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Top 10 Character Transformations in Movies

Jamie Frater

[WARNING: Some spoilers are found in this list] Just when you think you know what your favorite character is going to do; just when you feel like you are becoming familiar with a character, BAM – they change. The change is sometimes sudden, and sometimes, it is as subtle as a spring breeze. Regardless of the methods, here are the top 10 character transformations in movies – be sure to tell us if you think we missed one.

10. Fight Club (1999)

Notable Change: The Narrator IS Tyler!

Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter. When the Narrator (Norton) meets who is to become his new fast friend, Tyler Durden (Pitt), they set up a common pleasure game galled the Fight Club. Things escalate, Marla Singer (Carter) arrives, and the Club becomes far more than the narrator ever intended. Never before has one seen split-personality sleepwalking turn into such a scary event!

9. On The Waterfront (1954)

Notable Change: Brando becomes someone he hates

Marlon Brando, Rod Steiger, and Karl Malden. The Waterfront Crime Commission is about to hold public hearings on union crime and underworld infiltration. As workers are turned against each other, Terry Malloy inadvertently participates in the murder of fellow longshoreman Joey Doyle. Union boss Johnny Friendly orchestrates the murder along with other illegal dockside activities, aided by Terry’s brother Charley.

8. Pretty Woman (1990)

Notable Change: Though still a hooker, Vivian has morals and pride

Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Edward (Gere) is a rich, ruthless businessman who specializes in taking over companies and then selling them off piece by piece. He travels to Los Angeles for a business trip and decides to hire a prostitute, Vivian (Roberts). They take a liking to each other and he offers her money if she’ll stay with him for an entire week while he makes the “rich and famous” scene.

7. The Madness of King George (1994)

Notable Change: Sane one minute, insane the next!

Nigel Hawthorne, Ian Holm, and Hellen Mirren. A meditation on power and the metaphor of the body of state, based on the real episode of dementia experienced by George III [now suspected a victim of porphyria, a blood disorder]. As he loses his senses, he becomes both more alive and more politically marginalized; neither effect desirable to his lieutenants, who jimmy the rules to avoid a challenge to regal authority, raising the question of who is really in charge.

6. The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

Notable Change: From housewife – to assassin!

Gena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson. Samantha Caine, suburban homemaker, is the ideal mom to her 8 year old daughter Caitlin. She lives in Pennsylvanis, has a job teaching school, and makes the best Rice Krispie treats in town. But when she receives a bump on her head, she begins to remember small parts of her previous life as a lethal, top-secret agent. Her old chums in the Chapter are now out to kill her so she enlists the help of a cheap detective named Mitch. As Samantha remembers more and more of her previous life, she becomes deadlier and more resourceful. Both Mitch and Charly proceed to do the killing thing.

5. The Usual Suspects (1995)

Notable Change: Verbal Kint IS Soze! Best ending EVER!

Kevin Spacey, Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, and Kevin Pollack. Who is Kaiser Soze? You’ll never guess.

4. Rear Window (1954)

Notable Change: Mr. Stewart, how YOU have changed!

James Stewart and Grace Kelly. Professional photographer L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries breaks his leg while getting an action shot at an auto race. Confined to his New York apartment, he spends his time looking out of the rear window observing the neighbors. He begins to suspect that the man opposite may have murdered his wife. Jeff enlists the help of his society model girlfriend Lisa Freemont and his nurse Stella to investigate.

3. American History X (1999)

In a shocking opening scene, teen Danny Vinyard (Edward Furlong) races to tell his older brother, neo-Nazi Derek (Edward Norton), about the young blacks breaking into his car in front of the house, whereupon Derek gets his gun and with no forethought shoots the youths in their tracks. Tried and convicted, Derek is sent away for three years in prison, where he acquires a different outlook as he contrasts white-power prisoners with black Lamont (Guy Torry), his prison laundry co-worker and eventual pal. Meanwhile, Danny, with a shaved head and a rebellious attitude, seems destined to follow in his big brother’s footsteps.

2. Requiem For a Dream (2000)

Notable Change: Four seemingly normal people become people who are completely different!

Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans, and Ellen Burstyn. The film depicts the lives of four different people living in Brooklyn on their quest for satisfaction in life. It shows the direct and indirect effects that drugs and various addictions have on each of the individuals, and then portrays their downward spirals from the hopes of blossoming dreams into the helpless state of moral and physical decay.

1. It’s A Wonderful Life (1947)

Notable Change: George Baily, this is your life! Now live it better!

James Stewart and Donna Reed. George Bailey spends his entire life giving up his big dreams for the good of his town, Bedford Falls, as we see in flashback. But in the present, on Christmas Eve, he is broken and suicidal over the misplacing of an $8000 loan and the machinations of the evil millionaire, Mr. Potter. His guardian angel, Clarence, falls to Earth, literally, and shows him how his town, family, and friends would turn out if he had never been born. George meant so much to so many people; should he really throw it all away?

Bonus: Primal Fear (1996)

Richard Gere stars as Martin Vail, a famed defense lawyer who volunteers his services to Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton), a Kentucky teenager charged with the murder of a Chicago archbishop. Covered with blood, Aaron was captured after a foot chase broadcast live on TV, making a gleeful Vail certain that he could raise his profile by defending the obviously guilty suspect. Assigned to prosecute is Assistant District Attorney Janet Venable (Laura Linney), who is Vail’s ex-girlfriend. Vail’s case becomes more complicated than he expected when a psychologist, Dr. Molly Arrington (Frances McDormand) concludes that Stampler suffers from multiple personality disorder.

Notable Omissions: A Clockwork Orange, GI Jane

Jamie Frater

Jamie is the founder of Listverse. He spends his time working on the site, doing research for new lists, and cooking. He is fascinated with all things morbid and bizarre.

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