The Best Creepy Clown Movies You've Probably Never Seen

(Welcome to The Best Movies You've Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition we take a look at some of the best creepy clown movies you've probably never seen.

Clowns are terrifying, even when they pretend otherwise. Sure some are sad, some are goofy, and others are disturbingly pleased with themselves, but beneath the creamy, sticky white makeup sits someone who knows they scare you... and they like knowing that. It's no surprise then that, like scarecrows and pastors before them, clowns have become a go-to horror movie villain over the years. Most aren't all that memorable, but one sits atop the heap of the best and scariest.

Stephen King's It opens in theaters this week, and I can confirm that it's a creepy, scary delight that nails both the novel's horror elements and its character beats. At its core sits Pennywise, and while the nostalgic among you will fight to hold onto Tim Curry's rendition, there's a new clown in town when it comes to scenes of pure terror. The movie works like creepy gangbusters, and Bill Skarsgard's new – and dare I say, improved – Pennywise is a big reason why.

He's not the only creepy clown we can find onscreen of course. Killer Klowns from Outer Space and Stitches remain favorites while others love the clown-filled filmography of Rob Zombie, but while most clown lovers are familiar with these and others like Killjoy, Amusement, and Vulgar, there are a few actual worthwhile ones I'd like to point out instead.

out of the dark

Out of the Dark (1988)

A killer in a clown mask stalks and kills women working for a sex-chat line.

Easily the most straightforward of the titles on this list, the film is essentially a slasher about a madman obsessed with sex and the sexy sex-talkers. There's nothing fancy here, and the low budget ensures the filmmakers don't even attempt much in the way of memorable set-pieces or sequences, but it's a solid little thriller the likes of which would play Cinemax on a lazy Tuesday night. It's not quite over-loaded with red herrings, but the film leaves enough of a guessing game on the table as to who the killer is to keep things lively throughout.

It's lesser known, but that doesn't mean there aren't some recognizable (and welcome) faces to be found. Karen Black, '80s regular Cameron Dye, and the legendary character actor Geoffrey Lewis all make appearances, and perennial weasel Tracey Walter actually plays the lead detective on the case. Toss in Paul Bartel and a brief appearance by Divine, and you have a movie that's guaranteed to keep you entertained – provided you enjoy gory murder mysteries, naked women, clown masks, low budgets, and actors who are mostly dead now.

Rent Out of the Dark on Amazon Video.

funny man

Funny Man (1994)

A man wins a big, creepy house in a poker game, but when he brings his family there they discover the current resident's nasty sense of humor.

I may be stretching the definition of "clown" a bit here, but the funny man of the title is a clownish, misshapen jester of sorts who appears with the understanding that these new arrivals are looking for fun and opportunity. They may not agree of course, but that doesn't stop him from killing a kid, bludgeoning the boy's mother, shooting a woman's brain out of her skull, and more. As gory as some of the deaths get, the film's a comedy through and through, although that doesn't mean you'll be laughing nonstop. Most of the laughs that do make it come directly from Tim James' title performance as he wise cracks and talks straight into the camera, but it's also fun seeing the legendary Christopher Lee drop by with a smile or two.

It's an admittedly weird little British film that almost certainly features an abundance of jokes designed strictly for Brits – there are some accent shifts and specific references that probably play better with locals – but enough gets through to inform the film's tone and humor. The jester/clown takes on various personas, always with that face though, and enters into conversations with some of the characters, transporting them to imagined scenarios and locales. One bar-set sequence sees the Funny Man strip to reveal enormous breasts. I don't know why. One visitor named Thelma is modeled physically after Scooby Doo's Velma for no particular reason (that I can discern anyway). It's weird.

Buy Funny Man on an overly expensive DVD from Amazon.

the last circus

The Last Circus (2010)

It's a love triangle with blood, bullets, and face paint.

Two clowns, one designated as happy and the other as sad, compete over the love of a beautiful trapeze artist, but there's not romance here. Unlike the rest of the list, the clowns here are the main characters, and that extra time with them allows a deeper, darker insight into a psychology that's foreign to those of us who don't hide beneath a disguise under the guise of entertaining others. "If I weren't a clown I'd be a murderer," says one of the pair, and yes it's a bit of foreshadowing for what's to come.

