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Zombie Apocalypse Hero

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Under attack by zombies? Who You Gonna Call?note 

The Zombie Apocalypse has hit! Flesh Eating Zombies have been unleashed upon the world and humanity is getting eradicated as we speak. So to survive this new world of zombies, it stands to reason it takes a tougher than average badass who excels in cutting through these walking corpses.

Meet the Zombie Apocalypse Hero, a Stock Character found in either a Zombie Apocalypse story, an Episode of the Dead, or any other setting with zombies. This character is either an Action Hero or Action Survivor who finds they have a talent for slaying zombies. The discovery of these characters often comes as an unexpected surprise considering their average and unremarkable civilian identity. They may even end up becoming a go to specialist that is called upon for their services to clear out zombie outbreaks.

Common picks for their weapon of choice include guns (particularly shotguns, sawed-off or not), machetes, chainsaws, crowbars, or some other weapon efficient at making the undead into the properly dead.

Unlike other supernatural creature hunters who may have special tech or powers, the Zombie Apocalypse Hero is usually a Badass Normal. This makes sense in the apocalyptic setting, where resources are rare and everyone is just trying to get-by and survive with whatever they can find. Making them the physical underdog also amps up the threat level and makes them more relatable to the viewers. Plus, zombies themselves are on the lower end of the power level spectrum, lacking any obvious powers other than pseudo-immortality and primarily rely on power in numbers.

Note that not every person who is in a Zombie Apocalypse counts. They have to be shown to be proficient in fending off the hordes and staying alive.

Subtrope of Hunter of Monsters or Action Survivor with the specialty being zombies.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Highschool of the Dead: Takashi's team are a group of highschool students who find themselves in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and band together to survive and make their way to a safe zone.
  • Zombie Land Saga:
    • Sakura Minamoto showed herself to be one upon waking up in a mansion inhabited by zombies, being able to fend them off with nothing but a fireplace poker and managing to escape... only to discover she herself is a zombie.
    • The reoccurring unnamed Policeman seems to think he's one, always ready to shoot the one of the zombie girls on sight whenever he stumbles across one. He's lucky he's not in a real Zombie Apocalypse, as he'd make a very poor one considering how he always breaks down in sheer terror.

    Comics Books 
  • Crossed: Among the main protagonists who do a lot to fight against the rape and torture-happy Crossed in their respective story arcs are a waitress whose grandfather taught her to shoot, a horse rancher’s daughter, three comic book writers (two in Japan, one in England), a crusty Scottish fisherman, a Badass Biker, a science teacher, a medical student, a writers' retreat guest, an anthropology student, and a bunker salesman. Given the Darker and Edgier Deconstruction nature of the series, a good number of them take up monstrous actions themselves, suffer horrible deaths, or both.
  • DCeased: Darkseid's death results in the Anti-Life Equation turning people into ravenous undead monsters. Several heroes are infected as well including Wonder Woman, Superman, Captain Atom and Aquaman. The remaining uninfected heroes which include Damian Wayne, Jason Todd, Cassandra Cain and John Constantine.
  • Marvel Universe: The S.H.I.E.L.D. sub-agency A.R.M.O.R.note  is introduced in Marvel Zombies as a group of self-appointed Guardians of the Multiverse. One of their main objectives is to fight, contain and ultimately eradicate the zombie infection that has spread to several other realities and transformed all of their inhabitants into flesh-eating undead. A.R.M.O.R. agents (in particular, Machine Man) are the most recurring protagonists because most of them (being demons, machines, and other creatures without mortal flesh) are immune to zombification.
  • The Walking Dead: Rick Grimes is not only The Hero of the setting, but the Big Good, having helped restore order in the post-apocalyptic world.
  • In the chilean comic Zombies en la Moneda, after a second zombie apocalypse, several characters become extremely good at fighting the undead, especially the duo of El Kila (an anarchist) and Jesús Barrera (an ex-paramedic) who wander throughout Chile eliminating zombies.

