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Top 10 Scariest Clowns in Movies, TV, and Games

Rachel Anders is a PhD student working on a degree in English. She is a huge fan of horror movies, games, and shows.

From Poltergeist to Pennywise, this article ranks the 10 scariest clowns of all time!

From Poltergeist to Pennywise, this article ranks the 10 scariest clowns of all time!

Who Is the Scariest Clown of All Time?

A number of incredibly scary clowns have appeared in video games, movies, and television over the last few decades. Of the clowns that have appeared as of August 2022, several stand above the rest in regard to their terrifying appearance, creepiness, and frightening demeanor.

From the Poltergeist Clown to It, this article ranks the 10 scariest clowns of all time. I'll provide a brief overview of each figure, followed by a discussion of their background, personality (when applicable), and general appearance. Did your favorite clown make our “final 10” list below? Read on to find out!

10 Most Terrifying Clowns in Movies, Television, and Games

10. Poltergeist Clown
9. Killjoy
8. Captain Spaulding
7. Wrinkles the Clown
6. The Joker
5. Twisty
4. Art the Clown
3. Pennywise (2017)
2. Needles Kane (Sweet Tooth)
1. Pennywise (1990)

The Poltergeist clown

The Poltergeist clown

10. Poltergeist Clown

  • First Appearance: Poltergeist
  • Actor: N/A
  • Unique Trait(s): Frizzy Hair and Devious Smile

Background and Characteristics

The Poltergeist Clown (also known as the “Clown Doll”) is a fictional character that first appeared in the hit movie, Poltergeist. Portrayed as a minor antagonist in the movie, the Clown Doll was originally designed as a toy for the Freeling’s oldest son, Robbie. In later segments of the movie, however, the clown was later utilized by both the Beast and other vengeful spirits (that were roaming the house) to distract Robbie and kidnap his younger sister, Carol Anne. Often cited as one of the scariest aspects of the entire movie, the Poltergeist Clown makes only a few brief appearances in Poltergeist, including a scene where it attempts to choke Robbie from behind (unsuccessfully). He later destroys the doll by ripping out its stuffing, following a prolonged struggle atop his bed.

Physical Appearance

In regard to its overall appearance, the Poltergeist Clown is an incredibly frightening doll renowned for its frizzy hair, devious smile, and sinister eyes. Donning a blue hat, bright red nose, and white clown suit, the doll appears relatively harmless at first glance; however, its possession of sharp teeth, a powdered face, red-painted cheeks, and an evil expression more than make up for this deficiency, providing the character with a malevolent appearance that is virtually unparalleled. When viewed in conjunction with its murderous intent in the movie, it is easy to see why the Poltergeist Clown is truly one of the scariest clowns in entertainment history.

Killjoy

Killjoy

9. Killjoy

  • First Appearance: Killjoy
  • Actor: Angel Vargas
  • Unique Trait(s): Green Eyeliner and Jagged Teeth

Background and Characteristics

The infamous Killjoy (sometimes referred to as “Killjoy the Clown”) is a fictional character that made his first appearance in the movie, Killjoy. Played by Angel Vargas, Killjoy is portrayed in the movie (and its sequels) as a killer clown and demonic entity who is capable of being summoned by individuals seeking revenge against rivals, tormentors, and adversaries. Unbeknownst to the summoners though, the price for Killjoy’s vengeance on their enemies comes at a steep price, as their souls are forever bound to him once the deed is done.

Although characterized as a playful and somewhat silly entity in the series, Killjoy is incredibly sadistic, taking great pleasure at the death of others (both guilty and innocent alike). With the ability to wield powerful dark magic, disappear at will, and create terrifying illusions for his victims, Killjoy is an exceptionally dangerous individual that is difficult (if not impossible) to defeat.

Physical Appearance

In terms of his physical appearance and attributes, Killjoy is a remarkably terrifying clown renowned for his green eyeliner, white face-paint, and incredibly sharp teeth. Donning a curly black wig, silky red shirt, green pants, and lime green gloves, Killjoy’s appearance tends to fit the description of many modern-day clown costumes. The similarities quickly end, however, as a quick glance of his face reveals Killjoy’s more horrifying elements that include deep wrinkles, a button-like nose (red), red lipstick, as well as reddish-green markings that are all designed to illustrate his evil nature and intentions. When examined in conjunction with his creepy voice and demonic personality, Killjoy is truly one of the scariest clowns to have appeared in entertainment history.

