Zombies have been quite popular for ages now, and in fact the first movie on this Best Zombie Movies of all time list is from 1966. But it won’t surprise anyone that the majority of zombie movies listed here are from the 2010’s, and quite a few are from recent years (2016, 2017 & even 2018). There has been a huge cult following around zombie flicks, but the genre went mainstream not because of cinema, but because of TV. Shows like The Walking Dead attracted a huge audience, and caused a new injection into Zombie cinema. Here are the best old zombie movies and the best new zombie movies of all time. Most of them are American and British zombie movies, but one should not underestimate Asian when it comes to action-packed horrror zombie flicks, especially Korea and Japan.
Dead Snow (2009)
How do you spice up your run-of-the-mill zombie movie? You turn them into crazy Nazi zombies! As director Tommy Wirkola and the writers were developing the storyline for the film, they thought how to make the villains more evil and they thought of making them into SS zombie soldiers. It is sneaky way to add in a bit of history – with a lot of add-ons and fantasy, of course – to the movie.
Set in the Arctic mountains, the characters stumble into some treasure, they unwittingly earned the wrath of the Nazi zombies, or draugrs, the villainous undead characters from Scandinavian folklore who protect their treasure. You will definitely get your fill of blood and gore from this suspense-comedy movie.
Maggie is Henry Hobson’s directorial debut about a daughter become a zombie right in front of her father’s eyes. It combines that horror-suspense element with the drama a family experiences about the loss of a loved one. The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose role as the father is a departure from his usual gun-toting film character.
The film was supposed to be featured at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival but Lionsgate had other plans and entered it at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. Another interesting fact is that the screenplay, written by John Scott III won the Gold Prize at the 2010 PAGE International Screenwriting Awards (Thriller/Horror category).
When Zombieland came out in 2009, it became the highest grossing zombie movie in Hollywood – at least until World War Z broke all box office records in 2013. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick wrote the screenplay for this (who also later wrote Deadpool), with Ruben Fleischer at the helm. This comedy-horror film considered many famous actors for the cameo but it was eventually handed to Bill Murray who improv’d the entire thing.
Train to Busan (2016)
The popularity of zombie themed films waned as its popularity in the small screen rose. Train to Busan was just what the industry and the public needed to put zombies back on the big screen. Unlike other standard zombie films, the film does not focus on blood and gore but on the story of the people on the train amidst the zombie outbreak. The film confirmed Gong Yoo’s popularity in Korea and established his name in the international scene as well. Without a doubt the best Korean zombie movie on this list.
Night of the Comet (1984)
Night of the Comet, written and directed by Thom Eberhardt, grossed USD 14 million at the box office. After compiling his notes from an interview with some teenage girls about a zombie apocalypse, he spun it and came out with the screenplay for the movie. This comedy-horror film focuses on how 2 ditzy blonde sisters were able to survive the apocalypse.
What do you get when you combine modern-day samurais, sick martial arts moves, and the undead? You get a film from Ryuhei Kitamura called Versus, one of the best Japanese Zombie movies. Set on the imaginary Forest of Resurrection in Japan, the forest is one of the portals for the undead to rise again. A lot of slicing and dicing happen but the dead just won’t stay dead in this movie.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Helmed by Zack Snyder, this was the first zombie movie blockbuster hit. Snyder reimagined George Romero’s 1978 novel and broke box office records. Making zombies move lightning quick, he gave the movie an unexpected and unique twist which proved effective that he won over the movie-going public.
Another zombie outbreak happened in the small town of Pontypool, Ontario. Resident radio announcer Grant Mazzy and his crew are stuck at the radio station and have to find a way to survive. Mazzy rallies up the crew to fight off the undead. How the virus spreads is a doozy.
The Beyond (1981)
Lucio Fulci directed The Beyond, the 2nd movie in his Gates of Hell trilogy. This film does not disappoint with its blood and gore and its all-too graphic murder scenes. It was shown with several cuts and an X rating. The uncut version was only released 2 decades later on home video. Critics remarked that Fulci brought the meaning of “nightmare” to another level, and therefore ranks among the scariest zombie movies of all time.
28 Days Later (2002)
Another one of the best British zombie movies to date. Director Danny Boyle was able to mix terror and human emotions in this zombie apocalypse masterpiece. Boyle acknowledges that this film was inspired by The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. A deadly virus broke out and infects humans in such a way that it brings out their animal instincts and rage, killing and wreaking havoc. Several alternative endings were released via DVD sales.
Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza got a winner in this first-person view of a zombie outbreak in an apartment building. The movie is about a movie reporter and her cameraman finding themselves quarantined in an apartment building where a mysterious virus affects the tenants and turn them into man-eating savages. The film was so successful that a TV franchise and sequels came out of it.
The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
This movie popularized the concept of zombies eating brains, a departure from the usual flesh-eating kind. Dan O’Bannon directed this horror-comedy and introduced “splatstick” in the genre. The film earned the nods of critics and did fairly well at the box office.
SARS Wars (2004)
Co-written and directed by Taweewat Wantha, this Thai horror-comedy was a box-office success abroad but not in Thailand. The film is about a deadly strain of the SARS virus turns humans into the undead. The health authorities were able to contain the virus in one Bangkok apartment building, which is also where a gang keeps a teenage schoolgirl hostage. The protagonists act as superheroes / crime fighters who fight the gang and the horde of zombies in their midst.
