TV & Movies

6 Movie Makeovers That Never Went Out Of Style

In recent years, onscreen transformations have fallen out of fashion, but these classic examples stand the test of time.

by Bustle Editors
Stills from 'Legally Blonde' and 'Love & Basketball.'

Makeovers used to be practically required in a certain type of movie. They were an extra beat in the heroine’s journey, nestled somewhere between “first kiss with hot guy” and “almost fumbling hot guy.” Just like the goddess Athena guides Odysseus at the outset of his travels, a trusted girly mentor gives the heroine the power of beauty. Feminine allure: unlocked! (Think Sandra Bullock acquiring the power of lipstick in Miss Congeniality.) But the plot device has lost its appeal of late, with viewers rolling their eyes at the notion that women must first conform to conventional beauty standards in order to be worthy of a happy ending.

In many cases, the critiques are well-deserved. The Breakfast Club’s Allison (Ally Sheedy) looked way better (and happier!) with messy fringe and smudged eyeliner than as a headbanded belle; Clueless’ Tai (Brittany Murphy) is already comfortable and confident in her skin when Cher (Alicia Silverstone) interjects and projects her own insecurities onto her chosen fashion victim; it’s entirely unclear what Grease’s Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) gains when she slips on her tight leather pants, except for Danny’s (John Travolta) approval.

But not all makeovers are quite so egregious. Sometimes a makeover can signify a heroine coming into her own, gaining confidence she once lacked, or learning to smile at her reflection in the mirror. So without further ado, six great movie makeovers, in no particular order.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

©IFC Films

When Toula learns to tame her unruly hair and trades her overlarge glasses for contacts, it doesn’t feel like she’s putting on a costume; it signifies her coming into herself. Plus, the hair stays big and curly! No Brazilian blowouts for this Greek goddess. —Chloe Joe

The Princess Diaries


Mia’s makeover in The Princess Diaries might have been cliché and overly dramatic for removing her glasses, straightening her hair, and plucking her eyebrows, but it’s fun! Paolo steals the scene with his assistants, Gretchen and Helga, and not a line is wasted (“You wanna know a big secret? The cucumber does nothing”). Also, the Queen saying “better” implies that Mia was beautiful all along — she just looks different after Paolo’s work. —Marina Watts

Miss Congeniality

Warner Brothers/Getty Images

Gracie, an undercover agent who considers herself “just one of the boys,” trades in her police officer blues, undone hair, and no-bullshit attitude in order to pose as a contestant in the Miss United States pageant. (There’s a bomb threat that only she can get close to, of course.) While her iconic ’90s blowout and lavender mini dress mark her character’s makeover moment in the movie, the true transformation happens slowly throughout the film as she bonds with fellow contestants. —Olivia Rose Rushing

Love & Basketball

New Line Cinema

The prom makeover is essentially a subgenre within the larger movie makeover canon at this point. (See: 10 Things I Hate About You and She’s All That.) And while Love & Basketball also follows this device, it’s far and away my favorite of the bunch. Because Monica isn’t some total stranger that Quincy only notices once she glows up (or some guy who’s been tasked with orchestrating said glow up). The neighbors/longtime competitors have been destined to be together since childhood. He just needed to see Monica in a new light to finally see their potential. —Samantha Leach

Legally Blonde


When Elle Woods nabs a coveted law internship, she replaces her pink sorority clothes with a wardrobe that suits the profession: a lot of dark Céline and low ponytails. But since Elle’s sense of style is impeccable, it’s her sense of self that really needs a makeover. At the film’s climax, she confidently enters the courtroom in head-to-toe pink with a bouncy blowout. She realizes she needs to take herself seriously, and pink is core to her identity. —Hayley Schueneman

The Devil Wears Prada

20th Century Fox

“Are you wearing the…” “The Chanel boots? Yeah, I am.” SHUT UP!! That is one of the most epic lines in a movie. Added bonus because Stanley Tucci was responsible for her makeover. Groundbreaking. —Alexis Morillo