10 Groundbreaking Uses of Special Effects Makeup

Boris Karloff (with cigarette) is dirtied by director James Whale in between scenes from the 1931 film 'Frankenstein.' See our creature effects image gallery. Universal/Getty Images

When we think of our all-time favorite movies, we often marvel at the way that the stars seem so utterly believable in their roles — and how they manage to transform themselves at times into monsters, robots, supernatural beings, talking apes or other fantastic creatures.

But film is a visual medium, and even the most skillful acting is not enough by itself to sustain the illusion. That's why Hollywood has long relied upon an elite cadre of makeup and special-effects artists, who use powder, paint, latex, silicone and in recent years, computers to convince us to suspend our disbelief.

As Jack Pierce, the makeup artist who turned Boris Karloff into Frankenstein's monster, once explained, "The sole reason for any makeup, and particularly a character makeup, is not to proclaim the skill of the artist or the actor, but to help tell the story" [source: TCM].

The role of makeup artists is so crucial that since 1981, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has awarded an Oscar statuette for best makeup (hairstyling was added in 2012) . Before that, awards were given occasionally for achievement in that category.

So without further ado, here are 10 of the most groundbreaking uses of special effects makeup to create memorable movies, presented in chronological order.