If you’ve watched the trailer for World War Z, you’ve no doubt seen that the zombies move with incredible, even supernatural, speed. Let’s forget for the moment that this is entirely wrong compared to the book (I think we all know this movie is going to have about as much to do with the source it came from as The Lawnmower Man did). This is a new zombie paradigm, and I thought it might be fun to look at some of the classics.
Here we have a handy chart I produced in Excel (I’m an Excel monkey in real life). It’s a scale from one to ten of zombie speeds. Five is average human speed (including running). Anything lower than five would be a “shambler”, while above five is a “fast zombie”.
We start with Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead/Dawn of the Dead. These are the true shamblers that defined zombies for decades. Zombieland mostly had a similar speed, with the characters often outrunning or ducking the zombies.
At three, we have an odd couple. Shaun of the Dead is mostly the same as the Romero version, but we see several times where the z-words make lunges and chase Shaun, though they aren’t very quick. The Walking Dead…well, they walk. They are called “walkers”. They don’t shamble much, but they also don’t run very often.
At average human speed (including running), we have The Living Dead, which are actually the most dangerous of all the zombies since you really can’t kill them. Cabin in the Woods introduces us to the inbred cannibal hillbilly zombies, which seem to move at a normal pace.
Both Resident Evil and Rec (or the English language version, Quarantine) feature zombies that are generally slightly faster than humans. In Resident Evil, the standard zombie is mostly a shambler, but I’ve put it at a seven because of the special zombies, like the Licker or Nemesis who are very quick and/or can leap long distances. With Rec, you have zombies that no longer have human limitations on muscles and pain, and can therefore run and climb much faster than a real person would.
Coming in at an eight is the movie that really first gave us the “fast zombie”, 28 Days Later. These zombies (or “infected” since they aren’t really dead) move fast because of the Rage virus that amps their adrenaline to superhuman levels. You don’t get a great sense of how fast they are, but again, they were genre defining, so I’ve given them the second to highest rating.
And finally, you have World War Z at ten. From the trailer we see a wave of zombies climbing over each other, surging forward. Or at least they might be zombies. I can’t entirely tell, and after seeing it, I might reclassify them. This is also the point that I reiterate that this movie looks like it has almost zero in common with the book, so I can’t make estimates that way either. For now we’ll keep it at ten.
I’d love to expand this list, so if anyone has zombie films or shows they’d like to see added, please drop a comment. Movies and TV only – no books or I’d be updating this forever.