Ah, the Best Makeup category. It’s had a steady place on the red carpet since Rick Baker’s An American Werewolf in London won an Oscar in 1981. And while it may not get much publicity, theatrical makeup has been essential to the suspension of disbelief inherent to film and theatre for thousands of years. Here, then, are some of the best foam, fur, rubber and paint jobs that should have won Academy Awards over the last 30 years.
It takes a lot of makeup, and a gifted team of artists, to make Dustin Hoffman pretty.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
A team, including Fern Buckner, Selena Evans-Miller and Rick Stratton helped bring Johnny Depp’s frayed character to life in Tim Burton’s masterpiece. It was nominated for a makeup Oscar, but lost to Dick Tracy.
Hook was also nominated for the category, but lost to Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Between Hoffman’s coif and waxed mustache and the Lost Boys’ wild getups, Hook deserved an award.
Ann Brodie oversaw the makeup direction on the first chapter in this series, and a blue Rebecca Romijn as Mystique was her team’s crowning glory.
Planet of the Apes (2001)
Burton’s remake may be widely thought of as inferior to the original, but Baker’s skill was peerless as he blended human and ape features for Tim Roth and Helena Bonham Carter’s characters.
The Hours (2002)
This Stephen Daldry-directed film had the opposite problem of Tootsie. It takes some serious skill and a fake nose to make Nicole Kidman plain.
Not only did Charlize Theron put on 30 pounds to play the role of female serial killer Aileen Wuornos, she was also remade with the help of makeup artist Tony G, who gave her sagging eyelids and false teeth. Consequently, a photo of Theron as Wuornos made its way into Arrested Development as a picture of Michael Bluth’s mentally challenged girlfriend Rita before plastic surgery.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Not only for the sheer number of the undead, but for their uncannily corpse-like paint-job.
Watch a trailer here.
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight was nominated two years ago, but lost to the revolutionary FX-and-paint combo that transformed Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The win made sense, but if it had been any other year, Heath Ledger’s Joker would have definitely gotten the gold.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
Baker for the win, again. Tom Cruise became overweight and bald and Robert Downey Jr. had a skin-color change. It was a controversial move, but Downey Jr.’s Kirk Lazarus—an actor so into his roles that he underwent a pigment-altering operation—skewered himself so well, it was hard to take offense.