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How to watch the Night of the Living Dead and all of George Romero's zombie movies

Want to get started on watching the Night of the Living Dead franchise? Here’s how to do it!

Night of the Living Dead
Image credit: Image Ten

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The dead have awakened, and they hunger for human flesh. Night of the Living Dead is more than a horror film, it’s a cultural touchstone. The George A. Romero directed film is responsible for popularizing zombie apocalypse stories, sending the horror genre in an unexpected new direction. In addition to shaping our perception of zombies in pop culture, Night of the Living Dead also showed us that we have just as much to fear from the living as we do the dead. The 1968 film (and its sequels) played on themes or paranoia and betrayal, as humanity turned on one another for survival.

If you’ve ever been interested in the Night of the Living Dead film series, but haven’t been sure where to start, we’ve got you covered.What’s the difference between Night of the Living Dead and Return of the Living Dead? Which movies share a continuity? How does it all connect? Popverse is here to answer all your burning zombie apocalypse questions.

How to watch the Night of the Living Dead franchise in release order

Night of the Living Dead
Image credit: Image Ten

Are you ready to get started on the Living Dead franchise? Between the various sequels, remakes, and spin-offs, there are currently 27 films and counting! That’s a lot of zombies to fight through, so I hope you’re ready. If you want to watch EVERY film in the Living Dead franchise, here is how to do it.

How to watch the Night of the Living Dead franchise in chronological order

Land of the Dead
Image credit: Universal Pictures

The Night of the Living Dead franchise is kind of like a tree. Different films split off into different branches. Some of the films get remakes, and those remakes develop into their own series. Then there are the sequels to the original series, which are unrelated to the sequels of the remakes.

Are you confused? Don’t be. Just follow this chronological guide as we break down the various continuities in the Living Dead series.

George A. Romero’s original series

This is the core series. Every other film is a remake, spin-off, or some sort of alternate continuity. Each film is written and directed by George. A Romero, with the exception of the upcoming movie Twilight of the Dead. Romero wrote a story treatment for Twilight of the Dead before his death in 2017, and the film is being produced with the cooperation of the director’s estate.

Although the films are considered part of the same series, there are no recurring characters or subplots connecting them. However, each entry in the franchise does show the deteriorating state of the world, as society crumbles amidst the zombie epidemic. If you only have time to watch a few films in the franchise, make sure it’s these ones.

  • Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  • Dawn of the Dead (1978)
  • Day of the Dead (1985)
  • Land of the Dead (2005)
  • Diary of the Dead (2007)
  • Survival of the Dead (2009)
  • Twilight of the Dead (TBA)

Return of the Living Dead series

Return of the Living Dead is a film franchise which began as a novel. The 1978 novel Return of the Living Dead was a loose sequel to the original Night of the Living Dead film. When the novel was adapted for the big screen in 1985, it became its own film franchise. The Return of the Living Dead franchise developed its own pieces of zombie lore, separate from George A. Romero’s series. For example, in the Return of the Living Dead films, the zombies had an obsession with devouring human brains.

This film series has a few reoccurring characters, with Rave to the Grave acting as a sequel to Necropolis. Otherwise, the films are largely unconnected.

  • The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
  • Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988)
  • Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993)
  • Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis (2005)
  • Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave (2005)

John A. Russo’s Living Dead

John A. Russo was one of the original screenwriters for the first Night of the Living Dead film. He later wrote the 1978 novel Return of the Living Dead, which became the basis for a spin-off franchise. Years later, Russo would re-cut and colorize the original 1968 film, adding his own scenes and a new score. Night of the Living Dead: 30th Anniversary Edition can almost be considered a new film, thanks to Russo’s many additions. In 2001 he produced Children of the Living Dead, which was intended to be a sequel to the 1999 film.

  • Night of the Living Dead: 30th Anniversary Edition (1999)
  • Children of the Living Dead (2001)

3D Night of the Living Dead

In 2006 Lux Digital Pictures released a 3D remake of the original 1968 film. This was followed by a prequel in 2012.

  • Night of the Living Dead 3D: Re-Animation (2012)
  • Night of the Living Dead 3D (2006)

Other projects

Here is a brief rundown of the other Living Dead projects, and their connection (if any) to the larger franchise. You might notice a lot of remakes of the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead. That’s because a paperwork error caused the original film to immediately become public domain upon its release.

