These movies all focused on the classic and well, true definition of a zombie, an undead slave. With the next few movies zombies have shaken off the shackles and are taking things into their own hands...namely your brains.
This next movie is THE zombie movie. Before this, as I stated above, zombies were always portrayed as slaves. Here they are horror, they are the embodiment of our fears of death, always slowly on our heels, relentless and unforgiving.
In 1968 George Romero gave us, "Night of The Living Dead". It was a small independent film that came out in black and white when most other movies had made the switch to color. It was not received well, critics panned it but it did find a cult following. Today it has been placed in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as a film deemed "historically, culturally or aesthetically important".
There was no artistic choice in the movie being shot in B&W, Romero chose it because that's all he could afford. Many of the choices in the movie were not done for artistic purposes, the most obvious being that the main character is black. There is never any mention of his race or any indication that anyone thinks anything odd about his skin color. This was a bit of a big deal in 1968. Romero has said he chose Duayne Jones to play Ben only because he "gave the best audition". He had no intention to comment on race relations in the movie, although it is quite subversive.
This is also the first film to show the dead seeking the flesh of the living. Romero has mixed the classic zombie with a good hand full of ghoul and created an entirely new monster. The undead are not angry, they are not insane, they are simply instinct. They represent what we fear most, death, and are out to take what we have and that they do not, life.
This movie set the standards for decades to come.
Coincidentally, one decade later in 1978, Romero gave us the sequel "Dawn of The Dead". This movie has no direct relation to any character from the first movie, which is understandable if you've ever seen Night. This takes place an unspecified time later, my guess is days, despite the obvious 10 year lag, society is still trying to hold together but it's all falling apart anyway. A few people find themselves together and head out of the city in a helicopter. They land on the roof of a shopping mall to rest and resupply when they realize that they could live like kings if they can clear out the zombies. This has fueled the minds of many a zombie enthusiast. What's the best place to hole up in and defend? Everyone has an opinion of this, some people spend maybe a bit too much time thinking about it...but then again, maybe they'll be the ones who survive the next major disaster because they've been planning. Think about that those of you who laugh!
*ahem* Anyway, this is my personal favorite zombie movie, there's so much to love. There are some very clear messages in it, yet it never takes itself too seriously. It's gory and it's funny and I think it set a standard for movies like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland. This and Night are MUST SEE'S if you have never seen them. Period.
A year later than Dawn of the dead came Lucio Fulci's 1979 "Zombie", or as it was known internationally, "Zombi 2", an unofficial sequel to Dawn of the Dead. The movie is notable for, well, pretending to be a Romero movie and it's gore. In the first 10 minutes of the movie a zombie fights a damn shark! How awesome is that?! It sets a high mark that the rest of the movie doesn't quite stand up to, I found it a bit of a chore to watch although not unenjoyable. If you like gore, this is a good one for it. Recommended only for hard-core zombie or gore enthusiasts.
Things get a bit trickier from here on out, so I think I'll go with one more before calling it the end of the Silver Age. This final movie is, yet again, from George Romero. It's important for one thing, arguably, but as there were no other significant movies I could pick out in the years between, I'm moving on to this. Romero's part 3, "Day of The Dead" made in 1985. Day picks up much like Dawn, new characters and a new location. This time we're following some soldiers that are holding an army base with a few civilians and a doctor that's experimenting on the zombies. The one thing I find important in the movie is the zombie, Bub. The nutzo doctor has been able to train Bub to do certain things like salute the soldiers. He is proving that there is still some humanity locked away in the undead brains, he is hoping to be able to control them some how, but the soldiers, who are a bunch of dicks, are horrified and have other plans for survival. If you are a fan of the last two movies, I'd recommend this one, but it's much slower than the others and it is not quite as rewarding to watch. It is important for the overall evolution of the undead through Romero's movies. Aside from that, well, I'll just say I've seen this one a few times, compared to the dozen times I've seen the other two each.
With that, I'll leave the Silver Age of zombie movies and we switch to the Modern Age. The tricky part is that the next movie also came out in 1985, yet planted the seeds for what is becoming the "norm" for zombies. See you in a few days my delightful decomposing disciples!