While their popularity with horror fans have waxed and waned over the years, there is no denying that the zombie genre is a lucrative film market that has produced a number of frightening versions of the undead monsters over the years. Zombies represent our own fear of mortality, disease, and touches upon humanity's base need to survive against all odds.
The best zombie horror movies attack each one of those fears and needs by introducing increasingly deadly and dangerous zombies with various forms of infection for the remains of humanity to struggle against. But the question remains, which horror movie zombies would prove to be the most challenging for human survivors? We'll take a closer look at that today as we rank the 10 most deadly horror movie zombies.
10 NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
While there is a potential argument for 1931's iconic Frankenstein's reanimated corpse-monster as the first example of a zombie, it's largely George A. Romero's classic 1968 Night of the Living Dead that is considered the originator of the zombie genre. Romero's hit horror film spawned a number of sequels and inspired countless other films over the years.
While the zombies introduced in NotLD are slow, shuffling, and follow a strict set of rules that most zombie films follow to this day, they also follow the swarm tactics of most zombies that make them so dangerous. One slow zombie is easy to deal with, but a hundred slow zombies will quickly become a huge problem.
9 ZOMBI 2
Night of the Living Dead was re-edited and released in Italian cinemas under the title Zombi and shared in the success of the original film, so horror director Lucio Fulci set to work on a loosely/not at all related sequel called Zombi 2. This was later released to English audiences under various titles like Zombie: The Dead Walk Among Us and Nightmare Island.
While the zombie's on Fulci's island of Matul share similar traits as the Romero Zombies, their violence and methods of killing their victims before eating them make them a definite threat to humanity. Plus, the film features a battle between a zombie and a shark, which further highlights the deadly potential of Fulci's Zombies.
8 THE WALKING DEAD
Robert Kirkman's long-running The Walking Dead comic series led to the release of the hit AMC series of the same name, which introduced TV fans to a world left devastated by an unknown virus that has already infected every living human on the planet, which doesn't leave much room for a happy ending to these survivors.
While the actual zombies are more of the slow, shuffling type, it's the unsuspecting ones that can cause the most damage. And when a horde or swarm of "walkers" attacks, the options are reduced to run or die. And since the survivors of TWD are already infected, death or severe injury of any kind means they will return as a walker, creating a never-ending cycle of zombies.
7 RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD
George A. Romero's original Night of the Living Dead film was co-written by John Russo, though the two creators eventually had disagreements over the direction of the series. So Russo created his own version of the iconic zombies and was granted the rights to the "Living Dead" iteration while Romero continued with his "... of the Dead" series.
1985 saw the release of Return of the Living Dead, which created its own set of rules for their zombies and also featured the first example of zombies craving brains. The Living Dead are higher on this list due to being incredibly difficult to kill and retaining some level of intelligence that makes them a (sometimes) hilarious yet incredibly dangerous threat.
6 DEAD SNOW
As if zombies weren't bad enough, 2009 Norwegian thriller Dead Snow ups the ante by introducing Nazi Zombies. That's right, a group of friends staying in a cabin disturb some ancient treasure and unleash a horde of undead Nazi soldiers in full SS uniforms that proceed to systematically kill the promiscuous humans as they recover their stolen pieces of treasure.
In most cases in zombie films, snow and extreme cold would prove detrimental to a zombies' effectiveness, as extreme temperatures would presumably ice up their dead and decaying bodies. However, the Nazi Zombies of Dead Snow also share some paranormal abilities as they are influenced by the mythological Draugr, which keep the Nazi soldiers reanimated due to a Norse curse.
5 PLANET TERROR
Robert Rodriguez teamed with Quentin Tarantino to release Grindhouse, a double feature love letter to watching exploitation films in the "grindhouse" era of cinemas. Rodriguez' Planet Terror was the first of the double feature to play in theaters and homaged classic gore horror with a modern twist and a great cast.
What made the zombies of Planet Terror unique was the focus on gross and disgusting effects which played into the fear of infection heavily as an airborne gas spreads across a Texas town. With infected zombies popping bloody growths to infect others is as cringe-worthy and frightening as it is deadly, ranking Planet Terror's zombies high on our list.
4 TRAIN TO BUSAN
While not the first film in the zombie genre to introduce a new version of zombies that defied the rules of Romero, 2016's Train to Busan masterfully took the concept of fast zombies to a whole new level. The slow and shuffling zombies that had dominated decades of horror films was no more, and the zombie genre reached new heights of terror.
Not only were the zombies of Train to Busan quick, so too was the infection, which allowed the zombie plague to spread incredibly fast throughout the titular locomotive. As revealed throughout the film, the infection spread just as quickly through the rest of South Korea, and presumably the world.
3 DAWN OF THE DEAD
Zack Snyder's 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake is usually the film that gets credited with the introduction of fast zombies, and with good reason. Snyder's updated take on Romero's iconic 1978 film may have thrown a few of Romero's rules out the window, but helped change the modern perception of what zombies could and couldn't do and surprised fans who were expecting a straight remake.
The Dawn of the Dead zombies are incredibly dangerous due to not only their speed but the mass swarms of infected that barricade the survivors of the film inside the mall. When the streets of the city are filled to the brim with mindless zombies that can run as fast as their prey, humanity doesn't have much hope.
2 WORLD WAR Z
2013's World War Z was based on the bestselling book World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks, though the film failed to really adapt the book in any way besides the global threat of the zombie phenomenon. Despite this, the film did deliver a new look at how a viral zombie infection would affect the world at large.
World War Z's zombies were also not only incredibly fast, but they redefined how audiences thought of the swarming hordes that had been seen before. These zombies when grouped and moving fast were capable of overturning buses, climbing giant walls, dragging helicopters to the ground, and overrunning cities in minutes.
1 28 DAYS LATER
We could spend a few minutes arguing about the infected humans of 28 Days Later being classified as zombies considering they aren't technically undead, but by that time the entire party would have been turned by the Rage Virus and we'd be running for our lives through the abandoned streets of London.
The Rage Virus was a highly efficacious infection that spreads within seconds after exposure through bodily fluids and decimated the population of the United Kingdom in less than a month. 28 Days Later featured some of the most violent and dangerous infected humans ever seen on the big screen, even if some fans don't want to consider them zombies.