Most Memorable Movie Makeovers, From 'Miss Congeniality' to 'Romy and Michele's High School Reunion'

If you didn't peak in high school, you're not alone! These movies celebrate the glow ups that happen after graduation.
by Allison Bowsher — 

From left to right: Sandra Bullock in 'Miss Congeniality' and Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino in 'Romy and Michele's High School Reunion'

Courtesy of YouTube

Unlike real life, which can require months or even years to see massive changes in appearances, movies give viewers the big unveiling in minutes. Makeovers, or glow ups (a positive physical and mental maturation), are a tried-and-true theme of films, especially in the teen genre. Films aimed at younger audiences typically focus on glow ups that come at a personal cost, with characters losing what makes them unique to instead buy into beauty stereotypes (think Brittany Murphy as Tai in Clueless and Lindsay Lohan as Cady in Mean Girls). 

However, onscreen post-high school glow ups are often more successful at showing the benefits of a makeover, including the much-needed confidence boost that can come from feeling better about how one looks. Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, which turns 25 this year, is a great example of a film that celebrated characters who came into their own both physically and mentally as adults. It took some time, but Romy (Mira Sorvino) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow) looked cute and felt cute after leaving high school.

Not all on-screen glow ups have aged well, though. (Think about how many actors donned excessive prosthetics or fat suits to reinforce traditional beauty standards.) And everyone knows the best type of self-improvement is done on the inside. But since looking good can sometimes help those who suffer from low self-esteem, we've put together a list of makeover films that celebrate the internal and external glow ups. And don't worry, this list is gender inclusive because despite what some lifestyle magazines may have had you believing in past decades, makeovers not just for women.

Here, Metacritic highlights the 10 most memorable makeover/glow up movies, ranked by Metascore.


From left to right: Ryan Goslin and Steve Carell in 'Crazy, Stupid, Love'

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Crazy, Stupid, Love

Metascore: 68
Best for: Rom-com fans who love unexpected twists
Where to watch:

, Google Play, , iTunes,
Runtime: 118 minutes

Steve Carell's first post-Office film shows his softer side as Cal, a father of (spoiler!) three who finds his world turned upside down when his wife and high-school sweetheart Emily (Julianne Moore) announces she's having an affair. Rather than fight for his marriage, Cal literally jumps out of the couple's moving car. The New Balance-wearing, Velcro-wallet owning family man gets a makeover 25-years in the making from his new friend and practiced lothario, Jacob (Ryan Gosling). With a haircut that costs more than $20, a few tips on how to talk to women, and an aspirational message ("Be better than The Gap"), Cal soon realizes that he not only ignored his marriage, but also himself.

"It's a luscious confection, with Carell at his most wittily forlorn." — Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly


Nia Vardalos in 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding'

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My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Metascore: 62
Best for: Fans of movies that highlight the humor of multi-generational immigrant family dynamics
Where to watch:

, Google Play, , iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 95 minutes

My Big Fat Greek Wedding not only holds the title as the highest-grossing rom-com of all time, but it also makes our list as one of the best on-screen, post-high school glow ups because writer and star Nia Vardalos plays Toula, a 30-something woman who is stuck in a rut and living at home with her parents but finally decides to start putting herself first, which means getting a job outside the family business and investing in a good pair of tweezers and some hair products that aren't made from Windex. She transforms herself physically and gets the confidence boost she needs to talk to Ian (John Corbett), a handsome customer at her family's travel agency. They fall in love, get engaged, and yes, have a big, fat, Greek wedding.

