We rank all of the official George A. Romero zombie classics from greatest to least
As the director tells it, George A. Romero was driving the 35mm print of his maiden feature film voyage Night of the Living Dead from Pittsburgh to New York City for its world premiere. The year was 1968 and, as the day got darker and the distance between the two cities got shorter, Romero turned on the radio to learn that Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated.
Understandably shaken, Romero couldn’t help draw the murder back to the events of the film that lay coiled in cans in his backseat. Night of the Living Dead was a horror movie that he and his partners at The Latent Image had made in order to get into the feature film business. They wanted to make a strong, scary film, violent and unsparing. As their lead, they cast African American actor Duane Jones, not because he was black, not to make any sort of statement, but because, as Romero stated, “he was just the best man for the job.”
As everyone knows, Jones’ Ben struggles to lead his “people” out of the den of death in which they are trapped and then he is killed in error at the film’s climax by a local redneck, his corpse thrown onto a pile of bodies and left to burn.
When Night of the Living Dead was released it became instantly notorious, shocking the world with its visceral gore and potent (but apparently accidental) social commentary. And, because of a copyright oversight on the print (the original title was Night of the Flesh Eaters but the distributor changed this and forgot to put the trademark on the on-screen title card), the movie was bootlegged and distributed around the world, without consent.
“It’s the one that got away,” George will admit, smiling. And though the years post-Night saw Romero trying his hand at everything from youth comedy (There’s Always Vanilla) to imagined vampirism (Martin), he was wooed back to mine his most famous property in 1978, birthing the deluxe “sequel” Dawn of the Dead, which became a huge international hit.
And George never looked back.
Romero has made 6 “official” Dead films, with a 1990 remake serving as the 7th sidebar entry in the series. His zombie movies are personal, witty, disgusting and revolutionary and birthed an entire sub-genre that – with The Walking Dead being the biggest show on TV and acres of video games featuring the ghouls – never seems to want to quit.
With Dread Central announcing yesterday that Dario Argento and Nicolas Winding Refn will be presenting Dawn’s 4K restoration in Venice this year, we decided to revisit those 7 (to date) incredible Dead films and rank them according to their impact and quality.
See if you agree with us…