Who was the first writer/movie director/artist that came with the idea of the zombies we see in movies nowadays like Resident Evil, World War Z, Walking Dead? In general: the idea of a person seemed dead but that walks and just bites people and then turn them into zombies as well.

It seems very widespread now, but I don't know where does it came from. Was it a book, a movie, a computer game? Was Resident Evil (as far as I concerned, the first one to introduce this type of undead?

  • 2
    You're going to have to narrow this down: stories about the undead seem to pre-date written mythology. Zombies as a specific kind of undead are more recent and if that's your question then please make it more clear what kind of undead you're asking about (there are a lot of very different things which get called "zombie," and most of the modern ideas of the zombie come from sources unrelated to the origin of the name itself).
    – BESW
    Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 14:12
  • @BESW Thanks for the heads up, I just edited the question. I'm referring to modern zombies like Resident Evil.
    – Paulo Bu
    Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 14:17
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    Resident Evil is far from the first. A much better choice (and I'm not sure if it is the first, but certainly early) would be Romero's Night of the Living Dead.
    – amcintosh
    Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 14:31
  • 1
    George Romero's seminal work, The Night of the Living Dead?
    – Andres F.
    Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 17:32
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    When a mommy zombie and a daddy zombie love each other very much...
    – Schwern
    Commented Nov 16, 2014 at 2:33

3 Answers 3


At least in film, the first "modern" zombies, the literal dead walking again (as opposed to voodoo and other drug and / or hypnotic states) appear a couple years before Night of the Living Dead. A Hammer film from 1966, Plague of the Zombies, was the first film to show corpses rising out of their graves, digging through the earth, to walk again.

While this is the herald of the modern "truly-dead" zombie, it wasn't until 1968 and George A. Romero that the idea of the "real" modern zombie (actually dead and eating the living) appeared and took root. The fact they weren't called zombies is moot. They were zombies as sure as Nosferatu was a vampire. Also this is only taking into account multiple numbers of zombies. I don't know the earliest film (or other) reference to a singular cursed or other-wise revived person.

And as for Gilgamesh, that is more parable or metaphor. It is not the dead being brought back as rotting corpses (admittedly my understanding of the Epic is sketchy at best). It seems to be the dead being released. I do think there is a difference. Same reason people generally don't think of Lazarus or Jesus to be zombies.

  • Thank you very much for your answer. Really interesting. I liked a lot your opinions!
    – Paulo Bu
    Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 22:35

This one seems to go back to the Epic of Gilgamesh; see http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/mesopotamian/gilgamesh/tab6.htm

I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,
I will smash the door posts, and leave the doors flat down,
and will let the dead go up to eat the living!
And the dead will outnumber the living!

This contains most of the core ideas; zombies rising from the dead and eating living people are all here. It's a full-fledged zombie apocalypse right from the dawn of literature, in other words.

The idea of an undead creature that bites a living person thereby turning them into another undead is certainly from the vampire myth, which is - again - older than dirt (obligatory TV Tropes warning).

  • Thank you very much. Your answer is really interesting.
    – Paulo Bu
    Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 18:07
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    Explanation of the TV Tropes warning for those (un)lucky to not know it - xkcd.com/609. Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 1:10

The idea of the modern zombie, i.e. a horde of reanimated half-rotten corpses that try to eat the living and (sometimes) convert their victims to new zombies, usually accompanied by the collapse of civilization as a setting, is sometimes acknowledged to have been invented by George Romero in his movie Night of the Living Dead.

From Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

Romero revolutionized the horror film genre with Night of the Living Dead; according to Almar Haflidason of the BBC, the film represented "a new dawn in horror film-making".The film has also effectively redefined the use of the term "zombie". While the word "zombie" itself is never used - the word used in the film is ghoul - Romero's film introduced the theme of zombies as reanimated, flesh-eating cannibals. Early zombie films like Victor Halperin's White Zombie (1932) and Jacques Tourneur's I Walked with a Zombie (1943) concerned living people enslaved by a Voodoo witch doctor; many were set in the Caribbean.

Romero himself is said to have been influenced by the book I Am Legend, where the creatures are actually vampires.

  • I see, thanks for the answer. It seems George Romero is appointed to be the modern zombie's stories father. But actually the behavior pattern exists long time ago.
    – Paulo Bu
    Commented Nov 9, 2013 at 18:06

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