So when you watch old zombie movies, like Night of the Living Dead, zombies tend to be a mysterious thing, they are just an unnatural event with no explanation.

Fast forward 50 years into the future and games like the Resident Evil series and movies like 28 Days Later explicitly portray zombies as the consequence of a viral pandemic.

Which was the first movie to introduce this concept?

  • 1
    older ones are routed with Voodoo. Dawn Of The Dead was a giant leap away from all this.
    – cmp
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 21:45
  • So was Dawn of the death the first to introduce this concept?
    – Makogan
    Commented May 11, 2020 at 0:10
  • 1
    The word "zombie" also derives from voodoo terminology originally, if I'm not mistaken.
    – Steve-O
    Commented May 11, 2020 at 13:32
  • Pretty sure this has been asked before and was a dead end due to semantic arguments over what a zombie is.
    – Charles
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 2:06
  • 3
    But I am not asking about the first zombie movie, but the first, viral zombie movie, which doesn;t seem that hard to define. It's a person that has been infected with a pathogen and now looks like a rotting corpse.
    – Makogan
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 3:13

3 Answers 3


It would seem that British film The Plague of the Zombies (1966) would be the first registered example of a zombie movie depicting the affliction as a plague or sickness. However, the origin of the zombies is that movie stays very much mystical in nature. To understand this duality, it is necessary to known the historical and cultural elements on which previous zombie films based themselves upon.

The invention of "zombies" as a concept (specifically zombies, not just undead-ness) is attributed to the Haitian culture. Eventually, foreigners assimilated the Haitian zombies to voodoo practices (which is a commun misunderstanding ; see here on Wikipedia along with relevant sources) and exported the concept. The first registered zombie movie ever was White Zombie (1933), produced by Hammer Films and starring cult actor Bela Lugosi. (Incidentally, Plague of the Zombies was also produced by Hammer Films.)

In Plague of the Zombies, the start of the movie depicts a plague sweeping through a rural city and killing the inhabitants one after the other. Eventually, the protagonists discover that victims from the plague have been zombified by the movie's villain through Voodoo spells. So in a way, Plague of the Zombies both is and isn't the first zombie movie to depict zombies as originating from a plague...

The first movie to clearly depict zombification as a sickness, though, is the obscure Hell of the Living Dead, where the infection stems for a chemical leak. If you specifically seek the first movie where zombification comes precisely from a virus, then it looks like Braindead (1992) might be it. The zombie plague comes here from a rabid Sumatran monkey's bite.

I may have missed an important movie, so feel free to point out a more correct solution if you have one.


I would still go with Night of the Living Dead. Although the mysteriousness of the zombies is intriguing, its in the story telling.

At the beginning of the movie, you get a vague tv announcement that the venus space probe is carrying radiation. Which suggests, that this space radiation is the cause of the reanimation of the dead.

I'd categorize it as some form of virus.

  • 2
    I want to respectfully disagree. Radiation is not the same as a virus. A virus is a very well defined thing. For example, the cordyceps zombies of the last of us are not viral zombies, neither are the trioxin zombies from return of the living dead.
    – Makogan
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 1:24
  • Yikes, you got me there. I was trying to say that it is not as mysterious in NOTLD, there is a cause, and its not something mystical. if we looking for specifically virus borne zombie infection, then NOTLD is probably not it
    – calculus
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 1:30

I think it is Resident Evil.. Sorry if my answer is wrong I'm just a newcomer

  • 4
    If you are not sure, please don't post an answer. Answers should also contain some proof, or source.
    – TK-421
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 5:42
  • 2
    Welcome to M&TV StackExchange. Can you provide any link to support your answer ?
    – Spectra
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 7:37

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .