Understand, when we talk about the 10 best killer clown movies, we’re not using the word “best” in its usual sense. Rather than winning awards or wowing critics, these are the ten best films to reinforce your coulrophobia – that is, your fear of clowns. There’s just something about clowns that can really creep people out, and the following films play that for maximum effect.
“It.” In 1950s Derry, Maine, a killer dressed as a clown lures children to their doom. Stephen King’s novel made Pennywise the Clown even more evil and frightening than this 1990 TV-movie version. But, it’s hard to go wrong with Tim Curry as the killer clown.
“The Dark Knight.” Heath Ledger rocked the world in his final role as the Joker, Batman’s killer-clown nemesis. He won an Oscar for it, a first for a superhero movie. The truly disturbing makeup job set a new twenty-first century standard for creepy clowns.
“Batman.” Jack Nicholson’s turn as the Joker in the 1989 smash hit is worlds away from Ledger’s. But his clown is no less of a killer, murdering his way to the top of the Gotham City crime syndicate. His henchmen also dress as clowns, a nod to the character’s comic-book origins.
“Gacy.” This might be the creepiest killer clown of all, because he was real. Serial killer John Wayne Gacy dressed as a clown for community events, but his real hobby was murdering young boys. Gacy, played by Mark Holton in this 2003 film, once told police, “Clowns can get away with murder.”
“Drive-Thru.” This 2007 straight-to-video horror film places the killer in an abandoned fast-food eatery. True to form, the psycho dresses as the restaurant’s mascot, a sinister clown. Clueless teens find that their last meals are anything but happy.
“Clownhouse.” The 1989 debut film by Victor Salva, director of “Jeepers Creepers,” caused a stir at the end of the 1980s horror boom. Its subtlety and intelligence won it attention at major film festivals like Sundance. But after Salva was convicted of molesting the film’s young lead actor, “Clownhouse” left a bad taste in viewers’ mouths.
“Out of the Dark.” Released the same year as “Clownhouse,” this film had plenty of slasher-movie street cred. Phone-sex workers are stalked by a killer dressed as a clown. If that doesn’t send you directly to your Netflix queue, check out the cast of low-budget luminaries: Karen Black, Tracey Walter, Bud Cort, Tab Hunter and Divine in her final film role.
“Fear of Clowns.” Horror filmmakers will exploit everything that might creep their audience out, and that includes coulrophobia. In this 2004 film, a woman’s fear of clowns turns out to be totall justified. The straight-to-video release was successful enough to justify a 2007 sequel.
“The Day the Clown Cried.” When discussing killer clowns, you can’t overlook this legendary unreleased film from 1972. Jerry Lewis, who also directs, plays a clown who leads Jewish children to their doom in a Nazi concentration camp. It’s hard to decide if it’s as bad as it’s rumored to be, since Lewis has sworn the film will never see an audience, but film stills and the script are available online for those who can’t contain their curiosity.