This year saw the release of World War Z and Warm Bodies, two new zombie movies reflecting 21st century fears of global pandemics and isolation. Neither of them will appear below. The following are the top ten greatest zombie movies in the world ever, and if I could be more hyperbolic about it I would.
Army of Darkness (Evil Dead 3) (1992), Sam Raimi
How do you top a movie in which the hero cuts off his own hand and replaces it with a chainsaw? Send that man back in time to do battle with the medieval dead. An army of stop motion zombies (okay, mainly skeletons) attack a castle defended by an idiot with a chainsaw and a shotgun – if you want the battles of Middle Earth played out in a undead apocalypse, look no further. Speaking of which…
Braindead (1992), Peter Jackson
Years before The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson directed a low budget New Zealand film about zombies. It’s epic. A man punches his fist through a zombie’s throat, he puts a zombie baby in a blender, and fights a sea of Z’s with a lawnmower. One of the goriest (and goofiest) films you will ever see.
Pontypool (2008), Bruce McDonald
Set almost entirely in one radio studio, Pontypool tells the story of a slowly unfolding apocalypse through news reports. Survivors phone in with their stories, the government try to push their own agenda… and they slowly realise that the virus isn’t passed through bits and blood, it’s passed through words. But which words are causing the virus to spread and can the station warn the survivors without spreading the very plague they’re trying to prevent?
Cemetery Man (1994), Michele Soavi
Biker zombies. A man who falls in love with a girl’s severed head. Rupert Everett is the titular hero who keeps encountering – and killing – the love of his life, while looking after a forsaken cemetery in which the dead always rise, and he’s paid to put them back into the ground.
Dawn Of The Dead (1978) and Day Of The Dead (1985), George A. Romero
“As far as I’m concerned, that A stands for A fucking genius” – Quentin Tarantino
George invented the zombie movie with 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, so it’s only fair he gets two entries. His ‘Dead’ series is now six episodes long, and his second entry, Dawn of the Dead, is probably the greatest film ever made. It follows a group of survivors who flee to a shopping mall during the end of days. It’s an existential crisis writ large as they methodically work to keep the zombies out, but realise the life they’ve created inside, free from the howling hordes that surrounds them, is empty and meaningless.
Day of the Dead is set years later as a team of soldiers try to find survivors and eek out an existence for themselves in an underground bunker. It pushes the zombie mythology further as scientists begin experimenting on the Z’s, hoping to tap into their memories and return them to their previous existence. It’s the most uplifting of Romero’s movies, and features the heroic zombie Bob.
The Return Of The Living Dead (1985), Dan O’Bannon
You remember Romero, up above, made six movies? Well there’s actually four more. The rights of the original Night of the Living Dead were split between Romero and the original author Russo, and Russo wanted a piece of the action. Dan O’Bannon (a cinematic legend who wrote Alien while semi-homeless) wrote and directed his own follow up to Night of the Living Dead, but changed the rules; even if you shot a zombie in the head, the rest of the body would still keep attacking you. It creates something of a hopeless situation for the survivors, some of whom are already turning. Return really comes into its own when it starts asking the zombies what they want, and the addiction they’re under that forces them to kill.
Shaun Of The Dead (2004), Edgar Wright
Essentially a bromance about a man-child who has to learn to grow up and take responsibility in order to win back the girl he loves, it also happens to be set during a zombie apocalypse. Funny as hell, but also touching too, as Simon Pegg tries to keep both his friendship and his girlfriend alive while resolving his daddy issues and trying to save his mum.
Versus (2000), Ryuhei Kitamura
Samurai sword fights, kung fu, dual wielded pistols. Versus is the story of two men fighting throughout eternity, that just happens to coincide with a prison break into a woodland where the dead are coming back to life. Needless to say, the hero wears a long black leather trench coat, and the majority of the film is in slow motion.
Zombieland (2009), Ruben Fleisher
While zombies swept through America, Jessie Eisenberg was in his room playing videogames. Alone with only a meticulous list of rules to keep him alive, he falls in with a badass who just wants to find a twinkie, and crack some skulls along the way. The love interest is provided by Emma Stone, as the movie focuses on how fun life could be if no-one else was around, and you could treat America like one big theme park ride.
So those are my top ten. Maybe you disagree? Perhaps you are wondering what happened to 28 Days Later, or I Am Legend, or REC, or Resident Evil, or Zombi 2 (sharks vs zombies!). Well, feel free to voice your opinions below.