The Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling was a late edition to the ceremony. And the addition of hairstyling to the category came even later. After an outpouring of criticism towards the Academy for not honoring the makeup work done in David Lynch’s The Elephant Man, the Academy instituted the “Best Makeup” category the very next year at the 54th annual award ceremony. It wasn’t until 2012 that the title of the award was altered to the “Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.” In this post, we’ll not only give you a complete list of every Best Makeup and Hairstyling winner, we’ve ranked our very favorites. Let’s jump into the world of Oscar-winning makeup & hair!
History of the Best Makeup category
The history of the Best Makeup category at the Academy Awards has been somewhat rocky over the years. In fact, changes were made to the submission and review process as recently as the 2020 award ceremony. That year, the ‘short list’ of nominees was expanded from seven to 10 films. The ‘short list’ is essentially a small group of films that have been pre-nominated so to speak for voters to choose from before deciding the official nominees.
Before becoming an official category, two films were previously awarded at the Oscars with honorary awards: 7 Faces of Dr. Lao in 1964 and Planet of the Apes in 1968. These honorary awards were given in response to the impressive makeup work done by William J. Tuttle in 7 Faces of Dr. Lao and by John Chambers in Planet of the Apes.
Even after the Best Makeup category was introduced in the 54th annual Academy Awards, it was still on unsteady footing. In the first two years, there were only two nominees each. And in 1983, no nominations were made, resulting in no Best Makeup winner for the year. This was despite many impressive feats of makeup design including Return of the Jedi, Tootsie, and Zelig.
The Best Makeup category has traditionally had a smaller field of nominees than other Academy Award categories. There are typically only three nominees for Best Makeup rather than the five nominees that most other categories receive. The reasoning behind this has been contested and drawn criticism. The field is now eligible to host five nominees, though that does not always happen.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling List
All Best Makeup and Hairstyling winners
Here is a quick list of every official Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar winner.
*NOTE: Best Hairstyling wasn't added until 1993.
1981: Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London)
1982: Sarah Monanzi, Michele Burke (Quest for Fire)
1984: Paul LeBlanc, Dick Smith (Amadeus)
1985: Michael Westmore, Zoltan Elek (Mask)
1986: Chris Wales, Stephan Dupuis (The Fly)
1987: Rick Baker (Harry and the Hendersons)
1988: Ve Neill, Steve La Porte, Robert Short (Beetlejuice)
1989: Manilo Rocchetti, Lynn Barber, Kevin Haney (Driving Miss Daisy)
1990: John Caglione Jr., Doug Drexler (Dick Tracy)
1991: Stan Winston, Jeff Dawn (Terminator 2: Judgement Day)
1992: Greg Cannom, Michele Burke, Matthew W. Mungle (Dracula)
1993: Greg Cannom, Ve Neill, Yolanda Toussieng (Mrs Doubtfire)
1994: Rick Baker, Ve Neill, Yolanda Toussieng (Ed Wood)
1995: Peter Frampton, Paul Pattison, Lois Burnwell (Braveheart)
1996: Rick Baker, David LeRoy Anderson (The Nutty Professor)
1997: Rick Baker, David LeRoy Anderson (Men in Black)
1998: Jenny Shircore (Elizabeth)
1999: Christine Blundell, Trefor Proud (Topsy Turvy)
2000: Rick Baker, Gail Ryan (The Grinch)
2001: Peter Owen, Richard Taylor (Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring)
2002: John E Jackson, Beatrice De Alba (Frida)
2003: Richard Taylor, Peter King (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King)
2004: Valli O’Reilly, Bill Corso (A Series of Unfortunate Events)
2005: Howard Berger, Tami Lane (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
2006: David Martí, Montse Ribé (Pan’s Labyrinth)
2007: Didier Lavergne, Jan Archibald (La Vie en Rose)
2008: Greg Cannom (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
2009: Barney Burman, Mindy Hall, Joel Harlow (Star Trek)
2010: Rick Baker, Dave Elsey (The Wolfman)
2011: Mark Coulier, J Roy Helland (The Iron Lady)
2012: Lisa Westcott, Julie Dartnell (Les Miserables)
2013: Adruitha Lee, Robin Mathews (Dallas Buyers Club)
2014: Frances Hannon, Mark Coulier (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
2015: Damian Martin, Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega (Mad Max: Fury Road)
2016: Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini, Christopher Nelson (Suicide Squad)
2017: Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick (Darkest Hour)
2018: Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe, Patricia Dehaney (Vice)
2019: Kazuhiro Tsuji, Anne Morgan, Vivian Baker (Bombshell)
2020/21: Sergio López-Rivera, Mia Neal, Jamika Wilson (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom)
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 10 most impressive winners of the Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling of all time.
