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Most Astonishing Movie Makeovers

Movie magic can transform the most beautiful actors in the world into terrifying, hideous monsters from our deepest nightmares… and sometimes it just puts glasses on them.
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Is there anything quite so satisfying as movie makeovers montages? I mean, you’ve got the upbeat music, the swirl of colors from new clothes and makeup, and the magical (but not exactly feminist) promise that a new look can make you into a new person.

Despite everything, I can’t resist these makeover scenes! From Clueless to Pretty Woman, these are the most famous transformations in popular movies.

Cinderella

While I didn’t love everything about the live-action version of Cinderella, I can’t deny that the costumes were incredible. If nothing else, it’s really entertaining to see Helena Bonham Carter dressed up as a good fairy after getting used to seeing her as Bellatrix Lestrange in recent years.

While this scene lacks some of the charm of the original animated version, it’s a princess fantasy come to life.

Clueless

Set to the tune of Jill Sobule’s “Supermodel,” Clueless delivers the perfect 90s makeover montage. Cher and Dionne are determined to turn Tai into a picture-perfect popular girl. But what I love in this scene is that it isn’t just about hair, clothes, and makeup. Cher encourages her friend to work out, expand her vocabulary, and read more books. Sure, her charity is a little misguided, but it comes from a good place.

It’s always heartbreaking to see Brittany Murphy in her first big movie role. And in a wild coincidence, I’m writing this post on Paul Rudd’s 53rd birthday! Yes, he still looks the same.

Dumb and Dumber

Accompanied by Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman,” Harry and Lloyd try to get a makeover before they infiltrate a charity ball. It’s a clever sendup of the movie makeover trope that features a frustrated aesthetician taking an angle grinder to Jim Carrey’s hideously overgrown toenails. The song is a sendup of Pretty Woman—but the less said about that pile of nose hair, the better.

The Princess Diaries

The Princess Diaries is an example of Hollywood taking a beautiful actress, then making her into an “ugly duckling” by frizzing her hair and slapping on a pair of glasses. It’s ridiculous to imagine how Anne Hathaway must have sat in a makeup chair to get ready as pre-makeover Mia Thermopolis, just to go through an onscreen transformation.

To be fair to Mia, Paolo shouldn’t have tried to brush her hair with a paddle brush in the first place! Maybe we should let teenage girls be awkward and cute rather than slathering them with pageant makeup.

The Devil Wears Prada

Anne Hathaway is back with another iconic movie makeover montage in The Devil Wears Prada. As Andy struggles to fit in at Runway, she turns to her curmudgeonly fairy godfather for advice. The result is a transformation that turns the “frumpy” size six personal assistant into a glamorous New York princess.

Rewatching this scene now, it doesn’t seem very empowering. Not only does Nigel (Stanley Tucci) mock Andy’s appearance throughout the scene, but it isn’t even satisfying when she emerges decked in the finest fashions that 2006 had to offer.

Legally Blonde

You might call this a makeunder, not a makeover. After being tricked into showing up to a party dressed in a skimpy bunny costume, Elle Woods sets out immediately to buy herself a new computer. The next time her catty classmates see her, she’s carrying a massive stack of books. It’s the start of her journey to becoming a girl boss.

The Wizard of Oz

“Can you even dye my eyes to match my gown?” That’s what Dorothy asks as she and her companions get a makeover before being admitted to see the Wizard. Is it just me, or is this scene a little bit nightmarish? From a partially dismembered Scarecrow to a polishing wheel for the Tin Man that calls to mind Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum,” it’s all a bit off-putting. Especially since the workers are so maniacally happy about the whole thing. The unhinged laughter doesn’t help. The Cowardly Lion is the only one who seems to be genuinely enjoying himself.

She’s All That

She’s All That walked so that The Princess Diaries could run. The makeover of Laney Boggs—played by the lovely Rachel Leigh Cook—relies on Superman’s trick of removing a pair of glasses to transform into a totally unrecognizable person. To be fair, she also gets a haircut and a new dress—but Laney was always gorgeous. And a dude who is draped in that much tan leather and corduroy really can’t be picky.

At least Laney’s big moment is accompanied by Sixpence None the Richer’s classic “Kiss Me.” I feel like it’s 1999 all over again.

Encino Man

The year was 1992, and an unknown actor named Brendan Fraser had just landed his first major film role. While I won’t claim that Encino Man is a powerful piece of filmmaking, it does deliver one of the rare male makeover montages in movie history. It also showcases not only Brendan Fraser’s handsomeness but also his comedic chops. While his surfer dude makeover looks more like a “before” picture by modern fashion standards, he’d fit right in at a Phish concert.

Mulan

Before Mulan could get down to business and defeat the Huns, she had to go through one of cinema’s most awkward movie makeovers. To the tune of “Honor to Us All,” Mulan is poked and prodded into conforming to the beauty standards of her day.