  • Anna and the Apocalypse: Musically-inclined teenager Anna Shepherd sings and fights her way through a zombie attack on her hometown with the help of several classmates. Her weapon of choice is the sharp end of a giant candy cane lawn ornament.
  • Blood Quantum: Reservation police chief Traylor, his father (a fisherman and war veteran), his younger son, and a couple friends who are good with an axe and chainsaw work hard to kill lots of zombies and keep their community safe. Even considering how members of their tribe are immune to zombie bites, they manage to maintain a pocket of civilization for months longer than anyone else in the world.
  • Boy Eats Girl: Jessica is an ordinary teenaged girl who can hold her own fighting zombies up close. She also kills over a dozen zombies in a Construction Vehicle Rampage.
  • Cockneys vs. Zombies has a band of misfit bank robbers and an old war veteran ending up as this trope. Still armed with their bank robbing weapons, they find themselves in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse and must fight their way out.
  • Dance of the Dead: The sci-fi club, the Go-Getter Girl head of the prom committee, an athletic but easily overwhelmed Pom-Pom Girl, a gym coach, the school bully, a garage band, and the cemetery groundskeeper all have to pick up the slack in defending their town against zombies, although not all of them work alongside each other.
  • Dawn of the Dead (2004) : Hospital nurse Anna and stoic cop Kenneth are the leaders of the many survivors who gather at a mall besieged by zombies.
  • Daylight's End:: Completely feral vampires fill in for zombies, but Rourke fits the hero (or Anti-Hero) role, driving across the ravaged country in a Cool Car filled with guns and killing vampires. His new allies, the inhabitants of a besieged police station, also seem to count due to their own skills and mixed backgrounds.
  • The Dead: Murphy is just a mechanic whose plane crashes deep in zombie territory (Darkest Africa, to be specific), but he becomes adept at shooting, slashing, and running over zombies, especially while working alongside local soldier Daniel.
  • The Dead Don't Die: The local cops and a katana-wielding mortician kill quite a few zombies during the attack on their town. Store owners Hank and Bobby also manage to keep their store barricaded for a short while and then kill several zombies that get in. None of it accomplishes anything. The mortician turns out to be an alien and flees the planet, while the only other survivors owe their longevity to hiding in the woods and not getting within half a mile of any zombies.
  • Evil Dead: Ash Williams, Deadite hunter extraordinaire. His weapons complement his personality — a Sawed-Off Shotgun dubbed his "Boomstick" and a chainsaw that replaces his amputated hand.
  • Go Goa Gone is an Indian zombie movie set in the island of Goa, where Boris, a Russian-Indian mafioso, goes to a rave party only to have a zombie virus outbreak happening at the beach resort where the rave takes place. Boris, realizing he's one of the few lucky survivors, ends up kicking all sorts of ass and taking on an entire island full of zombies while waiting for evacuation.
  • Land of the Dead: Riley Denbo and the crew of the Cool Car "Dead Reckoning" that specializes in traveling through zombie infested areas. He and his team are tasked with bringing back supplies to Pittsburgh-outpost, mowing through hordes of zombies on a day-to-day basis.
  • Ravenous (2017): The gun-totting remaining members of a farming community and a businesswoman from the city who knows how to use a machete struggle to survive against the zombies, or at least kill lots of them as their chances of survival decrease.
  • Resident Evil: Canon Foreigner Alice is the main zombie hunting heroine of the films, though unlike most examples she is actually superhuman, making her a Token Super among her allies.
  • Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse: The zombie apocalypse is quickly contained to one town, which the military prepares to destroy. They evacuate most of the residents, but the kids attending a large Wild Teen Party get left behind, prompting a trio of misfit Boy Scouts and a shotgun-wielding cocktail waitress to fight their way to that party to warn the party-goers, including the main hero's Cool Big Sis.
  • Shaun of the Dead: Shaun who starts off as a Loser Protagonist ends up transitioning into a badass zombie-slaying Action Survivor over the course of the film.
  • While Stake Land is technically a vampire movie, the vampires are mostly mindless hordes similar to zombies, and they tend to die whenever they encounter the mysterious, Badass Longcoat-wearing man called Mister and the steadily growing group of people under his protection.
    • Near the end of the film, Mister and his protege Martin encounter a girl named Peggy, who is holed up in her late mother's diner with a crossbow. The diner is surrounded by vampire corpses with fatal arrow wounds.
  • Train to Busan: Professional wrestler Sang-hwa, hedge fund manager Seok-Woo, and baseball player Yong-gun lead a group of people trying to fight their way to safety on or near a train during a zombie outbreak. Unusually for the trope, they and their companions never actually kill zombies. Instead, they focus on finding ways to protect their arms from bites or temporarily subduing or forcing back zombies.
  • Warm Bodies: A good number of the zombies and boneys (zombies who tore their own skin off) die at the hands of teenaged Military Brat Julie due to her skill with guns and (in one scene) a weed whacker. Her boyfriend R also becomes adept at killing the evil boneys to protect Julie (despite being a zombie himself) as he slowly regains human feelings due to The Power of Love.
  • Zombieland, the main cast are a Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits who together make for a formidable zombie killing team. Notably Columbus who represents The Everyman Action Survivor and Tallahasse who is a hardened tough-as-nails Action Hero.

