Zombie films date back to the 1930s and were of course popularized by the legendary George A. Romero through such classics as Night of the Living Dead. The zombie genre (or subgenre of horror, as some will argue) is still alive and kicking today.
Updated February 8th, 2023: If you’re a fan of blood-pumping zombie action and you have a Netflix subscription, you’ll be happy to know that this article has been updated for even higher quality and with additional content.
Following the release of Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead and its spinoff, along with many hit Korean zombie shows, netflix continue to offer a variety of critically acclaimed movies based around the undead. From action-packed thrill rides to darker turns leaving us pondering society, the gory brand of cinema has survived all these years thanks to a variety of filmmakers twisting the genre to make it their own. Here’s a closer look at the best offerings currently on Netflix, with our list based on ratings and reception.
7 Atlantics (2019)
This supernatural romantic drama was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and has since received critical acclaim. The story of Atlantics centers around a young woman and her partner struggling in the face of employment, class, migration, crime, family struggles — and ghosts. Or are they zombies?
The mysterious illness caught by some of the characters is ultimately revealed as men formerly lost at sea now returning to take possession of Dakar’s inhabitants on the Atlantic coast. While some may argue Atlantics isn’t a “zombie film” in the strictest sense, director Mati Diop offers a mysterious examination of unquiet dead that more than secures it a spot on this list.
6 Valley of the Dead (2020)
Set during the Spanish Civil War in 1938 in which a nefarious Nazi experiment goes horribly awry, Valley of the Dead follows two opposing platoons who must join forces in order to survive the intense onslaught of the undead that are wreaking havoc on their men. The warring sides must unite to protect the civilians of their country despite their own inner turmoil and hate, as the zombies leave blood-and-gore in the terrifying wake after accidentally being created by Nazis.
The adrenaline-pumping Spanish picture is an adaptation of Manuel Martín Ferreras’ novel Noche de deceaseds del 38 and had its worldwide premiere at the Stiges Film Festival, where it earned positive reviews for its impressive production design, sharp humor and sensational action sequences. Valley of the Dead has also been nominated for two of Spain’s prestigious Goya Awards and is a fun and unique take on the ever-popular zombie genre.
5 Freighter (2017)
The Outback serves as the unusually haunting backdrop to a zombie outbreak in Netflix’s Cargo, which takes a restrained, character-driven approach to its apocalypse. It follows Andy (played by Martin Freeman, also terrific in sherlock and The Hobbit), who must navigate the dangerous new normal of Australia’s zombie-infested interior with his wife and infant daughter.
The post-apocalyptic horror drama film from Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke was based on their 2013 short film of the same name. It received positive reviews from critics and was praised by all for its emotional depth and Freeman’s performance. Some will argue the project is a nod to the 2009 film The Road, starring Viggo Mortensen.
4 Ravenous (2017)
Robin Aubert directed the critically-acclaimed French-language horror knockout Ravenous, centering on the inhabitants of a remote, rural town in Quebec as they are plagued by the flesh-craving undead; their hopes at finding salvation and safety are swiftly dashed when they realize there is no place left to go to escape the vicious zombies. Aubert drew inspiration for the look and feel of the film from fellow authors Andrei Tarkovsky and Robert Bresson, and his version of zombies features the creatures being mindful enough to have a religion in which they are able to assemble alters to worship.
Ravenous debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival where it nabbed the award for Best Canadian Film, and also went on to receive a whopping five Canadian Screen Awards. Variety praised the gripping flick in their glowing review, writing, “Robin Aubert’s idiosyncratic and nuanced drama breathes fresh life into the zombie apocalypse subgenre.”
3 #Alive (2020)
The recent zombie film out of South Korea revolves around a video game live streamer’s struggle for survival as he is forced to stay alone at his Seoul apartment during a zombie apocalypse. As the grisly virus takes hold of the city, the streamer remains locked in his apartment, cut off from the world and with few options of escape but a dogged will to survive regardless.
#Alivepremiered on Netflix in September 2020 and achieved global first place on the platform just two days later, going on to top the Netflix daily chart in 35 countries. It ultimately became the first Korean film to top the Netflix Movies Worldwide chart.
2 Resident Evil (2002)
The trailblazing action horror extravaganza resident Evil famously follows the butt-kicking heroine Alice as she takes on both the ruthless undead and the malevolent Umbrella Corporation in a battle to save humanity, with the 2002 flick launching a lucrative and enduring film franchise. Loosely adapted from the popular video game series of the same name, resident Evil stars the stellar Milla Jovovich as notorious zombie assassin Alice, who awakens with no memory of who she is and how she became stuck in a mysterious underground facility brimming with flesh-eating monsters.
The mass appeal and success of resident Evil went on to spawn five additional films centering on Alice’s quest to eliminate Umbrella, and the series has grossed over $1.2 billion; it has also amassed a passionate fan-following that has only added to its longevity. The Chicago Tribune went on to declare that the franchise’s first installment was “one of the few video game movies to truly re-create the gaming experience.”
1 Army of the Dead (2021)
Zack Snyder delivered one of the great modern zombie movies in 2004 with his Dawn of the Dead remake. His grand return to zombie horror is suitably scaled up with Army of the Dead starring Dave Bautista, as it turns Vegas into a hive of undead depravity. The opening credits sequence (Snyder’s specialty) presents this takeover as a series of slow-motion tableaux and sets up a promising franchise.
Critics praised the humor in the film, which became one of the most-watched original Netflix films with an estimated 75 million viewers. The film spawned the prequel Army of Thievesthe upcoming anime series Lost Vegas and a direct sequel titled Planet of the Deadwhich is in development.