The horror genre has a knack for subverting seemingly innocent concepts and turning them into excuses to instill terror. After all, scary stories are full of mischievous little children who become eerie ghosts and cute dolls who come to life with murderous intent. One of the most infamous examples of this trope is the clown, a figure that has been so widely reappropriated by horror that most people now know them as instruments of evil rather than idiotic performers.
Over the years, we’ve seen a plethora of both supernatural and mundane clown-based characters who disguise themselves as harmless pranksters in order to lure their victims into a false sense of security. However, not all clowns are created equal, with some managing to turn their cheerful makeup and ridiculous behavior into nightmares. That’s why we’ve put together this list celebrating six of horror’s scariest killer clowns, because there are quite a few to choose from.
While this ranking is obviously based on personal opinion, we’ll be selecting characters based on fear factor and memorability, without considering the overall quality of the film they came from. As usual, be sure to comment below with your own favorite killer clowns if you think we missed an important one.
Now onto the list. Attention coulrophobia…
6. The Clöyne – Clown (2014)
Before Directing Marvel’s Recent Movie Spider Man trilogy, director Jon Watts dabbled in clown horror with an aptly titled 2014 film Clown. Combining supernatural slasher tropes with body horror, the film tells the story of a hapless real estate agent who becomes cursed after donning an old clown costume that slowly transforms him into a child-eating Icelandic demon.
Not only is this ravenous clown beast scary to look at, with a spooky design courtesy of Alterian, Inc. (who helped create Daft Punk’s iconic helmets), but the curse elements are downright gruesome too. Seeing the main character’s body morph into a demonic satire of a costumed performer might be absurd at first, but it makes things even more cruel when this innocent man’s life is torn apart by forces beyond his control.
5. Violator/Clown – Spawn (1997)
Even a lifetime Spawn fan like me has a hard time defending this infamous comic book adaptation, but I’d still say John Leguizamo’s take on Todd McFarlane’s Violator is one of the best parts of the picture. The character’s extensive makeup and prosthetics are surprisingly true to the comics (although Leguizamo likens the costume to a full-face condom), but it’s the actor’s oddly humorous performance that sets it apart.
A demonic mentor meant to guide Hellspawn on his quest to recruit evil souls for Hell’s army, Violator earns his place on this list by being one of McFarlane’s most fearsome creations once he transforms into its true form. If you’d like to see more of this makeover Clown, I highly recommend HBO’s underrated animated adaptation of Spawnwhere Violator was scared off by Michael Nicolosi.
4. Art the Clown – Terrify (2016)
While he originally graced the big screen in the horror anthology ToussaintArt the Clown really came into its own with his 2016 solo film, creepy. Created by Damien Leone and brought to life by David Howard Thornton in the feature, this supernaturally evil clown has no apparent motive for his brutal Halloween kills.
Unusual for a slasher villain, the mime-like art is known for being extremely expressive despite never speaking a word, often mocking and mocking its victims before dispatching them in increasingly cruel ways. Thornton claims he modeled his performance on Charlie Chaplin and DC’s Joker, giving the character more depth than most other Slashers.
3. Killer Klowns – Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
A list of killer clowns obviously wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the horror-comedy opus of the Chiodo Brothers. Killer Klowns from Outer Spacewho introduced the world to a group of murderous aliens who look like grotesque Earth clowns.
While there’s no specific clown in the movie that’s scarier than the rest (although my favorite is Jojo the Clownzilla), the entire troupe earns a spot on this list due to their bizarre modus operandi, the Klowns sending earthlings through absurd circuses. weapons and powers. These silly space invaders may have a certain goofy charm, but they were probably responsible for a massive outbreak of coulrophobia in the late ’80s.
2. Captain Spaulding – The House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
From classic blaxploitation to Tarantino movies, the legendary Sid Haig left an impressive cinematic legacy. However, I think it’s safe to say that his most iconic character is Captain Spaulding, who debuted in 2003. House of 1000 corpses. A serial killer clown with a penchant for fried chicken and gnarly insults, Spaulding is one of Rob Zombie’s most compelling creations and one hell of a creepy clown.
Spaulding truly became a horror legend in 2006 The devil’s rejections, where he led the survivors of the Firefly family on their escape from Sheriff Wydell while getting into some top-secret clown business along the way. The scariest part of the character was Haig’s ability to make him extremely likeable one moment and genuinely intimidating the next, toying with audience expectations in every scene he appeared in.
1. Pennywise – It (2017)
The president of the World Clown Association once directly blamed Stephen King for the poor reputation of his profession, so it’s no surprise that Pennywise takes the top spot as the scariest killer clown in horror. While I’m a huge fan of Tim Curry’s charming take on the interdimensional villain, it’s Bill Skarsgård’s chilling performance that takes the cake as the most intimidating incarnation of this hellish creature.
A recurring curse that consumes the children of Derry every 27 years, Pennywise is notable for taking the form of a clown precisely so that he can trick children into falling in love with his playful antics before killing them- alive causing madness. When it comes to killer clowns, it’s hard to top this one.