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"No actor is gonna let you pull a mask over their beautiful face the entire movie."
Strong Bad, Strong Bad Email "Comic Book Movie"

If a character is reasonably popular, through cartoons, comics, or general folklore, they'll probably have some kind of iconic visage. Sometimes this visage involves wearing a mask, helmet, heavy makeup, or otherwise concealing or altering the character's face. This is a fairly straightforward concept when the character is just a drawn image on a page.

But what happens when such a character is brought over into live-action? In the world of Hollywood, any actor with the clout to play said character is probably recognizable to the degree of bankability. Therefore the actor and producers will want the audience to see the actor's face as much as possible, particularly during highly dramatic moments. This isn't just about vanity - an actor's face and facial expressions are vital in "selling" the acting in a medium such as film where body language matters. (Keep in mind that comic books, animation and prose narratives offer other methods of conveying the same information, rendering it less important to see the character's true face.)

Another factor to consider is that masks, prosthetics, elaborate costumes, Motion Capture suits, etc. can become very uncomfortable if worn for extended periods. The filmmakers may also feel that a character's classic get-up just looks too silly if the character is doing anything but fighting.

As a result, the film ensures that our strange-looking character is reverted back to a less-costumed face (often by way of an Anti-Climactic Unmasking), and they may stay that way until the film's climax.

Compare Helmets Are Hardly Heroic and Comic-Book Movies Don't Use Codenames. May also result from Obscured Special Effects.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Naruto manga and anime, Hinata and the other members of Hyuga clan all have white irises and pupils. The live-action stage show instead depicts Hinata with normal-looking eyes, albeit with blue contact lenses.

    Comic Books 
  • Initially, Wolverine had an iconic black mask more or less shaped like a "V". In time, however, he became one of the few characters with an iconic and recognizable face even when not wearing the mask. As a result, he's increasingly used without any mask whatsoever. He may still wear tights while superheroing, just not the mask.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Both sequels to The Santa Clause feature a plotline that turns fat, old, jolly Saint Nick back into Tim Allen. This was at least partly because Allen had an allergic reaction to the makeup used in the first movie and wanted to minimize the time spent in it in the sequels.
  • A classic example: Gale Sondergaard was originally cast as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, and even did costume and makeup tests. However, she ended up walking away once it was decided that makeup and facial prosthetics would be used to make her look uglier, as she felt it might negatively impact her career.
  • With David Cronenberg's take on The Fly, there was some trouble finding an actor willing to play a character who starts out attractive and slowly, inexorably becomes more and more and more diseased-looking and repulsive-acting (the final full-body makeup stage took a full five hours to apply). But Jeff Goldblum loved the script and saw the prospect as an exciting challenge, and the result was his Star-Making Role.
  • Likewise, Chuck Norris dropped out of American Ninja because he didn't want to obscure his face by wearing a mask.
  • While the back-and-forth transformations between Ben Grimm and The Thing are a staple of early Fantastic Four comics, the Tim Story movies spend a lot of time with a non-deformed Doctor Doom. The second one goes to especially great lengths to get Julian McMahon out of his metal mask.
  • The X-Men Film Series play with this:
    • Wolverine has a mask in the comics but Bryan Singer could not find a suitable reason to give him a mask in the movie, not to mention they had trouble making it look good in live-action. That said, Wolverine still has an iconic look out of his mask so the effect is not that noticeable.
    • Mystique is a shapeshifter with a blue-skinned natural form played by world-famous supermodel Rebecca Romijn. She had at least one "cameo" per movie without the mutant makeup.
    • Iceman has an ice-form in the comics that kind of obscures his face. In the movie series, we never see this form until the end of X-Men: The Last Stand and even then, he ices up for only a few seconds to take down Pyro. He does finally ice up consistently in X-Men: Days of Future Past since, by that point, the CGI technology required to pull off the transformation was now much less expensive.
    • Pyro is maskless throughout the entire series, even though he wears one in the comics.
