1. Day of the Dead (1985)
Director: George A. Romero
Fact: Anyone who makes a zombie movie, or even a TV show like The Walking Dead, nowadays owes a massive debt to Mr. George A. Romero, and most, if not all, of the filmmakers will gladly admit to that. The grandaddy of the undead motion picture, the now-72-year-old genre icon first achieved immortality in 1968, when his no-budget (i.e., a reported $114,000) feature film debut Night of the Living Dead first premiered and quickly changed the game. Then, in 1978, Romero somehow bested Night with the epic Dawn of the Dead, which includes makeup effects by Tom Savini that have yet to be outdone.
Due to all of the rightful love sent toward Night and Dawn, though, the third installment in Romero's original Dead trilogy, Day of the Dead (1985), is quite often overlooked, or, even worse, frowned upon by critics. One frequent complaint is that the script, about nihilistic Army men and idealistic scientists living in an underground bunker to avoid becoming zombie food, is too preachy, spending too much time on back-and-forth monologues. Others attack the actors' unevenness in performance quality.
But here's the thing: The people who make voice those qualms are buffoons. Or, more delicately put, they need to revisit Day of the Dead and see for themselves why, in some respects, it's Romero's greatest zombie movie. Granted, Night and Dawn have better scripts, and even better acting, but Day by far has the best makeup work of them all. As seen in the image above, Savini, Greg Nicotero (who now produces The Walking Dead, as well as handle the AMC hit's makeup effects), and their team went all out when it came to Day's gore; the film's climax, in which the zombies gain access into the bunker and get to finger-ripping, eye-gouging work, is a thing of visceral, and viscera-packed, beauty.