The 10 Most Common Zombie Horror Tropes (And The Movies That Subvert Them)

we are all dead hit Netflix in 2022. The new zombie series overturned many zombie tropes, creating something new in a genre that often feels worn and tired. Not only did the series take on the form more of a coming-of-age story than a zombie apocalypse, but it also showed that zombies weren’t always the bad guys and, in some cases, could be saved.

While it was nice to see something new and fresh in the zombie genre, there have been several movies over the years that have done the same. The zombie genre, as invented by George Romero with night of the living dead created a set of rules and tropes that most movies followed. However, when movies subvert these tropes, magic can happen.


10/10 Zombies Out of Control – Fido (2007)

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The main trope when it comes to zombies is that after a person dies, their brain shuts down. They are uncontrollable and have only one thing in mind, it is the thirst for human flesh. However, it’s when a zombie movie makes them less animalistic that it changes everything.

It happened in Fido. In this Canadian zombie movie, the apocalypse finally ended and a company created collars that people could use to control zombies. They became loyal to the living, but that all changed when we had a collar malfunction. However, with the zombies living in servitude, the movie felt completely fresh.

9/10 Mindless Zombies – Army of the Dead (2021)

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Just as zombies were out of control, they also lived in a state of constant aggression. While they crave flesh, zombies also have a senseless aggression that drives them to attack anything that’s still alive. They do this in a way that looks like senseless attacks.

However, things changed with them in army of the dead. The zombies in this movie subverted that trope by living in a type of hive mind. What really knocked him down was that they followed the example of a zombie king, one who still had the ability to plan attacks, which made those zombies scarier than ever.

8/10 The Dead Zombies – 28 Days Later (2003)

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Since night of the living dead, the main trope for regular zombies was that they were ordinary people who died and came back as the undead. The first zombie movie took place outside of a graveyard, and soon movies showed people dying and resurrecting instantly.

28 days later reversed this trope by having their zombies infect people who weren’t yet dead instead of corpses. This has happened in the past with various horror movies, but it turned out to be one of the most successful of its kind.

7/10 Zombies Only Want to Eat – Dead Snow (2009)

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Zombies in movies want nothing more than to feast on living people. The joke in some movies was that zombies just want brains, however, it’s not brains they want, it’s just to eat human flesh.

This turned out to be wrong in the zombie horror movie dead snow. Instead of flesh or brains, these Nazi soldiers returned from the dead as zombies in search of stolen gold. Seeing zombies with an eye for gold was never seen in a zombie movie before, but it still turned out to be one of the bloodiest zombie movies of all time.

6/10 Zombies Are Slow – Dawn of the Dead (2004)

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The zombies of night of the living dead were all slow zombies, which meant people could just run and evade them. However, that didn’t mean they were safe. While it’s an interesting trope, it’s always the other living humans who end up being bad and ruining things for everyone.

In the 2004 remake of dawn of the dead, director Zack Snyder instead chose to make his zombies move fast, and those zombies could run and grab anyone, many of them faster than living humans. He kept it in army of the dead and made his zombies more dangerous than any humans still alive.

5/10 Zombies Are Deadly Serious – Return of the Living Dead (1985)

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In George Romero’s zombie films, which laid down all the rules for future films by other directors, zombies were heavy dead. They attacked living people and ate them before continuing. These zombies rarely showed emotion and remained deadly serious. Even in zombie comedies, the zombies themselves remained blank slates.

It changed with Return of the Living Dead. Unlike other popular zombie comedies like Shaun of the dead, this film also made zombies fun. When a zombie climbed on a police scanner and demanded more food, it turned all the tropes of the genre upside down.

4/10 Zombies Are Bad – The Girl With All The Gifts (2017)

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This year’s Netflix series we are all dead showed that zombies aren’t always the bad guys. Yes, those who lose control are dangerous, but there are others who fall victim to living humans as evil antagonists, just like in the movie The girl with all the gifts.

In the book the film was based on, the story is from the perspective of the young zombie girl, who had no idea what was going on. The military captured these children and they found a way to stop them from losing control. However, the kids weren’t evil at heart, and the fact that the government experimented on them for a cure made even the zombies likable in this zombie drama.

3/10 Getting Bitten is the End – Patient Zero (2018)

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The biggest human survival trope in zombie movies is that one bite of a zombie means a person is doomed, either to be eaten or become a zombie themselves. we are all dead showed that not everyone in this world became a zombie or died.

The same thing happened in the 2018 movie patient zero. In the movie, most bitten people become a rabid zombie within 90 seconds. However, Matt Smith plays a man named Morgan who is bitten, and not only does he not change, but he can now communicate with the infected. This movie subverts bites turning people into mindless zombies, because not only did Morgan not change, but the other zombies were calculating and manipulating creatures out to take over the world.

2/10 It’s the Apocalypse – Shaun of the Dead (2004)

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When it comes to zombie movies, one trope is that it’s often called the zombie apocalypse. This means that the arrival of the zombies marks the end of the world as everyone knows. The Walking Dead is a great example.

Shaun of the dead reversed this trope at the end of the film. The battle with the zombies lasted a very short time in this film before the government stopped it and reversed the order. Ultimately, the company used the surviving zombies in game shows, and Shaun even left his best friend to play games with him, though he turned into a zombie.

1/10 The Zombie Infection Is Incurable – Hot Bodies (2012)

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The zombie genre had one thing that was pretty much set in stone for almost every movie. When a person dies or is turned into a zombie, they remain a zombie until someone shoots them in the head and ends their life. There’s been a lot of talk about finding a cure, in everything, from The day of the Dead at patient zero. It never happened.

Warm bodies reversed this trope. Instead of zombies becoming mindless killing machines, some of them kept their brains and even though they couldn’t speak or do much, they still had their thoughts and feelings. It was a romantic coming-of-age story, and in the end, the zombies ended up cured and turned back into humans.

NEXT: The 8 Highest Rated Non-Zombie Apocalypse Movies, According To IMDb

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