The 23 Most Bizarre Cinematic Makeup Transformations, Ranked

With Tom Hanks' recent over-the-tippy-top performance in Elvis, the discourse has once again turned toward the more radical actor-to-character transformations in cinema history.

Warner Bros. Pictures

With this in mind, combined with the white-hot discussion of Robert Downey Jr.'s shocking appearance on the set of Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer, I've decided to rank the 23 of the most wild and bizarre makeup transformations in recent memory.

23.Tom Cruise, Tropic Thunder

"Tropic Thunder"

With a balding cap, face prosthetics, and a body suit to make him look akin to notoriously abrasive producers like Scott Rudin and Harvey Weinstein, Tom Cruise showcased a ridiculous look to match his character Les Grossman’s loud and obnoxious personality in Tropic Thunder.


22.Johnny Depp, Tusk


Sporting cartoonishly exaggerated makeup, including an oddly phallic prosthetic nose and a bizarre wig to accentuate his strange wardrobe, Johnny Depp decided to fully embrace the goofiness of Kevin Smith’s “True North” universe with the Inspector Clouseau-esque character of Guy LaPointe.

Prod DB / Alamy / Demarest Films / SModcast Pictures / XYZ Films

21.Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar

"J. Edgar"

Adopting the pug-like makeup and rigid posture of the disgraced former FBI director, Leonardo DiCaprio turned audiences heads by shirking his naturally boyish good looks for Clint Eastwood’s controversial biopic.

Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

20.Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Looper


Joseph Gordon-Levitt utilized makeup effects from esteemed artist Kazuhiro Tsuji as well as blue eye lens caps to render his face closer to that of Bruce Willis, who played the elderly version of his character in Rian Johnson’s exceptional sci-fi film.

TriStar Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

19.Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

"The Eyes of Tammy Faye"

Jessica Chastain won the Academy Award for her incredible portrayal of Tammy Faye Bakker, for which she became nearly indistinguishable from her traditional visage as she advanced into the kind-hearted evangelist’s later years.

Searchlight Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

18.Al Pacino, Dick Tracy

"Dick Tracy"

To play a self-designed caricature version of himself to match his comic strip gangster villain in Dick Tracy, Al Pacino endured more than three hours of daily makeup prosthetic application.

Alamy / Touchstone Pictures / Album

17.Tom Hardy, Capone


Not only did this British heartthrob transform himself into the notorious Depression-era crime boss for Josh Trank’s surreal drama, but the film surrounds Al Capone as his mind and body are torn asunder by untreated syphilis, forcing Hardy to look more gnarled, icky, and crazed than ever before.

Vertical Entertainment / Courtesy Everett Collection

16.Vincent D’Onofrio, Men in Black

"Men in Black"

The celebrated actor crafted perhaps his most memorable performance while looking like an utter mess of a human, complete with sagging, rotting skin that felt just oddball enough to match the film’s horror comedy tone.

Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures Releasing / Alamy

15.Christian Bale, Vice


When the trailer for Vice hit, the world was shocked that Christian Bale, who has been known previously for his unbelievable weight loss for roles in The Machinist, The Fighter, and Rescue Dawn, had essentially turned himself into an uncanny replica of the universally hated ex-vice president.

Matt Kennedy / Annapurna Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

14.Kristen Wiig, Zoolander 2

"Zoolander 2"

The Zoolander films are known for their over-the-top makeup transformations, but none felt as off-putting and freaky as Kristen Wiig’s villainous “beauty guru” in the second Zoolander outing.

Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

13.Jared Leto, House of Gucci

"House of Gucci"

Jared Leto is known for his radical movie transformations, for better or for worse, but they all pale in comparison to his mind-melting, borderline offensive performance as the bald, overweight, and mustachioed Paolo Gucci in Ridley Scott’s glamorous true crime film.

MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection

12.Danny DeVito, Batman Returns

"Batman Returns"

In a role so incredibly against type for the comedic actor, Danny DeVito donned a fat suit and four hours of prosthetic makeup designed by legendary SFX artist Stan Winston to portray Tim Burton’s deranged vision for The Penguin.

Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

11.John Travolta, Battlefield Earth

"Battlefield Earth"

Even the strangest wig from John Travolta’s recent roles can’t match the utterly bonkers makeup prosthetics and body suit required for the actor’s scenery-chewing turn in this abominable passion project.

Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

10.Mia Goth, X


In addition to her lead role as one of the victims of this remarkable modern slasher, Mia Goth underwent an extensive makeup process to pull double duty to play Pearl, one of the elderly sociopaths stalking her other character and her cast-mates.

A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection

9.Nick Stahl, Sin City

"Sin City"

Sin City has numerous fantastic makeup transformations to match the characters of its source material, including some substantial makeovers for Mickey Rourke and Benicio del Toro, but Nick Stahl’s colorful and grotesque metamorphosis into the neon-yellow Ethan Roark Jr. takes the cake.

Dimension Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

8.Dan Aykroyd, Nothing But Trouble

"Nothing But Trouble"

Dan Aykroyd gleefully goes into full-on monster makeup territory for his ghoulish dual roles in this gross and cuckoo bananas cult classic.

Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

7.Charlize Theron, Monster


The talented, bold, and beautiful South African performer stunned audiences with her full-body transformation into the ruthless serial killer Aileen Wuornos in a role that would rightfully earn her the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Newmarket Releasing / Courtesy Everett Collection

6.Colin Farrell, The Batman

"The Batman"

For the second appearance of The Penguin on this list, Colin Farrell’s portrayal of the character is ranked higher on the list due to the transformative elements of his makeup: While DeVito’s characterization plays to the actor’s features, there’s almost zero identifying similarities between the Irish actor and his onscreen counterpart in The Batman.

Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

5.Tom Hanks, Elvis


Tom Hanks isn’t afraid to change his look up for a role that demands it, but for the latest in his slate of biographical roles, the legendary performer wore the visage of Col. Tom Parker with makeup and costuming that could only be described as “out of this world.”

Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

4.Dominic West, Punisher: War Zone

"Punisher: War Zone"

Transforming into The Punisher’s most stomach-churning villain during Frank Castle’s third on-screen at-bat, Dominic West dedicated two hours every day to getting the appropriately revolting makeup for “Jigsaw” applied to his face.

Lions Gate / Courtesy Everett Collection

3.Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

"Darkest Hour"

Though Darkest Hour was far from the actor’s first experience with transformative makeup (see: True Romance and Hannibal), Gary Oldman’s astounding transfiguration into Winston Churchill helped accrue him his first Academy Award for Best Actor.

Focus Features / Courtesy Everett Collection

2.Tilda Swinton, Suspiria


While her other transformation in the film would delve a little too far into spoiler territory, Tilda Swinton adopted an entire different identity, that of “Lutz Ebersdorf,” to play an 80-year-old Dr. Josef Klemperer among her trio of roles within Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Suspiria.

Prod DB / Amazon Studios / Frenesy Film Company / Mythology Entertainment / Alamy

1.Ice-T, Tank Girl

"Tank Girl"

Of all of the movie makeup transformations committed to film, perhaps none will ever be as bizarre and extraordinary as Stan Winston’s mind-blowing makeup for Ice-T, who netted a reported million-dollar payday to play a kangaroo-human hybrid supersoldier in the punky post-apocalyptic comedy Tank Girl.

Rights Managed / Trilogy Entertainment Group / Ronald Grant Archive / Mary Evans / Courtesy Everett Collection