Synopsis: After a space probe explodes in Earth’s atmosphere (the most likely reason, given that it’s a theory voiced by the film’s resident scientist), the dead began to rise from their graves and shamble after the living, attacking them for their delicious, delicious flesh. A group of survivors hole up in a house while outside, dozens of “ghouls” – though these creatures would soon be known throughout the world as “zombies” – try to get at them. And with one $114,000 independent horror movie, director George A. Romero gives birth to a cottage industry.
Controversy: From the very beginning – when the movie premiered in a Pittsburgh theater during a Saturday matinee screening filled with kids – the Rosetta stone of zombie films attracted its fair share of notoriety. Audiences weren’t accustomed to such in-your-face violence and gore, which completely violated the regulations of what you could show onscreen at the time (according to Glenn Kay’s Zombie Movies, the film’s distributor didn’t even submit it to the MPAA for a rating); Variety did everything but call for Romero’s head on a platter, saying the movie compromised “the moral health of film goers” and essentially established the “guidelines for the pornography of violence.” Controversial or not, the movie went on to break records at midnight screenings and drive-ins. It’s now rightfully considered an American classic.