Acrobats and Clowns: The 15 Best Circus Movies

The audience goes to the circus for a holiday, because a lively sparkling performance brings people joy. But the enchanting shows in the arena also have a downside – tough training, hiding behind the spectacular tricks of animals, or a tragic fate, hidden behind a clown’s smile. Numerous stories from the life of tent performers were embodied in excellent films about the circus. In our selection you will find both a good family movie and serious dramas for adults.

Poly (2020)

French film with a piercing emotional story for children. After her parents divorce , a ten-year-old girl moves from Paris to the outback with her mother . Local guys do not want to be friends with a metropolitan stranger, so the poor thing is bored alone. The arrival of the big top brought the girl a lot of joyful emotions, but the heroine accidentally found out that the trainer was cruel to the circus pony. The girl decides to save the animal.

What do you think, is it worth filming a sequel, and what should be in it?

Original title:
Poly

Genre:
Family

Actors:
Eliza de Lambert, Julie Gaye, Patrick Timsey…

Country:
France, Belgium

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.7, IMDb – 5.5

Age limit:
6+


Dumbo (2019)

A children’s foreign film about circus performers and a flying elephant rethinks the plot of the classic Disney cartoon. A unique baby elephant with huge ears and the ability to fly can become a real star of the show and bring fabulous profits. Cunning businessmen intend to squeeze all possible profit out of the phenomenon, but there are brave people in the troupe who are ready to help the baby elephant become happy and find a mother.

Original title:
Dumbo

Genre:
Fantasy, adventure

Actors:
Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito …

Country:
USA, UK, Australia, Canada

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.8, IMDb – 6.3

Age restrictions:
6+


Mystico Show (2018)

The social drama, inspired by the poetry of the Brazilian poet Georges di Lima, spans almost a century of history of one troupe. The young aristocrat fell in love with an acrobat and for the sake of the desired beauty left his career as a doctor . As a gift for his beloved, the hero bought his own circus. Decades change on the calendar, various upheavals occur in the world, but every evening circus artists enter the arena to bring laughter and joy to the public.

Original title:
O Grande Circo Místico

Genre:
Drama

Actors:
Vincent Cassel, Nuno Lopes, David Ogrodnik…

Country:
Brazil, Portugal, France

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 5.1, IMDb – 5.2

Age restrictions:
18+


The Greatest Showman (2017)

Biographical film in the musical genre about the creator of the famous traveling circus Phineas Barnum. A vain man dreams of wealth and world fame. Having lost a profitable job, the hero of the film takes a loan and invests all the money in an ambitious project. Barnum’s bold undertaking not only created a sensation among the public, but also laid the foundation for all modern show business.

Original title:
The Greatest Showman

Genre:
Drama, biography, musical

Actors:
Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron …

Country:
USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.5, IMDb – 7.6

Age restrictions:
12+


Margarita Nazarova (TV series 2016)

A fascinating biographical series about the famous Soviet tiger tamer , the star of the popular film comedy Striped Flight. An amazing woman easily found an approach to the most dangerous predators, but life sometimes turned out to be worse than any animal. A long road to fame, fiery loves, tragic losses, intrigues of envious people – fate threw up many trials for the artist, but Nazarova with honor got out of the most difficult life situations.

Genre:
Biography

Actors:
Olga Pogodina, Mikhail Panyukov, Andrey Chernyshov …

Country:
Russia

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.2

Age restrictions:
16+


Baskets (TV series, 2016 – 2019)

The list of the best films about the circus continues with an extraordinary tragicomedy series. The protagonist dreams of becoming a professional clown, but fails when he enters a special educational institution in Paris. The man is forced to return to his native land and get a hopeless job, but the desire to realize himself in clowning remains just as strong.

Original title:
Baskets

Genre:
Drama, comedy

Actors:
Zach Galifianakis, Martha Kelly, Louis Anderson…

Country:
USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.8, IMDb – 7.6


Chocolate (2015)

In the 19th century, a comedy duet shone on the Parisian stage, where the white clown Foottit bullied his black partner Chocolate. The guy did not like such a humiliating role, clearly insulting human dignity. Wanting to demonstrate the extent of his talent, the artist seeks the right to play the role of Othello in a production based on the classic play by William Shakespeare.

Original title:
Chocolat

Genre:
Drama, biography

Actors:
Omar Sy, James Thierre, Clotilde Esme…

Country:
France

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.1, IMDb – 7.0

Age restrictions:
12+


Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

The circus magician effectively escaped from his enemies in a hot air balloon, but landed in a mysterious magical land. With the help of clever tricks, the illusionist powdered the brains of the locals, who saw a real magician in a stranger . Oscar hopes to use his naive faith to achieve wealth and power, but then real sorceresses get in the way of an enterprising deceiver.

