13 Scary Clowns in Movies and Television [Infographic]

by |September 26, 2016
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13 Scary Clowns in Movies and Television

Why are clowns so terrifying? Is it the blood-red lips? Or the perpetually-smiling mouths? Maybe they terrified us as children, like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. For someone with a fear of clowns, often called “coulrophobia”, even the most joyful clowns are downright sinister. And even when they’re actually harmless, clowns can appear unsettling or weird. As far as we’re concerned, all clowns are scary clowns! With this in mind, we looked at the 13 of the most iconic scary clowns in movies and television, along with a number of honorable mentions.

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13 Scary Clowns in Movies and Television

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Our apologies to anyone with coulrophobia! If you're scared of clowns or know someone who is, we've also made a less-scary version of this same infographic. Click on the image below to see it in full!

13 Scary Clowns in Movies and Television

13 Scary Clowns in Movies and Television Transcript

Clowns are supposed to be funny characters, entertaining children, and adults alike with their gags and slapstick comedy. But they can unintentionally appear creepy and weird, provoking the opposite reaction. Horror films often take advantage of this, preying on people with coulrophobia (fear of clowns), portraying clowns as terrifying, murderous villains. This is a timeline of our favorite scary clowns-both disturbing and outright evil- from movies and television. 

Clown Doll

Poltergeist (1982)

Dollmaker: Annette Little

Weapon: Arms

Note: The clown's arm nearly strangled actor Oliver Robins on set

Clown Paramedics

Peewee's Big Adventure (1985)

Weapon: Fire, Pinchers, Danny Elfman

Note: The "Large Marge" effects in the film were designed by the Chiodo Brothers, directors of Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

Marvelous Mervo

Blood Harvest (1987)

Actor: Tiny Tim

Weapon: Shotgun

Note: Blood Harvest was Tiny Tim's one and only appearance in a drama or horror film. He was otherwise known for his version of the song "Tiptoe Through the Tulips". 

Killer Klowns

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

Actors: Scotty Beatty, Harrod Blank, Mitch Bryan, Michael Harrington Burris, Charles Chiodo, Paul Haley, Genie Houdini, Brett Leonard, Jimmy Locust, Paul Parsons, Geno Ponza, Steve Rockhold, Karl Shaeffer, Greg Sykes, Dennis C. Walsh

Weapon: Shadow Puppet, Cotton Candy Guns, Acid Pies, Giant Straws

Note: This B-movie had since become a cult classic.

The Joker

Batman (1989) and The Dark Knight (2008)

Actors: Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger

Weapons: Laughing Gas, Guns, Explosives, Pencil

Note: The Joker is often called "The Clown Prince of Crime"


Stephen King's It (1990)

Actor: Tim Curry

Powers: Knows the fears and phobias of his victims, can transform into anything

Note: Pennywise is widely regarded as the most iconic clown in horror films. 


Spawn (1997)

Actor: John Leguizamo

Powers: Can transform into other creatures, including his true form, a massive horned demon

Note: The clown costume and makeup took nearly four hours to apply every day. Luckily for John Leguizamo, the demon form was animatronic and computer-generated.

Captain Spaulding/ Cutter

House of 1000 Corpses (2003) and The Devil's Rejects (2005)

Actor: Sid Haig

Weapons: Guns

Note: In the films, Captain Spaulding runs the Museum of Monsters and Madmen, a tribute to circus sideshow acts. 

Pogo the Clown

Drive-Thru (2007)

Actor: Van De La Plante (body) and Gordon Clapp (voice)

Weapons: Deep Fryer, Clown Cleaver

Note: The bit character, Robbie, was played by Morgan Spurlock, He also directed Super Size Me, a documentary about the dangers of fast food. Health dangers, at least. There were no clown cleavers.

The Laugh

Amusement (2008)

Actor: Keir O'Donnell

Weapons: Knives

Note: Keir O'Donnell is better known for his comedic roles and improv standup comedy. 

Clown Zombie

Zombieland (2009)

Actor: Derek Graf

Weapons: Bite

Note: The zombie is killed by a mallet from a carnival high striker game. 


American Horror Story: Freak Show (2014-2015)

Actor: John Carrol Lynch

Weapons: Juggling Pins

Note: John Carrol Lynch was so terrifying as Twisty that other actors often had to leave the set. 

Honorable Mentions:

  • Gwynplane
    • The Man Who Laughs (1928)
  • Cooky
    • The Bozo Show (1968-1994)
  • Michael Myers
    • Halloween (1978)
  • Binky
    • Garfield (1988-1994)
  • Dippo, Dippo, and Cheezo
    • Clownhouse (1989)
  • Jamie Lloyd
    • Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
  • Shakes
    • Shakes the Clown (1991)
  • Zeebo
    • Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1992)
  • "Crazy" Joe Cavola
    • Seinfeld (1992)
  • Clown Bed
    • The Simpsons (1992)
  • Louis Seagram
    • Carnival of Souls (1998)
  • Killjoy
    • Killjoy Franchise (2000-2012)
  • Billy the Puppet
    • Saw Franchise (2004-2010)
  • Gurdy
    • 100 Tears (2007)
  • Snuffles
    • Clownstrophobia (2009)
  • Clown
    • The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
  • Stitches
    • Stitches (2012)
  • Art
    • All Hallow's Eve (2013)
  • Frowny
    • Clown (2014/2016)
  • Wasco, Skidoo, and Old Harry
    • The Legend of Wasco (2015)

Sources: Wikipedia, Wikia, IMDB, The RPF

So who’s your favorite scary clown? Or clowns? Did they make the top 13 or the honorable mentions? Tell us in the comments! And feel free to mention any scary clown movies that we overlooked. If you’re thinking about scary clowns for Halloween, check out our variety of clown costumes, including Pennywise the Clown!

Design Credit: Abby Bartels

Wyatt Edwards
Wyatt Edwards

Wyatt Edwards is the Internet Wizard at HalloweenCostumes.com, where he is lead editor and writes about superheroes and pop culture. He has been interviewed about costume trends by numerous entertainment and news outlets.

His past costumes include a rocket surgeon, Wikipedia, Optimus Prime, and a picnic. Yes, a picnic. Wyatt also plays Dungeons & Dragons but doesn't put on fancy costumes for that. You can find him on Twitter @whatandwyatt.

Abby Bartels
Abby Bartels

Abby Bartels is a senior member of the graphic design team at HalloweenCostumes.com. She considers herself a crafty son-of-a-gun, Broadway fan wannabe, and likes sports. She is also fluent in sarcasm, just ask her.

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