Nephthys: Men always let themselves go, sweetheart. Even the dead ones.
Like ghosts and vampires who were only recently romanticised and portrayed as humanlike in many aspects, zombies were traditionally depicted as horrifying, creepy, ugly, mindless and carnivorous. The reason for this lies in the concept of zombie originating from Caribbean voodoo, in which they were corpses reanimated by a magician and subjected to his will, devoid of their own will and personality. Moreover, the idea of a zombie horde threatening the existence of human civilization is rooted in the European colonists' perception of the Haitian revolution; therefore the modern zombie genre cliches have colonial origins.
However, since the late 1990s zombies have increasingly been seen as not so much different from humans, and even as sexual figures. Nowadays, the depiction of a zombie as sentient, humane and seeking equality with humans is a frequent metaphor for real-life discriminated groups and for the de-objectification of them; to amplify the effect, he or she may be portrayed as physically attractive and sometimes even in a romantic relationship with a human. Another source of this trope is the old legends and Gothic fantasies about undead beauties, which have been reimagined in the light of modern zombie lore.
Such a character may have nonconformist and taboo-breaking overtones (sometimes sexually nonconformist), since zombies are seen as subject to wild desires and free of social conventions. Their attitude to their undead status may vary: some of them dream of becoming human or of resting in peace, while others are perfectly happy being the way they are, and find advantages in it.
Most of these characters discard the conventions of zombie lore settled by George Romero (since eating flesh and brains is just somehow... unsexy), instead appealing to older undead archetypes, like Voodoo Zombies, Revenant Zombies, and the aforementioned undead beauties from Gothic-era stories. In the most general sense, "zombie" may apply to any living dead creature that is not incorporeal, does not drink blood, and is not wrapped in bandages.
This trope only applies when the said zombie is described as attractive and/or as a romantic interest to humans in-universe.
Sister Trope to Seductive Mummy and Cute Ghost Girl, and frequently overlaps with Boy Meets Ghoul. Compare with Vampires Are Sex Gods, Horny Devils, Cute Monster Girl, You Sexy Beast, Incongruously Dressed Zombie. Often overlaps with Friendly Zombie, due to Beauty = Goodness, and Revenant Zombie, due to the fact that such characters often retain the personality they had in life.
- Ayumu from Is This a Zombie? has at least five girls in love with him (only one of which doesn't know that he's a member of the undead).
- Several characters in Cinderalla qualify. Cinderalla's father becomes a zombie and marries another zombie who has two zombie daughters. And Cinderalla herself falls in love with a zombie singer, and needs a spell to transform herself into a zombie in order to be allowed to attend one of his performances.
- Zombina the MON close-quarters specialist from Daily Life with Monster Girl. She's an attractive redhead with mismatched eyes and patchwork skin (since her body doesn't heal naturally, she has to attach new body parts to herself by sewing them on). Her Friendly Enemy, the Jiangshi Shiishii, also qualifies; practicing Tai Chi every day to stave off rigor mortis left her looking quite toned.
- Rea from Sankarea looks identical to how she did as a human after being zombified, the only physical differences being paler skin and red eyes (they were blue as a human).
- Victoria Cindry from One Piece has blue skin and stitches covering her body, but overall looks much more appealing than the other zombies in Thriller Bark; many of them lack lips, some have lost an eye, and several are stitched with animal parts or even inanimate objects. The Mad Doctor Hogback joined the zombification business because he wanted to bring back Cindry, but when she ended up with a different personality from the shadow used to animate her, he only cared about her appearance thereafter.
- Made In Abyss: Riko was stillborn in the depths of The Abyss, but was revived through a Relic. She still looks like an adorable little girl despite this.
- Zig-zagged in Zombie Land Saga. Before re-awakening their consciousness, the zombie girls have sunken, bulging eyes and contorted faces that make them look quite monstrous. However, they become reasonably cuter after regaining their rational thought, though to anyone who catches them out of their human disguises, they still look as terrifying as before.
