The 24 best zombie movies of all time

Our list of the best zombie movies has all the finest films featuring the walking dead you need, from George A Romero to Train to Busan, and well beyond.

Best zombie movies: Dawn of the Dead, Train to Busan and Shaun of the Dead

What are the best zombie movies of all time? No matter where you stand on the debate around zombie running speed, picking out the finest pictures for ravenous, flesh-eating ghouls is always a contentious process.

From 28 Days Later to George A Romero, there are just so many of the best horror movies to choose from, and everyone has that hidden gem of rotting skin they think deserves more love. Following extensive research into the archives of zombification, however, only the absolute greatest made our list of the best monster movies centered on the walking dead.

They represent the breadth of creativity, terror, and sheer bloody gore this particular hive of horror is beloved for. Of course, some of this might seem in bad taste, but that’s always been part of the fun when it comes to the best zombie movies. So buckle-up and watch your brains; here are the 22 top picks that the genre has to offer.

Best zombie movies: Re-animator

24. Re-Animator (1985)

Is Re-Animator a zombie movie? Well, it features an evil reanimated head, so we think it counts. A B-movie with a capital B, Re-Animator is a loose adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft story “Herbert West–Re-animator,” but this isn’t some highbrow attempt of elevated horror you’d see on Netflix.

No, Re-Animator is pure schlock, which features several shocking scenes of incredible violence and humor so dark even your edge lord friends would consider it a bit too risque.

While it’s never been a personal favorite, we can’t deny its place in the history of the genre, and there’s an argument to be made that without this film and Return of the Living Dead (which is the superior movie), zombie movies would have stayed a little self-serious for our tastes.

Best zombie movies: One Cut of the Dead

One Cut of the Dead (2017)

By the end of the 2010s, the zombie genre was (if you’ll pardon the pun) a little rotten. Audiences had grown tired of the tropes and cliches, which defined the genre as Hollkyood pumped out by numbers zombie movie after zombie movie. Thankfully, there were filmmakers outside of the West who were more than capable of breathing some new life into old corpses.

Enter Shin’ichirō Ueda, who wrote and directed the wonderful One Cut of the Dead, a sensational Japanese zombie comedy that takes advantage of our entrenched views on cannibalistic ghouls and undercuts our solidified expectations. Super clever and extremely engaging One Cut of the Dead helped to revitalize zombie films for a new decade.

While we definitely owe the film a debt of gratitude for it’s liveliness, the reason we’ve chosen to include it is for the way One Cut of the Dead manages to capture the plucky filmmaking spirit of George A. Romero’s ghoulish horror films.

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21. Blood Quantum (2019)

Blood Quantum continues the fine tradition of the walking dead as a way of exploring social issues. Jeff Barnaby has an indigenous reservation in Canada attacked by some form of virus. The film looks at how the community in 1981 would handle such a threat.

The title refers to an American law that attempts to quantify being Native American, and in 1981, a community was raided and had supplies robbed in Quebec. You can feel the rage and heartache sewn into every frame. A necessary film.

Best zombie movies: Dead Snow

20. Dead Snow (2009)

Nazi zombies – that phrase was enough to make Tommy Wirkola’s euro-shlock a necessity in the late 2000s. You knew this would be a gory one because, well, why else would any filmmaker even humor such ludicrousness?

The effects budget gets stretched accordingly when undead members of the SS rise to reclaim some forgotten treasure. Some holidaying young people are in the way, suffering some heinous fates. But the pleasure comes when they throw it right back since it’s always good seeing any form of fascist suffer. Irreverent and of its time.

Best zombie movies: The Night Eats The World

19. The Night Eats The World (2018)

Zombie films of the late 2010s got increasingly claustrophobic and isolated. In The Night Eats The World, a punk rocker becomes trapped in his ex-partner’s apartment amid a rapture, leaving him truly alone among the quiet grey of Paris.

The first undead he finds are the former girlfriend and her friends, truly making it clear just how estranged they are. Heartbreak permeates director Dominique Rocher’s vision of a city lost to the restless dead, where our homes are but tiny prisons for our weary hearts.

