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World War Z (film)

World War Z is a 2013 American apocalyptic action horror film directed by Marc Forster, with a screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, and Damon Lindelof, from a screen story by Carnahan and J. Michael Straczynski, based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Max Brooks. The film stars Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, a former United Nations investigator who must travel the world to find a way to stop a zombie pandemic.[8] The ensemble supporting cast includes Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Ludi Boeken, Fana Mokoena, David Morse, Peter Capaldi, Pierfrancesco Favino, Ruth Negga, and David Andrews.

World War Z
A man standing on a rooftop, his back to the viewer, and a gun strapped over his shoulder. He is looking out over a devastated city. A helicopter flies overhead nearby.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMarc Forster
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
Based onWorld War Z
by Max Brooks
Music byMarco Beltrami
CinematographyBen Seresin
Edited by
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • June 2, 2013 (2013-06-02) (Empire Cinema)
  • June 21, 2013 (2013-06-21) (United States)
Running time
116 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[2][3]
Budget$190-269 million[4][5][6]
Box office$540 million[7]

Pitt's Plan B Entertainment secured the film rights in 2007, and Forster was approached to direct. In 2009, Carnahan was hired to rewrite the script. Filming began in July 2011 in Malta, on an estimated $125 million budget, before moving to Glasgow in August 2011 and Budapest in October 2011. Originally set for a December 2012 release, the production suffered some setbacks. In June 2012, the film's release date was pushed back, and the crew returned to Budapest for seven weeks of additional shooting. Damon Lindelof was hired to rewrite the third act, but did not have time to finish the script, and Drew Goddard was hired to rewrite it. The reshoots took place between September and October 2012.

World War Z premiered in London on June 3, 2013, and was chosen to open the 35th Moscow International Film Festival. The film premiered in New York, and Los Angeles on June 14, 2013, and released everywhere on June 21, 2013, in the United States, in 2D and RealD 3D. The film received positive reviews for Brad Pitt's performance and as a realistic revival of the zombie genre, but received certain criticism for the anti-climax and outdated CGI. Regardless, the film was a commercial success, grossing over $540 million against a production budget of $190 million, becoming the highest-grossing zombie film of all time. A sequel was announced shortly after the film's release, but in February 2019 it was cancelled, reportedly, due to budget issues.[9]


Former UN employee Gerry Lane, his wife Karin and their two daughters are in heavy Philadelphia traffic when the city is overrun by zombies that are attracted to sound. As chaos spreads, the Lanes escape to Newark, New Jersey and take refuge in an apartment, home to a couple with a young son, Tommy. UN Deputy Secretary-General Thierry Umutoni, an old friend of Gerry, sends a helicopter that extracts the Lanes and Tommy to a U.S. Navy vessel in the Atlantic where scientists and military personnel are analyzing the worldwide outbreaks. Andrew Fassbach posits that the plague is a virus and that development of a vaccine depends on finding the origin. Gerry agrees to help Fassbach find the outbreak's source after it is made clear that the Lanes will be removed from the cramped ship if he is not of use.

Gerry and Fassbach fly to Camp Humphreys, a military base in South Korea, where they are attacked on arrival by zombies. Turning to re-enter the aircraft, Fassbach slips, falls and accidentally shoots himself dead. After being rescued by the base's surviving personnel, led by Captain Speke, Gerry learns that the infection was introduced to the base by its doctor, who was ultimately incinerated by a soldier with a lame leg whom the infected ignored. A former CIA operative imprisoned at the base for selling weapons to North Korea (to help them fight the infection) tells Gerry to go to Jerusalem, where he says a safe zone has been maintained by the Israeli Mossad since before the outbreak's official acknowledgement. As Gerry and his team return to their aircraft, Karin—worried about her husband after he misses their pre-arranged call time—rings his satellite phone, attracting zombies who kill several soldiers, with only Gerry and his pilot escaping.

