FYI: Just because Halloween parties are a no-go this year doesn’t mean you have to forgo celebrating the holiday entirely. Yeah, I’m bummed I won’t be able to show off my killer (har har) costume to anyone other than my roommates, but you better believe I’m still partaking in all the other spooky szn traditions. You can catch me in a Halloween candy stupor throughout the entire month of October, streaming a different scary movie every single night.
One of the trickiest parts of Halloween is deciding which treat to eat because there are so many options. Another sticky sitch? Choosing which scary movie is worth your time. You’ve got horror-comedy movies, ghost movies, movies that claim to be the scariest films of all time, plus *new* horror movies. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to watch ’em all. Zombie movies, I’d argue, are in a category all on their own. Mastering the high-low art of ridiculous-yet-delicious plot lines along with special-effects-filled legitimately freaky scares, zombie movies are timeless—especially thanks to genius directors who dream up new and terrifying ways for the flesh-eating beings to symbolize modern-day nightmares. Anyways, enough nerding out. Let’s get on with this list of the best zombie movies of all time.
Train to Busan (2016)
I, too, once dreamed of going on one of those futuristic bullet trains. Then I watched Train to Busan and now I’m not too sure. Something about a deadly zombie outbreak and being trapped in a high-speed cylinder makes me feel a bit hesitant. The film is at once a zombie horror and a social commentary on class, with exhilarating cinematography that adds to an already thrilling ride.
Dead Alive (1992)
Dead Alive (originally titled Braindead) is a pretty hilarious story about a son trying to keep his overprotective-mother-turned-zombie from infecting the neighbors and unleashing flesh-eaters into the community. It’s sprinkled with nightmarish scenes…so if you’re prone to queasiness, maybe avoid this one.
Little Monsters (2019)
Little Monsters is a cute lil zom-com starring Lupita Nyong’o as a school teacher who must save her students from a zombie outbreak. Josh Gad co-stars.
A father’s love has no bounds—even if his daughter becomes infected with a disease that turns her into a cannibalistic flesh-eater. Schwarzenegger plays the dedicated dad who will stop at nothing to save his girl, played by Abigail Breslin.
Cemetery Man (1994)
Apparently killing the recently buried dead who come back to life as zombies is just part of the job as a cemetery caretaker in Italy. Also a requirement: falling in love with a new widow whose husband is buried in the same cemetery. Cemetery Man is kinda a love story, kinda a bloody gory zombie movie.
If you wanna go all O.G. zombie movie, look no further than this 1979 classic. You’re in for good ol’ fashioned rising from the dead, mummy walking, and quintessential ’80s melodramatic screaming. It came out waaaay before CGI and it’s still terrifying, so shoutout to those make-up and costume designers.
Blood Quantum (2019)
Usually when you come out of a zombie movie, you can’t stop thinking about all the gore and those adrenaline-pumping scenes. It’s not as common to walk away more informed on significant historical and cultural matters. But Blood Quantum manages to leave you with both. The film explores racism, colonialism, and the very real threat of extinction that Indigenous communities face. It’s a cultural critique on marginalization, while also providing a healthy dose of blood n’ guts.
Cabin in the Woods (2012)
At first, you might think that Cabin in the Woods is just your run-of-the-mill classic horror movie about a group of friends going to a secluded cabin deep in the forest. But things get more than a little freaky, and I’m not talking about the zombies. Chris Hemsworth AND Jesse Williams star, btw. Fans of Black Mirror will be obsessed.
The Cured (2018)
After finding a cure for a zombie plague that erupted across Europe, those who were infected with the disease can rejoin society. But people question whether the once-infected zombies are actually cured or if they’ll eventually revert back to their murderous ways.
The Evil Dead (1981)
When a group of friends hike to a cabin in the middle of the woods for a fun night off the grid, they find a sketchy old book that they should probs avoid but **shockingly** they do in fact open it and subsequently end up reawakening the dead. Now they must fight to survive or else become possessed and part of the evil dead. A major old school gory zombie movie with lots of guts, blood, and dismembered body parts. Not for the faint-hearted.
Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998)
You can’t talk zombie and not mention Scooby-Doo. It’s just not right. ICYMI, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island is the OG zombie movie from your childhood that lowkey still slaps because of course it does.
