Not everyone’s afraid of clowns. However, some movies might make these brave souls reconsider, featuring clowns you wouldn’t let near your family. Below are 10 of the best evil clowns depicted in film. Obviously we couldn’t fit all evil clowns into this list, because it’s not a clown car!
01. Poltergeist (1982)
An over-the-top ghost story with impressive special effects and some genuinely freaky moments, ‘Poltergeist’ has become a beloved horror film. There’s much debate over whether Tobe Hooper or Steven Spielberg deserve directorial credit for ‘Poltergeist.’ However, it can easily be said that Spielberg’s involvement helped create it, and probably helped it get its PG rating.
That aside, we’re here to talk about clowns, aren’t we? Yes, this move has a very memorable clown sequence, and for some, it’s the freakiest moment of the film. Even someone who isn’t afraid of clowns might get a little weirded out by “Poltergeist’s” crazy clown moments. And this movie has a lot else going for it. Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) staring at the stat-icky TV screen after sign-off time, saying “They’re here” has become iconic unto itself. There’s also a brilliant, semi-subtle freaky moment where furniture switches around on the family’s mom (JoBeth Williams), and it’s also easy to remember Zelda Rubinstein’s enigmatic presence. ‘Poltergeist’ is a fun movie whatever your favorite moment is, but most people remember that dang clown as a major highlight.
02. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
A stupid, frequently offensive movie about killer clowns from outer space, ‘Killer Klowns from Outer Space’ is an over-the-big top roller coaster ride of hilarity. Why do they come to Earth? They apparently want to turn it into a massive, demented circus site, with humans as the victims of their manically goofy, monstrous mayhem. Oddly enough, the ‘Klowns’ are a bit lovable, and definitely memorable, as they use plenty of gags and gimmicks to capture and/or kill humans. People will have to judge for themselves whether this is watchable, and I will admit it’s not conventionally good. However, it is killer klown conventionally good, which is good enough for me!
There’s been talk for years about a sequel, and even a possible mini-series or TV show about these bizarre aliens. The Chiodo Brothers, who made the film, are said to be in talks with SyFy about initiating a franchise. But, until a series is actually released, one must assume it’s stuck in development hell. Either way, we can safely return to this film, if we are so inclined. If nothing else, most people will agree it’s a unique piece of goofball cinema.
03. Batman (1989)
Ever since Heath Ledger rocked the clown-face in ‘The Dark Knight,’ it seems people have forgotten about Jack Nicholson’s great and memorable turn as The Joker. That’s a shame, too, because it’s not a performance to be laughed at (well, not really, anyway). Nicholson, Burton and Keaton helped take the Batman character and his opponents to newer, darker terrain than the 1960s ‘Batman’ or Adam West, and it played a big role in changing superhero films since. Very few superhero films even attempt a lighter, sillier tone, and that’s partly attributable to this menacing and often crazy incarnation of The Joker.
People seem to also forget what a blockbuster of a movie this was, and how it helped establish superhero films as big box office winners. In fact, if anything there are too many superhero movies coming out now, so it’s a bit of a mixed blessing. Also, go ahead and watch it sometime and see that, somehow, it has withstood the test of time, retaining at least much of its freshness today. Love that Joker!
04. It (1990 TV miniseries / 2017 )
Threatened by severe over-hype, 2017’s ‘It’ nevertheless became a new hit. Now many think it’s actually superior to the original TV mini-series. I happen to like both versions, and both depictions of the crazed, child-devouring clown, Penny-wise. Even many critics of the original ‘It’ still respect Tim Curry’s depiction, and Bill Skarsgård definitely put a unique, demented spin on his Penny-wise. In order to enjoy both movies, you have to sidestep certain common critiques to them, and take them for what they have to offer.
They are both different from each other, and neither could be 100% faithful to the book. Also, just be fair to ‘It.’ When you watch these films, you ought to instantly know what you’re getting – a weird entity that latches onto childhood fears, most often taking the shape of a circus clown. It’s not rocket science, people!
05. The Dark Knight (2008)
‘The Dark Knight’ is a movie where, frankly, the hero’s depiction is not the biggest thing to debate. In fact, were it not for Heath Ledger’s masterful depiction of The Joker, ‘The Dark Knight’ would really be just a movie. Christian Bale’s ridiculous, deep-voiced Batman is hard to take seriously, which is weird because The Joker is hard to not see seriously. Despite hiding behind makeup and an occasional joke, this Joker is less gimmicky than one might imagine.
