Actors Who Became Unrecognizable To Play A Villain

Voting Rules

Vote up the actors you barely recognized or didn't recognize at all in their turns as bad guys.

Acting is the practice of pretending to be someone else, which becomes complicated when an actor must go through a physical transformation in order to accurately fill the look for a role. Though a few highly dedicated actors choose to gain or lose weight to shape their figure for a role, most character transformations are made through intense applications of various makeup and prosthetics. 

As prosthetics technology advances every year, it seems as if more and more actors in films are cleverly disguised as their characters under copious amounts of latex and makeup. While subtle changes can be powerful, it is even more impressive when makeup and hairstyling can make an actor appear to be a totally different person. Whether literally turning them into disgusting villains and monsters, or maybe just an entirely different human, the advances in makeup have made it possible for anyone to play any role. Here are the actors who, thanks to movie magic, became totally unrecognizable while playing villains.

  • Thanks to extreme prosthetics, Gary Oldman is flat-out hard to look at in Hannibal, the 2001 sequel to Silence of the Lambs. The British actor had donned some out-there looks throughout his career, like his long dreadlocks and scarred-up face in True Romance, yet his look for Hannibal was far more extreme than any previous role. 

    His character, Mason Verger, is a sworn enemy of cannibalistic doctor Hannibal Lecter. After a run-in with Lecter leaves Verger with extreme facial and bodily scarring, he makes it his sworn mission in life to get his revenge. 

    While many actors, after going through an especially long makeup and hair process for a role, decide never to put themselves through it again, clearly, this role hasn’t stopped Oldman. In 2017, while portraying Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour, he accumulated over 200 hours in the makeup chair, but was later rewarded with an Oscar for the performance. Still, Mason Verger remains Oldman's most strikingly unrecognizable look on film to this day.

    287 votes
  • Star Trek, in all its iterations, features many different species of aliens created with colorful and complicated makeup and prosthetics, often played by notable actors. One of the latest handsome faces trapped under plastic and powder is Idris Elba, who took on the role of Krall, a human who harvests blood from aliens in order to extend his own life, in Star Trek: Beyond. As a consequence of sucking alien blood, Krall has blue scaly skin, rendering Elba almost invisible under the detailed effects.

    The film's Oscar-winning makeup designer Joel Harlow said he was largely inspired by underwater creatures and lizards when designing the blend of various alien traits that would inform Krall's appearance. 

    Since the film's release, fans have jokingly asked why the filmmakers would cover up the face of one of the most handsome actors in Hollywood, but even Star Trek star Zachary Quinto didn’t have an answer for them.

    224 votes
  • Actors may find it draining to spend hours in a makeup chair every day before filming, but when the result looks as good as Colin Farrell does in Matt Reeves's The Batman, it’s well worth the struggle. Undergoing three hours of makeup before each shoot in order to play the role of Oswald Cobblepot or The Penguin - one of Batman’s most notable adversaries - Farrell transformed from a handsome heartthrob into a scarred mobster. Per Collider, Farrell even went to Starbucks with his full makeup on to see if anyone recognized him (no one did). 

    However, Reeves worried that Farrell's powerful facial expressions would be lost under the plastic and makeup, feeling even after a screen test that he would have to tell the Oscar-nominated makeup artist Michael Marino to change it up. The director's fears washed away when he saw the imposing effect of Farrell in full Penguin getup.

    257 votes
  • Following the same general story of the 1977 original, Luca Guadagnino's 2018 remake of Suspiria made some changes to breathe new life into the horror classic, including ratcheting up the disgusting appearance of the witch Helena Markos.

    While playing Markos, Tilda Swinton wore an enormous amount of latex prosthetics to embody the ancient witch kept alive through magic. Swinton's tall, thin frame is completely transformed into a revolting, disease-ridden mass of flesh, which makes it hard to believe the character was ever human at all. Makeup artist Mark Coulier told Vulture that Guadgnino is a fan of David Cronenberg's use of body horror, and the inspiration from Cronenberg's practical effects in films like The Fly is clear. 

    In addition to Markos, Swinton plays two other characters: dance instructor Madame Blanc (close to Swinton's normal appearance), and Dr. Klemperer (an old man, also requiring heavy makeup). Swinton's willingness to play along with multiple intense makeup processes for one film enhances her stunning, creepy performance(s).

    165 votes
  • The Skarsgård brothers have long been considered an attractive group of actor siblings, like the Hemsworths or the Wilsons, yet those comparisons become harder to make when one of them plays one of the most disturbing-looking characters in recent memory. The demonic clown Pennywise in It is truly what nightmares are made of, and Skarsgård’s portrayal is no doubt capable of giving kids nightmares, just as intended. Skarsgård even claimed in Interview magazine that some child extras on set were physically shaking with fear upon seeing him in character for the first time. 

    Based on Stephen King’s book of the same name, It the story of a group of friends hunted by a child-eating clown that reappears in their small town every 27 years. Despite the natural challenge of portraying an inhuman monster, according to the film's director Andy Muschietti, Skarsgård brought a child-like energy to the character that made his Pennywise distinct from other takes on the villain. Of course, much of Pennywise's ability to inspire fear comes from his horrifyingly large forehead, at times jagged shark-like teeth, peculiar red hair, piercing yellow eyes, clown makeup. With this makeup taking over two hours to apply each day, Skarsgård certainly had time to dive into the background and character work for the complex villain.

    221 votes
  • Nine hours is a long time to do anything, let alone sit still while a crew applies horrific makeup to your face. Somehow, Vincent D’Onofrio managed to put up with it while filming Men in Black, and the time and effort that went into the look is apparent. Playing the role of Edgar the Bug, an alien hiding inside of a human's dead body as a disguise, D’Onofrio dons a droopy face and various wounds all over his skin. As the film progresses, his decomposing body deteriorates while concealing the cockroach-like alien bug inside. 

    The scene where Edgar finally frees himself of his rotting disguise, peeling off his decomposing flesh, is an all-time cinematic achievement, made possible by stellar makeup and practical effects design. Makeup artists Rick Baker and David LeRoy Anderson won an Oscar for the film's makeup, and their work on Edgar is a huge piece of that accomplishment. 

    214 votes