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Here's why everyone thinks zombies eat brains – even though they rarely do

Actually, they (almost) never do that.

You hear it so often, it probably seems like an undisputed truth now: zombies are all about your brains.

And they seem to love them so much, they often call for them by name.

But have you ever actually seen a movie where the undead cried out for what’s in your cranium? Odds are, you haven’t. Because zombies pretty much never act that way.

But that doesn't mean the idea hasn't seeped its way deep into pop culture. In fact, it's so widespread even The Simpsons has used it:

Somewhat ironically, the phrase often befuddled the late George A. Romero – the guy who created the modern zombie by directing Night of the Living Dead – whenever he encountered it. Which was quite often. 

"Whenever I sign autographs, they always ask me, 'Write "Eat Brains"!' I don’t understand what that means," he told Vanity Fair in 2010. "I’ve never had a zombie eat a brain. But it’s become this landmark thing."

Romero's zombies, much like the ones on The Walking Dead and in pretty much every other undead flick, eat whatever human flesh is at hand (but don't specifically seek out brains) – and they certainly don't talk.

Still, the idea that the undead go after brains has become so ubiquitous, it's now a trope of the zombie genre, as Today I Found Out put it

Which strikes a lot of zombie aficionados (like yours truly) as odd, since the brain-eating "walker" isn't really a thing.

So where does this 'Braaaaaains' thing come from then?

It comes from one specific source – and not many people know what it is: a 1985 cult film called The Return of the Living Dead

Check out the trailer below (but be warned, it's pretty NSFW):

The film, written and directed by Dan O'Bannon (co-writer of the original Alien), is about a pair of workers at a medical supply warehouse who unwittingly release a dark secret hidden in the basement: a deadly green gas that brings the dead back to life.

Unfortunately, there's a cemetery right across the street, so you can sort of see how this might lead to trouble. 

The zombies in this flick are unstoppable (sorry, Rick Grimes, not even a bullet to the head will do the job), and quite vocal about their hunger for human brains. This makes Return one of the more unique zombie movies out there – and one of my all-time favorites. 

But for some strange reason, it remains in relative obscurity, while the catchphrase it coined has become a mantra of the Halloween season. Everyone seems to know "More braaaaains," but few horror fans I've talked to are familiar with Return, and fewer still have actually seen the movie.

I have a couple guesses as to why. 

It might have something to do with the film's marketing. As evidenced by the spoilery trailer, the ads focused heavily on brains. The movie itself didn't make much money – but evidently the tagline stuck. 

It could also have gotten real legs (pardon the pun?) from the Simpsons' "Treehouse of Terror" episode from 1992 (that clip above). 

Regardless, Return of the Living Dead has left its toothmarks in the skull of pop culture – and the brain-eating zombie is certainly its most enduring legacy. 

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