It seems like a surprisingly authentic character, like some villain who could really exist in the criminal underworld. Sure, this is partly due to Christopher Nolan’s direction and how the story’s written, but Ledger brought his own elements of plausibility. He is a character with a unique voice, mannerisms and an apparent pragmatic and chaotic will – a unique challenge to Batman, and a memorable clown to the audience.
06. The Last Circus (2010)
Happy clown, sad clown, good clown, bad clown. Things get complex in Álex de la Iglesia’s ‘The Last Circus,’ a story about two clowns fighting over a woman. Ironically, the happy clown (Antonio de la Torre) is actually abusive to Natalia (Carolina Bang), which frustratingly attracts her to him. It also attracts the sad clown Javier (Carlos Areces) to her cause, and ultimately to her. As you might imagine, things start to get crazy, violent and increasingly madcap. Is it love or is it madness?
Well, it’s definitely madness, but it started out as love. Isn’t that how it tends to work out? This movie also has some political dimensions, if you’re really paying attention. Failing that, you can revel in the sight of a scarred clown in a Pope hat shooting machine guns. Oddly enough, not everyone considers this a horror film, but its close enough.
07. All Hallows’ Eve (2013) and Terrifier (2018)
I have included both ‘All Hallows’ Eve’ and ‘Terrifier’ here for one reason: They both feature Art the Clown (Mike Giannelli). While “All Hallows’ Eve” is a hit-or-miss horror anthology film, many people seem to think Art the Clown is a burgeoning horror icon. They’re probably not mistaken.
Damien Leone’s films are unapologetic-ally horror, with Art being just a creepy, evil force on the screen. Frankly, there isn’t much more to say about these films, other than to say they’re scary movies which prominently feature an evil clown.
08. Killer Legends (2014)
In ‘Killer Legends,’ Joshua Zeman and Rachel Mills investigate the real-life inspirations for urban legends and horror films. Yes, it has a segment about so-called ‘phantom clowns,’ along with other killer clown stories like serial killer John Wayne Gacy and mass shooter James Holmes. This is simply a very well done documentary, and you learn that clowns have been creeping people out for a while. Sure, clowns may have a bad rap, and some clowns hate bad clowns for perpetuating negative stereotypes, but it’s the nature of the business! Some clowns are just bad, and it’s apparently a common belief in Chicago.
Such clown sightings received major attention in 2016, especially because some of the random clowns were carrying weapons. So let this be said: Don’t do this kind of stuff, people! When you clown, others like it because you’re only clowning yourself (though a genuinely harmless prank is acceptable).
09. The Piper (2015)
Because Kim Gwang-tae’s ‘The Piper’ is such a great film, it’s easy to forget that, technically, it’s about a clown. It’s also inspired by the Pied Piper of Hamelin legend. Ryu Seung-ryong stars as Woo-ryong, who we know as the Piper. He and his son Young-nam (Goo Seung-hyun) are out seeking an American doctor in Seoul to help Young-nam. They stop to rest in a village that happens to have a rat problem. The Piper promises the village chief (Lee Sung-min) to lead the rats out of town for payment.
The Piper falls in love with the shaman named Mi-sook (Chun Woo-hee), but it quickly becomes unrequited love after the chief cruelly betrays the Piper and ejects him from the village. Tragic circumstances lead to The Piper taking revenge in his own unique, twisted way. Quite simply, this is a modern horror fairy-tale masterpiece.
10. Circus Kane (2017)
Though it lacks love from critics, Christopher Ray’s ‘Circus Kane’ is still potentially enjoyable. In fact, I enjoyed it more than expected. Is it totally unique? Nope! In fact, it’s based around a very old concept: Stay in a spooky house overnight and win a big sum of money (in this case $250,000). Nevertheless, it’s pretty well done for what it is. It has a creepy atmosphere at times, and some pretty decent traps faced by the would-be survivors. Also, it’s just a likable movie.
If you really want to enjoy it, you’ll probably want to turn your brain dial down a little. Oh yeah, and it does have clowns! They don’t call it a circus for nothing. It stars Jonathan Lipnicki, Richard Moll, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Victoria Konefal, Tim Abell as Balthazar Kane, and Bill Voorhees as The Clown.