From the 1932 Bela Lugosi classic “White Zombie” to George A. Romero’s revolutionary masterpiece “Night of the Living Dead” to Paul W. S. Anderson’s supercharged “Resident Evil” franchise, horror fans have always craved tales of the undead. But it wasn’t until AMC’s “The Walking Dead” that zombies truly became modern mainstream icons. Virtually overnight, viewers who had only seen one or two zombie films suddenly became experts on flesh-eating ghouls and reanimated corpses.
Based on Robert Kirkman’s popular comic book series, and developed for TV by director Frank Darabont, “The Walking Dead” debuted on Halloween night in 2010 and was an instant ratings smash. Viewership rose dramatically with each new season, and eventually peaked in 2014 with the fifth season premiere drawing a staggering 17.3 million viewers; the record for the most-watched episode in cable TV history. Although ratings have declined steadily since then (as they have throughout linear television), “The Walking Dead” remains the No. 1 highest rated series on ad-supported cable television.
Much of its success can be attributed to the series’ beloved characters and the horrific set-pieces that the show’s writers and directors concoct each new season. Spin-offs like “Fear the Walking Dead,” the limited series “The Walking Dead: World Beyond,” and a trio of upcoming films focused on lead character Rick Grimes offer fans new ways to explore the franchise’s post-apocalyptic world, but it’s the original series that continues to captivate viewers’ imaginations more than anything else. And with the first nine seasons of “The Walking Dead” currently available to stream on Netflix, there’s never been a better time to indulge in some extreme zombie mayhem.
To help you plan the ultimate greatest hits marathon, here’s our ranking of the 30 best episodes in “Walking Dead” history.