"Like Vardalos and Corbett, who play their roles with vibrant charm, the film, directed by Joel Zwick, is heartfelt and hilarious in ways you can't fake. It's a keeper." — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone


Anne Hathaway in 'The Devil Wears Prada'

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The Devil Wears Prada

Metascore: 62
Best for: Fashion fans who worship Vogue and Meryl Streep
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, , Vudu
Runtime: 109 minutes

A movie about a mean boss? The Devil Wears Prada may not reinvent the wheel, but has been a fan favorite for year thanks to its devotion to fashion and superb performances from Streep, Anne HathawayEmily Blunt, and Stanley Tucci. Hathaway stars as Andie, an aspiring journalist, but also a fashion disaster, who takes a job at Runway, a Vogue-esque magazine run by Miranda Priestly (Streep). Ridiculed by her co-workers for her schlubby wardrobe and split ends, Andie learns the power of a timeless Manolo pump and a deep conditioning treatment thanks to art director Nigel (Tucci). But the film isn't just about a physical makeover, as more importantly, Andie eventually learns to stand up for herself and what she really wants out of her career.

"Avoiding the dumb-girl gags of broad satires like Legally Blonde, The Devil Wears Prada is more like The Empire Strikes Back played out with stiletto heels instead of lightsabers." — Kyle Smith, New York Post


Michael Vartan and Drew Barrymore in 'Never Been Kissed'

Courtesy of Apple TV

Never Been Kissed

Metascore: 60
Best for: Fans of feel-good comedies where nerds get redemption
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 107 minutes

Drew Barrymore's Josie Geller not only gets a post-high school glow up in Never Been Kissed, but she also gets the chance to return to class as the new hot girl, a far cry from her "Grossy Josie" days. Josie, a reporter, poses as a high school student because she is tasked with breaking stories about teen drinking and sexcapades from the inside. The braces and teased hair of her younger years are now replaced with softer curls and clothes chosen for her by the popular girls. With some help from her older brother Rob (David Arquette), who also poses as a high school student, Josie's school do-over results in her being voted prom queen and catching the eye of her English teacher (Michael Vartan) in a storyline that is admittedly part sweet and part icky when you stop to think about the fact that he doesn't know she's actually of age.

"The movie's screenplay is contrived and not blindingly original, but Barrymore illuminates it with sunniness, and creates a lovable character." — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times


From left to right: Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino in 'Romy & Michele's High School Reunion'

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

Metascore: 59
Best for: Fans of buddy comedies and throwbacks to the 1980s
Where to watch: 

Google PlayiTunesTubi
Runtime: 92 minutes  

This 1997 feel-good film follows besties Romy and Michele, whose friendship helped the pair survive the high school bullies that taunted their Madonna-inspired looks and medical-grade back braces. Ten years later, the women agree to attend their high school reunion, but decide to inflate their success, claiming they invented the Post-it note. After a mid-trip argument on their way to the event and a disastrous first impression at the reunion, the women end up undoing their makeover to get back to who they really are at heart, which includes their shiny, fur-trimmed original fashion designs and flowing blond hair.

"A frothy comedy with the most adorable buddies since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ... as much about clothes as it is about the anxiety of seeing former classmates again."  Ruthe Stein, San Francisco Chronicle


'The House Bunny'

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The House Bunny

Metascore: 55
Best for: Fans of fun college-set films that are a touch risqué
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 97 minutes

Anna Faris stars as Shelley, a former Playboy playmate who gets kicked out of the Playboy mansion by a jealous roommate. After following an attractive group of college students onto campus, Shelley finds herself as the house mother of the struggling Zeta sorority, which is filled with members who are high on body odor and low on self-esteem. The women, including Natalie (Emma Stone), Mona (Kat Dennings), Lilly (Kiely Williams), and Harmoney (Katherine McPhee) trade in the drab clothes they wore in high school and enjoy the confidence boost that comes with fitted tops and a professional blow out. This film does lean into the importance of physical appearances and play with stereotypes more than some of the others, but if you're looking for something light, this could be it.

