Dawn of the Dead is a 1978 zombie horror film written, directed, and edited by George A. Romero, and produced by Richard P. Rubinstein. An American-Italian international co-production, it is the second film in Romero's series of zombie films, and though it contains no characters or settings from the preceding film Night of the Living Dead (1968), it shows the larger-scale effects of a zombie apocalypse on society. In the film, a phenomenon of unidentified origin has caused the reanimation of the dead, who prey on human flesh. David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger, and Gaylen Ross star as survivors of the outbreak who barricade themselves inside a suburban shopping mall amid mass hysteria.
Romero deliberately held off making a sequel to Night of the Living Dead for several years to avoid being stereotyped as a horror director. Upon visiting Monroeville Mall in Monroeville, Pennsylvania with a friend whose company managed the complex, he decided to use the location as the basis for the film's story. The project came to the attention of Italian filmmaker Dario Argento who, along with his brother Claudio and producer Alfredo Cuomo, agreed to co-finance the film in exchange for its international distribution rights; Argento also consulted with Romero during the scriptwriting phase. Principal photography on Dawn of the Dead took place between November 1977 and February 1978 on location in Monroeville and Pittsburgh; the special make-up effects were created by Tom Savini, whose work on the film led to an extensive career creating similar effects for other horror films. In post-production, Romero and Argento edited separate versions of the film for their respective markets; Argento's version features a progressive rock score composed and performed by his frequent collaborators Goblin, while Romero's cut primarily favors stock cues from the De Wolfe Music Library.
Following its Italian premiere on September 1, 1978, Dawn of the Dead was released in other markets the following year. Despite facing difficulties with various national censorship boards ― in the United States, it was released unrated to improve its commercial prospects after it was given an X by the Motion Picture Association of America, and although being labelled a video nasty by some moralists, it became a huge hit in Britain during the 1980s ― the film proved to be a major success at the box office, grossing $66 million worldwide against its estimated budget of $640,000. Noted for its satirical portrayal of consumerism, Dawn of the Dead has received widespread critical acclaim since its initial release; like its predecessor, it has garnered a large, international cult following. In 2008, it was chosen by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time, along with Night of the Living Dead.
Dawn of the Dead was followed by four official sequels, beginning with 1985's Day of the Dead, and a separate series of unofficial Italian-made sequels, beginning with 1979's Zombi 2. It has also inspired a 2004 remake directed by Zack Snyder, as well as numerous parodies and pop culture references.