Firstly just allow me to apologize in advance for this list's lack of detail in some places. I did my best to refresh my memory on this topic but some material I just couldn't get to and so for certain entries, I don't say as much as I would like to.
It's an age-old truth that wherever you've got legions of zombies terrorizing and feasting on the populace, you've got a select few who fight back. Then there is an even more select few who fight back with extreme efficiency and even panache. This list will give those undead-trashing heroes their due.
5. Ben - Night of the Living Dead (1968), Night of the Living Dead (1990)
Both portrayals of this character (performed by Duane Jones and Tony Todd respectively) share the number five spot as I don't believe one really outshines the other. Ben makes the cut for his take-charge attitude coupled with an enormous sense of calm. You never see this guy panic, no matter how hopeless things become. From the moment he is introduced in either film, Ben is cool and level-headed and always working towards a solution rather than giving in to despair or outrage. Even when other characters actively work against him, he carries on.
The original Ben is saddled with a more or less catatonic Barbra (it's Barbara in the 1990 version) to contend with which is a challenge the second one didn't have and he also survives the zombie attack only to be mistakenly shot (I'm not going to get into the social commentary on that particular point) while Ben 2.0 does actually wind up infected (which means he had to have died first). So you could give the edge to the first Ben. But I still feel they're more or less equal in combating the zombies (whether with a tire iron, rifle or torch), fortifying the house and dealing with uncooperative human allies.
While neither version ends up surviving in the end, that's not necessarily a prerequisite for this list (most zombie movies conclude with the non-infected being defeated) and it's indisputable that they take charge and get shit done.
4. CJ - Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Initially, CJ is a real dick. Ana (played by my hero, the beautiful and talented Sarah Polley) and the small group of survivors that accompanied her to the mall are forced to deal with what is essentially a mall cop whose dream of holding a degree of actual power and authority comes true. With the support of the two lackeys he outranked in the time before people started eating other people, CJ takes away the group's weapons and even imprisons them for a period. Obviously he wasn't viewing the situation very clearly and was only making a dangerous situation even worse.
But as the movie progresses CJ becomes a real team player and is instrumental in getting the group out of some very tight spots. Despite his early dictum of "every man for himself" and "better you than me", he actually emerges as pretty much the opposite of that, even being downright heroic in moments. When Tucker (or maybe it was Terry?) breaks his leg (or twists his ankle or whatever) upon falling into the sewer, CJ endangers himself by dragging his comrade along with the fast moving zombies in hot pursuit. The guy ends up biting it anyway but not for any lack of effort on CJ's part.
In addition to this, CJ shows that he must have really taken his security agency's fire arms training course really seriously because he continually proves to be an excellent shot, often putting zombies down with one to the cranium. This also comes into play for his work with some propane tanks with devastating results for the enemy.
Like many other badass zombie killers, CJ makes a heroic last stand that buys time for his fellows. While the last of the group escape off the dock, he takes a huge number of zombies along to hell with him in a spectacular explosion.
3. Tallahassee - Zombieland (2009)
While at the moment this film is enjoying a huge level of...overratedness, it still is a good zombie flick. The main reason for this is easily Woody Harrelson's character, the highly entertaining Tallahassee.
No other zombie killer injects such a combination of enthusiasm and style. Tallahassee takes out the zombies in every way conceivable and has a blast doing it. RyHo once said, "The hardest thing for me about a Zombie Apocalypse if it happens would be hiding how excited I am" - well, that's Tallahassee through and through. I mean, yeah yeah, you later on get to find out that he's lost a lot just like everyone else and it's all very sad and tragic but still, he's killing zombies with garden shears!
Since it's included in the preview, I don't think I'd be spoiling things for anyone by mentioning that he actually lures a redneck zombie into the open by playing the first few bars of the famous "Dueling Banjos" then proceeds to wail on said zombie with said instrument. He can also be seen dooring zombies with cars, smacking them with a pick axe (my answer for everything) and shooting them with every firearm imaginable.
His killing spree at the amusement park during the movie's climax is already legendary among zombie enthusiasts and deservedly so. Tallahassee has definitely raised the bar.
2. Chris Redfield - Resident Evil (1996) , Resident Evil: Code Veronica (2000)
It's a sad fact that the Resident Evil film franchise pretty much blows. The movies are watchable but really, why bother? Luckily, the video games on which they are based totally rock. And now we arrive at what was for me the most difficult part of this list. I knew all along that at least one of the playable characters deserved a spot here but determining which one(s) involved taking an awful lot of things into account. I mean, they're all pretty badass, otherwise they wouldn't have survived the games they were in.
I wound up selecting Chris mostly because he's in the two entries of the series that I believe to be the strongest (involving zombies, I mean. RE 4 is amazing but doesn't have zombies and while I haven't played 5, which actually includes Chris, I'm pretty sure there are no zombies present in that one either). But through the aforementioned excursions, Chris shot, stabbed, blew up, electrocuted and stomped an innumerable amount of zombies (along with a host of other nasty creatures that are irrelevant for the purposes of this list) and he went about it all in a very, for lack of a better word, professional manner. I realize this was my chance to place a female on this list but it just didn't turn out that way. Oh well.
He also did the vast majority of it on his own, as is the way with RE protagonists. Any time he managed to meet up with another survivor, such as Bravo Team member Rebecca (cutest zombie killer) or five-time Corey Hart I Wear My Sunglasses At Night Award-winner Albert Wesker, the plan of action was to always "split up", which of course made no tactical sense but did serve in making his exploits all the more impressive and badass. Also, in both Resident Evil and Code Veronica, the parts you play as Chris are more difficult than those with the other playable characters (those being Jill and Chris's sister, Claire) so that works in his favour as well.
Although his dialogue can often be downright laughable and his personality leaves something to be desired, one cannot deny that Chris is one badass zombie killer. And that's all that really matters.
1. Guitar Wolf - Wild Zero (2000)
I haven't seen this movie in years and unfortunately, I forget a lot of it. But I could never forget just how badass Guitar Wolf is. And I also haven't forgotten that he employs that badassery in the art of zombie killing.
Wearing a black leather jacket, he rides a wicked motorbike (specifically designed to hold booze among other things) and is never without his guitar that houses a hidden samurai sword. He even dispatches zombies by throwing (somehow) lethal guitar picks. Also, while I know it doesn't pertain to zombie killing, I'm pretty sure he cuts open a giant spaceship with his sword.
All the while he assists the movie's protagonist, Ace, as he tries to survive the zombie and alien onslaught as well as navigate the strange and dangerous world of love ("Ace! Do it!!!" - I really can't explain that one. You'll just have to see for yourself.)
I can't remember how many zombies Guitar Wolf actually kills but it doesn't matter. Just go see Wild Zero and tell me I'm wrong. And if it turns out I'm wrong, I don't want to be right.