Follow TV Tropes


Film / It (1990)

Go To
"They float... and when you're down here with me... you'll float, too!"

It is a 1990 supernatural horror TV miniseries adapted from the horror novel of the same name by American author Stephen King. While not the first miniseries adaptation of one of King's works or even the first TV adaptation (with both distinctions going to 'Salem's Lot in 1979), it is easily the most popular and enduring of the bunch, and is known for having scared a generation of kids (and adults) when it came out.

Relatively faithful to the book within the confines of broadcast television standards, the story revolves around an inter-dimensional predatory shapeshifter which has the ability to transform itself into its prey's worst fears, allowing it to exploit the phobias of its victims. It mostly takes the form of a sadistic, wisecracking clown called Pennywise. The protagonists are The Losers Club, a group of outcast kids who discover Pennywise and vow to destroy him by any means necessary. The series takes place over two different time periods, the first when the Losers first discover Pennywise as children, and the second when they're called back as adults to defeat Pennywise, who has resurfaced.

For the 2010s retelling of the story, see It (2017) and It: Chapter Two.

It provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Hero: Beverly recalls being cornered by the Bowers gang one time and harassed, but they ran scared when her father suddenly walked up. She refers to it as the only time she can remember being glad to see her abusive father.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Patrick Hockstetter, Adrian Mellon, Butch Bowers, The Ritual of Chud and even The Turtle are just some of the very important elements that were removed from the miniseries, likely due to the time constraints involved in adapting such an incredibly long work.
    • Eddie's wife Myra is left out of the film and he's unmarried. He also admits that he's a virgin, which was not the case in the book because he, along with the other boys, rather notoriously had sex with Bev.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Ben is blond in the books but his adult self in the film is brunette. Beverly and Audra are redheads in the books (and it's implied that Bill married her because she resembled Beverly). Both are brunettes in the film. Bill is also stated to be a redhead in the novel but played by the dirty-blonde Jonathan Brandis as a kid and brunette Richard Thomas as an adult.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication:
    • In the novel, Henry's way of making Ben remember not to mess with him is to carve his name onto his stomach (he gets as a far as "H" before Ben kicks him and escapes). He does this in the miniseries as well except he never explicitly says that he's going to carve his name and it's not clear unless you've read the book that's what he intends to do.
    • It is never explained in the film why Pennywise appears as a dog to the security guard Koontz, and can be a bit jarring and without context. In the novel, it's explained that Doberman Pinschers are the only animals that he is afraid of.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Odd example. In the book Richie nicknames Eddie 'Eds'. In this he nicknames him 'Eddie Spaghetti' or 'Spaghetti Man'.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Ben's younger self is much cuter than he's described in the books. He's Hollywood Pudgy at best, hardly comparable to Giant Haystacks.
  • Adaptational Nationality: In the book Audra is an American actress who moved to the UK and has a hybrid of an English and American accent. In the film she appears to be just British.
  • Adaptational Sympathy: Downplayed. Beverly's father is not implied to be sexually abusing her as he was in the source material, though he is still presented as overly-strict and it is shown that he uses physical force to discipline his daughter. He threatens to whip her for unknowingly courting a secret admirer in a manner that reeks of slut shaming, but unlike the book or the 2017 adaptation there is no indication that he's jealous of said admirer.
  • Adults Are Useless: Due to the influence of It, most of the adults in Derry (including the police chief who rebuffs the adult Mike Hanlon's attempts to help) prefer to hide their heads in the sand and pretend that nothing is amiss when many local children are found dead or go missing.
  • Age Lift: In the movie, the gap between the events is made into 30 years, instead of the book's 27. So the Losers are in their late thirties in the book and early forties in the film.
  • All Webbed Up: In the film adaptation. Some of IT's victims are webbed up for later eating after their brains are broken by the Deadlights.
  • And Starring: Tim Curry receives a “Special Appearance” credit.
  • Badass Boast: Pennywise, when Bill shouts at Bev to "kill it":
    Pennywise: Kill? ME? Oh, you are priceless, brat! I am ETERNAL, child. I am the EATER OF WORLDS, and of children—and you are next.
  • Balloon of Doom: Pennywise the Dancing Clown is frequently seen holding balloons of various colors. The balloons burst with blood and come out in masses out of small containers.
