The 5 Best Spiritual Makeover Montages in Movie History
Stream these classics of self-reinvention on Netflix, Amazon, et al., just in time for your New Year’s resolutions.
Screengrab via Amazon.
"I decided I needed a complete makeover, except this time, I'd make over my soul," muses protagonist Cher Horowitz toward the end of greatest-film-of-all-time-do-not-@-me-thank-u-next history, Clueless, before embarking on a goodwill campaign inspired by the social do-goodery of Jane Austen's Emma. This moment constitutes the climax of a real journey for a girl who starts out thinking the solution to every problem lies in a fresh application of lip liner and a bagful of new clothes from the Galleria. Physical makeovers are a dime a dozen in movies, but as Cher showed us all when she captained the Pismo Beach Disaster Relief squad, the real glow-up comes from within.
A spiritual makeover might sometimes coincide with a physical one, but they're not the same thing. Witness: The Devil Wears Prada, in which Anne Hathaway's character goes through a spiritual make- under as her Lewk improves over the course of the film. The same can be said of Clueless's Tai, whose meanness grows in direct proportion to her hotness (until she finally chills out and allows herself to love a nice stoner). It’s almost 2019, and many—if not most—of us will soon embark on a crusade to remake ourselves in God’s (and Equinox’s) image for the new year. Why not draw inspiration from some of the greatest spiritual makeovers in cinematic history?
A Christmas Carol (1984). Is there any greater story of Christmas-adjacent self-improvement than A Christmas Carol? The age-old Dickens story chronicles Ebenezer Scrooge’s eventual, ghost-induced realization that he sucks, as well as his eventual redemption. There have been many adaptations over the years, but there’s something about the 1984 made-for-TV movie that really nails the gloomy mise-en-scene of the story.
Grease (1978) . When Sandy shows up at the carnival dressed head to toe in skintight black leather, she's sending a very important message about her new and improved state of mind: this! girl! fucks! No longer the ultra-prim, cardigan-swathed Sandra Dee of the past, Bad Sandy knows exactly what she wants—John Travolta’s fine self, with a cigarette chaser—and makes no apologies for it.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999). In this near-perfect teen rom-com, Heath Ledger goes from cig-ripping, principal’s-office-loitering bad boy willing to date a tough girl for $$$, to mushy hunk who serenades you in front of the whole school. (Granted, Offset proved to us all that grand gestures are ineluctably corny, but this is the exception that proves the rule.) He goes paintballing! He listens to Letters to Cleo! He learns to love! What an evolution!
She’s All That (1999). Another 10 Things I Hate About You-style banger about men Learning to Love, released the very same year! This time, though, the man in question is a hot, popular jock named Zach, played to perfection by Freddie Prinze Jr., and the girl in question is a “nerd” named Laney (I put “nerd” in quotes because she’s actually just a classically hot woman in glasses and overalls, a trope that’s elegantly skewered in the arguably superior Not Another Teen Movie). Over the course of the film, Zach learns that there are more important things than popularity, and Laney learns that sometimes it’s okay to love a bro.
The Princess Diaries (2001). Obviously, there’s a major physical makeover scene at play here—one does not go from being regular Bay Area teen Mia Thermopolis to Princess Amelia Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi without some divine fashion intervention! The more serious transformation, though, is spiritual—with some help from Julie Andrews, Mia learns that true princess-dom comes from within (and gets to date a Coppola!).