Top 10 ...Of the Dead Movies
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 ...Of the Dead Movies.
For this list, we'll be ranking the best or most influential movies that use the ...of the Dead suffix. We're going to be giving some leeway with our criteria to include franchises that possess modifiers for their living dead characters, and invite you to let us know some of YOUR favorites down in the comments!
#10: "City of the Walking Dead" a.k.a. "Nightmare City" (1980)
Who said all zombies need to be slow? Ok, so director Umberto Lenzi has been adamant that "City of the Walking Dead" is about "infected people," and not the undead, but for all intents and purposes, this 1980 effort is still a classic from the Italian horror cannon. The infected here haul ass, use weapons and basically overrun everything with a pulse. And all to a maddening, hypnotic soundtrack, to boot. It's pure splatter trash at its most ridiculous, complete with a twist ending that'll either leave you pumping your fist or scratching your head.
#9: "Dawn of the Dead" (2004)
Speaking of fast zombies, maybe some fans forgot about "Nightmare City" when Zack Snyder's remake of "Dawn of the Dead" hit theaters in 2004, because the argument was a BIG DEAL. Today, however, the consensus for Snyder's take on the George A. Romero classic is pretty good, with many praising the film's pacing and intensity. The script from future "Guardians of the Galaxy" director James Gunn is also tight, and Snyder directs the action with a lot of confidence, given that this was his debut feature. So don't let running zombies scare you off from this one, it's a remake that stands on its own two feet.
#8: "Land of the Dead" (2005)
It had been twenty years since George Romero last visited the zombie apocalypse, so expectations were fairly high going into 2005's "Land of the Dead." The social satire was heavy in this one, but not heavy handed, and "Land of the Dead" boasted an impressive cast that included Dennis Hopper and John Leguizamo. The increased budget benefited the look of the film, the special effects were great and the moments of humor-particularly from Hopper-fit in nicely. Sure, it isn't the best Romero film, but "Land of the Dead" is something of an underrated entry into the director's zombie oeuvre.
#7: "City of the Living Dead" a.k.a. "The Gates of Hell" (1980)
You can't talk about the world of Italian horror without mentioning the maestro, Lucio Fulci. Fulci was a craftsman who worked in almost every conceivable genre, but saw his biggest success in the late seventies and eighties with a string of splatter classics. "City of the Living Dead" was released as a part of the filmmaker's loose "Gates of Hell" trilogy, and combined gory set pieces with dream logic and atmosphere for days. It's not "straight" horror in the traditional slasher sense, but one that requires the mind to wander and become lost in Lucio Fulci's strange but captivating world of morbid beauty.
#6: "Day of the Dead" (1985)
It's kind of shocking to think back to 1985, and how disappointed many people were to George A. Romero's "Day of the Dead." After all, today it's considered to be an absolute pinnacle of the zombie genre, but at the time, movie goers might have been wishing for a "Dawn of the Dead Part 2." Instead, what they got was a maddening villain, a claustrophobic underground setting, and one of the most iconic undead characters in cinema. We're speaking, of course, about "Bub," the captive zombie who slowly seems to be remembering snippets of his former life. The film's combination of Bub's redemptive story arc with mankind's fight for survival from the zombie plague that's taken over the world is just note-perfect.
#5: "One Cut of the Dead" (2017)
Oh, what to do with the zombie film in 2017? Make it? Remake it? Remake it again? Or, try something new with an established formula? "One Cut of the Dead" decided to try and do just that with its premise of a meta movie-within-a-movie, complete with fictitious behind-the-scenes drama. The zombies in this flick are just actors in make-up, but once you learn of the film’s twist they fill you with just as much dread as the real thing! This mixture of cinema handiwork (the titular "one cut" continuous shot in the first act) and the feel-good story of a crew trying to make their film a success, actually did something new for the genre. And it worked!
#4: "Shaun of the Dead" (2004)
While we're on the subject of doing something new, what about satire? There's a fine line between satire and parody, but "Shaun of the Dead" combined the former with some absolutely loving tributes to the genre Edgar Wright obviously holds in such high regard. The film just nails poking gentle fun at the established zombie tropes, while also holding the narrative threads of its characters in its creative hand. Moreover, the zombie attacks are genuinely harrowing, and profoundly gory when they have to be, and Shaun is just a great hero. Honestly, the pathos behind the scene when Shaun is forced to confront his mother's turning gets us every time. Consider this one a modern classic.
#3: "The Return of the Living Dead" (1985)
If George Romero is the king of zombie cinema, then Dan O'Bannon just has to be a crown prince. That's because the influence of "The Return of the Living Dead" has never really gone away. Some eighties horror movies are products of their time, for better or worse, but this franchise seems to actually gain fans every year, including tons of young people. Perhaps it was the film's punk rock spirit and soundtrack, its devil-may-care attitude or those amazing effects? Whatever it is, there's no doubting that "The Return of the Living Dead," and its first two sequels, still stand as some of the best and most entertaining zombie movies of all time.
#2: "Dawn of the Dead" (1978)
George A. Romero wasn't just a zombie filmmaker. He made a plethora of great films outside of this genre, from "Knightriders" and "The Crazies" to "Martin," but we gotta be honest: he'll sort of always be defined by "Dawn of the Dead." And hey, there are worse movies to be that sort of talking point, but it just makes sense when the end results are performing at this kind of level. It's a perfect storm of a shopping mall setting, groundbreaking effects and a prog rock soundtrack to die for. It was the kind of once-in-a-lifetime horror movie experience that left everyone else playing catch up.
Before we name our number one pick, here are some honorable mentions!
"Army of the Dead" (2021)
The Snyder Cut in More Ways Than One
"Isle of the Dead" (1945)
Horror From Hollywood's Golden Age
"Tombs of the Blind Dead" (1972)
Undead Knights Templar Riding Zombie Horses...What More Do You Need?
"Juan of the Dead" (2011)
The First Zombie Movie Shot in Cuba!
"Revenge of the Dead" a.k.a. "Zeder" (1983)
Surreal Italian Horror and Suspense
"The City of the Dead" a.k.a. "Horror Hotel" (1960)
Gothic Horror Classic About Witchcraft and The Devil
#1: "Night of the Living Dead" (1968)
Before any zombie movie director did anything, George A. Romero did everything. This is a good way to look at the man's formative 1968 classic, "Night of the Living Dead," and its lasting influence on horror culture. This wasn't your father's creature feature, nor was it a talky snooze fest with about five minutes of action. No, "Night of the Living Dead" was a tense, violent and disturbing film that pushed the boundaries of the genre at the time. It even boasted an excellent 1990 remake! Today, it's astonishing to view how Romero and his crew developed so much from such a simple set up and execution. It's a definitive example of low budget horror filmmaking with something to say, and the nerve to deliver.