Unlike the majority of makeovers on this list, the transformation doesn’t help Mulan discover newfound confidence or reveal her true beauty to a world that didn’t appreciate it. Instead, her real makeover scene follows when she removes her makeup, cuts her hair, and dons her father’s armor to go to war in his place.

Read More: What if Disney Princesses Played ‘Dungeons & Dragons’?

Moonstruck

Moonstruck is an underrated 80s movie starring Cher in a role that would win her an Oscar. While it’s hard to imagine the glamorous icon looking frumpy, the makeup and wardrobe department manages it by putting Cher in a gray-streaked wig and oversized, shapeless clothes.

Loretta’s transformation is directly related to her self-confidence. After falling in love with her fiance’s brother (played by Nicolas Cage in one of his most restrained performances), she starts to wonder if there might not be more to life than she always imagined. This makeover is more about feeling herself than letting others turn her into something she’s not.

Grease

After being relentlessly mocked by everyone at her high school for being a goody-two-shoes, Sandra Dee ditches her pastel dresses for skintight black pants and an off-the-shoulder top. Danny goes wild for her new look, immediately ditching the letter jacket he’d picked up to try fitting in with her ideals.

Enough ink has been spilled over the problematic messaging of Grease, and I’m not going to rehash it here. John Waters’ Cry-Baby does the “good girl in love with a bad boy” thing so much better—and with a welcome dose of dark humor.

Miss Congeniality

In most movies, makeovers have pretty low stakes. Not so with Miss Congeniality! FBI agent Gracie Hart undergoes a painful makeover, including a bikini wax, in order to infiltrate a beauty pageant and foil a terrorist plot. She undergoes her transformation in an empty airplane hangar while enduring physical pain and judgment from the men around her. Her fairy godfather (played by Michael Caine) even rips a sandwich from her hands and replaces it with a stalk of celery.

The payoff is seeing Sandra Bullock in all her glorious glamor strutting out in a skintight dress to the tune of “Mustang Sally.” As Agent Matthews (Benjamin Bratt) ogles her, Gracie snaps, “I am in a dress. I have gel in my hair. I haven’t slept all night, I’m starved, and I’m armed. Don’t mess with me.”

Captain America: The First Avenger

Well, the makeover stakes don’t get higher than in Captain America: The First Avenger. Poor Steve Rogers in all his uncanny valley glory is transformed from a skinny dweeb into a jacked super-soldier. Once again, Stanley Tucci acts as the fairy godfather—albeit in a much more clinical way than in The Devil Wears Prada. Seeing Chris Evans’ perfect pecs and abs revealed when the machine opens is breathtaking—you can’t blame Peggy for wanting to reach out and touch his chest.

Crazy Rich Asians

In many ways, Crazy Rich Asians was a throwback to an earlier era of romcoms. That includes the makeover scene, presided over by a snarky fairy godfather and his team of grim-faced assistants. Even though Rachel Chu is gorgeous by anyone else’s standards, she needs a glamazon makeover to fit in with her crazy rich boyfriend’s world.

The montage doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, but it does subvert the trope in clever ways. The backing track of a Chinese cover of “Material Girl” perfectly sets the scene, and Awkwafina’s comedic presence keeps things from becoming too self-serious.

Read More: Highest Grossing Rom-Coms of All Time

Mrs. Doubtfire

How do you create comedy gold? Give Robin Williams a room full of wigs and let him go to town. His series of drag impressions is a showcase for his talents—and those of the makeup team behind the scenes. Although there are problematic aspects to Mrs. Doubtfire—don’t impersonate an old woman to get closer to your kids, folks—this scene dodges potential pitfalls with ease. Frank (Harvey Fierstein) and his partner Jack’s relationship is presented with surprising matter-of-factness for the early 90s. Is it a pillar of positive representation for the LGBTQ+ community? No, but at the time, we’d take what we could get.

My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady is basically one big makeover montage. Henry Higgins picks Eliza Doolittle off the streets with the goal of transforming the cockney flower girl into a lady. The musical is based on the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, which in turn was inspired by the Greek myth of a sculptor who fell in love with a statue he carved and brought her to life. It might be the first movie where a girl gets a makeover because of a bet—but it wouldn’t be the last.

Pretty Woman

It’d be a big mistake—huge!—to end this list without talking about Pretty Woman. Julia Roberts plays Vivian, the archetypical hooker with a heart of gold, who picks up a straight-laced businessman. Although Vivian has the more dramatic outward transformation, she has an equally profound impact on Edward. He might have shown her how to dress and act in polite society, but she showed him how to live.

Eagle-eyed viewers will note that the male store assistant in this scene is the same guy from The Princess Diaries. He’s character actor Larry Miller—and he also played Kat and Bianca’s dad in 10 Things I Hate About You!

Read More: Character Actors Who Are in Literally Everything