In Jerusalem, Gerry meets Mossad chief Jurgen Warmbrunn, who explains that months earlier, the Mossad had intercepted an Indian military message claiming that Indian troops were fighting the rakshasa, or zombies. Israel had thereupon quarantined Jerusalem, erecting huge walls around it. Just as Jurgen shows Gerry that Israel is allowing survivors to take refuge in the city, loud celebratory singing from refugees prompts zombies to scale the walls and attack. Jurgen orders some Israeli soldiers to escort Gerry back to his plane. On the way, Gerry notices zombies ignoring an old man and an emaciated boy. Soon after, one of Gerry's escorts, a soldier who identifies herself only as "Segen" (lieutenant), is bitten in the hand, which Gerry quickly amputates to stop her turning. Gerry and Segen escape on a commercial airliner as Jerusalem is overrun.

Gerry contacts Thierry, and the airliner is diverted to a World Health Organization (WHO) facility outside Cardiff, Wales. When a stowaway zombie attacks on approach to Cardiff airport, Gerry uses a grenade to blow the infected out of the aircraft, which also causes the plane to crash. Gerry is injured, but both he and Segen survive. They proceed to the WHO facility, where Gerry loses consciousness. He awakens three days later and explains to the remaining WHO staff his theory, based on the people he has seen the zombies ignore: the infected do not bite the seriously injured or terminally ill since they would be unsuitable hosts for viral reproduction. He suggests that they test this by deliberately infecting somebody with a pathogen from the facility, but the pathogens are stored in a wing already overrun by zombies. Gerry, Segen and the lead WHO doctor go to get a pathogen. As they fight their way through, they are separated; Gerry continues to the pathogen vault while Segen and the doctor return to the main building. A zombie blocks the door to the vault, prompting Gerry to inject himself with an unknown pathogen and open the vault, thereby testing his theory. The zombie ignores him, as do those he encounters while returning to the main building. Everybody rejoices at Gerry's success.

Gerry and his family are reunited in a safe zone at Freeport, Nova Scotia. A "vaccine", derived from deadly pathogens, is developed and issued to survivors battling the infected, acting as a kind of camouflage. The vaccine also helps survivors to reach quarantine zones. Human offensives begin against the zombies, and hope is restored. "This isn't the end," Gerry comments, "Not even close. We lost our entire cities. We still don't know how it started. We bought ourselves some time. But it's given us a chance. Others have found a way to push back. If you can fight, fight. Help each other. Be prepared for anything. Our war has just begun."




"He (Brad Pitt) took me through how excited he was when he read the book, what was exciting for him, the geopolitical aspect of it. But when we started working on the script, a lot of that stuff had to fall away for the story to come together."

— Screenwriter Damon Lindelof on developing the film[11]

After a bidding war with Leonardo DiCaprio's production company Appian Way, Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment secured the screen rights to the novel in 2007.[12] The first screenplay was written by Babylon 5 and Rising Stars creator J. Michael Straczynski, who identified the challenge in adapting the work as "creating a main character out of a book that reads as a UN report on the zombie wars."[13] Marc Forster signed on to direct, and described the film as reminiscent of 1970s conspiracy thrillers like All the President's Men.[14] Straczynski identified 2002 spy film The Bourne Identity as an appropriate comparison, and noted that the film would have a large international scope which maintained the political emphasis.[15] When asked about his involvement with the film, author Max Brooks stated that he had "zero control", but favored a role for Brad Pitt,[16] and expressed approval for Straczynski as screenwriter.[17][18] Brooks said: "I can't give it away, but Straczynski found a way to tie it all together. The last draft I read was amazing."[19]