    • And in X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse, Mystique (now played by Jennifer Lawrence) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) spend more time in human guise than in their blue-skinned/furred forms. Lawrence does have more time in her blue form in the middle film, but still has quite a few scenes in her human disguise. Dark Phoenix also has Mystique becoming Lawrence a few times, though Beast remains blue the whole movie.
    • A very controversial case happened in X-Men Origins: Wolverine where we see a maskless Deadpool (played by Ryan Reynolds) for the first part of the film, only to disappear and come back for the climax, still with no mask but with his mouth sewn shut instead. Though this differs from some cases since the sewn up Deadpool (AKA Weapon XI) was mostly another actor altogether (Scott Adkins), rather than Ryan Reynolds. It had less to do with showing the actor's face and more to do with a bizarre desire to not adapt the iconic costume.
    • The Deadpool Spin-Off plays with this. This time, Deadpool does wear his iconic costume and mask, and his face underneath is disfigured, but there are also a lot of Flashbacks showing a pre-Deadpool Wade Wilson, ensuring that we get plenty of shots of Ryan Reynolds' handsome mug. However, the marketing focused almost exclusively on Deadpool in costume, except for literally one poster where his original face is visible. Deadpool 2 reverts Wade to Ryan Reynolds' typical appearance when he temporarily dies due to a heroic sacrifice, and meets Vanessa in the afterlife.
    • Cyclops averts this and remains under his glasses/visor in all scenes except for brief glimpses where he has his eyes shut. Justified in that his eyes constantly fire energy blasts so the audience can never get a good look at them.
  • Batman:
  • Batman Film Series:
    • Not transformed back, but after Jack Nicholson becomes The Joker in the 1989 Batman film, there are stretches where he puts on enough flesh-colored makeup to pass for normal.
    • Used with Batman in Batman Returns. He takes his mask off when trying to talk Catwoman down from killing Schreck. There seems to be little reason for Batman to show his identity in front of two villains, other than to give Michael Keaton some more face time for the dramatic final scene.
    • In Batman Forever, Jim Carrey spends about half his screentime wearing the famous Riddler Domino Mask, which makes sense, considering it doesn't hide much of his face.
    • Robin only wears his mask in the climax but he more than makes up for it in Batman & Robin where both heroes have masks for much of the screentime.
  • Examples from The Dark Knight Trilogy include:
    • In Batman Begins, Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow spends almost all his time out of the mask, only putting it on for a few seconds at a time when he's using the fear gas.
    • The Joker spends all his time in makeup in The Dark Knight except for a few seconds where he is without his make-up, although the scene is shot in a way that it is hard to see him clearly.
    • More strikingly, Bane spends the whole of The Dark Knight Rises in a mouth-and-nose-concealing mask, with a brief, maskless view in a flashback. In the same movie, Catwoman wears driving goggles that look a little like her iconic mask but these scenes are few and far between.
    • Due to the runtime of each movie, we get a lot of Bruce Wayne out of the Batsuit as well. Justified in that the Batman Begins is an origin story and The Dark Knight Rises deals with him coming out of retirement or recuperating from a broken back.
  • The Spider-Man Trilogy also contains many examples:
    • While he is not particularly abnormal-looking outside the costume, Spider-Man 2 has a plot element where Peter loses his powers, allowing a good chunk of the movie to have Peter just be Peter.
    • The first Spider-Man movie is an origin story so it is understandable that we don't see the costume for the first chunk of screentime. Although, there is at least one scene in which he has little time to change his costume and fights maskless in a dark alley.
    • Norman Osborn keeps his face covered during his fight scenes but is sure to have his helmet torn away at the end of the climax, although it's done as a dramatic unmasking moment to lure Peter into a false sense of security.
    • Also happens at the end of each movie. Excuses are constantly made to show Peter's face, mostly due to battle damage. Usually thanks to rips and tears that are magically fixed by the credits.
