Zombie movies have long been a cult favorite for horror and thriller fans alike. The heart-pounding genre taps right into those end-of-days survival fantasies held by many who want to be ready for the so-called “zombie apocalypse.” Of course, there’s no shortage of films and television shows based on zombies invading society. So which zombie movies do experts agree are the very best of the best? We turned to 13 sources for their take to come away with the most recommended titles.
Interestingly, as one recent survey points out, it isn’t too farfetched that a zombie apocalypse could happen one day! “The likelihood is higher than most would think. With major advances in genetic sequencing, and overall medical technology, the possibility is real. As humans, we will forever push the boundaries and along the way, there will be unintended consequences,” explains University of Hawaii associate professor Thomas Lee.
The report examined all of the factors that would come into play if the undead started walking through American streets — finding that Florida is the place to head if you want to survive the oncoming zombie invasion. Inspired by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Zombie Preparedness guide from 2011, researchers at Lawn Love analyzed 26 key factors that measure “zombie preparedness” across 200 U.S. cities. Orlando, Florida tops that list. It finished number one in terms of supplies and protection. The city also ranked high in terms of vulnerability and mobility.
So what to do when the end is near? Do what the lead characters (aka the ones who don’t die) do in the movies. “Stay calm, always check the entire room before dropping your guard, and learn how to use a map,” Dr. Lee recommends. That’s right. Don’t let exposed brains and rotting flesh throw you off your game. Just stay calm.
And if you’re a horror movie fan, turns out you have a severed leg up on others. Whichever scary movie variety piques your interest, one study finds it may increase mental toughness. For example, researchers said horror film fans are handling the real life fear brought by the coronavirus pandemic better than others. “Although most people go into a scary movie with the intention of being entertained rather than learning something, scary stories present ample learning opportunities,” study authors write in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. “Fiction allows the audience to explore an imagined version of the world at very little cost. Through fiction, people can learn how to escape dangerous predators, navigate novel social situations, and practice their mind-reading and emotion regulation skills.”
That takes us back to the very question at hand. StudyFinds compiled a list of the five best zombie movies of all time, from experts and fans. The list is comprised of the movies found most frequently across their reviews. Don’t agree with the list? As always, we’d like to see your own recommendations in the comments below!
The List: Best Zombie Movies Ever, According To Experts
1. Dawn of the Dead (original 1978 release)
Described by Cosmopolitan as an “incredibly intense and sharply written film,” this movie by the grandfather of the dead, George Romero is an entertaining commentary on consumerism. No Film School reminds that Romero created the familiar traits we associate with zombies today: mindless, slow-moving creatures in search of human flesh. The only way to take down a zombie is to blow its brains out or burn it to ashes. If a person gets bitten, scratched, or eaten alive by a zombie, then that unfortunate soul becomes a zombie.
It’s a classic. By CBS News standards, “It’s not only the best, but it’s the best by a mile.”
Rolling Stone notes, “Besides scares, the movie gives Romero a platform for a scathing satire of the malling of a sexist, racist America.”
Are you a fan of “Dawn of the Dead” (1978)? 👍 or 👎 pic.twitter.com/BdWhIu1KbN
— C.K.Buchanan 🇺🇸 (@The_CK_Buchanan) February 15, 2023
2. 28 Days Later
Set in a London torn asunder by a viral outbreak of animalistic rage, what’s most chilling, about the early scenes of this post-apocalyptic horror show, is the eerie, echoing emptiness. That is, according to the The New York Times.
Directed by Danny Boyle and written by Alex Garland, it’s ranked on the top 100 list of the best British films ever.
“You won’t find many fancy actions sequences or amazing effects. Very focused on character and realism,” said one review.
Rolling Stone said this killer-thriller is for those craving hardcore zombie scares. Thus, it makes sense that it showed up time and time again on top zombie movies of all time lists published online.
