Adventureland Vs Zombieland: A Comparison Of Two Offbeat Comedies

If you’re looking for a quirky, offbeat comedy, both Adventureland and Zombieland offer entertaining options. At first glance, the movies seem quite different—one is set in a theme park in 1987, while the other takes place in a zombie apocalypse.

But they have some surprising similarities in their oddball humor and coming-of-age themes.

Here’s a quick answer: Adventureland is a comedy drama that follows a recent college grad working at an amusement park for the summer in 1987. Zombieland is a zombie apocalypse road trip comedy featuring four misfits making their way across the southwest United States.

Both feature offbeat humor, coming-of-age themes, and star Jesse Eisenberg.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll compare the plots, characters, critical reception, themes, and more between these two offbeat comedies.

Plot Summaries

Adventureland Plot Summary

Adventureland is a coming-of-age comedy film set in the summer of 1987. The story follows James Brennan, a recent college graduate played by Jesse Eisenberg, who is forced to take a job at a local amusement park called Adventureland after his plans for a European vacation fall through.

James quickly realizes that working at Adventureland is not as exciting as he had hoped, as he is surrounded by quirky coworkers and eccentric park visitors. Along the way, James navigates through romantic relationships, friendships, and the challenges of growing up, all while trying to figure out his next steps in life.

Zombieland Plot Summary

Zombieland is a post-apocalyptic zombie comedy film that takes place in a world overrun by zombies. The story follows Columbus, a timid and neurotic college student played by Jesse Eisenberg, who has managed to survive by following a set of strict rules for staying alive.

Columbus teams up with other survivors, including the tough and fearless Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), the resourceful and confident Wichita (Emma Stone), and her younger sister Little Rock (Abigail Breslin).

Together, they embark on a road trip across the United States, encountering hordes of zombies and learning to trust each other along the way. The film is filled with humor, action, and unexpected twists as the group tries to find a safe haven in a world where survival is the ultimate goal.

Lead Characters

Adventureland Lead Characters

In the quirky coming-of-age comedy Adventureland, the lead characters are James and Em. James, played by Jesse Eisenberg, is a recent college graduate who takes a summer job at the local amusement park, Adventureland. He is a smart and introspective young man who aspires to be a writer.

Em, portrayed by Kristen Stewart, is a fellow employee at the park who captures James’ attention with her mysterious and free-spirited nature. Their complex and evolving relationship forms the heart of the film.

Zombieland Lead Characters

Zombieland, on the other hand, is a hilarious zombie comedy that follows the adventures of a group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world. The lead characters are Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock.

Columbus, played by Jesse Eisenberg, is a neurotic and rule-obsessed young man who has managed to survive the zombie outbreak by following his self-made survival guidelines. Tallahassee, portrayed by Woody Harrelson, is a tough and resourceful zombie hunter with a penchant for Twinkies.

Wichita, played by Emma Stone, is a street-smart and sassy con artist who initially teams up with Columbus for survival. Little Rock, portrayed by Abigail Breslin, is Wichita’s younger sister who provides a fresh perspective on the chaos around them.

It’s interesting to see how Adventureland and Zombieland both feature Jesse Eisenberg as the lead character, but in completely different genres and roles. This showcases his versatility as an actor and adds an extra layer of excitement for fans of his work.

The contrasting lead characters in Adventureland and Zombieland bring unique qualities and dynamics to their respective films. Adventureland explores the complexities of young adulthood and the search for identity, while Zombieland offers a humorous take on survival in a zombie-infested world.

Both films rely on the chemistry and performances of their lead characters to engage and entertain the audience.

Critical Reception and Awards

Adventureland Critical Reception

Adventureland, directed by Greg Mottola, was released in 2009 and received generally positive reviews from both critics and audiences alike. The film, set in the 1980s, follows a group of young adults working at an amusement park for the summer.

The coming-of-age story, combined with its offbeat humor, struck a chord with viewers.

The film’s performances were widely praised, with Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart delivering standout performances. Critics also commended the film’s nostalgic atmosphere and its ability to capture the awkwardness and innocence of adolescence.

Adventureland currently holds a 89% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a popular film review aggregator.

Zombieland Critical Reception

Zombieland, directed by Ruben Fleischer, was released in 2009 and was met with positive reviews from critics and audiences alike. This horror-comedy follows a group of survivors as they navigate a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies.

The film’s unique blend of humor and action was praised for its originality and entertainment value.

