15 Foreign Language Zombie Movies You Should Binge Now

Tired of those zombie blockbusters Hollywood churn out? Try these instead.

I watched Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead recently, and I've got to be honest I wasn't completely enthralled by it.  The zombies were decent and I liked the inclusion of a heist in a post-apocalyptic setting, but the characters seemed to lack depth.  So, I thought I'd move away from Hollywood-away from the English language altogether-and look for something a little different... 

Zombie films make up a sub-category of the horror genre with zombies as the main antagonists or threats.  Zombies are fictional paranormal miscreations, usually portrayed on-screen as the reanimated bodies of deceased or infected humans.

Foreign-language films refer to feature-length pictures whose dialogue is spoken primarily in a language other than English; they are an important method of sharing international stories and cultural creativity.  Zombies themselves are thought to be creations that originated from Haitian superstition, only travelling to the US when Haiti was occupied by America in the 20th century.

Now, the zombie has become well known in many countries around the world.  Wouldn't it be interesting to witness the ways in which other countries have interpreted the myths?  Without further ado, 15 foreign language zombie movies you should binge now.

1. #ALIVE– South Korea (2020)

Directed by: Cho Il-hyung

Written by: Matt Naylor

Starring: Yoo Ah-in, Park Shin-hye

Alive follows Oh Joon-woo (Yoo Ah-in), who’s just hanging out in his apartment playing video games while he waits for his family to come home.  Directed by his online friends to check out the news, he turns the TV on, only to find out that an unknown disease has broken out causing people to become highly aggressive and eat those who are unaffected.

After receiving messages from his dad to stay and home and that he must survive, Oh Joon-woo rations his food and prepares to wait it out.  Unfortunately, his food and water supply run out fast and his few encounters with the outside don’t fill him with confidence that the situation will be over any time soon.

 Starving and lonely, Oh Joon-woo prepares to end it all but before he can a girl from the opposite apartment building, Kim Yoo-bin (Park Shin-hye), makes contact.

#Alive is an enjoyable watch, it doesn’t bring anything new to the genre but has what you want in a zombie film.  Yoo Ah-in makes Oh Joon-woo extremely likable and although the character makes some stupid mistakes that will have you facepalming and calling your TV an idiot, they are the kind of emotional decisions you would expect, and make you feel for him even more.

There are some surprisingly wholesome moments between the two characters and it’s nice to witness their relationship progress.  Props to the zombie actors as well, the vocalisation and movements are awesome and of the standard, I have come to expect from a South Korea.

2. What We Become - Denmark (2015)

Directed by: Bo Mikkelson

Written by: Bo Mikkelson

Starring: Troels Lyby, Benjamin Engell, Ella Solgaard

Everything is well in the idyllic Sorgenfri for Dino, he has a loving wife, a young daughter, a rebellious teenage son, and it’s summer.  That all changes after a neighbourhood picnic.  One of their elderly neighbours asks them to help as her husband’s just died, but when the men go to look the body has vanished.  

Over the next few days, corpses start reanimating, attacking members of the community, and it’s not long before the military arrives.  They order everyone to quarantine in their homes, not allowing them to communicate with their neighbours, some of whom start being dragged from their houses, making the whole situation more alarming.

What We Become is like other zombie films, with the military getting involved and not telling anyone anything (you’d think they’d learn), but later on into the movie things take a darker turn than you might expect, with characters having to make hard and desperate choices.  As such, no one seems to embody the typical ‘hero’ role and everyone makes mistakes, more gritty than other more action-based zombie films and worth a watch.

3. The Grave Bandits – The Philippines (2012)

Directed by: T.A. Acierto

Written by: T.A. Acierto

Starring: Ronald Pacifico, Martin Sandino Juan

Romy (Ronald Pacifico) and Peewee (Martin Sandino Juan) have an unusual profession, they’re grave robbers.  They’ve become quite good at it too, so good in fact, that the town has placed a price on their heads.  In a desperate attempt to avoid capture the two boys escape to a desolate island, only to stumble across something worse-the undead!  

