Scary Clown Movies: Comical or Creepy?

Clowntergeist (2017) is a reminder that early fears of clowns can follow you into adulthood.

The fear of clowns is called coulrophobia. It’s such a common fear because clowns can be hard to read. Their genuine facial expressions are covered up by layers of thick makeup. They could be frowning when their painted face is smiling. They could be angry when they look cheerful. Although they are meant to come across as silly and child-friendly, their outrageous makeup and attire can actually make them appear threatening.

The uncanny valley also plays a role in our fear of clowns. The uncanny valley suggests that when something comes close to mimicking a human without fully looking human, it can cause discomfort. This is why clowns, like zombies and dolls, are so off-putting to some people. They look human – but they don’t look human enough. There is something different about them that makes them feel unpredictable, and maybe even unsafe.

Of course, famous films have contributed to the fear of clowns. As early as the 1970s and 1980s, films have portrayed clowns as serial killers and evil spirits. There were also real-life murderers, like John Wayne Gacy, who posed as clowns. This has encouraged audiences to be careful about who they trust. It has pushed them to be wary around clowns. With this in mind, here are some of the scariest clown movies ever created:

Poltergeist (1982)

This famous film, written by Steven Spielberg, is about a house haunted by demonic ghosts.

Spielberg wrote the script based off his own fear of clowns and a tree outside his house. During the famous clown scene when Robbie is strangled, the young boy playing him complained he couldn’t breathe. Spielberg thought this was improvisation until he realized the boy was turning purple and rushed to remove the clown arms from him. This clown puppet is now on display at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.

Blood Harvest (1987)

The film’s script was written in three weeks, and shot in less than 48 hours.

This horror film is about a woman who returns home from college to find her home vandalized and her parents nowhere to be seen. Her friends end up disappearing next, and she has to try her best to protect herself. Tiny Tim, who is the star of this film, wore his own clown suit for the role. Although the script was only written in three weeks, it was filmed in even less time. It only took a single day and night to complete.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

Director Stephen Chiodo shot this film on a budget of $2 million.

This hilarious cult classic film is about aliens who look like clowns. When they terrorize a small town, a group of young people are forced to take action because the adults aren’t taking the clowns seriously. Although this film had a two-million-dollar budget, the clowns were created at very little cost. Originally, the film didn’t do well in theaters, but it has made plenty of revenue in action figures, t-shirts, and DVDs over time. Overall, it’s a fun, cheesy movie with a bunch of memorable one-liners.

Clownhouse (1989)

Controversy struck this project when the director was convicted for sexually abusing the film’s 12-year old star actor.

This film, which was written and directed by Victor Salva, takes place right before Halloween. It follows three brothers who are terrorized by escaped mental patients who have stolen the identities of circus clowns. This movie was Sam Rockwell’s film debut. Although it was known as an excellent slasher film, it lost popularity due to the horrible crimes Victor Salva committed during filming.

It (1990)

This famous mini-series is about a clown who murders innocent children.

Tim Curry played Pennywise The Clown, and he was so convincing in the role that his co-stars actively avoided him during filming. However, originally Curry was reluctant to accept the role. He didn’t want to spend hours in makeup every morning. Luckily, there wasn’t too much makeup necessary because his acting was strong enough on its own.

Gacy (2003)

Clive Saunders served as writer and director on this biography horror film.

This is a true crime drama about John Wayne Gacy, a real killer clown. He was a seemingly devoted man with a wife and children. However, it turned out he also had over thirty dead men and boys in the crawl space under his house. Gacy was nicknamed The Killer Clown because he regularly performed at children’s hospitals. However, back then he called himself Patches the Clown or Pogo the Clown.

House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

Director Rob Zombie shot two versions of the more gory scenes in order to appease the studio heads, who preferred a rating-friendly screening.

This film, written and directed by Rob Zombie, is about two young couples traveling through Texas. During their trip, they end up as prisoners of a satanic family of serial killers. Although the movie was released in 2003, it was actually filmed in 2000. Universal Pictures, who was originally set to produce the film, refused to release it because they thought it would receive an NC-17 rating. However, the original script was much bloodier with even more gore.

Fraternity Massacre At Hell Island (2007)

This resort vacation horror was shot with a budget of $45 thousand on Mud Island, Tennessee.

A maniacal clown haunts a resort vacation in this cheesy movie. Here is how one reviewer on Amazon eviscerated this movie that it is so bad it is good: “Stupid and boring. For one thing all these actors are way over college age…and look it. For another the acting is abysmal. There’s not one good acting job here. The script is hopeless–full of bad jokes and terrible dialogue. The killings are largely bloodless and not even remotely scary.”

Amusement (2008)

John Simpson directed this crime horror film shot in Thailand.

This film is about a psychopathic stalker known as The Laugh. He goes after girls who picked on him during childhood. Although the film was never released in theaters, it stars several famous faces. The main characters are played by Keir O’Donnell, Katheryn Winnick, Laura Breckinridge, and Jessica Lucas. Each of these actors went on to appear on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000-2015).

The Last Circus (2010)

Original title: Balada triste de trompeta

This film can be considered a comedy, a drama, and a horror. It takes place in 1937 in the middle of the Spanish Civil War. It follows a young trapeze artist who is forced to choose between Sergio, the Happy Clown and Javier, the Sad Clown. However, both of these clowns are deeply disturbed. It is the perfect film for fans of Quentin Tarantino, who is a fan of the film himself.

Scary or Die (2012)

The five interwoven stories in this anthology were written and directed by Bob Badway and Michael Emanuel.

This anthology is rated R for bloody horror violence, language, and brief sexuality. The most memorable story is about a flesh-eating clown who is trying to protect someone important to him. Another gory segment is about a cop and a vengeful Necromancer. Although each story is short, a lot happens in a short amount of time.