Captain Spaulding (House of 1000 Corpses)

Captain Spaulding (House of 1000 Corpses)

8. Captain Spaulding

  • First Appearance: House of 1000 Corpses
  • Actor: Sid Haig
  • Unique Trait(s): Beard and Top Hat

Background and Characteristics

The scary Captain Spaulding is a fictional clown that made his first appearance in the Rob Zombie movie, House of 1000 Corpses. Played by Sid Haig, Captain Spaulding (also known as “Cutter”) is portrayed as a vulgar and murderous clown who owns a gas station, country restaurant, and roadside attraction known as “Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madmen.” Characterized as the patriarch of the infamous “Firefly” family (that includes multiple murderers and serial killers), Spaulding is incredibly sarcastic, comical, and demented in his overall demeanor, and takes great pride in luring unsuspecting victims to their certain death. To date, he is regularly cited by fans as an icon of modern horror movies (villains.fandom.com).

Physical Appearance

Concerning his overall appearance and physical attributes, Captain Spaulding is an incredibly scary clown renowned for his dark humor, medium-sized beard, and signature attire. In each of the movies he has appeared in, Spaulding is typically seen wearing an American flag top hat, red bowtie, and baggy white suit adorned with blue stars and pom poms. Accentuating his terrifying look is Spaulding’s gritty beard, runny eye makeup (bluish-black), rotten teeth, and bulging eyes that provide the character with both a sinister and malevolent presence in the films. When examined alongside his propensity for extreme violence, it is easy to see why Captain Spaulding is regularly cited as one of the scariest clowns of all time.

Wrinkles the Clown

Wrinkles the Clown

7. Wrinkles the Clown

  • First Appearance: YouTube (2015) and Wrinkles the Clown (2019)
  • Actor: N/A
  • Unique Trait(s): Dark Eyes and Wrinkled Face

Background and Characteristics

The terrifying “Wrinkles” (also referred to as “Wrinkles the Clown”) is a real-life clown that made his first televised appearance in the hit documentary, Wrinkles the Clown. Played by an unidentified performance artist in Naples, Florida, Wrinkles gained worldwide notoriety in a 2015 YouTube video where he was briefly depicted scaring young kids and adults in their homes and along darkened roadsides at night. Claiming to have been hired by parents and various individuals to scare their misbehaving children and friends, the identity (and motives) of Wrinkles have never been fully verified (despite the fact that he was featured in a popular 2019 documentary). To date, it is currently believed that Wrinkles is actually an elderly homeless man who developed his scary alter-ego as a means of making a little extra money on the side.

Physical Appearance

In regard to his outward appearance, Wrinkles is an exceptionally scary clown renowned for his darkened eyes, spooky demeanor, and wrinkled appearance (hence his name). In each of his reported sightings, Wrinkles is seen wearing a red and white polka-dotted suit, white clown collar, black gloves, and matching black boots. This is topped by a white clown mask that is designed with large (and darkened) eye holes, a button nose, a straight-faced (expressionless) red mouth, and numerous wrinkles around the forehead and cheeks. When viewed in tandem with his quiet demeanor and anonymous nature (as his true identity remains totally unknown), Wrinkles the Clown is truly one of the most terrifying clowns to have appeared in the modern era; a feat that will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

The Joker

The Joker

6. The Joker

  • First Appearance: Batman: The Animated Series
  • Voice Actor: Mark Hamill
  • Unique Trait(s): Large Mouth, Purple Suit, and Pointed Eyes

Background and Characteristics

The infamous “Joker” is a fictional character that made his first appearance in the hit television series, Batman: The Animated Series. Voiced by Mark Hamill, the Joker is portrayed in the series as the alter-ego of mob boss, Jack Napier, who suffered terrible disfigurement following an accident at Ace Chemicals. Suffering from chemical burns that turned his skin white, Napier later turned to a life of madness in the form of the “Joker,” utilizing intimidation, fraud, and maniacal plots in his attempt to take over Gotham City. With the aid of his sidekick, Harley Quinn, Joker quickly became one of Batman’s most dangerous and merciless enemies of all time.

Physical Appearance

Concerning his physical appearance, the Joker is an incredibly scary clown renowned for his greenish-black hair, yellow eyes, and demented personality. In the Batman series, the Joker is portrayed as a relatively tall individual with broad shoulders and a muscular physique that is covered by a light purple suit, orange shirt, baby blue tie, pink flower, and white gloves. Among some of his most notable physical features are his terrifying smile, large teeth, pointed nose, and sinister eyes that never fail to showcase his deranged intentions. When viewed in conjunction with his psychopathic tendencies and bone-chilling laugh, the Joker is truly one of the most horrifying clowns to have appeared in recent memory.