The performances of the ensemble cast, including Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin, were widely acclaimed. Critics also applauded the film’s clever writing, fast-paced action sequences, and its ability to balance humor with moments of genuine tension.

Zombieland currently holds a 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Awards and Nominations

While Adventureland and Zombieland didn’t receive major awards recognition, they did garner nominations and accolades in various categories. Adventureland was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, showcasing its critical acclaim.

Zombieland, on the other hand, received nominations at the Saturn Awards for Best Horror Film and Best Supporting Actor for Woody Harrelson’s performance. The film also won the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Comedy.

Although not heavily decorated with awards, both Adventureland and Zombieland have gained cult followings and continue to be celebrated for their unique blend of comedy and unconventional storytelling.

Shared Themes

Despite their different premises, Adventureland and Zombieland share several common themes that make them both unique and entertaining films. These shared themes include:

Coming-of-Age Stories

Both Adventureland and Zombieland delve into the journey of self-discovery and personal growth that often accompanies the transition from adolescence to adulthood. In Adventureland, we follow the main character, James, as he navigates his summer job at an amusement park and grapples with his romantic feelings for his co-worker.

Similarly, Zombieland tells the story of a group of survivors during a zombie apocalypse, who not only have to fight for their lives but also learn to trust and rely on one another. Both films capture the essence of the coming-of-age experience, showcasing the characters’ struggles, triumphs, and the lessons they learn along the way.

Offbeat Humor Styles

Adventureland and Zombieland both employ offbeat humor to engage audiences and provide a unique comedic experience. Adventureland, directed by Greg Mottola, relies on a more subtle and situational humor.

The film’s humor is often derived from the awkward and relatable moments that James and his friends experience while working at the amusement park. On the other hand, Zombieland, directed by Ruben Fleischer, takes a more overt and self-aware approach to comedy.

The film uses dark humor and clever one-liners to inject comedic relief into the otherwise intense and gory zombie-filled world. These distinct humor styles contribute to the overall charm and appeal of both films.

Character Development Focus

Adventureland and Zombieland share a focus on character development, allowing the audience to connect with the protagonists on a deeper level. Adventureland explores the personal growth of James as he confronts his own insecurities and learns valuable life lessons.

Likewise, Zombieland provides character development through the growth and transformation of its main characters as they face the challenges of the zombie apocalypse. Both films prioritize the development of well-rounded characters, highlighting their flaws, strengths, and personal journeys.

As a result, the audience becomes emotionally invested in the characters, making their stories all the more compelling.

Signature Elements

Adventureland Setting

Adventureland, directed by Greg Mottola, is set in the summer of 1987 at a run-down amusement park. The film captures the nostalgia of a bygone era with its vibrant colors, retro music, and quirky characters. The park itself becomes a character, with its dilapidated rides and eccentric employees.

This unique setting creates a sense of escapism and adds to the overall charm of the film.

For more information on Adventureland’s setting, you can visit

Zombieland Rules

Zombieland, directed by Ruben Fleischer, takes place in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies. The film introduces a set of rules that the main characters follow to survive, such as “Cardio” (to stay fit and outrun zombies) and “Double Tap” (to make sure a zombie is really dead).

These rules not only serve as practical advice for surviving a zombie apocalypse but also add a comedic element to the film. They become a signature element of Zombieland, providing a framework for the characters’ actions and creating memorable moments.

For a complete list of Zombieland rules, you can check out

Memorable One-Liners

Both Adventureland and Zombieland are known for their memorable one-liners that have become fan favorites. In Adventureland, lines like “You know what I like about amusement parks? They’re a microcosm of America,” and “Life is a roller coaster.

You’ve just got to ride it” capture the essence of the film’s coming-of-age story and resonate with viewers.

Zombieland, on the other hand, is filled with witty and dark humor. Lines like “Nut up or shut up,” and “I haven’t cried like that since Titanic” have become iconic in the zombie comedy genre. These one-liners add an extra layer of humor and quotability to the film.


While Adventureland and Zombieland may seem quite distinct on the surface, they have some surprisingly similar elements in their quirky humor, focus on misfit characters, and coming-of-age themes. Both offer entertaining escapes from the ordinary with plenty of laughs along the way.

In the end, choosing between the films comes down to personal taste. Adventureland suits viewers looking for an offbeat 1980s comedy drama, while Zombieland appeals to those seeking over-the-top apocalyptic hijinks.

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