1. The Joker (The Dark Knight, 2008)
The Clown: Batman’s scarred, make-up caked enemy, usually to be found in his crusty coat and purple suit. When he’s not cross-dressing for a disguise, that is.
Why He’s Funny: He has a real zest for life, cackling his way through the most difficult tasks. Like, say, robbing a bank. Or blowing up a hospital. “I'm a man of simple tastes. I like dynamite, and gunpowder... And gasoline! Do you know what all of these things have in common? They're cheap!” How can you not love this guy?
He's more gleeful than any clown we've ever met in real life, even when (especially when) he's being beaten up.
Why He’s Terrifying: Have you seen his magic trick? Plus at one point, the man turns up in a body bag, murderlises a gangster and then proceeds to have the dead bloke’s henchmen “audition” to join his gang by trying to shoot each other.
Which sounds a lot like the clown at our tenth birthday party and, trust us, that was no fun at all.
Heath Ledger locked himself away in a hotel room for six weeks to get his Joker the right side of menacing, practicing the voice and the laugh over and over again. We wouldn't have liked to have worked room service at that particular establishment.[page-break]
2. Krusty The Clown (The Simpsons Movie, 2007)
The Clown: Bright green hair that looks like he’s been sticking his fingers in a socket, yellow face and a big red nose.
Why He’s Funny: Hey kids! Krusty is an old-school performer, always ready to make the kids laugh. He’s got a one-liner for every occasion (“If you can find a greasier sandwich, you're in Mexico!” and helps bring the world Itchy and Scratchy.
Why He’s Terrifying: He’s a law-breaking, money grabbing, out-for-himself sham merchant. He doesn’t care if his young audience get mauled by the shoddy products he puts his name for profit.
Also, his laugh sounds like an undead wheezing Woody Woodpecker with the hiccups. Which is scary to us.[page-break]
3. Pogo (Gacy, 2003)
The Clown: Triangle blue eyes and a splotchy red mouth. Plus… well… sometimes not many clothes at all.
Why He’s Funny: Tough one. Gacy does at least submerge himself fully into his regular persona, so when he’s clowning, he makes an effort to be fun.
Why He’s Terrifying: This is John Wayne Gacy we’re talking about. He’s a serial killer. He lures young men and boys to his place, kills ‘em and buries ‘em. And he was real. Terrifying barely covers it.[page-break]
4. Grimm (Quick Change, 1990)
The Clown: Frustrated New Yorker Grimm (Bill Murray) makes a plan to escape the city by robbing a bank. His disguise is a red suit, big floppy shoes and enough face paint to make Joan Rivers jealous.
Why He’s Funny: A seriously deadpan style, which really works for Murray. When asked what the hell kind of clown he is, he quips, “The crying on the inside kind, I guess.” Plus he has balloons. Kids love balloons.
Why He’s Terrifying: In the other hand, he’s holding a gun. And he’s robbing a bank. The last time we were in a bank that was being robbed, we wet our trousers with terror-urine.[page-break]
5. Shakes (Shakes The Clown, 1991)
The Clown: Floppy red hair, lightly applied facial doodles and giant checked trousers turn Bobcat Goldthwait into a kiddie-pleasing entertainer. Well, sometimes.
Why He’s Funny: When he’s sober and on form, Shakes can be very funny. He’s also hilarious sarcastic. At one of the parties he’s hired for, a parent asks, “Are you the clown?” “No,” he snaps, “I’m Mary f*****g Poppins.”
Why He’s Terrifying: You wouldn’t like him when he’s drunk. And when he loses out on his chance to be on a local kids’ TV show, he just lets himself go completely. Sleazy, salty and rude, drunk Shakes gives kids nightmares. [page-break]
6. Patch Adams (Patch Adams 1998)
The Clown: A doctor. With a big red nose and clown shoes when he’s looking for laughs.
Why He’s Funny: Compared to the symptoms of cancer, we suppose he’s pretty funny. Patch applies some typically Robin Williams-style vamping and raises some giggles.
Why He’s Terrifying: Laughter is the best medicine? Not when the last thing you might see on Earth is Williams gurning at you and trying to get you to chuckle. He won’t scare you to death – but he might irritate you off your mortal coil.[page-break]
7. Claire Kane (Short Cuts 1993)
The Clown: Party novelty-for-hire Claire Kane (Ann Archer), who drives to jobs in her clown-adorned car and shows up with a green wig and yellow/purple ensemble that
Why She’s Funny: She has to be. As the sole breadwinner married to a shiftless, unemployed salesman (Anne Archer), she goes all out in quirky style at the parties she’s hired for.
