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Great Makeup in the Movies 2011

It's been a tremendous year for makeup in the movies, with makeup artists strutting their stuff in blockbusters galore. From superhero sagas to classic fairy tales, check out some of our top picks for the best movie makeup this year.

Captain America: The First Avenger

'Twas the summer of superheroes, including one of the most beloved characters by comic book nerds everywhere: Captain America. Set in 1942, the movie features gorgeous period makeup and hair created by award-winning makeup and hair designer Lisa Westcott. In addition to the way-cool WWII-era looks, the film unveils the highly anticipated and supremely evil Red Skull. David White designed and built the Red Skull makeup, transforming actor Hugo Weaving's face through a complicated, three-and-a-half-hour-per-day prosthetics process. Finished off with some computer effects work -- like nose removal -- we find the look convincing and sufficiently creepy.

Beastly

"Beauty and the Beast" stories may be a dime a dozen, but this year's version of the classic tale offers a visual departure from the traditional hairy beast. In Beastly, based on Alex Flinn's 2007 novel and set in the high school arena, actor Alex Pettyfer plays Kyle Kingson, the hairless meanie. Makeup artist Tony Gardner designed and created the prosthetics and tattoos for our modern beast, with makeup composed of 67 pieces -- seven pieces on his head and 60 tattoos and individual scars -- and that's on top of full-body makeup application. The actor spent five-and-a-half hours in the makeup chair every day to re-create the phenomenal look.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

This year marks the end of one of the greatest (and highest-grossing) franchises in movie history -- the Harry Potter saga. No more scar-face Harry, no-nose Voldemort, and wild-eyed Bellatrix Lestrange for creature effects/makeup designer Nick Dudman and his team of more than 100 makeup artists, hairdressers, and trainees to bring to life. This last installment brought the challenge of adding 19 years to the main characters' faces for the final scene. The makeup artists used prosthetics to achieve the aging effect, but later re-shot the scene using more of a classic makeup approach. See what you think of this last look at our beloved Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Who could resist another foray into deep waters with the fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies? As makeup department head and practical creature effects supervisor -- as well as Johnny Depp's personal makeup artist -- Joel Harlow is the one responsible for the dazzling looks in the latest film, including the bevy of beautiful (albeit deadly) mermaids. Astrid Berges-Frisbey, who plays the mermaid Syrena, reported spending five hours in makeup putting on a prosthetic breast plate to, in effect, look naked. And what do you think of actress Gemma Ward's vicious incisors?

X-Men: First Class

We just can't get enough of comic books-turned-movies, can we? And for makeup artists, superhero flicks are a great opportunity to flex their creative (and prosthetic) muscles. In the X-Men prequel, up-and-coming actress Jennifer Lawrence gets a turn to become the sexy shape-shifter Mystique (formerly played by Rebecca Romijn). The final effect is dazzling, but the behind-the-scenes work was daunting -- it took a team of six makeup artists, headed up by hair and makeup artist Francis Hannon, seven hours every day to transform the actress into the beautiful blue mutant. Could you stand still for that long?!

If you want to be part of bringing characters like these to life, film and theatrical makeup programs offer the training you need to get started in the field. Theatrical makeup programs usually last several months to a year -- about 30 to 630 hours -- and provide preparation for state board licensing exams. After that, who knows? The next great movie makeup artist could be you.

(Photos courtesy of Marvel Studios, Warner Bros. Pictures,