I want to preface this with one thing: this was REALLY hard. First of all, I had to look at every zombie movie I’ve ever seen. That’s like…a kajillion. Second, I had to think about what really constitutes a zombie film. Can it be a comedy? Should it be all gore? How about how they became zombies and what kind of zombies they are? Are they just people in a drugged out trance? How about raging, screaming banshee zombies? Slow, staggering, radioactive zombies? So difficult! Third, I had to cut the list down to only ten films.
So I want you to know that these are my favorites, but there are many more than nearly made the list. I considered everything from I am Legend to Army of Darkness when it came to the “undead” in question.
Here is what I came up with in NO particular order:
1. Shaun of the Dead – Yes, it’s a comedy with a zombie backdrop, but it is AN AMAZING COMEDY WITH A ZOMBIE BACKDROP. All of the zombie cliches and jokes off of the undead were so appreciated. Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are a delight. One of my favorite scenes because it combines zombie slaying with Queen:
2. 28 Days Later – And so we come to the rage-monkey-infected-screaming-running-absolutely-terrifying zombies. These are the worst kind because they don’t just stagger after you and bump in to walls, they chase you for blocks and then some just for the hopes of a nibble on your earlobe. The casting is amazing (especially Cillian Murphy), so the acting is really well done and even throughout the movie’s emotion-action roller coaster. I feel like it will stand the test of time and I will find it just as great 20, 30, 40 years from now.
3. Cabin in the Woods – Another comedy with a zombie backdrop but whatever. This film is a love letter to horror films and is one of my favorites in the past decade. I love that they played with the archetypes of horror films and that a zombie family of religious rednecks got to be the baddies. Sorry merman, you were cool too.
4. Dawn of the Dead (Snyder reboot) – I know, I know, it isn’t the Romero original, but this is one of Zack Snyder’s best works in his career because the gore is spot on and the cast is such a fun bowl of party mix. It had to make the list. Seriously, speaking of the crazy cast, do me a favor and watch this movie and then try watching Modern Family right afterward. I dare you to not remember Ty Burrel as the creepy scumbag when you see Phil Dunphy acting all goofy and endearing. Impossible.
5. Zombieland – The last comedy, I swear! This cast was amazingly quirky as well and they each played their parts perfectly. All of the animations were great too. I loved Columbus’ list of things to do and how they would pop up amidst zombie-killing action. I kind of wish that it had been made into a television show with a running “Kill of the Week” award like the creators had originally planned. I would soooooooo watch that. Oh, also, can we just talk about Bill Murray’s scene in the movie? Probably one of the best cameos ever because he pokes fun of his own acting choices *cough* Garfield *cough.*
6. 28 Weeks Later – A lot of people didn’t care for this one. Maybe because Boyle wasn’t directing this time around or because the story centered around completely different characters, which in turn put the emphasis less on isolation and questioning one’s own willingness to do anything to survive, and more so onto the dynamics of a family and questioning whether or not blood really is thicker than water. Whatever the reason, I thought it was pretty fantastic. How painful was it when the father abandons his wife to the zombies? And then how LITERALLY painful was it when they’re reunited? Also, hats off to the rest of the cast including Rose Byrne, Idris Elba, Imogen Poots, and Jeremy Renner. Come to think of it, who wasn’t in this movie?!
7. White Zombie – This was one of the first scary movies I watched as a kid and it makes the list because Bela Lugosi. That is all. Go watch it. Now.
8. Night of the Living Dead (Romero) – You knew at least one of Romero’s films would make it on to this list, didn’t you? How could I not? I’ve seen them all, and the original is still my favorite. I so liked the premise of radiation causing the dead to rise. I feel like you could find some kind of climate change or even cancer treatment symbolism in there if you really wanted to stretch this movie into a research paper. I hope someone has done that. I really do. Maybe it was Barbara? They’re coming to get you, Barbaraaaa!
9. Rec and/or Quarantine – To me, these movies are pretty equal. Rec is the original and it is in Spanish, so it takes a little eye shifting to read the subtitles and watch at the same time if you’re not a native speaker. Also, if you do happen to understand Spanish and English, it will be painfully obvious when the subtitles and what the characters are saying don’t match up. I’m sort of astounded every time this happens. When we have a clear word or phrase that would make for a logical substitute, why not use it? We all know “mierda” doesn’t mean “damn,” so go home, captions, you’re drunk. On the other hand, Quarantine is in English which is convenient for a lot of people, but aside from the ending, it’s pretty much a shot-for-shot remake. It’s awesome to see Jennifer Carpenter wig out in the darkness though. She does that as Emily Rose and Deborah Morgan as well and it just proves what a great talent she is. Ahhhh, I miss her in the glory days of Dexter. *Solemn tear runs down face à la the crying faux Native American in those anti-pollution PSAs*
10. Resident Evil – No other Resident Evil films will even get honorable mentions on this list, though I have seen them all. The original is really the only one worth noting. Mila Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez are high on my girl crush list for their ability to kick ass in an underground company infested by a bevy of homicidal creatures. Though, additional spoiler alert, my lady Michelle doesn’t make it.
What are your favorite zombie films? What do you think qualifies as a zombie in the first place? Is it someone in a voodoo-style trance or someone completely undead? Do they have to come back in a specific way in order to qualify? I’d love to hear all about it.