    • All the movies are pretty bad about him deliberately taking off his mask at times that nobody who felt the need to wear one so bad guys won't learn his identity and go kill his family would ever do so. Apparently, keeping the actor's eyeballs onscreen at all times, as if we'll forget what he looks like if he spends two minutes straight in the mask, is more important than the character's actions not being absolutely nonsensical.
    • In Spider-Man 3, we get a token few minutes of Venom's wonderfully creepy tooth-filled maw before he starts peeling back his "mask" every time he speaks — probably to give Topher Grace some more face time.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man Series was also guilty of this:
    • Since The Amazing Spider-Man is an origin story, we have several scenes of Peter learning how to use his powers out of costume, including his very first battle, which he stumbles into by accident.
    • A less justified example are the scenes on the basketball court or at the football field where he blatantly displays his powers in front of several students.
    • In the climax, the Lizard removes Peter's mask and his face is bare for the rest of the movie until the credits.
    • Peter does remove his mask in a deleted scene when searching the sewer for the Lizard. You'd think he'd want to keep it on so as to diminish the smell.
    • Also in the scene where he is saving a small boy from falling off a bridge, he finds a reason to get rid of his mask: he has the kid wear it so he won't be afraid.
    • The cops also manage to take it off when they capture him, forcing him to fight with his face concealed. It also, conveniently, exposes his identity to Captain Stacy and lets Peter emote.
    • The climax of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has Peter removing his mask so that we can get a good view of his anguished screaming after Gwen is killed. This is however justified, given that he would want to be closer to his girlfriend and was in denial about her death. The rest of the movie avoids this, keeping Spidey's mask on for the majority of the film.
  • Andy Serkis, who plays Gollum in The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy via Serkis Folk, felt depressed about his groundbreaking mocap work being relatively anonymous. As such, The Return of the King begins with a flashback scene showing Gollum's origins as Smeagol, allowing Serkis to show his actual face.
  • In the King Kong series:
  • Sylvester Stallone only spends about ten minutes with his helmet on in Judge Dredd, despite the fact that in the comics we have never seen Dredd with his helmet off (at least, not when he wasn't wearing some face-altering disguise or covered in bandages). This raised quite a furor with the comic's fans to the point of accusing the film of Adaptation Decay, and they may have had a point: Dredd's status as The Faceless isn't just to give him a "cool look" like your regular superhero. It underpins the overarching theme of the entire comic because Dredd is supposed to be this faceless, impartial representative of an authoritarian Police State.
  • Pointedly averted with Karl Urban in Dredd: the only time he is seen without his helmet is at the beginning of the film as he gets dressed for work and it's too dark to see his face at all. (Reportedly, the producers asked Urban if this would be a problem and, as a Promoted Fanboy, Urban said it would be a problem if they did show his face).
  • Billy Zane gets a lot of face time in The Phantom, considering he's playing a character whose face is never shown clearly in the comics.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Iron Man: While Tony Stark is seen quite a bit out of the suit, having his mask come off in the final fight seems to be for this reason. The films are also full of shots showing Tony's face from inside the Iron Man helmet, although that may just be because shining some lights in Robert Downey Jr.'s eyes is much cheaper than fully animating the suit in flight. Behind-the-scenes interviews with the effects crew all but state outright that these HUD shots of Tony's face are so RDJ, a noted character actor throughout his career, can act with his face despite his character being covered in robot. Such scenes also serve to make the in-flight conversations with Jarvis slightly less Talking to Themself-ish, and they're relatively common in the source material anyway. And on a more meta-level, we have the very last line of the movie:
      Tony: [to a whole press conference, live on national television] The truth is... I am Iron Man.
    • In The Incredible Hulk, we get a lot of scenes showing Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) untransformed, while the Hulk himself has less screentime. Ditto for Tim Roth's Emil Blonsky, who looks like a normal human for most of the film and only transforms into the Abomination just before the final battle.
    • In Captain America: The First Avenger:
      • Steve Rogers spends a lot of time not wearing the half-mask hood — sometimes as himself, and other times with it simply pushed back. At one point, he wears a helmet instead. Probably justified, because it's not like he really has a Secret Identity in this 'verse.
