15 Times A Shaved Head Made A Movie Character Instantly Level Up
There’s seemingly a cheat code to making a character instantly appear tough, intimidating, and gritty: a shaved head. Commonly used in action films, this trick to toughen up characters is often used as a signifier to the audience that this person is ready for a fight. If they enter the story that way, it's probably a sign they're not to be trifled with; if they lose their hair mid-movie, it's usually representative of a harsh change in the character. Long a stereotype, it has been proven by science that bald people appear tougher and more intimidating than those with hair. And by comparing the typical roles of these actors to those they play with a shaved head, it becomes glaringly obvious that the simple trick is an effective one.
However, this shortcut — not a shaved head pun — isn’t only a method of displaying a character's grit, but can also be used as a tool to separate preconceived notions one might have about a character due to the actor portraying them. Once you become a movie star, it gets difficult to separate the face from the name. Whether they typically play the goofy hot guy or the pretty teen star, the last thing an actor wants is to not be taken seriously. Sometimes, when the role permits, the best thing an actor can do is release themselves from those previous bonds and make themselves unrecognizable. Sometimes that means losing or gaining weight or donning a wig and makeup - but when they choose to depart with their hair, it often gives us a new screen presence entirely.
- 1328 VOTESPhoto: Warner Bros Pictures
Having a long-haired woman shave their head for a role is already a scary task, but asking them to do it on camera in one shot is taking it to the next level. Only having one take to be able to pull it off makes the entire idea so stressful it only reiterates the courage it must have taken to go ahead with a potentially career-altering move. Thankfully she did, because her character Evey’s head being shaven is a crucial representation of her character evolving from a scared weak individual to someone living absent of fear in her new dystopian landscape.
Evey might first meet V as a scared and intimidated girl but she leaves him a powerfully liberated woman who is able to set aside her past traumas and move on to the future. By the end of the film, with her newly buzzed head, she’s ready to help take down a fascist state, conquering her initial fears. First, she must endure torture that strips her of her exterior personality, but through this process is able to find truth and comfort in herself. No longer a grief-stricken perpetually frightened woman, Evey finds it in her to aid V in his attempts of taking down the newly imposed government hierarchy, despite her previous objections. This big personal transformation all starts with taking that razor to her head.
- 2238 VOTESPhoto: 20th Century Fox
Likely the most iconic female shaved head in movie history, Sigourney Weaver was one of the first star actresses to lose her luscious locks for a part. She even shaved her head a second time when the famed mess of a production had to do reshoots. Now that takes commitment. When asked about it by director David Fincher, she simply responded she was fine with doing it as long as she got more money - a reasonable ask for a busy actress.
While in the first two Alien films Weaver had her signature curly reddish-brown hair, the third installment sees her part with her curls due to a lice outbreak on the prison planet on which Ellen Ripley finds herself. So she isn’t the only bald head, as all the dangerously aggressive male prisoners have to sport the hairless look, too. As you can imagine, a bunch of bald-headed crooks being your new crew isn’t exactly comforting, but Ripley has survived multiple alien attacks, so it's not like she's easily intimidated.
If you have seen the film’s two predecessors, you know there's no question as to Ripley's toughness. She's got the brains and courage that kept her alive when none of her co-workers made it out, and now as the series started trending toward being more action-based films rather than horror, the shaved head is the final touch in her transformation from final girl to bad*ss action star.
- Photo: Warner Bros Pictures
Furiosa (Charlize Theron) in Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the toughest, most bad*ss characters in recent action movie history. Her signature look - a shaved head covered in black war paint - adds an additional layer of authenticity to her character's persona and purpose. Furiosa is one of evil warlord Immortan Joe’s most trusted lieutenants and is leading a militarized fuel run when she goes rogue attempting to free herself and Joe’s enslaved wives. The traditional military buzzcut is the perfect stylistic choice for the character in a film about how a post-apocalyptic society has clung to bits and pieces of our current cultural practices and traditions. These are the scraps left of society in a world desecrated with water shortages and nuclear war. Just as the citizens of this new world refer to gasoline as guzzolene to show how things have changed, a military commander sporting a buzzcut shows the ways they have not.