  • Night of the Living Dead (1990) – A 1990 remake of the 1968 film.
  • Dawn of the Dead (2004) – A 2004 remake of the 1978 film. DC Comics fans will be amused to note that Zack Snyder directed this film, and James Gunn wrote the screenplay.
  • Day of the Dead 2: Contagium (2005) – Despite the title, this film is not a sequel to Day of the Dead, nor does it have any overt connection to the film. Taurus Entertainment Company took advantage of the copyright by producing a film with the title.
  • Day of the Dead (2008) – A direct to video remake of the 1985 film.
  • Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead (2011) – An alternate take (rather than a remake) of the 1968 film.
  • Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection (2012) – Remake of the 1968 film.
  • A Night of the Living Dead (2014) – Another remake of the 1968 film.
  • Night of the Living Dead: Darkest Dawn (2015) – A remake of the 1968 film, set in the 21st century.
  • Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2017) – A remake of the 1985 film.
  • Rebirth (2020) – A remake of Night of the Living Dead.
  • Night of the Animated Dead (2021) – An animated adaptation of the 1968 film.
  • Day of the Dead (2021 television series) – A television series based on the 1985 film.

What is the next Living Dead project?

Twilight of the Dead is the next film in the Night of the Living Dead franchise. The story was developed by George A. Romero before his death in 2017. The film will be set on a tropical island, where the last humans on Earth struggle to survive in a world of zombies. Brad Anderson is set to direct the film, with Roundtable Entertainment producing. The film was delayed by the actor and writers strikes of 2023 but has resumed production. It is currently unknown if Twilight of the Living Dead will be released in theaters or directly to a streaming service. As of now, there is no confirmed release date.

What about the Zombi series?

Zombi 2
Image credit: Variety Film

The Zombi series exists in an unusual place. The films aren’t part of the Living Dead franchise, but they aren’t totally separate from them either. In 1978 Dawn of the Dead was re-cut and released for European markets under the title Zombi. The success of this release led to the release of sequel called Zombi 2. George A. Romero wasn’t involved in Zombi 2, nor were any of the Dawn of the Dead crew members. In essence, Zombi 2 was an unofficial sequel that spawned its own franchise.

The Zombi franchise is filled with various sequels and spin-offs of its own. Just check out the confusing Wikipedia page, and you can see how quickly things spun out of control. While Zombi has its roots in the Living Dead franchise, it isn’t considered an official part of it. Think of it like Super Sentai and Power Rangers. They’re both their own franchises, even though one of them was built from the foundation of the other.

What about stuff like Army of the Dead or Shaun of the Dead?

Army of the Dead
Image credit: Netflix

Some of you might be going through this guide wondering where films like Shaun of the Dead or Army of the Dead fit in. Despite the similar sounding titles, those films have no connection to the Living Dead franchise. Due to the massive cultural impact of George A. Romero’s Living Dead series, many films and television projects pay homage to his titles. As a result, there are plenty of movies with names like Dance of the Dead, Hell of the Living Dead, and Winter of the Dead. Unless the film or television series is on our watch order list, it’s not an official part of the Living Dead franchise.

Do I have to watch the Living Dead films in order?

Dawn of the Dead
Image credit: Laurel Group

Many of the Living Dead films can be viewed in any order. Although there are a few rare cases of recurring characters, most of the films focus on new protagonists, with no relationship to the past films. The throughline is the zombies, and the state of the world. For a deeper look at the continuity behind the Living Dead films, please refer to the chronological section of this guide.

Which Living Dead film is the scariest?

Night of the Living Dead
Image credit: Image Ten

There is no scientific way to measure which Living Dead film is the scariest. Fear is something deeply personal, and all of us react to horror films in different ways. However, Night of the Living Dead has earned high spots on many horror film rankings. Alan Jones’ 2005 book The Rough Guide to Horror Movies credits the film with launching the splatter film subgenre. Whether you realize it or not, Night of the Living Dead created modern zombies as we know them today. Every zombie film or television project, including The Walking Dead, has taken cues from Romero’s 1968 film. It not only redefined zombie films, but it also redefined the entire horror film genre.

Where can I watch the Night of the Living Dead films?

Thankfully we’re not in a real zombie apocalypse, otherwise we wouldn’t have access to our streaming services.

(That and we’d all be fighting for our lives)

If you want to watch the Night of the Living Dead film series, here is where you can find the core films. Night of the Living Dead is available to stream on Starz. Day of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and Survival of the Dead are available on Tubi. Dawn of the Dead and Land of the Dead are not currently available on any streaming service, but they are available to rent or purchase from a variety of video-on-demand platforms, including Prime Video. Please keep in mind that the availability of those movies might change as streaming licenses expire, which could put the films on a different service.

With that in mind, lock your doors, board your windows, and prepare to enjoy the Night of the Living Dead film franchise!

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