Freaks

1932, Horror, 1h 4m

56 Reviews 10,000+ Ratings

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critics consensus

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

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Movie Info

When trapeze artist Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova) learns that circus midget Hans (Harry Earles) has an inheritance, she marries the lovesick, diminutive performer, all the while planning to steal his fortune and run off with her lover, strong man Hercules (Henry Victor). When Hans' friends and fellow performers discover what is going on, they band together and carry out a brutal revenge that leaves Hercules and Cleopatra knowing what it truly means to be a "freak."

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Critic Reviews for Freaks

Audience Reviews for Freaks

  • Nov 01, 2021
    It is disappointing that we will never get to see the original uncut version but what is there is still beguiling and dramatically satisfying.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Jul 18, 2018
    A classic of pre-Code cinema, Tod Browning's 'Freaks' is populated with a broad cast of real-life carnival performers and those with deformities, and the effect is striking. We see the armless, legless, and completely limbless. We see conjoined twins, a 'human skeleton', and microcephalics (so-called 'pinheads'). We see a 'bird girl' and a 'stork woman' (who we find out later had Virchow-Seckel syndrome). And we see some of the more conventional carnival acts: a bearded lady, a half-man/half-woman, a fire-eater, and a sword-swallower. We never see them performing in front of an audience; instead all of the action in the film is behind the scenes, and the effect is humanizing. We see life from their perspective, and that they face the same relationship issues that the rest of society face. We watch the film perhaps voyeuristically because of the deformities and differences, but it's to Browning's credit that they are shown sympathetically. A caretaker for a group which includes the three microcephalics chides a couple of guys who react in horror, pointing out they're just children who are playing in the sun. A little person (Harry Earles) points out that most 'big people' laugh at him, because "they don't realize that I'm a man with the same feelings they have." It's telling that the real 'freaks' in the story are two "normal people", a trapeze artist (Olga Baclanova) and her strong-man boyfriend (Henry Victor), who play on Earles' emotions, and then plot to kill him for his money. There are several truly memorable scenes, starting with Prince Randian, "The Human Torso", an armless and legless performer in a tight one-piece garment making him appear like a caterpillar, manipulating a cigarette and a matchbox with ease, and fluidly giving himself a light. Another is when the performers are all drinking at a wedding and chanting "One of us, one of us, Gooble gobble, Gooble gobble, We accept her, we accept her, One of us, one of us" riotously, until Baclanova erupts in disgust and calls them all freaks. The look of hurt in their eyes, and shame in Earles' face is heart-rending. However, nothing can top the circus performers crawling through the mud, with revenge in their eyes. The extended sequence that this led to was so disturbing that the film's 90 minute run-time had to get cut down to just 64, and it's a real shame that the original is lost. Great film, from a great director.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Apr 06, 2015
    Vaguely tongue-in-cheek, Freaks is good but slightly tiresome in its over-the-top satirical view of the horror genre. In contemporary viewings, Freaks could be a wonderful metaphor for the dehumanisation that renders a victim of discrimation and prejudice socially and morally unconscious. It's smart and was released way before its time and has surprisingly aged extremely well, however it isn't as entertaining as some would have you believe. Nevertheless its increasingly iconic, has aged like a fine wine and deserves its place amongst the ranks of horror classics. "We accept her one of us we accept her one of us..."
    Harry W Super Reviewer
  • Feb 28, 2013
    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.
    Alex r Super Reviewer

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