28 Days Later (2002)
Double Feature day. pic.twitter.com/DsJtuwLsUk
— I 😃 Love 💕Horror 😱 (@ILoveHorror7) March 9, 2023
3. Shaun of the Dead
It’s laugh after laugh from actors Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright in this film. Pegg is killer in the main role, “bringing lovable sweetness to the gritty world his character inhabits,” according to IndieWire.
“The jokes in this film are so funny, and there are multiple references to other zombie films as well,” said one fan. “The characters in this movie are really realistic, and you can understand how they feel.”
Ranked #12 on Rolling Stone’s Best Horror Movies of The 21st Century, this ‘zombedy’ includes references to Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and 28 Days Later. TimeOut said the film manages to balance outright silliness and surprisingly tough gore with just a hint of romance around the edges.
#NowWatching Shaun Of The Dead (First viewing) | Movie 8/31 pic.twitter.com/1FRiwVIjqO
— Craig (@CS11__) March 8, 2023
Paste points out, “Re-Animator contains a streak of the black humor that would begin appearing regularly in zombie films from this point onward (1985), even though its gore and scenes of violence are quite horrific as well.”
Film critic Roger Ebert called it a frankly gory horror movie that finds a rhythm and a style that make it work in a cockeyed, offbeat sort of way.
One fan review called the film, “An absolute classic and masterpiece, a perfect blend of horror and black comedy. Has great acting, story, source material, and especially gore. This movie should be on every horror fan’s watch list.”
Re-Animator (1985) #HorrorFamily #Reanimator #HerbertWest #StuartGordon #HorrorMovie #HorrorCommunity #horror #jeffreycombs #brianyuzna pic.twitter.com/qDyoloa62s
— Milton Dammers (Parody) (@MiltonDammers) March 13, 2023
5. Train to Busan
Train to Busan delivers a thrillingly unique — and purely entertaining — take on the zombie genre, with fully realized characters and plenty of social commentary to underscore the bursts of skillfully staged action. Rotten Tomatoes puts it at #3 on its 30 Essential Zombie Movies list.
“For decades, movies about the undead have essentially been built on a foundation of fear of our fellow man—your neighbor may look and sound like you, but he wants to eat your brain—but Train to Busan takes that a step further by building on the idea that, even in our darkest days, we need to look out for each other, and it is those who climb over the weak to save themselves who will suffer,”described Roger Ebert.
The film was immediately praised by critics for its unique and widely entertaining take on the zombie genre, according to MovieWeb. With Jeanette Catsoulis at New York Times, selecting the film as her “critics choice.”
Train To Busan really turned me on to South Korean horror. What made this movie works for me was the focus on character building and no one was safe from being killed off. It kept me guessing until the end. All those factors made this film a hit for me. pic.twitter.com/xPicoOermV
— Moments In Time And Space (@momentsintas) March 15, 2023
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
We couldn’t leave this George Romero cult classic off the our list. The first of a trilogy (see our top spot), the zombies in this film are slow as molasses… but the black and white cinematography makes for a chilling effect.
“The blood and the fire really stand out in this kind of black and white film style. The suffocatingly condemned realization that there is no escape from the walking corpses, feeding on flesh, ripping out intestines, and devouring everyone truly creeps in slowly and insidiously,” described one fan. “The suggestions of how to escape start to dwindle. But even more horrific than the murderous zombies is the cruelty of man to himself, and the inability of the living people to get along and help each other in this little farm house where they are trapped.”
Much like Dawn of the Dead, many reviews mention the movie symbolizing racism in America. “Teaching us that monsters are terrible, but humans are worse,” one review read.
In an interview with the New York Times, Jordan Peele discussed Night of the Living Dead‘s influence on Get Out, saying, “all social norms break down when this event happens and a Black man is caged up in a house with a white woman who is terrified. But you’re not sure how much she’s terrified at the monsters on the outside or this man on the inside who is now the hero.”
Night of the Living Dead 1968 pic.twitter.com/b0l9ZLN8Cu
— 🎃Jenny From the Block👻 (@Jeanna350) June 6, 2022
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- CBS News
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- The New York Times
- Roger Ebert
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- Rotten Tomatoes
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