Who can forget Pretty Woman, that most iconic of hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold movies? As we watch Julia Roberts’ irresistibly charming Vivian Ward shed her skintight cutout minidress, her thigh-high boots, and her etiquette ineptitude in favor of polka-dot dresses, red satin opera gowns, and elegant manners, we can’t help but wish for our very own million-dollar makeover—including the opportunity to tell off snotty salesladies in a high-end boutique. Vivian may stand out as an especially lovable beneficiary of such luxurious treatment, but she’s not the only movie character to have undergone a major transformation. The following five films make us realize that inside all of us is a knockout who’s just dying to show her face.
My Fair Lady
Although Audrey Hepburn’s status as a legendary female beauty is unshakable, her convincing turn as Eliza Doolittle in this 1964 pioneer of the makeover-movie genre proves her versatility as an actress. My Fair Lady follows a classic plotline: distinguished professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) makes a wager with a friend that by giving underprivileged, homely Eliza phonetics lessons, he can convince London high society that she’s one of them. Though the film hinges on Eliza’s mastery of the phrase “the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain,” its unexpected payoff is her physical metamorphosis from a plain Jane into a diamond-draped glamour-puss, complete with a spectacular gown and gloves, a head-turning descent down a staircase, and a romance for the ages.
The Breakfast Club
In John Hughes’s 1985 homage to teen angst, Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy) is one of a motley crew of malcontents thrown together for a Saturday in detention, though she’s the only member of the bunch who goes so far as to shake her dandruff onto a pencil drawing to make it “snow,” and who squishes Cap’n Crunch cereal and sugar between two slices of white bread to make her “lunch.” At the movie’s outset, it’s hard to believe that Allison will ever amount to anything but a goth misfit, let alone emerge as the fairest of them all, but that’s exactly what happens, thanks to rich-and-popular Claire (Molly Ringwald). This makeover scene gets off to a shaky start: as Claire removes most of Allison’s heavy eyeliner, she chastises, “You know, you look a lot better without all that black shit under your eyes,” and Allison retorts, “Hey, I like all that black shit.” But when the pair emerge from the bathroom, the fair-skinned, white eyelet–clad beauty accompanying Claire is a masterful study in minimalist makeup—and the apple of Emilio Estevez’s eye. Score!
“Cher’s main thrill in life is a makeover. It gives her a sense of control in a world full of chaos.” So says Dionne (Stacy Dash), who plays the best friend of budding fashionista and matchmaker Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) in this 1995 comedy about the privileged life of Beverly Hills teens. When tomboyish newcomer Tai (Brittany Murphy) comes on the scene, she fulfills Cher and company’s wildest dreams by allowing them to orchestrate a top-to-bottom revamp. Out go the red henna mop, the bushy brows, and the oversize flannel shirts; in come soft brown curls, perfectly tweezed arches, and cute miniskirts. Tai’s makeover doesn’t stop there, though—Cher also encourages her to polish her powers of articulation by using a new vocabulary in a sentence each day—famously, “Hopefully not sporadically.”
FBI agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) goes kicking and screaming into her makeover in this 2000 film, in which she accepts an unlikely undercover assignment as a beauty-pageant contestant in order to investigate a bomb threat. At the movie’s outset, the tough but geeky Gracie is blindly devoted to her career, at the expense of her physical appearance and her personal life. She can’t get a brush through her hair, she snorts when she laughs, and she can’t walk five steps without tripping on something. Not surprisingly, the prospect of her becoming a beauty queen inspires gales of laughter in her colleagues and her audiences—that is, until renowned beauty coach Victor Melling (Michael Caine) turns this ugly duckling into a gliding, smooth-tressed swan (albeit one clad in a tiara and a pink satin evening gown). Not only does Gracie save the pageant from ruin, but she also gets the ultimate trophy: a make-out session with smokin’ hot fellow agent Eric Matthews (Benjamin Bratt).
The Devil Wears Prada
In this 2006 movie based on Lauren Weisberger’s novel by the same name, aspiring do-gooder journalist Andrea Sachs (Anne Hathaway) takes a job at the fashion magazine Runway and sells her soul to the editorial devil (in the form of one very chic but wicked Meryl Streep, playing Miranda Priestly, a character widely rumored to be based on Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue). The one good thing that comes out of Andy’s hellacious tenure there is a makeover of très haute proportions. She swaps her frizzy ponytail for sleek locks with eye-skimming bangs; her Ann Taylor Loft wardrobe for drool-worthy couture ensembles (and drops a clothing size, to boot); her clunky loafers for Louboutins; and her goofy briefcase for an embellished La Rue tote. The only factor that stopped Andy’s transformation from being an unadulterated triumph was the bitter jealousy it inspired in women across America.
That’s a wrap, folks. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading straight to the makeup department at Bloomingdale’s for a little upgrade of my own. The next time you see me, try not to stare.