Ritorno of the Dead: 4 Italian Zombie Movies That Prove Italians Did It Best

When we think of Italian cinema, a lot of things come to mind. The ever-gorgeous Sophia Loren, the legendary Marcello Mastroianni, the films of Fellini and Visconti…

However, the genre we are going to discuss today is one you may have never associated with Italian films…: We are talking about Italian zombie movies.

Yes, Italian zombie movies are a thing. And they’re not only a thing. They are their own strange creature, featuring intense gore, titillating sexuality, and progressive rock scores, among other peculiarities. What is more, they make great resources for movie lovers who want to learn Italian while having a bit of fun.

Below, you will find the best Italian zombie movies of all time and how they can help you learn Italian vocabulary while improving your Italian pronunciation.

If you have a trip to Italy ahead of you, make sure you also learn some Italian slang so you can mingle with the crowd!


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1. Paura nella città dei morti viventi – City of the Living Dead (1980)

Lucio Fulci directs this cult classic full of gory fun about a priest who commits suicide by hanging himself in a cemetery. As a result of this God-defying act, a portal to the underworld is opened to release the undead, who start to lay waste to the movie’s small town. Peter, a New York City journalist, teams up with a psychic named Mary, to figure out a way to close this hellish gate before All Saints’ Day.

Check out a dialogue from the movie and learn a few Italian words related to the dead and occultism:

Theresa: Mary, dicci cosa hai visto nella tua ultima visione.

Mary Woodhouse: La città dei morti. Il morto vivente. Una città maledetta dove sono state aperte le porte dell’inferno.

visione – vision

morto viviente – the living dead

città maledetta – cursed city

inferno – hell

2. L’aldilà – The Beyond (1981)

It seems that the ‘80s was a great decade for Italian zombie movies. In The Beyond, a young woman inherits a hotel whose cellar is one of seven doorways to hell. Soon, she finds herself fighting off a legion of the undead, as well as the spirit of an evil sorcerer.

This film is so bloody and violent that it was censored when it first came out. Watch the iconic scene in which the protagonist finds her mother lying on the floor unconscious, her face burned by acid, and you will understand why the movie made both Italian and American censors squeak!

Make sure you watch The Beyond with Italian subtitles, and memorize your favourite lines so you can learn Italian words while you have fun with your friends.

You’ll find great quotes such as this one:

“Guai a colui che apre una delle sette porte dell’Inferno, perché attraverso quella porta il male invaderà il mondo” (“Woe be unto him who opens one of the seven gateways to Hell because, through that gateway, evil will invade the world”.)

Also, make sure you pay attention to how Italians use body language to convey meaning and attitude. You can read more about Italian hand gestures here.

3. Zombi 2 – Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)

Another classic Italian zombie movie directed by the late Lucio Fulci, this is the ultimate Italian horror-comedy to watch with friends while eating a big bowl of popcorn.

Peter West, a reporter, travels to the Antilles and discovers a terrifying disease that is turning the islanders into horrifying, seemingly indestructible zombies which feed on human flesh and bones.

Fulci used to tell a funny anecdote about making Zombi 2. While shooting on location in New York, Captain Haggerty, who plays a brutish zombie that appears in the first scene of the movie, walked into a punk rock bar that was just around the corner from his trailer while in full zombie look, which included splattered fake blood and torn clothes. Due to the flamboyant punk styles people wore at that venue, he was barely noticed. Even the waitress never looked twice at him.

If you think this anecdote is funny, wait until you watch the movie. Fulci manages to imbue every scene, even the bloodiest bits, with unexpected but welcome humour. Take this quote as an example:

“Cos’è tutta questa storia dei morti che tornano in vita e… che devono essere uccisi una seconda volta? Voglio dire, che diavolo sta succedendo qui?” (“What is all this about the dead coming back to life again and… having to be killed a second time? I mean, what the hell’s going on here?”)

With Italian zombie movies, you don’t only get to learn Italian words and phrases, you can also improve your pronunciation. Every time you hear a line that you find particularly funny, you can go back a bit, listen to it again, and repeat while you read the subtitles.

You will find, for example, that the “ch” sound in che is pronounced /k/, while the “cc” in uccisi is pronounced /ch/.

4. Dellamorte Dellamore – Cemetery Man (1994)

To end our list, we decided to take you back to the ‘90s with one of Italy’s most underrated entries in the zombie subgenre.

Cemetery Man is a free translation of Dellamorte Dellamore, a title that suggests a duality between love and dead (in Italian, dellamore means “of love”, while dellamorte means “of death”).

Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) works as a gravedigger in the cemetery of the small town of Buffalora, isolated from the rest of the world and deprived of social life. For some time now a strange “epidemic” has spread in the cemetery: some deceased come back to life within seven days of death. Francesco is forced to neutralize them by severing their heads and then burying them again so that people from the village do not panic. His “monotonous” life is shaken when he falls in love with an enigmatic but beautiful widow who visits the grave of her husband.

Since this movie is mainly in English with only a few dialogues in Italian, it is ideal for beginner students who want to learn Italian but are not sure they could watch an entire film in this language.

Watch the video below and see why this small Italian zombie movie has been praised as a “poetic masterpiece of cinema”.

As you can see, Italian zombie movies offer much more than gore and trashy fun. Whether you’re looking for horror, comedy, or romance, the perfect Italian zombie flick is waiting for you out there.

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Remember that, though movies are a great tool to polish your linguistic skills, they won’t be enough to get you ready to get by in Italy. So, while you look for the best Italian zombie movie to surprise your friends, we suggest you take a few lessons with an Italian teacher who can actually get you to use all the Italian you know. At Language Trainers, we offer both online and in-person language courses for students of all ages and levels, specially adapted to your needs and interests. Reach out to us now and get your first lesson for free, no strings attached!