Much like the undead, it seems that movies and TV shows about zombies aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They’re definitely here to stay, and horror fans have The Walking Dead to thank for that in part. The popular AMC drama based on Robert Kirkman’s comics of the same name altered the scope of cable television. It pushed boundaries and forged compelling characters that fans of the show both love and love to hate. But zombies and the cinematic vision of the apocalypse that they represent didn’t begin or end with The Walking Dead.
Updated on November 28th, 2022 by Mark Birrell: To be counted as one of the best movies like The Walking Dead, a film has to deliver on interpersonal drama as well as gore and horror. Now that the main series has come to an end, fans of the show are in need now more than ever of similarly arresting examinations of social breakdown. Luckily, when looking to zombie movie history and beyond, there are plenty of films that offer up different facets of The Walking Dead’s distinct tone and personality.
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A young man gets trapped in his apartment during a zombie outbreak in Seoul, leaving him safe from the undead but in danger of starvation. As he learns to take care of himself, he encounters another survivor, and the two hatch an escape plan.
#Alive makes a lot out of a fairly limited setting, allowing its human drama to shine through while still packing the brisk runtime with plenty of zombie action. Fans of the Walking Dead episodes that revolve around the early days of the outbreak in the series will enjoy watching these characters adapt to their situation.
The Road (2009)
Stream on Amazon Prime Video and Tubi
A father and son trek across a post-apocalyptic American wasteland in search of some glimmer of hope, contending with hunger, cannibals, and a bleak landscape in this superbly-acted adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name.
Fans of the Walking Dead episodes that focus on parental relationships–particularly the one between Rick and Carl Grime–will get a lot out of this harsh but sometimes beautiful survival drama.
The Survivalist (2015)
Stream on AMC+
This unsentimental and unsettling science-fiction film follows a man living a safe but isolated existence in the wilderness to escape the horrors of a post-apocalyptic world as he has his fragile peace shattered by the arrival of a woman and her daughter.
The best movies like The Walking Dead share the series’ interest in both the physical and emotional grinds of zombie apocalypse living, with The Survivalist certainly being a title worth seeking out for those fans who prefer the show’s more realistic and morally ambiguous side.
28 Days Later (2002)
Stream on Cinemax
Director Danny Boyle crafted an instant zombie movie classic with this story about a man who awakens in a hospital only to find an eerily derelict London populated almost exclusively by people overcome by an infection of “Rage.”
The similarities between 28 Days Later‘s and The Walking Dead‘s initial introductions to their post-apocalyptic zombie worlds are undeniably striking, but the movie’s unflinching brutality will keep fans of the show hooked beyond just the opening.
It Comes At Night (2017)
Stream on Showtime and Paramount+
In this powerfully subtle psychological horror movie, a family sheltering in the woods from a world-ending disease and the violent desperation that it’s instilled in the surviving population attempts to live together with another family that happens upon their home.
Fans of The Walking Dead‘s exploration of the breakdown of human relationships in high-pressure situations will find the tension and paranoia in It Comes At Night highly compelling.
The Signal (2007)
Stream on Pluto TV, Vudu, Crackle, and Amazon Prime Video
Mya has found a way out of her unhappy marriage. A mysterious transmission from the radio, telephone, and television is causing people to act strangely and violently, their worst negative traits are exponentially augmented. With her husband turned into one of the infected, Mya takes this chance to run away with Ben.
Directors David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry rejected the formula of nearly every zombie movie out there. In place of focusing on a group of survivors, The Signal aims for a more personal story about two people finding love in a messed-up world. It should speak to fans of the best relationships in The Walking Dead.
Stream on fuboTV
Humanity has been nearly wiped out by a pandemic virus and a group of four survivors travels across the Southwest in search of supplies and sanctuary in this sci-thriller. Along the way, the core group of characters is forced to make difficult decisions as they encounter the infected and other desperate survivors.
Carriers is not a straight-up zombie movie, but the threat of dying remains the same. The film challenges its PG-13 rating with some sickening body horror moments. However, Carriers is a drama first and foremost. Chris Pine is especially enjoyable as the arrogant agitator of the group and his personality type will be very recognizable to fans of The Walking Dead.