"Among the sunnier, funnier films of the year, thanks largely to the zest with which Faris embodies a mental vacuum."  Michael Ordona, Los Angeles Times


From left to right: Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson in 'Central Intelligence'

Courtesy of YouTube

Central Intelligence

Metascore: 52
Best for: Fans who can't get enough of Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson's undeniable chemistry
Where to watch: 

Google PlayiTunesVudu 
Runtime: 107 minutes 

Central Intelligence puts Johnson and Hart's comedic chemistry to good use with Johnson starring as Bob Stone, a former unpopular, overweight high schooler who was humiliated in front of the entire school and never returned to class, and Hart as the only person to take pity on Bob, popular jock Calvin Joyner. Years later, the pair reunite the night before their high school reunion, except Calvin doesn't recognize the now-buff Bob. Johnson's WWE muscles are put to good use in Central Intelligence, where not even a pair of jorts can take away from his character's coolness. It's amazing what shredded leg muscles can do for bad fashion. They also come in handy with his gig at the CIA, and naturally, he and Calving end up teaming up to take down a terrorist threat.

"Hart and Johnson are a classic comedy duo in the tradition of Abbott & Costello, Bob Hope & Bing Crosby and Gene Wilder & Richard Pryor."  Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com


Amy Smart and Ryan Reynolds in 'Just Friends'

Courtesy of Apple TV

Just Friends

Metascore: 47
Best for: Fans of rom-coms with a big dose of physical comedy
Where to watch:

, Google Play, , iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 96

Ryan Reynolds amps up the physical comedy in this 2005 holiday rom-com, in which he stars as Chris, a former overweight teen who transforms himself into a slender and successful music producer. When Chris and the outrageous popstar (Faris) he produces fly to his hometown for the holidays, he finds himself reunited with his high school bestie and crush Jamie (Amy Smart). Even with his post-high school maturation, Chris still finds himself in the "friend zone" and in competition for Jamie with another classmate, Dusty Dinkelman (Chris Klein), who is also enjoying his own adult improvements.

"Just Friends reminds this '80s survivor of the rambunctious teen comedies directed by 'Savage' Steve Holland and starring the young John Cusack — films such as Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer. Those weren't art, and neither is this. But they were cheerful and inventive and sloppily assured — and so is this." — Ty Burr, The Boston Globe


Patrick Dempsey and Reese Witherspoon in 'Sweet Home Alabama'

Courtesy of Apple TV

Sweet Home Alabama

Metascore: 45
Best for: Fans of rom-coms who love to hear "bless your heart" on the big screen
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Tubi, Vudu
Runtime: 108 minutes

Reese Witherspoon stars as Melanie Smooter, an Alabama native who leaves her small town and real name behind to become fashion designer Melanie Carmichael in New York. Ditching her cowboy boots for high heels and a chic bob haircut, Melanie transforms into a "hoity-toity Yankee." At least, that's how her almost-ex-husband Jake (Josh Lucas) describes her. When Melanie gets engaged to wealthy New Yorker Andrew (Patrick Dempsey), she must return to her hometown for the first time in seven years to finalize her divorce. This trip rekindles Melanie's romance with Jake and her penchant for denim jackets, which she now pairs with a skirt and cute purse, proving you can evolve without completely changing who you are.

"A sweet, light-hearted fairy tale with Reese Witherspoon at its center. She is as lovable as Doris Day would have been in this role (in fact, Doris Day was in this role, in Please Don't Eat the Daisies)."  Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times


Sandra Bullock in 'Miss Congeniality'

Courtesy of YouTube

Miss Congeniality

Metascore: 43
Best for: Those who can't decide between a rom-com and action flick
Where to watch:

, Google Play, , iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 109 minutes

It's not easy being a woman in law enforcement and no one knows that better than Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock). The FBI agent shuns stereotypical beauty standards and personal grooming until a terrorist attack on the Miss USA pageant forces her to go undercover as a contestant. Gracie's airplane hangar makeover takes a team of specialists, but together they are able to transform the rough and tough agent into a stunning pageant queen. Admittedly, it was probably more difficult to glow down (is that a term?) Bullock, but the big makeover reveal is an iconic visual moment, and it's only the start of changes to the characters in the film. Grace's influence, which goes well beyond the superficial, is life-changing for a few other contestants.

"A remarkably solid, streamlined, action-comedy in the ugly-duckling-to-gorgeous-swan genre that elicits more laughs and genuinely affecting moments than you might expect from its tepid ad campaign."  Marc Savlov, The Austin Chronicle