An early script was leaked onto the internet in March 2008, leading to a review by Ain't It Cool News which called it "[not] just a good adaptation of a difficult book [but] a genre-defining piece of work that could well see us all arguing about whether or not a zombie movie qualifies as 'Best Picture' material".[20] The script was well-enough respected to find a place on the 2007 Black List of "most liked" screenplays not yet produced.[21] The Ain't It Cool News review also noted the film appears stylistically similar to Children of Men, following Gerry Lane as he travels the post-war world and interviews survivors of the zombie war who are "starting to wonder if survival is a victory of any kind."[20] Straczynski had hoped that the film would begin production by the start of 2009.[15] In March 2009, Forster said that the script was still in development and he was not sure if World War Z would be his next film.[22] Later in March, rumors surfaced that production offices were set up and the film was in early pre-production.[23] In June 2009, Marc Forster told an interviewer that the film would be delayed, stating that the film's script still needs a lot of development and is "still far from realization".[24]

In July 2009, Brooks revealed that the script was being re-written by Matthew Michael Carnahan. Brooks believed that this "show[ed] [the producer's] confidence in this project" because of the amount of money that was being invested in it.[25] Paramount Pictures and UTV Motion Pictures announced at the 2010 Comic-Con that Forster was set as director, and Brad Pitt was confirmed to play the lead role.[26] In March 2011, it was reported that Paramount was searching for co-financier, and would likely pull the plug on the adaptation without one.[27] The article also stated that "an eleventh-hour effort is being made to court frequent Paramount co-financier David Ellison." A week later, it was reported that "hot and heavy talks are going on with David Ellison's Skydance and as many as two other financiers."[28]


Pre-production began in April 2011 with Robert Richardson announced as the cinematographer.[29] In the same month it was reported that filming locations would include Pinewood Studios and London, England.[30] Also in April, Mireille Enos was cast as Gerry Lane's wife and mother of their two children.[31] In June 2011, James Badge Dale entered negotiations to join the film as an American soldier who tries to alert authorities that the zombie threat is real.[32] It was also reported that filming would begin in Malta in July 2011 and would encompass Valletta and The Three Cities.[33] A few days later Matthew Fox and Ed Harris entered talks while Julia Levy-Boeken was set to join the film.[34] It was also reported that filming would also take place in Glasgow, Scotland in August 2011.[35] Glasgow would double as Philadelphia, "with false shop fronts being constructed and American cars on the roads."[36] The city was reportedly chosen after "many months looking for the perfect city centre location to play an important part in the film."[35] Philadelphia was passed on due to "uncertainties about state tax credits for filmmakers."[37] Filming was originally planned to take place in Royal Tunbridge Wells, England before moving to Glasgow.[38] Later in June, visual effects house Cinesite announced that it would work on "a significant amount of shots".[39] At the end of the month it was reported that neither Matthew Fox nor Ed Harris would be starring in the film despite previous reports: Fox had a scheduling conflict stemming from his prior commitment to star in Alex Cross with Tyler Perry at Summit Entertainment.[40] Fox was later spotted, filming scenes in Falmouth, Cornwall.[41] Cinematographer Richardson reportedly had asked to leave the production.[42]


Filming in George Square, Glasgow, August 2011

On a budget of $125 million,[27] World War Z began principal photography in July 2011 in Malta, with the first images of production being released a few days later.[43][deprecated source] Filming was scheduled to move to Glasgow, Scotland in August with the production company looking to recruit 2,000 local extras for the shoot.[44] At least 3,000 people showed up at a casting call in Glasgow on July 9, hoping for the opportunity to appear in a scene set in a financial district in Philadelphia.[45] Scenes were also shot in Falmouth, Cornwall.[46] Also in July 2011, Game of Thrones actor Elyes Gabel was cast as a character named Fassbach.[47]

