Have you ever watched a movie over and over, and only realized your fav actor was in it as the credits are rolling? Sometimes celebs are so unrecognizable in their movies that even die-hard fans can’t spot them. Maybe it’s an older movie starring a seven year-old version of a current popular celebrity, or maybe they changed their appearance so drastically that they looked like a totally different person.
The most dedicated actors are willing to go that extra mile to nail a performance, even if it means gaining (or losing) 50 pounds, waiting eight hours to get their makeup perfect, or wearing bizarre prosthetics and special effects makeup. Either way, when an actor becomes the role they’re playing, it can be hard to realize “oh, THAT’S who that was.” Here are some of the most unrecognizable celebs in popular movies.
1. Anne Hathaway in Princess Diaries
Obviously, we had to start with the iconic celeb transformation in the first Princess Diaries movie with Anne Hathaway. At the beginning of the film, we see Hathaway portraying a young Mia Thermopolis, the unknowing princess of Genovia, who just so happens to also be an awkward high-schooler. She has thick and bushy hair, dark glasses, unruly eyebrows and questionable style. While, of course, she looks like a totally normal and cute teenager, she doesn’t look anything like the Anne Hathaway we know and love today. After finding out she’s a princess, she has an extreme makeover that includes hairstyling, contact lenses, eyebrow plucking, and subtle makeup. Suddenly, we see the Anne Hathaway we’ve all become familiar with.
2. Charlize Theron in Monster
It’s no secret that Charlize Theron is one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. That’s what makes her celeb transformation so shocking. In her starring role as Aileen Wuornos in Monster, Theron is nearly unrecognizable. In her portrayal of a real-life, female serial killer, she was forced to drastically alter her appearance. This transformation included fake teeth, shaved eyebrows, a weight gain of 30 pounds, and a whole lot of stage makeup.
3. Taylor Momsen in How the Grinch Stole Christmas
While this celeb transformation wasn’t super extreme, it definitely went unnoticed by a whole lot of people. In How the Grinch Stole Christmas you may have been unaware that edgy singer/actress Taylor Momsen had a part in the film. In 2000, Momsen played Cindy Lou Who when she was just seven years old. While the role didn’t require anything drastic like a huge amount of stage makeup, many of us never realized that the girl playing Cindy was the same girl who played Jenny Humphrey on Gossip Girl.
4. Christian Bale in American Hustle
Christian Bale is kind of the king when it comes to celebrity transformation. One of his most memorable looks was in the 2013 film American Hustle, where he played con artist Irving Rosenfeld. For the role, Christian Bale essentially became Rosenfeld, who was known for wearing bad toupees, cheesy suits, and jewelery. To fulfill the role accurately, Bale needed to gain weight — 43 pounds to be exact. Bale credited the massive weight gain to eating pretty much anything he could get his hands on, and quickly went from his usual 185 up to about 228 pounds.
5. John Travolta in Hairspray
If you weren’t super familiar with Hairspray, you may have been surprised to learn that John Travolta was playing the role of Edna Turnbald, Tracy’s mother. Since the first ever Hairspray film, directed by John Waters, the role of Edna has been performed in drag. John Travolta’s celeb transformation for the role made him nearly unrecognizable — we’re talking huge hair, a fat suit, and tons of cute, sequined dresses. Basically, it was a far cry from the way we remember him as a leather-clad hunk in Grease.
6. Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder
This celebrity transformation is definitely one of the most impressive. In seeing Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder, we learned the true power of stage makeup, wardrobe and a bald cap. In the raunchy film, Cruise portrays Les Grossman, a studio manager with a bit of a temper in charge of producing the film-within-the-film, Tropic Thunder. He’s balding, a little bit chubby, auburn-haired and sports a goatee. Basically, he looks nothing at all like the dark-haired, clean-shaven Tom Cruise we would recognize in movies like The Edge of Tomorrow or Mission Impossible.
7. Jennifer Lawrence in X-Men
And finally, we couldn’t talk about any celeb transformation without mentioning the X-Men movies. In X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse and X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Jennifer Lawrence plays Mystique, a mutant shapeshifter. Of course, this would require some crazy stage makeup, and J-Law is nearly unrecognizable with her all-blue skin, fiery red hair and yellow eyes. According to Lawrence, the full body transformation would take eight hours to complete. That’s commitment!
8. Nicole Kidman in The Hours
If you’re not familiar with The Hours you may not be aware that it contains an unbelievable incredible transformation. The Hours is a 2002 film about three women whose lives are greatly impacted by the works of Victorian writer, Victoria Woolf, including Woolf herself, played by Nicole Kidman. The use of stage makeup and prosthetics in her part is so subtle, it’s almost impossible to recognize that it’s actually Kidman herself.
9. Emma Thompson in Harry Potter
Emma Thompson is an expert in perfecting the celebrity transformation. She’s played a ton of extremely-versatile roles (see: Nanny McPhee), but none more iconic than her role in Harry Potter, playing Professor Sybil Trelawney. In fact, you may not have noticed that Thompson played the Divinations professor until seeing the credits. With her wild hair, googly-eyed glasses, draped clothing and extremely bizarre personality — it’s hard to believe that the kooky professor is the same woman who played Karen in Love Actually. Like, what?!
