Actors often talk about losing themselves in a role, but sometimes we can lose sight of them, too: Like, where was Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder? Or Tilda Swinton in Trainwreck? Did you even know Hugh Grant was in Cloud Atlas? Thanks to the efforts of skillful makeup artists and visual effects wizards, a familiar face can be completely unrecognizable in a movie.

Often prosthetics are used to alter an actor’s appearance, like Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire and Eddie Murphy in Coming to America. Other times it’s clever wigs and makeup, like Elizabeth Banks turn as Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games movies and Cate Blanchett’s transformation into Bob Dylan for I’m Not There. Sometimes the effect is achieved with less high-tech means—like drastic weight gain (Charlize Theron in Monster), a change of voice (Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln) or forgoing makeup altogether (Mariah Carey in Precious). Gary Oldman has gotten so good at disguising himself in films like Sid & Nancy, Dracula, Hannibal and Darkest Hour that he’s earned a reputation as a modern-day Man of a Thousand Faces.

If they’re successful, a disguised actor can still capture our attention, and maybe even an Academy Award. So can the artists who help transform them: Legendary movie makeup master Rick Baker has won eight Oscars, for films ranging from Men in Black to Harry and the Hendersons. Ve Neill, who frequently collaborates with Tim Burton, earned Academy Awards for her work in both Beetlejuice and Ed Wood.



“A makeup artist is one of the director’s tools, someone who helps bring their vision to life,” she told The New York Times. “When I worked on Beetlejuice, [Tim Burton] gave me sketches. There are different ways to get inspiration for a character, but the process always starts with the director.”

Slide through to see some of the most unbelievable transformations in movie history.