The 7 Most Terrifying Zombie Uprisings in the Movies
Not all zombies are created equal. From shambling, slow-moving corpses to insectoid alien parasites, the living dead have taken myriad forms while rising up against humanity. Here are seven movies that offer truly terrifying takes on a zombie apocalypse.
1. 28 Days Later
Danny Boyle’s post-apocalyptic hit establishes the modern, “fast” zombie—no more listless lollygagging!—that’s been emulated several times since, as well as the popular trope of vicious cannibals that aren’t technically dead. Speedy zombies also allow for a clever storytelling twist: Their agility makes the likelihood of a successful worldwide uprising more plausible.
2. Dead Alive
This tongue-in-cheek, cult-classic chiller from New Zealand was an early, playful work from director Peter Jackson, which means its effects and production design are nothing to scoff at. But what really makes Dead Alive‘s uprising so creepy is that its zombies retain some semblance of humanity before growing ever more physically and psychologically grotesque. An overprotective, undead mother even goes so far as to rip open her womb and stuff her son inside. Yikes!
3. Night of the Living Dead
The lurching-zombie prototype first appeared in George Romero’s black-and-white classic. Though moviemaking’s come a long way since then, the film’s chilling power remains in its low-fi simplicity. The zombies in this classic could almost be sleepwalkers—at least, until they start feasting on flesh.
This found-footage take on a contained uprising follows a gaggle of reporters trapped in a blocked-off apartment complex after a deadly virus has been unleashed. Quarantine turns the heat up on the speedy, enraged monsters of 28 Days, with the slobbering attackers looking more like rabid, bloody animals than undead people-eaters.
In one of the genre’s grossest variations, some slimy, tentacled parasites from space turn infected humans into their puppets. James Gunn’s fresh take on undead anatomy elevates Slither from nasty to downright ghastly, adding unexpected weapons to the zombies’ arsenal of fright.
6. Warm Bodies
These zombies may take over the world and force humans into hiding, but their ability to experience emotions like love and empathy ultimately changes the usual human-undead dynamic. In fact, it’s the militant human resistance against the undead that soon becomes more terrifying than the supposed monsters, or at least the more likable ones; the more heavily decomposed “boneys” are actually pretty freaky.
7. World War Z
A UN investigator (Brad Pitt) travels the world fighting the good fight against massive zombie hordes, making World War Z the rare undead epic that actually addresses the mechanics of a global zombie uprising. It’s most awe-inspiring moment? A shot of endless corpses swarming across a city like bugs, annihilating every bus and building in their path.