8 Awesome Circus Horror Movies

We celebrate circus culture history with a look at 8 great circus horror films

Some reacted with cheers, others with hanging heads when, over the weekend, the people at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey announced that their iconic circus would be taking down the tent for good after 146 years in business.

Founded by revered showman P.T. Barnum and death-defying acrobat outfit Ringling Bros., the circus was, once upon a time, the apex of entertainment, with children (who literally often plotted to run away from home and join the show) thrilling to the clowns, human oddities, wild aerial acts and show-stopping animal antics. The latter antics were diminished when animal rights groups recently rallied to liberate mistreated elephants (thankfully) and other beasts whose place in the circus have long been plagued with controversy. But the real reason the show must not go on is that kids have too much to distract them 24 hours a day. The circus is antiquated, forever trapped in a time warp and laced with a kind of secret seediness as only traveling shows filled with people who live by their own, clandestine rules can have.

RELATED: Pennywise the clown says hello in Stephen King’s IT

Horror movies have long set their action at “The Greatest Show on Earth,” tapping into the tawdrier aspects of circus life while also celebrating the once beloved spectacle.

So while we say goodbye to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s legacy as a touring show (though we do suspect admirers of circus culture will revive the art at some point), we combed through our vaults and picked 8 great horror films that celebrate circus life while exploring its darker side.

As Barnum himself once famously wrote, “This way to the Egress…”


Marvel and DC