25+ Most Impressive Prosthetic Transformations for Hollywood’s Biggest Movies

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Hey there, movie buffs and tech enthusiasts! If you think the only thing cooler than a superhero’s powers is their flashy costume, think again. We’ve compiled a list of the most jaw-dropping prosthetic transformations in Hollywood’s biggest movies. From scarred wizards to robotic warriors, these prosthetics go beyond just enhancing an actor’s appearance; they completely transform them into unrecognizable characters.

Ryan Reynolds / Deadpool

So, we all know Ryan Reynolds is a total heartthrob, right? But in Deadpool, he went from hot to… not so much. Thanks to some gnarly special effects makeup, Reynolds transformed into the scarred vigilante.

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To make it look even more realistic, the makeup team had to pile on layer after layer of prosthetics – NINE silicon pieces just on his noggin alone. That’s dedication, folks! And to think, all we need is a good hair day to feel like a superhero.

Johnny Depp / Alice in Wonderland

Johnny Depp had a lot of input into his Mad Hatter makeup in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. He researched and found out about Hatter’s Disease, which was caused by toxic chemicals used in hat-making.

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So, they made his skin super pale and added orange accents. Depp wanted to look like a madman who had been exposed to noxious fumes, and they nailed it.

Angelina Jolie / Salt

In the movie Salt, Angelina Jolie goes undercover as a man to throw off the bad guys. Let’s just say it was a pretty convincing disguise. Apparently, Jolie’s son Maddox even came to the set and didn’t recognize her until she said: “Mad.”

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Can you imagine being such a good actor that your kid can’t spot you? But not everyone was a fan of her manly makeover — Brad Pitt allegedly refused to kiss her while she was all done up. Hey, we get it, Brad. Sometimes it’s hard to smooch someone wearing a fake mustache.

Richard Brake / Game of Thrones

Creating a character for a movie or TV show isn’t always a quick and easy process. Just ask the Night King from Game of Thrones. His look took weeks to design! According to Barrie Gower, the prosthetic designer, “It’s such a complex department, and the builds that go into these things are quite time-consuming.”

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For example, they had to make a cast of the Night King’s head and face molds, which took a whopping six weeks. That’s not even counting the hours Richard Brake spent sitting in the makeup chair to bring the character to life. Talk about commitment!

Naomi Grossman / American Horror Story

Naomi Grossman’s transformation into Pepper on American Horror Story was seriously impressive. And even though it took some time to complete, Grossman loved every minute of the process. She recognized the serious talent and artistry that went into creating such an intricate look.

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Hey, who wouldn’t feel lucky to be a part of such a cool show? The transformation process was like a work of art, and Grossman was lucky enough to be the canvas. All we can say is bravo, Naomi!

Roddy McDowall / Planet of the Apes

Transforming the cast for Planet of the Apes was a monumental task requiring much prosthetic work. John Chambers was the top dog for makeup artistry for the movie, and he wanted all the actors to know what they were getting into before signing on.

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Apparently, many actors passed on the opportunity once they heard how much time was needed for makeup. But luckily, Chambers and producer Arthur Jacobs agreed that the actors needed to be somewhat visible under all that hair and makeup, so viewers could still relate to the characters.

Johnny Depp / Black Mass

In the movie Black Mass, Johnny Depp transformed into James “Whitey” Bulger, an Irish-American crime boss. The makeup team went all out to make Depp look like the real deal, even using bald caps with glued-on hair.

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They didn’t want to mess with Depp’s luscious locks. Who would? And to really make those baby blues pop, they added some blue contacts. Talk about a full-on transformation!

Jack Nicholson / Batman

So, in 1989, Jack Nicholson took on the iconic role of the Joker in Batman, and the makeup team had to work hard to get his look just right. Lead makeup artist Nick Dudman took loads of pictures of Jack’s expressions to nail the prosthetics.

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But the real challenge was finding a white that didn’t make him look like a ghost, especially against the dark set. No wonder they say it takes a village to make a movie!

Steve Carell / Foxcatcher

In 2014, Steve Carell went from a funny man to a serious character as James du Pont in Foxcatcher. How did he do it? With the help of a giant prosthetic nose, they strapped that thing on and spray-painted his face to make him look sickly.

