If there’s one thing horror fans love, it’s the undead.
Flesh-eaters. Biters. Walkers. Lamebrains. Whatever you call em, zombies are often terrifying, sometimes comical, and always a good storytelling device. Watching people try to survive hordes of these rotting, reanimated corpses on the big screen gives us thrills. It also reminds us of the value of humanity, quizzes us on our own survival skills, and (hopefully) prepares us for the impending apocalypse.
These are the best zombie flicks streaming right now.
Train To Busan (2016)
Run Time: 118 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
This South Korean zombie thriller is one hell of a ride, literally. The story focuses on an overworked dad named Seok-woo is riding the rails with his neglected daughter, Su-an when a Z-word outbreak strikes, putting the passengers in grave danger. As Seok-woo and Su-an try to make their way to the front of the train for safety, they confront legions of turned riders, sequences that feel claustrophobic and terrifying thanks to contorting bodies and shaky camera angles. Think Snowpiercer, but you know, with zombies.
Run Time: 105 min | IMDb: 6.3/10
Martin Freeman stars in this Aussie zombie drama about a father searching for a safe place for his family amidst a zombie outbreak. Freeman plays Andy, a fairly easy-going guy who’s forced to make some tough calls when he gets stranded in the Outback with his newborn daughter during the apocalypse. He fights off a few of the walking dead, but the real danger comes from the living – what’s left of humanity after the contagion has spread. Freeman rarely plays the rugged hero type, but he does so convincingly here, and while there aren’t hordes of biters wandering the desert, the isolationist aspect of things makes this horror story feels eerily plausible.
Little Monsters (2019)
Run Time: 93 min | IMDb: 6.3/10
Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o stars in this darkly comedic zombie flick, playing a plucky schoolteacher charged with keeping her class safe amidst a surprise zombie outbreak. Josh Gad joins her as Teddy, an obnoxious television personality who hosts the class on the field trip gone wrong and — with the help of a washed-up musician — the three try to fight off the undead and not kill each other in the process. Nyong’o full of bite and wit as she launches into these biters with nothing but a shovel, and it’s a total gorefest, which should make the strong-of-stomach particularly happy.
Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
Run Time: 96 min | IMDb: 7.9/10
The unlikely origin of the modern horror film: a farmhouse in the rural area surrounding Pittsburgh where director George Romero shot most of Night of the Living Dead. Working on a tiny budget, he not only created the modern movie zombie but made horror safe for grimy, uncomfortable visions taken from everyday life, helping to pull the genre out of gothic castles and away from theatrical monsters. Night of the Living Dead remains essential viewing and not just because of its place in history. It’s still incredibly scary, in large part because Romero had such humble resources. It doesn’t play like a nightmare from long ago and far away. It has the immediacy of a news bulletin.
Run Time: 101 min | IMDb: 7/10
This ’90s Western horror flick stars Guy Pierce as a shamed Lieutenant in the Mexican American War who, after playing dead on the battlefield, is sent to a remote outpost in the Sierra Nevada as penance for his cowardice. While there, he investigates the claims on a lone soldier who says his wagon trail became trapped by snow, and people were forced to eat each other to stay alive. A Native American myth (which states that eating a man means taking his strength, but it also causes a person to crave the taste of human flesh) ends up being true as Pierce’s Boyd quickly discovers while he tries to protect his men and avoid eating people.
Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Run Time: 91 min | IMDb: 7.3/10
Another classic zombie comedy flick, this ’80s film is credited with revolutionizing the genre. It’s the first movie that introduced the popular concept of zombies eating people’s brains (as opposed to their flesh). The story follows a warehouse owner, a couple of his employs, a mortician, and some teenage punks as they fight their way through the undead, who’ve been accidentally awakened by a chemical gas leak. Not only is this the first film to specify a zombie’s diet, this is also the first film to show zombies that can run, talk, and can’t be killed with the routine “head shot.” So yeah, they’re terrifying.
Run Time: 88 min | IMDb: 5.7/10
Elijah Wood and Rainn Wilson star in this absurd dark comedy that manages to elevate the zombie horror genre. How? By giving us a virus that only turn preadolescents into crazed flesh-eaters. Wood, Wilson, and Alison Pill play teachers at an elementary school in Fort Chicken, Illinois. When a student eats a contaminated chicken nugget containing a mutant strain of a virus that turns her into a mindless cannibal, the teachers are forced to fight their way through swaths of bite-sized biters to survive. It’s ridiculous and full of humor, and yet, there’s something deeply disturbing about child zombies.
Run Time: 121 min | IMDb: 6.3/10
This South Korean period zombie flick is just weird and gory enough to stick with you long past its end credits. The story follows an exiled prince who returns home in the middle of a zombie plague outbreak. He travels the country, trying to avoid infection and bringing his late brother’s family safely to the palace, but he’s forced to confront things even more terrifying than the undead — like war ministers intent on launching a coup against his father by weaponizing the flesh eaters.
Life After Beth (2014)
Run Time: 89 min | IMDb: 5.6/10
Aubrey Plaza and Dane DeHaan star in this horror comedy about a guy named Zach mourning the loss of his girlfriend, only to discover she’s come back to life. Plaza stars as Beth, the dead girl revived, who begins exhibiting strange behavior, eventually going into full-blown zombie mode while her devoted boyfriend Zach (DeHaan) tries to manage her mood swings and her pesky craving for human flesh. John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon play Beth’s parents, who hilariously try to cover-up their daughter’s current undead state. Watching Plaza play a moody, angst-ridden walking corpse is one hell of a good time, and DeHaan is a worthy straight-laced foil. Some guest appearances by Anna Kendrick and Matthew Gray Gubler are not to be missed.
Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005)
Run Time: 77 min | IMDb: 7.3/10
Look, not all zombie flicks need to be gory, nightmare-inducing survival stories. Some can be sweet, Gothically romantic, and animated. And by “some” we mean this creation from, who else, Tim Burton. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter voice the leads of this family-friendly zombie tale which centers on a young man ho accidentally weds a young woman’s corpse. As he journeys through the Land of the Dead to get back to his one true love — a very alive woman named Victoria — he helps his new bride let go of her past and find peace. It’s a beautifully wrought, gothic romance, and it’s got enough undead action to justify a place on this list.