Stream on AMC+
While on the air, a disc jockey and his staff learn that there’s a deadly viral outbreak going on outside. This is no ordinary virus, though, as it’s somehow transmitted through words in the English language and now the radio host has to try to warn his listeners of the virus and how it’s spreading.
Though the infected in Pontypool are far from conventional zombies, the film is a refreshing take on the structure of the genre, as it takes place exclusively in the studio.
Night Of The Living Dead (1990)
Stream on Hulu
Every Walking Dead fan should know about the film that started all the modern zombie tropes that people know today. In this remake of the classic original Night of the Living Dead, the deceased become reanimated, and a woman finds refuge in a rural house with other survivors. The threat inside, however, is shown to be just as precarious as the one outside.
As important as George A. Romero’s 1968 movie is to horror history, the 1990 remake’s aesthetic and mood is more akin to The Walking Dead. What makes them similar is the updates that director Tom Savini made such as turning Barbara into a final girl as opposed to leaving her to be zombie fodder like in the original.
I Am A Hero (2015)
Available to rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video
As Japan is overrun with zombies, Hideo — a Manga assistant artist who is generally dissatisfied with his life — seeks anyone else who hasn’t been turned.
Based on the Manga of the same name, I Am a Hero is a commendable on-screen adaptation. The story is handled realistically enough to where the situation almost seems plausible. Though there are action sequences, they aren’t energetic or outlandish. This film instead pays particular attention to characterization and fans of The Walking Dead‘s distinct cast of characters are sure to appreciate that.
The Crazies (2010)
Stream on Tubi
In this other remake of a classic zombie movie, the residents of the small town of Ogden Marsh, Iowa suddenly turn into violent killers, and the cause appears to be a virus engineered by the military. The town is then quarantined so that no one can escape, forcing the sheriff, his wife, and their companions to do whatever it takes to get out before they all become infected too.
There are a lot of similarities between the set-ups of The Crazies and the early seasons of The Walking Dead, and fans of Rick Grimes may just find a new hero to love in the form of Timothy Olyphant’s leading lawman.
The Battery (2012)
Stream on Redbox
A friendship between two former baseball players buckles under the pressure of a total zombie apocalypse in this ultra-low-budget indie horror film.
On only a $6,000 budget, Jeremy Gardner produced one of the best zombie drama movies like The Walking Dead. The Battery doesn’t feature non-stop, life-and-death scenarios that the characters scramble to get out of. In fact, for a zombie movie, it’s relatively laid back. But the tension in the two men’s friendship has all the dramatic intrigue of some of the Walking Dead‘s best episodes.
Train To Busan (2016)
Stream on YouTube, Tubi, Pluto TV, Peacock, Crackle, Redbox, and Amazon Prime Video
In this smash-hit South Korean zombie movie, a father and his daughter are one of many passengers aboard a train to Busan when an undead outbreak begins.
Filled with heart, humor, relatable characters, and almost non-stop zombie action, Train to Busan quickly became one of the most popular zombie movies of all time. Walking Dead fans will likely come for the survival action but stay for the large and varied cast of characters.
Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
George A. Romero expanded the main backdrop of his pioneering zombie apocalypse concept from a house to a shopping mall with this spiritual sequel to the original Night of the Living Dead.
With more survivors and more zombies, this classic altered the scope of zombie fiction by adding a satirical depiction of consumerism to Romero’s established rules. Walking Dead fans should consider it essential viewing.
Dawn Of The Dead (2004)
Stream on Hulu
Director Zack Snyder and writer James Gunn reinvented Romero’s classic zombie apocalypse movie and gave it a tempo of their own. Now with running zombies, the story of survivors taking sanctuary in a mall gets a shot of adrenaline, getting all the copious gore and explosive action that Snyder and Gunn have since become famous for.
Watched together with Romero’s original, the two zombie movies provide a crash course in the progression of the genre on film. Walking Dead fans will be able to see the origins and development of the tropes and archetypes that formed the basis of the show.
NEXT: The 10 Most Common Zombie Horror Tropes (& Movies That Subvert Them)