With modern horror, the zombie genre is among the most anticipated genres in entertainment today, whether it’s film or series.
The Walking Dead rejuvenated the genre, and its success (both comics and series) was primarily built on the foundations of George A. Romero’s works.
Here we will focus on the films that made the zombie genre a favorite among horror fans.
Note: The following article focuses on the mysterious nature of the zombie apocalypse. Movies about viruses, like 28 Days Later, are excluded.
Night of the Living Dead (1968 and 1990)
The modern zombie genre wouldn’t have existed without George A. Romero and John Russo.
Night of the Living Dead was a groundbreaking film that changed the media’s perception of zombies.
Before Romero, zombies were often associated with voodoo and Haitian witchcraft.
It was this film that created the way zombies are today.
Night of the Living Dead is also iconic for casting Duane Jones (an African-American actor) as the lead during a time of civil unrest and rampant racism.
Both films follow a group of people trapped on a farm in rural western Pennsylvania.
The group is tasked with surviving a growing horde of flesh-eating ghouls at night.
While George A. Romero directed the original, the 1990 remake was directed by Tom Savini, who assisted with the original’s special effects.
Savini’s version largely follows the same script but makes changes, following some of Romero’s original plans.
The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Return of the Living Dead is the zombie movie that first used the classic “Brain!” line in parodies, cartoons, and games.
Although the film is titled “The Living Dead,” it is in no way related to the work of George A. Romero.
Instead, it was written and directed by legendary screenwriter Dan O’Brannon.
Return of the Living Dead is a horror comedy about warehouse workers, a gravedigger and a group of punks grappling with a horde of brain-hungry zombies.
In a nod to the movie Night of the Living Dead, warehouse workers accidentally open a barrel containing a zombie allegedly from the movie.
After the body is burned, the gas pollutes the air, causing toxic rain that revives the dead in a nearby cemetery.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Before starting the DCEU, Zack Snyder made his directorial debut with a remake of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.
Dawn of the Dead deviates from the original story but keeps the plot of a group of people trapped in a mall.
Snyder’s remake also brought running savage zombies back into the mainstream (Return of the Living Dead was one of the first to do so).
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Shaun of the Dead, released the same year as the Dawn of the Dead remake, puts zombies in a mix of romance and comedy.
The film pays tribute to the works of George A. Romero (who loved the film).
Shaun of the Dead also continues Romero’s tradition of making a film with social commentary and using satire to tackle modern life.
While zombie movies usually bring blood and guts, Peter Jackson took things to a new level.
The film follows a young man living with his opinionated mother, who is bitten by a rat-monkey hybrid from Skull Island (Jackson’s homage to King Kong before he directed the remake).
Despite being resurrected as a zombie and turning a handful of people, the man tries to keep his zombified mother a secret while he takes care of his family and his love life.
Braindead is one of the bloodiest films in the zombie genre, if not the bloodiest.
Land of the Dead (2005)
One of George A. Romero’s last three “dead” films, Land of the Dead, was originally the concept he planned for 1985’s Day of the Dead.
The success of Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead gave Romero the momentum needed to make this film.
Land of the Dead revolves around a group of survivors in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where a social divide exists.
The film also shows the evolution of Romero’s zombies from carnivorous spirits to creatures with some form of intelligence.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
The Night of the Living Dead sequel, Dawn of the Dead, offers everything a horror fan could want.
Romero has involved horror, action, social commentary, and even comedy, making Dawn of the Dead the most comprehensive zombie movie.
Dawn of the Dead expands into Night of the Living Dead, revealing that the zombie apocalypse has taken place across the country.
In the film, a group of four manages to take a helicopter and take refuge in a shopping mall.
Having secured the ground, they fall into a false sense of comfort as the living and the dead wait outside.