Best makeup Academy Awards
10. Amadeus (1984)
Paul LeBlanc and Dick Smith shared the Academy Awards spotlight for their work on the Milos Foreman Best Picture winner Amadeus. With as flamboyant a period-piece as possible, LeBlanc and Smith really had their work cut out for them. With all of the extravagant makeup and powdered wigs you could possibly imagine and they delivered in spades.
Find out where Amadeus ranks on our list of the Best '80s Movies.
9. Ed Wood (1994)
The Tim Burton 1994 biopic of legendary ‘bad’ filmmaker Ed Wood featured the impressive makeup work of Rick Baker, Ve Neill, and Yolanda Toussieng. Ed Wood features a period setting and focuses on authenticity. They went out of their way to replicate the look and style of the films of the time. The period-accuracy coupled with the entire cast portraying real people added up to a challenging makeup showcase.
See where Ed Wood lands on our ranking of Tim Burton’s entire filmography.
Best makeup award
8. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Greg Cannom, Ve Neill, and Yolanda Toussieng were tasked with transforming the beloved Robin Williams into the titular Mrs. Doubtfire. The role demanded a full-body transformation and required a number of different makeup techniques to be utilized simultaneously.
Combined with Williams' fantastic acting, the end result is a real achievement. This is a clear case of how hair and makeup becomes an integral part of the actor's performance.
Best makeup in movies
7. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
The makeup and effects for Terminator 2: Judgement Day were done by Stan Winston and Jeff Dawn. Winston is perhaps the best known “creature effects” artist of the era. He was responsible for not only both of James Cameron's terminators but also the Xenomorphs in the Aliens and the iconic Predator.
Check out our list of the best movie sequels ever made to see where T2 landed.
Best makeup Academy Awards
6. Beetlejuice (1988)
Ve Neill, Steve La Porte, and Robert Short were tasked with bringing Tim Burton’s wild vision for Beetlejuice to life. The makeup effects required for Beetlejuice are plentiful and extremely varied. The film is packed wall-to-wall with special effects, and this impressive creative team was thankfully up to the demanding task.
Designing Michael Keaton's titular ghoul in such detail would have been an achievement in itself. But when you consider all the supporting characters, especially the Underworld waiting room, it's staggering work all around.
Academy Award for best makeup and hairstyling
5. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Mad Max: Fury Road has, without a doubt, the most demanding hair and makeup work of the entire Mad Max series. Damian Martin, Lesley Vanderwalt and Elka Wardega rose to the challenge and helped to deliver George Miller’s unique vision of a post-apocalyptic world.
The War Boys, Furiosa, and, of course, Immortan Joe all have such striking hair and makeup. There is plenty to admire in Fury Road from a design perspective, and that includes the work of Martin, Vanderwalt, and Wardega.
Best makeup Oscar
4. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Guillermo Del Toro’s films have always been home to imaginative makeup and special effects creations. And few would argue that Pan’s Labyrinth is one of his most impressive directorial efforts. David Martí and Montse Ribé worked together to deliver all of the memorable creature and makeup effects found in Pan’s Labyrinth.
Best makeup Academy Awards
Each of the Lord of the Rings films is deserving of the Best Makeup Oscar at the Academy Awards. Peter Owen and Richard Taylor won the award for their work on The Fellowship of the Ring and Richard Taylor won again at the close of the trilogy, this time alongside Peter King, for The Return of the King.
Any adaptation of Tolkien's Middle Earth would fail miserably without masterfully executed makeup and hair. To sell the illusion, the entire world needs to be created from the hobbit feet on up. This is what makes artists like Taylor, Owen, and King come to rescue.
Oscar winner for best makeup
2. The Fly (1986)
If there is one director who is synonymous with “body horror,” it is David Cronenberg. And his 1986 film The Fly, just might be his goriest masterpiece. While horror films are frequently overlooked by the Academy, they at least received many of the early Best Makeup Oscars.
The work done in The Fly by Chris Walas and Stephan Dupuis is just as disgustingly amazing today as it was back in the '80s.
Find out where The Fly ranks on our list of the best horror movies ever made.
Oscar winning makeup artists
1. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
There were two main factors that led to the Academy Awards adding the Best Makeup category: first, an outpouring of wishes for The Elephant Man’s makeup to have been honored when it wasn’t. And an intense desire to laud the work done by Rick Baker on An American Werewolf in London.
In a way, the entire Best Makeup category was added to the annual ceremony because Rick Baker’s work on this werewolf film was just that good. The transformation scene is a real sight to behold and is still jaw-dropping today.
Best Director Oscar Winners Ranked
Those were our picks for the 10 greatest Best Makeup Oscar winners since the category’s creation in 1982. For many, practical makeup and special effects will always be superior to the digital special effects work now possible after the popularization of CGI. Now that we’ve covered the Best Makeup Oscar winners, why not take a look at our ranking of the Best Director Oscar winners?