When drastic hair transformations take place in movies, it often occurs as a result of a trauma, when a character is forced into a disguise, going through a personality change, or it’s something as (comparatively) innocuous as a makeover. When a character chops their locks in a film, it’s often symbolic, as a dramatic evolution is taking place. This can be a positive or negative change – but as we’ve noticed with women in film, it’s usually empowering. Let’s explore seven amazing transformations…
1. Laney Boggs in She’s All That
Laney goes through a dramatic makeover with the help and guidance of the popular clique (as a result of Zack’s request in order to win the bet he made). Along with new outfits and makeup, her long locks are trimmed into a cute, short bob. Laney goes from ‘geek to chic,’ yet still retains her personality. Her transformation (although initially undertaken with questionable intent by Zack) ultimately symbolizes Laney becoming more comfortable in her own skin. A modern adaptation of My Fair Lady, She’s All That is now a quintessential ’90s teen makeover movie.
Dramatic scale: 🌟1/2 out of 5 stars.
2. Cherie Currie in The Runaways
Cherie Currie (played by Dakota Fanning), decides on a drastic style overhaul when about to perform for her high school talent show – trimming her hair into a full-blown Bowie shag. She then draws a lighting bolt on her face, completing her transition while Suzi Quatro’s “Wild One” plays. In this single scene, we’re able to see Currie emulate her idol, David Bowie, who was practically the symbol for uniqueness and counter-culture. By altering her look to imitate such a radical figure, Currie effectively declares that she wants to forge her own unique path as a musician – this was even more revolutionary for a young woman of the time, as women were often not taken seriously in the world of rock n’ roll.
Dramatic scale: 🌟🌟 out of 5 stars.
3. Sabrina in Sabrina
Sabrina (played by Audrey Hepburn, then later by Julia Ormond) is sent to Paris by her father to “live a little,” and while there, she discovers herself and undergoes a huge makeover – including a super fashionable short pixie haircut. The pixie cut is symbolic of Sabrina discovering her own identity in the world and finally coming into her own. When she returns to the U.S., David (her childhood crush), now notices her as a result of her makeover, even though he never noticed her pre-makeover because he’s shallow AF. Sabrina ends up falling for Linus, David’s older brother who always noticed her (awww!), and they move together to Paris to live happily ever after.
Dramatic scale: 🌟🌟🌟1/2 out of 5 stars.
4. Mulan in Mulan
Mulan (the ultimate Disney badass, but I digress) goes into disguise as a man in order to enlist as a soldier so she can take her aging father’s place in the war, thus sparing him from certain death. In order to pull off the disguise, she’s forced to chop her long locks. For Mulan, saving her father’s life was the driving force – she takes his sword and slices right through her long hair, sealing her choice to make one of the bravest sacrifices of them all – risking her life to spare her father’s.
Dramatic scale: 🌟🌟🌟1/2 out of 5 stars.
5. Rapunzel in Tangled
Rapunzel is practically known for her hair (“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair”, anyone?) and it even has healing powers. So when Flynn cuts her hair to prevent Rapunzel from sacrificing her life by using her hair’s magic powers to save him, it’s nothing short of shocking. She’s initially nearly unrecognizable without her long, golden locks. Yet this cut (and color change) symbolizes Rapunzel’s freedom from being held captive by her “Mother” (who in reality is the evil witch, Mother Gothel, who kidnapped Rapunzel from her parents), her restrictive identity, and even the shattering of her child-like view of the world. Rapunzel discovers that she can still heal Flynn with magic tears, so it’s not a total loss. Rapunzel even proves that brunettes actually have more fun, judging from her happy ending.
Dramatic scale: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 out of 5 stars.
6. Debra in Empire Records
Debra (played by Robin Tunney) storms into the Empire Records employee bathroom and proceeds to shave off her cute bob as “Free” by The Martinis plays. The most tortured and troubled character of the lot, Debra is clearly dealing with depression, using her sarcasm to withdraw from her co-workers. This scene symbolizes her refusal to pretend that she’s okay – and her slightly thrilled, slightly frightened expression as she chops off all of her hair is powerful. There are so many layers to Debra, mostly left unexplored. Was she struggling to come into herself and find her place in this world and having a much harder time than others (maybe as a result of mental illness)? Or maybe she was struggling to come to terms with her sexuality? We can only speculate, but Debra’s unflinching refusal to hide what she was going through was real and raw.
Dramatic scale: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 1/2 out of 5 stars.
7. Evey in V for Vendetta
When Evey (played by Natalie Portman) is captured, she refuses to give any info about V (a revolutionary fighting their fascist government and a prime target) and is warned that unless she gives up information, she will be tortured and possibly put to death. The intense head-shaving scene shows that even though Evey is terrified, she’s willing to pay the ultimate price to stand up to her tyrannical government. When she wakes up in V’s house after the ordeal (and V reveals that he was the one who had captured Evey in order to test her loyalty and make her stronger by ‘freeing her from her fears’), Evey is initially horrified and hates V (I mean, completely understandable). Although a twisted move by V, she realizes that the brief imprisonment made her a stronger, more resilient person.
Dramatic scale: A full 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 out of 5 stars.