1 of 18 AMC
As The Walking Dead returns for its second season on AMC, we look back at the genre's impact on pop culture to date. Click ahead for our all-time favorite depictions of undead flesh-eaters.
2 of 18 Everett Collection
Night of the Living Dead
George A. Romero's black-and-white classic is the standard by which all other zombie films are measured. Originally conceived as a horror comedy and shot for $114,000, the film follows Ben (Duane Jones), Barbra (Judith O'Dea) and five others trapped in a Pennsylvania farmhouse, fending off flesh-craving reanimated corpses. The film has been oft-imitated and even remade twice, but the original is tough to top.
3 of 18 Jerry Tavin/Everett Collection
Plan 9 from Outer Space
This film focuses on extraterrestrial beings who are trying to stop humans from creating a weapon that would destroy the universe. To do so, the aliens cook up "Plan 9," which involves resurrecting the dead into human-killing zombies.
4 of 18 Everett Collection
Day of the Dead
The irrepressible zombie-film auteur George A. Romero kept the genre lurching along with this 1985 film — the last of his Dead trilogy — about zombies overrunning the United States, where some normal-human soldiers and scientists are holed up in a Florida bunker. The humans do a bad job of getting along, and their underground hideaway inevitably is invaded by the undead.
5 of 18 Fox Searchlight
28 Days Later
This 2002 British flick, directed by Slumdog Millionaire's Danny Boyle, perhaps brought new interest to the genre, even though many purists argue that the zombies move far too fast. The film follows Jim (Cillian Murphy) and three other survivors struggling to navigate through London after society has been ravaged by a "rage" virus. The film spawned the sequel 28 Weeks Later.
6 of 18 Strike Entertainment
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
It's not that this remake is necessarily better than Romero's 1978 original follow-up to Night of the Living Dead. But its more modern feel — and gorier sensibilities — make the pretty ordinary story of a bunch of Midwesterners fending off zombies in a shopping mall much more entertaining. Directed by 300's Zack Snyder, the chaotic first 20 minutes instantly put you on the edge of your seat.
7 of 18 Elite Entertainment
This film's cult status was crowned by a reference to it in the 1999 best-picture Oscar winner American Beauty. Based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, the 1985 film (about a medical student who goes mad over his ability to revive dead tissue, then dead people) mixes gore, camp, humor and obscenity — all encapsulated by a sex scene involving a living decapitated head.
8 of 18 Universal Pictures/Everett Collection
Army of Darkness
The final film in director Sam Raimi's Evil Dead horror comedy series, this flick focused more on slapstick than gore. B-movie king Bruce Campbell reprises his role of Ash Williams, who is transported to medieval England. To make it back home, he must find a book of ancient spells, but when he does, an army of undead goons are unleashed. The film's meager budget shows in almost every frame, but come on, it's a lot of fun to watch a guy buzz through zombies with a chain saw.
9 of 18 Columbia Pictures
This 2009 zombie comedy was a critical and (surprise) commercial success. Set in postapocalyptic America after mad-cow disease has turned most of the humans into zombies, the film stars Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin.
10 of 18 Everett Collection
Long before Peter Jackson ran Rings around box offices and the Oscars, he displayed his monstrously horrific/comedic chops with this kooky 1992 tale about a geeky guy whose domineering mother embarrasses him — especially after she gets bitten by a monkey, dies and turns into a zombie. She turns her nurse and minister into zombies, they have a zombie baby, and, well, it just keeps getting worse for the young man.
11 of 18 Kobal Collection
Zombie Hoping to capitalize on the success of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead, Italian horror legend Lucio Fulci helmed this story about a snoopy journalist and his not-so-bright girlfriend who explore a mysterious Caribbean island only to discover that voodoo has turned the natives into zombies. The film was scorned for its graphic violence, most notably in memorable scenes that depict a main character's eye being gouged out by a piece of splintered wood and a zombie fighting a tiger shark underwater.
12 of 18 Universal Pictures
Shaun of the Dead
This romantic comedy zombie spoof, follows Shaun (Simon Pegg), who tries to win back his girlfriend and reconcile with his mother all while fighting off an uprising of the living dead.
13 of 18 Everett Collection
The "Thriller" Music Video Released in 1983, it still stands as the most influential pop-music video ever. Wonderfully cinematic, the 14-minute tour de force featured Michael Jackson leading a singing and dancing group of zombies. The video was directed by John Landis, whose horror credits included An American Werewolf in London and the first part of Twilight Zone: The Movie, and scary-movie vet Vincent Price supplied the spoken part.
14 of 18 IFC
We love zombies, and we love Big Brother. This BAFTA-nominated miniseries brings those two together when the TV set for the famed reality show becomes the last stronghold for survivors fighting off a zombie attack. As if reality TV wasn't frightful enough!
15 of 18 Capcom
This game finally let players enjoy a story as complex as any zombie movie while also letting them control the carnage. The original game focused on a task force trying to escape a mansion crawling with mutant zombies in the infected Raccoon City. The franchise produced plenty of chilling sequels and has been adapted into a movie series.
16 of 18 Electronic Arts
Left 4 Dead
Following the path Resident Evil blazed, this video-game franchise follows four (get it?) survivors who battle against hoards of Pennsylvania residents infected with "Green Flu," a highly contagious virus that causes aggression and loss of higher brain function.
17 of 18 The Island Def Jam Music Group
The Cranberries' "Zombie" Music Video
So, this video has nothing to with brain-eating creatures, but the song is about survival. Written in protest of war in Northern Ireland, the song's lyrics hauntingly describe the effects of "their tanks, and their bombs and their guns." The 1995 single remains one of the band's biggest hits.
18 of 18 Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
You could argue that the musician and film director is as scary as any zombie ever to hit the big screen. He named his hard rock band after White Zombie, a classic film starring Bela Lugosi and he’s spent most of his postmusic career directing such gorefests as House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil's Rejects and a re-imagined Halloween series.