Don’t you love a good makeover? I’ve always been fascinated by the before and after comparisons of both real life and fictional characters who undergo a physical transformation. I think it fascinates me because it emphasizes the natural beauty that is already there but which has been overlooked. It’s even more interesting when the physical improvements match the individual’s inner beauty as is the case in Cinderella.

But Cinderella is not the only character in film history to receive a life-changing makeover. There are others who have seen not only their appearance but sometimes their lives transformed by a change in their physical or inner attributes. I’ve rounded up a list of film transformations for you.

Twenty-One Cinderella Style Film Transformations

#1: My Fair Lady (1964)

Of all the choices on this list, this one may be the most complete in terms of character transformation. Eliza Doolittle is the recipient of not only an external makeover but an internal one as well. The bet that Professor Higgins places is that he can take this “prisoner of the gutter” and transform her into a lady.

Higgins accomplishes this by retraining her in speech, manners, posture and more. It’s only after these things have been addressed that he allows major changes to her outward appearance. But the most significant change is in Eliza’s confidence, self-esteem and the way she views herself.

Where to Watch: Available on DVD

#2: Sabrina (1954, 1995)

Whether you prefer the classic version starring Audrey Hepburn or the newer adaptation with Julia Ormond, this story of a chauffeur’s daughter who transforms her appearance and her self after a sojourn in Paris is always a pleasure to watch.

Sabrina has a long-term crush on the younger son of her father’s wealthy employer, but she remains beneath his notice. Upon returning from Paris, she suddenly finds herself the focus of David’s attention as she has always dreamed. But perhaps Paris has changed more than just her appearance as she now finds herself attracted to David’s older, dour brother Linus.

Where to Watch: The 1954 version airs occasionally on TCM. The 1995 remake is available to stream on Amazon, rent or buy at Amazon, YouTube, Google Play or iTunes.

#3:  Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)

Who says Cinderella transformations are just for girls?  An eighties classic, this stars the very young Patrick Dempsey. It’s the old tale of the geeky, unpopular kid in love with the most popular girl in school. Ronald convinces Cindy to increase his popularity quotient by promising to pay her one thousand dollars. This precipitates a style makeover for Ron and, of course, Cindy begins to develop feelings for her creation.

Where to Watch: Rent or buy at Amazon, YouTube, Google Play or iTunes.

#4: Clueless (1995)

Every nineties girl’s favorite movie, Clueless does not focus on the physical transformations of its main characters. This contemporary telling of Austen’s classic Emma does, however, feature a makeover scene when Cher decides to take transfer student and hopeless fashion case, Tai, under her wing.

Where to Watch: Available on DVD

Content Note: Rated PG-13

#5: The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Who can forget this modern classic about a  grad student who desires a serious job as a journalist, but finds herself as an assistant to the editor of a fashion magazine? Andy’s snobbery towards her co-workers’ passion is quickly undercut by Miranda Priestly’s haughty explanation of the magazine’s importance. After her chastisement, Andy asks for help and quickly becomes a walking haute couture advertisement.

Where to Watch: Available on DVD, airs occasionally on television.

Content Note: Rated PG-13

#6: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

I love that this classic film musical turns the tables a bit. Most romances hint at the woman’s need to change and to look her best to attract a man. But in this movie, Millie insists her six new, backwoods brothers-in-law, must be the ones to make themselves presentable to their prospective wives. She begins a campaign not only to clean up their physical appearances but also their manners. In the process, she also teaches them a newfound respect for women.

Where to Watch: Rent or buy at YouTube, Google Play or iTunes.

#7:  The Princess Diaries (2001)

Mia Thermopolis is a geeky high school student who discovers that she is the sole heir to the throne of a small country. A grandmother she never knew arrives to meet her and to transform her life. Mia undergoes a series of physical makeovers as well as lessons in being a princess. Of all the films on this list, this one does the best job at making a beautiful actress first appear unappealing.

Where to Watch: Stream on Netflix, rent or buy at Amazon, YouTube, Google Play or iTunes.

#8: Ninotchka (1939)

This famous classic stars Greta Garbo as a stern Russian envoy sent to Paris to rein in three comrades who have been seduced by the freedom of capitalism. Ninotchka tries to remain on task but doesn’t count on the beauty of Paris, the charm of an admirer or the perplexing feelings a frivolous hat stirs in her. She goes from a serious Communist in drab clothes to a sparkling hedonist in a frothy dress with the help of champagne bubbles.

Where to Watch: Stream on FilmStruck, rent or buy at Amazon, YouTube, Google Play or iTunes.

#9:  Pretty Woman (1990)

Playing everyone’s favorite hooker with a heart of gold, Julia Roberts is hired to act as an escort for Richard Gere’s wealthy businessman. But before he can appear with her in public, she must be polished up a bit.

Where to Watch: Rent or buy at Amazon, YouTube, Google Play or iTunes.

Content Note: Rated R

#10:  Miss Congeniality (2000)

Sandra Bullock is a no-nonsense investigator with the FBI. An undercover assignment at a beauty pageant sees her undergoing a variety of treatments and external changes so that she can pass as a contestant. She goes from frazzled and dowdy to sexy and stunning.

