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Educational Circus Movies To Love

Prepare to be in awe as we explore the magic, mystery, and mayhem that unfolds beneath the colorful tents! You'll find yourself sitting at the edge of your seat as you watch these best circus movies. Experience the dazzling and thrilling acts inside the big top while snacking at the comfort of your homes.

circus-themed background with caption "best circus movies"

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Educational Movies About the Circus

A circus is a thrilling and colorful world of entertainment where talented performers, often including acrobats, clowns, trapeze artists, and animal trainers, put on awe-inspiring shows under a big top tent.

The circus combines elements of drama, comedy, and spectacle, providing a captivating experience for audiences of all ages. It's a place where imagination and extraordinary skills come to life, creating moments of wonder and joy.

Here are some of our favorite circus movies that you might love:

Water For Elephants
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, Paul Schneider (Actors)

Water for Elephants

In this moving adaptation of the bestseller, an elderly man reminisces about his unforgettable time working in a circus during the Great Depression.

The Circus, Season 1
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Michael Murphy (Actor)

The Circus

This movie delves into the evolution of this beloved American entertainment tradition, tracing its roots from the earliest one-ring shows in the late 18th century up to 1956, when the final curtain fell on the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey big top.

The Circus: Down the Road
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Seth Camillo, Barbara Camillo (Actors)

The Circus: Down the Road

Will the traditional American circus, with its big top spectacle, endure the digital era, or is it destined to fade away?

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This film narrates the tale of the American big top circus, a society's struggle to preserve its cherished way of life.

The Greatest Show on Earth
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, Charlton Heston (Actors)

The Greatest Show on Earth

Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth is a grand homage to circuses, with three interwoven storylines of love and competition within the circus world.

DeMille's movie showcases impressive action scenes, including a breathtaking train disaster. The film was honored with Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Story.

a picture of a circus display with animals and acrobats

Big Top Pee-Wee
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Paul Reubens, Kris Kristofferson, Susan Tyrrell (Actors)

Big Top Pee-Wee

Pee-Wee Herman, a humble farmer in a small town, encounters a major storm that brings a circus to his farm.

He generously offers the circus a temporary home on his land, and together, they decide to organize a spectacular show, featuring Pee-Wee as the endearing star!

The First of May
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Joe DiMaggio, Julie Harris, Mickey Rooney (Actors)

The First of May

A “First of May” refers to a newcomer's first season in the circus. Cory, an eleven-year-old foster child whom nobody wishes to adopt, crosses paths with Carlotta, an elderly woman the world has overlooked.

Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Lutz Halbhubner, John Clarke, Dallas Barnett (Actors)

Cirque Du Soleil: Worlds Away

Innovative directors James Cameron (known for Avatar) and Andrew Adamson (famous for Shrek) take you on an extraordinary journey like no other, featuring the iconic artists of Cirque du Soleil.

The Circus
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Charlie Chaplin (Actor)

The Circus

In this silent movie, the character known as the Little Tramp becomes part of a circus to evade the authorities.

The Greatest Showman
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Michelle Williams, Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron (Actors)

The Greatest Showman

Hugh Jackman takes the lead in this innovative musical, drawing inspiration from the vision and creativity of P.T. Barnum. It's a tribute to the emergence of the entertainment industry and the realization of dreams.

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To continue learning, check out The Greatest Showman Study Guide.

the greatest showman movies study guide

  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito (Actors)


In this live-action adventure directed by Tim Burton and brought to you by Disney, Dumbo, a beloved classic, is reimagined. It celebrates diversity, the importance of family, and the pursuit of dreams as a struggling circus makes a remarkable resurgence with a flying baby elephant.

However, their new investor harbors hidden and ominous intentions.

Billy Rose's Jumbo
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Doris Day, Stephen Boyd, Jimmy Durante (Actors)

Billy Rose's Jumbo

In this Oscar-nominated musical, the circus owner's daughter battles to protect her father from a takeover led by the man she loves.

If you enjoyed this list of movies, I have a monthly membership for parents and educators that want to teach or supplement lessons with shows and movies.

