Best Clown Movies – Top Movie Clowns

Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at 9:22 pm

The first part of August is National Clown Week, so there’s no better time to look at the best clown movies and the top movie clowns. The reaction to these painted merry-makers seems to be right down the middle, with some loving them and others hating them in the extreme. Why would someone be afraid of a clown? It’s a good question, as I personally have never found them to be anything but amusing. Some, however, see those grinning faces and colorful costumes and just freak right the f**k out. And as it turns out, most of the top movie clowns on this list tend to be of the horrific variety, which only proves that Hollywood screenwriters are just as scared of them as everyone else.

If you want to get your fix of the best clown movies, your best bet is to head over to Netflix and become a member. They offer free shipping, no late fees, and over 100,000 movies to choose from. Yes, we do get a small commission if you sign up, but most of it goes right back into the site (with a little set aside for oversized shoes and ridiculous noses).

The Clown Doll from Poltergeist (1982) – Perhaps the best-known moment of a clown showing its true colors on the big screen comes from director Tobe Hooper and writer/producer Steven Spielberg. Young Robbie Freeling (Oliver Robins) is preparing to go to bed, not knowing that his new home is sitting right on top of an old cemetery. Down at the end of his bed, a clown doll sits passively in a chair. Robbie isn’t fooled, however, and his attempts to cover the doll with a jacket are thwarted only by his atrocious aim. Realizing he’ll never be worth a damn at organized sports, he turns in for the night. But that nagging feeling that something’s wrong just won’t go away, and he lifts his head to find that the clown is no longer in the chair. He checks one side of the bed…nothing. He checks the other side…nothing. Just when we’re set to breathe a sigh of relief, the damn clown–now wearing a maniacal grin–appears beside him, wraps a freakishly long arm around Robbie’s throat, and drags him under the bed. Luckily, Robbie is tougher than most movie kids, and he soon gets the upper hand, ripping the clown apart while shouting “I hate you! I hate you!”. You’re not alone, Robbie.

Pennywise the Dancing Clown from It (1990) – Released as a two-part television movie, this adaptation of the Stephen King novel finds Tim Curry cast in the role of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, a nightmarish being who preys on the children of Derry, Maine. A group of kids calling themselves The Losers thought they had killed Pennywise back in 1958, but the child killings begin again in modern day, drawing the now-grown Losers (including Harry Anderson, John Ritter, Richard Thomas, and Annette O’Toole) back to their hometown. Curry is an absolute scream as Pennywise, as he comes to life inside a storybook and reaches out for the readers, lures kids into the sewers, pops out of open graves, appears in the Moon, and shows off his crazy glowing eyes known as “deadlights.” Describing himself as “the eater of worlds, and of children,” who would’ve thought he would be so vulnerable to a simple slingshot? One of the top movie clowns ever depicted, adding to Curry’s resume of bizarrely entertaining characters (including Dr. Frank-N-Furter and Lord of Darkness).

Grimm from Quick Change (1990) – Bill Murray has always been a lovable clown, but this underrated comedy actually gives him the opportunity to dress up like one. Grimm is a man who’s completely fed up with New York City, and he and his cohorts (Geena Davis and Randy Quaid) plan to rob a bank and then head for greener pastures. The robbery goes off smoothly, with Grimm dressed as a clown and having fun at the expense of Police Chief Rotzinger (the excellent Jason Robards). First he claims to have been in “Nam,” then he demands to be called “Chip” and, moments later, “Skip.” To keep the cops busy, he demands a city bus with a full tank of gas, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, two helicopters, and a monster truck. Meanwhile, he dresses like a hostage and slips out, uttering the immortal line, “Baby, up your butt with a coconut. I think he was prepared to do it, except I saw no coconut. He had no coconut to my knowledge.” And that’s just the beginning of the film, as Grimm and company spend the rest of the movie trying to get out of the city, thwarted at every turn by jumpy cabbies (Tony Shalhoub), mobsters, thieves, and a by-the-book bus driver (Philip Bosco). If you’re a fan of Murray, this clown movie is a must-see.

Michael Myers from Halloween (1978) – In 1963, cute little Michael Myers (Will Sandin) dresses up in a clown costume for Halloween, spies on his naked sister, then brutally murders her with a butcher knife. His parents arrive home a short time later, finding the six-year-old killer in a traumatized state in the front yard. Fifteen years later, Michael (minus his clown costume) escapes from an asylum and heads straight back to Haddonfield, Illinois. Before long, he’s hacking up teenagers left and right, with his ultimate target being mild-mannered babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis in her film debut), who just so happens to be his sister. Still regarded as one of the greatest horror flicks ever made, this John Carpenter classic would pave the way for such franchises as Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Clown Zombie from Zombieland (2009) – Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) has managed to survive the zombie apocalypse by adhering to a strict set of rules. That is, until true love Wichita (Emma Stone) finds herself trapped, along with her sister (Abigail Breslin), on a drop tower ride at Pacific Playland, an amusement park crawling with the undead. The only thing standing between Columbus and his lady? A clown zombie. As it turns out Columbus is deathly afraid of clowns. Will he nut up or shut up? I’ll give you a hint: undead clowns aren’t any more resistant to giant mallets than anyone else. The rest of the film is pretty good, too, especially the parts featuring Bill Murray as himself and Woody Harrelson as a violent redneck in search of the world’s last remaining Twinkie.

