Zombies have taken over cinema by the horde. With the popularity of movies like Zombieland and TV shows like The Walking Dead, the demand for zombie movies is at an all-time high. With Halloween right around the corner, people are firing up their search engines in search of the best zombie movies out there.
Well, we’ve done a lot of the work for you and compiled some of the best films out there into a list at your disposal. But before we get into which movies you should stream right away, let’s take a look into genre itself for a minute and see what zombie movies are really all about.
What Are Zombie Movies?
A zombie, in the simplest terms, is a reanimated body of a person who has died. The term was actually introduced to the American public in 1929 as a Haitian Creole word for a corpse reanimated by voodoo. Soon after, the motion picture industry adopted it as a subject in an array of horror films.
Early movie zombies kept relatively true to the Haitian tradition. The “living dead” tended to be animated by a voodoo spell and usually used as servants to the master who raised them. The zombies were similar in appearance to that of a living person, except with more ashen skin and larger dark eyes. Typically, they were mute and slow moving, mindlessly following their master’s orders.
By the 1950s, filmmakers began to play with established zombie concepts. Voodoo spells eventually faded away in favor of pandemic causes, and it was only a matter of time before the zombie became a single-minded killing machine: a role that would feed into the next generation of living dead.
In the 21st century, filmmakers have increasingly toyed with zombie movie conventions, creating many different subgenres within the genre itself. Many still rely on contagious diseases as a platform for infection. But as some movies are traditionally written and filmed to be serious, other producers and directors have played around with comedic horror and even the “found footage” format that watches much like a home movie would.
Characteristics of an Amazing Zombie Movie
Modern zombie movies are vastly different from earlier takes on the concept, thanks in part to filmmaker George A Romero who was inspired by the apocalyptic scenario of a planet overrun by murderous zombies in movies like The Last Man on Earth and Invisible Invaders. In 1968, Romero released his directorial debut, Night of the Living Dead which would go on to revolutionize zombie movies as we know them.
One major difference from the earliest forms of zombie lore was the shift away from voodoo. Other elements that weren’t necessarily originated by Romero but became a part of the Romero-esque zombie tradition include slow, unbalanced movements; an apocalyptic nihilism where the mere survival of an individual is a victory; and the concept of a “zombie plague” that spreads in epidemic proportions.
Romero created certain behaviors and rules that would act as a model for zombie movies for the next three decades. His concept of the living dead has four main components that now serve as the foundation for an amazing zombie movie. First, zombies are driven by an insatiable hunger to eat the living. Second, zombie attacks are shown in explicit detail, ushering in an era of heightened cinematic gore. Third, zombies can be killed only by damage to the brain. Fourth, zombiism is contagious and can be spread by a bite.
10 Best Zombie Movies on Netflix
V/H/S 2 (2013)
In this film, the viewer gets to witness a zombie outbreak via helmet-mounted GoPro cameras, which give us a perspective that newer to the horror genre. Plus, there are little bonuses for people in the know (so don’t immediately close the movie after the final scene). There’s a short that follows called “Safe Haven” and, it’s safe to say, it’s a real nightmare.
Burying the Ex (2014)
Not only is this a gem of a zombie flick, but it also doubles as a dark romantic comedy for those who like grim tales for date night. It centers around Max, who is afraid of how his girlfriend will handle his desire to break up. After her accidental death, Max believes he’s dodged a bullet, that is, she returns from the grave.
“Evil Dead” meets Animal Planet in this campy horror film. It’s a film about toxic waste-spawned zombie beavers and is just ridiculously cheesy enough that it gets good. Just when you thought you knew everything about zombies, here come non-human zombies to throw you for a loop.
Not for the faint at heart, Condemned flaunts gore and horror more than many other films on this list. The story follows Maya, who moves in with her boyfriend in a squat in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in order to escape her rich, overbearing parents. At first, she worries about their neighbor. But after a toxic cloud emerges and turns people into zombies, she worries about her interactions with just about everyone.
Falling into the horror-comedy category, Deathgasm is a cautionary tale of what happens when you mix stoners with black magic. When Brodie and Zakk accidentally unleash a dark force trapped inside a piece of sheet music, it’s not long before the whole town is possessed and it’s up to them to save it from a horde of living dead.
Night of the Living Deb (2015)
The walk of shame is brought to the next level in Night of the Living Deb. Waking up in Ryan’s apartment with no recollection of the night before, Deb realizes upon leaving that the entire world has ended and the awkward pair must seek refuge from the world of zombies outside.
With such a small budget, a film is doomed to obscurity right? Wrong. With such solid performances by the cast, Re-Kill is a grim satire that reminds us what a good zombie film looks like. The movie centers around a fake TV show based on a SWAT unit whose purpose is hunting down and eliminating “reanimated dead.” A real must see!
What We Become (2015)
What We Become a tight-knit family drama with zombies following a single family unit trapped inside their home by the living dead outside. It’s well-shot and handles its minimal story effectively, mirroring common tropes of many indie flicks that gives an interesting spin on a popular topic. A category all its own, What We Become is a film that rises up above the clichés of many modern-day zombie movies. Its prolonged silences, hopelessness, and tension make it one of the most somber films on this list.
Train to Busan (2016)
This film out of South Korea is a real record breaker. A train is about to depart when a woman climbs on last-minute, nursing a bite wound on her leg. It doesn’t take her long to turn into a zombie, putting all the passengers in danger. Train to Busan explores modern class issues on a highly gory level.
When their town is suddenly quarantined, and their parents locked out, sisters Emma and Stacey decide it the perfect night to throw a party at their parents’ house. But once Stacey gets sick, Emma finds herself having to decide which lives are worth saving, and which lives aren’t.
Today, zombies are more popular than ever, inspiring endless merchandise opportunities like t-shirts, toys, and video games that flood the market. 2013 even proved that zombies could support a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster. And a successful one at that- earning over $200 million in the US and more than $500 million worldwide. Zombie movies aren’t just a phenomenon in the US either, with films coming out of Australia, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Scandinavia, France, and Japan just to name a few.
Whether you’re a hardcore fan looking for a new movie, you’ve never come across, or a newbie looking to dabble and see what the fuss is about, this list is a great tool to get you started. While most people are of the idea that zombie movies all follow the same trend and once you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all, that is absolutely not true.
As you will see for yourself, these movies explore the world of zombies from many different angles. Whether you like cerebral horror, psychological thrillers, blood and gore, horror-comedy, or something with an eeriness that will stick with you for nights to come, there is zombie subgenre for everyone.
The form and function of cinematic zombies have taken on many forms throughout the years, but the zombie movie has held a presence within the horror genre, and been a steady force at that, since the early ’30s. Some may think it’s a fad, but whether or not its popularity wanes over the years, it’s safe to say filmmakers will be making zombie movies for years to come.