Why She’s Terrifying: When she discovers her hubby kept on fishing even after he and his buddies discovered the body of a dead girl nearby, she goes ballistic. Ever had a clown shoe head towards your face at full speed?[page-break]
8. Killer Klowns (Killer Klowns From Outer Space 1988)
The Clown: These extraterrestrial entertainers come in various Bobo-like guises. Fluffy red hair, bald with lashings of make-up… You name it, they’ve got the style.
Why They’re Funny: Gifted performers, the “Klowns” can do everything from shadow puppets to pie chucking. And they have the goofiest laughs.
Why They’re Terrifying: None of that detracts from the fact that they are killers. From outer space. Who have but one thing on their mind – capturing and killing humans. Yeah, now they’re not so funny. Actually, maybe they are. Look at them. Haha.[page-break]
9. The Clown/Violator (Spawn, 1997)
The Clown: Tubby, with bright blue face make-up. Think George Costanza from Seinfeld with longer wisps of hair.
Why He’s Funny: Because he’s played by John Leguizamo, so of course he’s got a nice line in sarky, sour humour when battling the back-from-the-dead titular avenger. “Come on, my barbecued friend. Don't want to keep that side order of potato salad waiting, now do we?”
Why He’s Terrifying: He’s a demon. From hell. And he eats kittens. Plus, he farts a lot, which is where his real evil lies.[page-break]
10. Clown doll (Poltergeist, 1982)
The Clown: A floppy, stripy hat, a huge grin and plastic for brains. He’s a toy - harmless, right?
Why He’s Funny: When he’s not moving, he brings joy and happiness to his owners, with fun and laughter and frolics and…. Nah, he’s pretty scary even when he’s just sitting with his rictus grin, staring.
Why He’s Terrifying: When he turns animated, thanks to the evil spirits around, he's a head-turning allegory for why people are scared of face-paint people. Dragging young Robbie Freeling under the bed, he couldn’t be scarier to kids even if he was best mates with the school bully.[page-break]
11. Beanie (Old School, 2003)
The Clown: Suburban dad becomes weirdo clown with frizzy orange wig, red nose and polka dot nightmare of a suit.
Why He’s Funny: Give him credit for trying – Bernard “Beanie” Campbell really wants his kids to have the best birthday party even. And it’s Vince Vaughn in a clown suit – pure bitter genius.
Why He’s Terrifying: Seeing your father-as-clown smoking, drinking and talking business. At your own birthday party. No, that’s not going to screw his child up for life. At all…[page-break]
12. Pennywise (It, 1990)
The Clown: In humanoid form, he’s very much a traditionalist, with a burst of red hair a stripy, frilly top and yellow trousers.
Why He’s Funny: Um… he has a funny… voice? Well, he’s played by Tim Curry…. Who… has an infectiously mischievous way about him? But that’s about it. We're frightened just looking at the picture.
Why He’s Terrifying: This is a pure force of evil that arrives in a small Maine town every 30 years to kill kids. Every scene he's in scares us more than the idea of being thrown in a room full of spiders, zombies and Paris Hilton clones. We're going to click on now, so we don't have to look at him anymore.
Oh, and he’s coming back.[page-break]
13. Cheezo, Bippo and Dippo (Clownhouse, 1989)
The Clowns: Three escaped mental patients steal the clothes of circus clowns and emerge looking like the Three Stooges got caught in a clown factory explosion.
Why They’re Funny: Before their clothes are pinched and they're murdered, the three clowns are jovial, eager sorts.
Why They're Terrifying: The new, psychos-in-jesters' clothing versions are hell bent on slaughtering the three lads at the centre of the story. But they still have fun songs to sing... As they hunt their victims down. Much like Girls Aloud.[page-break]
14. Various (The Clowns, 1970)
The Clowns: Riccardo Bill, Tino Scotti and Fanfulla are among the japesters spotlighted by Frederico Fellini for his paean to the circus.
Why They’re Funny: They’re clowns in the very classical circus sense – buckets of water (over a film critic, no less… Oh, Mr Fellini, you wag!) pratfalls and general hilarity.
Why they’re Terrifying: The peeling, awful makeup slapped on to a bunch of leering older blokes is enough to give any child permanent coulrophobia.
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