The Ravenous (2017)
We love a good cannibalistic zombie thriller!! French film The Ravenous skips the usual build-up of a zombie movie and starts right in the middle of all the action. Set in a small town outside of Quebec, the zombies in this indie flick are more human than monsters, which makes it 10x more scarier.
Night of the Comet (1984)
Night of the Comet is a classic ’80s teen movie but instead of a suburban high school, it’s set in an apocalyptic, post-comet world. Think killer perms and leg warmers with a side of zombies and fighting for survival.
Life After Beth (2014)
Aubrey Plaza plays Beth, a girl who dies and is then resurrected as a zombie. As an undead girl, she wreaks havoc on her boyfriend’s life…ya know, just like any of us would.
The Rezort (2016)
Hmm…a movie about a bunch of zombies who get sent to live on a luxury island resort, where rich tourists can hunt them on a safari vacation. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?
The Beyond (1981)
The Beyond is notorious for making, like, zero sense whatsoever. But who cares? It’s a zombie movie. It doesn’t need to. It’s about a hotel that was built on one of the gates of hell. (Oops!) Please do not watch this if you have a weak stomach.
Night of the Creeps (1986)
A movie about frat guys called Night of the Creeps? I’m listening. In this tongue-in-cheek ’80s movie, two guys accidentally unleash a zombie corpse on the night of their fraternity initiation. It’s wild.
The Mad (2007)
The Mad is a super-cheesy comedy that taps into the whole mad-cow-disease thing. Everyone turns into zombies after eating some contaminated burgers. Issa mess!
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
ICYMI: Director George Romero’s low-budget classic basically paved the way for every zombie movie you’ve ever seen. More than that, the movie remains incredibly chilling in its own right: Seven people who are trapped in a rural farmhouse get picked off one by one by a bunch of flesh-eating monsters. The realization that the monsters’ victims aren’t just killed but also reanimate as living corpses is drawn out to expertly horrifying effect.
Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Often credited as the first movie to introduce the concept of zombies eating brains, Return of the Living Dead follows a ragtag group of people—including a warehouse owner, a mortician, and a gang of teenage punks—that faces off against a crew of zombies. Some extra behind-the-scenes drama: The film sparked a legal battle with George Romero, who was pissed that RotLD was in competition with his own sequel, Day of the Dead, which opened in theaters that same year.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Here’s your *other* Night of the Living Dead sequel. This one, from George Romero and Dario Argento, follows the broader effects of the zombie pandemic that originated in NotLD. The incredibly intense and sharply written film focuses on a group of survivors barricaded inside a shopping mall. Yikes!
28 Days Later (2002)
Sometimes you just need to immerse yourself in an incredibly bleak post-apocalyptic world to distract yourself from the actual news. It’s fun! Picking up in England shortly after a highly contagious and mysterious virus has triggered the collapse of society, Danny Boyle’s drama follows one survivor (Cillian Murphy) after he wakes up from a coma and encounters other people struggling to cope with WTF just happened.
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Yes, this film is a sequel to 28 Days Later, but it features an all-new cast and a new director. As the title suggests, we’re now about six months out from the epidemic that destroyed society, and there’s an intricate and ultimately doomed (spoiler: zombies are relentless) military effort to establish a safe zone from the virus in London.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Edgar Wright’s punchy zom-rom-com (yep, that’s a thing) is essential viewing if you don’t think you like zombie movies. An aimless, recently dumped slacker (Simon Pegg) finally finds the direction his life has been lacking when a zombie apocalypse overtakes London, forcing him to take charge as his friends struggle to survive. Alongside the laughs, there are plenty of real scares. A strong emotional arc too.
Day of the Dead (1985)
As it turns out, the zombie genre features a lot of genuinely great sequels. Picking up some time after Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead is set in a world that has been overrun by zombies. Survivors live in underground bunkers. A group of scientists is struggling to find a cure to the pandemic. And even by the standards of this series, it’s dark as hell.
One of the best found-footage movies ever made, REC follows a reporter and her cameraman into an apartment complex in Barcelona, where the appearance of mysterious and violent symptoms among some residents has sparked an uprising. As things get more and more nightmarish, it’s impossible to look away.