Years ago when an ancient meteorite fell to earth, it let loose an alien virus and its victims have come back from the grave- as zombie pirates!  Romy and Peewee are forced to think on their feet in order to survive this frightening foe.

The Grave Bandits does a good job of immersing you in Romy and Peewee’s world and their status as orphans makes them immediately sympathetic, though they quickly prove that they don’t need your sympathy.  Romy is very witty and his banter with Peewee feels very natural; it’s really nice to see them working together and looking out for each other as it’s really their relationship that the film’s about.  

Of course, the zombies are great too with a slightly different origin for the virus than other films, plus they’re pirates!

4. [REC] – Spain (2007)

Directed by: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza

Written by: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza, Luiso Berdejo

Starring: Manuela Velasco, Pablo Rosso, Ferran Terraza

Filming a segment for their local documentary TV show 'While You’re Sleeping,' Angela (Manuela Velasco) and her cameraman Pablo (Paco Plaza) join some firefighters on their shift, waiting for something interesting to happen in this found-footage horror.  They get exactly what they’re hoping for when the firemen are called out to rescue an old woman from her apartment, simple enough.  

However, they get more than they bargained for when the said woman starts attacking those trying to help her forcing them to retreat, only to discover that the authorities have locked them and the residents in the complex with no explanation.

The Blair Witch Project with zombies, this Spanish horror is short (1hr 15) but it’s not sweet.  Tense all the way through and, taking advantage of the found footage technique employed, the film never shows you everything that you want to see, but just enough that your heart is racing as it holds on to the suspense.  

While Angela and Pablo are your typical reporter-cameraman team wanting to get everything on film, even if it means getting in people’s way, Angela’s not stupid.  She makes sure to ask the right questions to try and get as much information about the situation as possible, and they do their best to help out firefighter Manu (Ferran Terraza) when they can.  

The revelation about the origin of the infection is also more original than your run-of-the-mill Hollywood blockbuster, combining science and religion, resulting in a fresh take.

5. Zeta: When the Dead Awaken – Nigeria (2019)

Directed by: Amanda Iswan

Written by: Amanda Iswan

Starring: Jeff Smith, Cut Mini Theo, Dimas Aditya

After getting into a fight with a classmate, Deon (Jeff Smith) is sent straight to the principal, in the meantime, while the classmate is being checked over he bites the school nurse treating him.  Zombie attacks start rapidly occurring at the school and on the streets, so Deon does what any good child would do and runs home to protect his mum Isma (Cut Mini Theo), who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.  

Unfortunately, they end up getting trapped in the apartment.  Meanwhile, we meet Deon’s father Richard (Willem Bevers) who is a scientist working with the military, and as it turns out, the one who discovered the amoeba parasite that caused the zombie outbreak.  He reveals that the cure is actually at the apartment Deon and Isma are in.  Typical.

The parallel storytelling following Deon and those at the flats, and the military works well.  Although the military scenes are expository, they break up the time at the apartment complex so it doesn’t get boring, and when you return to Deon the tension racks up.  

Zeta also doesn’t shoe-horn in any unnecessary romance, which I fully expected it to do with a teenage protagonist, so that was a nice change, and it's cool to see specification in the zombies having different types-alphas and omegas- and knowing that zombies mainly see humans’ hearts and brains.  For a debut film with a low budget to work with Zeta isn’t bad at all.

6. One Cut Of The Dead - Japan (2017)

Directed by: Shinichirou Ueda

Written by: Shinichirou Ueda

Inspired by: Ryoichi Wada’s play Ghost in the Box!

Starring: Takayuki Hamatsu, Yuzuki Akiyama, Harumi Shuhama

While making a zombie movie at an abandoned military facility, things quickly descend into chaos for a group of actors and crew when real zombies start attacking them.  Frustrated with the actors’ performances, the director (Takayuki Hamatsu) decides to take the opportunity to film the cast as they fight for their lives.  However, this zomedy horror has way more to it than you might expect.

It’s really hard to say too much about One Cut of the Dead without giving anything away. At first, it might seem like an average b-list zombie film with satisfactory acting and a slight meta-angle but stick with it because it gets so much better.  

