For decades now, the zombie has stood as an iconic monster, taking its place next to vampires, mummies, and werewolves. These five films played a major role in bringing the undead from the dark and into the pop culture mainstream. Follow along as the zombie phenomenon evolves throughout the years.
5) White Zombie
Although not the first work of zombie fiction, White Zombie does have the distinction of being the first full-length zombie film. Starring the great Béla Lugosi, the film follows a young couple as they encounter an evil voodoo master in Haiti, played by Lugosi. He attempts to control the young woman. Many films of the time followed the zombie mythos set forth in White Zombie. That is, until a new classic was created thirty-six years later.
George A. Romero‘s Night of the Living Dead has arguably had the greatest impact on modern zombie culture. Romero did away with the ancient Haitian voodoo and instead brought us a film full of the classic reanimated corpses that we know so well today; feasting on the flesh of the living. The simple plot follows a group of people attempting to survive against the undead and themselves. It is interesting to note that Romero’s monsters are never referred to as zombies in the film, only as ghouls.
After Romero unleashed his vision of undead horror on the world, the new zombie genre he created took off. People loved zombies all over the world, and Italy was no exception. In 1979, director Lucio Fulci took the shock and gore of Romero’s NOTLD to a completely new level. Zombie set the template for every zombie that followed with its attention to make-up effects. Fulci wanted his corpses to look as if they had actually crawled out of the ground. The impact of this film on popular culture has even led home security companies and even the Pentagon to prepare for the impending apocalypse (even if it’s just tongue-in-cheek).
Shaun of the Dead makes this list by setting the standard that every zombie comedy ever made will have to live up to. Simon Pegg plays Shaun, a slacker who realizes it is time to turn his life around. Until the world gets overrun by zombies. Acting as a commentary on blue collar life, Shaun of the Dead simultaneously brings laughs and introspection on monotony in a zombie apocalypse.
Woody Harrelson, Bill Murray, and Twinkies. Just a few of the things that make Zombieland a classic in the zombie genre. One of the few zombie comedies that actually live up to the bar set by Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland follows a group of survivors as they attempt to find home. The heart of Zombieland‘s popularity is the creative filmmaking and smart comedy that is not usually seen in the genre.
These five films highlight not only the best of zombie culture but a perfect evolution into what we have today. Long from being dead, the undead will continue to evolve and maybe a movie or two from this list will be replaced.