Top 5 Best and Worst Zombie Film Clichés

With World War Z due to come out this summer, I thought it might be fun to compile a short list of the best and worst zombie film clichés. There are many clichés (especially bad ones), but I've limited myself to 5. Feel free to add to the list.

1. WORST: Suddenly zombies!

TV's The Walking Dead is the worst offender when it comes to this zombie trope. In one scene, the group of survivors are in the clear. There are no zombies anywhere. The survivors begin to relax. They throw around a football or reveal something funny, sad, and/or interesting about themselves, like "Did you know my biggest fear is to be devoured by a million hungry zombies unexpectedly? Haha, but that'll never happen." In the next scene, there's a horde of hilariously slow moving monsters coming for them. The survivors act all bamboozled and panicked by the "sudden" arrival of this murder of zombies (because they've only been sneaked up on a MILLION times before).

"Maybe we should open it." - Every survivor ever
I can't help but wonder how none of the survivors  heard a thousand clumsy, moaning monsters stumbling through a thick forest?  I mean, did no one hear the snap of even one tree branch? Zombies are possibly the least stealthy of all the monsters. Yet, they always have the element of surprise. It makes no sense.

2. BEST: We can rebuild him. We have the technology.

Apparently apocalyptic survivors no longer need their writing hands. Steve the survivor loses his hand and instead of looking for a way to stop the bleeding and reattach that lost limb or, even better, crumbling into a shivering ball like a normal human being, he immediately replaces it with a weapon. Evil Dead, The Walking Dead, and  Planet Terror all use this trope--though Planet Terror probably did it as a homage or pastiche to other zombie narratives.

Zombies, you can't tell, but Ash is giving you the finger.
It might seem lame at first, but there is something entirely badass about ignoring your pain and shoving steal into your fresh wound so you can keep killing monsters. That's determination. That's inspiring. Someone should make that shit into a motivational poster.

3. WORST: Your boob's out, dear.

No one can make a putrid, graying dead body sexy, right? Wrong. Hollywood can. And they do it with the "accidental" boob. There's always one (slightly less decomposed) lady-zombie shuffling around with a single perky boob out in the open. It makes the viewers' arousal so confusing and disturbing. Like, she's dead, there's pus oozing out of the gash on her very flat stomach, but her boob's out, so it's kinda hot.

This reminds me of something, but I can't put my finger on it...

A little lipstick and this pretty zombie's ready to both arouse and disgust viewers everywhere.
And it's always one boob. The Hollywood director was like "Ok, how can we get some nudity in here without making it look forced? Take that model 's boobs out. Wait, wait, that's too much. Just one boob. Yeah, like it was a happy accident."

 A logical person might argue that zombie nudity makes the story more believable. Zombies decompose and so must their clothes. But if that's true, why don't I ever see an old man zombie walking around with his saggy balls exposed? I'd like to see Hollywood do that. Well, I wouldn't like to see it...

4. BEST: It's just a flesh wound...

There's one survivor who's in denial. She's been bit real bad. And she's going to become one of those...those THINGS! But, she's going to pretend she's fine, because she doesn't want to believe she will turn. Maybe she'll be different. Maybe she'll fight the infection and live.


Sure, she'll hide her infection for a while, endangering her group ... until she is foaming at the mouth or one of her ears falls off. One of the group members will turn to her and stupidly ask, "You doin' ok, Donna? You look kind of pale." And then Donna will rip that group member's face off.

5.WORST: Oh, that zombie used to be an Olympic runner.

Remember that scene in Austin Powers in which the security guard is screaming at the steamroller slowly moving towards him? Instead of moving out of the way, even taking one step to his left, to get away from the distant vehicle, he just stands there and waits for it to hit him. That's what a zombie chase scene is like. And no shaky camera maneuvering can trick me into thinking a zombie chase scene isn't ridiculous.

A fully rotted corpse with a missing leg is not going to outrun a healthy teenage girl. And yet, it happens all too often. Inevitably, the teenage girl, out of breath from running for literally a minute, trips on an obvious tree root and, for some reason, can no longer work her arms and legs. It would take little effort for her to pull herself up and escape, but that zombie is only a mile away! Plus, she's been skipping gym class.

Maybe it's the film industry's way of warning about the dangers of the obesity epidemic.  Maybe it's the film industry's way of encouraging you to get on that treadmill you bought three years ago and used once for a minute and thirty seven seconds. I mean, it is pretty pathetic that a teenage girl would rather let herself be devoured by an undead cannibal than run for another minute.  

Either way, it's a bad cliché.


  1. Your picture with the girl running from teh zombie. She has an excuse. She is trying to not spill her milkshake.

  2. Good point. I'd rather die than spill a good milkshake.

  3. Ok let's be serious for a moment, the guy she bought that milkshake from is probably dead by now and honestly why would money be an issue if there are hungry, flesh eating cannibals on the prowl?

    1. That's probably the last milkshake she'll ever taste. I wouldn't want to drop it either.

  4. My responses to each of these.

    1. On the subject of "stealthy" zombies, you'd think the smell of decomposition would give them away. If I was in a zombie apocalypse with my pals, we'd be making comments like, "Do you smell that? Either somebody farted, or..." and then we'd go for our guns.

    2. Bandaging some sort of weapon to your severed arm is pretty badass, but don't you have to worry about infection or something? I don't mean the zombie virus, I mean gangrene.

    3. What kind of necrophile came up with this, the same guy who decided vampires were sex gods?

    4. Speaking of vampires: seeing that the modern flesh-eating zombie is based in part on the vampire legend, I had a cool idea for a story about a guy who fights his infection by eating garlic. It worked, at least to the extent that it killed the virus (zombies still wanted to eat him, and his breath stank to high heaven).

    5. I always thought that it should go like this:

    Stage 1: Fast, reasonably fresh zombie.

    Stage 2: Rigor mortis, zombie slows down.

    Stage 3: Rigor mortis wears off, but by then said zombie is nearly a skeleton, ready to fall apart if it so much as jogs.

    Well, what do you think, sirs?


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