Remember when Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, and Jesse Eisenberg were all in a zombie comedy together? Well, they were. And it’s exactly as delightful as that very brief summary sounds. Zombieland follows Jesse as a nerdy college student trying to survive life after a zombie apocalypse. He ends up on a road trip with three other survivors in search of both a zombie-free sanctuary and—notoriously—the world’s last Twinkie bar.
World War Z (2013)
Brad Pitt stars in this truly good zombie movie as a UN investigator who travels across the world to try to stop a rapidly spreading zombie pandemic. Despite an extremely troubled production—the entire third act was famously rewritten and reshot long after initial filming had wrapped—this is a pretty smart and thrilling movie.
Before you say this doesn’t count as a zombie movie, hear me out. The monster at the center of Mary Shelley’s novel, and this Boris Karloff-starring adaptation, is an artificially reanimated creature made out of corpse parts. Sure, he doesn’t eat brains, and a pretty key part of the story’s subtext is that Frankenstein’s monster might have more humanity than Frankenstein himself, buuut that’s part of what makes this such a great early entry into the zombie genre!
A medical student invents a process for reanimating dead bodies. What could go wrong? Originally planned as a play and later as a TV pilot, Re-Animator definitely earns the X rating it initially received from the MPAA but balances out the gore with some dry dark comedy.
Calling all Tim Burton fans: Frankenweenie is one of his best and most underrated recent films. And while it’s technically about a boy’s friendship with his beloved dog, that dog happens to be undead, so it totally counts. Full of dark humor and references to classic horror tropes, Frankenweenie made me cry hysterically—that’s how in my Franken-feels I was.
The Dead Don’t Die (2019)
Jim Jarmusch’s buzzy zombie film The Dead Don’t Die stars literally all your faves—Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Austin Butler, Tilda Swinton, Danny Glover, and Selena Gomez. Like so many zombie films before it, The Dead Don’t Die is about a small-town zombie invasion. The major difference? It’s a comedy full of biting (hahaha, sorry) wit.
Warm Bodies (2013)
Warm Bodies is the undead romance you never knew you needed. Starring a dreamy-even-though-he’s-playing-a-dead-dude Nicholas Hoult, the movie is told through a zombie’s perspective and follows his journey from brain eater to hopeless romantic. It also delivers a new take on the genre: zombies regaining their humanity, signifying the end of the apocalypse.
Resident Evil (2002)
People usually think of Resident Evil as a horror/science fiction film, but it’s also fully a zombie movie. The plot follows Alice (played by Milla Jovovich) as she battles a corrupt corporation that has created a bioweapon called the T Virus that starts a zombie apocalypse. Of course, there are also a bunch of monsters and mutant animals, so zombies are only half the problem here!
I Am Legend (2007)
Okay, so I Am Legend probably wouldn’t describe *itself* as a zombie film, but that’s basically what it is. Starring Will Smith as one of the only humans left on Earth, the movie takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where a virus has killed almost everyone and turned the rest of the population into “nocturnal mutants” that wander around murdering the few remaining people who are alive. Naturally, Will saves the day…but not before his WONDERFUL DOG DIES, UGH.
Survival of the Dead (2009)
It’s not exactly a good zombie movie, but it is a fun one. Survival of the Dead is—as you probably guessed—about a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by flesh-eating zombies and a group of soldiers who are on a mission to get to an island safe haven. When they arrive, however, it’s not so much what they were hoping for! ’Cause zombies and whatnot.
Some zombie movies are pretty hokey, but this one is just straight-up terrifying. What we have here is a zombie outbreak in an apartment building that’s quickly quarantined by the CDC, meaning there’s no way in and there’s no way out. So yeah, a bunch of humans are stuck trying to outsmart and escape deranged zombies and honestly, no, it doesn’t end well, you guys!
Hunter Levitan is an editorial intern at Cosmopolitan, where you can find her writing about pop culture, beauty, and news (when she’s not worshiping the Cosmo editors).
Emma Dibdin writes about television, movies, and podcasts, with coverage including opinion essays, news posts, episodic reviews and in-depth interviews with creatives.
Hannah Chambers is an entertainment editor at Cosmopolitan.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io