The Essential Zombie Films – A Study Guide

Much of the information we need to survive a zombie attack is clearly laid out in the films of the genre. The list below are just the bare minimum of what I consider to be some of the “classics.”

The First Zombie Film

The first zombie film was 1932’s  White Zombie with Bela Lugosi. The film featured voodoo and hordes of zombies, not trying to eat the living,  but laboring for thier voodoo master. Known more for Lugosi’s performance and the great atmosphere conveyed in the film, it is now considered a classic. And, since the it is in the public domain, you can watch the entire film on YouTube. You can also download it (along with other goodies)  at the Internet Archive.

The Romero Films:

It is 1968. George a Romero makes history with his film, Night of the Living Dead. This is the movie that started it all. Because of an error, this film was in the public domain immediately after its release. You can also view this at YouTube and download at the Internet Archive.

You cannot underestimate the effect that this film had on the industry and popular culture.  The debt the horror and slasher films genre owes George A. Romero is astounding, as even a brief Google search shows. Romero paved the way for a new generation of horror movies around the world. Italian filmmaker Lucio Fulci’s 1979 work, Zombie 2, was actually  billed as a sequel to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.  Slasher flicks like the Friday the 13th and the Nightmare on Elm Street series probably would not even exist. 

Take a look at the trailer:

So. The essential Romero films are:

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Dawn of the Dead (1979)

Day of the Dead (1985)

I would also include Land of the Dead (2005) because from a social commentary level, it really moves the series along.

For true Romero purists (and completists), Diary of the Dead (2008) & Survival of the Dead (2009) complete the series

There is a great blog series that covers the classic Romero films and can be used as a study guide: http://www.thedorkreport.com/2009/02/16/the-george-a-romero-zombie-cycle-part-1-night-of-the-living-dead/

The Romero Remakes:

As far as the remakes go, people either love them or hate them. I am personally quite fond of Night of the Living Dead 1990. I love the portrayal of Barbara in the film and applaud her actions at the end. As far as the rest of them, I couldn’t stand them. Although the original Dawn of the Dead is hands-down my favorite Romero flick, I could barely sit through the remake.

Night of the Living Dead (1990)

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Day of the Dead (2008)

Important note:  

A few caveats: Just because a movie had living dead or of the dead in the title did not mean that it had anything to do with any of the series.  Movies such as  Flight of the Living Dead: Outbreak on a Plane fall into this category. These films are not part of the canon! Understanding which movies belong in the established body of work keep you from being duped by fakes like this one:

The 28 Days Later Series:

The 28 Days series updates the zombie film genre. Outbreaks are spread by virus and it is murderous rage that consumes our zombies. They also move amazingly fast. It is fairly common anymore to see comparisons between slow, Romero-style zombies and those that move fast as in 28 Days Later.

28 Days Later (2003)

28 Weeks Later (2007)

The next film in the series, 28 Months Later will be out in 2011.

The Resident Evil Series:

Okay, I know that you have to take a movie franchise that is based on a video game with a grain of salt, but when I started watching Resident Evil series, I was surprised at how good the first movie was. They really are must see movies for the zombie purist.

Resident Evil (Deluxe Edition)

Resident Evil – Apocalypse (AKA Nemesis) (2004)

Resident Evil – Extinction (2007)

Return of the Living Dead

A comedy zombie series makes the cut? Yes, indeed. And the reason? One word: Braaaaiiins! Chances are, if you are a zombie aficionado, you will find at least the first two of these movies delightful.  (Three starts to get a little darker, and rumor has it that 4 and 5 are just bad!)

A note for horror buffs: 1985’s Return of the Living Dead feature actress Linnea Quigley, known as the Queen of the Screams. Her performance  is a classic.

The Return of the Living Dead (1985) (1985)

Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988)

Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993)

Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis (2005) and Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave (2005)

Another movie that is considered to be a comedy zombie classic is Shaun of the Dead (2004) I have to confess, I didn’t get this flick. Not until I saw the end. And not until seeing it a few times.  But I do find the end of the film  hysterically funny. I so totally recognize my son and his best friend since kindergarten in the ending sequence.

Some of you may notice that I left Zombielandoff the list.  While many are considering this to be a modern classic, especially with sequels in the works, I was disappointed in the film.  You can read my review here.

This list is just a beginning list of what I consider some of the classics. Different people have different fims that make their “Top” lists. On the web, you can find lists of  top 20 zombie films and even a Wiki list of over 300 zombie films.  And there are films like The Evil dead that have reanimated dead that some people think should belong on the lists  of zombie films (I personally don’t).

Next up, we are going to be looking at zombies in books. By the way… Did you know that Brad Pitt will play the journalist in a film based on Max Brooks World War Z? 

Study Hints for the test:

There are some classic lines from some of these films that are so well-known, that they will be on the test! Lines like:

“They’re coming to get you, Barbara.”

“When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.”

And of course, the classic, “Braaaaiiins!”

Can you think of any others? Or do you have a favorite line or scene from one of these films?

2 thoughts on “The Essential Zombie Films – A Study Guide”

  1. Nice!

    Great films. I totally agree, most of the Romero Remakes were not that great. I liked the 1990 version of Night of the Living Dead, but I couldn’t stand the other ones. I also agree about Zombieland. I really couldn’t see any point foir that movie to be made.

    I didn’t even know that there were new sequels to the Return of the Living Dead movies. Have to check those out. More films for my Zombie list.

    And that Hard Days Night of the Living Dead is hysterical. Absolutely brilliant.

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