Paramount Pictures is promising a gruesome grinning horror treat with SMILE (2022), opening September 30, 2022, just in time for the Halloween season. Thinking back on horror movies throughout the decades, how many scary, frightening, or just downright ghastly smiles have horror fans encountered? The answer was surprising. Seems that a devilish grimace is as scary as the monsters, killers, and ghosts themselves. Let’s take a look back at some of most fiendish of the bunch.

All this, just in time for SMILE to hit theaters near you! SMILE is written and directed by Parker Finn. The cast includes Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Robin Weigert, Caitlin Stasey with Kal Penn and Rob Morgan.

Synopsis: After witnessing a bizarre, traumatic incident involving a patient, Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon)
starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can’t explain. As an overwhelming terror begins taking over her life, Rose must confront her troubling past in order to survive and escape her horrifying new reality.


1 – Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING (1980) – Nobody grins like Jack!

2 – Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise from Andres Muschietti’s IT (2017) and IT: CHAPTER TWO (2019) – For some reason all clowns are scary; however, Pennywise is the most frightening of them all.

3 – Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO (1960) – Perhaps one of the most chilling ending shots of all horror cinema.

4 – Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in Wes Craven’s A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) and its many sequels – the man of a million smiles, Englund’s Krueger is literally the stuff of nightmares.

5 – Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in Jonathan Demme’s SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) – Lecter’s smile burn right through you with Hopkins earning an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

6 – Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in Mary Harron’s AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000) – whether dancing around or swinging a bloodied ax, Bale’s Bateman makes smiling dangerous.

7 – Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil in William Friedkin’s THE EXORCIST (1973) – devilishly innocent, the possessed Regan is planning awful things behind that smile.

8 – The deceased medium in Mario Bava’s BLACK SABBATH (1963) – this image scares me to this day, there’s something piercing in that frozen grimace that gets under your skin.

9 – Lon Chaney Sr. as “The Vampire” in Tod Browning’s LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT (1927) – the lost classic illustrates the make-up mastery of the legendary Lon Chaney Sr.

10 – Mia Goth as Pearl in Ti West’s PEARL (2022) – perhaps the most uncomfortable closing credits in any film this year… or ever, Goth’s Pearl may have out-Bates Norman Bates himself.

But, WAIT! There’s more… let’s take a look at a few honorable mentions! Presented chronologically.

Guy Rolfe as Baron Sardonicus in William Castle’s MR. SARDONICUS (1961)
Harvey Spencer Stephens as young Damien Thorn in Richard Donner’s THE OMEN (1076)
Bruce Campbell as Ashley Joanna “Ash” Williams in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise.
Julian Beck as Reverend Kane in Brian Gibson’s POLTERGIEST II: THE OTHER SIDE (1986)
Brad Dourif voicing Chucky in Don Mancini’s CHILD’S PLAY and CHUCKY films and TV series.
Amanda Bearse as Amy Peterson in Tom Holland’s FRIGHT NIGHT (1985)
Nicholas Vince as the Chattering Cenobite in Clive Barker’s HELLRAISER (1987)
Tim Curry as Pennywise in Tommy Lee Wallace’s IT (1990) miniseries
The grinning ghosts of the further in James Wan’s INSIDIOUS (2010)
Tim Purcell as The Babadook in Jennifer Kent’s THE BABADOOK (2014)
John Carroll Lynch as Twisty the Clown from AMERICAN HORROR STORY: FREAK SHOW (2015)
David Howard Thornton as Art the Clown in TERRIFIER (2016) and TERRIFIER 2 (2022)
Ethan Hawke as The Grabber in Scott Derrickson’s THE BLACK PHONE 92022)

AND, what about arguably the most famous smiling villain in the history of cinema, THE JOKER?

The Joker is The Batman’s arch-enemy, seen above from The Killing Joke (art: Brian Bolland). With each iteration of Bruce Wayne and Gotham City in film and TV, The Joker is surely set to make a frightening appearance. Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger.
Conrad Veidt as Gwynplain in Paul Leni’s silent film THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1928) is an early inspiration to the look of the classic DC super-villain.
Cesar Romero portrayed The Joker in the campy, fun BATMAN tv series from 1966 – 1969
Jack Nicholson as Joker in Tim Burton’s BATMAN (1989)
Heath Ledger received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as Joker in Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)
Jared Leto as Joker in David Ayer’s SUICIDE SQUAD (2016) and again in Zack Snyder’s cut of JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017)
Joaquin Phoenix took home an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Arthur Fleck aka The Joker in Todd Phillip’s THE JOKER (2019)

Doc Rotten
Editor-In-Chief / Founder / Podcast Producer at Horror News Radio
Doc Rotten is the founder of Gruesome Magazine. He is also a film critic for Gruesome Magazine and the podcast host & producer for Horror News Radio, Monster Movie Podcast, Decades of Horror: 1970s, The American Horror Story Fan Podcast and Hannibal Fan Podcast. He is also co-host of the Dracula podcast on TV TALK and is a contributing reviewer for HorrorNews.Net and Widescreen Warrior.

Doc a lifelong fan of horror films, sci-fi flicks and monster movies first discovering Universal Monsters and Planet of the Apes as a young child in the 1970's searching out every issue of Famous Monster of Filmland (and, later, Fangoria). Favorite films include Jaws, The Car, The Birds, The Tingler, Vampire Circus and The Exorcist. Still a huge fan of horror films from the 70s, Doc continues consuming horror films to this day for the site, for the podcasts and for the fun of it all.