This blog is inspired by my viewing of Army Of The Dead (2021). Zach Snyder’s Netflix original is a two hour mesh of ‘meh’, but it did get me thinking about some of the important zombie movies I have seen.
I can tell you for sure that Army Of The Dead is not on there. But here are 10 of the most important zombie movies I have seen.
Night of the Living Dead
Director: George A. Romero
Writers: John A. Russo, George A. Romero
Staring: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman
Release Date: October 8, 1968
You have to include Night Of The Living Dead. It is mandatory viewing for any movie lover, let alone for a zombie education.
George A. Romero’s movie literally laid the foundation for what people assume a zombie movie to be. There is an existential dread pounding throughout the entire movie and the underlying “subtle” (it’s not really that subtle) political undertones make it more than just a typical monster movie.
Night Of The Living Dead has the zombies as the perceptible threat, but the true evil that Romero oh-so eloquently highlights is that human nature and the human psyche is a terrifyingly fickle thing. The ending of Night Of The Living Dead asks you to question what the true nature of evil really is.
In the end, the zombies are coming to get all of us, and not just Barbara.
28 Days Later…
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Alex Garland
Staring: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston
Release Date: June 27, 2003
Alright, they aren’t technically zombies if you want to be picky, but tough cookies.
There are two scenes from 28 Days Later that stick in my brain. The first comes in the early portions of the movie, when Jim (Cillian Murphy) is in a panicked power walk down the abandoned streets of London. The visual leaves a mark and is often used is any movie montage featuring horror movies and zombie flicks.
The other single shot that still leaves me shaken to my core is the panning of the windows and the sudden appearances of the red eyes stalking prey. It may just be common tactics, but the scare still haunts me.
Also let’s talk about how Cillian Murphy is in the movie! Honestly haven’t seen 28 Days Later in a really long time, but it is nice to know that one of the first horror movies I genuinely enjoyed watching includes one of my favorite actors.
Train To Busan
Director: Sang-ho Yeon
Writers: Joo-Suk Park, Sang-ho Yeon
Staring: Gong Yoo, Yu-mi Jung, Ma Dong-seok
Release Date: July 20, 2016
I’ve got two foreign movies on this list, the first one being Train To Bussan.
Released in 2016, this Korean movie goes off the rails when a zombie outbreak occurs and prominently puts at risk the lives of many on a train that is going from Seoul to Bussan.
Train To Bussan is like an adrenalin shot. Pretty much like the movie Speed (1994), Train To Bussan forces you to stay aboard the sprint, otherwise you’ll be eaten by a zombie horde.
The confined space of the train adds to the ordeal. The characters trying to survive, moving car-by-bar in an attempt to avoid the seemingly inevitable, the unavoidable just inches away behind cracking glass.
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Writers: Tommy Wirkola, Stig Frode Henriksen
Staring: Jeppe Beck Laursen, Charlotte Frogner, Jenny Skavlan
Release Date: January 9, 2009
Zombies and Nazis. What a wonderfully evil combination!
So here is the thing, and I will get out in front of this. On my INITIAL rating of Dead Snow, I was harsh. However, I have seen it since, and the rating is significantly higher. With that being said, writing this has inspired me to add a NEW column to my giant excel sheet for re-watch grades. Now I will be held accountable.
Dead Snow is just a bloody brilliant. The premise is simple; it is the classic survive in the stranded wilderness as long as you can against a seemingly endless horde of bloody thirsty zombies. This is the foreign version of Cabin In The Woods (2011) and honestly one can argue this is better.
The one thing that Dead Snow also has that other zombie movies on this list don’t is that the sequel is good!
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Staring: Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson
Release Date: October 2, 2009
Woody Harrelson for the win! Okay, this whole movie is solid, but Harrelson steals the show. He as Tallahassee. Jesse Eisenburg as Columbus and Emma Stone and Wichita all show off their chemistry in creating a wacky comedy adventure.
Important to note, Zombieland is not a scary movie. This is a comedy that uses the cruxes of zombie movies as an anchor for its comedy. The distrust in humans that was sown in with the GOAT Night Of The Living Dead manifests in the crazy mannerisms of Tallahassee.
