Widely considered the first full-length zombie film, White Zombie tells the story of Madeleine (Madge Bellamy), who is transformed into a zombie by the evil voodoo master "Murder" Legendre (Bela Lugosi) during a trip to Haiti. It was panned upon its release but has enjoyed a greater appreciation from zombie fans in recent decades. And future horror-meister Rob Zombie named his band after it.
Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
Considered by many to be the worst film of all time, Ed Wood’s sci-fi flick centers on an alien plot to keep humanity from creating a weapon that would destroy the universe. The problem is, the aliens are having trouble getting the attention of Earth’s leaders. So they cook up a plan to do so: resurrecting Earth’s recently dead. Chaos ensues, and Wood’s place in film history is solidified. Decades later, the film would be called out in a pair of Seinfeld episodes.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The granddaddy of them all, the first of George A. Romero's zombie films was slammed for its violence upon release but was added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 1999. The claustrophobic black-and-white film didn't use the word "zombie" to describe its undead creatures, but it laid the groundwork for zombie cinema that would come.
The Evil Dead (1981)
Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s classic is as gruesome as it is beloved. Wildly popular, influential and just plain sickening, the film revolves around a group of college students vacationing in an isolated Tennessee cabin when they unwittingly unleash demons. It spawned two sequels and a remake produced by Raimi and Campbell.
An example of B-movies at their best, this film based on an H. P. Lovecraft story centers on scientist Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), who is obsessed with creating a compound to bring the dead back to life. Things don’t go as planned, and a trip to the morgue devolves into reanimated bodies running amok and wreaking havoc. A detached head coming back to life is among the film’s more enduring images.
Pet Sematary (1989)
The trouble in this Stephen King adaptation begins when a family lays its cat to rest on a Native American burial ground. Kitty comes back to life – but it’s not the friendly feline it once was. Things only get worse when the family’s young son dies and the father decides it's a good idea to bury him in the same cemetery. The undead boy doesn't turn out to be too friendly, either.
28 Days Later (2002)
Future Oscar winner Danny Boyle’sstylish film kicked off the zombie craze that would infect the rest of the decade and beyond. Its stirring opening -- in which Alex (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in a hospital, unaware of the month-old zombie outbreak that took place while he was comatose -- later was imitated by The Walking Dead. The film spawned a sequel, 28 Weeks Later, in 2007. And unlike the slow-walking creatures that haunt many zombie films, the rage-virus-infected humans of this movie can run to catch their prey.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Shaun (co-writer Simon Pegg) is having a rotten day: Just after his girlfriend dumps him, the undead rise to wreak havoc on London.Now it's up to our slacker hero to step up and save the day. Edgar Wright’s British horror comedy is among the best-reviewed zombie films, with 91 percent "fresh" rating on RottenTomatoes.com
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Fanboy favorite Zack Snyder made his feature debut with his remake of George A. Romero’s 1978 classic. Its opening sequence showing the dawn of a zombie apocalypse -- packed with car crashes and bloodthirsty children -- was praised for convincingly rendering what the genre's previous films had not. It also grossed more than $100 million worldwide.
Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone made flesh-eating humans funny in the film that knocked 2004’s Dawn of the Dead as the top-grossing zombie film domestically.
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Co-written by Joss Whedon with his Buffy the Vampire Slayer collaborator Drew Goddard, The Cabin in the Woods turned horror-film tropes on their heads. It follows five college kids who spend an evening in a cabin that holds a secret. To say more would be to delve into spoiler territory. Suffice it to say, there is something undead lurking in those woods.
The zombie romantic comedy is an adaptation of Isaac Marion’s popular novel. Starring Nicholas Hoult as undead heartthrob R and Teresa Palmer as his romantic interest, Julie, the film tells the story of a love literally transcending death.