Related: Miss Congeniality Film Review -A Feel Good Comedy With a Side of Romance

Where to Watch: Stream on Roku, rent or buy at Amazon, YouTube, Google Play or iTunes.

#11:  Grease (1979)

Sandy’s transformation from good girl to a sexy blond in skin-tight black spandex and red heels is perhaps one of the most iconic transformations in cinema history. Sadly, it is motivated by her desire to win back her troublemaking boyfriend.

Where to Watch: Available on DVD

Content Note: Insinuations and discussions of teenage sex and pregnancy

#12:  My Man Godfrey (1936)

William Powell is the title character. He’s discovered living in a dump. Dirty and homeless he is offered a job as a butler in a wealthy home. Carole Lombard is the daughter of the house who falls hard for Godfrey, even before she cleans him all up and puts him in a butler’s suit. But there is an even bigger surprise to come when she learns his real identity. I love male makeover stories like this one.

Where to Watch: Stream Amazon Prime or Tubi TV, rent or buy at Amazon, YouTube, Google Play or iTunes.

#13:  Never Been Kissed (1999)

Josie Grossie has left behind her troubled high school years when she was bullied for her looks. But an undercover newspaper assignment has her going back to high school as a student once again. Fortunately, her once popular brother gives her a makeover to ensure a better experience the second time around.

Related: Never Been Kissed (1999) -A Quirky Rom-Com With a Big Heart

Where to Watch: Rent or buy at Amazon, YouTube, Google Play or iTunes.

#14:  Baby Face (1933)

Barbara Stanwyck plays a young woman whose father has used her as a lure for men. She escapes him and her poverty-stricken background and decides to use men as they have used her. As she trades one man for another, she gradually improves her station and her appearance with each new rung up the ladder.

Where to Watch: Rent or buy at iTunes or Vudu

Content Note: Though this is a classic film and nothing is explicitly shown or discussed, it’s clear that the main character is sleeping her way up the ladder.

#15:  Gigi (1958)

They say that clothes make the woman. Gigi is a beautiful girl who is unknowingly being groomed to follow the family profession as a professional mistress. She also happens to harbor a secret love for the man who expects to be her first lover. Gigi goes from an innocent young girl in pinafores to a poised and polished young woman in devastating evening apparel all the while hoping that her love interest will marry her.

Where to Watch: Stream Film Struck, rent or buy at Amazon, YouTube, Google Play or iTunes.

#16:  Anastasia (1956)

Anna Andersen is a troubled young woman recently released from a mental institution with no memory of her past. When Russian ex-pat General Bounine sees her, he believes that she is the perfect candidate for his scheme. Bounine teaches and trains Anna in an attempt to pass her off as the missing Grand Duchess Anastasia. Part of this process involves a total physical transformation that is enhanced by Anna’s belief that she might be reunited with a family that she desperately longs for.

Where to Watch: Rent or buy at YouTube, Google Play or iTunes.

#17:  My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

Toula has always lived under the overbearing thumb of her Greek heritage and her parents’ expectations. A chance encounter with a man who is NOT Greek inspires her to not only change her appearance, but also her life.

Where to Watch: Rent or buy at Amazon, YouTube, Google Play or iTunes.

#18:  Now Voyager (1942)

Bette Davis plays a woman verbally abused by her mother. Her lack of confidence is displayed in her plain, frumpy appearance. With the support of her sister-in-law, she receives psychiatric help. Growing in confidence, she also gains a new look to reflect the internal change she undergoes.

Where to Watch: Rent or buy at Amazon, YouTube, Google Play or iTunes.

RELATED: Vintage Review: Now, Voyager: A Bette Davis Classic

#19:  The Parent Trap (1961)

Maureen O’Hara could never be anything less than beautiful. She plays a prim and proper Bostonian mother whose twin daughters were separated at birth, one staying with her and one staying with her ex-husband. When the girls switch places, she decides to travel to her ex’s home to inform him of their little trick. But before she does, she decides to modernize her image by chopping off her hair and buying a new wardrobe of sexy clothes.

Where to Watch: Rent or buy at Amazon, YouTube, Google Play or iTunes.

#20:  The Enchanted Cottage (1945)

A homely woman and scarred man slowly begin to see the other’s outward visage match their inward beauty as they fall in love. This film is as magical as its’ title with its’ focus on the beauty of a person’s soul.

Where to Watch: Airs occasionally on TCM

#21:  Beauty and the Beast (2017)

What force is more powerful or transformative than love? When an enchantress casts a spell on a selfish prince, it’s so that his physical appearance matches the inward beastliness of his nature. The cure forces him to change his behavior to become someone who can be loved in spite of his outward form. When the innocent Belle finally admits her love the Beast is finally returned to his human form. This one is all about the physical and metaphorical transformation of the heart.

Where to Watch: Stream on Netflix, rent or buy at Amazon, YouTube, Google Play or iTunes.

Have you seen any of these films? What are some of your favorite onscreen film transformations? 


Feature Photo Credit: My Fair Lady; Warner Bros. Pictures

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