Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for over two years.
Hollywood is full of movies featuring epic, ugly-duckling-to-beautiful swan moments. Whether it's a girl finding out she's heir to royalty (The Princess Diaries) or an FBI agent going undercover in a beauty pageant (Miss Congeniality), films are full of fabulous beauty transformations. Let's take a look at the top 13 marvelous movie makeovers.
Mia Thermopolis (The Princess Diaries)
Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway), a frizzy-haired, geeky high-school nobody has the ultimate butterfly transformation when she finds out she is heir to the throne of Genovia. When Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews) saw the state her granddaughter (and her hair) was in, she immediately knew Mia was in dire need of refining. With the help of the royal team and hilarious Paolo, they plucked, blow-dried and straightened until a true princess emerged.
Fun Fact: Anne Hathaway had to wear a thick clip-in hairpiece to give her hair a bushier appearance. The hairpiece became known as "the beast" by cast and crew. Her pre-makeover eyebrows took an hour to apply and each tiny hair was individually glued on.
Laney Boggs (She's All That)
The focus of the film She's All That centers around the makeover of Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook), an "ugly duckling" that transforms into a sexy swan. High school hotshot Zach Siler (Freddie Prinze Jr.) accepts a bet to transform an unattractive nobody into a prom queen. What transpires is an epic makeover that results in a sleek, sexy Laney descending the staircase in that iconic red dress and heels. Zach couldn't keep his eyes off the stunning Laney, and neither could fans everywhere.
Fun Fact: Rachel Leigh Cook's character name, Laney Boggs, is a combination of two characters played by Winona Ryder: Kim Boggs in Edward Scissorhands (1990) and Lelaina "Laney" Pierce in Reality Bites (1994). This is a nod to Cook and Ryder's physical resemblance.
Vivian Ward (Pretty Woman)
When street savvy hooker Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) is hired by corporate raider Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) to be his escort for the week, an undeniable attraction soon sparks. Of course, the two can't attend upscale, lavish events with Vivian in thigh-high boots and a blonde wig. Unsurprisingly, she undergoes a mega fashion transformation that results in some serious outfit envy. Who could possibly forget that satisfying moment when Vivian returned to a store on Rodeo Drive, and tells off the incredibly rude salesperson? "Big mistake! Big! HUGE!" is right!
Fun Fact: The bathtub in the scene where Vivian is singing had a lot of detergent in it to make a lot of thick bubbles. The detergent was so strong that it rinsed the red dye out of Julia Roberts' hair. She had to have it re-dyed later that night.
Sandy Olsson (Grease)
When it comes to movie makeovers, it's impossible not to think about Sandy's (Olivia Newton-John's) epic good girl goes bad transformation in 1978's Grease. Going from preppy girl-next-door to a leather-clad, red lipped vixen in order to impress her love Danny Zuko (John Travolta). Ironically, he himself tried to change, even sporting a letterman jacket to win over his lady. Sandy's transformation instantly became an iconic movie moment, with her skin-tight pants and red heels stealing the show.
Fun Fact: Due to a zipper breaking, Olivia Newton-John had to be sewn into the tight black pants she wears in the last sequence (the carnival at Rydell).
Eliza Doolittle (My Fair Lady)
The iconic and stunning Audrey Hepburn underwent one of the first major cinematic makeovers for her role as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. The story follows a young Cockney flower girl who dreams of owning a florist in the late 1800s. With the help of an arrogant phoneticist professor (Rex Harrison), her speech is refined and she dons a cute fringe cut, feathery bonnet and bold lipsticks. Eliza is transformed from a pauper to posh.
Fun Fact: When Audrey Hepburn was first informed that her voice wasn't strong enough and that she would have to be dubbed, she walked out. She returned the next day and in typical graceful Hepburn fashion, apologized to everybody for her "wicked behavior."
Andy Sachs (The Devil Wears Prada)
Anne Hathaway must have a thing for fabulous movie makeovers! The actress did it again when she starred as Andy Sachs, a college graduate who goes to New York and lands a job at a powerful fashion magazine. Andy could care less about fashion and the beauty industry and hopes to one day be a writer or reporter, but desperately wants to add Runway magazine to her resume. As she famously mused, "To be like them, you have to dress like them," and she trades her bland sweaters and un-styled hair for a blunt bang and wardrobe fit for any true fashionista. Alas, the transformation wasn't enough to keep her at Runway.
Fun Fact: On the first day of filming, Meryl Streep (Miranda Priestly) told Anne Hathaway, "I think you're perfect for the role. I'm so happy we're going to be working together." Then she paused and followed up with, "That's the last nice thing I'll say to you."