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They also added some wrinkles, age spots, and other gnarly skin effects to complete the transformation. But, the best part? The makeup blended so well with Carell’s face that you couldn’t even tell it was prosthetics! Plus, he rocked some fake teeth to ensure he nailed the look.

Richard Armitage / The Hobbit

Did you know Richard Armitage had to sit in the makeup chair for three hours to become Thorin in The Hobbit? The makeup team went all out to make sure the end result was insanely detailed, even completely changing the structure of his entire head!

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Each prosthetic used cost around $2,000, which is crazy expensive. They had to handle them extremely carefully since they were so delicate and could only be used once. We can’t even imagine how much this movie’s makeup budget must have been!

Mila Kunis / Oz the Great and Powerful

Did you see Mila Kunis in Oz the Great and Powerful? She was absolutely unrecognizable as the wicked version of Theodora! Apparently, the movie needed an entire army of makeup and hair artists to pull off the transformation, making it one of the biggest American makeup shoots in years.

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Howard Berger was the mastermind behind Kunis’ transformation, covering her face in prosthetics so that the only part visible was her upper lip. And if that wasn’t enough, they painted her entire body! It’s no wonder they needed an entire team for this one.

Eddie Murphy / Coming to America

Hey, did you catch Eddie Murphy turning into Saul? It’s crazy! Rich Baker, a makeup artist, gave him an entirely different appearance by prosthetically covering every square inch of his skin.

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While Murphy portrayed several parts in the film, this one was the most intricate. He couldn’t stop laughing when he saw the cosmetics test run since he thought he looked really comical. He seems to have completely changed!

Charlize Theron / Monster

Whoa, did you see Charlize Theron in the movie Monster? Talk about a transformation! She went from having perfect skin to looking like she’s been sunbathing for decades. But here’s the catch — it was all thanks to some special makeup.

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Apparently, Theron had to gain weight for the role, so her face would look more realistic. Then the makeup team came in and completely revamped her face. They gave her some wild eyebrows, discolored veins, freckles, capillaries — you name it! You gotta give it to them, they did a pretty convincing job.

Eddie Redmayne / The Theory of Everything

Eddie Redmayne’s transformation in The Theory of Everything was pretty awesome, right? He played a young Stephen Hawking, and as the movie progressed, his character had to show the physical effects of ALS.

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Jan Swell was the lead makeup artist for the movie, and she had her work cut out for her. She studied pictures of Hawking from different times in his life to create accurate makeup changes. To achieve this, she used different mouths and earpieces to show the various stages of Hawking’s life. Talk about some great prosthetic skills!

Nicole Kidman / The Destroyer

Nicole Kidman in The Destroyer was amazing, but it wasn’t only because of her acting skills that this role stood out. It’s also the total transformation! They made her look like a middle-aged woman who’s been through some serious stuff — sun damage, sleep deprivation, stress; you name it.

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The makeup team did an amazing job of bringing her character to life. Of course, it helps that Kidman is a great actor too, but the makeup really sealed the deal.

Kelly Stables / The Ring Two

Whoa, in The Ring Two, Kelly Stables went from cute to creepy with the help of some serious prosthetics. At just 4’9″ tall, she looked like a little girl gone wrong.

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Her makeup team had to cover her from head to toe with prosthetics on her hands, feet, face, and neck to create an unsettling effect. The prosthetics were designed to make it look like her skin had been soaking in water for way too long. Talk about a transformation!

Ralph Fiennes / Harry Potter

Hey Potterheads! After waiting for three whole films, we finally got to see the big reveal of how Voldemort would look in the Harry Potter movies. Boy, did the makeup team go all out! They had to make his skin look like it was almost see-through, and they even edited his nose out digitally.

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Instead of regular nostrils, they gave him slits to make him look more snake-like. They used eyebrow blockers, fake teeth, fake nails, and vein tattoos to bring the Dark Lord to life.

Jim Carrey / How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Oh boy, Jim Carrey really committed to becoming the Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. They gave him a whole new face using prosthetics, which took a lot of work! Richard Baker, the head makeup artist, spilled the beans on the process.

