A well-made zombie TV series can arouse the feeling of dread and the ardent desire to see our heroes survive amidst the apocalyptic situation they are in. Usually backed by strong scripts, outstanding make-up and advanced CGI, the best zombie TV series make for the perfect binge-worthy entertainment for anyone who loves a potent mix of suspense, action and adventure along with blood and gore.
American zombie shows are action-oriented and might as well have their focus on the failings of the human spirit as a collective. On the other hand, Korean zombie shows are often seen as a more violent depiction of the class divide, portraying situations where such differences in society creates tense, and even potentially fatal, circumstances for the characters.
For those who like to binge-watch TV shows within a few hours, Korean and Japanese zombie shows might be the best for their limited number of episodes and seasons. However, fans of longer and more complex stories, which have multiple spin-offs, might as well want to watch American shows.
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Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that these TV shows and series do not fall under a primary zombie genre. Zombie TV shows or zombie movies normally constitute a sub-genre under dramas, thrillers, horrors and even comedies. And even comedy films or shows about zombies could have nail-biting sequences to make some viewers squirm on the couch.
A lot has changed in the depiction of zombies since the first zombie movie, Victor Halperin’s White Zombie (1932), which introduced the basic traits of the monster — a slow-moving undead with no control over its mind. Over the decades, zombies transformed into brain-eating monsters on the screen. There are, in fact, numerous types of zombies which true fans of the sub-genre can easily distinguish between.
Yet, the underlying storyline of any series or movie about zombies is that they are about humans trying to keep themselves safe from the undead. In more modern interpretations, zombies try to blend in among the living.
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The best zombie TV series on streaming platforms now
(Main image: The Walking Dead/ Disney+; Featured image: Juhan Noh/Netflix/IMDb)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Kuala Lumpur
Directed by: Kim Seong-hun and Park In-je
Cast: Ju Ji-hoon, Bae Doona, Kim Sang-Ho, Kim Sung-kyu, Ryu Seung-ryong and Kim Hye-jun, Jun Ji-hyun
Release date: 25 January 2019
Synopsis: Crown prince Lee Chang (Ju) of Joseon goes on a mission of his own to unravel a conspiracy he believes is behind the illness of his father, the King. In the process, he becomes the last hope of the kingdom as it faces a mysterious disease that is turning everyone into mindless zombies.
More about the series: Kingdom is hailed as one of the best zombie series in recent years and, as such, easily occupies the top spot in any Korean zombie series list. It is also one of the most expensive Korean dramas of all time. So far, the makers have released two complete seasons with six episodes each. Kingdom: Ashin of the North, a feature-length special episode, serving as a prequel to the series, was released in 2021. It told the story of Ashin (Jun Ji-hyun), who is somehow connected to the plague.
Image credit: JUHAN NOH/Netflix – ©/IMDb
Created by: Frank Darabont
Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Melissa McBride, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Christian Serratos, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs
Release date: 31 October 2010
Synopsis: After a zombie apocalypse wipes out most of humanity, a group of survivors band together to stay alive and find refuge. However, the ever-increasing threat and the pressure to stay together despite differences create problems. Eventually, they realise that humans can be more dangerous than the horde of undead.
More about the series: One of the most popular zombie series of all time, the massive success of The Walking Dead led to several spin-offs, the most prominent of which is Fear the Walking Dead (2015– ).
Image credit: IMDb
Directed by: Kim Nam-Soo, Lee Jae-kyoo
Cast: Park Ji-hu, Yoon Chan-young, Cho Yi-hyun, Lomon, Lee Yoo-mi
Release date: 28 January 2022
Synopsis: A school in South Korea becomes ground zero of a zombie virus outbreak, putting all students at the institution at risk. While some form a group to survive, fear grips them when their own friends turn into bloodthirsty beings. Compounding the problem is the fact that the virus has granted strange powers to a delinquent student.
More about the series: All of Us Are Dead is a Korean zombie series whose first season with 12 episodes quickly became a hit with viewers. Based on the Korean webtoon Now at Our School by Joo Dong-geun, it ended up as the second most-watched Korean series on Netflix after Squid Game (2021). On 6 June 2022, Netflix announced the zombie series will be renewed for a second season.
