Night of the Living Dead

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Night of the Living Dead Movie Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
'60s zombie classic is still intense and gory.
  • NR
  • 1968
  • 90 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 41 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No real positive messages. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

At a time when such a casting was unheard of, the hero of the movie is an African-American male. More than any of the other survivors in the farmhouse, he keeps his head under pressure while the others are panicked and frightened, and leads the group toward the best ways to fight the zombies and possibly escape. 

Violence

While the blood and gore is not as bloody and gory as later sequels or movies and TV shows also centered on zombies, there are still violent moments. The ghouls can only be stopped, infamously, by being shot in the brain or beaten severely around the head. Others are set on fire. There is biting, dismemberment, and cannibalism. A little girl among the living in the farmhouse who has been ill dies and becomes a zombie and then kills her mother with a trowel, stabbing her repeatedly in the chest. Fistfights among the living, including one of the living killing another with a rifle. 

Sex

Brief, nonsexual nudity of female zombie buttocks. 

Language

"Damned," "goddammit," "hell," "bastards." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette smoking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Night of the Living Dead is a classic 1968 low-budget horror movie in which men and women trapped in a farmhouse must defend themselves against reanimated corpses. While not as violent and gory as the Living Dead sequels and horror movies to come, there are still plenty of violent moments. Zombies (a word never used in the movie, by the way) are shown eating the organs and entrails of the victims they have recently killed. A young girl turns into a zombie and stabs her mother to death repeatedly with a trowel. Zombies are killed with rifle shots to the head, set on fire, and crushed with tire irons. Humans trying to survive turn on each other, including one scene in which one man kills another with a rifle. While George Romero and those involved with the film deny any sociopolitical message to the movie, it's hard not to see this as a comment on the times during which the movie was made. It's also worth mentioning that the only character who can really be seen as the complete hero is an African-American male -- something unheard of in those days. Occasional mild profanity includes "goddammit," "hell," and "bastards," and there is some cigarette smoking. 

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 17-year-old Written bySircjalot July 26, 2018

The movie that started the modern zombies. Still a shocking movie after be 50 years old!

Though not the goriest zombie film, but still pretty gory! Scenes of zombies eating the flesh and guts of humans. Seeing the zombies get shot at with a bloody i... Continue reading
Adult Written bySBC2000 March 1, 2020
Teen, 14 years old Written byTrent123 July 2, 2020

One of my personal favourite zombie movies

A great zombie flick, i don't understand how this is in 17 and up on this site, i think you can watch this movie at any age but not for those sensitive to... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byTD5561 April 20, 2020

Masterpiece Of Horror

I personally don't get why all of u rate this a 17 and up, i think a younger audience can enjoy this film, i believe 10 year old horror fans can handle thi... Continue reading

What's the story?

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD begins when a young woman and her brother are attacked in a cemetery by a zombie; the scene then moves to a group of strangers seeking shelter from the ghouls in a remote house. Barricaded inside, they see TV bulletins linking the zombie plague to "radiation" from a Venus space probe contaminating the environment, and they hear the only way to stop a ghoul is to destroy the brain with a well-aimed bullet or cranial blows. The panicked survivors split into two factions, a family called the Coopers, who want to stay barricaded indoors and wait for help, and a more proactive bunch, led by Ben (Duane Jones), an assertive black man, who plan a dash to safety, despite the ghouls massing relentlessly in the dark outside. Spoiler alert: A famously shocking finale indicates that neither of their plans works out.

Is it any good?

George A. Romero's cult classic brought a virtually unprecedented level of realistic gore and disturbing grotesquerie to creature-feature fans (many of them children). When it premiered in 1968, critics and commentators were outraged that kids had been exposed to such a nightmare. Though it's unrated by the MPAA, some posters and ads carried an X rating (for gruesome violence, not sex), and that should tell you something. It's still intense today and pushes a lot of buttons, with its well-rendered camera angles, effective jolts, claustrophobia, and fate-worse-than-death zombie vibe.

Beware: The film is in the public domain, which means there are lots of fuzzy-looking, technically inferior copies on the market, computer-"colorized" versions, and spoof editions with completely dubbed-in gag dialogue (even with a bad-joke soundtrack, the imagery is still disturbing).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about classic horror movies. How does Night of the Living Dead earn a place among the most legendary and groundbreaking of horror movies? 

  • How does the use of black-and-white film make the scary moments seem even creepier? Could it have been just as scary in color? Why or why not? 

  • What are your thoughts on the ending? Intentional or not, how does this ending, and much of the action taking place outside of the farmhouse, seem like a comment on the times in which the movie was made -- the late 1960s? Should movies, generally seen as a form of escapist entertainment, always have happy endings? 

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