Dawn of the Dead (1978)
This Romero masterpiece may not be the one that started it all, but it sure set the gold standard for all zombie films to come. Blood, guts, and gore are aplenty, but at its core is a very engaging character study of a small group of survivors. Ken Foree really shines as Peter the S.W.A.T. team hero. The intensity of the entire film can be seen on the stillness of his face in the final scene when, in the face of certain death, he prepares to kill himself.
White Zombie (1932)
The only true classic zombie film from the 1930s golden age of horror. Released the year following Universal's smash Dracula, Lugosi creates yet another iconic horror character by the name of Murder Legendre, a sinister cloak figure of pure evil commanding an army of living dead. I'm also pretty sure it was the first time the word “zombie” was used in a film. Why this film isn't as beloved as Dracula and Frankenstein, I will never know.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
This 1968 low-budget independent about radiation from a fallen satellite reanimating the newly dead is a terrifying exercise in gritty horror. A lone farmhouse sets the perfect tone for this claustrophobic nightmare. It also contains one of the most copied "shock" ending ever. The still frame end titles are still the ultimate bummer.
From the opening scene of a seemingly empty boat (except for worms and maggots) floating off the shore of New York City, a dreary tone is set in motion for a new kind of zombie flick. Boom! The silver screen's first fat zombie attacks and an instant classic is born. Not to mention the underwater zombie vs. shark situation that is still a "how the fuck did they film that?” moment. [Lucio] Fulci is a genius.
Bob Clark, director of the classic A Christmas Story, along with star Alan Ormsby concocted this bizarre film featuring a corpse named Orville. A group of hippies head to a remote island in an attempt to raise the dead—and guess what? It works. One-of-a-kind weirdness.
28 Days Later… (2002)
Just when you thought you had seen it all in the zombie game, along comes Danny Boyle and his running zombies...and fuck, does it ever work. Animal activists release a rage monkey virus and all hell breaks loose. Sure, some bits towards the end get a bit too Day of the Dead, but still it's a killer new twist.
City of the Living Dead (1980)
Fulci does it again. A grim faced priest hangs himself in a cemetery and the gates of Hell are open for business. A bizarre, creepy film that seems to always be engulfed in clouds of ever-present blowing fog. Contains an incredible score by Fabio Frizzi.
Jeffrey Combs runs wild as Herbert West and a new style of living dead film is thrust into the world. This messy, crazy, and sometimes hilarious story of dead tissue re-animation contains one of the most memorable scenes ever involving a very nude Barbara Crampton strapped to an examination table being menaced by Dr. Hill's head looking for head.
Zombie Lake (1981)
Zombie Nazis in a lake. Nuff said.
Rob Zombie is a music artist and auteur filmmaker. He is a seven-time Grammy-nominated recording artist, having sold more than 15 million albums worldwide to date. He also helped reboot the classic cult horror film Halloween with his own remake as well as sequel and many other twisted films. Zombie is also a music video director, who has worked with Ozzy Osbourne.