15 Most Iconic Clowns From Horror Movies, Ranked Silliest To Scariest

As kids, people were taught that clowns are their friends, as they often saw them at birthday parties; but once those kids saw their first clown movie, they most likely had a change of heart. At a certain point, or maybe by accident, society changed the outlook people have on clowns and changed the picture into a much more sinister one. For decades, filmmakers have taken an innocent character and turned it into something audiences should be scared of.

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Why? There’s something terrifying about child-friendly characters that suddenly turn dark and want to harm instead of juggle. Filmmakers knew this was a good concept when they first stumbled upon it, which is why the fear of clowns is here to stay. Whether they have a comedic spin or straight-up horrifying intentions, these scary clowns are horror icons.

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UPDATE: 2022/10/22 20:12 EST BY SHAWN S. LEALOS

Fans of horror movie clowns received a huge treat in 2022. Terrifier 2 hit theaters and brought one of the most terrifying horror movie clowns back in Art the Clown. What was even more impressive was that the sequel, hitting six years after the original movie, has been a massive hit. Damien Leone’s cult horror clown movie was closing in on a $4 million box office just two weeks after its release (per Box Office Mojo) and that is a huge win for a low-budget horror movie. It is also a sign that there is a market for more of these killer horror movie clowns in the future.

Silliest

Cheezo, Bippo, and Dippo – Clownhouse (1989)

Not available to stream online

Clownhouse came out in 1989 and tried to capitalize on the fear of clowns at the time. However, what resulted was something that almost everyone rejected, including horror fans. The bad guys here were escaped convicts who killed three clowns and took their costumes to disguise themselves.

There is some fun to see here, such as a very young Sam Rockwell. However, when it comes to the clowns, this is a very low-budget horror movie that no one can really see today thanks outside issues during production. There is really nothing scary about the movie, and the clowns are not terrifying, but mostly forgettable.

Gingerclown – Gingerclown (2013)

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The problem with Gingerclown is that fans wanted so much more from the clown. That is because Tim Curry voiced Gingerclown, and that marked his return to horror movie clowns since he portrayed the original Pennywise in It.

Curry is great in his voice work, and there are some creepy creatures in this decrepit amusement park. However, it is the design of the puppet clown that lacks the fear factor. This movie tries hard to call back 1980s horror nostalgia, and that keeps this killer clown from being scary, so instead is just a bit silly.

Captain Spaulding – House Of 1000 Corpses (2003)

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Captain Spaulding, played by the late Sid Haig, may look a little scary, but he’s actually one of the most innocent characters in House of 1000 Corpses. He’s a proprietor of a gas station and fried chicken eatery, which also serves as a roadside attraction. He may be a vulgar clown, but his personality and jokes set him more on the sillier side when it comes to film clowns.

He may not have good intentions, but by no means is he more terrifying than some of his companions in this film.

Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

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Special effects weren’t perfected in the 1980s, which makes the “Klown” makeup steer to a sillier side. The film skirted the divide between comedy and chills, while also honing in on elements of punk rock and artistic value.

This cult classic has a fun premise that blends horror movie clowns and aliens together to make a movie. It’s kooky, a bit scary at times, but nonetheless a fun ride, one of the best so-bad-it’s-good horror movies.

Violator – Spawn (1997)

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In darker-toned movies, it’s always good to have a comedic presence to bite through the tension, and it seems like the clown version of Violator plays the part in Spawn. Played by iconic actor John Leguizamo, he’s sent to Earth to taunt Spawn and mentor him in his new role as a Hellspawn.

He cracks jokes, and his character is loud and pudgy, which makes him seem more comical than scary. Once he changes into his “true” form though, that’s a different story.

Stitches, The Maniacal Clown – Stitches (2012)

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He’s rude, crude and back from the dead; he is Stitches the clown. The film starts out innocent enough – Stitches is an unhappy clown that entertains at kids’ birthday parties. He takes an untimely fall and ends up passing away, but comes back for vengeance.

It’s a fun ride that turns into a teen slasher, with funny bits here and there. It’s definitely a low-budget film, but got the job done right by blending a horror movie clown’s many moods.