“Movie nights in our house are like stepping into the dazzling world of the circus! From heartwarming tales of performers and their amazing skills to animated adventures under the big top, these films are not just about entertainment – they're a lesson in embracing uniqueness and the thrill of pushing boundaries. It's my way of teaching my kids that life is a bit of a circus, and sometimes you just have to juggle a few things to find your spotlight!” –a Homeschooling parent

With Homeschooling with Shows and Movies membership, you will get resources every month, including:

  • List of This Month’s Suggested Themes
  • List of Monthly Observances
  • List Of Movies for Unit Study
  • Unit Study Resource
  • Seasonal Activities (minimum of three)
  • (BONUSES) Resources for you, the teacher

These resources are worth it if you'd like to easily incorporate shows and movies into your homeschooling.

Grab your membership here. 

What to expect in these circus movies?

In circus movies, you can expect a mesmerizing blend of entertainment, artistry, and storytelling. These films often take you behind the scenes of the magical world of the circus, offering insights into the lives of performers, the challenges they face, and the captivating spectacles they create under the big top.

Whether it's heartwarming stories of love and friendship or thrilling depictions of daring acts, circus movies promise a unique cinematic experience that celebrates the circus as an enduring and enchanting form of entertainment.

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Which subjects are included in studying circus in an elementary school setting?

Studying the circus in an elementary school setting can cover various subjects, offering a multidisciplinary approach to learning. Here are some subjects that can be included:

  1. History: Learn about the history of the circus, its origins, and how it has evolved over time.
  2. Geography: Explore the locations and travels of circus shows.
  3. Literature: Read circus-themed books, stories, or poems.
  4. Visual Arts: Create circus-inspired artwork, from colorful posters to clown masks.
  5. Physical Education: Practice circus-related physical activities like juggling or acrobatics.
  6. Science: Study the science behind circus acts, such as balance and motion.
  7. Social Studies: Examine the cultural significance of the circus in different regions.
  8. Language Arts: Write stories or essays about the circus and its performers.

What themes are found in circus movies?

Circus movies are a wild mix of themes, and they've got something for everyone. First, there's that whole “outsider finding their place” vibe – you know, the underdog who joins the circus and becomes a star. Then, you've got the dark side of circus life, with themes of exploitation, greed, and the toll it takes on performers.

And let's not forget the romance and adventure, with love blossoming under the big top and daring acrobatics that make your heart race. So, whether you're into drama, romance, or just some good old-fashioned spectacle, circus movies have it all.

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When did circus start?

Circuses have a long and varied history, but the modern circus, as we know it today, began to take shape in the late 18th century.

The Englishman Philip Astley is often credited with opening the first modern circus in London in 1768. His performances featured horse riding tricks, and he is considered the “father of the modern circus.”

What is a big top?

A “big top” is what many people imagine when they think of a circus tent. It's the iconic, large, and usually brightly colored tent that serves as the main arena for circus performances.

Under the big top, you'll find a world of acrobats, clowns, animals, and other performers showcasing their incredible talents to a captivated audience. It's the heart and soul of the circus experience.

What is the history of the circus, and how has it evolved over time?

The history of the circus is a fascinating journey through time. It all began with ancient Roman chariot races and evolved into traveling menageries, showcasing exotic animals. In the 18th and 19th centuries, circuses as we know them today emerged, featuring acrobats, clowns, and spectacular performances under the iconic big top.

Over time, circuses have adapted to changing tastes and concerns, transitioning from animal-centric shows to focus more on human acts, and now, many circuses emphasize artistic and theatrical elements. It's a captivating evolution reflecting shifts in entertainment and society's values.

How has the perception of the circus changed in recent years, especially in terms of animal rights and ethical considerations?

In recent years, there has been a significant shift in how the circus is perceived, largely due to growing awareness of animal rights and ethical concerns. The traditional image of animals performing tricks under the big top has given way to public sentiment in favor of more humane treatment of animals.

This has led many circuses to either retire their animal acts or incorporate a strong focus on animal welfare, which is a positive step toward aligning the circus with modern ethical values.

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