The film version of Stephen King’s IT (well, the bit of the book concerning the kids, anyway) hits UK cinema screens today, so clowns everywhere will find their work drying up. Because Bill Skarsgard stars as Pennywise, a shapeshifting evil identity who preys on children and thinks that appearing to be a clown will win their trust. Hah!
As this list proves, clowns have actually been as scary as vampires, werewolves and zombies since the dawn if time. Or the dawn of circuses anyway.
Browse the gallery and read more details about these freaky characters below.
Click on all images for the full pictures…
1 Captain Spaulding, played by Sid Haig in House of 1000 Corpses (2003) and its sequel The Devil’s Rejects (2005), was a scary clown and the owner of a gas station which doubled as a macabre museum/fairground ride with a focus on serial killers. in 2016, House Of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects director Rob Zombie returned to the subject of scary clown six more circus-inspired psychos in 31, the tale of a group of carnival workers fighting for their lives against killer clowns at Halloween night.
2 Trust dull old Star Trek: Voyager to come up with a clown who was dressed entirely in shades of grey! In “The Thaw”, the Clown (trust Star Trek: Voyager not to bother coming up with anything more imaginative to call him) was the master of a virtual realm where he ruled through fear. Fear that the audience might die of boredom, perhaps?
3 In Zombieland Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) has a fear of clowns (coulrophobia) so of course the climax of the film has him in a battle against a zombie clown.
4 The Last Circus is a 2010 Spanish film from cult writer/director Álex de la Iglesia featuring a lovesick Sad Clown who competes with a vicious Happy Clown for the affection of a beautiful trapeze artist.
5 Stand-up comedian and comedy panel game regular Ross Noble starred as a clown called Stitches in a 2012 film of the same name. Stitches rises from the grave to take revenge on the teenagers who accidentally killed him.
6 In the Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures, the Doctor’s former companion Sarah Jane Smith and her teenage sidekicks thwart an evil circus museum owner and his robot clowns, in an episode called “The Day Of The Clown”.
7 Poltergeist was full of scares but the image of a scary clown toy grinning like psychopath proved one of the 1982 film’s most memorable images.
8 Supernatural has been going so long (it’s on season 214 now, isn’t it?) it’s now wonder it’s featured scary clowns multiple times (and poor old Sam is a coulrophobe too!). The encounter in the gallery above is 11.07 “Plush” but below are a couple of other times the Winchesters have been bothered by painted-faced crazies.
9 Piedmon is a Wizard Digimon in Digimon Adventures with a magic box on his back, one of whose attacks is known as the Clown Attack.
10 In Doctor Who’s “The Greatest Show In The Galaxy” the Doctor visits an alien circus complete with an evil Chief Clown who drives around in a hearse with his robot clown sidekicks. The Chief Clown benefits from a deeply creepy performance from Ian Reddington.
11 James Bond went undercover in a circus in Octopussy. Somehow, we can’t imagine Daniel Craig’s Bond with a red nose… unless he really starts knocking back the martinis.
12 Zombie-meister George Romero was partial to be bit of undead clown action, with zombie clowns in Day Of The Dead (1985), Land Of The Dead (2005) and – in the gallery above – Diary Of The Dead (2007), which featured some found footage of a clown turning up at a garden party and performing a trick far more memorable than balloon animals.
13 Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988) is, as you might expect, packed with grotesque clowns. The unashamed B-movie is now a bit of a cult classic, but, to be honest, the greatest thing the film donated to the zeitgeist was it’s brilliant theme tune by The Dickies.
14 Jangles the clown from Pixar’s Inside Out (2015) isn’t evil, just misinterpreted. The film’s main character, Riley, was once scared by a clown at a kid’s party, and Jangles became the embodiment of her fears in her subconscious.
15 In Hellraiser II there’s a clown who juggles with his own eyes. Because that’s the kind of thing Clive Barker thinks about when he pushing his trolley around Tesco.
16 The Jester Gundam from Mobile Fighter G Gundam may look a bit of a clown – and was actually piloted by one, Romario Monini – but it was, in fact, deadly. Monini also had the ability to accurately mimic the moves of his opponents.
17 The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) featured the Clown With The Tear-Away Face – because, like, Clowns aren’t scary enough already.
18 Not evil so much as terminally depressed and depressing, Chuckles was the Eeyore of Toy Story 3, sucking the joy out of any occasion. But the one bubbly clown was suffering from some harrowing experiences.
19 Zeebo the clown appears in the Are You Afraid Of The Dark? episode “The Tale Of Laughing In The Dark” but was so memorable, references to him cropped up in other episodes. He was the ghost of a clown who died when in a fun house fire. A new fun house was built, featuring a dummy of Zeebo… which was always going to be a bad move.
20 The Violator in Spawn (1997) was a foul-mouthed, disgusting, giant stress-ball shaped clown who’s actually a demon who’s supposed to act as Spawn’s mentor when Al Simmons first becomes the resurrected hellspawn of the title.
21 Psychoville’s Mr Jelly is, in fact, a mere human clown. Not a demon clown. Not a robot clown. Not a zombie clown. But the potty-mouthed, hook-handed children’s party entertainer in The BBC’s delightfully dark sit com is probably scarier than 90% of the other clowns in this list.
22 Akira (1988) has a biker gang called the Clowns in Neo-Tokyo, because all biker gangs need branding, right?
23 Clown (2014) features a desperate dad donning a cursed clown suit when an entertainer doesn’t turn up to his son’s birthday party. Bad, bad move. The film actually started as a faux trailer on YouTube, but horror director Eli Roth saw it (the makers namechecked him in the vid) and agreed to produce an actual movie based on the trailer.
24 John Carroll Lynch played Twisty the Clown in American Horror Story: Freak Show. Twisty was a hulking serial killer who hid his mangled face behind a freaky mask. Apparently Twisty is back in this year’s American Horror Story: Cult – there are certainly lots of creepy clowns in the trailer.
Oh, and here’s a pic of Tim Curry as Pennywise from the 1990 IT miniseries, because we’ll only get complaints if we don’t include him…