The Girl With All the Gifts (2014)
Colm McCarthy is behind this zombie horror drama, which is his first big screen debut. The Girl will all the gifts also came out as a novel. The movie version focuses on Melanie played by child actress Sennia Nanua. In this film, in a world overrun by zombies, there are children infected by the virus but are still able to think and learn. They are kept and studied at a secret facility. When all hell breaks loose at the facility, Melanie protects her teacher and escapes. Together with a scientist and soldiers, they find a cure to end the nightmare.
Andrew Currie is the man behind this Canadian horror comedy flick. Fido’s premise is that humans and zombies live peacefully, with the latter subservient to the former. Zombies were domesticated and serve as pets and manual laborers. The critics are divided on this one, some lauding it for balancing the comedy and the gore, while others found it lacking on both.
Stuart Gordon gave life to HP Lovecraft’s 1922 novelette. This sci-fi horror comedy flick is Frankenstein meets The Evil Dead. So successful and had a cult following, it birthed 2 follow-up movies. It stars Jeffrey Combs (The Frighteners) in the lead role.
Planet Terror (2007)
Robert Rodriguez directed, wrote, and produced this zombie flick as a double feature to Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. Despite big name stars like Bruce Willis, Josh Brolin, and Rose McGowan in the cast, the film didn’t do well at the box office but it got great reviews from critics.
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
This zombie flick departs from the usual infection route for the undead. In Wes Craven’s production, a drug used by shaman bring back the dead to life but not exactly alive. It drew inspiration from Wade Davis’ book and actual experience in Haiti. Shooting was done in Haiti but, because of civil unrest, the cast relocated and finished the rest in the Dominican Republic.
Brain Dead (1992)
This splatstick production is the brainchild of Peter Jackson prior to Lord of the Rings. Jackson combined humor and blood and gore to extreme levels that different countries gave different ratings and allowed different cuts of the film. The film’s premise is that the virus came to be when the lead’s mother was bitten by a rat-monkey. The disease spread throughout the town rapidly and the town’s only hope are the lead and the town priest with his kung-fu.
Warm Bodies (2013)
Warm Bodies is not your usual zombie film. In this Jonathan Levine flick, the undead R is in love with the very much alive Julie. The movie is told from R’s perspective and, apart from being dead, he behaves like a living person. Levine asked the movie-going public to keep an open mind when watching the film as he took a lot of liberties and let his imagination run wild with this one with regard to how people usually perceive the undead.
Before its public release, this Marc Price did the film festival route first. Price directed and wrote this movie on a 45-pound budget. Recruiting his zombie cast via social media who all appeared for free, production lasted 18 months. Price was unaware of its similar plot with the 1998 movie, I, Zombie. Both films were told from the perspective of a zombie.
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
This classic sci-fi film was written, directed, produced, and edited by Ed Wood. The story reveals the plot of aliens to make man submit to their dominion. To force humans into submission, they raised the dead to wreak havoc. Wood added scenes featuring Bela Lugosi. Unfortunately, it was dubbed the worst movie ever made and earned Wood 2 Golden Turkeys for Worst Film and Worst Director.
La Horde (2009)
The Horde shows how mortal enemies can work together. In this Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher film, cops pursued criminals in an abandoned building, only to be attacked by hordes of the walking dead. Side by side, cops and criminals fight for survival. The movie got mixed reviews from critics but was awarded Best Screenplay and Best Special Effects at the Fantasporto Film Festival. It also part of the London Frightfest Film Festival and the Sitges Film Festival.
In this action cum zombie film, Kiah Roache-Turner makes his directorial debut. In the Land Down Under, Barry and sister Brooke fight to survive the virus that spread across the country that turns the living into the undead. Somehow, Brooke develops the ability to control the walking dead. Penned by Tristan Roache-Turner, the action-horror mix got a thumbs-up from critics and the public alike.
The Plague of the Zombies (1966)
This film classic paved the way for future zombie films in the movie industry. Produced by Hammer Films and directed by John Gilling, the movie starts with a mysterious plague claiming lives in a small Cornish town. To try to understand this plague, a doctor and his friend dug up the coffins of the dead to find them empty. Voodoo magic raised the dead to serve as workers in a mine. The movie received critical acclaim.
I am Legend (2007)
Francis Lawrence casts Hollywood A-lister Will Smith in this dystopian suspense flick. As virologist Robert Neville, Smith was able to carry the entire film with his presence alone. He fought with smart and fast vampire-zombie mutants. Good thing they were only active when it is dark. It earned USD 585 million locally and abroad, and was included in the top 10 blockbuster hits that year. The film is based on Richard Matheson’s I am Legend novel, which was also the basis for The Last Man on Earth and The Omega Man.
Black Sheep (2006)
In this Jonathan King dark comedy-horror flick, King introduced the idea of genetically modified carnivorous sheep with a bite that turns humans into feral zombies. The movie was included in the Toronto Midnight Madness Film Festival series and premiered to the public the following year.
Shaun of the Dead (2007)
Simon Pegg stars in Shaun of the Dead, a film helmed by Edgar Wright and co-written by Pegg and Wright. Pegg appears as Shaun, who finds himself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse in London, along with his mom and friends. The movie did well at the box office and got the nod of critics as well, good enough to be nominated for a BAFTA. Critics say that the film was able to come up with a good mix of scary and wit. The comic cast also garnered positive reviews from critics. This comedy zombie movie is considered to be the best British zombie movie of all time
Night of the Creeps (1986)
Night of the Creeps is a jumble of zombies, aliens, and slasher villains all rolled into one giant B movie. Written and directed by Fred Dekker, the movie bombed at the box office but developed a cult following. Not surprising as Dekker wrote the script in 1 week and jammed all the Hollywood scary movie cliche he could think of in this film.