There are certain genres of movies that seemingly manage to get hot from time to time. For example, a movie studio would have to attempt to fail to put together a half-decent superhero movie that was not a hit in theaters as of the summer of 2015. We are just about on the verge of the third Spider-Man reboot in the past decade and a half. Regardless of how you feel about Spidey or the latest actor who will be playing that role, nobody can deny that there are good reasons for why we continue to see these franchises developed each decade. They draw fans to theaters, even if the movies themselves are more missable than they are instant classics.
At the other end of the movie spectrum are the genres of films that continue to be hits no matter what is going on in popular society and in the world, in general. Zombie movies are right atop that certain list of films. For whatever reasons, movie goers just cannot get enough of the idea of the undead rising up and overtaking society before a gang of misfits join together to fight their enemies. Maybe, just maybe, viewers are looking for inspiration on how they should react when the so-called “zombie apocalypse” hits the real world; you know, if you believe in that sort of thing.
Perhaps the best part about zombie movies is that they often manage to conjure up a variety of emotions. They are obviously meant to strike viewers with fear via what have, over the years, become memorable scenes. In some cases, different points of zombie movies are, intentionally or not, downright hilarious. The best zombie movies ever made are not movies that are only intended for Halloween season or for when you want to enjoy being spooked along with friends. They are, in their own ways, classic films that should live on for generations after they were first introduced to awaiting audiences.
10 I Am Legend (2007)
This is the first movie on this list that might irk some “purists” who love zombie movies because the supposed zombies are actually infected humans that have survived after doctors and scientists dared to believe that cancer could be cured with one vaccine. Will Smith was tasked with carrying the bulk of the film on his own, a job he completed while showing the human sides such a character would exhibit in real life. I Am Legend includes one of the more heartbreaking scenes you will find in a zombie movie (the dog), not to mention multiple available endings that both manage to give hope for the future.
9 Zombieland (2009)
Not all zombie movies have to be about freaking audiences out. They can sometimes just be about having some fun and a few laughs. Zombieland gives viewers the experience of battling zombies in video-game modes while at the some time providing several comedic moments that stand out long after the closing credits role. Some would suggest that Zombieland is a “cult classic” of the zombie movie genre, but that is more of a backhanded compliment than it is an accurate statement. Not for nothing, but Zombieland also gives viewers a tremendous cameo that will not be spoiled by this website.
8 World War Z (2013)
There will, sometime down the road, be a studio that splashes the cash and does all that fans saw in World War Z better and on an even larger scale. With that said, no movie before this did as good a job as showing how much a zombie pandemic would, in real life, affect all aspects of life. The action scenes found in World War Z helped make it more than just your standard film that falls under this category. While clearly not a top-five zombie movie or a top-five summer blockbuster, there will be directors and producers who one day say that they were inspired after viewing this movie.
7 28 Days Later (2002)
28 Days Later is both a curse and a blessing to the zombie movie genre. It probably would have been better off for everybody involved had this series ended after the original film, and 28 Days Later would have been an enjoyable movie even without the whole rape thing that is eventually introduced. For all of its flaws, 28 Days Later helped shape zombie movies after it with the idea of the ultra-fast infected chasing down victims and also with the camera work that helped shape the film. Who could have imagined, at the time, that 28 Days Later would go on to shape the future of the genre?
6 Dead Alive/Braindead (1992)
There was a time, decades ago, when one would have been heavily criticized for even suggesting that Dead Alive deserves a spot on this list. Things change as the years progress, however, and this has become a cult classic due to a variety of reasons, most notably because of the gory scenes that exist to make more squeamish viewers turn in their seats before choosing to do something else with their lives. Those who have never before seen this movie and who are looking for an all-time classic film will be disappointed, but Dead Alive is an entertaining-enough film that manages to accidentally be funny.
5 Re-Animator (1985)
The 1980s brought with them a combination of over-the-top absurdity and must-see entertainment, and Re-Animator is quite the example of that description. Those who read up on this film and have little interest in watching it from start to finish are in luck as of the posting of this piece. What most fans would regard as the best scenes from the movie can easily be accessed via websites such as YouTube and Dailymotion. A cult classic that lives on among pockets of fans and that gets play in some theaters every fall, Re-Animator is a must for younger fans of the zombie movie genre.
4 The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
It was roughly 30 years ago from the typing of this sentence that a zombie film that is also referred to as a “black comedy” gave birth to an idea that some fans of the genre now take for granted: Zombies want us merely for our brains. That notion is one that has been reused – not to mention mocked – long after it was introduced. The zombies appear a bit hokey for modern viewers who are used to seeing high-definition creations of such characters, but look past that and enjoy The Return of the Living Dead for being a film that helped mold this genre.
3 Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Some fans of the zombie movie genre would probably consider putting Night of the Living Dead atop of this list. What is referred to as the grandfather of future zombie films was, after all, selected in 1999 by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” Poor Johnny, in taunting his sister with the iconic “They're coming to get you, Barbara,” ultimately predicts his own demise in the early moments of the movie, setting viewers up for what is quite the roller coaster ride.
2 Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Shaun of the Dead checked off multiple boxes upon first viewings en route to climbing to No. 2 on the list of the best zombie movies ever made. It is watchable and even entertaining for horror fans who do not necessarily love the zombie genre, it does more than enough to fall under the zombie movie category, and it is also damn funny. The best zombie comedy, if such a genre truly exists, of all time, Shaun of the Dead has been well-received by a variety of critics and moviegoers over the years, and it is a film that is going to hold up for a long time.
1 Dawn of the Dead (1978)
If Night of the Living Dead is the grandfather of future zombie movies, Dawn of the Dead is its more powerful and domineering dad. “When there's no room in hell, the dead will walk the earth” was a tagline associated with the movie upon its release, and it proved to be a spot-on advertisement. It is, in the movie, too late to save the bulk of humanity before those remaining understand what is happening, and Dawn of the Dead also brought with it a couple of different endings that allowed viewers to determine their own answer to the following: Was humanity doomed?