No stranger to undergoing transformations for roles, Theron has shined throughout her entire career as a perfect example of how dedication to your craft - even, if not especially, at the expense of traditional movie-star glamour can pay massive dividends. She puts aside her own image for whatever the character requires. One of these transformations even garnered her an Oscar; as serial killer Aileen Wernos in Monster, Theron was unrecognizable. Furiosa’s oily dome is as far as it gets from Dior commercials, but for the film's purposes it adds an instant toughness and military authority presence to her character. The combination of this tough look with ragged clothes forces you to see similarities with the brooding Max, rather than the beautiful white dress-wearing wives of Joe.
- 4218 VOTESPhoto: Buena Vista Pictures
Despite boasting the presence of Demi Moore in her ‘90s heyday, legendary director Ridley Scott behind the camera, and pre-Aragorn Viggo Mortensen in the key supporting role, G.I. Jane has been largely forgotten. However, that (kinda) changed at the 2022 Oscars when the 1997 military drama fueled a Chris Rock joke that led to the the slap heard around the world. At that moment, the film got a brief revival in the cultural zeitgeist, with a glut of new viewers able to watch and admire Demi Moore's Jordan O'Neil as she has to constantly prove her toughness both to herself and her fellow soldiers.
After being chosen as the subject of an experimental test determining if women should serve in the Navy, Jordan has to overcome sexist instructors in a rigged system and pass the training program of the Navy SEALs. While being set up for failure in more ways than one, she continues to find ways to fight back and press on. Originally chosen because she was the most stereotypically feminine-appearing candidate, Jordan defies those implicit assumptions by shaving her head - which doesn't just show her dedication to the training program but is broadly symbolic of the sacrifices she is making as a whole. Once she does let the hair go, there's a new grit and determination to her, and you have no doubt that she's going to fight harder than even she can imagine.
- Photo: Lionsgate
Natalie Dormer had been cast in a variety of roles before being included in the final two films of the Hunger Games franchise, as the official filmmaker of the rebellion, Cressida. She had played Anne Boleyn in The Tudors, a soldier who lustfully threw herself at Captain America, and most famously Margaery Tyrell of Game of Thrones. In those cases (and others), her beauty and seductiveness are key components. So when she first appeared in Hunger Games Mockingjay Part I with half her head clean-shaven with an ivy tattoo wrapping along the side, fans were taken aback, to say the least. But with this new hairdo came a commanding, don't-mess-with-me presence that allows viewers to fully believe she's wandering around live battlegrounds.
While characters like Margaery may have gained the respect of audiences as someone who weaponizes her mind and uses her sex appeal as a strategic advantage, she never would have been described as physically intimidating. Cressida, however… well, you take one look at her and you know she's in control of the situation. The woman is marching around a war zone, never knowing if she's about to step on a land mine, and she's totally unfazed!
It was something of a calculated risk for Dormer to shave half her head while being primarily known as one of the most beautiful women on the most popular show on television, but if you see the result in both Mockingjay installments, it clearly pays off.
- 6173 VOTESPhoto: Universal Pictures
Famous amongst families for his role as Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia, James McAvoy surprised audiences everywhere with a shockingly spooky look to go along with his 20+ personalities in M. Night Shyamalan's Split. One of the most unique and original characters in recent memory, it requires a laundry list of different emotions, voices, and cadences to transform McAvoy into his new bevy of personalities. He isn’t just scary because he does little kid voices, the dude is frightening to look at, and his shiny head erases any happy memories you might have of the actor who once played a nice and loving faun in Narnia.
One thing that is so impressive about McAvoy‘s performance in the film is that some of his personalities almost seem to take on new faces. His bald head is the consistent representation of his singular physical being, but he displays the wide range of people trapped inside his head. So whether he thinks he's a man, woman, or child, the bald head is always a dead giveaway… except somehow McAvoy makes his ever-changing personas crystal clear through voice and body language. The hairstyle never breaks the illusion; instead it's like a blank slate in which any number of hairdos and hats could be in its place through his (and our) imagination.