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October 17, 2016

The numbers behind clowns in movies

clownsfb-image-400Regular readers will know that I often study topics suggested by members of the public.  In the past, they have included subjects such as racial diversity, movie recoupment and public investment in the arts.  However this week, most of the questions I have received have been about clowns in movies.  Yes, clowns. 

To be honest, I’m a bit confused about why the media is currently so fascinated by cartoon-like, buffoonish men with unrealistic hair who destroy any vehicle they’re left in charge of (maybe it’s got something to do with the American election?)

Either way, the end result of all the clown-based news stories is that I have put together the following movie facts to satisfy your clown cravings. 

We’re in a clown movie boom

clowns-in-movies-2I used IMDb and Wikipedia to identify as many movies as I could which feature clowns as a major character (or key element of the plot).  This came to 298 movies in total.

The oldest film I could find is a 1916 silent movie called The New Clown which featured an aristocrat who runs away to join the circus after he (mistakenly) believes he has killed a man.   

The first peak for clown-based movies was 1928, which saw the release of films such as Laugh, Clown, Laugh, Spangles and Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus. This popularity was short-lived and it wasn’t until the 1950s that clown-based movies resurfaced in any number.  That decade included movies such as The Greatest Show on Earth, Ring of Fear and Roger Corman’s Carnival Rock.  

However, it has been in the modern era that clown-based movies really started to rise, with 54% released during or after the year 2000.

100-years-of-clowns-in-movies

Interestingly, the recent boom in clown movies in the inverse of what’s been taking place in the real world of professional clowning.  In the 1980s the World Clown Association and Clowns International had over 1,000 members, whereas the figure is now below 100.  Time magazine posits that this reduction in clowns is down to “higher standards for clowning, decreasing popularity amongst the younger generation, and an ageing population of current clowns“.

the-man-who-laughsAnother factor could be the increase of horror movies featuring evil clowns.  Prior to the 1970s, there was only one horror film which featured a clown, and that movie stretched both the definition of ‘clown’ and ‘horror’.  

The 1928 silent movie The Man Who Laughs features a lead with a grim carnival freak-like grin – legendary film critic Roger Ebert described the film as “a melodrama, at times even a swashbuckler, but so steeped in Expressionist gloom that it plays like a horror film”.

Almost half of all movies featuring clowns that were released during or after 2010 have been horror movies.

clowns-in-horror-movies

And for anyone who worries that the current clown obsession will burn out – fear not.  The following titles are currently in development: A Cotton Candy AutopsyCarnieVille, Circus Klown, Clown Girl, COULROPHOBIA, The Fable of the Clown and the Hen and the imaginatively titled (and incorrectly spelt) Unititled Clown Project.

Do clowns ruin everything?

clowns-in-movies-3I don’t have time to provide data on “everything” but certainly it seems that clowns ruin horror films.  I compared the ratings given by film critics and audiences for horror films featuring clowns between 1996 and 2016, and then for all horror films over the same period.

Both groups felt that clowns were not a welcome addition to a horror flick, although it was the critics who were the most anti-clown. 

clowns-in-movies-critics-ratings

Bringing the horror circus to your living room

Now for the big question of the week: if you’re considering ruining your weekend by watching a marathon of horror movies starring clowns, which movies should you pick?

Thankfully for you, I’ve put together a collection of over 56 hours worth of horrific clown horror movies to pick from:

MovieSynopsis
Killer Klowns from Outer SpaceAliens who look like clowns come from outer space and terrorize a small town.Read more…
ClownA loving father finds a clown suit for his son's birthday party, only to realize that it is not a suit at all.Read more…
StitchesA clown comes back from the dead to haunt those who took his life during a fatal party mishap.Read more…
Scary or DieThe creation of filmmaker Michael Emanuel, SCARY OR DIE tells five interwoven horror stories that take place in and around the "City of Angels". A flesh-eating clown desperately trying to ...Read more…
Drive ThruHorror gets Super Sized when Horny The Clown, the demonic mascot of "Hella-Burger," starts slashing Orange County teenagers with his meat cleaver from Hell.Read more…
ClownhouseJust before Halloween, three young brothers alone in a big house are menaced by three escaped mental patients who have murdered some traveling circus clowns and taken their identities.Read more…
All Hallows' EveA babysitter finds a VHS tape which features various sinister murders performed by a psychotic clown.Read more…
Carnival of SoulsA young girl witnesses the brutal rape and murder of her mother by a circus clown and begins to have nightmares when the carnival comes back to town when she is an adult.Read more…
The Clown at MidnightSeven teenagers are stalked by a murderous clown while refurbishing an old opera house.Read more…
31Five carnival workers are kidnapped and held hostage in an abandoned, Hell-like compound where they are forced to participate in a violent game, the goal of which is to survive twelve hours against a gang of sadistic clowns.Read more…
Zombie Women of SatanA travelling group of freaks, headed up by Pervo the Clown, go to a rural farm to take part in a webcast interview to help them gain more followers and make the public aware of their ...Read more…
Dead ClownsDead Clowns revolves around ordinary people in a small town in Florida. A hurricane has just slammed into the area...Read more…
Killjoy Goes to HellKilljoy is back in the fourth installment of the demonic clown series. This time Killjoy is being accused of not being evil, since he let one of his victims(Sandie) get away. Killjoy must ...Read more…
The Clown MurdersFour men kidnap an old girlfriend on Halloween night as a joke to ruin a real estate deal, only to have a very real clown-masked killer stalk them seeking revenge.Read more…
ClownTownA group of friends get stranded in a seemingly deserted small town and find themselves stalked by a violent gang of psychopaths dressed as clowns.Read more…
Terror on TourA rock band called "The Clowns" comes under suspicion of murder when several prostitutes are killed by individuals made up like members of the band.Read more…
ClownstrophobiaA psychologist hosts a group therapy session for teens who fear clowns. It's the night her killer clown brother escapes the institution he's been held in.Read more…
Klown Kamp MassacreFifteen years ago, Edwin went to clown camp to fulfill his lifelong dream of bringing laughter to the world... but nobody laughed. Humiliated on graduation night, Edwin viciously murdered ...Read more…
Circus of the DeadA man becomes entangled in a deadly morality game when the circus comes to town and a sadistic clown forces him to examine the things in life he takes for granted in the most horrific ways.Read more…
Massacre CountyAfter a hideous crime in a mansion by the forest, where a group of young people was found murdered, a suspicious clown tries to prove his innocence to the investigator that found him covered in blood.Read more…
The Legend of WascoA clown performer and his future brother in-law create a web sensation by dressing up as the infamous Wasco clown and posting pictures on social media. They unwittingly resurrect the real ...Read more…
Sloppy the PsychoticMeet Mike, A man whose only goal in life was to bring joy to children... As "Sloppy the Clown". After a cruel twist of fate finds him without his beloved job he goes into business for ...Read more…
Jingles the ClownAngela Nelson returns home to the place where she witnessed her family slaughtered by the notorious killer clown, Mr. Jingles. Accompanied by a team of paranormal experts, they set out to ...Read more…
ClownFive college students spend a weekend in a desolate cabin in the mountains only to be terrorized by a man dressed as a clown.Read more…
WebKamVictoria is a bit sad due due to a break-up with her boyfriend, Matt. Her best friend Lilly tries to cheer her up, but fails. One day a strange character wearing a clown mask appears on her computer screen.Read more…
No Strings 2: Playtime in HellA clown doll possessed by a demon goes on a bloody rampage of murder after being found and taken into a home.Read more…
Twilight Syndrome: Dead Go Round(Japanese with English subtitles) Based onthea popular videogame series, this film follows a group of small-town teenagers get trapped in a sadistic amusement park game that turns out to be a death trap run by a demonic clown.Read more…
Book of 1000 DeathsFour stories that are more than just myths or fairy tales; these are urban legends with endings that are far from happy. "The Clown Statue" with Jasmine a college freshman struggling to ...Read more…
GrimasA young girl is being haunted by a ghost spirit, in the shape of a clown, while babysitting.Read more…
Herencia diabólicaA diabolic clown doll murders people that are cruel to him.Read more…
Lock InLocked in an office block with a sadistic clown the staff must work together to survive the night.Read more…
ClownsCLOWNS is a tale of revenge of a filmmaker-turned-serial killer who hunts down and captures the key individuals in his life responsible for his downward spiral.Read more…
Laughing MenMeet Carney Shuffles. Poet. Lean and slipper'd pantaloon. A pill-popping, child-killing, violent misogynist clown living in a trailer on the outskirts of a nameless industrial US city. Shot...Read more…
GagstersAn unfortunate group of teens on a camping trip are stalked and killed one by one by a psycho wearing clown make-up while teens from a small town are attacked in their own homes by another....Read more…
Clown ShankThe life, the times, and the everyday struggles, of an average Joe that lost his way in life. Over the course of three days, the clown, AKA Anthony, just wants to get through the day ...Read more…
Hackin' Jack vs. the Chainsaw Chick 3DSexy Robin Banks grabs a chainsaw and battles Hackin' Jack, a bloodthirsty jack-in-the-box clown in a night filled with funny business and flying body parts.Read more…
Killjoy's Psycho CircusKilljoy, the demon of vengeance, trickster god and killer clown has finally made it to Earth! Along with his gruesome crew Freakshow, Punchy and the sexy/psychotic Batty Boop, Killjoy is ...Read more…
Baron Von Laugho's Halloween Spook-A-Thon!He's lovable. He's zany. He's in-sane-y. He's Baron Von Laugho, a Halloween loving clown here to bring you three terrifying short tales to celebrate the wonderful night of Samhain in a 70s style TV special.Read more…
The Clowns Are ComingA young man is taken off in a straight jacket. He has a fear of Clowns which haunt his Nightmares. Is this the right treatment for him?Read more…

