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Got brains? These top 5 zombie movies do!

By J. Scott Wilson, Staff writer
Published On: Oct 17 2011 04:39:19 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 17 2013 09:05:27 AM CDT
World War Z

Paramount Pictures

Sure, vampires are all the rage these days. You can't swing an undead cat without hitting a bunch of those pretty, sparkly, moody, mopey bloodsuckers. But they come and go, whereas zombies are forever.

Zombies are the discerning horror fan's monster of choice. Be they the slow, shambling, easy-to-behead traditional type or the super-fast face chompers of some more modern films, there's something about the singularity of purpose that makes a zombie do that zombie thing that makes them the ultimate scare.

In this article, we're going to dish up the five greatest zombie movies of all time. For added difficulty, no George A. Romero films are included, since he basically invented the modern zombie-film genre and is thus in a class by himself.

So read on! You might even find some movies you didn't know about. In fact, we'll just bet you've never heard of this first one ...

zombie Nazis from Dead Snow

No. 5: "Dead Snow" (2009)

That's right, kids, zombie Nazis! If you think Jake Blues hated Illinois Nazis, you'll quickly see he had nothing on the cast of Norwegian unknowns in "Dead Snow" who find their backcountry skiing weekend interrupted by Hitler's undead minions.

"Dead Snow" is the only zombie flick to win an award at the Sundance Film Festival, and despite the no-name cast and occasionally cheesy dialogue, it delivers the goods. The zombies are implacable, and exhibit a level of cunning and strategy not often seen among the undead.

And there's plenty of leftover World War II weaponry laying about, leading to some truly epic zombie killfests with tons of gore polluting pristine Scandinavian snowscapes.

"Dead Snow" also wins, hands down, the title of Best Zombie Flick Tagline Ever: "Ein, Zvei, DIE!"

A good tagline is one thing, but great quotes are another, and our next selection is full of them ...

Army of Darkness movie image

No. 4: "Army of Darkness" (1992)

The world might never have known the wonder that is Bruce Campbell if not for Sam Raimi's trilogy of "Evil Dead" movies, the greatest of which is "Army of Darkness." As shotgun-toting S-Mart clerk Ash, Campbell spits out quotable one-liners almost as often as he dispatches zombies, skeletons, miniature versions of himself and all manner of other bizarre creatures.

Discussion of the plot is pointless, as it is but a loose framework designed to set up fight scenes so over-the-top that they almost beggar reason.

Take for example the climactic tussle, which begins with Ash driving his beat-up Oldsmobile into the enemy army fitted out with everything up to and including a spinning skeleton-whacker.

Ash is the ultimate zombie movie hero, shifting from shotgun-fueled bravado and bloodthirst to screaming, fleeing, pants-wetting terror in the space of seconds. Basically, he's just like us.

Like your zombies with a dose of motherly love? Then try our next selection ...

World War Z

No. 3: "World War Z" (2013)

Brad Pitt in a zombie flick? Believe it or not, it works. "World War Z" both scares and delights in this smart zombie thriller.

Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a United Nations employee who travels the world looking for a cure to end a zombie pandemic. As zombies take over the world, Lane races against the clock to save his family and all of humanity.

Our next selection takes us back to a decade we might not mind seeing get eaten ...

The Return of the Living Dead movie image

No. 2: "The Return of the Living Dead" (1985)

Let's face it, folks, no decade deserved to have its flesh snacked on more richly than the '80s.

"The Return of the Living Dead" was made in 1985, and it's populated with just about every stereotype of the era. In fact, you'll find yourself actually rooting for the zombies frequently.

This movie does make one singular contribution to zombie-flick lore: It's the first film in the genre in which the zombies are actually heard giving voice to their craving for "Brainsssss!" In fact, it's the first one we're aware of where that particular delicacy was specified.

The cause of zombification here was unique, also, coming from a release of mysterious gas of government origin. Government-as-secret-villain was certainly nothing new, but government as zombie creator? That, my friends, was the stuff that tinfoil-hat dreams are made of.

"The Return of the Living Dead" also featured the first speedy zombies, a concept that reached its apex in our final selection ...

28 Days Later movie poster image

No. 1: "28 Days Later" (2002)

The zombie movie genre was just sort of shuffling along when "28 Days Later" burst upon the scene. A group of well-meaning animal activists set loose the wrong chimp in a lab, unleashing the Rage virus upon Great Britain.

These zombies sprint like race horses and feed like Adam Richman at a wing buffet. Their bite, as per traditional zombie lore, will transform the bitten into a zombie. There is no slow conversion here, though. A bad bite will have the victim slavering for a big helping of human in moments.

And if the zombies aren't bad enough, we've got humans in the form of a rogue military outfit who make the undead look like choirboys when it comes to treatment of their fellow beings.

This movie is really the total package, with unlikely heroes, amazing escapes, tremendous acts of courage and scenes so gore-soaked you'll be wiping your home theater screen for days.

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