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Zombieland Is A Western

Updated on March 9, 2014

Zombieland contains...

“Westerns are without question the richest and most enduring genre of Hollywood’s repertoire.” This quote by the film scholar Thomas Schatz shocked me when I first read it and took it for how it sounds. Then I realized there was a lot of truth to this statement. The Western genre has influenced more of the famous and viral movies that we see today than we think. This paper will discuss how the 2009 movie Zombieland, by Ruben Fleischer, is influenced by the western genre, and can even be considered a western film despite its Hollywood deemed genre being Comedy/Horror.

In the beginning of Zombielannd, we find Columbus surviving on his own by his 30 rules. He is trying to make it back to Ohio to his family. After meeting Tallahassee, they decide to make the trip together. Eventually they find two women whose goal is to make it to an amusement park. This movie depicts these people as sort of the wanderers, similar to the lone cowboy in a western film. They create their own, broken law system (30 rules for Columbus), because of the lack of a maintained societal system in the world. This posse of people relies on their fake sense of honor to keep them together. This is tested plenty of times throughout the movie. In the end, they truly do trust each other, and risk their lives for each other.

Another huge part of western films is the vast views of the landscape, and this is something Zombieland is definitely not lacking. Throughout the film we are shown amazing scenery, but instead of it only being the lone cowboy in the wilderness, it is this small group of people in a more urban environment with abandoned cars and buildings. However, there are a few points in the film where they are in the wilderness very similarly to a western film.

One significant similarity to the western genre is the showdown between Columbus and the amusement park clown. The classic standing view shot reverse shot in this scene is strikingly similar to a gunfight in a western. It is almost a futuristic depiction of the exact same scenarios. Following this scene we see the final gunfight in which Tallahassee unloads his guns into the hoarding zombies. These climactic consecutive scenes are very similar to the ending of a typical western genre film.

With so many more similarities between Zombieland and the western genre, it is difficult to just stop here. The film follows the characteristics very closely, but sort of futurizes them for a newer audience. They take the characteristics we know, and alter them to get a reaction from the audience. We see this similarly in the Art Cinema movement where directors would show us that they knew the elements of a typical film, then completely shatter these standards to get a reaction and to prove a point. It is for this reason that Zombieland could without a doubt be considered a western film of the future.

Zombieland Trailer


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