11 best Rick Baker movie effects

Legendary movie make-up artist Rick Baker announced his retirement just last week, and you could practically hear his many collaborators groaning in sadness. With 12 Oscar nominations and seven wins to his name, though, you can hardly accuse him of slacking.

Though he started out on low-budget, little-seen titles like The Thing With Two Heads and Schlock, the 80s saw Baker graduate to make-up wunderkind. He became so revered (not to mention skilled), in fact, that the Academy Awards created the Best Make-up & Hairstyling trophy just so they could reward his efforts on An American Werewolf In London.

In honour of the great man, here are his best movie moments

An American Werewolf In London (1981)

The Movie Magic: Though he was originally working on other 1981 werewolf flick The Howling, Baker left that film in the capable hands of Rob Bottin in order to take on John Landis more British monster flick.

And thank Lupin he did. The standout moment comes when David Naughtons savaged backpacker transforms into a werewolf for the first time. Its grisly, traumatic and absolutely spellbinding.

Did You Know? Baker based the look of the werewolf on his dog, Bosko.

Videodrome (1983)

The Movie Magic: When your movie involves biological weirdness the like of which has never been seen before, who do you turn to? Well, Rick Baker, of course.

Thanks to Baker, the stand-out moment in David Cronenbergs body horror - that bit where James Wood picks a hole in his belly, where he deposits his hand gun has shock value by the gut-load.

Did You Know? Cronenbergs script contained such bizarre imagery that Baker wasnt able to fulfil all the directors requirements.

There was stuff in the script that, I just said to David, I dont think I can do this. I dont think I can do it as its written. But I can do this, Baker says. That was a mutated version of what he had, and with David, it was a real collaboration.

Coming To America (1988)

The Movie Magic: Nowadays, Eddie Murphys movie transformations are something we take for granted, but back in the 80s, Baker was instrumental in helping him tackle a huge range of roles in Coming To America.

Most impressive was this transformation, which saw Murphy changing into a white Jewish man in a barber shop.

Did You Know? Baker helped transform Murphy into numerous characters again in 90s remake The Nutty Professor.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

The Movie Magic: When Baker signed on to Joe Dantes much-belated second creature feature, he came with a request: he wanted to play around with the gremlin design. After original effects guru Chris Walas declined to return, Baker wanted to put his own stamp on the furry little monsters.

The result? A whole load of new gremlins cooked up in the lab of a New York high-rise. Given free reign to go crazy with the critters, Baker came up with some memorably kooky characters including that creepy spider cross-breed.

Did You Know? Bakers first ever special effects gig was with movie Octaman (1971), clips of which appear in Dantes sequel. His love for horror is all over his CV, which also includes contributing the make-up for Michael Jacksons zombie-themed Thriller video.

Men In Black (1997)

The Movie Magic: Though Industrial Light & Magic contributed some groundbreaking CGI effects to Barry Sonnenfelds sci-fi riot, Bakers prosthetics are equally gob-smacking.

Standouts include Vincent DOnofrios slow, grim transformation into a human cockroach, and that impressive mechanical head, which hosts a teeny, tiny alien. Baker had so much fun, he came back for both sequels.

Did You Know? Baker had to get approval from Sonnenfeld and producer Steven Spielberg on all of his designs for the film, which resulted in a fair bit of to-ing and fro-ing.

It was like, 'Steven likes the head on this one and Barry really likes the body on this one, so why don't you do a mix and match?' And I'd say, because it wouldn't make any sense, he laughs.

The Frighteners (1996)

The Movie Magic: A double-hander, this one. Baker was responsible for creating the prosthetic make-up for The Judge (John Astin), the old Western cowboy who also happens to be dead.

However, Baker was busy working on The Nutty Professor, meaning dressing Astin up fell to Brian Penikas instead.

Did You Know? Baker was nominated for a Saturn Award for The Frighteners, but he lost out to, uh, himself when he won for his work on The Nutty Professor.

The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

The Movie Magic: Well, a melting man doesnt exactly melt himself, does he? In one of his earliest jobs, Baker was responsible for transforming Steve West into a bloody, gloomy mess after the astronaut get exposed to radiation in space.

Actor Alex Rebar had to wear appliances on his face that would look like melted flesh, while liquid pieces were created to fall off him as he moves about.

Did You Know? In order to create a severed head that explodes at the bottom of a waterfall, Baker constructed a gelatine head that he filled with fake blood.

Ed Wood (1994)

The Movie Magic: In Tim Burtons loving ode to the tumultuous career of Ed Wood, the legendary Martin Landau plays Bela Lugosi, the actor who played Dracula in the 1930s.

In order to help Landau look as much like his real-life counterpart as possible, Baker was brought in to create some beautifully subtle prosthetics.

Did You Know? Baker shied away from using the kind of extensive effects he had become known for, instead using spare prosthetic flourishes to mould Landau into a Lugosi likeness.

Harry & The Hendersons (1987)

The Movie Magic: Easily one of Bakers most impressive creations arrives in the shape of a great hairy yeti in this family comedy.

Kevin Peter Hall plays the hulking Bigfoot, whom the Henderson family discover in the woods. Using a full body suit and clever puppetry techniques, Baker transformed Hall into the towering beast we all fell in love with.

Did You Know? Of all the films Baker worked on, hes most proud of the work he did on Harry & The Hendersons.

I really loved that character and I think it still holds up, hes said. I just read an article about CG stuff and somebody was talking about animatronics and how they didn't think they could do something better than Harry was in that film and I did that in the 80s.

Planet Of The Apes (2001)

The Movie Magic: Tim Burtons remake of the beloved sci-fi classic didnt exactly go down well with audiences, but if the plot was weaker than prom punch, Bakers prosthetics were stronger than ever.

With modern techniques that werent available back in 1968, Baker creates unbelievably life-like apes out of Helena Bonham Carter and co, even if the application process was a bladder-busting 4.5 hours.

Did You Know? Baker says of the film: "I did the Dino De Laurentiis version of King Kong in 1976 and was always disappointed because I wasn't able to do it as realistically as I wanted. I thought Apes would be a good way to make up for that."

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (2000)

The Movie Magic: Its no small task to bring Dr Seuss colourful characters to life on the big screen, but Baker made it look easy, turning Jim Carrey into the titular misery-guts without messing with that famously rubber face.

According to Baker, there were three different types of Who in the film those who used entire life casts, those with generic make-up and those wearing vacuform masks.

Did You Know? When we started The Grinch, I did the make-up on myself, Baker reveals. And I did my daughters as Whos. There'll be some of that on the DVD. Some days I'd put on the makeup and just walk around Whoville.

Josh Winning

Josh Winning has worn a lot of hats over the years. Contributing Editor at Total Film, writer for SFX, and senior film writer at the Radio Times. Josh has also penned a novel about mysteries and monsters, is the co-host of a movie podcast, and has a library of pretty phenomenal stories from visiting some of the biggest TV and film sets in the world. He would also like you to know that he "lives for cat videos..." Don't we all, Josh. Don't we all.