Best Zombie Movies – Great Zombie Films

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 9:04 am

This list of the best zombie movies of the ‘80s includes masterpieces from George Romero, as well as Italian directors such as Lamberto Bava and Lucio Fulci. And let’s not forget about an up-and-coming young director by the name Sam Raimi. A few of the entries may not feature your classic rise-from-the-grave zombies, but they’re still widely accepted as being part of the genre. So take a look, add a few to your Netflix queue, and get ready for some bloody fun.

Speaking of Netflix, you can get all the films listed below from the world’s largest online movie rental service. Signing up is a snap, and you can even try a free Netflix membership to see what the fuss is about. We do get a commission if you sign up, but it all goes right back into the site. Besides, I’ve been a Netflix customer for over 5 years, so I really do believe in their superior service and affordable prices.

Day of the Dead (1985) – In this third zombie film from director George Romero, the Earth has been largely overrun by the undead. Only small pockets of humanity remain, and these are mostly military compounds located deep underground. This film follows one such group as it slowly comes apart at the seams due to prejudice, lust, tyranny, and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. It also introduces the notion that some zombies may retain memories of their former lives, and this is explored through the delightful character of Bub. Whatever you do, don’t pick up the remake starring Ving Rhames and Mena Suvari by mistake.

Return of the Living Dead (1985) – Of all the best zombie movies of the ’80s, this is my personal favorite due to its ability to mix dark humor with plenty of gore-filled moments. These zombies don’t go down from a headshot, either, and even incinerating them only adds to the problem. Written by Dan O’Bannon (Alien), the film stars Clu Gulagher as a warehouse owner who must team up with punk rockers and a Nazi war criminal to survive the relentless onslaught of the undead. And Linnea Quigley looks oh-so-fine running around in nothing but a pair of leg warmers. Beware of the sequel, as it’s essentially the same film played for laughs (which fails on every level).

Demons (1985) – Some might argue that this Lamberto Bava gorefest isn’t a zombie movie, because those who get turned never really reanimate. I’m putting it on the list anyway, and anyone who disagrees is welcome to bitch about it in our comments section. A group of moviegoers receive tickets for a special screening at a creepy Berlin theatre, and one by one they’re slowly transformed into bloodthirsty demonic creatures. The gruesome effects pull no punches, and the rockin’ soundtrack features music from Motley Crue, Accept, Billy Idol, The Scorpions, and…Rick Springfield?!

Re-Animator (1985) – Seeking to conquer death, medical student Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) heads to the fictional Miskatonic University and rents a room from nice-guy med student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott). There he continues with his experiments, injecting a glowing green substance into dead animals and people in order to revive them. But West can never get the dosage quite right, and his subjects usually come back with a desire to do something horrible to any living person they come across. Heavy on the gore, the film also provides plenty of laughs and delightfully twisted performance from Combs. One of the most memorable scenes occurs when a professor with a severed head performs oral sex on the dean’s lovely daughter (Barbara Crampton).

Night of the Creeps (1986) – Those looking for great zombie movies may want to take a gander at this forgotten gem from the 1980s. It combines zombies, space aliens, sentient leeches, and even an escaped mental patient. Meant to spoof the horror genre, it manages to deliver equal parts comedy and terror as zombies gather en force for the frat house finale. And when our hero arms himself with a flamethrower and shotgun…well, that’s when things really start cooking.

Join Netflix and choose from any of the zombie movies on this list for a low monthly price.

Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) – Bill Pullman stars as a Harvard man hired by a pharmaceutical company to travel to Haiti and investigate a drug used in Voodoo rituals. The company is interested in mass producing the compound, but our intrepid hero soon finds himself in the middle of a revolution and facing down a sinister Voodoo priest. If you’ve ever wanted to see Bill Pullman have a nail driven through his scrotum, then this is the film to see (as it doesn’t happen in While You Were Sleeping).

Night of the Comet (1984) – After a massive comet passes Earth, most of the population is reduced to either red dust or transformed into bloodthirsty zombie-like creatures. A few normal people are still alive, however, and this includes a pair of Valley Girl sisters who just so happen to have survivalist training. While it certainly hasn’t aged well, it remains a good zombie movie for those looking to relive the glory days of the 1980s. Heck, it even features the video game Tempest as a plot point.

The Evil Dead (1981) – In this low-budget classic, a group of college buddies head to a cabin in the woods for some fun, but they quickly run afoul of nightmarish creatures known as Deadites. Bruce Campbell (and his chin) star as Ashley J. Williams, the plucky hero who must risk life and limb to survive through the night. Raimi demonstrates his over-the-top directorial style that would later thrill audiences in such films as Spider-Man and Drag Me to Hell, and none other than Joel Coen would cut his teeth in the business by serving as assistant editor. Stephen King liked the film, gave it a recommendation, and the rest is history.

Evil Dead II (1987) – In a sequel that draws heavily from the first film, Bruce Campbell returns as Ash to battle more demonic undead. The effect are far superior this time around, and Raimi manages to use that to maximum effect. From severed hands with a mind of their own to possessed rocking chairs, the film combines graphic horror and gore with something akin to the Three Stooges on acid. An absolute must-see for fans looking to explore the best zombie movies of the ‘80s.

City of the Living Dead (1980) – Also known as The Gates of Hell, this Lucio Fulci film kicks off with a priest hanging himself in a cemetery. This opens a portal to the netherworld, and soon zombies with levitation, teleportation, and heightened strength are dispatching people left and right. Lots of citizens get the brains squeezed out, a young man gets a giant drill through the head, and one poor woman vomits up her own intestines in a particularly memorable scene. If you’d like to scar someone for life, be sure to throw this great zombie movie in the DVD player.

The Beyond (1981) – Many Lucio Fulci fans consider this Italian film to be among his best work. It all begins in 1927 at a Louisiana hotel, when a lynch mob kills an artist suspected of being a sorcerer. Decades later, a woman renovates the hotel and unknowingly activates a portal between the land of the living and the dead. That’s when the zombies show up, as well as the face-eating tarantulas. The second part of Fulci’s unofficial Gates of Hell trilogy, this gore-stained masterpiece finally received a DVD release in 2000, with an endorsement from none other than Quentin Tarantino.

That concludes our picks for the best zombie movies of the ‘80s. For more great zombie movies, be sure to check out the following lists:

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 14th, 2010 at 9:04 am and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

9 Responses to “Best Zombie Movies – Great Zombie Films”

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February 9, 2012

Joanna

I am trying to find the name of a movie I saw in the 70′s. Doesn’t mean it was made in tne 70′s. I think it was black and white and starts with a soldier being killed. The next thing you know he’s making his way home but needs peoples blood to stay alive (but not a vampire). Does this movie ring a bell with anyone? Thx!

February 9, 2012

Shane

Joanna,

You’re thinking of Deathdream (aka Dead of Night). It was released in 1974 and was directed by the late, great Bob Clark (Black Christmas).

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