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Important Haircut / Live-Action Films

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Important Haircuts in live-action movies.


  • The Battle of Algiers: the most iconic example of the genre. A young Algerian woman cuts her long hair and dons European clothing so she can pass for French, enter a café, and plant a bomb. The scene is filmed with explicit symbolic intent. The event is based on the activist Zohra Drif, who planted the Milk Bar bomb.
  • Jim of 28 Days Later shaved and cut his hair at Frank's place, just about when he stopped being the baby of the team and became competent and sure of himself.
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  • In The Accused, Sarah Tobias (Jodie Foster) does this after her traumatic gang-rape.
  • Angel (1984): After escaping from the police station, The Killer cuts off his hair and shaves his head to disguise his appearance.
  • In The A-Team, after breaking B.A. out of prison, the others give him a razor but he simply cuts his hair short rather than into his usual mohawk, as he now rejects the violence it represented to him. Later, after he accepts that violence can be right and necessary, this shift is emphasized by the dramatic reveal of the mohawk's return.
  • In Atlantics, at the end of the film, Ada replaces her previous straightened hairstyle with braids similar to Dior's. This symbolizes her rejection of her former life and her parents' authority and her embrace of the "slut" lifestyle.
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Lex Luthor in this version originally had a head full of hair. After imprisoned, his head is shaven bald, giving him the traditional Bald of Evil look.
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  • Beach Rats, about a young man struggling with his sexuality, has Frankie initially sporting a longer 'curtains' hairstyle. In order to fit in with his friends, and pass as fully straight, he gets a buzzcut.
  • In Blow Dry, Christine (Rachel Leigh Cook) cuts off her own hair so her scheming dad (Bill Nighy) can no longer use her as a hair model in the annual British Hairdressing Championship. This drives home the point that she refuses to help him win by cheating.
  • This happens in the sequel to The Boondock Saints. Connor and Murphy MacManus have been in hiding in Ireland for years, growing hair and beards worthy of Christ himself. When they are called out of retirement, they immediately shave it all off, returning to their first-film appearance (with some Perma-Stubble for good measure.) Later, they realize they are easily recognizable now and they wonder why they did it in the first place.
    Murphy: Two days ago we looked like Jesus Christ. What the fuck did we cut our hair for?
    Connor: Yeah that's right. I dunno, just seemed like the thing to do at the time, though, didn't it?
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  • Used in a similar fashion to an After-Action Patch-Up in The Bourne Identity. After surviving an attempted assassination and a Car Chase by Paris police, Bourne decides to change Marie's look by rinsing the dye from her hair in the shower, then cutting her hair short. The close contact between them after the day's excitement leads to their first love scene.
  • Happens at the very start of Boys Don't Cry. Teena Brandon has just had a short haircut to transition into becoming Brandon Teena.
  • The Chilean movie La Buena Vida features a young musician who gets employed by the military philharmonic orchestra. He also has to sacrifice his shoulder length hair to a buzz cut. As does his long-haired friend who also gets the job (and also has to sacrifice his beard).
  • The end of Camelot the musical reveals that Guinevere has become a nun. She herself reveals this by taking down her hood and showing that her long golden tresses have been cut short.
  • In The Candidate, one of the first signs that Robert Redford's principled-liberal-insurgent title character is starting to get co-opted by the system is when he gets a haircut.
  • In Catwoman (2004), when Patience Philips discovers newfound confidence after gaining her cat powers — the first thing she does is impulsively chop her long hair short, don lots more make-up and wear a Spy Catsuit.
  • In The Chronicles of Riddick, Riddick begins as a furry man-on-the-run. While he jacks his pursuer's ship and finds the man he thinks hired them, it is just after shaving that he definitively switches from being the hunted to the hunter.
  • In Colette, Willy makes Colette cut off her long hair and get a crop like Polaire, who is currently playing Claudine on stage.
  • Also parodied in Coming to America; Prince Akeem goes into a barber shop and asks for a "real American haircut". The barber whacks off Akeem's ponytail with one snip of his scissors. "That'll be ten bucks eight dollars."
  • In the 2011 movie of Coriolanus the Volscian soldiers start shaving their heads in imitation of Coriolanus, and the 'gold throne' from the play is the barber's chair they use for this initiation. The bearded Volscian leader Aufidius is not happy.
  • In The Crying Game, Fergus gives Dil a haircut so Dil will look like a man (and thus, to protect Dil from the people hunting Fergus down).