Physical assault, swordplay, and automatic weapons all seem out of place in the hands of a clown, but writer/director Alex de la Iglesia makes it not only feasible but also fantastic. If I'm being honest, he also makes it depressing and bleak too, as love is twisted into a misshapen lump of violence and rage. Every bit as unusual as Funny Man, this Spanish film is something of an even more elaborate genre blender with drama, horror, historical insight, and some very dark comedy. These clowns are still scary, though.

Buy The Last Circus on Blu-ray or rent via Amazon Video.

clown

Clown (2014)

A man puts on a clown costume for his son's birthday, but he discovers too late that not only is he unable to remove it but that it's changing him from the outside in.

Don't let Eli Roth's name on the front cover of this one scare you off – he came aboard mostly as a recognizable name producer – as this is Jon Watts' baby. Yes the same Jon Watts who recently gifted us with Spider-Man: Homecoming. He crafts a terrific little horror thriller here that sees a kind man driven to acts of murder, cannibalism, and worse. The man's predicament adds an emotional layer to the carnage as he's clearly pained, both physically by the suit/makeup and psychologically as he realizes what his desire to be a good dad has gotten him into. The costume melds onto his flesh, and, along with the face paint, the outfit becomes a part of him. What starts clean and professional-looking begins to crack and grow darker as the film proceeds.

Without spoiling anything, it needs to be pointed out that there's an extended sequence set in a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant/arcade that either got someone at the chain's home office fired or promoted – I'm not sure which. To be sure, they're careful about not identifying it directly, but there's no denying that someone signed off on allowing a major sequence to be filmed there featuring the mass slaughter of children. You've never seen so much bloody fun in the Fun Zone.

Buy Clown on Blu-ray or rent via Amazon Video.

the houses october built

The Houses October Built (2014)

A group of friends take an RV trip documenting their search for the scariest haunted house in America, and unfortunately for them, they find what they're looking for.

I'm not exactly partial to "found footage" horror movies, but once in a while a film comes along that takes advantage of the format to deliver a solidly scary movie without the usual stumbles and fumbles. This is one of those – for the most part – but even when it trips over itself, the film quickly recovers to bring viewers once again towards some spooky destinations. We move through some creepy attractions, "real" ones where the characters are perfectly safe, but standing on the periphery are our soon-to-be-antagonists, who have plans to scare the life out of both us and them simultaneously.

The unsettling creepers come in a wide variety, but it's the clown-themed ones that lead to some legitimately terrifying sequences. The lady pictured above, nicknamed Porcelain, is silent and slow-moving, but sweet jeebus is she unnerving. She boards the RV at one point, and while she only eyeballs the gang, it's an absolutely harrowing few minutes. Other clowns creep their way into view throughout, resulting in a film that will have you looking over your shoulder this coming Halloween. Fans of this entry will be happy to know a sequel is hitting VOD this month with the same filmmakers behind the camera.

Buy The Houses October Built on Blu-ray or rent via Amazon Video.

the funhouse massacre

The Funhouse Massacre (2015)

A group of violent, mentally disturbed patients escape their institution and set up shop in a local Halloween-themed funhouse. A massacre ensues.

This is a fun little flick for horror fans that manages more than a few thrills and giggles as the escaped inmates go to town on an unsuspecting populace, and while there are some tonal issues as the film tries to blend horror and laughs, it succeeds more often than not. Our bloodthirsty madmen (and woman) pick off visitors to the funhouse one by one until a spunky band of survivors fight to stay that way, and the set-pieces offer a fun mix of stalking, slashing, and some terrifically gruesome gore. It's a bloody movie that manages lots of brutal deaths without ever feeling like a grim and stressful experience.

Helping matters in that department is a cast featuring a few familiar faces on the side of evil. Robert Englund pops in as the head of the asylum, and he's right at home in the campy role. Clint Howard and Jere Burns (Justified) meanwhile play two of the six psychopaths and bring both personality and charisma to these charming murderers. Even the less familiar faces engage in their mayhem, from a deranged dentist to a pair of clowned-up wackos who smile as they tear flesh and break bones. As is the nature of this list, it's these last two who are the most unsettling in the white-faced silence.

Buy The Funhouse Massacre on Blu-ray or rent via Amazon Video.