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Freaks (1932)

tomatometer

93

Average Rating: 8.3/10
Reviews Counted: 45
Fresh: 42 | Rotten: 3

Time has been kind to this horror legend: Freaks manages to frighten, shock, and even touch viewers in ways that contemporary viewers missed.

80

Average Rating: 7.1/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 4 | Rotten: 1

Time has been kind to this horror legend: Freaks manages to frighten, shock, and even touch viewers in ways that contemporary viewers missed.

audience

89

liked it
Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 23,198

My Rating

Movie Info

The genesis of MGM's Freaks was a magazine piece by Ted Robbins titled Spurs. The story involved a terrible revenge enacted by a mean-spirited circus midget upon his normal-sized wife. In adapting Spurs for the screen, writers Willis Goldbeck, Leon Gordon, Edgar Allan Wolf, and Al Boasberg retained the circus setting and the little man-big woman wedding, all the while de-vilifying the midget and transforming the woman into the true "heavy" of the piece. German "little person" Harry Earles plays

Aug 10, 2004

MGM

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All Critics (45) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (42) | Rotten (3) | DVD (23)

Freaks is sumptuously produced, admirably directed, and no cost was spared. But Metro failed to realize that even with a different sort of offering the story still is important.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety | Comment (1)
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Director Tod Browning, one of the few truly individual directors in the U. S., is a specialist in horror.

October 7, 2008 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

If the heart of the horror movie is the annihilating Other, the Other has never appeared with more vividness, teasing sympathy, and terror than in this 1932 film by Tod Browning.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer definitely has on its hands a picture that is out of the ordinary.

August 8, 2006 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It has now achieved deserved recognition as a masterpiece.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A masterpiece of the horror mold, and one that warrants a loyal audience.

October 28, 2013 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

[VIDEO ESSAY] In spite of the tremendous success he enjoyed with "Dracula" in 1931, Tod Browning's directorial career was effectively ruined after he made "Freaks" the following year.

December 9, 2011 Full Review Source: ColeSmithey.com
ColeSmithey.com

Firmly out of its tree from start to finish, the campy performances and bonkers dialogue make for plenty of cherishably deranged moments.

October 20, 2010 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

To the horror movie, a genre he helped create, he brought a taste for Victorian melodrama and an understanding, which he must have gained in the circus, for the isolated lives of weird and deformed outsiders.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

Freaks is one of Browning's more consistently fine films, a landmark still worth seeing.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

A masterpiece.

September 24, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

Absolutely spine chilling Tod Browning classic horror film. "We will make you one of us." Yike!

December 23, 2006
Dispatch-Tribune Newspapers

The movie's influences can be found in nearly every conceivable corner of modern film.

April 7, 2006 Full Review Source: Arizona Daily Star
Arizona Daily Star

...drills into our hindbrain and jolts our atavistic response to the not-normal, then forces us to confront our prejudices and feel something -- revulsion, compassion, or surprise at the realization that those aren't mutually exclusive responses.

April 4, 2006 Full Review Source: DVDJournal.com
DVDJournal.com

Unclassifiable odd masterpiece.

April 6, 2005 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

It's part of the film's brilliance that the lines between normal and abnormal, us and them, and even morality and immorality, are constantly blurred and reversed...

December 1, 2004 Full Review Source: Filmjourney

Ainda que Browning martele sem a menor sutileza sua mensagem ao longo de toda a projeção, o filme continua a impressionar graças ao seu elenco atípico e ao incômodo ato final.

November 17, 2004
Cinema em Cena

...the movie was never meant to be a horror film; it was meant to be a character study and morality play.

August 31, 2004 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

It's a truly amazing film, not so much horrific as it is funny, touching and extraordinary; you'd be hard-pressed to find another film like it.

August 30, 2004 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Unforgettable.

August 23, 2004

Audience Reviews for Freaks

Classic horror director Tod Browning's Freaks is a benchmark horror picture that has been praised for being a truly unique horror film. The controversy around this is quite legendary and before its release got cut significantly in an attempt to censor its content. Director Tod Browning used real sideshow performers with real deformities as a basis for his cast. In turn, Freaks has an authentic feel to it that if you really think about is quite horrifying and ultimately unsettling. This is a well executed picture that was banned and vilified and it ended the career of a promising director who's most famous work was Dracula starring Bela Lugosi. With every horror film that has been released since, it's hard to think that Freaks caused such astir upon release. If you love classic horror films, then give this one a shot. By today's standards it's a fairly harmless movie, but for horror fans that want to watch a classic piece of horror history, this is a must see film that will certainly appeal to genre fans. The film is very good, but will not appeal to everyone. However, fans should appreciate this gem for what it is, and there are some good performances here, and the tone of the movie is disturbing and it makes for quite the viewing experience. I think it's too bad that the film cost Browning's career, as you only imagine what other classic he could have made. Freaks is not perfect, but in terms of classic horror cinema, it is a picture that helped shape the genre for years to come. The fact that Browning has used real people with deformities is what has made this one stand out above other films, and it is what makes this picture so unique and shocking the process.
March 2, 2013
TheDudeLebowski65
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

A pre-code horror film from legendary director Tod Browning, Freaks lives on in infamy for its perverse message, timeless lines, and use of circus sideshow freaks at the height of their fame. At the time Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circuses made it a point to include freak shows along with an animal tent and the three ring big tops of yore. These "freaks" were often well paid and lived their retirement years very comfortably, especially those lauded as the most unusual such as conjoined twins, human torsos, and giantesses. In the film many of the most famous and well paid freaks in the country were cast, including Prince Randanian, and the Doll Family, including Dolly and Harry Earles as the couple torn apart by Cleopatra's obnoxious money hungry plot with strongman Hercules. The main focus of the film is that the freaks are regarded as trifle oddities and not true people by the villainous Cleopatra, and she is hunted down and paid for the crimes she commits against a dwarf who looks eerily like a small boy but is actually a full grown man. The film itself is very progressive in showing these sideshow performers not just as regular people, but also showing the hurt inflicted by those with little thought for others' feelings in a time without political correctness. It was interesting to watch the many feats of the performing freaks, those afflicted with problematic birth defects, and the now defunct lives of freak show performers, today not prevalent in society because most states ban freak shows from operating. The film doesn't build successfully to the final hideous climax at the end, because the rest of the film focuses on the characters as people and not monsters. None of them seem able to do the deed attributed to Cleopatra's downfall and therefore it's an unbelievable premise. Their creepy chanting at the wedding banquet and the steely resolve in their eyes as the thunder rips across the sky is believable but doesn't make sense, and deserved some of that iconic chanting. The beginning half of the film is unusually trimmed in humor, and includes a love story between an aerialist and a clown. The ending isn't even very horrific, but instead comical, and the additional prologue they tacked on was more confusing than anything. Even the beginning spiel that introduces the film is morose and certainly insulting to the performers. Iconic and interesting, but not the horror classic I was expecting.
December 13, 2012
FrizzDrop

Super Reviewer

This is a very cool movie. It has real people from circuses and a great story. The mixture of authenticity and a fantastic story makes for such a great movie.
September 25, 2012
ajv2688

Super Reviewer

A very odd film that forces everyone who sees it to confront their prejudices.
March 3, 2012
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

    1. Hercules: They're going to make you one of them my little peacock.
    – Submitted by Ceara R (18 months ago)
    1. Frieda: Please Hans, don't cry. I love you.
    – Submitted by Ceara R (21 months ago)
    1. Themselves: Gobble gobble, gobble gobble. We accept her. One of us, one of us.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
View all quotes (3)

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