  • Basement-Dweller: Adult Eddie is still living with his mother in this version, though their house is not the same and his mom somehow looks younger.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Since this version was made for television, most of the actual deaths weren't shown in very graphic detail. Most instances in which the filmmakers were allowed to include blood took place during IT's illusions, in which it bursts from balloons, erupts from a sink, and spills from containers, but never leaves a human body or is referred to as such. The idea that it even is blood is up to audience assumption. Exception: Just before the flashback of The Losers cleaning up Beverly's bathroom, she refers to it as blood.
    • The most notorious subversion of this trope is when Stan's dead body is shown post-suicide, there is blood all around the bathtub, his body, and the wall including a bloody IT written on it.
  • Cassandra Truth: Richie, after seeing Pennywise manifest himself as a werewolf in the cellar, runs upstairs to the canteen and tells everyone he's seen a werewolf. Naturally, almost all the kids laugh their butts off, while Stan, still intensely skeptical of everything that's going on, shakes his head, probably thinking Richie is making an ass of himself. The rest of the Losers' Club, however, just sit in silence as the only people who believe him.
  • Compressed Adaptation: It's pretty hard to stuff over a thousand pages of story into a movie. Most agree that Tim Curry was memorable as Pennywise, however.
  • Creepy Circus Music: Pennywise the Dancing Clown's theme is more Soundtrack Dissonance, but even a happy carnival tune just feels creepy because of that association.
  • Deadly Euphemism: During his childhood, Ben has a bizarre encounter with IT, who masquerades as his late father while standing in the middle of a swamp in front of the sewer entrance, claiming that the sewers are his new home. IT gradually transforms himself into Pennywise while inviting him to come down with him to the sewers, where he will "never have to grow up".
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • Tom Rogan has a larger role in the book. After Beverly leaves him, he attacks her friend Kay to get her whereabouts. When he arrives in Derry, he's possessed by IT and kidnaps Audra into the sewers. Here that's left out and Tom disappears from the story once Beverly walks out on him.
    • Lesser than most examples, but Stan's wife Patty gets an entire chapter from her POV detailing some of her backstory and how she met Stan. Here she only appears briefly in Stan's introductory segments.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: IT lures his young victim Georgie closer to the dark sewers with the promise of cotton candy, balloons, carnival rides, prizes and his toy boat. Very similar to how an adult pedophile would lure their child victim into their trap with the promises of candy.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • After getting Mike's call, Ben remarks to his current girlfriend that killing himself might be preferable to going back to Derry. Little does he know that Stan felt similarly and would act on it.
    • After Pennywise causes the blood in the sink, Beverly panics and tells her father. When she realizes he can't see the blood, Beverly claims she just got scared by a big spider. Technically, she was.
  • Driven to Suicide: Stan decides to kill himself rather than face Pennywise as an adult, slitting his wrists in the bathtub and writing the word "IT" with his own blood.
  • Epic Fail: Eddie during the final showdown: "This is battery acid, and now you disappear!" It doesn't work this time, and he nearly gets eaten alive.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Pennywise has his/its moments in the novel, and Curry really goes to town (while still being quite horrifying).
  • Fold-Spindle Mutilation: The unfortunate fate of Belch at the hands of It.
  • Foreshadowing: During the scene where Bill first pleads for help and later when the Losers make the promise, Eddie and Stan are the last to agree on both occasions, hinting at their eventual demise.
    • Bill's "magic stones" story that he tells the gang in the Barrens as kids is eerily similar to how the climax plays out.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Georgie doesn't find it suspicious that Pennywise knows his name and lives in the sewer. Justified in that he's only six years old.
  • Laughing at Your Own Jokes: "Excuse me, sir! Do you have Prince Albert in a can? You do? Well, you better let the poor guy out! WUHAH! WUHAH! WUHAH!"
  • Leeroy Jenkins: When Bill discovers Audra’s purse in the sewer, he goes running after her without thinking.
  • Lighter and Softer: Because the film initially aired on network television, some of the nastier elements of the book were either downplayed or only implied. Beverly's fight with Tom is far more graphic in the book - where she ends up dropping an entire mirror on him (here he goes down when she hits him with a jar).
  • Light Is Not Good: Pennywise's outfit is much more colorful than it is described in the book.