      • The Red Skull spends about half the movie wearing Hugo Weaving's face before he finally dramatically peels it off.
    • The Avengers: Many of the heroes spend a great deal of time unmasked; Tony Stark and Captain America as above. Bruce Banner spends most of his time as a human also (though this is what he prefers in the comics). Meanwhile, Hawkeye has no mask at all even though he wears them in the comics, though this makes sense since he's not a costumed vigilante here. This is most evident in the posters for the film, which shows bare faces for everyone. On top of that, during the big final battle, a Mook rips Captain America's mask and he doesn't bother putting it back on. Likewise, the group tears Iron Man's helmet off in order to try and revive him after he falls back to Earth from space. Both Tony and Steve are noticeably maskless when the team confronts Loki in Stark Tower after the battle's ended.
    • Iron Man 3 has an unusual variation on this: Tony spends most of the climax jumping in and out of several Iron Man suits, which the Big Bad keeps destroying.
    • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Cap makes a point of removing his mask/helmet when he is taunted by Batroc on the Lemurian Star, presumably so Chris Evans can have a good unmasked fight sequence. The Winter Soldier also spends a significant of time unmasked after his mask gets knocked off halfway through the movie. Like Tony in Iron Man 3, Cap also spends a significant portion of the film in street clothes without any sort of costume at all.
    • The Falcon doesn't wear a mask at all, even though he has one in the comics. He does have a pair of safety goggles, but only wears them while flying.
    • Pretty much across the board, the posters for the MCU productions almost never show the heroes who wear masks or helmets actually wearing them (links: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]).
    • In interviews, Mark Ruffalo has joked about the fact that he doesn't get to be on posters. With the exception of a handful of character posters from the first Avengers film, "his" appearances on posters are appearances of the Hulk instead. Avengers: Endgame breaks the trend, with Ruffalo appearing as Bruce on the cast posters. This was to hide the fact that Bruce and Hulk have undergone a Split-Personality Merge into "Professor Hulk".
    • Avengers: Age of Ultron:
      • The movie heavily redesigned Ultron so that rather than having a static Jack-O'-Lantern visage, he now sports a fully expressive and animated face. Joss Whedon defended the choice by saying that it'd be a waste to hire an actor of James Spader's caliber and then only have him do a voice-over.
      • Steve ditches his helmet for the entire final battle, which is only explained in a deleted scene (the first thing he sees in Sokovia is graffiti of himself in full costume with "fascist" written over it and his eyes spraypainted red).
    • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): Star-Lord only wears his mask specifically when he needs it to breathe, which is usually just in the vacuum of space since every planet seems to have No Biochemical Barriers. It's to the point where he doesn't wear it a single time in Vol. 3, with the Word of God being he didn't have the mask with him when they left at the start of the movie.
    • Ant-Man plays with it. Scott Lang actually does keep his mask on whenever he's using his powers (because in this continuity, the helmet is a life-support system, meaning he needs it to live while shrinking). However, when he has it on but isn't using his powers, he often flips up the face plate so we can see Paul Rudd under the helmet. Like many of the examples above, the movie also has a huge number of scenes where Scott is not wearing the costume at all. Averted with The Wasp, who is only ever seen with her mask on in flashbacks since Michelle Pfeiffer wasn't yet cast to play her in the sequel.
    • Ant-Man and the Wasp does the same thing again, with both the title characters (same Ant-Man, but the daughter of the original Wasp) flipping up the face plate outside of action scenes. Antagonist Ghost also takes off her helmet at times, and it ends up being destroyed at the start of the climax, leaving her maskless for the rest of the movie.
    • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania: The helmets are no longer required while shrunk and also have instant-retracting nano-tech, giving Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, and Kathryn Newton a lot more face time throughout the movie. Kang also goes without his helmet most of the runtime, only wearing the blue face-mesh for a handful of scenes.
