The 10 greatest zombie movies ever, ranked

Posters for Dawn Of The Dead, 28 Days Later and Rec
(Image credit: United Film Distribution Company/Fox Searchlight Pictures/Filmax)

The bloody landscape of modern horror cinema is littered with the shuffling, groaning masses of the undead. Zombie folklore actually goes back aeons in human history: the Ancient Greeks had such a fear of living cadavers that archaeologists often find skeletons pinned down by rocks and heavy objects. The concept was repopularised with the cinema of the late ’60s and has since evolved into one of horror’s most enduring and challenging subgenres. Here are the 10 greatest zombie films ever, ranked.

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10. Zombi 2 (Lucio Fulci, 1979)

Zombi 2 melds biblical eeriness with an unparalleled apocalyptic vision. In it, a reporter and a psychic search for a missing doctor on a Caribbean island, encountering voodoo curses and hordes of flesh-eating corpses. Director Lucio Fulci conjures sharp, white-knuckled terror with Italian flair, crafting scenes with both gore and subtle poetic undertones. A chilling masterpiece from one of Europe’s premier horror maestros.

9. Zombieland (Ruben Fleischer, 2009)

Come for the zombies, stay for the Bill Murray cameo! Zombieland cleverly blends humour and terror, navigating a post-apocalyptic America teeming with the undead. Actors Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson embark on a riotous and ultra-violent road trip, searching for both sanctuary and Twinkies. It’s not just about survival – it’s a ripping tale of unlikely friendships and the importance of having a tribe.

8. The Return Of The Living Dead (Dan O’Bannon, 1985)

Dan O’Bannon’s The Return Of The Living Dead combines dark comedy with brash punk rock swagger. When a toxic gas leak reanimates the dead, it’s not just bloody brains on the menu, but sharp wit and absolutely scathing satire. This ’80s cult classic takes a humongous bite out of zombie tropes, delivering some authentically frightening moments interspersed with pure comedic absurdity. It even answers the question of why zombies eat brains.

7. Dead Snow (Tommy Wirkola, 2009)

This Norwegian sleeper infects frosty Scandi landscapes with chilling horror, as unsuspecting skiers confront Nazi zombies buried in Norway's icy expanses. A blend of bleak humour and visceral terror, this film reanimates the undead, proving that when those Greeks pinned down those corpses, they were really onto something. A snowy, heart-pounding delight that deserves way more love among zombie movie enthusiasts.

6. Rec (Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, 2007)

This riveting Spanish horror plunges viewers into a claustrophobic nightmare, as a TV reporter documents a disease outbreak inside an apartment building. With its innovative adaptation of the found-footage approach, Rec delivers steady, nail-biting tension. A masterstroke in atmosphere, it captures raw fear in real time, establishing it as a landmark in the genre.

5. Night Of The Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

Director George A. Romero’s black-and-white opus revolutionised an entire genre, depicting a group of survivors barricading against a rapidly growing army of the undead. More than mere zombies, they symbolise the divisive societal unrest of the day. Claustrophobic, raw and jarringly real, Night… isn’t just a tale of survival, but a stark reflection on human nature under siege. A paragon of tension and cultural critique. Unmissable.

4. Shaun Of The Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004)

Shaun Of The Dead joyfully plundered the zombie genre of all of its beloved cliches, brilliantly synthesising quintessential British humour with gory, brain-devouring chaos. Simon Pegg plays Shaun: a bland, directionless bloke trying to win back his ex amidst a sudden uprising of the undead, which he takes inordinately long to notice. Edgar Wright’s masterpiece proves that all you need to survive the zombie apocalypse is a cricket bat, a pint and impeccable comedic timing.

3. 28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002)

28 Days Later audaciously rejects the shuffling movement associated with previous zombie films, instead uncorking a well-written narrative with a pulsating pace and haunting realism. Director Danny Boyle’s portrayal of a post-apocalyptic London is eerily desolate, as a lone survivor navigates the hair-raising attacks of the infected. A visceral exploration of humanity's fragility amidst chaos, this iconic reimagination of zombie films left an indelible mark.

2. Train To Busan (Yeon Sang-Ho, 2016)

This instant classic from Korea unleashes a relentless locomotive of both horror and heart. Aboard a bullet train, passengers – including a perpetually-preoccupied father and his young daughter – grapple with a dizzying and grisly zombie outbreak. Unflinching suspense and poignant human drama coalesce to propel this film far beyond mere genre confines. It’s an exhilarating, unforgettable journey in survival and redemption.

1. Dawn Of The Dead (George A. Romero, 1978)

The ultimate zombie OG, George A. Romero, returns, elevating the 70s’ increasingly silly horror offerings with another salvo of eye-bulging drama and biting social commentary. As survivors barricade themselves inside a mall amidst a zombie apocalypse, they grapple not just with the undead, but with consumerism’s withering erosion of the human spirit. A chilling reflection on society’s excesses, Romero’s finest moment seamlessly blends gore with profound insights. A timeless classic with brains – both figuratively and literally.

Joe Daly

Hailing from San Diego, California, Joe Daly is an award-winning music journalist with over thirty years experience. Since 2010, Joe has been a regular contributor for Metal Hammer, penning cover features, news stories, album reviews and other content. Joe also writes for Classic Rock, Bass Player, Men’s Health and Outburn magazines. He has served as Music Editor for several online outlets and he has been a contributor for SPIN, the BBC and a frequent guest on several podcasts. When he’s not serenading his neighbours with black metal, Joe enjoys playing hockey, beating on his bass and fawning over his dogs.