Best zombie movies: Ella Hunt in Anna & the Apocalypse

18. Anna & the Apocalypse (2017)

When you think of festive musicals, zombies are probably the last thing on your mind. Well, I’ve got news for you – the walking dead can hold a tune and has managed to inspire one of the best Christmas horror movies of all time. Anna & the Apocalypse follows a group of teens living through a zombie outbreak during Christmas. Sounds wild, right?

Well, it gets better because the film is like an R-rated version of High School musical, complete with undead holiday antics. The songs are annoyingly catchy, there is slapstick humor, and honestly, this film is just a surefire good time.

Best Zombie movies: Little Monsters (2019)

17. Little Monsters (2019)

A kindergarten class is trapped in a farm gift shop with only a failed musician and their teacher to save them. Sounds like a recipe for disaster to us, but it makes for one hell of an entertaining movie.

Like a lot of films in the zombie genre, Little Monsters doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, but it’s got good gags, some nice gore, and a real heart which helps to elevate it above other horror comedies. Still, Little Monster’s not-so-secret weapon is its cast. In particular, Lupita Nyong’o dazzles as the teacher Miss Caroline.

Best zombie movies: Zombi 2

16. Zombie/Zombi 2 (1979)

Lucio Fulci was a titan of the horror world who was well-known for his violent and shocking movies, and few films demonstrate his shocking skill like Zombie (Or Zombi 2 as it was known in other markets). Grim and really grisly Zombie makes Romero’s work seem positively tame and feature some truly bonkers set pieces and great makeup work.

Unfortunately, the sheer gruesomeness of the film (In particular, the eye-gouging scene) will make this a difficult watch for those who aren’t the most dedicated fans of the undead genre.

Best zombie movie: White Zombie

15. White Zombie (1932)

Widely considered the first feature-length zombie movie, White Zombie doesn’t have a lot in common with its modern counterparts, most notably because the zombies aren’t flesh-eating ghouls but people bewitched by a voodoo priest.

Still, what the film lacks in gore, it more than makes up for in atmosphere and a superbly arch performance from the horror icon Bela Lugosi.

Best Zombie movies: Zombieland

14. Zombieland (2009)

Ruben Fleischer’s hilariously meta take on the zombie genre is part of a long tradition of laughing at the walking dead. Still, while the idea of a comedy movie about zombies may not be wholly original, Fleischer proves the genre’s not rotten yet, delivering one of the most original horror movies of the new millennium.

What separates Zombieland from other attempts to capitalize on the success of films like Shaun of the Dead is its incredible cast, who have superb chemistry (This may be Jesse Eisenberg’s best movie. Sorry, Social Network fans), and Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick sharp script.

Best zombie movies: Return of the Living Dead

13. The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

The anarchic step-sibling to Romero’s zombie series The Return of the Living Dead is a punk rock comedy that swaps any notion of subtlety and subtext for over-the-top gore, mind-boggling absurdism, and plenty of laughs.

While the Living Dead films aren’t as well known as Romero’s classier series, it was this film that gave birth to the idea that zombies could only eat brains and can only be stopped by destroying the head or brain, and as such, we think this film has more than earned a spot on the list.

Best zombie movies: Day of the dead

12. Day of the Dead (1985)

The first, but definitely not the last time you’ll see something from George A Romero on this list. The famed architect of the modern zombie movie contributed a few classics to the subgenre, and the third in his Living Dead trilogy is among his greatest. Day of the Dead shows a world where the worst just keeps happening.

Zombies have taken over the cities, driving whoever’s left underground. Dr. Sarah Bowman (Lori Cardille) is part of one such group, a scientist assisting Dr. Matthew Logan (Richard Liberty) with looking into this plague that resurrects the dead. They’re trapped in a claustrophobic bunker with Capt. Henry Rhodes (Joseph Pilato) leads a belligerent cohort of soldiers.

Romero had initially planned for this to be more grandiose, but budget cuts forced him to scale back. This only adds to the isolation, and watching this boiling pot that might be the last bastion of mankind go pear-shaped, surrounded by nothing but ambivalent concrete in any direction, is riveting.