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First, they had to clean Jim’s face so the prosthetics would stick. Then, they applied the prosthetics and a green base layer. Next came the yellow and purple shades to give the Grinch some depth. Finally, they added some hairpieces to really make him look furry and festive. Talk about dedication to a role!

Emma Thompson / Nanny McPhee

Would it surprise you to hear that Nanny McPhee‘s lead actress was the gorgeous Emma Thompson? We won’t be shocked if you don’t believe it when you first see her. The makeup artist Mark Coulier went to town on the prosthetics to give her the appearance of a complete hag with a mole, a snaggle-tooth, and a unibrow.

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With such realistic makeup, Thompson must have been ecstatic to see her story come to life. That she can still shine through all that makeup on her face is a testament to how excellent she is as an actress.

Jennifer Lawrence / X-Men

Can you believe Jennifer Lawrence had to sit in a makeup chair for seven hours just to become Mystique in the X-Men movies? Not only that, but her entire body had to be painted blue, which took six people to do! Talk about dedication to a role.

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J-Law did admit she was a bit worried about the paint going into her nose and eyes – we mean, who wouldn’t be? But hey, the end result was totally worth it!

Ian McKellen / Lord of the Rings

Ian McKellen may have been born with a pretty impressive schnoz, but to become the iconic wizard Gandalf, the makeup team had to take it to the next level. They gave him a prosthetic nose so big; you could park a bicycle on it! Not to mention the long hair and beard — he looked like he had just stepped out of a Lord of the Rings-themed hair salon.

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McKellen did have some input, though — he asked for a smaller nose when the sculptors made new ones out of silicon. Good call, Ian — we don’t want your nose sliding off during a pivotal scene!

Brendon Gleeson / Harry Potter

Let’s discuss Harry Potter’s Mad-Eye Moody. Let’s just say it wasn’t an easy job for Brendan Gleeson to perform. His face had to have many silicon components, including an animatronic eye, placed on it by the makeup crew throughout two and a half hours as he sat in a chair.

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Since Gleeson had a contract with set working hours, makeup artist Nick Dudman had to devise techniques to speed up the procedure. But in the end, everything came together, and we were left with a beautiful persona.

Jared Leto / Suicide Squad

Jared Leto’s Joker in Suicide Squad was no walk in the park for the makeup crew. Three hours of makeup every day just to get that crazy clown look! But you gotta hand it to Leto; it helped him get in the zone and stay there.

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They even had a whole department dedicated just to his face! It’s a good thing Leto had the patience because compared to Heath Ledger’s one-hour makeup and Joaquin Phoenix’s 15 minutes, he had it rough!

Nicholas Hoult / X-Men: First Class

Hey, did you know that the special effects makeup for Beast in X-Men: First Class was made by Studio ADI? According to makeup artist Alec Gillis, they aimed for a lion-like appearance, which differed significantly from Kelsey Grammer’s portrayal of the character in the original trilogy.

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To make it more lifelike, they chose fur rather than hair. He also had feline textures applied, which made him appear feral. Warm tones were applied in post-production to make the skin appear less monochrome. Overall, the makeup was fairly intricate, but the character came to life afterward.

Ian Scott / Game of Thrones

Anthrax’s guitarist, Ian Scott, appeared in Game of Thrones as a White Walker. Talk about a dream come true!

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Scott was totally fascinated by horror and fantasy movie makeup since he was a wee lad, so he was stoked to undergo his transformation. The makeup artists on the show are seriously talented, so it’s no surprise that Scott loved the process.

Ron Perlman / Hellboy

Ron Perlman went through an insane transformation to play Hellboy. He picked Jake Garber, a master of art direction, animatronics, and puppetry, to handle the intense makeup work. The prosthetics covered Perlman’s entire face, except for his eyelids, and it took four hours to apply!

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They even painted his body red and used tons of shading to make it look legit. We don’t know about you, but we don’t think we could handle sitting in a makeup chair for that long!

John Hurt / Elephant Man

Back in the ’80s, John Hurt took on a daunting role in the movie Elephant Man. He had to wear so many layers of prosthetics that it made his head spin. Literally. He said, “I think they finally managed to make me hate acting.”

