1. The Werewolf Transformation in An American Werewolf In London (1981)
Special Makeup Effects: Rick Baker
The bottom line: Rick Baker’s groundbreaking work in John Landis’ excellent horror-comedy An American Werewolf In London was the first-ever recipient of the Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup. A real bar-setter, in other words. And what’s most impressive about Baker’s still hard-to-fathom transformation sequence is that it’s just as astounding today as it was 30 years ago.
If you don’t squirm while watching the cursed and unfortunate David Kessler (David Naughton) mutate in real time, you’re either comatose or blind. Or some kind of “sick” that we don’t even want to consider. For us “normal” folk, Werewolf’s calling card is an excruciating yet superlative example of practical makeup effects—you know, the type of man-made visuals that have become a sad thing of the past no thanks to Hollywood’s current CGI jones.
With Sam Cooke’s soulful “Blue Moon” ironically playing in the background, Naughton’s fingers and hands extend straight up, much to his own horror; as do his feet, followed by his bubbling back-bones and spine. By the time Naughton’s nose stretches outward and his teeth become pointy fangs, Baker’s legacy as a makeup genius is cemented.