- "Oh, my god! I can't believe I shot Bill Murray."
Columbus is the main protagonist and narrator of Zombieland. He is portrayed as nerdy and cautious, although he also shows enough skill to survive in Zombieland. He shows the most emotion of the four main characters and is often the peacekeeper of the group. Like all of the main characters, he gets his alias from a city in the US he seeks to visit (Columbus, Wichita, Little Rock, and Tallahassee).
He is played by later Academy Award-nominee Jesse Eisenberg, who was cast for the role likely due to the actor's familiarity with the comedy genre, having participated in the film Adventureland and the horror genre in general early in his film career, e.g. his roles in The Village and Cursed.
From his flashback, Columbus seems to have no social life, although he seemed well-versed with meaningless trivia related to food products and games. However, he is quite clever, knowing how to make a situation work for him; he'll slyly interrogate someone or trick them. Surviving through Zombieland, Columbus' courage hasn't increased much, but only when Krista came into the picture does he find the strength to "Be A Hero", ignoring his own safety rules. He is quite shy about revealing his feelings, often ending up embarrassed when it comes to Wichita. Referring to his cleverness again, Columbus has lasted longer than any of the other people surviving Zombieland thanks to observations and good deductions.
Despite his shut-in nature, Columbus appears to be very physically fit, being able to run much faster than the zombies he encounters. He also possesses some degree of intellect, having graduated high school and attended college, along with writing his rules for the zombie apocalypse. He acquires a double barrelled shotgun at one point, and learns how to load and fire it quite well. While under stress, however, some of his shots fall short of the mark. While he is not shown to be as especially skilled in melee combat as Tallahassee, he can at least hold his own against a zombie, as shown in the start of the film with his encounter with the zombified attractive neighbor (known only as 406) and the Clown Zombie.
Life Before the Apocalypse
Colombus says he never had a real family or friends before the Zombie Apocalypse. In 1997 he went to his first school dance, but it was Sadie Hawkins, and nobody asked him. One Friday night while in his apartment playing World of Warcraft, he was visited by his attractive neighbor 406, who was attacked and bitten by a homeless person she did not realize was a zombie. She went to his apartment for closure and slept there, and Columbus was woken up by a snarling sound which turned out to be 406, who transformed into a zombie herself. After a short chase scene around the house he finally killed her by hitting her with the toilet tank cover. After this, he fled from his college dorm in Austin, Texas, acquiring a double barreled shotgun along the way. He set out to return to Columbus, Ohio to see if his parents were still alive, even though he never had a very close relationship with them.
Columbus claims the only reason he survived the Zombie Apocolypse was that he followed his rules. One evening at a gas station while traveling to Columbus to find his family, he encountered a trio of zombies. After escaping two of them in his car, a third emerged from the back seat and forced him to crash his car, ejecting the zombie out the windshield but not ejecting Columbus because of rule #4, known as seatbelts. He then got out of the car to shoot it with his shotgun, rule #2 Double Tap.
While traveling across the country, he met with another survivor who went by the name Tallahassee, and they decided to work together to get to their destinations. After raiding a few stores and killing some zombies, they met two girls: Wichita and her younger sister Little Rock. After being conned by them multiple times and finding some heavy weapons, all four of them agreed to work together, realizing they were all each other had in Zombieland.
The group eventually arrived in LA on their way to Pacific Playland and took shelter in Bill Murray's mansion, who amused himself by scaring people by dressing as a zombie. Unfortunately for him, Columbus mistook him for a real zombie and shot him in the chest, killing him. The following night, Columbus bonded with Witchita, and almost kissed her until Tallahassee interrupted them. The next day, Witchita and Little Rock left in their car to go to Pacific Playland, eventually stranding themselves there with zombies all around them. Columbus proceeded to go rescue them with help from Tallahassee, and drove off with them into the distance, having formed strong new bonds with his new makeshift family.
10 years after the events of Zombieland, Columbus took up residence in the White House and proposed to Wichita with the Hope Diamond. However, she felt smothered by the proposal and left with Little Rock, leaving Columbus alone with Tallahassee. They eventually picked up Madison, who Columbus slept with, complicating Wichita's return. Although Wichita apologized to Columbus, she learned of his infidelity and hated Madison for it.
After learning that Little Rock might potentially be in danger, having run off with Berkeley, Columbus set out with Tallahassee, Wichita, and Madison to get her back. However, Madison ate trail mix along the way which aggravated her nut allergy, resulting in zombie-like symptoms. Tallahassee and Wichita then prompted Columbus to kill her, and although he went into the woods with her and fired his shotgun, he actually shot over her head.
Continuing on to an Elvis-themed motel owned by Nevada, Columbus encountered his doppelgänger Flagstaff and quickly befriended him. Unfortunately, he became bitten by a T-800 zombie and had to be killed, so everyone moved on once more. En route, they discovered Madison still alive, who rejoined them. They finally arrived in Babylon then, a secure but pacifist compound that melted down all guns. After assuring himself that Little Rock was safe, Columbus considered settling down in Babylon until Tallahassee returned with news of an incoming T-800 horde.
Columbus helped prepare the compound for the attack, setting up a fire trap to kill off a significant number of them. However, enough managed to make it through that Columbus was surrounded and nearly killed, until Nevada returned in a monster truck and rescued him and his makeshift family. After crashing the truck as Columbus expected would happen, Columbus then fled to the Babylon tower and helped form a funnel to channel the zombies off of the roof and to their deaths. With the last of the zombies defeated and Tallahassee safe, Wichita accepted Columbus' marriage proposal, and their family reunited.