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Freaks (1932)

Unrated  |   |  Drama, Horror  |  20 February 1932 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.0/10 from 30,131 users  
Reviews: 248 user | 179 critic

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 Ates ...
Roscoe (as Rosco Ates)
Harry Earles ...
Daisy Earles ...
Rose Dione ...
Madame Tetrallini
Daisy Hilton ...
Violet Hilton ...
Schlitze ...
Josephine Joseph ...
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:





| |

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?


MGM responded to criticism of the film with a series of ads congratulating itself for daring to humanize deformity. Calling the film "A LANDMARK IN SCREEN DARING!" ads asked "'Do we dare tell the real truth on the screen? Do we dare hold up the mirror to nature in all its grim reality?'" 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 »


Frieda: It wasn't your fault, it was only the bottle you wanted.
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Referenced in Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2010) See more »


The Whistler and His Dog
Music by Arthur Pryor
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

*Gasp* this movie is brilliant!!
20 August 2004 | by (the Draconian Swamp of Unholy Souls) – See all my reviews

`Freaks' is a totally unique and superb film by Tod Browning. He made himself legendary one year before this came out – in 1931 – with the all-time horror classic `Dracula'. This film, however, is something completely different and it nearly cost Browning his career. Since Browning had the courage to cast actual deformed actors, the words ‘distasteful' and ‘exploitative' were automatically attached to his masterpiece and it remained banned in many countries for too many years. Very unjustified, of course because throughout the whole film, you NEVER feel like a voyeur and neither is the misery of these unfortunate people overly exposed. On the contrary, I'd say…you can't but get deeply affected by these circus freaks. Especially in the 30's, when the people didn't know much about physical anomalies and feared the unknown, I dare to say Tod Browning's `Freaks' could have been an essential social portrait. And keep in mind that Browning's main moral is that the `freaks' show a lot more solidarity and honesty than the `normal' people whose every motivation is driven by greed and power.

The plot of this purely gold film is set in a traveling circus in which the freaks and normally formed people work together. The beautiful trapeze artist and her strongman lover plot a cowardly plan and she uses her beauty to seduce the rich midget named Hans (a brilliant Harry Earless who also starred in Browning's `The Unholy Tree'). When the greedy couple openly insults the group spirit of the freaks and publicly humiliates Hans, an eerie act of vengeance is thought up. This film is over 70 years old and it'll still unquestionably shock and amaze you. To me, it's just perfect. An outstanding mixture of warm-hearted characters, great dialogue and tension. The climax, in which the freaks seal the portentous fate of their enemies, is an immortal piece of pure terror! `Freaks' is one of the most dazzling classics ever made and must be seen by anybody who ever showed any interest in cinema.

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