The Top Ten Scariest Clowns in Movie History
Seeing that we’ve finally entered October, the Halloween spirit is running rampant inside me. This is my favorite time of year, because the weather stops being so unbearably hot and people get to dress up in elaborate costumes and get candy. In the last few days, the weather has cooled down considerably here, and I’m thinking of ideas of what to dress up as this year. One’s in the bag, but I try to come up with multiple costume ideas for different events. So in my Halloween spirit, I decided to look at some scary clowns.
It’s no secret that clowns aren’t exactly portrayed in the best light in the cinematic world. And for good reason: Clowns are pretty goddamn creepy. The whole idea of concealing a grown man in a childish greasepaint arrangement and colorful costume is a frightening concept unto itself, and the fact that people like John Wayne Gacy have used the getup as a method to commit heinous crimes doesn’t exactly help the argument. So I’ve rounded up the ten of the scariest movies about clowns ever to come out of Hollywood to get you ready for this Halloween season.
I’ve covered this movie in a previous review here on the site, and mentioned the fact that clowns aren’t exactly considered heroes in modern cinema. In this aptly-titled film from Kevin Smith’s View Askew pictures, Brian O’Halloran plays a down-on-his-luck children’s performer (going by the name “Flappy”) who decides to make his character a bit more “risque” in order to make a little more money. Of course, on his first job, he’s beaten and sodomized by a family of thugs and goes into a deep, dark depression. A vigilante turn, however, makes Flappy into a national hero and he gets a wildly popular television show.
This underrated comedy is one of the many gems under the belt of Bill Murray, who has consistently proven that he can turn just about anything he touches into gold. In QUICK CHANGE, he plays a bank robber named Grimm who sets up a scam with cohorts played by Geena Davis and Randy Quaid to knock off a financial institution. He pulls this off by masquerading as a clown, then later releasing himself out of costume as a hostage. Sure, the clown thing is only a minor subplot, but it’s such a well-done scenario involving a clown with less-than-idealistic moral judgment that it merits a mention here.
In one of the worst comic book adaptations to make it onto celluloid, SPAWN features a villain named, simply enough, The Clown. Clown is a messenger of the devil, or Malebogia, and is played by the animated comedian John Leguizamo. The deceased Al Simmons, a.k.a. Spawn, has made a deal with The Clown in order to return to Earth, but Clown winds up double-crossing him and making a deal with Wynn, the man who killed Al in the first place. Yeah, this movie sucks ass, and Spawn in general is kind of an overrated property, but Clown had the potential to be a pretty cool comic villain. Lord knows Leguizamo gave it a shot.
As if you needed any additional incentive to see a film starring the one and only Bobcat Goldthwait, this one provides the opportunity to see clowns beating the shit out of mimes. Shakes, played by Bobcat, is an alcoholic clown who is trying to win the heart of a lady named Judy, played by the one and only Julie Brown. The movie creates a fantasy world where clowns are a subculture, hanging out in bars wearing full makeup and swearing like sailors. Goldthwait wrote and directed the film, which also features a cast as diverse as LaWanda Page, Adam Sandler, and even Robin Williams (billed as Marty Fromage.) It’s actually a really funny satire, and quite a commentary on just why people are so afraid of men in paint.
The Joker, as we can probably all agree, is one of the most dastardly clowns their ever was. Of course, the difference here is that the Joker, while being a sadistic murderous bastard, is a really cool villain. In Tim Burton’s adaptation of the comic book, Jack Nicholson brings to life the Joker in a way that nobody ever has. Not Cesar Romero, not Mark Hamill, nobody. Nicholson delivers some of the most quotable lines in film history, and wraps them up into one of his greatest performances. A lot of people give this movie shit for straying from the source material, but it’s still a kick-ass interpretation of the comic, and Nicholson’s Joker accounts for a good portion of that.
Rob Zombie’s ultra-gory horror film from earlier this year was also recently reviewed by our own Baldy here on the site, and also contains its fair share of evil clown insanity. In the movie, a group of wandering teens wind up at Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madness, and typical horror movie hijinks ensue. Since I haven’t actually seen this future cult classic myself, I’ll leave it up to a quote from Baldy’s review to lend you an idea of what that entails: “Finally, when escaping from someone named Dr. Satan, never accept a ride from an evil clown who says ‘I’ll take you to a doctor.'”
This cult horror classic is definitely one that helped put clown fears as a top priority in Hollywoodland. In this film, a group of escaped mental patients slaughter and steal the identites of some circus clowns who have just scared the Bejesus out of a kid named Casey, who has this unnatural fear of clowns. Of course, the killer clowns (not to be confused with Killer Klowns, which we’ll get to in a minute) wind up at Casey’s house and torment him and his brothers. It’s really not a very good movie, but it’s fun to watch if you really hate Clowns. Of course, it doesn’t help matters much that director Victor Silva was arrested and spent time in prison for molesting one of the young actors in the movie. Look for a young Sam Rockwell, who fortunately has moved on to better things.
This campy sci-fi/horror movie used to air on HBO pretty much every day during my early teen years, and I think I watched it every time it aired. In this movie, the clowns are actually space aliens who just happen to look like clowns. They also conveniently use weapons that look like accessories clowns would use, such as killer cream pies and monster popcorn and ray guns that wrap victims in cotton candy. Some of the kids in the town being terrorized rise up and drive around in an ice cream truck attempt to put a stop to their dastardly deeds. One of the highlights is the theme song, performed by the Dickies. This was recently released on DVD, and It’s been one that I’ve almost picked up on a number of occasions. Maybe I will just for the Halloween season this year.
I’m no fan of Stephen King, but I can recall being scared to hell and back when I was about fourteen years old by this adaptation of his novel about a demon named Pennywise who disguises himself as a clown and tortures a group of seven friends in a small town in Maine, both in youth and adulthood. This film originally aired on ABC as a two-part miniseries, and remains a cult hit to this day. A strong cast helps, including John Ritter and Harry Anderson, but the saving grace is Tim Curry as Pennywise, who rises above the average script and pedestrian direction to deliver a chilling performance. Stephen King isn’t the one who scared the hell out of me with this film, it was Curry.
In what is undoubtedly the most disturbing portrayals of clowns ever in the history of American cinema, Robin Williams portrays a demented medical student named Nathan Adams who torments his victims by dressing up like a clown, calling himself “Patch”, and performing unspeakable acts of torture on his unwitting victims, who are children already dying of terminal illnesses. These acts of depravity are so reprehensible that the administration quickly ejects his ass from medical school. To get revenge, this sadistic perpetrator forms his own clinic and even starts tricking emotionally unstable people into letting him care for them, even though he doesn’t even have a license to practice medicine! Oh God, the horror. I can’t even bear to talk about it.