In August 2011, Bryan Cranston entered negotiations to join the film in a "small but flashy" role but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. Also in August, filming was set to take place along a road on the perimeter of the Grangemouth Refinery in Grangemouth, Scotland. The location was chosen for the length of the road which is crucial to the shot.[48] A few days later Paramount announced the film would be released on December 21, 2012.[49] Later in the same month, filming began in Glasgow. The location manager for the film said Glasgow had been chosen because of its architecture, wide roads, and grid layout.[50] Scenes were also filmed aboard the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship RFA Argus, before the Glasgow shoot. The ship was turned into the "USS Madison", which involved stenciling a new pennant number on to the funnel, as well as adding some "Americanism" to the superstructure. Steven McMenemy, the Argus's navigator said, "The ship sailed and we were joined by four small catamarans which were being used as markers for the cameras, so that warships could be added in with CGI later."[51] In October 2011, David Morse was cast as a "prisoner living in an abandoned jail."[52]

The filmmakers initially intended to film a climactic battle scene set in Russia, and the crew moved to Budapest to film it there.[53] Filming in Budapest commenced on the evening of October 10, 2011.[54] That morning, the Hungarian Counter Terrorism Centre raided the warehouse where guns had been delivered for use as filming props.[54] The 85 assault rifles, sniper rifles, and handguns had been flown into Budapest overnight on a private aircraft, but the film's producers had failed to clear the delivery with Hungarian authorities, and while the import documentation indicated that the weapons had been disabled, all were found to be fully functional.[54][55] On February 10, 2012, the charges were dropped after investigators were unable to identify exactly which "organization or person" had "ownership rights"; therefore they could not "establish which party was criminally liable".[56]


In May 2012, production returned to Budapest for seven weeks of additional shooting.[57][deprecated source] The following month, screenwriter Damon Lindelof was hired to rewrite the film's third act with reshoots scheduled to begin in September or October 2012.[58] However, Lindelof, who also reworked Prometheus and co-wrote Star Trek Into Darkness, did not have time to script the new ending and in July 2012, Paramount hired Lindelof's Lost partner, Drew Goddard.[59] Lindelof explained there were inefficiencies in the script in relation to the shooting, which started before the script was finalized thus making the ending "abrupt and incoherent" and was missing a large chunk of footage. Lindelof presented two options to executives, who ultimately chose to shoot 30 to 40 minutes of additional footage to make a coherent ending. Goddard later told Creative Screenwriting, "To me the big lesson of World War Z was that Paramount, Plan B and Brad Pitt simply said, 'Let's take the time to make this movie the best version of the movie before we put it on the screen for audience.' That doesn't happen a lot. A lot of times they just throw the movie out there and say, 'We'll make all our money opening weekend and then the movie will go away.' I came away from it thinking, 'Why don't we do this on more movies?'"[60]

The re-shoots coupled with other overages caused the budget to balloon to around $190 million, which shocked Paramount president Marc Evans.[4][5][61] Several of the scenes shot in Budapest, including a large-scale battle with the zombies in Moscow's Red Square,[62] were dropped from the final cut in order to water down the film's political undertones, and steer it towards a more generally friendly summer blockbuster.[63] The climactic battle scene in Russia, for which there was 12 minutes of footage, had Pitt's character fighting through zombies more like "a warrior hero" than "the sympathetic family man" of the earlier acts. The second-unit director, Simon Crane, said, "It wasn't character-driven anymore... [The filmmakers] really needed to think about what they wanted to do with the third act."[53] Additional scenes were also filmed at the Pfizer building at Discovery Park in Sandwich, Kent for scenes where Gerry tries to find a cure for the zombie pandemic.[64]

In March 2013, it was reported that Paramount changed a scene in the film in which the characters speculate that the zombie outbreak originated in mainland China in hopes of landing a distribution deal in the country.[65] An executive familiar with upcoming releases in China later told TheWrap in June 2013 that a cut of the film was rejected by Chinese censors. A Paramount executive contended that he was "unaware of any rejection", explaining, "We have submitted one version and have yet to receive a response."[66]