  • Black Tide Rising: The main protagonists are a history professor and his thirteen-year-old Waif-Fu-happy daughter. Among the tougher and more successful protagonists of the tie-in short stories are a paraplegic septuagenarian Friendly Sniper, a cheerleading coach, a bunch of gamers, a selectman on a Maine island, a family of moonshiners, and a farming community (plus refugees who include a Gun Nut stockbroker) that has a pack of zombie-killing guard dogs and ultimately goes on a Construction Vehicle Rampage.
  • The Estuary: As zombies ravage an Irish village, leadership of the survivors ultimately falls to a resourceful author and his retired spy neighbor.
  • Ex-Heroes: Most of the protagonists have been actual heroes (including a ''Superman Expy) since before the zombie apocalypse, but one of the main characters is a non-powered scientist who only started killing zombies because there wasn't time to train anyone else to pilot the Powered Armor she built. A car thief who can possess vehicles and a teenaged girl who can regenerate due to nanites also join the experienced heroes later on. There are also lots of Badass Normal Disaster Scavengers and perimeter guards such as a man who was collecting unemployment checks.
  • Hollow Kingdom (2019): S.T. is a twist on the trope. He works hard to rescue trapped innocents from the zombie hordes and isn't above luring zombies into deadly traps, but S.T., those assisting him, and those he rescues are all animals. There don't appear to be any adult humans left to fill the role of the more traditional zombie apocalypse hero.
  • Undead on Arrival: Novak is a former gym teacher and One-Man Army zombie killer. However, he's also a downplayed Wasteland Warlord, and other characters such as his Wholesome Cross Dresser enforcer Pulaski and judo expert Sakimoto are nearly as impressive zombie fighters as he is and are significantly more heroic.
  • World War Z: The book's anthology format and use of many Non Action Guys and professional soldiers as POV characters keeps this trope from showing up too much, but there are a few instances.
    • Blind gardener Tomonoga Ijiro, a survivor of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki, retreats into the wilderness during the outbreak, bringing his trusty shovel with him, which he uses to decapitate any zombies he comes across. He is eventually joined by Kondo Tatsumi, a former otaku shut-in turned Action Survivor, and together, the two would go on to form the SHIELD group, an organization of Japanese survivors that fought against the zombies and helped preserve Japan until it could be rebuilt.
    • Suburbanite Mary Jo Miller kills a zombie with her bare hands while defending her daughter and becomes the architect and mayor of a village designed to be inaccessible to zombies.
    • T. Sean Collins watches a newscast of East Side New Yorkers fighting zombies with hammers, pipes, baseball bats, their bare hands and (in one case) a meat cleaver bolted to a hockey stick. Despite taking heavy casualties, it's implied that they won.
    • Several of Todd Waino's squadmates during the march upcountry fought zombies before joining the military, including professional wrestler who used a zombie's corpse as a club and a nun who defended her Sunday school class with a candlestick.
    • Roy Elliot makes a (non-embellished) propaganda film chronicling how three hundred college students armed with nothing but landscaping tools and ROTC practice rifles hold out against ten thousand zombies without any outside help.
  • The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten: The local clergymen, waitress, conspiracy theorist and various others form a small vigilante group to take out any zombies that reach town limits and do a good job of it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Strain: Pest exterminator Vassily Fet is the most adept character at fighting and surviving against the largely mindless vampire hordes, surpassing even the CDC scientist main protagonist.
  • Supernatural: The Winchester brothers are more general Hunters of Monsters, but have gotten wrapped up in a few zombie outbreaks as well.
  • The Walking Dead Television Universe:
    • The Walking Dead (2010): Rick Grimes and his team are a whole Badass Crew of them. All of them are formidable in combatting walkers (as the zombies are called in this series) and each of them boasts their own personality-reflecting weapon.
    • Fear the Walking Dead: The Clark-Manawha family and the friends they gather along the way start as Action Survivors but grow into highly-skilled fighters perfectly capable of killing any walker they come across. By Season 4 (by which point the series had a new showrunner and writers), most of these characters have been written out of the show in favor of a new group of survivors eventually led by Morgan Jones from the original series.
    • The Walking Dead: World Beyond: The main heroes of this series are teens who came of age After the End, and have thus been trained most of their lives to fight for survival.
  • Z Nation: The original group charged with taking The Immune to a scientist who can make a zombie vaccine are some former soldiers, a hockey player, a self-trained medic, a mace-wielding college student, and the Friendly Sniper son of a survivalist who aspires to put down at least 10,000 zombies.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Zombicide: As you might guess from the title, all the Player Characters are this: a collection of survivors from multiple walks of life united with the common goal of gathering what supplies they can and getting the hell out of the zombie-infested city they're in. Oh, and slaughtering every undead monstrosity that gets in the way with the aid of an assortment of guns, chainsaws, katanas, Molotov Cocktails...

    Video Games 
  • Age of Zombies: Barry Steakfries, a (former) gramophone salesman, who ends up on a mission to destroy hordes of undead after a Mad Scientist sends an army of zombies back in time to destroy the human race. A follow-up game, Monster Dash, depicts him as general Hunter of Monsters instead, though it still involves zombies.
  • Dead Rising: The various protagonists including Frank West, Chuck Greene, and Nick Ramos are all characterized as The Everyman who find themselves within a zombie outbreak and have to fight their way through. Notable for having the ability of MacGyvering together Mix And Match Weapons to cut through the zombies.
  • Dead Space: Isaac Clarke is just a run-of-the-mill space engineer who finds himself having to rely mostly on industrial equipment as weaponry against the undead, hyper-aggressive Necromorphs.
  • House of the Dead Agent G is the main protagonist across the franchise and a government agent who has faced off and cleaned through numerous undead outbreaks across the world.
  • The Last of Us: Joel and Ellie are a Badass and Child Duo who must survive a post-apocalyptic world overrun by people infected with Cordyceps fungus. As Ellie is The Immune she is a Living MacGuffin that Joel must protect at all costs in the hopes of creating a cure. The two of them utilize an assortment of weapons to take down both the infected and hostile humans.
  • Left 4 Dead: All of the survivors are a Badass Crew going up against hordes infected with nothing but guns and their wits. Some of them have had formal combat training, while others are just average Joes.
  • Resident Evil:
    • Chris Redfield, a former US Army pilot turned rookie police officer in Raccoon City who becomes trapped in a mansion full of zombies. He would later form an organisation to counter bio-terrorism and one of the key figures in combating the Umbrella Corporation, responsible for the engineering of the monstrosities.
    • Leon S. Kennedy. Starting off as a cop-in-training who finds himself thrown into a Zombie Apocalypse on his first day. However he soon discovers he has a knack for killing the infected and gets recruited as a special agent for dealing with outbreaks.
    • Jill Valentine is no slouch herself, being part of the original S.T.A.R.S task force with Chris, surviving not just the mansion incident, but also fighting her way through the Raccoon City outbreak that Leon was involved in. She also has to tangle with not just the standard zombies, but the unstoppable tyrant known as Nemesis, who was specifically hunting her.
    • Ethan Winters stands out among his predecessors as the Action Survivor variant, due to lacking any formal training, essentially The Everyman thrown into the carnage with nothing notable but his sheer determination. However he gradually Took a Level in Badass until he's just as formidable of a zombie killing machine as the other protagonists.
  • The Walking Dead:
    • The apocalypse has forced Clementine to become a hardened and resourceful survivor that has to know how to deal with both walkers and people. After Lee died, she had to teach herself how to be a Little Miss Badass, the result is arguably one of the finest examples of this trope.
    • Lee Everett has taken to life during a zombie apocalypse quite well, being proficient with weapons (and his own fists when needed), and handles different people and situations well. He also gives Clem some essential tools to be a hero herself, including how to shoot a handgun.
    • Michonne in the eponymous story is definitely this, following on from her TV and comic counterparts. Pete and Sam are reliable allies and are adept in combat and strategic decision-making.
    • In A New Frontier, Javier García and his family have become these, being able to hold their own and contribute to their own survival and that of others in different ways.
    • Alvin Junior in The Final Season has become a partner in crime for Clem, being surprisingly useful for a 5-6 year old boy. He frequently contributes in combat scenarios, and is very driven to achieve anything he deems necessary.
    • Several NPCs can also qualify, including Kenny, Carley, Lilly (Season 1), Molly, Luke, Jane, Tripp, Louis and Violet. These characters have all shown to be capable fighters and key group members.