  • Like Parent, Like Spouse: Deconstructed. Beverly grew up with a nasty, abusive father who was physically violent with her if he thought she was out of line. Years later, she's married to a man who takes advantage of her emotional vulnerability and slaps her when he suspects she's visiting a "lover". Later, Beverly sadly admits to Ben how she ended up marrying someone who was just like her father.
  • Mood Whiplash: When Pennywise trolls Richie in the library, he alternates between screaming death threats at Richie and telling jokes like "Is your refrigerator running? It IS? Well you'd better catch it before it runs away! WUHAH! WUHAH! WUHAH! WUHAH! WUHAH!"
    • During the adult Losers' reunion in the library, Richie is cracking jokes while Mike tries to call Stan, only to be interrupted by the news of Stan's suicide.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: When Stan goes bird watching at the town park, the bird at the bath is a red-crested cardinal, which is native to South America and has been introduced to Hawaii and (more recently) southern California. It definitely doesn't belong in Maine (the setting of the novel) or British Columbia (where this movie was filmed).
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Ben has this reaction when his love note leads Beverly's father to yell at her and send her running form the house crying.
  • Officer O'Hara: Officer Nell, the Irish policeman who the Losers encounter in the barrens.
  • One-Book Author: Ben Heller, who played the young Stan, only did this one film.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: While Tim Curry does a pretty solid job retaining Pennywise's gruff Brooklyn accent, his natural British accent does occasionally slip in, most noticeably during the clown's final scene ("Go! Now... for if you stay, you'll lose your little mind in my deadlights, like all the others... like all the others...")
    • This was probably an intentional choice. At that point Pennywise was dropping the clown act and soon after reveals his ‘true’ spider form. So it may not have been Tim Curry’s accent slipping, but Pennywise’s accent and human facade.
    • His accent slips before then in the library when he yells "TRY A.... BUNCH"
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: For obvious reasons, (in that they are all around eleven years old), the scene where the six male members of the Loser's Club have sex with Beverly in succession (It Makes Sense in Context) is omitted.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: While they already were love interests in the book, things end on a Maybe Ever After for Ben and Beverly. Here it ends with them marrying and having a baby.
  • Race Lift: Minor case. In the book Bill's wife Audra is a white American just living in the UK. Here she seems to be British, and she's also played by Argentinian actress Olivia Hussey.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Losers Club consists of a stuttering storyteller, an asthmatic Momma's Boy, a bespectacled Class Clown, a chubby poet, a skeptical Jewish Boy Scout, a token girl, and a token minority.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Officer Nell. While he isn't thrilled about the Losers' dam project in the barrens, Nell instead focuses on a more pressing issue: the deaths and disappearances of children in Derry, warning the kids to never set out alone into the barrens or anywhere else. Nell seems to be one of the few adults in Derry who acknowledges that something is wrong and tries to help.
  • Replacement Goldfish: In the epilogue, we find out that Richie starts a comedy duo with a man whose appearance and personality matches Eddie's.
  • Run or Die: When the Losers return to Derry as adults, Pennywise appears before each of them, warning them to get out while they can. IT explicitly states to Richie that he and the rest of the Losers are too old to stop IT now. Later, when they enter the sewers at the film's climax, IT warns them again to leave by threatening to drive them all insane.
  • Shout-Out: Tim Curry seems to have based Pennywise's voice and New York accent on that of vaudeville comedian Jimmy Durante.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Tom Rogan, Beverly's abusive boyfriend. In the book he travels to Derry looking for her and gets possessed and later killed by IT. This is left out so presumably Tom is still alive.
    • Eddie's mother has been dead for some years in the present, and Eddie is married to a woman just like her. Here however she's still alive and Eddie is still living with her in the present.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: During their first encounter, Pennywise takes the form of Ben's dead father, immediately after the boy had a fight in his new home, no less. Ben is overjoyed to see his dad again before realizing something is wrong here.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: Pennywise says this about himself.
  • Younger Than They Look: Henry Bowers is only in his forties in the 1990 portions but has aged badly due to the trauma of seeing his friends killed.


Video Example(s):


Kill them all!

Appearing as a face in the moon, Pennywise orders Henry Bowers to kill the Losers again 27 years after his first defeat.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheManInTheMoon

Media sources: