A circus' beautiful trapeze artist agrees to marry the leader of side-show performers, but his deformed friends discover she is only marrying him for his inheritance.



(suggested by story: "Spurs") (as Tod Robbins)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Roscoe (as Rosco Ates)
Daisy Earles ...
Rose Dione ...
Madame Tetrallini
Daisy Hilton ...
Violet Hilton ...
Schlitze ...
Half Woman-Half Man
Johnny Eck ...
Half Boy
Frances O'Connor ...
Armless Girl
Peter Robinson ...
Human Skeleton


A circus trapeze artist, Cleopatra, takes an interest in Hans, a midget who works in the circus sideshow. Her interest however is in the money Hans will be inheriting and she is actually carrying on an affair with another circus performer, Hercules. Hans's fiancée does her best to convince him that he is being used but to no avail. At their wedding party, a drunken Cleopatra tells the sideshow freaks just what she thinks of them. Together, the freaks decide to make her one of their own. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Love Story of a SIREN, a GIANT, and a DWARF! See more »


Drama | Horror


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





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Release Date:

20 February 1932 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Forbidden Love  »

Box Office


$310,607 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


One woman, after seeing "Freaks", wrote a letter to Tod Browning at MGM, exclaiming that "You must have the mental equipment of a freak yourself to devise such a picture." Another viewer complained, "To put such creatures in a picture and before the public is unthinkable." See more »


During the scene in which Hans' friends menace Cleopatra in the wagon, the flute soundtrack doesn't match the finger movements of the dwarf playing the flute. See more »


Roscoe: I'm not going to have my wife laying in bed half the day with one of your hangovers.
See more »


Featured in Bound by Flesh (2012) See more »


Wedding of the Winds
Music by John T. Hall
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Visit This Sideshow at Your Peril
25 January 2000 | by (Forest Ranch, CA) – See all my reviews

A forest glade somewhere in Europe. A warm, sunny day with children playing on the grass. But the camera moves closer and reveals that something is terribly wrong. For these are not children, but tragically misshapen human beings. Pinheads. Dwarfs. A young man with only half a body. A man without arms or legs. These are the Freaks.

In 1932, director Tod Browning, fresh from his success with DRACULA, was instructed by Irving Thalberg to top FRANKENSTEIN. He succeeded. The resulting film was considered so ghastly that it was banned in Britain for 30 years. It is the strangest film MGM ever released.

Browning wanted to tell a tale of love, greed & revenge set in a circus, most particularly in the sideshow of human anomalies. He scoured Europe & America for the perfect cast. He got them: Violet & Daisy Hilton, the celebrated Siamese twins; dwarf brother & sister Harry & Daisy Earles; Johnny Eck the Half Boy (a good actor, he will remain in your mind a long time); the tragic Josephine Joseph, a hermaphrodite; as well as a human skeleton, armless girls and the female pinheads, among others.

While the plot is exploitive & the title tasteless, these people show us glimpses of their hearts, some of the agony of their condition and make us wonder, `What if I'd been born as one of them?'

The rest of the cast is made up of MGM stock players Leila Hyams, Wallace Ford, Edward Brophy, Olga Baclanova and the screen's champion stutterer Roscoe Ates.

The plot is simple. A beautiful trapeze artist marries a dwarf for his money, then plots his murder with her lover, the circus strong man. The subsequent action is both horrifying & strangely satisfying. Various scenes - the Freaks' Banquet, the chase through the storm - are among the most bizarre ever filmed. You won't soon forget the time you spend with the FREAKS.

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