23 Most Bizarre Actor-To-Character Transformations, Ranked

The makeup laden transformations allowed these actors to redefine the phrase “unrecognizable.”

With Tom Hanks’ recent over-the-tippy-top performance in Elvisthe 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 OppenheimerI’ve decided to rank the 23 of the most wild and bizarre makeup transformations in recent memory.


Tom Cruise, 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.


Johnny Depp, Tusk

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

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.


Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar

Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

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.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Looper

TriStar Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

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.


Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Searchlight Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

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.


Al Pacino, Dick Tracy

Alamy / Touchstone Pictures / Album

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


Tom Hardy, Capone

Vertical Entertainment / Courtesy Everett Collection

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.


Vincent D’Onofrio, Men in Black

Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures Releasing / Alamy

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.


Christian Bale, Vice

Matt Kennedy / Annapurna Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

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 Fighterand Rescue Dawnhad essentially turned himself into an uncanny replica of the universally hated ex-vice president.


Kristen Wiig, Zoolander 2

Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

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.


Jared Leto, House of Gucci

MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection

Jared Leto is known for his radical movie transformations, for better or for worse, but they are 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.


Danny DeVito, Batman Returns

Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

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.


John Travolta, Battlefield Earth

Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

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.


Mia Goth, X

A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection

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.


Nick Stahl, Sin City

Dimension Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

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.


Dan Aykroyd, Nothing But Trouble

Warner Bros / Courtesy Everett Collection

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


Charlize Theron, Monster

Newmarket Releasing / Courtesy Everett Collection

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.


Colin Farrell, The Batman

Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

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 zero identifying similarities between the almost Irish actor and his onscreen counterpart in The Batman.


Tom Hanks, Elvis

Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

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.”


Dominic West, Punisher: War Zone

Lions Gate / Courtesy Everett Collection

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.


Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Focus Features / Courtesy Everett Collection

Thought 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.


Tilda SwintonSuspiria

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

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.


Ice-T, Tank Girl

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

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.

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