  • The protagonist of Cthulhu (2007), shortly after arriving back in his hometown, shaves his head similar to his estranged father. As this happens early in the movie I'm not sure exactly what it was supposed to symbolise, though it's apparently a case of Real Life Writes the Plot — the actor had shaved his head for another role, yet was playing a college professor).
  • In both the film and book of The Divergent Series: Insurgent, Tris cuts her hair as a reaction to the trauma she suffered in Divergent. In the book it's cut to shoulder-length, but it's a pixie in the filmnote  — but by The Divergent Series: Allegiant it has now grown out to shoulder-length, symbolising how she has overcome the trauma.
  • The Divide has Josh and Bobby shaving their heads after radiation poisoning has made some of their hair fall out. It marks the official transition to outright becoming villains, having gone mad from the cabin fever.
  • Doctor Strange (2016). The clean-shaven Strange grows a messy Beard of Sorrow after his hands are ruined in an accident, and he loses his ability to wield a scalpel let alone a straight razor. He trims it back to a well-kept goatee after finding new purpose as a sorcerer (using an electric razor).
  • In Drumline, Devon is a selfish Jerkass who plays by no one's rules but his own. When the band leaders sentence him to a head shaving due to a rule infractionnote , he decides he'd rather quit the band than part with his precious cornrows. Shortly after that, however, he starts down the path of Character Development by showing up at a party with his hair combed out and clippers in hand, allowing his classmates to do the honors. He keeps the new hairstyle for the rest of the film.
  • Used to effect at the end of Elizabeth, as Elizabeth I of England declares herself the Virgin Queen.
  • In Empire Records, Deb comes to work on the day the movie is set, goes into the bathroom, and shaves her head.
  • In horror/coming-of-age film Excision (2012), disturbed teenager Pauline gives herself one of these right before she performs a lung transplant on her little sister in the garage.
  • In Firestorm (1998), Shaye cuts of his back length 'Charles Manson' style hair before undergoing his Dye or Die transformation to take Davis' place.
  • In Frida, Salma Hayek's titular character gets drunk and cuts her hair in reaction to her marriage failing and then creates a well known painting of the event.
  • The opening credits for Full Metal Jacket consist of a montage of all the maggots new recruits getting shaved in preparation for basic training.
  • At the end of Gate of Hell, having committed murder and dishonored himself, the samurai protagonist slices off his queue and says he will become a monk.
  • The female protagonist of G.I. Jane shaves her head during her special operations training. Demi Moore did the shaving herself on camera. She had very long hair at the time.
  • In Heaven, Cate Blanchett shaving her head symbolises her meeting her soul-mate. (Who happened to have the same name and a shaved head, too.)
  • In Hostage, our hero played by Bruce Willis starts out as a stressed out big city hostage negotiator with a full, bushy beard and long, unkempt hair. In the second scene he is now a small town police chief who is a stickler about the dress and deportment of his officers; he is clean shave, head and face, having left the insanity of his former job behind.
  • The film How To Deal has the teenage heroine cutting her hair after her father's mistress compliments it and says never to cut it. This was a Throw It In by producers, as Mandy Moore got a short haircut for the role and thought it fit the character; they compromised by having her wear extensions for the first half of the film.
  • India Sweet And Spices: Alia cuts off all of her hair (after having previously cut it short) to defy the more conservative norms of her community, in homage for her mother who once did this years ago.
  • In Joy (2015) the titular Joy cuts her hair to shoulder length as she is about to bust her competitors for fraud and get all her money back.
  • The protagonist of Kate roughly chops her hair in a bathroom to symbolize how she's taking control of her own life for the rest of the movie.
  • Kingdom of Heaven specifically the Director's Cut. Sybillia, Queen of Jeruselum cuts her hair when she renounces her throne after she mercy kills her son before he suffers and dies from leprosy like her brother. Additionally this would have also led to her entering a nunnery to atone for her sins — but Executive Meddling insisted she and Balian end up together.
  • In the film The Last Emperor, Pu Yi (the last imperial ruler of China) cuts his own braid off, but rather than it being a symbol for the loss of his power it's instead a sign of his resolve to break with the past and take an active role in ruling The Forbidden City (which, up until that point in his life, he had merely been a figurehead ruler for.)
  • The transformative moment in The Legend of Billie Jean is when Billie Jean hacks off her hair. She goes from a long blond beauty to an avenging rebel. This occurs after she sees The Passion of Joan of Arc; she is adopting the hairstyle of that movie's heroine. More soberingly, Putter does the same thing out of defiance after her mother hits her.
  • Susanna from Legends of the Fall did this before she shot herself.
