The zombie horror movie genre largely took off in 1968 when George Romero released Night of the Living Dead. Since then,a plethora ofmovies, shows, books, and video games featuring zombies have sprung up, each one depicting the undead in either realistic or completely outrageous fashion.
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By their very nature, zombies themselves arent the most realistic of movie monsters, but they do make for a compelling and terrifying threat. While some movies attempt to portray the zombie apocalypse in the most realistic manner possible, others dont mind tossing believability out the window for the sake of thrills and chills.
Updated on August 23rd, 2021 by Derek Draven: It seems the public hasnt quite suffered from zombie movie burnout just yet. The genre continues to tickle both new and existing fans with a lot of films centering on the ravenous undead and the unfortunate, hapless humans trying to stay alive. Part of the reason for the success of the genre is the overall plausibility of the situation. It evokes the deepest and darkest fears that society has about a major viral outbreak, or Hells vengeance against humanity. Either way, some zombie films opt for jokes or outrageous action scenes to push the narrative, while others stay firmly rooted in a sense of foreboding realism. There are a lot of zombie films that cater to either side of this particular aisle.
Available to stream on Netflix
#Alive is a 2020 South Korean zombie movie about a video game streamer who wakes up one morningand discovers that the zombie apocalypse hascompletely overwhelmed the city of Seoul. Horrified by events, the character must learn to deal with an environment upended by a nightmare scenario.
The story follows this main character, who hides out in his apartment through the first month of the virus. The movie then takes on a real-world approach as food and water become a priority for survival.Though the premise of an overnight zombie infestation is far-fetched, the aftermath feels realistic.
Available to rent on AppleTV
The Resident Evil movie franchise was based on a video game series, which means realism was not high on the franchises list of priorities. The first film started out as a somewhat plausible take on the zombie formula, but it didnt stay that way. Subsequent sequels went completely off the rails just for the fun of it.
The movies get more and more over the top as they follow the story of Alice, who undergoes several genetic transformations.The zombies themselves also take a backseat to some of the more outlandish horrors engineered by the ultra-evil Umbrella corporation, acting more like cannon fodder.
Available to stream on Fubo
Another critically acclaimed South Korean horror movie, Train to Busan made massive waves among fans of the zombie genre. This film follows a father and daughter who race to Busan in order to reunite with her mother during the initial outbreak of a zombie virus.
RELATED: 10 Best South Korean Zombie Movies, Ranked According To IMDB
The movie follows the characters as they board a train, meeting new characters along the way who each fight for survival. All of the characters meet obstacles aside from zombies, including each other.Its one of the rare zombie movies to focus heavily on emotion, which leaves a huge impacton the audience.
Available to stream on MaxGo
Warm Bodies is over the top in a different style than that ofother zombie films.Its essentially a zombified retelling of Shakespeares classicRomeo and Juliet, featuringR as a zombie who is utterly bored with his undead life. Eventually, he meets a living human being namedJulie and believes her to be his second chance.
The story isa romantic and funny take on the zombie movie genre, which has been done before in other films like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland.It blends hilarious comedy with high-octane action sequences to create an entertaining and quirky alternative to the zombie apocalypse formula.
George Romero struck gold with the second chapter of his zombie series, Dawn of the Dead. He traded up the rural farmhouse horror formula for a more action-oriented story that takes place largely within an abandoned shopping mall. The film continued to show off Romeros penchant for social satire and commentary in relation to the downfall of society.
In 2004, Dawn of the Deadwas remade by Zack Snyder, with a slightly modified formula. Much of the social commentary was expunged for the sake of increased gore and violence, while the zombies themselves changed from slow-moving creatures to marathon sprinters capable of finishing the quarter-mile in record time.
Available to stream on PlutoTV
Ready Player Ones Tye Sheridan starred in this 2015 film about three nerdy Boy Scouts who end up taking on a zombie infestation in their hometown. Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is a lighthearted and hilarious zombie romp that blends elements of 1980s flicks like Revenge of the Nerds with modern zomedies like Shaun of the Dead.
The boys rely on all of their Scout training to cobble together makeshift weapons and tactics to fight the horde. This includes one over-the-top hilarious scene showing a bunch of zombie cats chasing the group through a house, which is one of the great highlights of the film.
Available to rent on AppleTV
Zombielandhas become a true cult classic for any horror and zombie fan. Despite the comedy, its a surprisingly realistic take on the zombie apocalypse story. In fact, the entire film is a platform for a series of important facts that every human being should adhere to in order to survive such an ordeal.