Gracie Hart (Miss Congeniality)
Sassy and rough-around-the-edges Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) is an FBI agent with a fondness for over-sized suits and poor dining etiquette. When she is forced to go undercover as a beauty pageant contestant, she is introduced to the harsh realities of grooming and the beauty world. With the help of pageant consultant Victor Melling (Michael Caine), Gracie goes from drab to fab in a memorable makeover moment. After some much needed waxing, plucking, styling and grooming, Gracie truly is Miss Congeniality.
Fun Fact: At the opening premiere of the film, when Sandra Bullock got out of the car she accidentally tripped and fell, just like her character did quite a few times in Miss Congeniality. Attendants actually though Bullock staged the tripping, but she was just clumsy.
Josie Geller (Never Been Kissed)
In Never Been Kissed, Drew Barrymore starred as Josie Geller, an insecure 25-year-old copy editor who is tasked with going undercover at a high school in order to write a story. It doesn't take long before Josie finds herself re-living the nightmare that was her own teenage years. With a little help from her brother Rob (David Arquette), she is able to overcome her traumatic memories of the past and transitions to a confident, self-aware reporter who even gets her first kiss.
Fun Fact: Never Been Kissed was the first film produced by Drew Barrymore and her production company, Flower Films.
Cady Heron (Mean Girls)
Not all movie makeovers are for the better, as learned by Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) in Mean Girls. New girl Cady is introduced to the world of high school and the Plastics, a trio of rude girls with great hair and a fondness for pink. As she falls deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of popularity, Cady transforms from a shy, home-schooled girl to the Queen B herself. Her hair gets shinier, outfits tinier and her attitude becomes just like her foe, Regina George. By the end of the film, Cady finds herself again and manages to make it out of the pull of the Plastics. How fetch is that?
Fun Fact: Initially, Lindsay Lohan was cast to play Regina George, but she ultimately decided to play the "nice girl" Cady so the public would not base her real personality on Regina's.
Marisa Ventura (Maid in Manhattan)
A true take on the Cinderella story, Maid in Manhattan centers on hotel maid Marisa Ventura (Jennifer Lopez), who catches the eye of politician Christopher Marshall (Ralph Fiennes) when she tries on a wealthy guest's clothing. Instead of confessing that she not a rich socialite, Marisa hides her true identity by donning fancy clothes and diamonds. The charade makes for epic fashion moments, including Marisa in this stunning strapless pink gown and jewels.
Fun Fact: The film is loosely based on a true story. In 1959, Steven Rockefeller, son of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, married Anne-Marie Rasmussen, a maid who had worked at his family's Manhattan hotel.
Tai Frasier (Clueless)
Plucky Beverly Hills new girl Tai (Brittany Murphy) was totally clueless to the lifestyles of her privileged peers. With some makeover magic by "It Girls" Cher (Alicia Silverstone) and Dione (Stacey Dash), she blossomed into a chic and refined, albeit near carbon copy of her fellow high school student. No amount of outer transformation could smother her grunge-loving soul and crush on the object of her affection, burn-out Travis (Breckin Meyer).
Fun Fact: During the film, there are fifty-three different kinds of tartan/plaid used, seven of which are worn by Cher, and twelve by other major characters.
Toula Portokalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding)
Toula Portokalos (Nia Vardalos) starts out in My Big Fat Greek Wedding as a frumpy and cynical 30-year-old woman, but gains confidence both inside and out as the film progresses. She takes college courses and polishes up her look by ditching her thick-rimmed glasses and baggy clothes for flattering outfits and fresh make-up. Her new look leads her on a path to a happier life, and straight to the man of her dreams, Ian Miller (John Corbett). This underdog tale helped the film become one of the highest-grossing rom-coms of all time.
Fun Fact: The film was written by it's leading lady, Nia Vardalos, and was originally a one-woman stage play she dramatized and starred in.
The original movie makeover queen, Cinderella was given the royal treatment by her fairy godmother with glass slippers, a shimmering blue ball gown and dreamy prince. Her fairy tale transformation saw the titular character go from a floor-scrubbing peasant to an elegant, magical princess. Cinderella inspired many little girls' real life makeover fantasies and is truly the best rags-to-riches film.
Fun Fact: The transformation of Cinderella's torn dress to that of the glittering blue ball gown was considered to be Walt Disney's favorite piece of animation.
© 2019 Rachel M Johnson
Rachel M Johnson (author) on August 14, 2019:
Hi Jacqueline, thank you for checking out the article! Pretty Woman is one of my favorites and I also love Mia’s makeover in The Princess Diaries too.
Jacqueline G Rozell on August 14, 2019:
Agree with Frank. Good article and the choices are logical and not off the wall. "Pretty Woman" will probably always be my favorite because of the actors, and Miss Congeniality is right there, too.
Rachel M Johnson (author) on August 13, 2019:
Hi Frank, thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it!
Frank Racioppi on August 13, 2019:
Great article. Well researched, lively writing and interesting topic. Well done.