I would be shocked if someone reading this has not seen Zombieland, but it is probably the most universal in terms of appealing to all audiences.
Directors: Chris Butler, Sam Fell
Writer: Chris Butler
Staring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Release Date: August 17, 2012
For the sake of fairness, I think I have to put a animated film on this list. We could go with a couple that are maybe zombie-themed if not zombie-centric like The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) or Caroline (2009). But I have to go with the movie that again broke all the norms I expected, Paranorman (2012).
Staring the voice talents of Anna Kendrick, Kodi Smith-McPhee and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Paranorman centers around a misunderstood boy who must convince grownups (with the help of his friends) that a centuries old curse is going to take over their small town.
This is a zombie movie for all ages. It has the mixture of child and adult humor and makes for a good animated adventure for all ages.
Shaun Of The Dead
Directors: Edgar Wright
Writers: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Staring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield
Release Date: September 24, 2004
Alright, more of an adult comedy now.
Shaun Of The Dead put Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost on the map, and now they are here to stay. From the hilarity of the first zombie introduction to the preposterous musically toned grand finale; Shaun Of The Dead is cream of the crop top notch bloody wonderfulness.
It seems fairly obvious but looking at the theme perpetuating throughout all of these movies, each one of these movies is about the human element around the zombies, not the zombies themselves. It is how humanity and human nature deals with horror and arguably becomes it…or as it often happens…how humanity turns into the evil itself.
There is plenty to draw from symbolically how zombies eat flesh and how humans tend to each other with their evilness hiding inside them.
Day of the Dead
Director: George A. Romero
Writer: George A. Romero
Staring: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joseph Pilato
Release Date: July 18, 1985
So, I am about the Segway the hell out of this.
I mentioned how humanity is the soul of zombie movies and what makes them tick? How about when the zombie is the most humane of them all? How about Day Of The Dead, another George. A Romero classic.
At this point in the world, zombies rule everything. They have taken over. There is but a small group of scientist and soldiers who are dwelling in an underground bunker and trying to discover if they can assimilate a zombie.
This is where I say that Dawn Of The Dead (1979) is probably a better movie than this, but I love the themes are overarching motifs that can be taken from Day Of The Dead. In the end, the zombies win, and humanity is destroyed. It is not just that the human race is dying out, but also the idea of human decency.
Also, it has to be said that the death of Captain Rhodes is grotesque and iconic. It may be the best zombie death of all-time.
This is a really hard movie to watch twice, because it is kinda boring and lacks a lot of the action, but it does carry a lot of way thematically.
The Evil Dead
Director: Sam Raimi
Writer: Sam Raimi
Staring: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor
Release Date: April 15, 1983
Alright, let’s go back to the campy. Literally. An old camp site.
Everyone knows the persona of Bruce Campbell, and it is this movie that spurned his entire career. The Evil Dead gory beyond all hell, and I’ll even admit that it is not the most enjoyable thing in the world. I have a hard time getting through it.
Just because I didn’t love something doesn’t mean its not important. Evil Dead is a landmark horror movie and how gross it was, and it set the path for a new type of blood-filled horror and entertainment.
Director: Jonathan Levine
Writers: Isaac Marion, Jonathan Levine
Staring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich
Release Date: February 1, 2013
This one is niche. I get it. This is just for a movie I enjoyed.
Also I remember this movie because it came out in February and I went to go see it alone without my girlfriend at the time. I got a call from her and she was asking why I was going by myself and I was just perplexed as it why she was confused and somewhat upset.
At that moment I subconsciously learned I need to date someone who will allow me to go to the movies alone.
I mentioned how Day Of The Dead really showed the humanities of zombies and how sometimes the two can be mirror images of one another. Warm Bodies literally plays on the trope of giving a zombie a loving heart and blends romantic comedy into the genre.
Warm Bodies introduced me to Nicholas Hoult and I bought his stock. I have been wonderfully rewarded. He was in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), the X-Men movies, and The Favourite (2018). Also I am learning that he is in Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021) and I have no idea in what capacity.