When someone says “George Romero movies,” the first word that usually comes to mind is “zombies.” But the legendary filmmaker with massive glasses and white hair has done more than just make films about the undead. George A. Romero has also directed vampire movies, supernatural movies, modern-day fantasies, monkey movies, and even a romantic comedy. If you need further proof, take a look at this complete list of feature films from one of the most respected names in horror.
- Night of the Living Dead (1968) – George A. Romero started his legacy as a horror icon by directing this nihilistic, black-and-white indie flick about a group of survivors trapped in a farmhouse while flesh-eating zombies try to get at them. But while the zombies are certainly lethal, Romero clearly has mankind pegged as the real menace. As the undead claw at the exterior walls and doors, the inside of the house is rife with racial tension and generally negative human behavior. Made on a budget of just over $100,000, it’s estimated to have made over $650 million (adjusted for inflation). It was also one of the rare films of the day to cast an African-American as the hero amidst a sea of white faces. The impact of Night of the Living Dead is undeniable, and virtually every zombie film to come afterwards was influenced by it in one way or another.
- There’s Always Vanilla (1971) – Following his groundbreaking zombie masterpiece, George Romero decided to try his hand at…a romantic comedy?! When a soldier returns home, he’s torn between working for the family business or going his own way. Then he meets a model, knocks her up, and adds additional complications to his life. Come to think of it, there’s really not a lot of comedy to be had here. Romero would later regard the film as the worst of his career, referring to it as “a total mess.” If you really want to see it, you’ll need to pick up a copy of Season of the Witch on DVD (which also includes There’s Always Vanilla).
- The Crazies (1973) – After his disastrous attempt at making a romantic film, our favorite director went back to making the George Romero movies that we all know and love. When a biological weapon gets released into the water supply of a small American town, the shit hits the fan in a major way. People begin losing their minds and resorting to violence, and the arrival of the military only makes matters worse. In the middle of all this, a firefighter and his pregnant girlfriend try to survive. Once you’ve seen this one, be sure to check out the 2010 remake starring Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell.
- Season of the Witch (1973) – Set in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, this Romero film deals with a lonely housewife (Jan White) whose casual interest in witchcraft slowly morphs into something more dangerous. Romero was unhappy with the finished product, and he’s gone on record as having an interest in remaking the film.
- Martin (1978) – This unusual vampire movie follows Martin Mathias (John Amplas), a young man who fancies himself a vampire. But he doesn’t have fangs or the ability to turn into a bat, instead preferring to drug young women and then slit their wrists for the yummy red stuff. When he goes to live with his superstitious granduncle in a Pennsylvania town that’s wasting away, he begins a tragic affair with an unhappy housewife. Romero cameos as a priest, and Martin marked his first collaboration with special effects whiz Tom Savini. The director has referred to this as his favorite film, and plans for a remake were announced in 2010.
- Dawn of the Dead (1978) – Expanding on the events depicted in Night of the Living Dead, Romero went out and promptly created the gold standard for all zombie movies to follow. This time the setting is a major city instead of a rural farmhouse, and the dangers of the reanimated dead are amplified greatly. Our heroes include SWAT members (Ken Foree and Scott Reiniger) and employees of a TV station (David Emge and Gaylen Ross), and they wind up seeking shelter in a shopping mall. As they clear out the undead, do some unsupervised shopping, and try to avoid losing their minds, the outside world seems to recede into the background. But nothing lasts forever, and the arrival of a marauding band of bikers puts their consumer-based paradise in serious jeopardy. Tom Savini provides a number of great gore effects, and Romero never misses a chance to skewer a society obsessed with material wealth.
- Knightriders (1981) – After a series of horror movies, Romero changed gears to direct this film about a group of traveling performers who joust on motorcycles for the entertainment of the crowd. Ed Harris stars as the leader of the troupe, a chivalrous, modern-day knight who lives by an antiquated code of honor. But his system of beliefs are increasingly put to the test by corrupt cops, greedy promoters, and a power-hungry performer named Morgan (Tom Savini). Stephen King and his wife have a cameo.
- Creepshow (1982) – Romero teams up with Stephen King for this entertaining horror anthology that presents five tales of terror in the style of the old EC comic books. Stars include Ed Harris, Hal Holbrook, Ten Danson, Adrienne Barbeau, Stephen King, E.G. Marshall, and Leslie Nielsen. My favorite installment is “The Crate,” in which a henpecked husband (Holbrook) uses a crate containing a deadly monster to rid himself of his nagging wife (Barbeau).