In December 2011, it was reported that Marco Beltrami had signed on to score World War Z.[67] In May 2013, the British rock band Muse posted a video on their YouTube channel, hinting that they would be contributing to the soundtrack of World War Z; the instrumental dubstep versions of the songs "The 2nd Law: Isolated System" and "Follow Me" (produced by the electronic band Nero)[68][69] were used.[70] In June, Warner Bros. Records released the soundtrack album for the film, which featured the original score composed by Beltrami.[71]

World War Z: Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedJune 18, 2013
LabelWarner Bros. Records
Professional ratings
Review scores
Movie Wave     
World War Z: Music from the Motion Picture
2."The Lane Family"2:47
3."Ninja Quiet"2:54
4."Searching for Clues"5:33
5."NJ Mart"4:01
6."Zombies in Coach"3:43
7."Hand Off!"2:49
8."No Teeth No Bite"3:25
9."The Salvation Gates"4:24
11."Like a River Around a Rock"5:08
Total length:44:09


Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster promoting the film during the 2013 Cannes Film Festival

World War Z was initially scheduled for release by Paramount and Skydance on December 21, 2012, but in March 2012 it was pushed back to June 21, 2013. Paramount elected to release Jack Reacher on the December 2012 date.[49][72] The world premiere of World War Z was held at the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square, London on June 2, 2013.[73][deprecated source] British rock band Muse, who contributed toward the film's soundtrack, performed at the World War Z post-premiere concert at the Horse Guards Parade, to help promote the film.[74][deprecated source] On June 6, Pitt attended screenings of the film in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago and Austin all in one day.[75] The film was chosen to open the 35th Moscow International Film Festival.[76] World War Z was released exclusively to Glasgow's Grosvenor Cinema in Ashton Lane on June 19, two days before it was launched worldwide.[77]


Box officeEdit

World War Z grossed $202.4 million in North America, and $337.6 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $540 million.[7] Variety called it a bona-fide box office hit.[78]

In North America, World War Z earned $25.20 million on its opening Friday,[79] including $3.6 million from Thursday night and midnight shows.[80] It went on to finish in second place behind Monsters University during its opening weekend with $66.41 million.[81] This was the third-largest opening weekend for a film that did not debut in first place (behind inside out and The Day After Tomorrow),[82] the largest opening weekend for a film starring Brad Pitt[81] and the sixth-largest opening among films released in June.[83]

In other territories, the film earned $5.7 million on its opening day (Thursday, June 20, 2013)[80] and $45.8 million on its opening weekend, ranking in third place.[81]

Critical responseEdit

On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, World War Z has a 66% approval rating, based on 269 reviews, with an average rating of 6.22/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "It's uneven and diverges from the source book, but World War Z still brings smart, fast-moving thrills and a solid performance from Brad Pitt to the zombie genre."[84] Metacritic, which uses a weighted mean, assigned a score of 63 out of 100, based on reviews from 46 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[85]

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a 3.5 out of 4, saying "It's entertaining as hell" and it provides "nearly non-stop action". Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film a 3 out of 4, saying that "the suspense is killer".[86] Henry Barnes of The Guardian considered World War Z an "attempt at large-scale seriousness" in the zombie genre, which resulted in a "punchy, if conventional action thriller."[87] Writing for Variety, Scott Foundas thought the film to be a "surprisingly smart, gripping and imaginative addition to the zombie-movie canon", which shows "few visible signs of the massive rewrites, reshoots and other post-production patchwork."[88] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter opined that "Brad Pitt delivers a capable performance in an immersive apocalyptic spectacle about a global zombie uprising."[89] A. O. Scott of The New York Times said, "[It] does not try to extend the boundaries of commercial entertainment but does what it can to find interesting ways to pass the time within them."[90] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times remarked, "World War Z plays a bit like a series of separate films and the juncture where the new final act was grafted onto the proceedings is unmistakable, but unless you knew about the film's troubled past, you'd never guess it existed."[91]

