Films Most Recognizable Zombies

by Sean McLaughlin

by: Sean McLaughlin

Show me a zombie with personality….and I’ll show you a good found-footage horror film.  They’re rare.  In the zombie movie genre, the undead really only pose a tactical threat when they work together in the relentless pursuit of human flesh.  The possibility of one ghoul standing out in the crowd amongst the throng of evil is very uncommon….but when it happens, it’s horror movie magic.  Unlike the casual movie-going public’s romanticized fascination with vampires as individuals, the quintessential zombie cannot forge their own identity without some major goal-oriented maneuvering.  They lack the charisma and vocal skills to pull this off.


                The recent film release Warm Bodies attempts to break this mold by adding a Twilightlike slant that apparently George Romero forgot to add.  Or rather, he purposely left it out because it goes against everything the horror audience wants (but everything the tweener crowd craves).  On the heels of this development I felt it was important to recognize certain undead heroes, those cinematic zombies that managed to transcend its brainless lot in life and pursue a higher profile in their films.  You can call them walkers, biters, lurkers, things, but there’s no denying that these zombies made their mark at that point in time and helped the average horror film fan to put a decaying face to the ghoulish name. 

                The following is my personal list of the top recognizable movie zombies, along with why I felt they deserved a spot on the list.  As with any list, results may vary so I’m interested to hear what you think.  Be sure to comment with any that I may’ve missed in the comments section!


1.       William Hinzman (Night of  the Living Dead, 1968)

Cemetery zombie night of the living dead

George Romero is credited with many as creating the zombie movie genre as we know it today, so it makes sense that one zombie from each of his first three masterpieces make the list.  William Hinzman (who recently passed away) was the first zombie that we encounter in a Romero film, roaming the cemetery where Barbara and Johnny just happen to be, and ruining their world as we know it.  Listed in the credits as simply “Zombie”, Hinzman would pop up later in the film at the farmhouse just to prove that he (and the undead, in general) aren’t going anywhere, and would follow its prey to the ends of the earth.



2.        Flyboy  (Dawn of the Dead, 1978)

Flyboy zombie dawn of the dead

Even though Flyboy’s zombie persona wasn’t introduced until the film is nearly over, his legacy is undeniable.  He could be credited as the first zombie “leader”, gathering the mall ghouls together and showing them a way through the fake wall he helped put up when he was alive.  This act proved that they are capable of independent thought and memory recall, which up to that point was believed to be impossible for a zombie to possess.  The fact that he just recently turned at that point…..that’s a discussion for another time.



3.        Bub (Day of the Dead, 1985)

 Bub Day of the Dead

If Flyboy was the pioneer of zombie intellect, then Bub took should be credited with taking it to the next level.  The 3rd member of Romero’s “Holy Triumvirate of the Undead”, Bub was able to recall many things from his life (reading books, shaving, military service), and allowed those things to dictate his actions.  For the first time, eating human flesh was not the zombie’s ultimate (and only) goal.  Like Hinzman, we only know Bub in undead form so the fact that he has a name should resonate even more.



4.        Tarman (Return of the Living Dead, 1985)

Tarman zombie

If we’re talking about “recognizable” zombies, Tarman is certainly near the top of the list.  His creepy, gory appearance says it all:  covered in goo, a skull with huge eyeballs, tattered clothing.  He was able to hide and lure the gullible punk-rockers down the stairs, and with one big “BRAINS!” feasted on their stupidity.  Tarman spoke clearly, one of the first of them to do so on film (Bub did as well, but not close to as clearly).



5.       Fido (Fido, 2006)

Fido zombie

In my opinion, one of Billy Connolly’s greatest roles (along with Boondock Saints, of course).  Fido brought the zombie perception completely the other way, from blood-thirsty killers to obedient and loyal family pets.  The film is overly slap-sticky and comedic, but for the most part the cinematic zombie rules still apply.  Fido is man’s best friend, but don’t get on his bad side.


6.        Christophe (The Serpent and the Rainbow, 1988)

Christophe zombie

Although not technically a “zombie”, this character comes as close as possible to the “living dead” as any other.  Despite the film’s mixed reviews, it goes a long way in explaining how the many folklores and island stories about the mindless zombie myth came about.  Based upon the real-life story of Haitian man Clairvius Narcisse, who legend has it was dug up from his grave and walked the streets of that island long after his burial, Christophe was too scared to disobey due to his brush with the graveyard and perpetuated the label of the mindless sleepwalker, completely under the mind control of their master.  Narcisse plays an important historical role, depending on wither or not you believe the voodoo lore.


Honorable Mentions:  The Conquistador (Zombi 2, 1979), Bill Murray (Zombieland, 2009), Michael Jackson (Thriller, 1984 – thanks for staff member Larry Dwyer for this submission), Danny (Zombie Honeymoon, 2004)

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