The original Dawn Of The Dead is the best zombie movie that will ever be made.
1978 was absolutely the best time in history to make a zombie movie. The concept wouldn't get played out until a good 30 years later, yet it had evolved enough to start introducing subtleties and dark humor. Those big 70s hairstyles somehow make the zombies seem even more terrifying. Plus, it was the only era where you could get away with using music this cheesy in a horror film:
George A. Romero is the O.G. zombie filmmaker. He basically invented the genre out of whole cloth. Actually it's just a variation on "The Last Man On Earth" with Vincent Price, which was based on the book I Am Legend. So really the genre was initiated by Richard Matheson, but Romero modernized it. Anyway, he's made four zombie movies since, but none of them have been as good as this or "Night Of The Living Dead", his first one. All the stars align like this only once in a person's career, if he's lucky.
So the plot of Dawn Of The Dead concerns four survivors who decide to hole up in a shopping mall while the zombies rule the outside world. Not only is this a brilliant idea that any smart person would do in real life, it creates the perfect opportunity for Romero to include some of his sharpest satire. Without being preachy, he criticizes the emptiness of American consumer culture by presenting zombies that are irresistibly drawn to wander, dead-eyed around the extravagant, but ultimately useless stores in the mall. "This was an important place in their lives," one character notes.
4. It spoofs zombies before "zombie spoofs" existed
As evidenced by this clip:
5. It's still scary
Maybe to a generation raised on zombies that move like Olympic sprinters, this stuff seems corny and outdated. But check out the beginning of the movie below. It seems slow at first, but it builds a strong sense of fear and dread just by showing the chaos and confusion that the world is in. The first onscreen zombie doesn't appear until 10 minutes and 25 seconds into the film, yet it manages to be a shock by the time it finally does. That is quality filmmaking. The feast of gore that does arrive is more affecting because of the atmosphere the movie has established before it. I wish more zombie movies had that kind of ambition.