- Dead Girl, the Revenant Zombie superhero from X-Force, initially looks a little mummified, but quickly becomes Progressively Prettier to the point that she becomes a sex symbol in-universe, and has a sexual relationship with the living Anarchist.
- Deconstructed in the short story "Look Alive" from Vertigo's The Unexpected, where a Revenant Zombie is able to pass for an attractive woman, but has to adhere to a strict regime of mental and physical exercise in order to do it.
- Gwen Dylan, the Revenant Zombie protagonist of iZombie is only marked as undead by having a slightly more purple skin tone to the still-living human members of the cast, although she states she lives with the possibility of turning into a regular rotting zombie if she doesn't get her regular ration of brains.
- Emily from Corpse Bride is not technically a zombie until near the end when she and Victor use a spell to return to the land of the living, but she is a corpse who's walking around and talking, so close enough. She's also conventionally attractive by the standards of the movie's art style (she still has most of her skin, unlike everyone else Victor encounters in the Land of the Dead, for one thing) and very much romantically interested in Victor.
- Bride of Frankenstein: The Bride is meant to be conventionally attractive, as she was built by the Doctor to be a suitable wife for his earlier creation. Just like her mate, she's assembled from stolen corpses.
- Frankenhooker puts a raunchier spin on this, with a medical student who resurrects his dead fiancé by building her a body assembled from local streetwalkers.
- The male protagonist of Warm Bodies, who falls in love with a human girl after eating her ex-boyfriend's brain.
- Played with in Dead Girl, a horror film about a couple of obnoxious teenage boys who find a teenage girl Flesh-Eating Zombie and decide to keep her as a Sex Slave. Although they obviously consider her attractive enough to do this, she's visibly decaying and scarred.
- The Return of the Living Dead series:
- In the original film, the Ms. Fanservice punk chick Trash (played by Linnea Quigley) gets killed and zombified halfway in. Upon her resurrection, a homeless man winds up Distracted by the Sexy when he sees the naked zombie Trash walk out of the graveyard... at least, until she's close enough that the fog and darkness no longer obscure her Nightmare Face.
- Julie (played by Melinda Clarke) in Return of the Living Dead 3 remains as attractive as when she was alive (albeit turning more "dominatrix-like") as the love story is crucial to the plot. Even prompting a rape attempt from one of the villains.
- Pretty much all of the revenants brought back by The Crow retain the attractiveness that they had in life.
- Beth (Aubrey Plaza) in Life After Beth a film about a guy's girlfriend returning from the dead.
- The 2008 movie Camille is about a girl who becomes a Revenant Zombie after her death, and wins the heart of her husband (who originally married her only for personal profit reasons).
- Tammy in Fido, although she's kept like that deliberately by his owner, in a world where zombies are kept as slaves, you can imagine why.
- One of the DVD extras in Dawn of the Dead (2004) is an in-universe news broadcast containing, among other things, a video of some high schoolers taunting a young female zombie wearing nothing but a football helmet and Black Bra and Panties. One of the guys can be heard saying "look at those melons" and that "she is the hottest girl in the school." They learn very quickly not to mess around with any kind of zombie.
- Land of the Dead: Downplayed with the female zombie designated "Number 9" (her jersey number). When you get past the teeth-exposing bite mark on her cheek, she's actually relatively attractive. Of course, it helps her actress (Jennifer Baxter) is gorgeous.
- Zombieland: Kind-of subverted with Columbus' neighbor "406" played by Amber Heard. She's "insanely hot" as Columbus states, but once zombified, it's Fan Disservice.
- The female leads in Death Becomes Her (played by Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn) may not technically be zombies, but they're pretty close: they've taken an immortality potion and then suffered a mortal wound. Their bodies are no longer living (so they can't heal from any damage they take), but the potion won't let them actually die. At least initially they're still reasonably attractive, though by the end of the movie they've had to resort to extensive use of cosmetics and despite having had a long time to practice they're not very good at it.