Best zombie movies: The Girl With All The Gifts

11. The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)

That time, Glenn Close was in a zombie movie. Based on the book of the same name and directed by Colm McCarthy, parasitic fungi are infecting humans, and Melanie is a young girl who harbors it without needing to tear out the neck of anyone who gets near. A small crew featuring Dr. Carolin Caldwell (Close) and Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton) has to escort Melanie through London, doing their level best to navigate the infested capital.

Overgrown urbanism and frenzied action are shot with the same eye for majestic desolation, with cinematographer Simon Dennis capturing every detail. Perhaps the disorder is all part of a necessary transition, as Melanie begins to consider. Considering McCarthy would go on to direct an episode of Black Mirror, it should come as no surprise the final shot carries some heft.

Best zombie movies: Braindead

10. Braindead (aka Dead Alive) (1992)

Before Peter Jackson directed The Lord of the Rings trilogy, he made his name doing schlocky gore flicks like Braindead (aka Dead Alive). Full of the same gross-out New Zealand humor as his 1989 debut Bad Taste, Braindead takes everything up a notch by ending with a full-on zombie massacre using a lawnmower.

This is after our hapless hero, Lionel (Timothy Balme), manages to give them animal stimulants because he thought poisoning these shambling corpses would work. One madcap scene after another, threaded along by Lionel’s burgeoning romance with Paquita (Diana Peñalver), Braindead is everything-and-the-kitchen-sink filmmaking, all centered on trying to stop your family from embarrassing you on a date.

After this, he’d make Heavenly Creatures and move away from gore altogether. When you’ve started using gardening tools, what else is there?

Best zombie movies: REC

9. [REC] (2007)

If a zombie outbreak happened today, the first place most of us would hear about it is Twitter, glued to our trending tabs for more information and live feeds. 2007’s [REC] was right on the cusp of our social media obsession and recognized with unnerving clarity our profound inability to look away.

An apartment building in Barcelona is closed off when some residents become increasingly aggressive. Among those trapped inside are emergency responders, reporter Angela Vidal, and her cameraman Pablo, who are making a documentary.

Following everything through the lens of Pablo’s camera, we helplessly watch the infection spread and the group of survivors gradually whittle down. Found footage may have a bad reputation, but [REC], directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, clearly shows the potential of the approach, capturing the overwhelming panic and quiet moments with equal terror.

Best zombie movies: Train to Busan

8. Train to Busan (2016)

Zombies on one of South Korea’s high-speed trains, forcing a small band of survivors to keep each other alive long enough to get off at the next stop. Train to Busan, by director Yeon Sang-ho, is simple and elegant and has Ma Dong-seok reveal his biceps like we need a permit just for viewing.

Purists might balk at the incorporation of CGI to make the ever-burgeoning swarm of reanimated corpses more visibly horde-like, but form meets function. Using special effects makes filming these scenes easier on the ground level and gives us a greater sense of what the protagonists are looking at.

Have you ever considered what a load of zombies coming towards you would look like? You’d probably think you were hallucinating, lost in the uncanny valley because the dead don’t walk or run. They’re just dead. Train to Busan is all about realizing it’s definitely not a dream.

Best zombie movies: Night of the Living Dead

7. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

The rest of the entries in this list do not exist without this film. That is a simple fact. In 1968, a young George A Romero, and his friends John Russo and Russell Steiner, put out the archetypal zombie movie. Ben (Duane Jones) and Barbara (Judith O’Dea) take refuge from the living dead in a rural Pennsylvania farmhouse, where they find another family living in the basement.

Contrasting ideas for survival are bandied around, and some handle the anxiety better than others. Meanwhile, walking corpses gather outside. Tight and psychological, Night of the Living Dead denoted a shift in genre and indie filmmaking, spawning innumerable copycats. Rest assured, the original may seem quaint, but it’s still absolutely one of the best.

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6. 28 Days Later (2002)

It might be hard to believe now, post-The Walking Dead horror series, but in the late ’90s, zombies were near non-existent in the mainstream. Enter 28 Days Later, from Trainspotting director Danny Boyle. The first of two collaborations with writer Alex Garland, 28 Days Later imagines a Great Britain that’s ravaged by a virus that turns us into rage-filled monsters.