Original title:
Oz the Great and Powerful

Genre:
Fantasy, adventure, comedy, family

Actors:
James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis…

Country:
USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 6.3, IMDb – 6.3

Age restrictions:
12+


Cirque du Soleil: Fairytale World (2012)

The highly acclaimed circus feature film combines a gripping fantasy story with impressive clips from some of Cirque du Soleil’s best shows. During the presentation in the big top, the aerialist fell off the trapeze. Enchanted by the performance, the spectator rushed to help. Together, the young man and the girl were suddenly transported to a fairy-tale world that lives according to the laws of the circus.

Original title:
Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away

Genre:
Fantasy

Actors:
Erica Linz, Igor Zaripov, Luts Halbhubner …

Country:
USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.4, IMDb – 6.8

Age Limits :
6+


Aglaya (2012)

A circus family from Romania flees to the West from the bloody regime of Ceausescu. In order to earn money in a foreign land, artists are forced, indulging the tastes of the public, to perform complex tricks that involve risk to their lives. The daughter of a gymnast juggling fire under the dome of the circus is very worried about her mother, but soon she herself will have to enter the arena with a deadly number.

Original title:
Aglaja

Genre:
Drama, biography

Actors:
Esther Onodi, Babette Javor, Piroshka Moga …

Country:
Hungary, Romania, Poland

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.0, IMDb – 6.8


Water for Elephants! (2011)

A medical student lost his parents and housing. The frustrated young man drops out of school in desperation. The guy manages to join the traveling circus as a veterinarian. The owner of the big top has a tough temper, showing excessive cruelty to both animals and artists. A young veterinarian in the process of working together falls in love with a pretty rider – the wife of a ruthless animal trainer.

Original title:
Water for Elephants

Genre:
Drama, melodrama

Actors:
Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz …

Country:
USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.6, IMDb – 6.9

Age restrictions:
16+


Sad Ballad for Trumpet (2010)

During the Spanish Civil War, the red-haired clown was drafted into the ranks of the people’s militia. The comedian goes to the front without changing his clownish costume for a military uniform. Decades later, the son of that cheerful clown, but acting in the form of a sad white clown, falls in love with a charming acrobat. The hero’s stage partner claims to be the girl’s heart – an unceremonious and cynical harlequin.

Original title:
Balada triste de trompeta

Genre:
Horror, drama, comedy

Actors:
Carlos Areses, Antonio de la Torre, Carolina Bang…

Country:
Spain, France

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.1, IMDb – 6.5

Age restrictions:
18+


Mirror Mask (2005)

A teenage girl from a family of circus performers dreams of a normal life and often quarrels with her parents. When her mother falls ill, the heroine is very worried. In her dreams, the girl sees a strange surreal country where the queen, who is very similar to her mother, also suffers from a serious illness and can only be saved with the help of a magic mirror mask. In the hope that the magical artifact will help in reality, the girl rushes in search of an unusual little thing.

Original title:
Mirrormask

Genre:
Fantasy, adventure, family

Actors:
Stephanie Leonidas, Jason Barry, Rob Brydon …

Country:
UK, USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.1, IMDb – 6.8

Age restrictions:
12+


Carnival (TV series, 2003 – 2005)

During the years of the Great Depression, a strange young man nailed himself to a traveling circus. The owner of the big top saw a hidden talent in the young man – the ability to heal any disease. At night, the guy is tormented by surreal dreams. The hero does not even realize that the circus will soon visit the city where a fanatical preacher lives, who sees exactly the same nightmares.

Original title:
Carnivàle

Genre:
Fantasy, thriller, drama, detective

Actors:
Nick Stahl, Clancy Brown, Michael J. Anderson …

Country:
USA

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.7, IMDb – 8.4

Age restrictions:
18+


Bear Kiss (2002)

In a Russian fantasy film, a little bear cub from the Siberian taiga becomes a real circus performer. The abandoned daughter of a runaway aerial gymnast was especially attached to the beast. One day, the girl finds out that a handsome guy is hiding under the skin of the beast. And if the bear will comply with one condition, it will be able to become a man forever. But there comes a moment when the werewolf has to break the ban in order to save the girl’s life.

Original title:
Bear’s Kiss

Genre:
Fantasy, drama, melodrama

Actors:
Rebeka Liljeberg, Sergei Bodrov Jr., Joachim Krul …

Country:
Germany, Sweden, Russia, Spain, France, Italy

Rating:
Myreleasedate – 7.4, IMDb – 6.2

Age restrictions:
16+


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Jared Lambert/ author of the article

I’ve been writing about movies, TV shows and anime for over 3 years, and you may have seen my reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.

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