    • Like The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War has several action scenes where the characters aren't wearing any costumes. The theatrical posters also often had Cap and Iron Man maskless, but for the individual characters posters, none of the Avengers had on their masks. And of course, we once again have our obligatory scene where Spider-Man's mask is knocked off during a battle.
    • Peter has his mask taken off several times in Spider-Man: Homecoming as well, while the Shocker straight up doesn't wear one at all. In an inversion, the Vulture wears a face-obscuring helmet despite not having one in the comics; justified as the get-up is a flight suit, with the mask being an oxygen mask that resembles one worn by a fighter pilot.
    • Thor: Ragnarok:
      • In the comics, Hela wears a mask as part of her trademark Cool Helmet in order to hide her decaying face. In the movie, Hela only has the mask in a select few scenes (even while wearing the helmet) and is still gorgeous without it.
      • Part of the reason why the Grandmaster isn't blue-skinned like in the comics is because director Taika Waititi wanted to play up Jeff Goldblum's natural appeal. Another reason is that Goldblum had already played a blue-skinned extraterrestrial in Earth Girls Are Easy! Instead, this Grandmaster has blue eyeliner and a chin stripe, along with blue fingernails and toenails. This look also makes his appearance more strongly resemble Benicio del Toro's Collector from Guardians of the Galaxy, as the characters are brothers in the comics continuity.
    • Much like the Batman example, Black Panther usually has white lenses on his mask in the comics. In the live-action Black Panther film, he has the white lenses, but they can be retracted to show off his eyes. His costume also has an Instant Armor aspect, meaning he can unmask at a moment's notice for scenes requiring dramatic acting. That last part is straight from the comics, at least.
    • Avengers: Infinity War: In Wanda and Vision's first scene, it's revealed that Vision has taken on Paul Bettany's natural appearance as a Human Disguise so he can have romantic hookups with Wanda without drawing attention to them.
    • Captain Marvel: Ben Mendelsohn plays Talos, the leader of the Skrulls, as well as S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Keller. Unlike in the comics, where Talos lacks the Skrulls' classic Voluntary Shapeshifting abilities and instead has Super-Strength, here he does have the shapeshifting powers, and in fact impersonates Director Keller for part of the movie to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D., allowing Mendelsohn to get out of his Skrull costume/prosthetics and show his actual face. It also serves as an example of Tropes Are Tools, as the Skrulls are shapeshifters, allowing them to adapt whatever guise serves their purpose.
    • In Avengers: Endgame:
      • When all the snapped heroes come Back from the Dead and join the surviving heroes against Thanos, everyone who wears a mask (Star-Lord, Spider-Man, Black Panther, the Wasp, Pepper Potts in the Rescue armor, etc.) immediately removes it before the charge, and after it begins are all back in place.
      • In the Time Heist, present-day Cap doesn't wear his helmet so he can be told apart from the 2012 Cap when they cross paths by chance.
    • In Spider-Man: Far From Home, Mysterio gets this treatment, as he is shown without the trademark Fishbowl Helmet in some scenes. There's even a justification for maskless Spider-Man in one scene, as Nick Fury notes everyone in his Mission Control knows who Peter is and tells him that he can take it off.
    • In Spider-Man: No Way Home:
      • Following the aftermath of Far From Home, Spidey's mask is basically useless outside of combat, so that means he goes maskless for the majority of the movie.
      • Norman Osborn destroys the Green Goblin helmet early on in a failed attempt to purge his Goblin persona and doesn't bother making a new one when it reasserts. This serves a twofold purpose: First, it allows the movie to demonstrate the Digital Deaging effects used on Willem Dafoe, and second, it rectifies a common complaint about the original Spider-Man movie that the Goblin's mask undercut Dafoe's range of facial expressions.
      • While Electro still doesn't wear his classic green and gold costume, he also loses the blue skin from The Amazing Spider-Man 2, allowing Jamie Foxx to show his actual face. However, there is a Mythology Gag where Electro, when using his powers, manifests electricity to create a star-like pattern around his face to resemble the mask from the comics.