  • Logan. While he is unconscious, the mutant children cut Wolverine's Beard of Sorrow down to his classic mutton chop design. Though it's done as a prank, it also shows how he is still one of the legendary X-Men in their eyes instead of a Jaded Washout. Sure enough Wolverine rallies himself to protect the children in the final act.
  • In The Long Kiss Goodnight, Geena Davis's character has an Important Haircut (while also dying it blonde) after we've seen the Charly Baltimore personality completely take over (or appear to) and the Samantha Caine personality disappear (maybe).
  • In Lords of Dogtown, Jay shaving his head symbolizes his transformation from a teenage surf and skateboard enthusiast into a violent hooligan.
  • The Martian: Mark Watney grows a Beard of Barbarism while stranded on Mars, but shaves it off just before launching the MAV for a high-risk rendezvous with the Hermes.
  • In Mean Girls it happened off screen. After Regina spread the rumor in middle school that Janis was a lesbian, Janis dropped out of school for the rest of the year; when she returned in the fall, "all her hair was cut off, and she was totally weird."
  • The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc has Jeanne invoking this, hacking off her hair with a sword — thinking the soldiers will take her seriously if she looks like a man.
  • Mohawk: After surviving being shot in the chest by Holt, Oak shaves her head into a bloody Mohawk and embarks on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • In Mongol, Jamukha shaves his head to mourn the killing of his brother by Temudgin's guards.
  • In The Namesake, Gogol shaves his head after Ashoke dies, which is a traditional way of mourning in Hinduism — a sign that he is starting to come around to embracing his family's traditions. In a brief flashback, we also see Ashoke shaving his head after his father dies (as Gogol watches).
  • Mickey Knox of Natural Born Killers shaves his head before his interview with Wayne Gayle.
  • In The Nun's Story, Sister Luke gets her long, luxuriant brown hair cut off after Taking the Veil.
  • In the film Ocean of Pearls a Sikh doctor is up for a promotion — but fears he won't be chosen due to his turban (in a post 9/11 America). He makes a radical decision to chop off his waist length hair. Sikhs traditionally don't cut their hair at all and are required to wear it in a turban 24/7.
  • Painkiller Jane: About midway through the film, Jane cuts her hair short and dyes it bright red, embracing her new abilities while going against the whole military who she served to find out how they occurred.
  • In The Parent Trap, Sharon has to cut her hair to pose as Susan.
  • In The Parent Trap, Annie has to cut her hair to pose as Hallie.
  • Passengers (2016): Jim shaves off his Time-Passage Beard that he gained after being alone on the ship for a year before he wakes up Aurora from her crypod.
  • Police Academy parodied this with two new recruits shaving their hair into buzzcuts — only to find out they didn't need to.
    "This ain't the army, you know."
  • Power Rangers (2017): After her former friends break it off and start bullying her, Kimberly cuts her hair in the school bathroom before going to detention. Unexpectedly, Naomi Scott actually cut her hair in that scene.
  • In Princess of Thieves, Gwyn gives herself one when she decides to follow after Robin, in an attempt to follow him to war. It does have a practical reason — to pass as a boy — but it symbolises Gwyn becoming more independent.
  • Prayers For the Stolen overlaps with Traumatic Haircut. Both Ana and Paula have to have their long hair cropped short, because of lice by their mother's words. But they soon realise that it's to make them look less feminine and therefore less desirable to potential rapists in the drug cartels who run their town. When the film Time Skips four years, they remain short-haired in the hopes of guarding against male desire. Their friend Maria does not have to do this, because she has a cleft lip.
  • In Robin Hood (1991), Marian cuts her hair when she runs away to Sherwood Forest. This symbolises the moment when her allegiance shifts from the Normans to Robin and the Saxons.
  • In Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn's character Ann cuts off her long, princessy locks in favour of a fun, trendy style, representing her momentary attempt to fulfill her longing to be an ordinary girl.
  • Subverted in The Room. A lot of attention is paid to Mark shaving his beard when we first see him in a tuxedo (complete with dramatic music), but it signifies nothing. At all. If The Disaster Artist is anything to go by, Tommy Wiseau apparently had it in his head that wearing a tux also meant that one had to be clean-shaven.
  • Richie's Important Haircut in The Royal Tenenbaums coincides with an important suicide attempt. He spends most of the movie as a has-been tennis player, and like his siblings wears pretty much the same same hairstyle and clothes as he did when he was young, so the new, shaven style is a sign of his moving on.
  • The title character of Sabrina loses her ponytail after a classmate at culinary school encourages her to act more self-confident and worldly, in order to win the heart of her crush. In the remake, Sabrina doesn't have a ponytail, but a huge mop that conceals her face. It's no wonder said crush genuinely doesn't recognize her when he first sees post-snip.
