Not only is Night of the Living Dead one of the highest-rated movies in the Internet Archive Top 100, it’s also the most downloaded movie in the Archive’s Feature Films collection. It was to be released as Night of the Flesh Eaters, but when the title changed, the original theatrical distributor accidentally left off the film’s copyright notice. Under US copyright law at the time, this caused the movie to go directly into the public domain.
Despite the lack of copyright, the movie is one of the most profitable ever made, earning over $12 million on a budget of less than 1% of that amount. Its public-domain status also helped make it so influential, as it effectively wrote the rules on zombies as reanimated, flesh-eating cannibals. The explicit gore surprised and repelled original audiences, but there’s no denying Night of the Living Dead’s endurance.