All the little things that might confuse or irritate you initially start to make so much more sense, and you start to truly appreciate what the film is doing.  An amazing end-product for an indie film shot in only eight days for less than $30,000, a great debut from director Shinichirou Ueda.

One Cut of the Dead Movie Poster
The trailer spoils the film so enjoy this movie poster instead. Image source: thirdwindowfilms.com

7. KL Zombi – Malaysia (2013)

Directed by: Woo Ming Jin

Written by: Adib Zaini

Starring: Zizan Razak, Siti Saleha, Izara Aishah

A Shaun of the Dead-Esque escapade, KL Zombi follows Nipis (Zizan Razak), a hockey-playing, pizza delivering, a layabout who isn’t really doing anything or going anywhere in life.  However, he seems to find his calling when a zombie outbreak occurs, forcing him to actually get up and take action.   As it turns out, he’s not too shabby.

KL Zombi is not a serious film, not in the least.  So, whether you like this film or not will really depend on your sense of humour and your ability to descend to the level of silliness this film showcases.  Full of jokes KL Zombi is an extremely light-hearted film, considering its rather cannibalistic subject matter, with characters continually mistaking zombies for ordinary people and getting into mildly dangerous situations because of it.  

You never really get the sense that the world is at stake or even the city really, so if you want a film that will make you laugh, but also has a zombie element try KL Zombi.

8. Dead Snow – Norway (2009)

Directed by: Tommy Wirkola

Written by: Tommy Wirkola, Stig Frode Henriksen

Starring: Vegar Hoel, Charlotte Frogner, Lasse Valdal

It’s your usual horror formula: Easter break, a cabin in the middle of nowhere, a bunch of horny students, a creepy stranger randomly telling scary stories, and a horde of Nazi zombies.  That’s right, Nazi zombies.  

A group of friends travel into the mountains to spend their break at their friend Sara’s cabin, getting up to the usual antics, drinking, and playing games.  The next day Sara (Ane Dahl Torp), who was meant to be meeting them thereafter skiing through the mountains, still hasn’t shown up, so her boyfriend Vegard (Lasse Valdal) sets out to find her.  Vegard also happens to be the only one who knows the way back to the cars.  

Everything is normal until one of their friends goes missing and zombies start attacking. (Again, these are Nazi zombies, I cannot stress this enough!)

Fair warning, if you don’t like bloody gore and gratuitous violence this is not the film for you.  Going into this film I didn’t realise it was a comedy as well as a horror, so initially, I was wondering if the parts that were making me laugh were intended to do so, but I quickly realised that Tommy Wirkola knows exactly what he’s doing.  

The film is funny, gory and, although the characters are all horror archetypes, Wirkola and his actors bring a little something extra to the roles making them thoroughly enjoyable to watch so you can’t help rooting for them.  I particularly enjoyed Vegard and Hanna (Charlotte Frogner) who seem just about done with everything but keep going anyway. 

9. Train To Busan – South Korea (2016)

Directed by: Yeon Sang-ho

Written by: Park Joo-suk

Starring: Gong Yoo, Yu-mi Jung, Ma Dong-seok

At a biotech plant, a chemical leak occurs, resulting in the outbreak of a zombie apocalypse that steadily makes its way across the country.  Meanwhile, Seo Seok-woo (Gong Yoo) has just come to the realisation that he may not be the best father; he works too much, misses his daughter’s events, and gets her presents that are impersonal and that she already has.  To alleviate his guilt slightly, he agrees to take his daughter (Su-an Kim) to visit her mother in Busan.

They board a train at Seoul station full of other interesting characters and get on their way; however, without anyone knowing, an infected woman manages to jump on the train at the last second.  She quickly changes into a zombie attacking the train staff and passengers, turning more and more people and forcing the ones who’re left to barricade themselves in the front and rear cars.

Train to Busan is such a well-done zombie film, there’s a lot of tension, but also moments of reprieve that start to lull you into a false sense of security.  The zombies are actually unnerving and the sheer abundance of them coupled with the small spaces like the train cars creates a claustrophobic atmosphere.  