Image credit: IMDb
Created by: Diane Ruggiero-Wright, Rob Thomas
Cast: Rose McIver, Malcolm Goodwin, Rahul Kohli, Robert Buckley
Release date: 17 March 2015
Synopsis: Liv Moore (McIver) is a medical resident who becomes a zombie after she is attacked at a party. To satisfy her cravings for flesh and keep herself from becoming a brainless living dead, she starts working in the morgue to eat the brains of dead humans. However, Liv realises that eating brains is also granting her the memories of the deceased — a unique power she puts to use in helping detective Clive Babineaux (Goodwin) solve murders.
More about the series: iZombie had a complete run through five seasons. The first four seasons were critically appreciated but the final season received mixed to negative reviews.
Image credit: IMDb
Created by: Craig Engler, Karl Schaefer
Cast: Kellita Smith, Keith Allan, Russell Hodgkinson, Nat Zang, Anastasia Baranova, DJ Qualls,
Release date: 12 September 2014
Synopsis: Hoping to find a cure for a zombie epidemic that has wiped out most of America’s population, a small team of survivors decides to transport a man called Murphy (Allan) from New York to California. Murphy is the only known person immune to the virus, and his blood may contain the anti-virus to save humanity.
More about the series: Z Nation did not get an overwhelmingly positive reception from critics, though it was somewhat successful with fans of zombie horror series. SYFY, the network where Z Nation originally aired, cancelled it in 2018, making the show’s fifth season its last. However, Z Nation had a spin-off prequel series set in the same universe. Titled Black Summer, it started airing in 2019, and its second season concluded in 2021.
Image credit: Netflix
Created by: Charlie Brooker
Cast: Jaime Winstone, Riz Ahmed, Andy Nyman, Davina McCall
Release date: 27 October 2008 (UK)
Synopsis: A group of inmates and the production staff of the reality show Big Brother are trapped inside the house when a zombie apocalypse hits the UK. Everything seems fine at least to the oblivious cast and house-mates until reality hits them.
More about the series: Dead Set is a five-episode British miniseries inspired by the zombie film Dawn of the Dead (2004), according to Brooker.
Image credit: IMDb
Created by: Dominic Mitchell
Cast: Luke Newberry, Emily Bevan, Harriet Cains, Wunmi Mosaku
Release date: 17 March 2013 (UK)
Synopsis: Four years after an inexplicable occurrence called the ‘Rising’ leads to a zombie apocalypse, a teenage zombie named Kieren Walker (Newberry), who is no longer a rabid monster, tries to blend into society in his village in Lancashire. However, he faces hatred of the living as well as himself as he recounts horrific incidents he partook in as a mindless zombie.
More about the series: The show had two seasons with a total of 12 episodes. The show won the BAFTA for Best Mini-Series in 2014. Despite its critical acclaim, the makers BBC Three cancelled the third season due to budget cuts.
“Given there is only budget for one original drama series a year on the channel it won’t be returning,” BBC Three said on Twitter in 2015.
“We loved the show but have to make hard choices to bring new shows through and create room for emerging talent,” the tweet read.
Image credit: Des Willie – © BBC 2013/IMDb
Directed by: Shim Jae-hyun
Cast: 21 September 2020 (South Korea)
Release date: Choi Jin-hyuk, Park Ju-hyun, Kwon Hwa-woon
Synopsis: Kang Min-ho (Choi) resurrects as a zombie but with no memories of his past life. He poses as a detective while trying to blend in with society. His secret is discovered by Gong Seon-ji (Park), a former TV show writer. The two team up to find out who Kang really was before he became a zombie.
More about the series: Created by KBS2, the show has had only one season of 12 episodes.
Image credit: Netflix
Directed by: Ahn Gil-ho
Cast: Han Hyo-joo, Park Hyung-sik
Release date: 5 November 2021
Synopsis: A newly built high-rise building becomes the centre of action for officer Yoon Sae-bom (Han) and fellow officer Jung Yi-hyun (Park) when a zombie outbreak begins turning people in their city into the living dead. The two, along with the surviving residents of the building, must do whatever they can to survive the apocalypse.
More about the series: The 12-episode, single-season series was widely hailed by critics and viewers alike. It, therefore, became one of the best zombie TV shows in Korean television in 2021.
Image credit: IMDb
Directed by: Mitsuru Kubota, Shintarô Sugawara
Cast: Ryoma Takeuchi, Ayami Nakajô, Shô Kasamatsu
Release date: 17 January 2021 (Japan)
Synopsis: Hibiki Mamiya (Takeuchi), a car mechanic, slips into a tunnel and gets trapped. When he manages to escape four days later, he finds the world destroyed by zombies. While coming to grips with the mortal danger he finds himself in, Hibiki decides to look for the love of his life, Kurumi Ogasawara (Nakajô).
More about the series: The Japanese zombie series was one of the best of its genre in 2021. It ran for three seasons. While the first contained 10 episodes, the next two had six each.
Image credit: IMDb
Created by: Andrew Dabb
Cast: Ella Balinska, Adeline Rudolph, Lance Reddick, Paola Núñez
Release date: 14 July 2022
Synopsis: In 2036, Jade Wesker (Balinska), the daughter of Albert Wesker (Reddick), tries to survive in a world infested by zombies and monsters in New Raccoon City. Her past haunts her as she tries to uncover the truth about her missing sister, Billie (Rudolph).
More about the series: The live-action series adaptation of the acclaimed video game series of the same name was slammed by both critics and fans of the franchise. The story of the series is neither connected to the original Resident Evil storyline, which began in 2002 with Milla Jovovich in the lead role, nor any of the animated movies that were released prior. The poor reception led Netflix to cancel the show after the first season of eight episodes.
Image credit: IMDb
Created by: Nicolas Entel, Miguel Tejada-Flores
Cast: Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Nery Arredondo, Horacio Garcia Rojas, Fátima Molina
Release date: 6 August 2021
Synopsis: After escaping a maximum-security prison in Mexico with his son, Lucas (Arredondo), drug lord Alonso Marroquín (Peris-Mencheta) crosses the border into the US to hide in a drug rehab. There, the father-son duo encounters hordes of zombies.
More about the series: The eight-episode, Spanish-language Mexican series did not receive positive reviews from fans but is one of the few watchable zombie horror shows on Amazon Prime Video.
Image credit: © Amazon Studios/IMDb
Created by: Victor Fresco
Cast: Drew Barrymore, Timothy Olyphant, Liv Hewson, Skyler Gisondo
Release date: 3 February 2017
Synopsis: Sheila (Barrymore) and Joel (Olyphant) are a seemingly normal couple, raising their teenage daughter, Abby (Hewson), in Santa Clarita, California. One day, Sheila strangely turns into an undead, developing an unquenchable desire for human flesh. While they start killing people to feed her, Joel and Abby must do all they can to save Sheila from completely turning into a zombie.
More about the series: Three seasons of the series were aired. All three were positively received by critics and have amassed a cult following from fans. However, Netflix cancelled the show after the third season. According to Deadline, the reason behind the cancellation was the streaming platform’s complex “cost-plus” model under which it becomes costlier for Netflix to produce an original show after the third season.
Image credit: Saeed Adyani / Netflix/IMDb
Created by: Aron Eli Coleite, Brad Peyton
Cast: Colin Ford, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Austin Crute
Synopsis: Josh (Ford) is an outcast at his high school, set on a mission to find his missing girlfriend, Glendale, following a zombie apocalypse in Los Angeles. The undead aside, there are also Mad Max-like gangs to deal with. However, Josh has the help of his unlikely allies, Angelica (Lind) and Wesley (Crute).
More about the series: Based on the comic series by Brian Ralph, the show received mixed reviews upon release. It was cancelled by Netflix after one season.
Image credit: Ursula Coyote/Netflix/Ursula Coyote/Netflix/IMDb