      • In the climax, Sandman and the Lizard, who spent most of the movie in their sand and reptilian forms, respectively, gets transformed into Thomas Haden Church and Rhys Ifans, respectively, when they are cured of their conditions.
  • The Hulk film features Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) untransformed prominently.
  • Daredevil has his mask ripped off right before his final fight with The Kingpin, while Bullseye doesn't wear a mask at all.
  • Inverted somewhat in the film adaptation of Watchmen, where Rorschach spends more time in costume than he did in the comic, specifically the prison break scene (where he originally was unmasked). But then, who'd want to be the director who tried to take Rorschach's "face" off him?
  • During one scene of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, we see Bill Nighy instead of Davy Jones.
  • In The Fugitive, the plot calls for Dr. Kimble to spend most of the movie in disguise; the filmmakers deliberately had him start out some distance from Harrison Ford's usual look, so that when he disguises himself by dying his hair and shaving off his beard he became the Harrison Ford audiences were paying to see.
  • In Comic Book The Movie, the hero appeals to Bruce Campbell, starring in a movie about his childhood idol superhero, to make the movie about the original character rather than the recent Darker and Edgier version. He mainly appeals to Campbell's ego, saying the classic costume would allow far more of Campbell's face to be seen than the new one.
  • Universal Pictures executives wanted this trope to apply to Jim Carrey when he played The Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, pushing for less-Seussian makeup than what makeup artist Rick Baker had designed, and Carrey and director Ron Howard got so fed up with this that one makeup test they sent for the executives to consider was just Carrey painted green. The executives finally accepted the elaborate Grinch makeup/costume, the movie was a huge hit and Baker won an Oscar.
  • In the Harry Potter novels, Death Eaters wear masks when attacking, though the main characters can sometimes guess who's behind the mask by their voice. In the films, the Death Eaters are played by good-looking actors with vocal fanbases, so they usually tend to remove their masks.
  • In the rather strange film adaptation of The Spirit, we see plenty of Samuel L. Jackson's face in his role as The Octopus. In the comics, The Octopus' face was never, ever shown.
  • Justified in Green Lantern (2011), where Hal Jordan's Domino Mask explicitly only appears when he's trying to hide his identity. (Hilariously, in one scene where he does try and hide it from Carol Ferris, it fails spectacularly as she quickly sees through the act.)
  • In the film adaptation of The A-Team, the title team goes through passport control in various disguises. Hannibal Smith, with his usual gray hair dyed black, disguises himself as Liam Neeson.
  • G.I. Joe:
    • Storm Shadow rarely wears his ninja mask in both G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Even when he does wear his mask at certain scenes, he'd take his time to take it off when facing Snake Eyes.
    • Averted with Snake Eyes himself in said two films. His mask never comes off even once on either film. We only get to see his face as a child in some flashbacks, but his adult visage is a mystery. Then Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins goes all-in on unmasking him.
    • An interesting case with the Cobra Commander and Destro. In The Rise of Cobra, Cobra Commander (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has his face covered by a half-mask most of the time and the visible part of his face is horribly scarred. When he finally removes his mask he only does so for a few seconds before exchanging it for an entirely new one that covers his entire face (we do get to see his actual face in flashbacks, though). In Retaliation, he wears his iconic helmet all the time (possibly to cover the fact that he's played by an entirely different actor). Meanwhile, in The Rise of Cobra, Destro's face is always shown as that of a regular human right until the end, where he gets disfigured and Cobra Commander injects him with a compound that turns his face metallic. In Retaliation, his metallic face is only seen for a few seconds behind a glass pane at the beginning, and never again.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Deadshot is rarely without his mask in the comics or on TVnote , but in Suicide Squad he almost never wears his mask, lest Will Smith's face be hidden.