Twisty the Clown (American Horror Story: Freak Show)

Twisty the Clown (American Horror Story: Freak Show)

5. Twisty the Clown

  • First Appearance: American Horror Story: Freak Show
  • Actor: John Carroll Lynch
  • Unique Trait(s): Prosthetic Grinning Mask

Background and Characteristics

The evil “Twisty” (sometimes referred to as “Twisty the Clown”) is a fictional clown that made his first appearance in the television series, American Horror Story: Freak Show. Played by John Carroll Lynch, Twisty is portrayed in the show as a disgraced clown who attempts to regain his former career (as a child entertainer) through diabolical means. Characterized as both vengeful and full of hate, Twisty’s “road to recovery” involves kidnapping, murdering, and eliminating anyone who stands in his way to happiness. His delusional state is eventually terminated, however, following an encounter with the ghost of Edward Mordrake. After taking pity on the clown (and his story of perpetual “loss”), Mordrake kills Twisty so that his spirit can finally be set free from torment (joining Edward and his fellow spirits in the afterlife).

Physical Appearance

In terms of his physical appearance, Twisty the Clown is an exceptionally scary character renowned for his smokey-colored eyes, bald head, and prosthetic mouth. In American Horror Story, Twisty is seen typically seen wearing a white suit with red and yellow pom poms across the chest, baggy pants, a frilled clown collar, as well as a multi-colored jester’s hat that sits atop his head. In regard to his physical traits, some of his scariest qualities include his “wide grin” prosthetic mouth (which serves to hide his disfigured face), bright red streaks of paint that sit above (and below) his eyes, and a ghastly white powder that partially conceals the scar tissue that adorns his face. When examined in conjunction with his psychopathic tendencies, bloodthirsty demeanor, and complete detachment from reality, Twisty the Clown’s “number 5” position on our current list is well-deserved and earned.

Art the Clown (All Hallows’ Eve)

Art the Clown (All Hallows’ Eve)

4. Art the Clown

  • First Appearance: All Hallows’ Eve
  • Actor: Mike Giannelli and David Howard Thornton
  • Unique Trait(s): Mime-like Face

Background and Characteristics

The evil “Art the Clown” is a fictional character that made his first appearance in the film, All Hallows’ Eve, as well as the 2017 movie, Terrifier. Played by Mike Giannelli and David Howard Thornton, respectively, Art is portrayed as a demonic killer clown who appears each Halloween to terrorize, kill, and wreak havoc on his surroundings. Characterized as a mime-like figure who never speaks, screams, or laughs, Art is extremely vicious and sadistic, using his supernatural powers to chase, terrorize, and kill his victims in both a slow and deliberate manner (villains.fandom.com). With the ability to teleport at will, warp reality, predict the future, and regenerate, Art the Clown is a true force to be reckoned with, as his powers and abilities make him invulnerable to most threats.

Physical Appearance

In terms of his physical appearance and attributes, Art the Clown is an exceptionally scary clown renowned for his mime-like face, sadistic personality, and propensity for violence. Throughout his appearances on the big screen, Art is traditionally seen in black and white costumes, along with a black trash bag that he uses for carrying various weapons. Accentuating his suit is Art’s liquid white face paint, fake eyebrows, solid black eyes, and jet-black lips that contrast sharply with his rotten teeth, sunken cheeks, and crooked (somewhat pointy) nose. When viewed in conjunction with his thin build, elongated face, and cruel disposition, Art the Clown is certainly one of the scariest clowns to have appeared in the last century.

Pennywise (2017)

Pennywise (2017)

3. Pennywise (2017 version)

  • First Appearance: It: Chapter One (2017)
  • Actor: Bill Skarsgard
  • Unique Trait(s): Large Fangs and Claws

Background and Characteristics

The terrifying “It” (also known as “Pennywise the Dancing Clown”) is a fictional character that appeared in the blockbuster movie, It: Chapter One (2017). Played by Bill Skarsgard, “It” is portrayed in the movie as an ancient, trans-dimensional entity that lives beneath the town of Derry (horror.fandom.com). Taking the form of an evil clown, “It” emerges from its dwelling every twenty-seven years in order to feed on the fear of children and adults alike, stalking his prey through the utilization of supernatural powers and abilities that allow him to take the form of his victim’s greatest fears. Although he is later wounded by the “Loser’s Club,” Pennywise once again returns twenty-seven years later to terrify Derry, prompting the former group to come together for one final showdown against the evil clown (destroying him once and for all).