To give you an idea of what to expect if you watch all of these clown-based horror movies, here is a word cloud from the plots, with the most frequently-used words appearing the largest.

clowns-in-movies-titles

Notes

clowns-in-moviesThe films referred to today are all feature films listed on either IMDb or Wikipedia which feature clowns as key characters, or as a major part of the plot. I disregarded films which have references to clowns or clown iconography but which don’t feature a clown in the normal sesnse, such as Batman (whose Joker dons clown make-up but is not strictly-speaking a circus clown).

If (inexplicably) you want to read further on the topic of clowns in movies, then here are a few links to start you off:

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3 Responses

  1. Shari Kizirian October 17, 2016 at 11:51 am #

    hate clowns; love the post

  2. Patrick Nash October 17, 2016 at 12:03 pm #

    Hi Stephen

    Great article and expert analysis as usual.

    I’m surprised that despite all the discussion I’ve seen in the media this week about Killer Clowns I’ve seen no mention of where this whole idea of clowns as killers began. Terrifyingly it has its roots in real life and in particular in one of America’s most notorious and prolific serial killers, John Wayne Gacy. He killed 33 young men and boys between 1972 and 1978 and buried the bodies of 26 of them in the crawl space under his own house in Cook County, Illinois. He was eventually caught, convicted and executed in 1994 after 14 years on death row. As serial killers go he was in a league of his own, one of the most terrifying and gruesome there was.

    So what’s the link to clowns?

    Gacy worked voluntarily from around 1975 as a clown called ‘Pogo the Clown’ at children’s birthday parties and various charitable fund raising events. He’d joined a local club for clowns known as the ‘Jolly Jokers’ club and he also sometimes called himself ‘Patches the Clown.’ The clown face and identity he devised was his own creation. He devised his own garish makeup which when you see photos of him in his Pogo identity online you’ll instantly recognise as the killer clown face. Indeed during his court case the press in America regularly referred to him as the ‘Killer Clown’. It’s no accident that killer clowns appeared in and became a staple of many horror films from the 1970s and indeed that they should dress and make up like Gacy’s ‘Pogo the Clown’. He was the real life horror, the real killer clown.

    Check it out on Wikipedia or online.

    Best wishes

    Pat

  3. 8 Ball June 27, 2017 at 5:37 am #

    Massacre County …yeahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!

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