Vaccinia virus (VV) has many attractive characteristics as a potential cancer therapeutic. There are several strains of VV. The nonvaccine strain Western Reserve VV with deletion of both the thymidine kinase and the viral growth factor genes (known as WRDD) has been reported as the most potent tumor-targeted oncolytic VV. Other strains, such as the European vaccine Lister strain, are largely untested. This study evaluated the antitumor potency and biodistribution of different VV strains using in vitro and in vivo models of cancer. Lister strain virus with thymidine kinase gene deletion (VVΔTK) demonstrated superior antitumor potency and cancer-selective replication in vitro and in vivo, compared with WRDD, especially in human cancer cell lines and immune-competent hosts. Further investigation of functional mechanisms revealed that Lister VVΔTK presented favorable viral biodistribution within the tumors, with lower levels of proinflammatory cytokines compared with WRDD, suggesting that Lister strain may induce a diminished host inflammatory response. This study indicates that the Lister strain VVΔTK may be a particularly promising VV strain for the development of the next generation of tumor-targeted oncolytic therapeutics.