Robert writes about popular culture including movies and books.
Zombie movies are versatile: they can be horrific blood splattered gore fests or unintentionally funny. Some are so bad that they transcend their mediocrity and become campy art, while others will leave you wanting to lock all your doors and check inside the oven (don't ask). Come with me as we embark on a zombie filled adventure through the dark corners of cinematic art.
This is the definitive list of the top ten best zombie movies of all time.
1. Night of the Living Dead
The original 1968 version of Night of the Living Dead, not any of the lousy remakes or sequels, has a claustrophobic frightening feel to it that has not been surpassed by any of the bigger budget zombie movies that it inspires.
A group of survivors hole up in a remote farm house while the undead zombie hordes wait to feast on their guts. The special effects are tame by today's standards, but the movie does an excellent job of conveying the horror of being trapped in a house by the walking dead. The scenes inside the house are interspersed with occasional radio and television broadcasts through which we learn that this is a world wide phenomenon. One of the lead actors manages to survive against all odds, only to be shot in the head by a bunch of Southern good old boys out hunting the zombies. The fact that the man they kill is black and this movie was filmed in 1968 adds a level of social commentary to what would otherwise have been a simple zombie movie. Later Romero movies also tried to make a social statement through zombies, but they were too heavy handed and really sucked.
This is the Canadian contribution to the zombie movie genre. A washed out alcoholic radio host finds a job at a small radio station in rural Canada. His first night on the job is a memorable one as callers begin speaking in incoherent, cryptic sentences, and then reports of mass murders start coming in.
At first the radio announcer and his producer think that this is a practical joke, but soon it becomes clear that something very frightening is happening outside the walls of the little radio station.
You hardly see the zombies. Most of the horror is implied or described by the frightened callers to the radio station, but the atmosphere is appropriately oppressive and scary.
This movie also adds a new twist to the zombie genre. Instead of being infected by by being bitten by a zombie, people turn into flesh eating ghouls through a mind virus that is transmitted through human speech. It appears that certain words have become infected and when spoken have the ability to infect the mind of the hearer.
If you are looking for blood and gore, there is not much of that movie, but it has superb acting and an excellent script, with a lot of suspense and tension.
3. The Dead
A visually amazing, epic, movie set in Africa: it features beautiful vistas of the African continent, sweeping panoramas, deserts, and of course zombies, zombies and more zombies!
The storyline involves an American engineer whose evacuation plane crashes in the African jungle, and right the middle of a zombie apocalypse. He and an African soldier teem up and try to make it home, amid teeming refugee columns, zombie infested villages.
The movie reminded me a bit of Tears of the Sun, if Bruce Willis had been fighting zombies. But this is a good thing. The cinematography and special effects are amazing, and this movie gets extra points for the originality of shooting in the African bush.
There is also a sequel featuring a zombie outbreak amid the crowded alleyways of Calcutta, India.
A romantic comedy with zombies. Four misfits make their way across a zombie filled America in search of safety and the last twinkie in the world.
The movie rises above the other zombie movies by managing to make a zombie apocalypse look like a lot of fun.
Thankskilling Movie Trailer - Yummy Zombie Goodness
Subtitled, "Gobble Gobble Motherf*#cker", this movie is a turkey of a movie about a zombie turkey that comes back for revenge. The zombie turkey talks, too, and it delivers cheesy oneliners in the style of Dirty Harry before offing the humans.
The DVD box bills it as the "ultimate in low budget killer turkey horror" which is probably true since as far as I know, and I really can't understand why, there have not been too many movies featuring killer turkey zombies.
The movie is so over the top bad that it's good. If you want to laugh at zombie mayhem and gruesome gore scenes, this movie is for you. I suggest that you make it part of your annual Thanksgiving holiday traditions.
6. Zombie Strippers
The title pretty much says it all but in an effort to increase the word count of this article, let me explain: a secret government research program is working on a virus to reanimate the dead. As usual with all secret government programs involving virus research, the virus infects a bunch of people and pretty soon there is a zombie epidemic. For some reason the zombie virus is most effective against women, and particularly female strippers - one of whom is played by Jenna Jameson, in one of her post-adult film roles.
The infected zombie strippers then eat their way through much of the male population. I recommend this film to any woman who wants her boyfriend or husband to stop going to strip clubs. One viewing of this film and they will be cured of the habit. Or at least they will bring chain saws and other zombie killing tools the next time they go to one.
Zombie Strippers will appeal to anyone who liked Thankskilling. It's not great art or even scary but the pretentious seriousness of all involved gives the movie a train wreck quality that has rarely been surpassed.
7. Cemetery Man
Cemetery Man is a 1996 zombie movie (also called "Of Death, of Love" as well as "Dellamorte Dellamore") starring Rupert Everett (of My Best Friend's Wedding) as a night watchman whose job is to kill the dead when they come back to life. It's a dead end (get it?) job and a boring, lonely existence shared only with his igor-like demented assistant.
Then one day the Cemetery Man meets a beautiful widow at her husband's funeral and starts a dysfunctional relationship with her even as he begins adding to the population of the cemetery with some additions of his own. The movie is a black comedy but also has elements of true horror as well as a deeper texture that may not be apparent right away. This zombie cult classic is definitely worth watching.
