16 Movies Where We Have To Pretend A Character Isn't Super Hot
Most Hollywood actors are in the top one percent of physical attractiveness, meaning audiences are often required to pretend a character in a movie isn’t super hot when they clearly are. Studios want famous faces in their films and sometimes this leads to a person like Halle Berry playing a supposedly nondescript waitress, or Channing Tatum playing a dog-adjacent alien. Sometimes they go above and beyond to de-glamorize the actor, like Charlize Theron in Monster or Christian Bale in basically everything except American Psycho. But often, the only proof the character is supposed to be unattractive is a heavy-handed script and minimal makeup.
Movies based on books are often guilty of this phenomenon. The desire to simultaneously adhere to the authors’ vision and showcase A-list actors puts studio execs in a bind, but they almost always opt for glamorizing an unglamorous character rather than staying faithful to the book by choosing a plain-looking actor. Then there is the vast sub-category of movie makeovers in which a beautiful actor is made to look as unappealing as possible to maximize the effect of their on-screen transformation. In all of these instances, the movie relies on its audience to play along and pretend they aren’t seeing the blatantly obvious. But we’re calling their bluff. Vote up the supposedly unappealing characters that aren't fooling anyone.
- 1794 VOTESPhoto: 20th Century Fox
Tobacco Road is a 1941 comedy based on a Broadway play about a destitute family in a decaying Georgia town. Its credentials are solid, with legendary director John Ford at the helm, prominent stars such as Dana Andrews and Ward Bond, and a screenplay from Oscar-nominated writer Nunnally Johnson. Working against it, however, is the inexplicable casting of Gene Tierney as Ellie May, a 23-year-old spinster who is too hideous to be sold, let alone married. At the beginning of the movie, the character is so desperate to leave her starving family that she literally flings herself at a visiting neighbor who has just admitted to beating his wife. He recoils at the mere suggestion that he might consider taking home such an elderly hag, and Ellie May resorts to groveling in the dirt before tackling him to the ground. Later, her father begs the man to marry her, promising to give him whatever possessions they have to offer. “If you don’t take a fancy to her, I don’t know [who will],” he wails.
While few starlets of the day could have pulled off such a supposedly unattractive character, Tierney was particularly unsuited to the role. She is the actress who famed producer Darryl F. Zanuck once called “unquestionably the most beautiful woman in movie history.” Coming from a man who worked with the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Hedy Lamarr, such a statement should not be taken lightly. Tierney’s most famous movie, Laura, is based on the idea that she is so gorgeous that every man falls instantly in love with her - including, somehow, the detective assigned to investigate her murder. She was, in other words, a total knockout and Hollywood knew it. In her autobiography, she recalls being sprayed with oil every morning on the set of Tobacco Road before being coated in dirt, and that Ford jokingly threatened to fire her if she washed her hair at any point during the shoot. No matter how hard they tried, however, she still looks like Gene Tierney, “the most beautiful woman in movie history.”
- 2874 VOTES
Audrey Hepburn In 'Funny Face'Photo: Paramount Pictures
Beauty standards in the 1950s placed Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor at the top of the heap, but even by these metrics, Audrey Hepburn was a once-in-a-generation beauty who has been named the most beautiful woman of all time on more than one occasion. And yet, studios loved casting her in ugly duckling roles. From Sabrina to My Fair Lady, she often played wallflowers who transform into creatures of breathtaking beauty with the help of a designer dress and some male attention. These movies require an element of suspended disbelief before her character is acknowledged as the exquisite beauty that she is, but Funny Face requires another level of tolerance.
If you haven’t guessed, the title refers to Hepburn's face, or, more accurately, the face of her character, Jo Stockton. According to the movie, her appearance is funny, something that the fashion photographer Dick Avery (emphasis on “Dick”) tells her at length via song in a major musical interlude. The upshot of the scene is that she shouldn’t worry about being ugly because he finds her “funny” appearance endearing. Avery decides it would be a worthy intellectual exercise to make her a model for his next fashion campaign in Paris instead of employing one of his usual roster of cover girls, and while Jo eventually gets her big reveal, flying down the steps of the Louvre in a scarlet Givenchy gown, the mental dexterity required to view her as anything other than flawless up to that point is laughable. Her face, on the other hand, is not.
- 31,005 VOTESPhoto: Miramax Films
She’s All That offers one of the most legendary (and notorious) glasses-to-goddess “transformations” in all of cinema. Rachael Leigh Cook stars as high schooler Laney Boggs, a socially awkward artist with glasses who enjoys experimental theater. She is deemed to be the perfect material for Zack (Freddie Prinze Jr.), a high-status jock who’s made a bet with his friends that he can turn the most unattractive girl on campus into the prom queen. Her unsolicited makeover involves ditching the glasses, putting on makeup, letting her hair down, and wearing a teeny tiny red mini dress that, not to put too fine a point on it, reveals a significant amount of cleavage. (Cook later revealed that the dress was a size too small and made her “really self-conscious”). The moment she walks down the stairs, Zack realizes he’s hit the jackpot and spends the rest of the movie trying to convince her to date him.