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The Joker from The Dark Knight (2008) – One of the last films from Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight forever cemented his reputation as a talented actor lost all too soon. His Joker is a far cry from that of Jack Nicholson’s comedic killer, and Ledger prepared by holing up alone in a hotel room for a month. He described the resulting character as a “psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.” Highlights include The Joker performing a “magic trick” by balancing a pencil on a table and then slamming a goon face-first onto it, as well as donning a nurse’s outfit and blowing up a hospital. He’s also the first character in the franchise to off a Batman love interest, something that automatically qualifies him as one of the all-time top movie clowns. What a shame that we won’t be able to enjoy him in a sequel.

Shakes from Shakes the Clown (1992) – Bobca Goldthwait directs, writes, and stars this tale of an alcoholic clown whose life is in the crapper. With a “total disregard for the clown code of ethics,” Shakes terrorizes kids, bangs Florence Henderson, and generally delivers a satire on the life of stand-up comics. Favorite line from the film: “Hay, wait a minute, you clowns are on dope!” Co-starring Julie Brown, Tom Kenny, Adam Sandler, and Robin Williams, the film lists none other than Martin Scorsese as a fan, and The Boston Globe gave it the ultimate compliment when it referred to the film as “the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies.”

Captain Spaulding from House of 1000 Corpses (2003) and The Devil’s Rejects (2005) – Plenty of movie clowns are just downright evil, but Captain Spaulding (exploitation veteran Sid Haig) is one that you’ll actually find yourself rooting for from time to time. The owner of a combination gas station/museum of the strange/fried chicken paradise, Spaulding spends his free time engaging in mass murder and having sex with morbidly obese women (while dreaming of Ginger Lynn Allen). With a brother who’s inexplicably a black pimp, Captain Spaulding (named for a Groucho Marx character from Animal Crackers) doesn’t take no mess. He gleefully taunts a pair of armed robbers who burst into his store, and The Devil’s Rejects finds him commandeering a woman’s (P.J. Soles) car to conduct some “top secret clown business.” When she tries to leave, he admonishes her for turning her back on a clown, then drops her with a left cross. What do you expect from a clown with a tattoo of John Wayne on his arm?

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) – While they look like lumbering clowns with massive heads, these bizarre creatures are actually aliens who feed on human beings. And feed they do, utilizing a bizarre variety of methods (including shadow puppets, ray guns, and balloon animals) to ensnare the population of a quiet American town. In my favorite scene, a klown rides his tiny powder blue cycle up to a gang of bikers. When one of them smashes it, and dares the klown to “knock his block off,” the little fella complies…literally. And don’t miss the trippy climax, including a 30-foot klown called Klownzilla and a pair of brothers in a rented ice cream van. One of the best clown movies ever made, especially for fans of cheesy B-movies from the 1980s.

Violator from Spawn (1997) – A rotund, blue-faced clown with a sadistic sense of humor, The Violator is tasked with making sure that the resurrected and newly-empowered Al Simmons, aka Spawn (Michael Jai White), is led down the path of evil. But our hero proves to be uncooperative, forcing the clown to eventually morph into his true form, a gigantic, horned demon that’s more than a match for the novice hellspawn. Underneath the clown makeup is John Leguizamo, who portrays The Violator with a mixture of inappropriate humor and endless irritation. Sure, he’s one of the top movie clowns ever, but he’s also the most irritating.

That concludes our list of the best clown movies and top movie clowns. Assuming you’re not sitting in front of your keyboard paralyzed with fear, here are a few more articles from Only Good Movies that you’ll be interested in:

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3 Responses to “Best Clown Movies – Top Movie Clowns”

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August 11, 2010


Great write up about Sid Haig. The first time I ever remember seeing Sid was in an Electra-Woman and Dyna-Girl episode on the Sid and Marty Kroft vehicles. I was hooked. So when Rob Zombie used him for such great effect, I was in hog heaven.

I also really enjoyed Tim Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise the Clown. Like most King horror novels, the build up is so much better than the culmination and denouement. Curry exemplifies this. His Pennywise is unnerving, but the ending is lackluster.

It’s amazing to me that clown’s inspire so much fear for some people. Even with these wicked clowns, they still don’t strike much fear in me.

As an honorable mention, I would like to mention Dr. Rockzo, the Rock and Roll Clown from the animated series Metalocalypse. I realize that’s not a film, but they will eventually be released on DVD.

August 11, 2010


Thanks for the comments, Chris. Electra-Woman and Dyna-Girl? I’ll be damned. I guess I saw Sid Haig as a younger and never even realized it. Totally agree about Stephen King. I stopped reading him after slogging through 8,000 pages of The Stand only to be served an ending that was beyond weak (IMHO).

I’ve seen bits and pieces of Metalocalypse, but I’m not familiar with Dr. Rockzo. I shall have to remedy that.


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