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The zombies are realistic, but so are the human characters. Though they dont react as normal humans would in such a situation, they do have layers of depth and complexity that helped sell the story. In the end, theyre some of the most down-to-earth survivors of any zombie breakout.
Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video
White Zombie is coined as the first actual zombie movie. Bela Lugosi stars as Murder Legendre, a voodoo master who commands a contingent of the undead. After a jealous plantation owner decides he wants a woman all to himself, he elicits the voodoo masters help to try and seduce her.
Things go pear-shaped quickly, and the woman ends up zombified. This movie may be a classic, but it still has some over-the-top qualities, particularly when it comes to the actors performances and the nature of the undead. Nevertheless, it helped lay the groundwork for what was to come.
Available to stream on HBO Max
George Romero should be credited with turning the zombie movie genre into a mainstream horror platform. His original Night of the Living Dead was a creepy vision of a plausible future where the undead rose from their graves to feast upon the flesh of the living.
The story wasnt just about horror but social commentary as well. In the end, its the human survivors who are the biggest threat to each other. Their inability and unwillingness to cooperate become their downfall after they make a series of rash decisions that cost them their lives.
Available to stream on Paramount+
Overlord is an action horror movie about a team of soldiers discovering Nazi experimentation.This wasnt the first film to blend the Third Reich with the zombie formula, and the theme would even be ported to video games like the Zombie Army series from developer Rebellion.
In the film, Nazi experiments are the cause of people turning into zombie-like creatures.What follows is a purposely over-the-top action flick that requires the viewer to throw plausibility and believability completely out the window, purely for the sake of some trashy fun.
Available to stream on Tubi
Though not as popular as its Dawn of the Dead predecessor, the third film in George Romeros initial Living Dead trilogy has garnered much respect from fans in the ensuing years.Day of the Dead depicts a world that has fallen completely to the zombie outbreak, with only small patches of humans still trying to make it.
The film depicts a ragtag band of scientists and soldiers in an underground bunker, whose nerves are fraying in the final days of the conflict.Though the dialogue is sometimes over the top, the premise is relatively realistic, particularly when the two groups begin fighting as the pressure of their situation gets to them.
Available to rent on AppleTV
Also known as Doctor Butcher M.D., this Italian zombie flick was directed by Marino Girolami under the alias Frank Martin. It all starts when a bunch of corpses in various New York City hospitals are desecrated, with certain organs pulled out and devoured.
A doctor and his morgue assistant decide to travel to the Maluku Islands to investigate and come face to face with a notorious surgeon performing experiments to reanimate the dead. The story is completely over the top, as is the incredible amount of gore that made it such an underground horror hit in the 80s.
Available to stream on AMC+
This zombie flick comes courtesy of infamous Italian horror director Lucio Fulci and goes by many names including Zombi 2, Nightmare Island, and Zombie Flesh Eaters. The premise is simple: several people visit a strange island searching for a young womans missing father, and end up facing the undead.
Zombieis renowned for a shocking amount of violence and gore that felt a little too realistic at times. It has its fair share of outrageous moments (including a zombie attacking a shark underwater), but overall, it feels grounded in reality, especially when the final creditsscene shows the zombie invasion of New York City.
Available to stream on AMC+
Not content to rest on his laurels, Lucio Fulci decided to have another go at the zombie movie formula, this time with a far more demonic and supernatural edge. City of the Living Dead follows the exploits of a reporter and a psychic who must prevent the hordes of Hell from overwhelming the planet.
Theres a remarkable amount of stomach-churning gore in the film which is far more exploitive than usual. One particularly unsettling scene shows a supernatural undead priest using unknown powers to cause a woman to vomit up her own insides, which was a foreign concept to Western audiences at that time.
Available to stream on HBO Max
Released at a time when 9/11 was still fresh in everyones mind, 28 Days Later became a poignant and powerful vision of a world ruined by a zombie outbreak. The focus on realism was a major objective for this film, and it ended up selling the plausibility of a viral outbreak that ended up spreading like wildfire.
The zombies in this particular film are actually human but infected with a potent rage virus, causing their minds to de-evolve into creatures of pure aggression and violence. It was one of the first films to offer the fast zombie variant, which would be lifted later on by Zack Snyder for his Dawn of the Dead remake in 2004.
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About The Author
Juliana Failde is a writer for CBR, Screen Rant, and the Sartorial Geek. She is a writer and podcaster and has been published in the Spring 2019 and Summer 2020 editions of the Sartorial Geek Quarterly Magazine.
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