels, is one creepy work of art, with undead templar knights riding around on horseback in slow motion.  Their eyes had been plucked out, so they find their victims by listening to their heartbeats.  A great European horror classic.


 

10. DEAD ALIVE/BRAIN DEAD (1992)
Long before Peter Jackson directed King Kong and The Lord of The Rings Trilogy (but after he directed crazy puppet sex films), a great little movie called Dead Alive came out featuring some of the most insanely gory over the top zombie action since The Evil Dead 2.  It's said to be one of the bloodiest movies ever made, and according to an IMDB entry, there's more than 300 liters of blood used in the final scene alone.  Great over the top fun!


 

9. 28 DAYS LATER (2002)
Though purists will get their panties in a twist because the kill crazy freaks aren't zombies in the traditional sense, to ignore this film on the list is a plain and simple crime.  Danny Boyle's direction is masterful and the action is intense and scary throughout.


 

8. RE-ANIMATOR (1985)
Loosely based on a story by HP Lovecraft, Stuart Gordon's mixture of Frankenstein and zombie films is one of the great trashy guilty pleasures of all time. Even obvious jokes like a severed head giving head to a nubile victim works well.  But damn if their blatant ripoff of the soundtrack from Psycho doesn't bug me to this day!


 

7. THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (1988)
This "real life" look at the underlying Voodoo culture in Haiti that might possibly create actual zombies is fascinating and scary.  The scene where a drugged Bill Pullman is buried alive with a tarantula on his face is one of cinema's scariest.


 

6. SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004)
This brilliant and loving homage to zombie films is a must see for any fan of comedy or horror. 


 

5. ZOMBIE (aka ZOMBI 2) (1979)
Lucio Fulci's film was made on the heels of Romero's Dawn of The Dead, but it stands out as a pretty damn cool flick on its own.  Full of horrifying effects like a wooden splinter getting shoved into someone's eye, it's sure to gross you out!  And not to be missed is the unbelievably wild ZOMBIE VS. SHARK scene in which a diver in full undead makeup fights an actual deadly (albeit heavily sedated) shark in a scene that's sure to make your favorite PETA member go ape-shit.


 

4. THE EVIL DEAD 2 (1987)
Sure, it's a little bit haunted house mixed with zombies, but it's sooo damn good.  Director Sam Raimi remakes his original Evil Dead with a bigger budget, a tighter story, and some of the best physical humor acting ever captured on film courtesy of the legendary Bruce Campbell.


 

3. RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985)
I love the hell out of this movie with it's blend of punk rock and zombie goodness.  The scene with that Tar Man zombie coming out the cellar screaming for "BRAAAAAINNNNS!" is masterful.  And it still gives Shaun of The Dead a run for its money as being the funniest zombie film of all time.  How can you not like a film with a scene that features zombies killing off a police officer, then groaning into the walkie talkie, "Send more cops!"


 

2. DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
Ken Foree is a great zombie ass-kicker in this long awaited sequel to the original Night of The Living Dead.  And the tagline, "When there's no more room in Hell, The dead shall walk to earth" is one of the coolest of any horror film.  Romero uses zombies in a shopping mall to comment on America as a whole, but doesn't forget to show some great intestinal buffets in the process.


 

1. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)
There have been zombie movies before, and there have been zombie movies after, but Night of the Living dead, nearly 40 years after its initial release, is still the gold standard in which all zombie films are to be measured against.  From the beautiful black and white eeriness, to the incredible performance by Duane Johnson, NOTLD laid out the rules for zombies that unrelated films still follow to this day.  Be careful buying this on DVD, as it's fallen into the public domain and it's easy to get a shitty copy.  Find one that's authorized by George Romero and has his commentary and extras to make sure you're getting the real deal.

-Robert Berry
rberry@retrocrush.com