7 Zombie flicks that are scarily good

Despite constant predictions that the genre has finally received succumbed to a fatal head shot, zombie movies just refuse to lay down and die. What is it about this particular strain of horror that keeps us hooked, with seemingly little sign of it returning to whence it came?

Zombie movies often follow similar trajectories – something causes the dead to come back to life, whether it be an infection, a mysterious comet, or some other unspecified factor. As the world begins to burn, a small group of mismatched survivors will be forced to cooperate and seek sanctuary, before eventually being picked off one by one.

We love zombie movies not just because it’s always fun to identify the genre conventions and see how the filmmakers subvert them, but also because in many instances the zombies are just a background threat, and the real drama concerns how humans interact as a group, and how disasters bring out the best and the worst in people. Plus, many of us just plain love a good scare. So deeply are zombies now ingrained into popular culture that you can now even take part in zombie survival games, where as part of a team you have to test your wits and courage to overcome obstacles and find a way to escape.

There are many great examples in the genre, but here we’ve put together our list of six of the best.

Dawn of the Dead

George A. Romero is considered by most critics to be the Godfather of the zombie movie. While he didn’t invent the concept, certainly he breathed life into it with his imaginative and gripping narratives, and innovative use of make-up. Even the weakest of Romero’s “Dead” series has moments of interest, but probably the best-known is 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, where the director deftly satirises consumer culture by stranding his small group of survivors in a shopping mall.

28 Days Later

Not just a fantastic zombie movie, but a rare British hit that doesn’t involve either Potter or period costume, 28 Days Later launched the career of Cillian Murphy, now the star of Peaky Blinders. It’s a fast-paced, witty and nail-bitingly tense film, where the zombies chase their victims down with super-speed, where previously viewers often looked on their slow shuffling with derision. The film’s opening scene, with Jim waking from a coma in an eerily deserted hospital, was very similar to the beginning of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead graphic novel, itself now made into a hit show on AMC.

Shaun of the Dead

Edgar Wright’s fond tribute to the classics takes many standard zombie movie conventions and flips them on their head, from constant teases about whether a character is about to say the z-word (this is something of an unwritten taboo in zombie movies) to Shaun’s decision to find sanctuary in his local pub instead of somewhere more obviously secure, to clear references to other genre staples such as Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Packed with funny lines, sight gags and British comedians and character actors, Shaun of the Dead went on to inspire several other films such as Cuba’s Juan of the Dead, and remains a fan favourite.

Brain Dead

The story of inhibited Wellington youth Lionel’s frantic attempts to hide a growing collection of zombies in his basement from his new girlfriend, Brain Dead was future Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson’s second feature, and it’s a blood-spatter zany joy from start to finish. The denouement, as Lionel heads for a spectacular showdown with a house full of brain-hungry zombies, is a ludicrously gory pantomime spiked with flashes of sheer genius.


Another witty take on zombie movies that takes joy from upsetting conventions is this road-trip horror comedy, soon to have a sequel. Featuring an all-too-brief cameo from SPOILER ALERT Bill Murray, this caper is played more for laughs than scares, though it still finds room for plenty of the latter. The Hollywood mansion scene is a highlight of a film that remains as watchable the tenth time as it is the first.


A cult “body-horror” film, Re-Animator takes as inspiration a tale by horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, itself a parody of Frankenstein which is arguably one of the first zombie stories. Concerning a medical student whose experiments with bringing the dead back to life go badly awry, this is a low-budget masterpiece that was critically acclaimed and has spawned several sequels, providing genuine scares as well as some sly deadpan wit.

Train to Busan

Just released, and already earning a sterling reputation, is South Korea’s first homegrown zombie flick, Train to Busan, about a group of people trapped on a speeding train while an apocalypse rages in the world outside. Trapping survivors in a confined space is always a neat way of developing character conflict and heightening the sense of danger, and while it will pass many European cinemas by, it’s well worth seeking out if you’re a zombie-fan.