A small gaggle of survivors, led by Jim (Cillian Murphy) and Selena (Naomie Harris), head towards Manchester from London for a military outpost that promises salvation. Hope is in short supply here, though, when it turns out those soldiers don’t need any viral infection to be inhuman predators. Visions of tribalism, chauvinism, and empty English capitals have aged alarmingly well.

Best zombie movies: Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island

5. Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998)

Movies featuring re-animated corpses that are suitable for children is a shortlist that Scoob and the gang’s ghoulish encounter happily sits on top of. Having gone their separate ways, the members of Mystery, Inc. have a wee get-together to help Daphne scout locations for her travel show. One stop in New Orleans, Louisiana, brings them to a haunted island that, despite the resounding skepticism, turns out to actually be haunted.

Mook Animation, a contributing studio to X-Men: Evolution, Men in Black: The Series, and Todd MacFarlane’s Spawn, provided the animation, which is full of brilliant colors and gloomy effects. Light on its feet, musical numbers punctuate scares for any, especially young viewers. Comfort food.

Best zombie movies Shaun of the Dead

4. Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Another movie, alongside Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake and the aforementioned 28 Days Later, that helped reignite public interest in zombies. Reuniting with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost from the TV series Spaced, director Edgar Wright began his Cornetto Trilogy with a pastiche of living dead films, horror, and being middle-aged and bored in Britain.

Pegg co-wrote Shaun of the Dead‘s screenplay, which delivers a jolt or two among the regular laughs. Despite coming years before gifs would become part of our online vocabulary, many shots and lines are now memes unto themselves. Now, let’s go to The Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for this all to blow over.

Best zombie movies: The Battery

3. The Battery (2012)

Not everything to do with the walking dead has to be violent, or even especially scary. The Battery, written and directed by Jeremy Gardner, who also co-stars, is basically a drama about two men who happen to be surviving a zombie apocalypse.

While wandering the backroads of New England, Ben (Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim) catch word of another group doing the same. Unfortunately for them, this other group doesn’t care to bolster its ranks and leaves Ben and Mickey for dead. Minimal and despondent, but not without slivers of optimism, this is indie horror at its best.

Best zombie movies: ParaNorman

2. ParaNorman (2012)

Since Coraline in 2009, Laika has become one of the foremost studios in modern animation. ParaNorman, the studio’s second feature, is a charming, heartfelt sophomore production about a boy whose only friends are the dead.

Lonely though he is, he’s the only one able to break a witch’s curse over his town. Engaging in and of itself, the stop-motion work elevates a delightful concept and screenplay to astonishing levels. The rotting corpses are each a caricature full of detail that begs your attention. ParaNorman is a love letter to anyone who used horror to escape, crafted by those who understand that solitude.

Best zombie movies: Dawn of the Dead

1. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Our last entry and the third part of Romero’s Living Dead trilogy. This is not a ranking, but if it was, Dawn of the Dead would be number one. Romero’s sequel to Night of the Living Dead kept the burgeoning zombie outbreak but pivoted to Philadelphia and a new cast of characters. The violence is dialed up, but so is the pathology and examination of the shambling dead.

Cities are becoming hives of brutal standoffs between police and residents, infected and non-infected, and a small group of four, Stephen, Francine, Peter, and Roger, manage to escape in a helicopter. Eventually, they find respite at a shopping mall – the now-iconic Monroeville Mall – where they discover scores of zombies mindlessly browsing the stores—memories, they theorize, of when these people were part of the living.

Social commentary abounds, and in the preferable 1979 theatrical cut, Romero’s playful direction is complemented by Goblin’s proggy soundtrack and the legendary Tom Savini’s practical effects work. Each of the cast elevates the drama when necessary, and the frenzied conclusion is one of cinema’s great last gasps. Zombie movies do not get better.

If you’re still ravenous for more scares, have a look at our guides to the Halloween movies in order, Hellraiser movies in order, Friday the 13th movies in order, and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre timeline. You may want to check out our guide to The Walking Dead cast, as well.

We’ve also got a list of all the new movies coming out in 2023 for you to enjoy, and information on Wednesday season 2, The Conjuring 4 release date, and the Five Nights at Freddy’s release date. That’s a lot of horror!