    • Roman Sionis/Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) in Birds of Prey. In the comic, Black Mask started wearing a mask shaped like a humanoid black face and then suffering consecutive disfigurements, resulting in his actual face being just a black skull by Batman: No Man's Land. In the movie, he never wears a Black Face mask and he wears a skull mask in the climax instead of having a skull disfigurement, even that he ditches in his final confrontation with Harley Quinn.
    • Ray Fisher's role as Victor Stone/Cyborg in Zack Snyder's Justice League has more than a couple scenes of flashbacks and digital world in which he's seen with his normal body and face.
  • In Power Rangers (2017), the Rangers' helmets cover their faces in battle, but also have open-faced modes which they default to while piloting their Zords; a contrast from the core Power Rangers television shows and the Super Sentai source material, which both make it a point to consistently avoid this.
  • Casey Jones (as played by Stephen Amell) only wears his trademark mask in one scene of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. They actually poke fun at the mask by having him speak with it on, only to find that it heavily muffles his voice. Shredder also spends a lot of the movie not wearing his helmet.
  • For most of Joker, the titular character appears as a normal man and doesn't wear his makeup except for a few important scenes, despite the marketing heavily featuring that look. Justified in that he has to apply it himself, and even gets a montage for it. Although it should probably be noted that the Joker even wearing makeup is a departure from the source material: most modern versions of the character have bleached white skin from an accidental fall into a vat of chemicals.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Seen often in Smallville. Green Arrow seems to spend more time out of his hood and sunglasses than in them while in costume even before outing himself. And this could be the reason why the writers took so long to give Clark his mild-mannered, glasses-sporting civilian disguise.
  • For the first season or so of Arrow, Stephen Amell's version of Ollie never wore a mask. It wasn't until late in the second season that he finally started sporting a variation of his Domino Mask from the comics. Ditto for Colton Haynes' Roy Harper, who doesn't even start wearing a costume until Season 3.
  • In the Batman television series from the sixties, Adam West and Burt Ward spent most of the episodes in masks, albeit without white lenses like the masks from the comics. Considering the series was aimed mostly at children, this makes sense. It is, however, played straight with Frank Gorshin who played The Riddler. Apparently, the Riddler mask was uncomfortable so Frank whipped it off every chance he had. The Joker canonically doesn't wear a mask per se (whether he uses makeup or his face is just permanently white varies), but unlike most interpretations, Cesar Romero's Joker was never seen without his full iconic Clown White face, averting the trope. This may partially have been because Romero refused to shave his mustache and they were trying to avoid drawing attention to the fact that it was just covered over with makeup.
  • Daredevil: While in seasons 1 and 3, Matt is generally very good about never taking off his Daredevil mask, season 2 has several points where he removes the helmet in scenes with Elektra, ostensibly so that Charlie Cox can do scenes where he emotes with his eyes in addition to his mouth. The Defenders continues this, as Matt has a fair amount of time in his Daredevil costume where he doesn't have his helmet on, including a fair portion of the final fight with Elektra.
  • Jessica Jones: In a flashback in season 1, Trish tries to get Jessica to don her iconic "Jewel" costume from the comics, which includes a Domino Mask. Jessica turns it down, saying, "The only place anyone is wearing that is trick-or-treating, or as part of some kinky role-playing scenario." So Jessica never wears any sort of mask at all.
  • Like the Batman examples above, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon has Tuxedo Mask wearing a mask without any opaque lenses.
  • The Incredible Hulk often had the majority of the focus on Bill Bixby's Dr. Banner, with Lou Ferrigno's Hulk often only showing up for fight scenes and action sequences. This is simultaneously an inversion, considering that the Hulk is the title character and Ferrigno himself is a name actor.
  • The Tick (2001) redesigned the title character so that the face of Patrick Warburton is completely unmasked. Arthur spends a lot of time completely out of costume too.
