Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Director: George A. Romero
I started watching Night of the Living Dead and was concerned that it would turnout to have aged terribly. The signs weren't great: the cinematography was grainy and the acting from Barbra (Judith O'Dea) was incredibly hammy. Would this be as unintentionally comic as Invaders From Mars? As the end credits flashed on screen, my opinion had completely changed: this is a game-changing horror film, parent to modern zombie films, and one of the few to actually make me feel ill.
The black-and-white photography works well, providing a verite feel to the story. The film approaches several themes, (race, the nuclear family, women, youth, government, science), and lets the zombies crush all in their path. The use of the media was clever, providing exposition in a palatable way.
If you are spoiler averse, don't read this paragraph. The ending is one of the best in horror (or at least my limited experience of it). While many films usually have one character survive, Night has our hero killed by defensive locals, who think he is a zombie. The matter-of-fact way this is portrayed adds an extra element of horror; I was slightly stunned by what happened.
How modern horror fans would view this film is something I cannot answer. How it was received when first released was detailed in an article by Roger Ebert, and demonstrates how shocking this film was to its first audience in the '60s.