Such characters fuel modern-day movie nightmares as well. Just a handful of the horrifying harlequins to appear on silver screen and video in recent years include the spree murderer in , the deadly ghost joker in , and Sid Haig’s turn as Captain Spaulding in Rob Zombie’s and .
What are your go-to choices for scary clown movies? We conducted an informal poll on Facebook and Twitter to bring you nine of the scariest clown movies to ever haunt a movie house. As Lon Chaney Sr. is believed to have said, “there’s nothing funny about a clown in moonlight.”
1. Clown (2014)
This tale of a particularly grotesque killer clown earned director Jon Watts a lot of attention and stuck in the minds of plenty of moviegoers. Part of that has to do with the movie’s freaky premise: A loving father unknowingly steps into a cursed clown suit for his son’s birthday, only to transform into a deadly jester with a demonic hunger. The fact that the clown is something stranger than just a serial killer is icing on the scary birthday cake …
2. It (1990)
When most of us think of creepy clowns, the first name that comes to mind is Tim Curry as Pennywise, the evil clown—and so much more—from Tommy Lee Wallace’s mini-series adaptation of Stephen King’s doorstopper novel . With the remake out last year, there’s no better time to revisit what just might be the ultimate jester nightmare. After all, “we all float down here…”
3. Poltergeist (1982)
Sure, Poltergeist isn’t exactly a clown movie, and this joker is technically a possessed plaything (it received an honorable mention on ). Nevertheless, this creepy crawly clown toy has caused its share of nightmares, and plenty of people cite the figurine as source material for their own fear of clowns.
4. Clownhouse (1989)
While the scandals of writer/director Victor Salva cast a long shadow over his career, the filmmaker’s freaky theatrical debut continues to terrify. About three young brothers menaced by escaped mental patients who murdered a group of traveling clowns and stole their outfits, Clownhouse is prototypical clown horror. Coulophobics beware.
5. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
No list of scary clown movies is complete without mention of the titular space aliens from this bonkers 1988 cult classic. Brought to dizzying life by the special effects of the Chiodo Brothers—who also created the toothy furballs from —these deadly aliens from the farthest reaches of space come complete with a circus tent-shaped spaceship, cotton candy cocoons, and popcorn guns. Recently, it was announced that the killer klowns may return from outer space as .
6. Killjoy (2000)
Hey, even the worst movies can be scary. Take Killjoy for example. A reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes called it “THE WORST MOVIE I HAVE EVER SEEN,” but the clown doll-turned-real, Killjoy (Angel Vargas), is so scary looking we’d give it a fresh review just for the wig. With green makeup and sharp teeth, Killjoy is one of the scarier looking clowns on this list. And with three movies in the series, you’ll be begging Killjoy to just die already.
7. 31 (2016)
Remember that time in 2016 when all those people dressed up as clowns started attacking people? 2016, what a year. 31, a Rob Zombie Halloween movie also came out that year and introduced us to a group of killer clowns violently messing with desperate carnival workers. For blood and violence galore, return to one of the worst year’s most bizarre trends with this Halloween slasher movie.
8. Gacy (2003)
He’s inspired many evil clowns, but John Wayne Gacy and his clown alter ego “Pogo” are scarier than any copycat. Though the film may not live up to the real-life murders that Gacy committed, the fact is that nothing could measure up to the 33 crimes the killer clown committed. Here’s something terrifying: Gacy once trapped a houseguest by handcuffing him and asking if he wanted to play a game, all while wearing his Pogo costume and laughing maniacally. We’ll be giving the Gacy Airbnb a very low rating.
9. IT (2017)
From the moment Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise appeared in the preview for IT, we knew we would be plagued with nightmares from the storm drain for years. While the movie was still lighthearted in many ways, Pennywise is one of the scariest clowns ever. From the downright terrifying hairline to the pointed mouth and creepy laugh escaping it, this clown, in every iteration, is enough to ruin any chance at getting over our clown phobia. Thanks, Stephen King!
Of course, our selections merely scratch the greasepaint-smeared surface of killer clowns. For starters, we left off television; small screen terror Twisty from American Horror Story: Freakshow wound up on the cutting room floor.
Did we miss a scary clown movie that gave you nightmares as a child—or adult? Let us know in the comments!
Featured still from "Clown" via Cross Creek Pictures