Physical Appearance

In terms of his physical appearance, the 2017 version of “It” is an absolutely terrifying portrayal of Stephen King’s original novel, It, that first appeared in 1986. Although nobody understands (or knows) what “It’ truly looks like (in his true physical form), the clown rendition of Pennywise is renowned for its reddish-orange hair, sparkling yellow eyes, and menacing demeanor. In the movie, “It” is predominantly seen in his signature off-white suit that is highlighted by red pom poms across the chest, frilly sleeves (and collar), lace-up shoes, and frilled pants. Regarding his physical qualities, Pennywise possesses a white powdered face that is accentuated by red face-paint (in the form of streaks), red lipstick, along with a bulbous-shaped head. When viewed in conjunction with his razor-sharp teeth, ability to shapeshift at will, and sadistic glare, “It” is certainly one of the scariest clown characters ever devised by the human mind.

Needles Kane (Sweet Tooth).

Needles Kane (Sweet Tooth).

2. Needles Kane (Sweet Tooth)

  • First Appearance: Twisted Metal
  • Voice Actor(s): J.S. Gilbert; Fred Tatasciore; Will Arnett
  • Unique Trait(s): Flaming Head

Background and Characteristics

The infamous Needles Kane (sometimes referred to as “Sweet Tooth”) is a fictional character that made his first appearance in the hit PlayStation game, Twisted Metal. Voiced by J.S. Gilbert, Fred Tatasciore, and Will Arnett, Needles Kane is portrayed in the series as a killer clown who drives a modified ice cream truck designed exclusively for vehicular combat. Characterized as evil to the core, Kane possesses a true love (and desire) for death, chaos, and destruction. With a gruesome appetite for terror, Sweet Tooth is an incredibly dangerous adversary, and one of the most difficult bosses that gamers encounter in the Twisted Metal series. For these reasons, Kane has remained the figurehead for the Twisted Metal series since its original release in 1995.

Physical Appearance

Concerning his overall appearance and physical attributes, Needles Kane (Sweet Tooth) is a remarkably scary clown renowned for his flaming head, reddish-yellow eyes (sometimes black), and muscular form. Throughout the Twisted Metal franchise, Kane’s appearance has undergone a number of changes over the last few decades. Nevertheless, his basic image remains relatively untouched, with Kane’s character modeled heavily on a traditional “circus clown.” In general, Kane is typically seen in white or pink suits with polka dot prints, a leather harness, and brownish-black gloves. Among his most terrifying qualities are his large, pronounced teeth, bright red nose, and dark-rimmed eyes that provide his character with a “sinister” quality. When examined alongside his homicidal tendencies and love for destruction, Needles Kane is truly one of the most frightening clowns to appear in the gaming industry.

Pennywise (1990)

Pennywise (1990)

1. Pennywise (1990 version)

  • First Appearance: It (1990)
  • Actor: Tim Curry
  • Unique Trait(s): Jagged Teeth, Claws, and Bright Red Hair

Background and Characteristics

Topping our list of the scariest clowns is the infamous “Pennywise” from the TV miniseries, It (1990). Played by the talented, Tim Curry, Pennywise possesses many of the same features of his 2017 counterpart (played by Bill Skarsgard), but with a far more deadly and sinister look (and feel). Characterized as an ancient supernatural entity that has existed below the town of Derry for hundreds (if not thousands of years), Pennywise preys on his victim’s innate fears, exploiting their phobias in order to feed. Similar to the 2017 version of the film, “It” emerges once every twenty-seven years, focusing much of his attention on children (as their fears are more simplistic and purer). Taking the form of a sadistic clown in the series, Pennywise is later confronted (and defeated) by the “Losers Club,” who return twenty-seven years later as adults to prevent (and end) the clown’s reign of terror from returning again.

Physical Appearance

In terms of his physical appearance, the 1990 version of Pennywise is incredibly scary and maintains a number of similarities to his 2017 counterpart (including reddish-orange hair, yellowish-red eyes, and a sadistic persona). In the series, Pennywise is typically seen wearing a yellow clown suit that is adorned with reddish-orange pom poms across the chest, a multi-colored clown collar, purplish-green sleeves, and white gloves. Some of his most terrifying qualities include razor-sharp teeth (that appear when he is feeding), tentacle-like claws (for hands), white-smeared makeup, and a bright red nose that contrasts sharply with his glowing eyes, mouth, and dark-colored eyebrows. When examined in conjunction with his supernatural powers, ability to shapeshift at will, as well as his bloodthirsty demeanor, Tim Curry’s rendition of “Pennywise” is truly the most terrifying clown to have appeared in entertainment history; a feat that will likely continue into the near and distant future.

Works Cited

Articles/Books

Images/Photographs

  • Wikimedia Commons

© 2022 Rachel Anders