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The movie tells the story of John Merrick, who was born with serious deformities in the 1800s. Unfortunately, people weren’t very accepting back then, so he was treated like a sideshow attraction for most of his life.

Karen Gillan / Guardians of the Galaxy

Karen Gillan’s transformation as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy was so intense that even her closest friends wouldn’t recognize her! Makeup artist David White compared it to a five-piece puzzle.

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When Gillan was auditioning for the role, she was told she’d have to shave her head, and thinking she wasn’t going to get the part, she agreed. But after a few screen tests, reality set in, and she found out she was really going to have to part ways with her locks.

Johnny Depp / Edward Scissorhands

It only took one hour and 45 minutes to get Johnny Depp’s Edward Scissorhands look for the movie! Yup, that’s right! Makeup artist Ve Neill and her team added some scars and simple makeup to his face, and voila — he was transformed into the iconic character!

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But let’s not forget about the intricate costume with those scissor hands — that probably took a little more time to put on!

Brad Pitt / The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

In The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Brad Pitt had to go through more makeup looks than a Kardashian does in a month! The flick saw him aging backward, so the makeup team had to put in a lot of work to make him look older, then younger, then older again — you get the drill.

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But hey, all those minimal pieces paid off as they helped tell the character’s story, and Brad Pitt looked dashing no matter his stage.

Val Kilmer / Citizen Twain

In Citizen Twain, Val Kilmer transformed to play Mark Twain. The legendary mustache of Mark Twain required layers of prosthetics and silicone accessories, which the makeup artist applied over the course of two hours.

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Kilmer snapped pictures at each step of the makeup application because the transformation so took him aback. Kilmer gave Twain a new look and life with the aid of cosmetics artists.

Ian Holm / The Lord of the Rings

You remember Bilbo Baggins from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, right? Well, Ian Holm had to go through quite the transformation to become him. He had so many layers of prosthetics and makeup on that he probably couldn’t recognize himself in the mirror.

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Bilbo was depicted at different stages of his life, so multiple makeup looks were needed. The WETA Workshop in New Zealand created the prosthetics for the movies, and it took about four hours for each character to get fully made up. That’s dedication!

Danny DeVito / Batman Returns

Oh boy, the transformation of Danny DeVito into the Penguin for Batman Returns was no easy feat! First up, they had to stick on his beak-like nose, which acted as the anchor for the rest of his makeup. Then they added two sets of fake teeth, giving DeVito quite the chompers.

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But that wasn’t all – to create a gross, bile-like fluid for the character, they mixed red and green food coloring with mouthwash. DeVito would take a mouthful of the concoction and let it ooze out throughout the scene.

Tim Curry / It

Let’s discuss Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise in It. He had to undergo a ridiculous makeup metamorphosis to get into character. For ideas on how to create the classic clown, makeup artist Bart J. Mixon completed his research and studied a ton of clown appearances.

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Curry didn’t want to wear too many prostheses, so some accommodations had to be made. Ultimately, the makeup was “light” with a few “battery-acid” accents to make it truly stand out.

Marlon Brando / The Godfather

When Marlon Brando landed the role of Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather, he had to convince the studio that he was the right man for the job. And how did he do that? By getting creative with some everyday items!

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He slicked back his hair with shoe polish and stuffed his cheeks with Kleenex to give his mouth a bulldog-like appearance. The directors were so impressed with his resourcefulness that they knew he was the perfect fit for the part. Who knew that shoe polish and tissues could make all the difference?

Margot Robbie / Mary Queen of Scots

Holy transformation, Batman! Margot Robbie looked totally different as Queen Elizabeth I in Mary Queen of Scots. It took four long hours to get her into character every day. First, they had to wrap her hair up and put on a bald cap and a wig.

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They used prosthetics to recreate the smallpox scars on Queen Elizabeth’s face and even changed her nose shape. The makeup designer, Jenny Shircore, got creative with placing the scars. Who knew you could use makeup to turn someone into an entirely different historical figure?

Paul Bettany / The Avengers

Well, it turns out that becoming Vision wasn’t as easy as waking up with superpowers. Makeup artist Jeremy Woodhead had to put in some work to get the color of Vision’s skin just right. They mixed many colors until they found the perfect shade that didn’t make him look like a walking tomato.