The people are socially diverse too, and all the characters you’re supposed to hate you hate and all the ones you’re supposed to like you like.  The film has an emotional element that is sometimes lacking in other zombie films, still one of my favourites.

10. The Horde – France (2009)

Directed by: Benjamin Rocher, Yannick Dahan

Written by: Arnaud Bordas, Yannick Dahan, Stephane Moissakis, Benjamin Rocher

Starring: Claude Perron, Jean-Pierre Martins, Eriq Ebouaney

After their colleague is murdered, a select group of police officers decide to set their badges aside and take the law into their own hands, hunting down the gang responsible.  Having located the suspects in a crippled apartment building, they commence a sneak raid with the intention of executing those within.  

Unfortunately for them though, the gang is alerted to their presence by the caretaker, and the officers are quickly captured.  Not really sounding like a zombie movie yet, is it? Give it a minute though, because just as the officers are about to be killed a disturbance of the undead kind interrupts, and the cops and criminals are forced to work together if they want to get out alive.

The characters in this film aren’t exactly likable, they’re violent criminals and corrupt cops with more similarities between them than they’d like to admit.  However, the fact that two groups on such vastly opposing sides of the law have to now put aside their differences and work together is an interesting dynamic to add to the zombie genre, and it’s cool to watch the film knowing that the zombies (who are the fast-moving kind, by the way) aren’t the only imminent threat.

11. Wild Zero – Japan (1999)

Directed by: Tetsuro Takeuchi

Written by: Satoshi Takagi, Tetsuro Takeuchi

Starring: Guitar Wolf, Masashi Endô, Kwancharu Shitichai

Wild Zero starts off following Ace (Masashi Endô), a Rock n’ Roll enthusiast and hardcore fan of Guitar Wolf.  After going to one of their gigs, Ace clumsily saves the band from a shoot-out with the manager and Guitar Wolf makes him his blood brother, giving Ace a whistle and telling him to blow it if he ever needs help.  

From here, the film follows Ace, Guitar Wolf, and various other characters all having to deal with a sudden zombie outbreak manufactured by aliens.  Eventually, all the groups converge to have it out with the zombies in a massive showdown.

Wild Zero is one of the most insane films I have watched in a long time, full of Japanese humour it’s cheesy and over the top in just the right amounts.  It has gangsters, heroes, aliens, perverts, zombies, true love, and most importantly Rock n’ Roll.  There is also some unexpected but much appreciated LGBT+ representation that I think was handled amazingly well, especially for 1999.

All the characters are great to watch and the zombies are awesome, but at its core, Wild Zero is a whirlwind love story with Ace and Tobio (Kwancharu Shitichai) at the centre. If you like films to have a strong plot to drive the narrative this may not be your thing, but if you’re happy to go with the flow and let Rock n’ Roll take you, then I suggest you strap in for the ride and remember “Love has no borders, nationalities or genders! DO IT!”

12. Juan of the Dead – Cuba (2011)

Directed by: Alejandro Brugués

Written by: Alejandro Brugués

Starring: Alexis Díaz de Villegas, Jorge Molina, Andrea Duro

Juan (Alexis Díaz de Villegas) and his friend Lazaro (Jorge Molina) are fishing, just when they think they’ve got a catch Juan reels in what appears to be a dead body, only it isn’t.  The body reanimates and they have to fight it off, with Lazaro eventually shooting it in the head with a spear gun.  

They don’t think much of this incident (I mean, why would you?) and go about business as usual, but then weird things start to happen, and people start becoming violent and attacking each other.  Ever the businessman, Juan comes up with a plan to capitalise on the situation, offering his services as a sort of exterminator for people and families whose loved ones have changed, using the slogan "Juan of the Dead: we kill your beloved ones. How can we help you?"

A weird mix of Shaun of the Dead and Ghostbusters, Juan of the Dead is a joy to watch with a good sense of humour and, although it was inspired by Shaun of the Dead, it is its own entity with amusing characters and funny gags to keep you entertained throughout, even if it’s a bit stupid sometimes-maybe a lot of the time.