- The Disney Channel Original Movie Z-O-M-B-I-E-S is all about this trope. The main characters are Zed, a zombie, and Addison, a human, who are a couple.
- The 2017 book Romancing the Zombie: Essays on the Undead as Significant Other is a collection of essays discussing the increasing use of this trope in modern fiction.
- Another collection of essays analyzing this phenomenon is Zombies and Sexuality: Essays on Desire and the Living Dead by Shaka McGlotten and Steve Jones.
- Shurq Elalle from Malazan Book of the Fallen really loves to seduce living males. She seems to cherish her undead state (mainly because it keeps her from aging and losing her good looks) and repeatedly refuses the possibility of resurrection.
- The high-functional zombie teens from Generation Dead series, most notably Tommy Williams and Karen DeSonne.
- Laura Steele from Bone Song by John Meaney; the protagonist has a romance with her.
- The undead girl Tuanne from Conan the Defiant, one of the Conan the Barbarian novels; Conan even has a brief intercourse with her.
- The Fiery Redhead Cate Hendrickson from Paradise Rot, who is the protagonist's Love Interest.
- In a teenage novel I Kissed A Zombie And I Liked It, the female protagonist Alley falls in love with a Goth called Doug who turns out to be a zombie.
- In American Gods, the protagonist's wife Laura is resurrected as this; unfortunately, as the months pass, she rots severely, even despite the embalming.
- In Zombie Noir: The Corpse with the Beautiful Face by Austin Taylor, a beautiful lady hires a private eye to investigate... her own murder. They also share an intercourse.
- In Xanth novel Dragon on a Pedestal, Zora gradually becomes this due to Xavier giving her The Power of Love.
- The female zombie Lee Ling from Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish.
- The Revenant Zombies from Amy Plum's Revenant series are all quite attractive, and the heroine has a romance with one of them, namely Vincent. At the end, she becomes a zombie herself.
- In Dead City, many zombies look like ordinary humans, and can pull off an attractive look. Type I zombies are also Friendly Zombies: they retain their human personality and just want to live normal lives. In particular, Natalie becomes a Type I zombie in Dark Days, and retains her model looks.
- The zombie princesses from Once Upon A Zombie series retain their good looks in spite of being turned into undead beings.
- Sally from The Demon Collector by Jon Mayhew is a quite attractive revenant girl; there is no romance between her and the protagonist, but they establish a friendship.
- Generally, "zombie romance" seems to be a growing trend in the paranormal genre. In 2011, the Night Wolf Press publishing house put out a call for submissions in this genre stating: "Ain't no lovin' like undead lovin' - it applies to more than vampires".
- The Country of Comers-Back by Lafcadio Hearn is set in Haiti and features a beautiful barefoot zombie woman who seduces men and lures them to their death.
- Undead in the Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. series typically retain their libido from life, and can remain good-looking if their demise wasn't too messy and they regularly visit the morticians' shop for maintenance. A trio of zombie "cougars" flirt quite aggressively with a living cosmetics salesman in the first novel, and the second openly acknowledges that the Full Moon Brothel's zombie prostitutes are a major revenue source. Dan himself is implied to be pretty handsome for a zombie, occasionally having to turn down passes from female Unnaturals.
- Ayumi, the eponymous zombie little sister in My Vampire Older Sister and Zombie Little Sister. Unlike most zombies who decay naturally, Ayumi injects herself with preservatives, so she looks identical to a human save for stitches all over her body.
- The Returned of Warbreaker are humans who were returned to life by the Divine Breath, and must devour one soul a week to stay alive. They also possess Humanshifting powers, which most of them use to take on whatever particular form of ideal beauty they desire.
- In Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson, the three undead girls Riley, June, and Dayton, brought back to life by a Wiccan spell, remain as attractive as they were in life.
- In My Girlfriend, the Zombie: A Zombie Romance by Rebecca M. Senese, the main character's girlfriend Sharon is a beautiful and intelligent zombie woman who passes as human.