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Woodhead also didn’t want to cover up Paul Bettany’s gorgeous face with too many prosthetics, so they kept it minimal. They only used prosthetics on his forehead, the back of his head, and his neck, freeing the rest of his face. Vision needed to be able to move and groove, after all.

Bill Skarsgard / It (2017)

Oh boy, the makeup team for It really had their work cut out for them with Bill Skarsgård’s transformation into Pennywise. They wanted to give him a more youthful appearance, so they added some extra cheeks to Bill’s face.

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Plus, they had him study the movements of wild animals to really bring out the creepy clown’s personality. And let’s not forget about the fake teeth and yellow contacts that added to the freaky factor!

Jim Carrey / The Mask

Getting into character as The Mask was no easy feat for Jim Carrey! Sitting in the makeup chair for four hours would drive anyone nuts. It was worth it to bring that iconic green face to life.

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Carrey’s facial expressions were so out-of-this-world that they saved a lot of money on fancy special effects. Who needs CGI when you’ve got Jim Carrey contorting his face in all sorts of wacky ways?

John Rhys-Davies / Lord of the Rings

Gimli, son of Glóin! John Rhys-Davies must have had some serious patience to sit through hours of prosthetic work to become the stout dwarf. But did you know that Rhys-Davies had doubts about taking the role? He thought the movie would be a total flop and didn’t want to spend years in prosthetics for nothing.

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But boy, was he wrong! Plus, did you catch that hilarious trick he played on set? Rhys-Davies, missing a finger in real life, used a prosthetic one for the character and would go around with fake blood to prank his fellow cast and crew members. What a cheeky guy!

Robin Williams / Mrs. Doubtfire

For his role in Mrs. Doubtfire, Robin Williams wore a complete set of prosthetics because he would do anything for a good laugh. Even though it took a while to put everything on, the result was worth it.

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Even in the movie, there is a sequence where you can watch the transition take place. Because of all the sweat and dirt during filming, Williams had to wear eight layers of foam latex pieces on his head, which had to be rebuilt weekly. Not to mention how long it took to take everything off at the end of the day!

Josh Brolin / Deadpool 2

Josh Brolin went all out for his role as Cable in Deadpool 2, and the makeup team had their work cut out for them. The makeup designer Bill Corso said it was even more complicated than Deadpool’s look.

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They had to create a biomechanical body look that made it seem like Brolin was morphing into the character. Unlike the Terminator, Cable was infected with a disease that turned his skin into metal, so they had to make it look like he was constantly mutating. It sounds like a tough job, but the final result was worth it!

Tilda Swinton / The Grand Budapest Hotel

Let’s chat about how the makeup artists achieved Tilda Swinton’s grandmother-like appearance for The Grand Budapest Hotel. The makeup artist, Mark Coulier, has experience changing people’s looks because he has worked on films like Harry Potter.

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Coulier utilized a gentle silicone rubber that matched Swinton’s skin color perfectly to make Madame appear like an octogenarian. And what’s this? They received an Oscar for their outstanding effort! The hairstylist Frances Hannon added a great touch by applying the lipstick sloppily as if Madame had done so herself.

Angelina Jolie / Maleficent

Let’s take a look at Angelina Jolie’s transformation into Maleficent. The makeup team went all out for this one, using prosthetics and fake teeth to really make her look like the mistress of all evil. Disney even gave us a sneak peek at the process; let us tell you, it was no easy feat.

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First, they had to braid her hair tight to fit into the iconic horned headpiece. Then, they added prosthetics to her cheeks to give them those sharp edges that we all know and love. Last but not least, they popped in some fangs for the perfect finishing touch. Honestly, it’s a wonder Angelina Jolie even recognized herself by the end of it!

Heath Ledger / The Dark Knight

The Joker in The Dark Knight featuring Heath Ledger was iconic! There was no concept for those famous scars around his lips, so makeup artist Conor O’Sullivan had to build them! He merely had the thought that they would look cool, with punk culture influencing him.

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Just the lower lip was covered with prosthetics, while the rest of the makeup was kept purposefully unpolished to match the overall appearance of the outfit. Developing such a recognizable adversary must have been a lot of fun!