    Western Animation 
  • Rick and Morty: The episode "Rick Potion #9" has Rick accidentally unleashing an apocalypse where the entire population are first turned into monstrous humanoid insects, and then into hideously deformed mutants called Cronenbergs during an attempt at fixing the first change. The only survivors are Mortys family members, due to being immune to the concoction that mutated the human race (the plague was caused by a botched Love Potion Morty asked for, and anyone sharing his DNA was immune). The Smith family proceed to Took a Level in Badass and become hardened Cronenberg slaying Action Survivors, while Rick and Morty escape to another dimension.
  • 6teen: The episode "Dude of the Living Dead" has the gang finding the mall having succumbed to a Zombie Apocalypse and must fight their way out while rescuing as many survivors as they can. Among their group: Ron the Rent-A-Cop and Darth Mall prove to be especially badass, with Ron literally tearing the limbs off a zombie, while Darth Mall pulls a You Shall Not Pass! to let his friends escape and cuts up the zombies with his lightsaber. The gang also make a Last Stand before the horde closes in on them. It's also revealed to be All Just a Dream where Jude wakes up.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Dial "Z" for Zombie", the first ever Episode of the Dead, has Homer of all characters take on this role. Homer brandishes his family's shotgun and protects them as he blasts his way through multiple zombies.
    • "Don't Have a Cow Humanity" has a Bait-and-Switch, where it initially looks like Rainer Wolfcastle would fill this role when he attempts to come to the Simpson family's rescue, but he promptly gets killed right after. The true holder of said title ends up being Apu, who reveals as a convenience store owner he is armed to the teeth along with possessing an apocalypse worthy Cool Car.
  • Total Drama: Shawn is both a parody and tribute to this trope, being a Zombie Conspiracy Nut who believes a Zombie Apocalypse is inevitable and has been preparing his whole life for it. He's a Genre Savvy walking encyclopedia when it comes to all things zombies and The Ace when it comes to surviving in the wilderness.
  • In the fifth episode of What If…? (2021), Spider-Man becomes a zombie hunter in an alternate timeline.


Video Example(s):


Cheese, zombie-slayer

Cheese's bloody battle against zombies cuts back to reveal he's playing a VR game.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / CuttingBackToReality

Media sources: