In 2004, a trio of zany Brits unleashed upon the world what was billed as a romantic comedy with zombies when they blessed us all with Shaun of the Dead, which four out of five dentists agree is the most awesome RomZomCom ever created (for more on how totally comically romantic the film is, check out our RomCom Encyclopedia).
Written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, who also starred as the titular character alongside Nick Frost, Shaun of the Dead taught the rest of the world what people in the UK already knew: Wright, Pegg and Frost are really fucking funny. Also, it served as confirmation that zombies are very real (or at least they could be, and we've got 5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen to prove it), very British (at least, in terms of looking pale and sickly), and can only be killed by having their heads removed or their brains destroyed (not unlike Oprah), or both if you prefer to be thorough.
The film tells the tale of 29-year-old slacker Shaun, who works at Foree Electronics in London. He wastes most of his time either playing video games with his best friend Ed (played by Frost) or at his favorite pub, the Winchester, with his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield). Liz, meanwhile, is flanked by her two flatmates David (Dylan Moran) and Diane (Lucy Davis), who are respectively a twat and a failed actress.
After being dumped by Liz and yelled at by his flatmate Pete, Shaun decides that it's time to sort his life out by getting Liz back and going around to his mum's for dinner, all while remembering to bring her flowers and not fighting with his stepfather, played by the rascally Bill Nighy. Unfortunately, his plan to take on more responsibility in his life and grow up is interrupted by a pesky zombie outbreak, which only exacerbates things. Of course, at the time of the outbreak, Shaun still refuses to use the zed word (which, as we all know, is one of the 6 Signs You're About to be Attacked by Zombies).
Yes, that certainly would exacerbate things.
When the shit really hits the fan, Shaun decides that it's time for him to stop slacking and spring into action to save Liz and his mom, while also winning his now ex-girlfriend back and fixing his relationship with his stepfather in the process. Using records, cricket bats and basically anything else at his disposal in full Dead Rising fashion, he fights his way through London and gets the girl. Unfortunately, literally every other main character dies. Eh, win some, lose some.
Shaun of the Dead features more popular culture references than you can shake a stick at, though we would advise avoiding actual stick shaking, as pop culture references are famously irritable and don't appreciate that sort of shenanigans. Apart from the obvious references to George Romero's zombie films, other films that are referenced or parodied throughout the movie include 28 Days Later and the Evil Dead series, as well as the consistent presence of the video game TimeSplitters 2, which involves killing zombies good and dead. Additionally, Foree Electronics is named for Ken Foree, who was one of the stars of Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Also, Dawn of the Dead totally rhymes with Shaun of the Dead. We just blew you mind!
Additionally, the films of John Carpenter and Lucio Fulci are paid homage throughout the movie, and the supermarket that formerly employed zombie Mary is named for John Landis, who directed An American Werewolf in London.
Shaun of the Dead marked the reunion of Wright, Pegg and Frost, who worked together on the BBC television show Spaced. The show, which was directed by Wright, written by and starring Pegg, and co-starring Frost, was famous for its pop culture references, so it only makes sense that Shaun of the Dead carry on that tradition, including making several references to Spaced. Shaun's ex-girlfriend Yvonne, who appears in the film as a sort of bizarro-Shaun, is played by actress Jessica Hynes. Hynes played Pegg's flatmate and potential love interest on Spaced and also served as co-writer for the cult classic series. Plus, she's completely adorable.
Additional winks to BBC shows are present in the film, particularly when Shaun's group runs into Yvonne's group on their way to the Winchester. In said scene the audience sees that for every member of Shaun's group, Yvonne has an almost identical bizarro-member. The most notable "BBC reunion" in the scene is the inclusion of Martin Freeman, who played Tim on The Office opposite Lucy Davis (Diane) as Dawn*.
Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin, who famously gave his daughter one of the 20 Most Bizarre Celebrity Baby Names in history, cameos as a zombie in the film in addition to showing up later as himself in support of "ZombAid." Also appearing in cameo roles as zombies are Wright, horror writer and FrightFest organizer Alan Jones and British comedian Michael Smiley. Smiley, who played bicycle messenger/drug dealer/club hopper extraordinaire Tyres on Spaced, can be seen as a zombie sporting a yellow cycling hat (pictured below) in reference to that role. Among the rest of the zombies, almost every one that appears on screen can be glimpsed earlier in the film as background characters, many of which show up in the film's title sequence.
Pictured: A sandwich of fun on ecstacy bread wrapped up in a big bag of disco fudge.
(Yes, this is a reference to Spaced)
How's that for a slice of fried gold?
*For the Yanks reading this article, that's basically like seeing Jim and Pam appear in a random movie together in glorified cameo roles in which they don't have any dialogue together, but you totally know they were only cast as an in joke because, ya know, they are Jim and Pam for God's sake. You'd totally get boners over it, unless you're a woman, in which case you'd get a chick boner. And now you know how our limey friends felt when they saw Tim and Dawn on screen together again. You're welcome.