10. Tom Hanks in Castaway
You probably knew Tom Hanks was in Castaway simply because it’s ICONIC, but when you take a minute to look at his transformation, it’s pretty impressive. In one of his most famous roles of all time, the actor looks a hell of a lot different from how we would describe him. As Chuck Noland, Hanks had to look like — well, a castaway. He grew out his hair so it was unrecognizably-unruly, grew a bushy beard, and lost over fifty pounds to look the part of a starving man, washed onto an island after a plane crash. What’s most shocking about this? Hanks lost the weight in just four months, eating almost nothing but veggies. So yeah, talk about suffering for your art.
11. Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club
This is another celebrity transformation that required some serious weight loss. Again, not in a healthy way but a portraying-someone-in-poor-health way. For Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey played Ron Woodroof, an AIDS patient in the 1980s. For his role, he had to lose about 40 pounds in order to appear like he was truly unwell. McConaughey had to eat nearly nothing to drop all that weight, stating in an interview that he nearly lost his appetite because his stomach and other organs were shrinking. Scary.
12. Rooney Mara in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
In another super dramatic celebrity transformation, check out Rooney Mara in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. If you read the book, you know that Lisbeth has a seriously unique sense of style. In order for Mara to believably portray this badass, totally-punk computer hacker, it would require a serious change in her look. Mara, typically a doe-eyed beauty with bright blue eyes and soft features looked unrecognizable with bleached eyebrows, tons of piercings, black hair, and crazy-short bangs.
13. Ashley Benson in 13 Going on 30
This one wasn’t technically a celeb transformation, but we can almost guarantee that no one recognized a super-young Ashley Benson in 13 Going On 30 (that’s her, third from the right). If you’re familiar with this classic rom-com, you know that the movie starts in the ’80s watching young Jenna rink trying to fit in. All she wants is to be one of the cool girls, one of whom is Pretty Little Liars star, Ashley Benson. Additionally, another one of the girls is played by Room star, Brie Larson (far right).
14. Mila Kunis in Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves
This celeb transformation brings us to another throwback, Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves. While significantly less popular than the original, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids movies, any die-hard Disney kid saw this movie when it was released on VHS. The film is about how a boy named Adam’s dad accidentally shrinks himself and his friend, Gordon. The two adults try to get themselves back to true size while the kids — Adam, Jenny and Mitch have control of the house. Jenny has a few friends over, and one of them is — you guessed it — a teeny-tiny Mila Kunis.
15. Cate Blanchett in I’m Not There
This celeb transformation was so good, it’s pretty hard to believe it’s real. In the 2007 film, I’m Not There, six actors portray the many different lives of Bob Dylan. While every actor brings something unique and special to the table, no one’s portrayal was more surprising and impressive than Cate Blanchett’s. The bushy hair, dark sunglasses, cigarette-smoking, fashion style and attitude required for Blanchett’s transformation are what make it truly incredible. She even snagged an Oscar nomination for the role!
16. Tilda Swinton in Grand Budapest Hotel
It’s pretty well-known that Tilda Swinton is an extremely versatile actress. Her unique looks and incredible acting ability make her like a chameleon — she can play nearly any role and it’s totally believable. One role in particular that she was ~eerily~ believable in was her portrayal of Madame D. in Wes Anderson’s, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Major props to the makeup artist for this film. Swinton’s spotty and wrinkly skin, paired with a believable, white wig and glassy, blue contacts make her look exactly like a much, much older version of herself.
17. Robert DeNiro in Frankenstein
In the 1994 film, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Robert De Niro’s celeb transformation was monstrous (see what I did there?). No, he didn’t play Frankenstein, he played Frankenstein’s monster or, “The Creation.” This movie was considered one of the most faithful recreations of the Mary Shelley novel, and a huge part of that could be contributed to De Niro’s appearance. Rather than the silly-looking green monster we all know and love, De Niro looks the way Shelley wrote the character — unbelievably grotesque.
18. Bill Skarsgård in It
Granted, the whole point of being a clown is wearing a whole bunch of makeup and a ridiculous costume. However, something about seeing Bill Skarsgård in It was unbelievably creepy. Skarsgård, usually a handsome and sophisticated actor, was unrecognizable and straight-up terrifying in his transformation into Pennywise the Clown, a shapeshifting clown that preys on children and essentially possesses them. Pennywise looks like every creepy clown you had nightmares about… times about a million. We’re talking glowing yellow eyes, white skin, scary teeth and a giant, receding hairline that (for some reason) adds a significant amount of scariness to the whole look.
19. Halle Berry in Cloud Atlas
Despite Halle Berry’s countless starring roles, her most dramatic celeb transformation was probably in the sci-fi film, Cloud Atlas. The entire movie takes place across various generations and time periods to show how various decisions can have impacts later down the road. This means that the movie contains tons of crazy makeovers for all of the actors within it, but none more wild than Halle Berry’s. For one of her transformations, Berry plays Jocasta, a white English woman. The transformation is super-believable and really well-done.