Top Horror Films – #17 – Night of the Living Dead

Night of the Living Dead
1968; directed by George A. Romero; written by George A. Romero and John A. Russo

Ed: Featuring one of the only African American protagonists of the era, this low budget zombie movie was groundbreaking, and started an entire genre. Handheld camerawork, grainy film footage, and a bleak survivalist sensibility: George Romero’s classic is still powerful.

Ben: This film is the one that gave us zombies as we know them today. Before this, zombies on film were corpses brought back to life in voodoo rituals. Here, Romero gave us everybody—dead, now undead—walking around and hungry for human flesh. That little bit, the cannibalistic touch, helped send movie goers at the time into a frenzy of fear and anger. Ultimately it became a phenomenon that launched a new genre of fiction. No matter what the social implications, or how you view the allegory, this movie is a solid piece of horror cinema. Actor Duane Jones gives a great commanding performance and the pacing builds to a terrifying climax. It doesn’t get much more classic than this.

Jeremy: Most horror fans will cite the original Dawn of the Dead as the best of the Romero zombie films, but none of them ever quite captured the elegance and subtle power of Dawn’s predecessor, the seminal Night of the Living Dead. Can we ever really know what it was like to have seen Night for the first time in 1969? Shot in black and white, with a touch of documentary style to it and a script so smartly paced that all the plot points seem eerily plausible, nothing like it had ever been seen before. And while Dawn’s subtext on commercialism is infamous, it seems too often forgotten that Night’s themes of racial inequality and abuse are just as relevant. But what really sets the film apart is its ending. Oft-imitated but never rivaled, Night of the Living Dead gives us a climax that seems to deliver everything the audience wants, only to snatch it away suddenly and cruelly, leaving behind a sickeningly empty feeling. As the credits roll over the shocking freeze frame, Romero’s message cannot be ignored, that violence is a cycle with no end.

Team Rankings:
Ben – #6
Jeremy – #9
Mark – #11
Ed – #17
Brandi – #18


Brandi is one of those people who worries about kids these days not appreciating black and white films. She also admires great moments of subtlety, since she has no idea how to be subtle herself.

Follow her on Twitter or email her.

View all posts by this author