From the 1930s to the modern era, zombie movies have terrified audiences. They’ve also occupied a unique position in the horror genre in that they can serve as sociopolitical allegories. But of course, there are some zombie movies that exist solely to make you laugh.
For this list, we’re ranking the 30 best zombie movies of all time. This is a list for every horror filmmaker looking to hone their craft as there are bound to be some films on this list you need to check out both for your entertainment and your studies. We’ve even thrown in a mood board and script studies for good measure. Get ready for some cardio to head over to the Winchester, and let’s dive into this best zombie movies list.
GOOD ZOMBIE MOVIES
30. World War Z (2013)
World War Z is not at all faithful to its source material, and it’s pretty bland for most of the runtime. The main novelty is that it’s probably the only “zombie epic” that has a massive scope, setting the main character on a globe-trotting adventure. This is in stark contrast to most zombie films where the characters pretty much stay in one location the entire time.
BEST ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE MOVIES
29. Resident Evil (2002)
The Resident Evil series hasn’t exactly aged well. Most would say even the original isn’t that great. However, if you’re looking for video game-inspired action, you can do a lot worse. The creature designs for all of the mutant animals are pretty decent though. Not to mention, it functions as a fairly impressive allegory against corporate overreach.
ZOMBIE HORROR MOVIES
28. Night of the Creeps (1986)
Night of the Creeps has all of the elements of a classic B-movie. The film is basically what if zombies invaded Animal House with plenty of rock ‘n’ roll and sex thrown in for good measure. It’s not particularly profound, but it’s a good time for a late-night horror movie showing.
BEST ZOMBIE FILMS
27. #Alive (2020)
#Alive proved to be precisely the zombie movie we needed in 2020. In a year where no one could leave their homes, we get a film about a man trapped in his apartment who’s unable to leave for fear of facing a ferocious zombie horde. It’s a worthwhile Netflix original film about the importance of forging connections even when massive obstacles lie in the way, such as a pandemic… regardless if it’s zombies or COVID-19.
ALL ZOMBIE MOVIES
26. 28 Weeks Later (2007)
28 Days Later set the bar high for 21st-century zombie films. The sequel 28 Weeks Later does not necessarily surpass it, but it’s a solid entry to zombie canon. It does a brilliant job of carrying over the nihilistic themes from the first film, and it contains some amazing action sequences. The tension somewhat dissipates when you realize where the climax is heading, but when it’s powerful, it hits all the right chords.
TOP ZOMBIE MOVIES EVER
25. The Dead Don’t Die (2019)
Leave it to Jim Jarmusch to find new, interesting ways to tell stories about monsters in a way no one has done before. His previous film, Only Lovers Left Alive, recontextualized vampire stories, and he does the same thing with zombies for The Dead Don’t Die, which is a neat, little oxymoron in and of itself. Balancing dry wit with creatures trying to consume human flesh isn’t necessarily the easiest thing in the world, but Jarmusch makes it look easy. It also offers some good lessons on how filmmakers should break the fourth wall.
GREAT ZOMBIE MOVIES
24. Pontypool (2009)
Pontypool earns some style points for being a different kind of zombie film. It’s not a virus that spreads through the small town. It’s language with people repeating the same word or phrase over and over again until they turn into horrible rage monsters. Sadly, it’s a film that’s only grown more relevant over the years as divisions continue to creep up on society, and simple words are enough to cause people to do something deadly. It has all of the gore you would expect out of a zombie film, but it will keep you thinking long after the credits have rolled.
BEST RECENT ZOMBIE MOVIES
23. Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
Anna and the Apocalypse may just be the most fantastic, whimsical zombie musical ever made. There are very many ways to make a genre as the zombie movie stand out in the 21st century, and it helps a great deal that the songs are actually catchy. It’s all the more impressive that it was put together on an indie budget, which just goes to show you can accomplish a great deal as long as you have a good hook for your film.
If you’re trying to figure out how zombies need to look for your own film, then you’ll be pleased to hear we uploaded various stills from zombie movies into StudioBinder’s storyboard creator. We tried to go for a mix of different ways the undead can look, so you can get some inspiration to make your zombies look totally unique.
CLASSIC ZOMBIE MOVIES
22. Night of the Comet (1984)
Dawn of the Dead knew the perfect location for a critique on consumerism was in a mall. Night of the Comet (1984) follows a similar approach but throws some 80s Valley girls into the mix. What it lacks in action it more than makes up for in fascinating character moments with plenty of funny beats added for good measure. If you’re an 80s baby, then this is the zombie film for you.
FAMOUS ZOMBIE MOVIES
21. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Remaking a classic is never an easy feat. While it lacks the cultural substance of the original, Zack Snyder succeeds in telling a taut, thrilling zombie-action flick with his 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. The film’s elevated by the fantastic cast and the genuine scares offered by the fast zombies. It can’t take the place of the original, but it’s a worthy successor. Snyder returns to his bread and butter with 2021’s Army of the Dead.
POPULAR ZOMBIE MOVIES
20. Planet Terror (2007)
Planet Terror doesn’t care about themes or a plot. It’s just an homage to old-school grindhouse films from the minds of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. The main difference between it and films like it from the past is the far greater budget, allowing them to amp up the gore and destruction to the max. It has a go-go dancer with a machine gun for a prosthetic leg. If that doesn’t sell you on the film, we don’t know what will.
TOP ZOMBIE MOVIES TO WATCH
19. Warm Bodies (2013)
The zombie film had been parodied and mashed with other genres for years, so it was only a matter of time until someone made a zombie romantic comedy. Warm Bodies tells the story of a zombie who falls in love with a human woman and gradually becomes more alive in the process. It’s a fun spin on the genre, and it’s perfect for people who maybe can’t stomach as much blood and guts as everyone else.
THE BEST ZOMBIE MOVIES OF ALL TIME
18. White Zombie (1932)
Zombies existed in the pop culture well before George Romero came onto the scene. They actually come from the concept of Haitian voodoo zombies, and White Zombie uses this as its inspiration, resulting in the first zombie movie ever made that was able to be filmed in a pre-Code Hollywood. It hasn’t aged particularly well, and it’s not exactly the most subtle film in the world. However, for zombie enthusiasts, it’s an essential watch to gain a more complete appreciation of where zombies have come from.
Dead Alive is not for the faint of heart. After a Sumatran rat monkey bites the main character’s mother, various other people in the small town find themselves infected. They’re then killed off in excessively bloody fashion. For fans of Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, it’s a must-watch because it utilizes much of the same slapstick humor combined with over-the-top violence. The practical effects are awesome, so just don’t think too much before popping this in the VCR.
Found footage films have gotten a bad rep over the years, but there are a few highlights to the trend, including 2007’s REC. It follows a news crew venturing into a quarantined building where a zombie outbreak has occurred. It’s one of the few films where the found footage aspect works incredibly well. You feel just as claustrophobic as the characters, making for a tense, engaging experience.
AMAZING ZOMBIE HORROR MOVIES
15. The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
Wes Craven, the man who’s responsible for some of the greatest horror movies ever made, took zombies back to their Haitian roots with The Serpent and the Rainbow. The film follows an ethnobotanist who ventures to Haiti to learn more about voodoo traditions. Unlike other zombie films, the gore and body count come second to the themes of faith and the horrors that sometimes accompany said faith. With that being said, there are still a few scenes to make you squirm.
David Cronenberg, the father of body horror, dipped his toes in the zombie genre with 1977’s Rabid. A porn star receives an implant that turns any men she comes close to into rage monsters who act on their basest instincts. Through and through, it’s a feminist film ahead of its time that shows men and men alone are responsible for their actions.
For the first 20 minutes, Little Monsters comes across as your standard rom-com where a deadbeat falls for his nephew’s kindergarten teacher and has to learn to grow up. The only problem is that he has to learn that through a zombie invasion. Little Monsters doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to zombie movies, but when it’s this fun, it doesn’t have to.
The Return of the Living Dead made bold changes to the zombie genre. In this film, the zombies can talk, and they have a specific desire to eat brains. It was the first film where zombie specifically ate brains as opposed to just flesh, and it’s remained in the zeitgeist ever since. The film’s also a perfect encapsulation of 80s youth culture, making for an intriguing time capsule.
The manga turned film I Am a Hero has many of the same, familiar beats of a zombie film, but with interesting characters and amazing action beats, it never feels familiar. It pulls you in from the start and builds to a triumphant and appropriately bloody third act. With equal parts of heart and comedy, it’s an underseen gem that deserves more recognition stateside.
TOP 10 ZOMBIE MOVIES
10. Re-Animator (1985)
Re-Animator was one of the first zombie films to inject black humor into the story, and it works perfectly. The comedy is complemented by excessive blood and gore, easily making this the most successful H.P. Lovecraft adaptation of all time. It injected new life into the zombie genre when it needed it most, and it’s served as an inspiration to future zombie comedies.
Army of Darkness is not your typical zombie flick as it involves our protagonist being sent to the age of King Arthur to defeat an army of the undead. But that’s exactly why we love it so much. What it lacks in the blood it makes up for in pure entertainment value as there’s never a scene you’re not completely captivated by what’s happening.
ACTION ZOMBIE MOVIES YOU’LL LOVE
8. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Night of the Living Dead is arguably the most important zombie film ever made, if not one of the most important in the horror genre in general. It set forth ground rules numerous films have had to follow.To show this, we uploaded the screenplay into StudioBinder’s scriptwriting software to take a look at the pivotal opening scene. Take a look at this opening consisting of two siblings in a graveyard together and compare it to other horror films you’ve seen lately.
Think about how many horror movies start off similarly. One character’s goofing off, or “sinning” as the case may be. When he meets a grisly demise later, it’s, at least in the audience’s eyes, warranted. It’s clear horror movies just wouldn’t be the same without Romero’s influence.
ParaNorman is probably the only zombie movie you can watch with your kids, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. The movie flips conventions on their head, making the zombies the sympathetic ones. The townspeople are the ones turning into an angry mob determined to destroy everything in their path. The stop motion animation is beautiful, and it has a lesson for all ages to enjoy.
Zombieland works best when you already understand the rules of the genre and can tell when it’s being subverted. The humor works so well because so many in the audience likely identify with Columbus and have their own set of rules if a zombie apocalypse ever broke out. And of course, that Bill Murray moment will live on for ages.
Black Sheep is undoubtedly the oddest zombie film ever made, and that’s why we love it so much. The premise is silly, but instead of the whole thing devolving into nonsense, everything is played completely straight. It makes for a suspenseful horror film that has plenty of comedy to make the whole thing palatable.
Zombie films were pretty much dead at the beginning of the 21st century. That all changed when 28 Days Later kicked the doors wide open once again. People infected by a rage virus have overtaken London. It’s a tense thriller that brought the concept of fast zombies to the mainstream. It’s an essential step forward for the genre while still retaining everything that made the best zombie movies of the past so effective.
There’s no other way to say it. Train to Busan kicks ass. It’s a taut zombie thriller with terrifying monsters and a surprising amount of drama, qualities that are sorely missing in the 2020 follow-up, Peninsula. Unlike other horror movies, you actually care about the supporting characters, and each one is given a surprising amount of depth. At its core, it’s about a father wanting to protect his daughter but coming up short until the very end. It pulls you in and doesn’t let go. Watch it as soon as you can.
Shaun of the Dead is the only zombie comedy where both the horror and humor work equally well without one ever detracting from the other. It’s more than just a great "zombie comedy," it’s a great zombie film period.
It’s damn near perfect and one of those movies you’ll find yourself wanting to watch at least a couple of times every year. The only reason it doesn’t take the top spot is that you have to give credit to the O.G.
Dawn of the Dead took everything that worked in Night of the Living Dead and improved it tenfold. It’s a fantastic critique of American consumerism that doesn’t skimp on the gore. There are so many visuals in the film that are iconic, and it still works as the ideal template for modern zombie films. Everything the genre enjoys today is thanks to Dawn of the Dead, and it just wouldn’t have been the same without George Romero’s vision.
Best Movie Deaths of the Last Decade
Zombie films are known for their brutal death scenes. However, they are far from the only type of film that knows how to make you feel something when a character dies on screen. Check out some of our favorite death scenes of the last 10 years.