Zombieland 2: Double Tap opens this week and I have a feeling I’m not the only one hungry for Twinkies. It’s been ten years since the first Zombieland and if the sequel does well, they’re talking about making a third one in another ten years. In case you need more zombie goodness to tide you over until then, here are some of my favorite zombie movies.
Night of the Living Dead
George Romero pretty much created the genre with this 1968 cult classic. Seven people are trapped in a farmhouse surrounded by a growing number of zombies. The movie remains a classic of not only the horror genre, but of independent cinema as well.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Zack Snyder directed a remake of Romero’s loose sequel to Night of the Living Dead and managed to keep the satirical anti-consumerism theme intact. This time, a group of strangers seek refuge inside a shopping mall, as zombies wander the streets. The cast features Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames — and Ty Burrell, playing a much different character than fun-loving Dad Phil from Modern Family. Be sure to stay through the credits to learn the fate of the characters.
28 Days Later
This movie popularized the concept of fast zombies. It also revived the popularity of zombie films. In fact, I’d argue that the continued popularity of everything zombie-related in pop culture began with this movie in 2002. This is also the movie that introduced Cillian Murphy to American audiences. Unfortunately, a sequel (28 Weeks Later) proved to be less satisfying to audiences and critics.
In this comedy, a directionless Londoner is forced to take action to protect his family and friends when a zombie outbreak occurs. This is the first of three films starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and directed by Edgar Wright that make up The Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. (Cornetto is a brand of ice cream popular in the UK.) There are fun references to Night of the Living Dead and 28 Days Later, as well as other zombie films.
It’s a point of contention whether body snatcher films count as zombie movies or not. I contend that they do. They have plenty in common, including the mass spreading of infection. This 1993 installment also features one of the main hallmarks of a true zombie movie: a bleak ending. I’ve only seen this once, twenty-six years ago, but parts of it have stayed with me.
This is probably the longest-running movie franchise based on a video game. The mileage may vary from one installment to the next. I didn’t care for the first part, loved the second one, was disappointed by the third one, etc. But the ones that are good are amazing with action scenes that are some of my favorites. (Can we get Milla Jovovich in a John Wick movie please?) The series tends to lean heavily on action (at the expense of scares) so if you’re a horror purist, these may not be what you’re looking for.
This is one of the few zombie movies that doesn’t just present zombies as a global epidemic but actually take you around the globe to witness it. The scene where the zombies climb over the wall in Jerusalem is overwhelming. Brad Pitt plays a former U.N. investigator trying to protect his family and find a way to stop the pandemic.
Director Jim Jarmusch fiercely divided critics and audiences with this recent zombie parody. It features an all-star cast including Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, Tom Waits, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, RZA, Rosie Perez, Carol Kane, Iggy Pop, and Selena Gomez. It’s a very metaphysical film. People tend to love it or hate it. I loved it and found it to be rather humorous.
On my watch list:
Just to give you an idea of my blind spots and to add a few more titles to your own must-see list, here are the zombie movies I haven’t gotten around to yet:
Anna and the Apocalypse, Day of the Dead, Fido, Maggie, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Train to Busan, and Warm Bodies.
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