The girl is pretty, but her beauty is hidden behind frumpy clothes and big glasses. She needs to go through an outward transformation to realise that the beauty was inside of her all this while. She needs a makeover. Is it even a rom-com from the ’90s-early 2000s if it doesn’t feature a more-than-a-minute long metamorphosis of the female lead? The answer is a no.
Cinema’s most trustworthy—and memorable—trope is the makeover montage. On the surface of it, it’s just a shallow transformation set to a peppy soundtrack, but it’s not as regressive as it appears. Yes, more often than not, the makeover’s motivation is to bowl over a guy, but the end result is all about confidence and realisation of self-worth. We’ve complied a list of 10 memorable movie makeover montages that are iconic and deserve a place in the hall of fame, if a hall of fame for movie makeover montages exists, that is.
Princess Diaries (2001)
The queen, or princess in this case, of movie makeovers Anne Hathaway has one of the most iconic makeover montage in her debut film Princess Diaries. After she discovers that she’s a princess, she has to transform from an awkward, frizzy-haired sixteen-year-old with Frida Kahlo eyebrows, to a princess fit for a ball. Cue Paolo and his two assistants, Gretchen and Helga, who come armed with beauty supplies and hilarious quips. The result? Anne Hathaway is finally a princess with a seal of approval from Julie Andrews herself.
Sonam Kapoor Ahuja’s Aisha is well-meaning, but ultimately clueless. When she spots a possible matchmaking opportunity between two of her friends, she says why not? The only problem is that the girl in question, Shephali, needs a makeover. Nothing a trip to some of the biggest designer stores and a pit stop at the salon won’t solve. Set to Amit Trivedi’s highly hummable tune, the makeover ticks all the boxes of a classic movie makeover montage, including booty taps, using a hairdryer as a microphone, and showcasing the finished look on the red carpet.
Pretty Woman (1990)
Julia Roberts‘ transformation from a lady of the night to Rodeo Drive princess was one of the most satisfying moments in movie history. Cherry on top of the already gorgeous sundae? Roberts gets to clap back at the snooty store clerk, who was rude to her, in the most iconic way possible. Watch for yourself.
She’s All That (1999)
When Zack (Freddie Prinze Jr) makes a bet with his frenemy Dean (Paul Walker, RIP) that he can turn any girl he picks from their high school into prom queen, Dean does him dirty and picks Laney Boggs (Rachel Leogh Cook). Now, Laney Boggs is a horrifying prospect for Zack because, while she’s pretty, she wears glasses and paint-splattered overalls which, if you’ve seen any high school movie set in the ’90s, pretty much makes you undateable. Zack recruits his sister to turn Laney from a pretty, bespectacled, paint covered overalls-wearing girl to a pretty, non bespectacled, red dress wearing girl. Not a big leap, but Freddy Prinze Jr’s reaction on seeing her descend down the stairs is pretty swoon-worthy.
Miss Congeniality (2000)
Romantic comedies in Hollywood peaked when someone thought of Sandra Bullock playing an FBI agent, who has to go undercover as a beauty pageant contestant to prevent a terrorist attack. Gracie Hart is a true blue tomboy and needs to transform into a graceful, glamorous pageant queen in a short time. Coach Victor Melling (a fantastic Michael Caine) is brought onboard to do the impossible. An abandoned airplane hangar is converted into a beauty factory, Gracie Lou Freebush is born, and the rest in giggle-inducing history.
This OG makeover had to make this list. Poor Cinderella was left crying, her dress torn into shreds, after her cruel step-sisters decided to run off to the Prince’s ball without her. Lucky for Cinderella, her Fairy Godmother had her back. A few nifty flicks of the wand later, Cinderella is ready for the ball in the perfect gown, with dainty glass slippers to match. Fairy Godmother’s makeover skills were so on point, that Cinderella’s step mother and sisters couldn’t clock her even when she became the centre of attention at the ball. A+, we say.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Frumpy fashion magazine assistant with journalist dreams, Andy (Anne Hathaway) is put firmly in her place when she is reminded by Stanley Tucci that millions would kill for her job and it wouldn’t hurt her to put in an effort. He then helps her realise, through a walk in the fabled fashion closet, that caring about how you present yourself to others doesn’t have to be superficial. A (not-so-quick stop) at the beauty department later, we’re greeted with a new and polished Andy that made the scathing Emily Blunt and Gisele Bündchen’s jaws drop.
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
Crazy Rich Asians is credited with a lot of things. With an all Asian cast, it won major points for representation in Hollywood. But it also marks the revival of the makeover montage of the late ’90s-early 2000s rom-coms. Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) has to attend the wedding of the century. Her friends Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina) and Oliver T’sien (Nico Santos) turn into fashion fairy godmothers and, after a lot of dancing, twirling, and exclamations of beauty disasters, Rachel is ready to go head-to-head with her boyfriend’s crazy rich, disapproving mother, in a beautiful tulle Marchesa gown. As a bonus to the classic getting-ready montage, we get a hilarious cameo from Peik Lin’s father, played by Ken Jeong.
The House Bunny (2008)
The lives of a sorority house full of nerdy, socially awkward girls change forever after a former Playboy Playmate named Shelley (Anna Faris) becomes their house mom. The sorority needs new pledges fast, otherwise they’ll lose their house, but the only problem is that the girls are not popular and no new pledge wants to join their house. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happens next. Two words: Mass makeovers. The girls get make-up lessons, flirting tips, and remodel the house with new paint and some landscaping. The girls’ slo-mo walk through the campus, post makeovers, deserves a movie of its own.
Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)
In a nutshell, Ryan Gosling decides to Queer Eye Steve Carell, after he discovers him moping at the bar. His wife has cheated on him and he is down-in-the-dumps before his impending divorce. Ryan Gosling comes as beautiful, well-dressed force of nature and takes Cal through a shopping spree and an obligatory trip to the salon. Cal’s makeover is more about his damaged self-esteemed than chucking out his velcro wallet. While this is not a petition for Ryan Gosling to do makeover montages in all his forthcoming movies, this is also not NOT a petition for Ryan Gosling to do makeover montages in all his forthcoming movies.