50 Best Movie Makeovers

Posted by
Anna Pollitt
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

Hollywood has given these rough diamonds an exuberant polishing for our viewing pleasure.

CGI and big budget sets affect us only so much, it's making the bushy-eyebrowed, frizzy-haired, glasses-wearers see the error of their ways that really resonates.

We've selected 50 of cinema's best ugly duckling-to-beautiful swan moments, from '80s Working Girl Tess McGill's corporate remodelling, to widow-turned-fallen woman in post-war Italian drama Malena. Give your rating out of five by clicking on the stars next to each picture.

Any we missed? Let us know in the comments section below or on Twitter

Images: Rex Features

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Tess - Working Girl

    Not even Mel Gibson's Lethal Weapon mullet was as lovingly cultivated as Melanie Griffith's crimped and permed, Creme Egg-coloured concoction in Working Girl. Like many mullet bearers of her time, she realised it was standing between her and her dreams of corporate success and she went for the chop - providing us with one of Hollywood's most satisfying 'Before' and 'After' scenes.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Tai - Clueless

    "Cher's main thrill in life is a makeover, it gives her a sense of control in a world full of chaos"

    Tartan minis, over-the-knee socks, chokers... the worst and worst of '90s fashion are rolled out when Cher (Alicia Silverstone's) finds her own real-life fashion plate in Brittany Murphy's Tai.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Eliza Doolittle - My Fair Lady

    Come on, Dover, move yer bloomin' arse!

    The original Ladette to Lady - elocution lessons, a cute fringe and a feathery bonnet are about all that stand between Cockney sparra Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) and her dream of being posh enough to own a florist in the late 1800s.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Jo - Funny Face

    Before My Fair Lady, Audrey Hepburn was subjected to two rather less drastic silver screen makeovers...

    Audiences must suspend their disbelief further than usual to accept that polo necks and tweed can turn the star into a bookish frump in Funny Face. Nonetheless, after singing and dancing lessons, a nice dress and sleek hairdo is the icing on the cake.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Sabrina - Sabrina (1954)

    You'd be right in thinking Hepburn's Sabrina makeover is a bit of a waste of time, given that she's not exactly an ugly duckling to stat with, but we're a sucker for Hepburn and Givenchy dresses.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Sabrina in Sabrina (1997)

    It took a stint working at a glossy magazine in Paris for fashion-loving Sabrina (Julia Ormond in the '90s remake) to try a new haircut and contact lenses. She not only wowed the folks back home, but gave Anne Hathaway a model to work with for The Devil Wears Prada...

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Andy in The Devil Wears Prada

    Parading a basic jumper and unstyled hair around the appearance-fascist Mode office with the brazen insouciance of someone who cares little for fashion, Anne Hathaway is, of course, a prime target for a glossy transformation.

    When her trendy new look invites half an eyebrow raise of approval from the indomitable Miranda (Meryl Streep), we have confirmation there is no greater makeover catalyst than peer pressure.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Mia - The Princess Diaries

    While Audrey Hepburn underwent three Hollywood makeovers, her lookalike Anne Hathaway has already notched up two. The first was as geeky schoolgirl Mia, whose popularity is given a welcome boost by the news she is in fact a princess. Her Frizziness is straightened out and made-up with enough eyeliner to give Kate Middleton a run for her money.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Gracie - Miss Congeniality

    "You think I'm gorgeous, you want to kiss me..."

    A sassy FBI agent with oversized suits and an odd habit of chewing with her mouth open, Sandra Bullock's Gracie is forced to confront the harsh realities of grooming when she goes undercover at a beauty pageant.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    The Bride - Kill Bill

    Uma Thurman transforms into a vengeful assassin only after she ditches the pink frilly top and dangly earrings.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Jenny Johnson - My Super Ex-Girlfriend

    Tarantino is nowhere in sight and turning Uma Thurman into 'ordinary' librarian Jenny leans heavily on a pair of specs. But everyone knows superheroes have perfect vision, so when it's time for Jenny to go G-Girl, the face furniture is gone. Where the blonde hair, miniskirts and array of hats fits into the superhero mould, we're not entirely sure.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Vivian - Pretty Woman

    How can someone with 44-inch legs and that face look as bad as Julia Roberts in her blue and white prostitute outfit? Nevermind, the bad dress and wig gives us something to look forward to when our heroine momentarily forgets about dodging murderers and pimps and heads to Rodeo Drive for some serious style advice.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Olive - Easy A

    While Pretty Woman focuses on making its star look less sexually available, Emma Stone's Easy A works on the opposite principle. Wandering around school in shades and a frilly black corset might not earn many fashion points but it sure is a makeover with moxy.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Sandy - Grease

    Given that Olivia Newton-John was 29 when she was playing a 17-year-old, it's not surprising her good girl gone bad makeover works so well.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Danny - Grease

    With impressive fashion foresight, John Travolta risks the ridicule of the T-Birds and swaps his leather jacket for one of those trendy cardigan and t-shirt combos all the lads are wearing now.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Loretta - Moonstruck

    It mustn't have been easy for Cher to play 'dowdy', so we'll forgive the fact her dull accountant role is just a few grey hairs and a cardigan away from the diva we all know.

