Carny (1980)

R  |   |  Drama  |  23 May 1980 (USA)
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A carnival comes to a small town. Eighteen year old Donna meets Frankie and Patch, two carnival hustlers. They earn their living by mercilessly taunting spectators to try to dump one of ... See full summary »



(story), (story) (as Robbie Kaylor) , 2 more credits »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Heavy St. John
Teddy Wilson ...
Nails (as Theodore Wilson)
John Lehne ...
Marvin Dill
Delno Baptiste
W. C. Hannon
Alan Braunstein ...
Willie Mae


A carnival comes to a small town. Eighteen year old Donna meets Frankie and Patch, two carnival hustlers. They earn their living by mercilessly taunting spectators to try to dump one of them into the water by throwing balls. Donna is tired of her work as a waitress and follows them through the South. Written by Mattias Thuresson

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


When you're young and going nowhere... the Carny looks like a good way out. See more »




R | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

23 May 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Feira Ambulante  »

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Did You Know?


After Frankie is dunked by Patch, he is not near the microphone but his voice is still amplified. See more »


Donna: If I had the money for a bus ticket I'd leave right now.
See more »


Referenced in Mermaid Chronicles Part 1: She Creature (2001) See more »

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User Reviews

Life's a carnival...
13 June 2013 | by (Edinburgh, Scotland, UK) – See all my reviews

Carny is an interesting low-key film. It doesn't really have much of a plot. It works far more on atmosphere. The story is about a direction-less teenage girl (Jodie Foster) who runs away with the carnival after she meets a clown there. This leads to some friction between the manager and the clown; while later the carnies have to deal with some vicious local officials. As I say, it's not really much of a story and in order to appreciate Carny you need to find something in the feel of the movie.

I guess you could describe the set-up as a love triangle but only to a certain extent, as there really isn't a lot of emotion invested in the romantic side of the story; at the same time, there is a thriller element introduced towards the end and while that was quite good fun, it doesn't really fit all that well and could easily have been omitted. But as I say, the film still makes a mark and that is probably a result of the gritty recreation of carnival life and the good performances underpinning it. Best of the actors is Gary Busey who steals the show in his role as the abusive clown; moreover, the film begins very memorably with close-ups of him applying his clown make-up like it was war paint. In a sense it is, as he is extremely confrontational and goads his audience into throwing balls at him in sheer anger. In fact, the film depicts the carnies in general as primarily fuelled by a desire to fleece whoever enters their lair as they travel from town to town.

Carny is an interesting character-driven mood piece. It definitely falls into the cult movie side of the spectrum, as its unusual setting and dynamics will always mean it'll not appeal to everyone but will definitely connect with quite a few who are lured in to sample its wares.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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