  • Sappho: Sappho has her long, brown hair cut into a bob then dyed blond, as a symbol of her newfound bisexuality, cross-dressing and having a relationship with a woman afterwards.
  • In Seven Samurai, this serves as Kambei's Establishing Character Moment. Although samurai custom regards shaving one's head and using disguises as dishonorable, Kambei shaves his head and disguises himself as a monk in order to resolve a hostage situation — saving a child he doesn't even know. The Decoy Protagonist peasants immediately decide that he's the man who can save them.
  • In Shanghai Noon, the antagonist Lo Fong cuts off Chon Wang's braid, which is a very important status symbol to an Imperial Guard to the Emperor of China. Without this braid, he would not be allowed to return to China on punishment of death, and so because of this, his primary objective changes and he starts to embrace the "Western world". This was absolutely Truth in Television, as noted in the Real Life section below.
  • Example and subversion: In Shaolin Soccer, the hero's main love-interest has two important haircuts — the first one failing badly, and the second one turning her into an unbeatable goalie.
  • In She's All That part of Laney's makeover to look more popular involves having her hair cut to a trendier shoulder-length style.
  • Parodied in Shoot 'Em Up, where the protagonist spots a mook with a ponytail, comments on how much he hates middle aged men with ponytails, then shoots it off of his head.
  • Short Term 12: Marcus wants to shave his head, as it's where his mother used to beat him, and breaks down after he realizes that there's no physical evidence left of her abuse.
  • In Single White Female, Jennifer Jason Leigh's character Hedy gets a short haircut and has it dyed red at a salon similar to Bridget Fonda's character Allie in order to be more like her. She later dyes it back to brunette while holding Allie hostage.
  • In Sleeping with the Enemy, Julia Robert's character cuts her hair as part of her transformation from battered, submissive wife to free woman.
  • In the movie Sliding Doors, the version of Helen that did find her boyfriend in bed with another woman had an Important Haircut, allowing the audience to easily distinguish Single, Empowered, Blonde Helen from Cheated-on, Dowdy, Brunette Helen.
  • Smoke Signals had Victor Joseph cut his hair with a folding knife when faced with the family mementos kept by his runaway father. He had previously told his braided traveling companion that long, free-flowing hair is an Indian man's sign of pride.
  • In Splendor in the Grass, Deanie (Natalie Wood) cuts her hair, to get rid of her "nice girl" looks.
  • In the film of Stardust, Tristan gets a haircut from Captain Shakespeare, symbolising his change from village shop-boy to romantic adventurer. Oddly, this involves him having longer hair, to Tristan's visible surprise.
  • In the Star Wars universe, when a Padawan is made a full Jedi Knight, their braid is severed by a lightsaber in their knighting ceremony.
  • Sunshine (2007). After a fight with a fellow crewmember, engineer Mace shaves and cuts his hair short to show that he's going to focus on the mission from now on.
  • In Talk of the Town, Michael, an eminent law professor, tells Nora that he decided on Growing the Beard years ago, after he graduated from law school. It made him look more serious. Nora later throws this back in Michael's face when Michael won't help Leopold, saying "you've been old your whole life" and telling him to keep the beard. When Michael shaves his beard, he's leaving his rigid principles behind and intervening to help Leopold clear his name.
  • In Taxi Driver, Travis Bickle crops his hair short and then shaves it into a mohawk just before his assassination attempt, showing his trip off the deep end.
  • Thor: Ragnarok features Thor getting an unwanted Important Haircut from Stan Lee's cameo right before he has to fight in the arena. Notably he doesn't demonstrate the ability to conjure lightning by himself until after the haircut.
  • Evey Hammond is shaved bald in the V for Vendetta movie at a crucial moment in her character development. A band even named themselves "Natalie Portman's Shaved Head" after this scene. Yes, really.
  • We're the Millers: David's transformation from drug dealer to wholesome American father.
  • In Willow, Willow's wife Kaia lops off her braid and gives it to him as a keepsake near the start of the movie.
  • Near the end of Withnail and I, Marwood (a.k.a. "I") cuts off his unruly curls for a more upstanding, adult 'do. Not only is this more appropriate for his first professional stage role (the lead, no less), it also symbolizes his moving on with his life and leaving Withnail behind.
  • Yakuza Apocalypse: After Kageyama turns his son, Masaru, into a vampire, Masaru rips off a large portion of his hair, leaving it fairly short. This is done to symbolize that Masaru's done being a coward.

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