    A spur-of-the-moment trip to the beauty salon results in a triumphant '80s makeover that reaches its pinnacle with an off-the-shoulder LBD, big, bouncy 'do and steely glare.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Deloris Van Cartier - Sister Act

    Before Extreme Makeover, there was extreme makeunder, as Whoopi Goldberg was miraculously transformed from showgirl to Sister as part of an elaborate witness protection programme.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Marisa - Maid in Manhattan

    Famed for her method acting, Jennifer Lopez spent six months working as a hotel chambermaid to prepare for her role in Maid in Manhattan.

    No, we're clearly lying, but she certainly had plenty of practice preparing for the part when she discovers she can rock a nice frock.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Malena - Malena

    To draw on the profound lyrics of Right Said Fred; she's too sexy for her town.

    In a post-war Sicilian village, young widow Malena (Monica Bellucci) refuses to hide her beauty and as a result is branded a mistress and prostitue by its jealous residents. Broken, she turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy, marking herself out as a sinful woman with a scandalous new hairdo. Yep, sorry redheads, that was the equivalent of the call girl calling card, back in the day.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Baby - Dirty Dancing

    There's nothing like a holiday romance and a few dance lessons to turn an awkward teenager into a confident woman. Of course it helps if you're being romanced by Patrick Swayze, rather than a Butlins redcoat.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Roberta - Desperately Seeking Susan

    Nowadays snooping on Madonna and dressing up in her old clothes is likely to invite some pretty serious legal correspondence, but in this 1985 comedy-drama she plays the hip and mysterious Susan who inspires bored housewife Roberta (Rosanna Arquette) to undergo an intense copycat makeover.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Anna/Anastasia - Anastasia

    As a suicidal, amnesiac peasant, Ingrid Bergman's Anna presents quite the makeover challenge. However, a group of Russians with their eye on the prize of Anastasia Romanov's $1 million trust fund helps transform her into a plausible Grand Duchess in this 1956 Oscar winner.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Sarah - Labyrinth

    Accidentally summoning the Goblin King Jareth is one thing. Discovering he's Glam Rock exhibitionist David Bowie and you're embarking on a hedonistic Alice in Wonderland type adventure in baggy jeans and an embroidered waistcoat is a whole other kind of trauma. A poison peach saves the day and Sarah (a young Jennifer Connelly) turns Rebel, Rebel in a fantastical ballgown, with matching '80s hairstyle to rival even Bowie's multi-coloured mullet.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Romy and Michelle in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

    What better way to convey success than with Spice Girls-style powersuits?

    Plenty you might say, but it is the late '90s and Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino have to back up their 'we're Post-it millionaires' story at their high school reunion.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Shirley Valentine - Shirley Valentine

    Pioneering the often overlooked female midlife crisis, Pauline Collins puts down the egg pan, relaxes her perm and runs off to Greece, sparking a trail of real life copycats and a boom in women-only package holidays.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Josie - Never Been Kissed

    As Never Been Kissed was produced by its star Drew Barrymore's own company, it would have been easy for her to deny us a truly horrendous pre-makeover look and She gamely gives us high school misfit Josie Grossie, complete with bad perm, patchy make-up and grim white feather outfit - making her transition to confident reporter all the sweeter.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Viola/Sebastian - She's The Man

    If her newest role as Hollywood's latest bad girl gets too much, Amanda Bynes knows she can always get away from it all with the failsafe male disguise she used in She's The Man.

    Really, who would have guessed?

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Dana - Ghostbusters

    When Sigourney Weaver's Dana becomes possessed by the demonic spirit of Zuul, a chunky cardie just won't do.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Sam - The Long Kiss Goodnight

    Amnesiac suburban schoolteacher Sam (Geena Davis) discovers she's a CIA assassin who must foil a terrorist bomb plot and save her kidnapped eight-year-old daughter - but first on her list: a sharp cut and dye job.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Valerie - Earth Girls are Easy

    Geena Davis is no stranger to the on-screen makeover, swapping the world's most unflattering ringlets in Earth Girls are Easy for a sleek blowdry. All the better for seducing those aliens with.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Madeleine/Judy - Vertigo

    Kim Nowak's transition from sleek, aloof Madeleine to vampy Judy in Hitchcock's classic thriller came with the help of legendary costume designer Edith Head.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Jack - Titanic

    A touch of gel and a tux are all Leonardo DiCaprio needs to go from below-deck bit of rough to first-class dinner guest for the Captain's table.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Camille - Contempt

    Employing subtle-as-a-brick symbolism, director Jean-Luc Godard has unhappily married Camille (Brigitte Bardot) wearing a black wig in the style of his own soon-to-be ex wife Anna Karina during the scene when it becomes clear her relationship is ending.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Daniel - Mrs. Doubtfire

    Of all the actors to play a part-time woman, Hollywood's hairiest man Robin Williams has to be one of the braver choices. Still, he manages to flip between father-of-three and English nanny without his ex or their kids guessing.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Helen - Sliding Doors

    In movie land, discovering your boyfriend in bed with his ex is the perfect motivator to get that drastic hairdo you've always shied away from. This being Hollywood royalty Gwyneth Paltrow, there's not a dodgy fringe or asymmetric cut in sight as she swaps safe brunette for a pretty blonde pixie crop.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Selina - Batman Returns

    Being shoved off a tall building and licked back to life by alley cats suits Michelle Pfeiffer's frazzled secretary Selina.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Maggie - Parent Trap

    You'd think separated-at-birth identical twins secretly switching places would provide enough identity confusion for one film, but no, their conservative mother (Maureen O'Hara) goes and throws a vampy makeover for herself into the mix.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Clark Kent - Superman

    Is it a bird? is it a plane? Is it a deviant taking his trousers off in a public telephone box? No, it's Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve) changing into his Superhero alter ego, Superman.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Marie - Bourne Identity

    Not only is Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) an expert assassin, he's got serious hairdressing skills, evident in his chop and colour change on fellow fugitive and trusting girlfriend Marie (Franka Potente).

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Edward Scissorhands - Edward Scissorhands

    Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) can change his gothic leathers for a clean shirt, sport a natty cravat and even cover his scars with foundation, but nothing can mend 20 years' worth of backcombing.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Sam - A Cinderella Story

    Tinseltown logic dictates that the best person to cast as a downtrodden cafe worker is an established Disney idol, so enter Hilary Lizzie McGuire Duff as the noughties' Cinderella. The transition from pretty to stunning is achieved through some well structured ringlets and a fairly badass masquerade ball mask.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Eddie - Limitless

    Does Bradley Cooper really need a pill that allows him to access 100% of his brain capacity to realise he'll look better with a haircut, a shave and a nice suit?

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Elle Woods - Legally Blonde

    For those in doubt that smart people can still wear marshmallow pink clothes, Reese Witherspoon rams it home in her Jackie Kennedy court attire.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Ronald - Can't Buy Me Love

    A geeky, young Patrick Dempsey pays a cheerleader to make him look cool - and she manages to turn him into Sean Penn. It's not really Sean Penn, but it could be Celebrity Separated At Birth gold.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Toula - My Big Fat Greek Wedding

    Ignoring your parents wishes and experimenting with make-up are common themes for rebellious young high schoolers - not so much for 30-year-olds. But that didn't stop My Big Fat Greek Wedding becoming one of the highest grossing rom-coms of all time.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Charlotte - Now, Voyager

    Now substantial eyebrows are all the rage, it's easy to wonder why they were out of fashion for so long. One look at Bette Davis playing a repressed dowager's daughter on the verge of a nervous breakdown in Now, Voyager answers that question. Three months' psychiatric care, a new wardrobe and a merciless tweezer session later and she's a swan ready to take to the water - literally; she unveils her new, improved self on a lengthy cruise.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Gigi - Gigi

    Being trained as an upper class mistress would bring out the tomboy in any girl and Leslie Caron gives an Oscar-winning performance as the obnoxious courtesan learning the tricks of the trade in early 20th century Paris.

    She does, however, lose the straw bonnet and turn into a young lady via a nice dress and an updo, in this slightly seedy take on the classic Cinderella tale.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Katie - She's Out of Control

    This film is so depressingly bad it almost forced the late, great Roger Ebert to quit his job as a film critic. Nonetheless, it features Ami Dolenz in Deirdre Barlow specs, which are arguably key to a really satisfying makeover.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Mrs. de Winter - Rebecca

    Dressing up as your new husband's philandering first wife, who he accidentally killed in a fit of rage, is a bit of a party faux pais, but at least Joan Fountaine's unintentionally creepy makeover ensures a grand entrance.

  • 50 Best Movie Makeovers

    Cinderella, Cinderella

    Recipient of the original makeover, the Cinderella of our nursery rhymes gets the big screen treatment in this 1950 Disney classic.


Share this article


Anna Pollitt

Anna is a freelance writer and editor who’s been making her dime from online since 2007. She’s a regular at, ITV News and Emerald Street and moonlights as a copywriter and digital content consultant.