Silliest/Scariest

The Joker/Arthur Fleck – Joker (2019)

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Joker falls between silly and scary, but in different ways. Arthur just wants to make people smile and is genuinely a good person with mental issues; but once he’s pushed too far and has had enough, he turns into something else. He hops on the path of destruction by starting a revolution and a bloody crime spree.

His alter-ego, Joker, is born and is much scarier and maniacal than any other clown characters in film.

Scariest

The Clöyne – Clown (2014)

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With Eli Roth as a producer, it was clear that Clown would have some disturbing moments. The movie had them in spades and more, featuring one of the creepiest horror movie clowns in history with Clöyne. This is the story of a regular guy cursed to become a demonic clown when he puts on the costume.

The movie is a tragedy, but it is also a terrifying story. When a father puts on a clown suit, it is the skin of Clöyne, and he can’t remove it. The suit then possesses him to eventually become a horrific killer who eats children. Add in the body horror and some stomach-curling moments, and The Clöyne is a horror movie clown that will be impossible to forget.

Killjoy The Demonic Clown – Killjoy (2000)

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Killjoy the Demonic Clown was extremely popular, spawning four sequels with diminishing returns. However, in that original 2000 film Killjoy, he was an extremely terrifying horror movie clown. He was a demonic clown with supernatural abilities, making him even more threatening.

Killjoy set out in that first movie on a murderous rampage after a character named Michael Summoned him to get vengeance on people who bullied him. Of course, Michael wouldn’t get out in one piece either. There were low-budget special effects that either took away from the scare or added to the charm, depending on the viewers’ tastes. In the end, this was still a very scary horror movie clown.

Jack-In-The-Box Clown – Krampus (2015)

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Usually holiday movies are family-friendly and filled with wondrous characters, but Krampus takes a different path. A-list actors such as Adam Scott and Toni Collette star in this festive film and join in on the fun and laughs that the first half of the movie portrays. Once Krampus and his minions are released, it all changes.

Krampus’ evil toy characters such as the Jack-in-the-Box above are incredibly terrifying, and it gets to the point where Jack swallows one of the people in the house. Straight-up holiday chills.

Billy The Puppet – Saw (2003)

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One of the most iconic and recognizable characters in the horror industry has got to be Billy the Puppet. He doesn’t actually harm people, but he does often deliver harmful messages to his master’s prisoners. Fans of the Saw franchise know that when Billy makes an appearance, something insidious is about to go down.

From his ability to use a tricycle, to his beady-eyed stare, there’s nothing safe or funny about this guy in the Saw movies.

Clown Doll – Poltergeist (1982)

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Bringing it back all the way to 1982, Poltergeist is a movie that’s stood the test of time and has gone down as one of the most iconic movies in horror history. The CGI and special effects were new back then, and it terrified the audience to no end. For people that have a case of coulrophobia, this horror movie might traumatize viewers.

This is the classic “Boogeyman in the closet” scenario, where the audience knows what’s going to come of a creepy horror movie clown in a child’s bedroom, but the character doesn’t.

Pennywise – It (1990 & 2017)

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It’s hard to categorize both Pennywise characters into one, but they’re equally terrifying in different ways. Actors, Tim Curry and Bill Skarsgard both portrayed the horror movie clown-turned-supernatural slasher villain well in their own unique way, it’s more the timing of when the movies came out that sets them apart. Pennywise in 1990 was more modest, and the horrifying scenes were left to the imagination, whereas Pennywise in 2017 left nothing to doubt.

Of course, the special effects got better in between movies, but the eeriness never altered. The storyline of It was creepy no matter who played the clown, and this was probably one of the first movies that shaped how pre-teens envisioned clowns for the rest of their lives.

Art The Clown – Terrifier (2016)

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Sometimes it doesn’t take a whole village to make a scary film, because Terrifer broke the mold in that category. Usually there’s a story behind a villain’s purpose to cause mayhem, but with Art, there isn’t, and that is what makes him such a scary horror movie clown. Art stalks and kills anyone who crosses his path, which again, is creepy because there really is no motive.

At first, he comes off as semi-friendly, until his whole demeanor changes in an instant. He also never says a peep throughout the film, which makes him mysterious and even scarier.

NEXT: 10 Creepy Clown Movies Perfect For Halloween


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