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10 Movies That Wouldn't Exist Without George A. Romero

And one TV show.

Posted on July 17, 2017, at 5:32 p.m. ET

Night of the Living Dead filmmaker George A. Romero, who died on Sunday at 77, created a new genre of horror and inspired countless writers and directors.

Lars Niki / Getty Images

Romero's 1968 classic essentially created the modern zombie, shifting the definition from Haitian mythology-influenced humans under a trance, to flesh-hungry ghouls who will tear you limb from limb.

But Night of the Living Dead wasn't just groundbreaking for its depiction of the titular monsters: It also reflected Romero's progressive values. He cast black actor Duane Jones as the lead, and infused the movie with the satire, dark comedy, and social commentary that would become trademarks of his films.

Here are 10 movies and one TV series that can be traced back to Romero.

1. The Evil Dead (1981)

Anchor Bay Entertainment

The demons in The Evil Dead are certainly closer to Romero's zombies than any earlier depiction of the undead — and their rampage through a remote cabin is straight out of Night of the Living Dead. Just as importantly, Sam Raimi's film and its subsequent sequels blended gore with dark humor — a Romero staple.

2. Dead Alive (1992)


Peter Jackson's early-career zombie movie is even gorier and more deliberately funny than The Evil Dead. But as extreme as it is, it's hard to imagine it existing without Romero's work before it. And Dead Alive — along with the Living Dead series — was a major influence on Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead.

3. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Miramax Films

Yes, they're vampires, not zombies. But there's no denying Romero's influence on the career of filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, who said as much on Twitter. From Dusk Till Dawn, like Night of the Living Dead, follows an eclectic group of strangers in a confined space forced to work together to defend themselves against a supernatural onslaught.

4. 28 Days Later (2002)

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Danny Boyle put his own twist on zombies in 28 Days Later, but he still used the groundwork laid by Romero. Boyle also explored an idea that Romero repeatedly returned to: humanity, whether military or civilian, can be just as dangerous as a virus-infected zombie.

5. Cabin Fever (2002)

Lions Gate Films

Eli Roth had a great thread on Twitter about Romero, largely focusing on the social commentary of his work. He also described Romero as an influence, and that's evident in his zombie-adjacent, flesh-eating virus film Cabin Fever, which has its roots in Night of the Living Dead, by way of The Evil Dead. Roth's penchant for brutality and dark comedy continued with the Hostel series, which helped usher in a new genre of its own.

6. Slither (2006)

Universal Pictures

On Facebook, James Gunn wrote a touching tribute to Romero's career: It was Night of the Living Dead that showed Gunn how effective DIY indie filmmaking could be, and that's where the Guardians of the Galaxy director got his start. Gunn wrote the screenplay for the acclaimed 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake, but many of his films — particularly 2006's Slither — feel directly inspired by Romero's work.

7. The Walking Dead (2010–)


OK, it's a TV show, not a movie, but it wouldn't exist without the basic zombie rules established in the Living Dead series, and the way those movies infused the struggle between humans and the undead with social commentary. Romero, a critic of AMC's immensely popular zombie series, may not have seen it that way, but at its best, The Walking Dead also uses zombies to expose the dark side of humanity.

8. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)


Romero didn't invent the setting that is the cabin in the woods, but he certainly helped make it popular — and films he influenced continued to establish it as an iconic horror location. Joss Whedon's meta reflection on the genre as a whole has, by its nature, countless horror influences. But Romero's mark on it, especially his use of fine-tuned satire, cannot be discounted.

9. World War Z (2012)

Paramount Pictures

While Romero had his issues with World War Z as well, the film's exploration of a military response to the zombie threat — something also touched on in 28 Days Later — evokes Romero's Day of the Dead, which predates World War Z by nearly 30 years. Max Brooks, who wrote the book on which this film is based, wrote a piece on Romero's influence, calling the filmmaker "way ahead of the rest of us."

10. The Purge series (2013–)

Universal Pictures

The Purge series — which began with 2013's The Purge and will get a fourth installment in 2018 — might not seem to have a strong link to Romero's work. But the franchise is distinctive because it's about world-building, often focusing on new characters set in the same broken universe. It's the horror of the shared reality that connects these movies, not the specific plot. Romero set the stage for that with the Living Dead films, which were related only in the sense that they all took place during the same zombie outbreak. Romero spent decades building that world, long before the idea of a shared universe (hi, Marvel) was on anyone's radar.

11. Get Out (2017)

Universal Pictures

"Romero started it," Jordan Peele tweeted after news of the filmmaker's death broke. Peele hasn't been shy about the influence Romero had on his breakout hit Get Out, which also uses horror and satire to underline the harsh realities of racial inequality in contemporary society. Peele opted to give his movie a happy ending, but an alternative ending — in which Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) would have gone to prison despite his innocence — mirrors the one in Night of the Living Dead, which sees sole survivor Ben (Duane Jones), a black man, gunned down by white cops.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.