What if Leave it to Beaver had zombies in it? This is what happens when a 1950s TV-perfect world is challenged by a zombie apocalypse. Rather than succumb to the hordes of the undead, American free enterprise and ingenuity makes the best of it and converts the zombies into docile servants who do the housework, mow the lawn, and deliver the milk while the surviving humans live perfect 1950s--style lives in an idyllic version of white suburbia, complete with hairdos, gender roles, and classic cars.
Everything is great as long as the undead's control collars don't malfunction, and as long as the wild zombies just outside the outskirts of suburbia don't make their way into town.
This is one of the best zombie movies, expertly blending satire, horror and social commentary into a perfect fit. Fido stars comedian Billy Connelly as Fido the pet/zombie and Carrie Anne Moss (from the Matrix films) as the matriarch of this dysfunctional family.
A unsettling and unusual variation on the zombie genre about two outcast teens who find a girl locked up in a hidden room of an abandoned mental hospital. She is pretty and of course dead. But that is nothing that a little makeup won't fix.
It's a bittersweet coming of age story, with just the right sprinkling of blood, gore and necrophilia thrown in. By the way is it wrong if she is still moving?
10. Dead Alive
This gore fest was directed by Peter Jackson, but this is no Lord of the Rings. The movie depicts a zombie infestation that begins when the lead character's domineering mother is bitten by an infected Sumatran Rat Monkey. The mother turns into a brain eating zombie and her son tries to keep the horrible truth hidden from his girlfriend and neighbours by shooting his zombie mom full of animal tranquilizers. But she continues to escape and infect others and soon the poor schmuck is dealing with a menagerie of undead intestines, severed spinal columns, and walking dead as he continues to try to contain the outbreak.
The final scene has bizarre Freudian connotations as the hero's mother has now grown into a gargantuan zombie who takes him and stuffs him back into her uterus. In a sort of bizarre rebirth, the hero then hacks his way out from inside. I am not making this up.
Dead Alive is worth seeing for its blood splattered comedy/horror as well as an example of Peter Jackson's early work.
© 2011 Robert P
Rick Astley on July 20, 2013:
I consider zombieland a good film. Overrated or not, it deserves its praise. Awesome hub by the way! I'm recently getting into zombie movies.
Dominique L from Oregon on April 20, 2012:
*sigh* Am I the only zombie fan in the WORLD that thought Zombieland was massively overrated?
Robert P (author) from Canada on October 21, 2011:
@epigramman - You are funny! Hope you find a nice zombette.
epigramman on October 21, 2011:
....well it certainly looks like you know your stuff and this is as close to a definitive list as hubpages will ever see but there is one glaring omission - the home movies of my love life - lol lol
lake erie time ontario canada 1:19pm
ruffridyer from Dayton, ohio on October 18, 2011:
Fido is my favorite Zombie Comedy. I found it hilarious where the fence keeping the zombies out looked so flimsey a 8 year old girl could pull it down. I also like the Norman Rockwell neighbor with his zombie girlfriend.
Cemetary man was quite interesting, especially the song being played at the boy scouts funeral. Macabre.
shea duane from new jersey on October 14, 2011:
the dick cheney story
Béla Mongyi on October 13, 2011:
Zombie Strippers is really unique. If I'm not mistaken, the guys in the strip club actually love the wild dance of the zombies, because they don't get it's "real". That is, as long as one of them gets involved with one of the strippers. Great hub. Couldn't think of anything else, but to vote it up.
ThoughtSandwiches from Reno, Nevada on October 13, 2011:
I will give it to them for having a zombie turkey. You are correct...it is a matter of subjection in terms of movie picks. As long as we all recognize the very real danger posed by and, associated with, zombies.
That said...voted all the Ups.
Snøwman on October 13, 2011:
I am legend needs to be on this list.
Robert P (author) from Canada on October 11, 2011:
@duckbrador - it's a subjective list, but I thought that the Romero films, especially Day of the Dead, and Diary of the Dead were junk. Not that some of the other movies aren't horribly bad too, such as Thankskilling, but these Romero sequels weren't even unintentionally funny, just bad. IMO of course.
duckbrador from Canada on October 11, 2011:
I'm impressed that Fido made the list. I thought I was the only person who liked that movie. That being said, I do have to ask why the other Romero Zombie movies are missing?
Bryce from Northern California Coast on October 09, 2011:
Fun! I'll have to look for some of these. Just saw the original Night of the Living Dead again and still love it. Good blend of review and humor. Voted this up.
Jen from Couch on October 09, 2011:
I really loved this hub! Well I generally love ALL your hubs anyway you definitely have a way with words! I have only seen about half of these movies so I need to get going before halloween gets here ;) Voted up and all, well except beautiful lol
Robert P (author) from Canada on October 09, 2011:
@Titen-Sxull. Okay it's not Shakespeare, but you have to give it points for coming up with a zombie turkey. This movie made the list for its over the top bad acting, and its so bad its good directing.
Titen-Sxull from back in the lab again on October 09, 2011:
I was with you up until Thankskilling, I sat through a total of ten seconds of that film on Netflix before wanting to throw up. The opening shot is of a flabby ugly breast of some lady hundreds of years ago. Then the Turkey, which is CLEARLY a cheap hand puppet, says "Nice tits bitch!"
I nearly puked in my mouth, NICE TITS BITCH? In a scene set hundreds of years in the past during the first thanksgiving?
I'll never ever forget that scene and I will never finish the movie.