Conversely, Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News said that World War Z "is no summer thriller. It's an anemic actioner that fosters excitement like dead limbs as it lumbers toward a conclusion."[92] Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph thought that the film had been affected by its troubled development, observing that "the final product has an elaborate uselessness about it", in a film that has "no heart to be found amid the guts."[93] Alonso Duralde of TheWrap said, "For all its effectiveness at portraying the horror of possible human extinction, the film's actual humans are so soulless that this could just as well be the movie version of the video game Plants vs. Zombies."[94]


Year Award Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
2013 Fright Meter Awards Best Special Effects World War Z Nominated
Golden Schmoes Awards Best Horror Movie of the Year World War Z Nominated
Biggest Surprise of the Year World War Z Nominated
Golden Trailer Awards Summer 2013 Blockbuster Trailer World War Z Nominated
Best Summer Block Buster 2013 TV Spot World War Z Nominated
Hollywood Film Awards Hollywood Movie Award Marc Forster Nominated
IGN Summer Movie Awards Best Horror Movie World War Z Nominated
Key Art Awards Best Horror Movie World War Z Nominated
Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards Best Audio/Visual Technique Paramount Pictures, Big Picture Entertainment Nominated
Satellite Awards Best Visual Effects Andrew R. Jones, Jessica Norman, Matt Johnson, Scott Farrar Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice Summer Movie: Action/Adventure World War Z Nominated
2014 40th Saturn Awards Best Thriller Film World War Z Won [95]
35th Young Artist Awards Best Leading Young Actress in a Feature Film Abigail Hargrove Nominated [96]

Home mediaEdit

The film was released on Blu-ray Disc and DVD on September 17, 2013. The Blu-ray Disc contains an unrated cut.[97] It adds seven minutes of additional footage featuring moderate amounts of blood, gore and violence. Some scenes already present in the theatrical cut are also extended.

Video gameEdit

A video game tie-in survival horror game, World War Z, was developed by Phosphor Games Studio and released for the iOS mobile platforms in May 2013. The game is a spin-off of the film, being set in Denver, Kyoto, and Paris, and featuring an entirely different set of characters.[98]

In December 2017, Saber Interactive and Paramount announced they were developing a four-player video game for PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One. The game, also named World War Z, will include missions set around the world.[99][100]

Cancelled sequelEdit

In January 2012, director Forster and Paramount said that "They each view World War Z as a trilogy that would have the grounded, gun-metal realism of Matt Damon's Jason Bourne series tethered to the unsettling end-times vibe of AMC's The Walking Dead".[101] Plans for future installments were shelved due to the film's production troubles.[102]

In June 2013, after the successful opening of World War Z, Paramount announced that it was moving ahead with a sequel.[102] In December 2013, it was reported that Juan Antonio Bayona had been chosen to direct the film.[103] In May 2014, Steven Knight was set to write the script.[104] In May 2015, it was announced that the film would be released on June 9, 2017,[105] but in January 2016, Paramount announced that director Bayona left the project due to other commitments.[106] In August 2016, Variety reported that the film was not yet in production and that David Fincher had entered negotiations to be the director, and in April 2017 it was reported Fincher was close to a deal to sign on.[107][108] On February 8, 2017, Paramount announced that the sequel has still not started filming and would not be released until 2018 or possibly even 2019.[109]

In June 2017, Fincher was confirmed by Paramount as the director of the sequel, with Brad Pitt returning to his role.[110] Filming was slated to start in fall of 2018,[111] though this changed as Fincher was working on his television series, Mindhunter.[112] In October 2018, producer Dede Gardner confirmed that the sequel would begin filming in June 2019.[113] However, in February 2019, the film was cancelled after several months of pre-production and staffing for principal photography in five countries.[114] According to a source quoted by The Hollywood Reporter, the Chinese government's ban on films featuring zombies or ghosts is the single biggest reason that Paramount canceled the sequel.[115]


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