13. Block Z - The Philippines (2020)

Directed by: Mikhail Red

Written by: Mixkaela Villalon

Starring: Ian Veneracion, Joshua Garcia, Julia Barretto

The film opens with PJ (Julia Barretto) and her dad Mario (Ian Veneracion) on their way to PJ’s university where she is a 4th-year medical student.  They clearly aren’t on the best of terms at the moment, and PJ ends up getting out of the car early, leaving Mario to continue the drive alone.  

While he is on the phone trying to secure funds for PJ’s tuition, Mario ends up clipping a kid who walks in front of his car and ends up taking him to the hospital, the same hospital where PJ is doing her rounds.  She is assigned to treat a mother who has come in with a bite.  A human bite.  

The mother flatlines and is pronounced dead only to come back to life and start attacking the people at the hospital, staff, and patients alike.  As the infection spreads throughout the hospital and the university campus, PJ and her friends fight to find a way off campus, while her father fights to find her.

Block Z is a solid zombie film, you know what you’re in for and you get what you expect.  There’s family tension, budding romances that you want to see resolved, and self-sacrifices-one of which (for me anyway) was subverted, which was nice to see.  

The zombies present a real threat, they’re vicious, relentless, and shockingly fast.  Every time they appear you feel the need to hold your breath.  A film of a high quality that gives you exactly what you want, what more do you need to fill a Sunday afternoon?

14. Rammbock: Berlin Undead – Germany (2010)  

Directed by: Marvin Kren

Written by: Benjamin Hessler, Marvin Kren (contributor)

Starring: Michael Fuith, Theo Trebs, Anka Graczyk

Michael (Michael Fuith) travels to Berlin with the goal of giving his ex-girlfriend Gabi (Anka Graczyk) her keys back and rekindling their relationship. (You gotta admire the guy for trying).

Unfortunately, when he gets there it's not Gabi he meets but a handyman and his teenage assistant doing some work in her flat, and the handyman is acting oddly.  After the handymen attack his assistant, Michael finds himself stuck in the flat, with a teenager named Harper (Theo Trebs), and Gabi nowhere in sight while zombies roam the courtyard below.

Rammbock doesn’t waste any time getting into the action and considering the film is only an hour-long this makes sense.  I enjoyed the fact that the film follows Michael and Harper rather than the usual father-daughter combo that seems to be dominating apocalyptic films lately, it was good to see two strangers of different age groups having to work together.  

Michael and Harper come up with some inventive ways to combat the zombies, not all work, but still.  Importantly, Harper discovers the zombies’ weakness, and I would say it’s not your usual weakness, so it was cool to see something different play out.

15. Versus – Japan (2000)

Directed by: Ryûhei Kitamura

Written by: Ryûhei Kitamura, Yudai Yamaguchi

Starring: Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki, Chieko Misaka

There are 666 portals on Earth that connect to the ‘other side,’ and no one knows about them.  Well, almost no one, there are select groups of people who are aware of the existence of the portals and are determined to find them, so they can harness their powers for their own use.  The 444th portal in particular is known as the Forrest of Resurrection. 

 Cue a lone samurai in 10th century Japan fending off hordes of zombies, but after killing them all, he is confronted by a priest and his followers and swiftly killed.  

Skip to modern-day Japan, and two inmates have escaped from prison and are met by yakuza. Prisoner KSC2-303 (Tak Sakaguchi) sees that they have a girl with them and, worrying about what they plan to do with her, gets into a massive argument with them, resulting in the killing of one of their members.  However, he’s not dead for long as the yakuza immediately comes back as a zombie!

Another slightly crazy, but brilliant gem from Japan, it has everything you never knew you needed in one film: portals, samurai, yakuza, reincarnation, zombies, and more. The action sequences are also amazing and luckily there are a lot of them.

There you go, 15 foreign language zombie movies, that should keep you occupied for at least a week, right?

A graduate from UEA with a BA in English Lit. with Creative Writing. An aspiring writer and editor, loves anime/manga, films and books.

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