Stitches (2012)

Horror fans will probably notice that Tom takes Hypnocil in this film, which is the same medication used in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).

This hilarious horror movie is about a clown who comes back from the dead. He haunts everyone who helped take his life during an incident at a party. Daniel Radcliffe was originally offered the role of Tom in this film. However, he turned it down and Tommy Knight ended up taking the part. Horror fans will probably notice that Tom takes Hypnocil in this film, which is the same medication used in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).

Clown (2014)

Check out this trailer where a demonic clown takes over the body of a once loving father.

This terrifying film is based on a short film by the same name. It’s about a father who finds a clown suit for his son’s birthday party. However, once he puts it on, he realizes it’s cursed. This film was rated R for horror violence and gore. In Italy, even the movie posters featuring the clown were considered too scary and had to be censored.

31 (2016)

Director Rob Zombie considers this to be the “most brutal film” he’s made.

This terrifying thriller is set on Halloween. It’s about a group of carnival workers who are held hostage and forced to participate in a game against sadistic clowns. Rob Zombie, who is the director and writer, actually crowdfunded this film. It only took him twenty days to shoot, but it was re-edited twice before being changed from an NC-17 rating to an R rating.

It (2017)

Based on the mini-series by the same name, this film follows a group of children who must fight a monster disguised as a clown.

Although the threat of the clown is present throughout the entire movie, Pennywise only has four minutes of dialogue in the film. The man playing him, Bill Skarsgard, was able to accomplish a lot with his facial expressions alone. However, he was extra polite and friendly in between takes. He wanted to make sure he wasn’t upsetting the child actors too much.

It: Chapter Two (2019)

Star Jessica Chastain was the first actor to be cast in this fantasy horror.

This sequel takes place twenty-seven years after the children’s first encounter with Pennywise. Although most of the children have moved away, they return to their hometown after receiving a disturbing phone call. Bill Skarsgard, who plays Pennywise, delivers an unforgettable performance. He can actually move his eyes in two different directions. It’s one of the many quirks that makes his character so terrifying. Even Skarsgard himself had nightmares about the clown after filming. He dreamed that he had to fight the monster, just like the characters in the movie do.

Clown Doll (2019)

The evil doll genre blends with the clown genre in this low budget and obscure film.

If you like scary doll movies, Clown Doll is for you and a perfect hybrid of evil doll and evil clown. It’s also a serial killer doll, so you know there you have it.

Joker (2019)

Joaquin Phoenix lost about 52 pounds for his role as the Joker in this Oscar-winning horror.

Of all the clown flicks, director Todd Phillips has made the most realistic, political, and highest-grossing R-rated box office movie ever. The portrayal of clowns in this narrative is one of the most depressing and thought-provoking of all stories in this list. This clown is a serial killer, a political signal and completely crazy. One of the most famous scenes in Hollywood cinema, and definitely clown history, is when the joker is dancing clown moves in this one.

Wrinkles the Clown (2019)

Watch this one if you want to be tantalized by the thought of real clowns that are murderous.

Looking to learn more about real-life horrifying clowns? This documentary tells the story of one such crazy clown. While many of the reviews of this movie on Amazon are negative, it’s actually a quite good movie, as explained by a defender of the film: “Ignore the emotionally driven infantile comments about how some thought “Wrinkles” was a movie.This is an entertaining docu-drama about a local scary Floridian clown who cleverly and cunningly drove the internet, media, and public insane with intrigue and self-induced paranoia.See for yourself and know “Wrinkles the Clown” is an eye-opening account of a fascination with an obsessive-hysteria of an IMAGINED psychotic-clown hired to prank and correct disobedient problematic children.”

More Scary Clown Movies

Scene from Killer Clown (2012) directed by John Lechago.

The concept of scary, bloodthirsty clowns has been around for decades. The movies above are only a small sample of what exists in cinema. They are some of the most well-known films – but that doesn’t mean they are the only ones worth watching. There are plenty of other options. Here are a few more scary clown movies that are bound to give you nightmares.

  • The Clown Murders (1976) is about a group of men who kidnap an old girlfriend on Halloween as a prank. However, a real clown ends up stalking them, seeking revenge.
  • Funland (1987) is about a clown mascot who gets revenge over losing his job at an amusement park. It was filmed at Six Flags in Atlanta.
  • Carnival of Souls (1998) is about a young girl who witnesses a clown rape and murder her mother. As an adult, the carnival comes back to town and gives her nightmares.
  • The Clown at Midnight (1999) is about a group of teenagers who are stalked by a clown while refurbishing an opera house.
  • Killjoy (2000) is about three children who encounter an evil clown.
  • We All Scream For Ice Cream (2007) is about a group of children who pranked their ice cream driver and accidentally murdered him. As adults, the man comes back as a bloodthirsty spirit.
  • 100 Tears (2007) is about a lonely circus performer who is searching for revenge.
  • Secrets of The Clown (2007) is about a man who lost his best friend to a brutal murder and is haunted by a disturbing presence.
  • Zombieland (2009) this Hollywood blockbuster is about zombies, but it does have a clown zombie character appropriately named Clown Zombie played by actor Derek Graf.
  • Killer Clown (2012) part of the Killjoy entries, this is the last installment in the series, but it’s rather bland.
  • The Houses October Built (2014) is about five friends who are stalked by a group of disturbed individuals while looking for a haunted house attraction.
  • Clown Town (2016) is about a group of friends who are stranded in a small town. They end up being stalked by psychopaths dressed as clowns.
  • Clowntergeist (2017) is about a college student who has to face a possessed clown who wants to kill her. Watch out clown ghosts!
  • The Terrifier (2018) is about a maniacal clown who terrorizes women on Halloween night.