There have been many think pieces published since the movie was released in 1999 that critique the dynamic between Zack and Laney, but even if one were to wholeheartedly embrace the male gaze, it’s hard to see Laney in the “before” part of the movie as anything other than adorable. She likes art, she’s fiercely independent, and, despite what practically every Hollywood makeover movie wants you to believe, her glasses do not hide her beauty. Although Cook expresses gratitude for the role, she's conceded that contributing to such a limited view of attractiveness is “not the best.”
- 4951 VOTESPhoto: Focus Features
Keira Knightley is many things. Plain is not one of them. The actress whose beauty constitutes her entire character in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie before they let her wield a sword in the sequels has topped Sexiest Woman Alive charts and been cited by fellow famously gorgeous person Sienna Miller as the most beautiful woman she’s ever seen. She is so physically attractive, in fact, that she resorted to playing a deranged madwoman in a movie directed by David Cronenberg (the man behind such visual horrors as The Fly and Videodrome) to prove that she was more than just a pretty face. In short, her beauty is constantly getting in the way of her being taken seriously as an actress. And yet, Knightley was cast as the famously nondescript Elizabeth Bennet in Joe Wright’s 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
According to Austen’s novel, Lizzie is no beauty. Even Mr. Darcy, the man who falls head-over-heels in love with her, can only summon the word “pleasing” to describe her appearance, while the less charitable Caroline Bingley observes that her “complexion has no brilliancy” and her features “are not at all handsome.” These descriptions would seem to preclude Knightley, but Wright disagreed, saying that when he saw the actress’ tomboyishness and “scruffy independent spirit,” he knew she could play the rebellious, headstrong Lizzie. Knightley does manage to embody these aspects of the character, but not even the world’s most spectacular performance could convince audiences that she is merely “pleasing” to look at.
- 5660 VOTESPhoto: Focus Features
According to just about every yearly magazine rundown of the sexiest male movie stars alive, Oscar-nominated actor Michael Fassbender is incredibly hot. These carefully researched, scientifically faultless findings are corroborated by the actor’s conspicuous attractiveness in roles that do not lend themselves to likeability. He’s played a sex addict, a psychopathic android, and a musician who insists on wearing a papier-mâché head at all times, and is somehow charismatic in all of them. Even when he starred as the infamous Shakespearean murderer Macbeth, all anyone wanted to talk about was how hot he looked doing it. In these instances, his physical appeal can be forgiven as merely incidental, but when he was cast as Mr. Rochester in Cary Fukunaga’s 2011 adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, it was downright incongruous.
Mr. Rochester self-identifies as an unattractive person, something with which Jane, the woman he falls for, agrees. When he jokingly asks if she finds him handsome, she says “No,” and tries to backtrack with, “beauty is of little consequence.” In Brontë’s novel, Jane’s appraisal of Rochester is equally unforgiving. When she meets him for the first time, she reflects that, “had he been a handsome, heroic-looking young gentleman,” she would not have had the courage to approach him, a burn that was probably as savage in 1847 as it is now. To achieve this level of unattractiveness, the costume and makeup department bestowed upon Fassbender a set of sideburns almost bushy enough to conceal his exquisite jawline, but they would have needed to put another papier-mâché mask over his face to conceal what is blatantly obvious to anyone watching: sideburns or no, Fassbender is Fassbender.
- 6643 VOTESPhoto: Lions Gate Films
Within one year, Halle Berry made Oscar history playing a grief-stricken wife in the indie drama Monster’s Ball and strolled into action movie immortality as a Bond Girl in Die Another Day. The characters are vastly different, but regardless of whether Berry is playing a disheveled widow or a knife-toting, bikini-clad assassin, she’s still the woman who was runner-up to the Miss USA title and the person identified by various media outlets as the sexiest woman in the world, the most beautiful person in the world, and the Sexiest Woman Alive. This fits her Bond Girl status, but it also highlights the uphill battle she had to fight to play Leticia Musgrove in Monster’s Ball.
Berry is deglamorized and unadorned in the role, playing a waitress of little means who struggles to come to terms with the execution of her husband and her painful relationship with their son. In the process, she builds an unlikely bond with the racist corrections officer who took her husband to the electric chair. Berry's performance is full of anguish, but no amount of emotional complexity could distract from her innate physical beauty. It’s so glaringly obvious that it inspired a (dated) think piece in the Washington Post entitled “When Beauty Gets in The Way.” In it, the author points to several scenes in which Leticia improbably passes under the radar, such as when her car breaks down on the side of a road and no one stops to help her. Her beauty, the author argues, “nearly subverts the movie.” Like a migraine, “it won’t be vanquished.” Even Berry acknowledged the hurdles of her blinding attractiveness, saying that the industry “provides a challenge for me to prove that there’s more to me than the physical self.” With Monster’s Ball, she may not have been able to obscure her beauty, but she did prove through the force of her performance that she had more to offer.