- Day of the Dead (1985) – The third film in Romero’s groundbreaking trilogy, Day of the Dead picks up with the Earth almost completely overrun by zombies. A group of scientists and soldiers try to survive in an underground complex, but tensions run high and the dead never rest. Audiences are introduced to “Bub,” (Sherman Howard) a zombie who exhibits memories of his human life, and he threatens to steal the show whenever he’s on-camera. The members of the military community are predictably portrayed as brutal thugs–a recurring theme in Romero movies–and it’s only a matter of time before their underground stronghold is compromised by the shambling undead. Co-starring Lori Cardille, Joe Pilato, and Jarlath Conroy.
- Monkey Shines (1988) – Things look bleak when an athlete (Jason Beghe) gets hit by a truck and turned into a quadriplegic, but then his scientist pal loans him an experimental helper monkey named Ella. This makes life a lot easier at first, but part of the aforementioned experiments resulted in Elle being injected with human brain tissue. Is it any wonder that she eventually flips out, going on a homicidal monkey rampage? Co-starring Janine Turner and Stanley Tucci.
- Two Evil Eyes (1990) – George A. Romero and Dario Argento team up, each helming a one-hour tale of terror. Romero goes first with “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” the story of a dying man, his greedy and unfaithful wife, and the dangers of hypnotism. Adrienne Barbeau stars, and Romero works in plenty of his expected social commentary. The second half of the film, “The Black Cat,“ is the better of the two, with Italian horror icon Dario Argento teaming up with Harvey Keitel for the story of Rod Usher (Keitel), a photographer whose life goes down the toilet following an encounter with a mysterious feline. Co-starring Julie Benz, John Amos, Martin Balsam, and Sally Kirkland. You’ll get to see Keitel wear a beret, and you’ll also marvel at his ability to come up with fake voices in a pinch.
- The Dark Half (1993) – Adapted from a novel by Stephen King, The Dark Half follows author Thad Beaumont (Timothy Hutton) as he learns that his pseudonym, George Stark (also Hutton), has physically manifested in the real world. Amy Madigan plays the writer’s wife, and Michael Rooker is the Castle Rock sheriff investigating the case. A delightfully twisted tale with a fine performance from the Oscar-winning Hutton.
- Bruiser (2000) – Jason Flemyng stars as Henry Creedlow, a downtrodden executive who wakes up one morning to find his face replaced with a featureless mask. With his new face comes a whole new attitude, and soon Henry is killing off everyone who ever wronged him. Nina Garbiras is smoking hot as Henry’s unfaithful wife, and Peter Stormare is way over the top as his egomaniacal boss. Given that this is a George Romero movie, Bruiser is surprisingly light on gore.
- Land of the Dead (2005) – Thanks to a renewed interest in the genre, Romero received his biggest budget for a Dead film ($16 million). Set in the city of Pittsburgh, the living have built a refuge of sorts thanks to water on three sides and an electrified fence on the other. But while most survivors scrape out a meager existence, the wealthy still live high on the hog in the center of the city (known as Fiddler’s Green). Chief among the social elite is Paul Kaufman (Dennis Hopper), and much of his power is thanks to the creation of Dead Reckoning, an armored vehicle that’s able to venture into zombie territory and retrieve critical supplies for the populace. Simon Baker and John Leguizamo are part of the vehicle’s crew, and Asia Argento is a hooker scheduled to be fed to the undead. Class warfare soon ensues, giving Romero plenty of opportunities to engage in social commentary. Meanwhile, a zombie named Big Daddy (Eugene Clark) is developing an alarming level of intelligence. Keep an eye out for cameos from Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Tom Savini.
- Diary of the Dead (2008) – The fifth film in the George Romero Dead series, this one is shot documentary-style and follows a group of college students as their attempts to make an indie horror film are interrupted by the reanimation of the dead. The Amish get to show what badasses they are, a college professor wields a sword, and one girl seems oddly eager to shoot herself in the head. If you enjoyed the feel of REC, Cloverfield, and The Blair Witch Project, then give this one a try.
- Survival of the Dead (2009) – The most recent of the George Romero movies about zombies, Survival follows a group of National Guardsmen seen briefly in Diary of the Dead. Looking for a safe haven in the midst of the undead apocalypse, they wind up on an island off the coast of Delaware. But Plum Island is largely dominated by two feuding Irish families, and even the dead rising from the ground can’t put a stop to their lengthy feud. Starring Alan van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, and Kathleen Munroe, this one features zombie chicks riding horses, lots of old guys shooting at one another, and a lead character who should own stock in Philip Morris.
That wraps up our look at all the George Romero movies to be released as of this writing. If you love zombies but are unfamiliar with his work, I urge you to give them a try. While the budgets may pale next to modern-day remakes, you’ll find many of the Romero films feature impressive gore effects and a surprising dedication to using scenes of horror to make a social critique.