You're a gorgeous male actor, but audiences just won't look past that handsome face. Sigh. How to be seen as something other than a beautiful piece of meat? Easy: grow a beard. For decades, actors have let their facial hair hide the beautiful baggage underneath. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Robert Redford have all tried to hide their manly beauty behind grubby facial hair. The results are often amazing (and amazingly funny). For posterity's sake, we've immortalized the ten most amazing pretty-man beards and ranked them from least impressive to most impressive. So which handsome gent's beard most magnificently masks the godlike figure beneath?
Look: the boyish Cruise can grow facial hair! He can. And did, in order to play the titular Last Samurai, an alcoholic ex-Army captain going rogue. The beard has some light coverage on the cheeks but is, overall, better groomed than you'd expect from a guy living in feudal Japan and doesn’t even seem out of place on Cruise. At least for once, Cruise’s beard was on his face, not by his side on the red carpet. That'll earn him a spot in the top ten but nothing more.
Photo by <i>The Last Samurai</i>, Tom Cruise, 2003. © Warner Brothers. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Handsome but baby faced, DiCaprio simply needed a beard to make reclusive shut-in Howard Hughes authentic. What's surprising is how truly crazy it makes DiCaprio look. The light peach fuzz looks fake. But given how little beard DiCaprio has been able to grow for other roles, the guess is that this one is all real. While Leo looks deranged, his thin My First Beard just doesn't rank against the grown-man beards that follow.
Photo by <i>The Aviator</i>, Leonardo DiCaprio, 2004. © Miramax, Warner Brothers, Initial Entertainment Group. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Call this the Alec Guinness because McGregor grew it out to properly smooth the transition between his young-man good looks in the third Star Wars prequel and the knight’s old Jedi beard in the original. The sweet Alec Guinness-old-man beard looks a little out of place on McGregor’s handsome face -- thus his ranking -- but once he gets older, and George Lucas re-films the original Star Wars with new actors, the transition will be seamless.
Photo by <i>Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith</i>, Ewan McGregor, 2005. © 20th Century Fox. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
As a CIA operative on an assassination job in the Middle East, Clooney sports a giant salt-and-pepper hangdog beard that makes him look far older and far less dashing than he normally does. Clooney's beard is pretty glorious and wouldn't look out of place on a trucker. So what's the problem? He's just too handsome. It looks like he could rip it off at any time, revealing a debonair secret agent underneath.
Photo by <i>Syriana</i>, George Clooney, 2004. © Warner Brothers. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
As a middle-aged Baldwin gets laugh after laugh on 30 Rock, you can forget that Baldwin used to drive the ladies wild. So how to transform into a deranged man in the wild? A beard. And transform Baldwin does. You'd never take Baldwin for a hilarious clean-shaven stud. Of course, the beard itself is rather groomed and ordinary, which is why, despite the extraordinary transformation it accommodates, Alec's beard only ranks at No. 6.
Photo by <em>The Edge</em>, Alec Baldwin, 1997. © 20th Century Fox. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Newman went all rough and tumble, growing out the facial hair for this Western about a “judge” who takes the law into his own hands. Though Newman's wiry blond beard is extraordinarily ugly (good!), it has the unfortunate effect of making his blue eyes pop even more (not so good) -- something that hardly seems possible. This beard's a mixed bag, so a ranking squarely in the middle sounds about right.
Photo by <i>The Life and Times of Judge Roy Beam</i>, Paul Newman, 1972. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady, memorably played by Russell in John Carpenter’s sci-fi thriller, has what could be considered the prototypical eighties beard. Like the best beards in this gallery, Russell’s is a character itself, making him seem down-to-earth, yet rugged. When icicles start to gather on his chin hair toward the end of the movie, you nearly forget that the clean-shaven Russell exists. Well done, Kurt. You're in the upper echelon.
Photo by <i>The Thing</i>, Kurt Russell, 1982. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
As King Leonidas in the stylish graphic-novel adaptation, Butler sports a chin growth nearly as showy as the movie that surrounds it. The beard juts out of Leonidas’ chin like a sword, emphasizing every phrase he says as if he were stabbing the air. You'd never guess that hirsute face belongs to a man who's played opposite Jennifer Aniston and Hilary Swank in romantic comedies. This beard is nearly as good as it gets.
Photo by <i>300</i>, Gerard Butler, 2006. © Warner Brothers. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
Hunk supreme Brad Pitt went full on mountain man for this era-spanning tale of brothers in love with the same woman. Pitt starts off the movie cleanly shaven, but by the end he’s sporting a beard reminiscent of the bear he fights at the beginning -- and end -- of the movie. Pitt's version of the mountain man almost -- almost -- makes you forget about the ridiculously pretty man underneath.
Photo by <i>Legends of the Fall</i>, Brad Pitt, 1994. © TriStar Pictures. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.
The same year Newman grew out his beard, his Butch Cassidy co-star, Robert Redford, did the same, growing the mountain-man beard to end all mountain-man beards for a Western loosely based on the life of Liver-Eater Johnson. Though, with the mass of hair that almost consumes all of Redford’s face, how he could jam livers in his mouth remains a mystery. Now that's a beard! The old school knew how to grow them, and Redford earns the No. 1 spot.
Photo by <i>Jeremiah Johnson</i>, Robert Redford, 1972. Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection.