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12 of the Best Zombie Movies Ever

No matter how you like your undead, you're sure to find something on this list to chill you to your core.

If you're hungry for zombie fare, there are tons of great movies to pick from. Below, we've ranked our personal faves in ascending order—and we love fast zombies, so some of these movies feature running, infected zombies as well as those with the classic, shambling walking dead. Share your own recommendations for great zombie films in the comments! 

Zombieland

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  • Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing

Zombieland proves that zombie movies don't have to just be horror films. College student Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) survives the first few months of the zombie apocalypse, due largely to his strict rule about not getting attached to others. In this post-apocalyptic world, no one uses their real name. Instead, they go by the city they're from, to avoid attachment. But when he falls in with a rag-tag crew that includes Wichita (Emma Stone), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), Columbus' number-one rule for survival is about to be tested. As he begins to fall for Wichita, Columbus agrees to accompany his new companions to California, to an amusement park that is a safe haven in the middle of what is now a deserted land of the dead. But their plans are foiled when they wind up on a collision course with a pack of truly upsetting zombie clowns. With a long-awaited sequel due out October 2019, now is the perfect time to revisit this 2009 box office hit. 

RELATED: 9 Zombie Books So Good They'll Infect You 

Pet Sematary (1989)

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  • Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

This 1989 Stephen King adaptation follows the violent, downward spiral of a young family after they move from Chicago to rural Maine. When his daughter's cat is killed while crossing the road, Louis (Dale Midkiff) takes the cryptic advice of his neighbor and buries the corpse in a mysterious burial ground in the woods beyond their property. The next day, the cat returns—and opens up Louis' world to horrors he couldn't possibly have imagined. Louis learns that the burial ground is the site of ancient dark magic that brings any corpse buried there back to life. However, nothing that dies ever returns the same. A slow but ultimately horrifying movie about the lengths we will go to keep the people we love alive, Pet Sematary is a classic reminder that sometimes dead is better. If you've already watched the 1989 version, the 2019 remake also impressed many King fans. 

World War Z

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  • Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

World War Z, the book, is a genre masterpiece. World War Z the movie is, well ... the movie is not. But when judged apart from its source material, there's a lot to enjoy here. Brad Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a former U.N. specialist who left the field to be with his wife and two young daughters. Soon after, a mysterious, rabies-like affliction starts turning people into bloodthirsty ghouls who are attracted to sound. Gerry and his family are offered refuge on a government ship—but only if he goes out in the field to try and find the source of the global scourge. He joins a team of soldiers and researchers and is taken all over the world–from South Korea to Israel–to locate the source for a working vaccine. As he witnesses the plague on a global scale, seeing millions if not already billions of people infected, Gerry is shaken and wonders if anyone has a real chance at surviving. But the thought of his family back home pushes him to persevere and hold out hope for a cure. 

RELATED: Grave Danger: 7 Zombie Movies Battle to the Death 

The Girl With All the Gifts

best zombie movies ever
  • Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Twenty years ago, a fungal infection that causes the afflicted to lose their mental faculties and crave human flesh destroyed civilization. Now, a group of second-generation children 'hungries' may be the key to a cure. These young hungries haven't lost their minds, and aren't dangerous unless they're close enough to humans to smell them. 

Melanie (Sennia Nanua), one of these unusual young hungries, is taken to a military base run by the few surviving uninfected. There, she develops a deep affection for her teacher Miss Justineau (Gemma Arteron). Melanie demonstrates the exceptional ability to not become bloodthirsty when she's near humans, making her a subject of medical fascination at the military base. She doesn't fully understand what makes her different from her human teachers, or why the brief moment of physical affection she shares with Miss Justineau causes so much consternation on the base. 

When the base is attacked and destroyed, Melanie and her teacher must lean on each other to survive as they trek to another base beyond London. As they struggle to outrun the other hungries, Melanie starts to question if this is truly the end of the world...or just the start of a new one. Unique, grotesque, and emotionally devastating, The Girl With All the Gifts is one to remember. 

RELATED: How to Survive the End of the World 

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

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  • Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

This Zack Snyder-directed reimagining of George Romero’s 1978 classic throws out the characters from the original, but keeps the central location of an abandoned shopping mall. Sara Polley stars as Ana, who is attacked by her zombie-fied husband. She flees and meets up with a small community of survivors who take refuge in a shopping mall. The group attempts to keep the peace in their temporary home while they simultaneously plot their escape. The survivors are slowly picked off one-by-one either by internal conflicts or succumbing to zombie bites and scratches. 

Snyder's adaptation dispenses with most of the social commentary from Romero's movie, instead focusing on unrelenting, tense action sequences that capture the speed with which the world could fall apart. Scary and less self-serious than Snyder's work with the D.C. Comics Universe, this is a fun, frightening reinterpretation of a classic. 

RELATED: 8 Chilling Sci-Fi Horror Movies to Watch This Halloween 

28 Weeks Later

best zombie movies ever
  • Photo Credit: Fox Atomic

A sequel to 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks is set—you guessed it—28 weeks after the outbreak of the deadly Rage virus. The survivors have begun to regroup, but tensions are dangerously high in District One, an army-controlled safe zone in London. One woman, Alice (Catherine McCormack), who was last seen being dragged away by the undead, has been found miraculously alive and well. She is quarantined in the safe zone while scientists try to figure out why she is immune. But as soon as the survivors in the safe zone begin to hope for a vaccine, Alice's husband visits her and becomes infected through a kiss. He kills Alice and spreads the infection throughout the safe zone while everyone flees, including Alice's children. From there, the film follows Alice's children as they flee while the safe zone quickly dissolves into chaos.

28 Weeks Later is one of the bleakest, most unremitting zombie movies out there. Bonus points for featuring lots of Idris Elba as an uncompromising NATO General determined to avoid chaos at all costs. 

RELATED: 13 Alarming Books About Apocalyptic Plagues 

Rec

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  • Photo Credit: Magnet Releasing

This Spanish found footage movie might be the flat-out scariest title on this list. A camera crew for a reality show called While You Were Sleeping are recording one night in the life of a firehouse when the firefighters are called to an apartment building where an old woman is reported to be in distress. Once they arrive, the woman quickly becomes violent, and it's revealed that other members of the apartment building are exhibiting symptoms of a mysterious illness. The military arrives to quarantine the building, sealing everyone in for a night of undead horror. The camera crew struggles to both document everything and save themselves, desperately searching for a way out. Rec is one of the top zombie movies out there. It's no-frills, eliminates the flashy weapons, and focuses on the pure terror which drives desperate people to seek escape at all costs in the face of disaster. 

Shaun of the Dead 

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  • Photo Credit: Rogue Pictures

The first movie in Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s incredible Cornetto trilogy, Shaun of the Dead perfectly plays on well-worn zombie tropes, but is just as sweet and scary as it is pop-culture savvy. Shaun (Simon Pegg) is an unambitious electronic salesman content to spend the rest of his days drinking at the Winchester, his favorite pub, with his best friend Ed (Nick Frost) and his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield). But Liz wants more from life, so she reluctantly dumps Shaun, leaving him to find solace in a post-breakup bender. 

When a very hungover Shaun wakes the next morning, he eventually realizes that his relationship isn't the only thing that's dead: a zombie plague has overrun London. The unlikeliest of heroes, Shaun and Ed concoct a plan to save Shaun's mother and Liz and get safely to the Winchester to wait until the whole thing blows over. They encounter other survivors along the way who join their group, but the more their numbers grow, the higher tensions rise. Secrets are spilled and friendships are tested in this zombie action movie with a healthy dose of comedy.

RELATED: Stellar Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Sales This Month 

28 Days Later

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  • Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

This Danny Boyle-directed classic remains a standout in the genre, nearly 17 years after it was released. Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes from a coma to find London an eerie, deserted wasteland. When he stumbles across a ragtag band of survivors, he learns that a highly contagious virus spread across England while he was unconscious, causing civilization to collapse and leaving the the city and the surrounding areas choked with swarms of the ruthless infected. 

Jim and his new companions–fellow survivors Selena and Hannah–set out for Manchester in search of a cure. They encounter other survivors who are ultimately even more dangerous than the infected. Jim fears for the safety of Selena and Hannah as it becomes clear that the new, post-apocalyptic world is especially dangerous for women. Ultimately, 28 Days Later argues that men are the most dangerous monsters of all. 

Train to Busan 

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  • Photo Credit: Next Entertainment World

Seok-Woo (Yoo Gong) is a single father who, although well intentioned, spends far more time at the office than he does with his ridiculously cute daughter, Soo-an (Su-an Kim). After he disappoints Soo-an by missing her singing recital, Seek-Woo reluctantly agrees to take her by train to Busan so Soo-an can see her mother, Seok-Woo's ex-wife. When they leave that morning, the two are unaware that a mysterious outbreak is sweeping across the country. But when a wounded passenger comes aboard at the last moment, Seok-Woo is pushed into a fight for his and Soo-an's life. They band together with the other surviving passengers as the train speeds towards Busan, a supposed safe location. Emotional and terrifying, this is an absolutely unforgettable look at the zombie apocalypse — and what it means to be a father. 

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

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  • Photo Credit: United Film Distribution Company

The second of George A. Romero's 'Of the Dead' films, cult classic Dawn of the Dead follows four survivors of a zombie apocalypse who take refuge in a shopping mall. Their unlikely fortress gives the movie lots of opportunities to satirize mass consumerism and remind viewers that hey, capitalism kind of turns us all into zombies, right man? Throughout, Romero's movie manages to be both funny, horrifying, and emotionally powerful. The four survivors are fleshed out, believable people who all seem like they have final girl or guy potential, which makes the deaths devastating when they do come. Zack Snyder's 2004 remake is also on this list, but the original is considered a classic for a reason.  

RELATED: What If You Woke Up to Find Earth Destroyed? 

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

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  • Photo Credit: Continental Distributing

An iconic film without which none of the other movies on this list would likely exist, Night of the Living Dead follows a group of strangers who find safety in a Pennsylvania farmhouse as a wave of carnage — perpetuated by the reanimated corpses of the recently deceased— sweeps across the United States. As with most zombie movies, there are internal conflicts as well as outside dangers, and both threaten everyone's safety. 

As survivors barricaded in a farmhouse disagree on what the best survival strategy is, they end up causing even more problems for themselves. In 1968, the zombie movie genre wasn't popular, though not entirely new. Night of the Living Dead challenged what audiences expected from horror movies, and epitomized what we've come to see as the default zombie in pop culture: slow, wasting away, with an insatiable appetite for flesh. The film remains culturally significant not just for its impact on the zombie genre, but also for its nuanced (if unintentional on Romero's part) exploration of racial politics

Featured still from "Train to Busan" via Next Entertainment World 

Published on 10 Jan 2019

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