World War Z and my top 10 Films of the Zombie Apocalypse


I love me some zombie apocalypse and World War Z was both action packed and thoughtful. The basic premise of the quintessential  zombie movie is intact and well executed: kill zombies and try not to become one, but World War Z also offers an insightful look at how solutions are discovered and applied. Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a husband and father who is asked by surviving members of the UN to leave his family behind and apply his considerable skills to solving the problem of finding a cure for a virus spreading across the globe, a virus that turns its victims into zombies. His trek takes him to several places around the world where those in charge are trying to figure out how to manage the epidemic and protect as many people as possible. He encounters the fallibility and sometime hubris of political, social, and scientific entities making life-and-death decisions for other people. In an environment where mistakes are costly, Gerry’s ability to pay attention, notice details, and make connections in the midst of chaos and horror may be his greatest strength. It doesn’t hurt to have quick reaction time either. We may not be in a zombie apocalypse but acquiring this same skill set as Gerry could serve us well as we navigate the pace, unpredictability and dangers of modern life.

I am interested in reading the book. Apparently it covers a lot more than the movie and includes what happens after the pandemic. World War Z is definitely in my top 10 Zombie Apocalypse movies:

1. 28 Days Later. Directed by Danny Boyle this is a really great apocalypse survival film. While the zombies aren’t technically dead they possess enough zombie-like characteristics to count. As a zombie movie, this film was a trendsetter. With a few exceptions, before 28 Days Later zombies were pretty slow. Giving them speed made them so much more frightening. The vision presented in 28 Days Later of society and government reaction to the zombie virus is nearly as frightening as the virus itself. The acting in this was really good, especially Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, and Naomi Harris.

2. Shaun of the Dead. Another British import, Shaun of the Dead brought Simon Pegg to America’s attention. Pegg acts in the film as well as being one of the co-writers and Edgar Wright. Shaun of the Dead succeeds as a hilarious parody of Dawn of the Dead as well as standing as a great zombie flick in its own right. In contrast to World War Z, the protagonists’ reactions are so delightfully reactive. They fight zombies by creatively employing whatever items are handy and turn said items into effective (and not so effective) weapons. This decidedly British comedy is dark and has a distinct sense of place. Knowing British landmarks and slang makes it funnier.

3. Zombieland. As a road movie, a buddy movie, a zombie movie, a romantic comedy – it works. The casting is delightful. Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin are all on their comedic games. Bill Murray = Best. Cameo. Ever. The “rules” are as nice structure device for the plot and the theme park makes a great setting for an epic zombie/human battle. If I’m flipping through the channels and this is on I’m going to watch at least part of it. So much fun.

4. Night of the Living Dead. (1968) Classic George Romero. I like this one better than the remakes. A movie this old is going to have some classic zombie cheese, yet it’s also relentlessly scary. It was groundbreaking for its time both for gore (which is fairly mild by today’s standards) and it’s dark, nihilistic ending. (Spoiler) The main characters all die. After watching this one I find myself checking to make sure I know where all the doors and windows are located. Maybe they should show this on planes.

5.  The Walking Dead. The story lines and characters are strong and the zombies are scary in this TV series. (Spoiler) Cutting off the zombies arms and using them as camouflage, or smelloflage, is a genius idea. The focus has moved away from all out zombie apocalypse to the inner workings of rival camps of survivors and their various philosophies of survivalism and leadership. The idea of using zombies as weapons against one another is interesting. I guess after awhile there are only so many new and exciting ways to kill a zombie. The unexpected death and zombification of main characters keeps the audience alert. I’m in to see who makes it through next season.

6. World War Z. I’d put it right about here. (Spoiler) I think one of the best (and funniest) scenes was on the airplane as the the zombies in coach crash the curtain into first class. The tower of zombies created as they climb atop one another, clamoring out of instinct and madness, to get over the wall in Jerusalem reminded me of a Bosch illustration of Dante’s Inferno. The scenes with the infected scientists communicates an intense pathos as they wander aimlessly about the lab until something sets them off.

7. I Am Legend. I’m classifying the infected human mutants in this one as zombies though it might be a loose definition. There are a lot of unique aspects to this one. Dr. Robert Neville, played by Will Smith, thinks he is the sole survivor to a world-wide epidemic. Like many movies involving a single character, the way he copes with isolation is one of the most captivating aspects of the film. As the plot unfolds we discover that the good doctor has a personal stake in finding the cure. The book upon which this movie is based also inspired Romero’s original interest in writing a zombie movie.

8. Dawn of the Dead (1978) Another Romero zombie classic. This time the zombies are in the mall. That alone makes it worth the click of the remote and price of the microwave popcorn. Unlike World War Z, this leads its protagonists and the audience to the slow acceptance that there is no solution to the zombie problem. The end is near.

9. Dead Snow. Because Nazi Zombies are just too great to leave out. Besides the cinematography in this one is gorgeous…I’m not even kidding.

10. This place is reserved for a zombie movie worth my list. I can’t think of another one I liked enough to include. Feel free to throw out suggestions.

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