The Greatest Zombie Killers in Movie History
Zombies have been a serious part of the cinematic landscape for nearly half a century, but they’re only now really hitting the big time. Having found major success on TV, walking corpses with a taste for human flesh are finally getting their major blockbuster due with ‘World War Z,’ which promises to be the biggest and most expensive zombie movie of all time. For years, unknown actors have battled the zombie plague, but now Brad Pitt is doing it!
In honor of ‘World War Z,’ we’re taking a look back at decades worth of zombie-related movies and deciding which people we’d most like to have on our side when the undead apocalypse finally begins. Who are the 10 greatest zombie killers in moviedom? Well, look on below!
A special note: in order to qualify for this list, a character had to be from an actual zombie movie. Sure, we love Ash from the ‘Evil Dead’ series, but he fought demons, not the walking dead.
Selena, ’28 Days Later’
There are many horror fans who claim that ‘28 Days Later‘ isn’t a “real” zombie movie, but try telling that to Selena (Naomie Harris). Although Cillian Murphy may get star-billing in Danny Boyle‘s incredible 2002 film, it’s Selena who really steals the show, saving our hero’s life after he stumbles into an abandoned and infested London.
For much of the film, Selena acts as the central group’s resident badass — she thinks fast, she acts fast and she doesn’t hesitate to do the unthinkable to keep the group safe. There may be more stylish zombie killers on this list, but there are none we’d rather have on our side.
Juan, ‘Juan of the Dead’
Most zombie movies focus on upper middle class, white suburban families who are driven from their homes and forced to struggle to survive in a terrifying new world order. But what would happen if the zombie plague hit Cuba, a country where life couldn’t be more different than the United States? Enter Juan, the main character in the modern cult favorite, ‘Juan of the Dead.’
A slacker by trade, Juan sees the zombie invasion as a chance to introduce a little capitalism to his Communist home: for a fee, he’ll come to your home and kill your undead loved ones so you don’t have to!
Although he’s a sillier character than most (he never seems too perturbed by what’s happening around him), Juan is one of the more memorable zombie killers in recent years, and one of the few guys who sees the end of the world and finds a silver lining.
Much of ‘Zombieland’ plays like a live-action cartoon and no one understands this tone better than Woody Harrelson, whose Tallahassee is one of cinema’s most memorable zombie killers. Although he never seems to exist in a world that’s remotely close to our own, Tallahassee is like a ‘Looney Tunes’ character stuck in the zombie apocalypse. Since most of the people on this list are glowering and humorless, it’s nice to see someone who guns down the living dead with a smile on his face.
Ana, ‘Dawn of the Dead’
Who would’ve though that the director of ‘Away From Her’ could be such an amazing badass? Sarah Polley may be known as a child star who somehow made the transition to highly respected director, but she made a brief pit stop along the way to star in Zack Snyder’s remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead.’
As a nurse whose family gets wiped out in a zombie apocalypse, her Ana survives the initial onslaught and takes refuge with others in a shopping mall. Eventually, she becomes one of the defacto leaders of the group and helps mount one of the most impressive (and impressively violent) zombie purges ever put on film. Not bad for that little girl from ‘The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.’
Alice, ‘Resident Evil’
If this list was about actual quality of the movies, Alice from the ‘Resident Evil’ series wouldn’t be anywhere near it. However, this list is about zombie killing and few people have killed as many zombies in as many ways as Milla Jovovich’s genetically engineered action hero. Over the course of six films, Alice has dealt with so many monstrosities and mutants that executing the walking dead has become second nature.
Of course, she tends to do this why diving in slow motion, jumping off high buildings and doing all kinds of aerial acrobatics. Bonus points for style, especially since most the folks on this list are barely getting by.
Ben, ‘Night of the Living Dead’
Ben in ‘Night of the Living Dead’ isn’t just one of the greatest zombie movie heroes of all time, he’s the first zombie movie hero. Everyone else on this list is built off of his template and lives in his shadow. Played with B-movie intensity by Duane Jones, Ben finds himself battling living corpses and the racial tensions of the American South during George Romero’s classic film…and he still manages to kick more butt than the rest of the survivors combined.
Since he meets an unfortunate end during the film’s final moments, we don’t know for sure how he would have lasted during the events of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ and ‘Day of the Dead,’ but we expect he would’ve been the last human standing.
Lionel Cosgrove, ‘Braindead’
Poor, poor Lionel. All he ever wanted out of life was to take care of his domineering mother and find a way to tell the girl-next-door that he loves her. However, when his mother gets bitten by a Sumatran Rat-Monkey and transforms into a flesh-eating zombie, the young man from Wellington has to single-handedly put a stop to a plague of the living dead.
Fans of Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ films may be horrified to see what the master behind Middle Earth did with his early career, but for horror buffs, ‘Braindead’ (also know as ‘Dead Alive’) is a gory delight. Although the entire film is a silly, fun zombie comedy, it gains iconic status in the climax, when Lionel puts an end to an army of zombies with the help of a lawnmower. Now that’s some impressive zombie killing.
Peter, ‘Dawn of the Dead’
George Romero’s zombie films are filled with memorable heroes and villains (of both the undead and human persuasion), but few are quite as cool as Ken Foree’s Peter in ‘Dawn of the Dead.’ Like Duane Jones in ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ Foree is a bit of a ham, but he’s one of the most intense and captivating hams you’ll ever see in a horror movie.
While the world falls apart around him, Peter remains cool, calm and collected, consistently making smart, reasonable choices in a world that’s gone straight to hell. Sure, he may not be as stylish or cool as some of the other people on this list, but there are few fictional characters we’d trust more to lead us to safety when the zombies arrive.
Francesco Dellamorte, ‘Cemetery Man’
Although ‘Cemetery Man’ is probably the least-known film on this list, it features one of the most captivating zombie killers in cinematic history. Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) is a cemetery watchman with a problem — all of the recently dead and buried are starting to come back to life. With the local authorities oblivious to his requests for an investigation, he decides to take care of the problem himself. However, protecting his town from the scourge of the undead starts to take its toll on the already unstable man and the consequences are…well, you’ll just have to see the movie.
Although not as instantly iconic as other great cinematic zombie killers, Dellamorte is far more memorable and fascinating than most of his peers. You may not want him on your personal post-apocalypse team, but you won’t be able to take your eyes off of him.
Shaun in ‘Shaun of the Dead’
Here’s the thing about the zombie apocalypse: either it kills you or it forces you to step up and become a hero. The concept of an ordinary man forced to grow up thanks to a nightmare situation has never been handled better than in ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ which more than lives up to its reputation as a modern classic.
Simon Pegg’s Shaun is just your average, ordinary schlub until the zombie apocalypse arrives, forcing him to step up and become the son, friend and boyfriend that he needs to be. Shaun never becomes the ultimate zombie-killing badass, but his transformation into a better, more mature person thanks to the end of the world is one of the best (and funniest) arcs in any zombie movie, ever. There are a thousand reasons why ‘Shaun of the Dead’ is one of the best zombie movies ever made, but its flawed, lovable title character may be reason number one.