- Jane Stitch from Wolfman Confidential is also this, though she's a Frankenstein's Monster rather than a zombie.
- The female zombie Angela Mason in the Supernatural episode "Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things" is quite attractive, apart from the "homicidally jealous" part.
- On iZombie, zombies in general (as long as they're able to eat enough brains to sustain themselves) look like ordinary people with pale skin and hair. Most choose to disguise themselves with cosmetics. Liv doesn't, but once she gets over being a zombie, it hasn't really affected her dating life (beyond having to take extra precautions to prevent infecting human partners, although she mostly dates other zombies); one of her boyfriends tells her she pulls off the zombie look.
- In Pushing Daisies, the protagonist magically brings his dead girlfriend back to life; she remains as beautiful as she was in life, but it is strongly implied that she's now a Revenant Zombie rather than human (she doesn't age, calls herself "dead" on several occasions, and is referred to as "dead girl" by several other characters).
- As the Orphnochs of Kamen Rider 555 are zombies (specifically the Revenant Zombie kind) by their very nature, every single one counts, though that's due to being able to alternate between their human and monster appearances. Especially true of the main Orphnoch cast, including the titular Rider and hero himself.
- Episode "New Year's Day" of anthology horror series Fear Itself has one, once we learn that Helen (played by Briana Evigan) was a zombie all along.
- Series 9 of Doctor Who ends with companion Clara Oswald Killed Off for Real, but she receives a temporary delay in her death which renders her technically undead with no life functions, though with her personality and soul still intact. This has no impact on her attractiveness; in fact, it is stated that due to her new state, she will never age, therefore remaining as a beautiful woman in her late 20s effectively forever.
- My Chemical Romance music video "Helena" has a beautiful zombie girl dancing at her own funeral.
- Rottytops from Shantae is drawn in the same cute anime girl style as the rest of the female cast (albeit with green skin and a stapled on arm and leg).
- Although too young and modest to qualify as "sexy", Squigly from Skullgirls is an adorable Cute Monster Girl of a zombie.
- While Jiang Shi are considered vampires rather than zombies, Hsien-Ko from Darkstalkers is, nevertheless, quite attractive for a hopping corpse.
- One of the characters from Xenoblade, specifically Shulk himself, is revealed to have been Dead All Along and puppeteered by an ancient malevolent spirit. Despite this, he enjoys a longstanding romance with Fiora, who also becomes this partway through the game.
- One of the newly introduced character classes in Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is the Maid. More specifically, they're zombie maids. Adorable zombie maids with Girlish Pigtails and Cute Little Fangs. According to their bio, they're not actually very good at housework due to their brains rotting, but many in-universe find them endearing.
- Violet Zombie is about Penelope Mortinez, a teenage girl who was resurrected as a zombie and retained her good looks.
- Mye of Charby the Vampirate has quite a few admirers among short demons and fay. It helps that in many ways her body is alive if not aging and therefore not rotting.
- Skin Horse: While Unity is not conventionally among the comic's "main hotties", she does look good for being a bunch of stitched-together body parts, and she's caught the eye of a fair number of men, women and abominations of science. Even Tip's made his move on her once. (Only to find out that Unity's interpretation of "let's get physical" differed from his.) Admittedly, Unity's not a regular kind of zombie; she's actually a bucket-worth of black goo controlling a dead body, and habitually replaces any parts that get damaged or go bad.
- Orrick from Undead Friend is fairly zombified but manages to remain fairly similar-looking to his human form, so he still comes across as attractive. It helps he doesn't deal with rotting; he just easily loses his limbs sometimes.
- Blanche, the Goth Southern Belle Zombie student of Gravedale High, clearly an example◊.
- Teased and subverted in the Gravity Falls episode "Tourist Trapped". Mabel gets a crush on a local named Norman, and Dipper suspects he's a zombie from his unusual behavior. He turns out to be a bunch of gnomes instead.