  • Star Wars:
    • While Boba Fett never appeared in the Original Trilogy without his helmet, he regularly unveils himself in the Disney+ shows, as portrayed by Temuera Morrison. The Mandalorian explains that Boba lost his armor some time after Return of the Jedi, and he doesn't regain it until Chapter 14. Even after that, his lack of affiliation to a Mandalorian tribe means that unlike such Mandos as the zealous Children of the Watch, he follows his father's lead of disregarding any rules that would prevent him from revealing his face to other people. The Book of Boba Fett takes this trope to another degree, when the acid scars and bleached skin he developed in the Sarlacc Pit start healing, allowing Morrison to perform with less prosthetic makeup covering his face than in Mandalorian Season 2; Chapter 6 in particular has him don neither the helmet nor prosthetics for Boba's fleeting, silent appearance.
    • Despite the oath Din Djarin, played by Pedro Pascal, took as a Child of the Watch never to reveal his face to another living thing, The Mandalorian Seasons 1 and 2 both let the viewers see it at least once. The first two seasons each have some disaster near the end require Din to remove his helmet for a scene or two, symbolizing him learning to let his guard down, and/or prioritizing his paternal responsibilities above a tradition that some Mandalorians have already abandoned.note  The unmaskings also allow Pascal and the director to convey emotions too powerful for Din's subdued body language, though early instances have Din exploit a loophole to get away with reluctantly exposing his face to someone else. The Season 2 finale breaks some of these trends. When Din bids farewell to Grogu, he willingly unveils himself to the Child, then keeps his helmet off for the remainder of the episode.
      • In Chapter 15, Din must infiltrate an Imperial mining hub in disguise. Early concept art for the disguise took inspiration from AT-AT commander uniforms, leaving Din without any means of covering his face. However, Pedro Pascal ultimately reduced the episode's reliance on this trope, by suggesting that Din instead continue hiding his visage (resulting in a re-designed disguise), until a high-stakes moment forces it into the open.
    • Obi-Wan Kenobi covers up Hayden Christensen's visage with prosthetic scars and/or Darth Vader's helmet for most of the show, except for some flashbacks of Obi-Wan training Anakin Skywalker.
    • As another Mandalorian example, Chapter 19 inducts Bo-Katan Kryze into the Children of the Watch, requiring her to never publicly unveil herself unless she decides to leave. However, the next episode briefly lets her actress still show her face to the viewers when the character eats all alone. It feels gratuitous when considering that when Din eats away from any humans, he still doesn't let the viewers see his face. Beginning in Chapter 21, the Armorer shows respect to Bo-Katan by allowing her to show her face, but not banishing her from the tribe afterwards. Understandably, Bo-Katan regularly takes advantage of this privilege throughout the remainder of the season.
  • WandaVision: The Vision normally sports his trademark red, metallic face whenever he and Wanda are at home by themselves. Whenever he goes out in public (e.g., at work), or he and Wanda are having guests over, he'll transform his face into Paul Bettany's natural one. Assuming a Watsonian versus Doylist perspective, the Watsonian reason is that Vision is assisting in Wanda's desire for them to fit in into their suburban setting by posing as an ordinary human being. The Doylist reason was likely for Bettany to spend less time in his Vision makeup. In the sixth episode, Vision intentionally refuses to transform into human form on the grounds that since they were celebrating Halloween, Vision can get away with keeping his red face.
  • Fight scenes in the Ultra Series' New Generation era shows (2013 onward) tend to show an Ultraman's human host or disguise inside the Ultra's soul whipping out the Transformation Trinket when the Ultra needs to change forms, selling both the actors and the role-playing toys at once.
  • The Munsters shows Fred Gwynne without his Herman Munster makeup when one of Grandpa's inventions accidentally turns Herman into a human.
  • What We Do in the Shadows (2019) tones down how much prosthetics Doug Jones wears as the Baron in "The Wedding". When Nandor wishes for the Djinn to heal the Baron's burned and decaying body, the Djinn also reverses the signs of aging on the Baron's face. This look sticks into Season 5, until Guillermo accidentally sunburns him again.

  • Yūga Yamato doesn't wear a mask while portraying Tuxedo Mask (thus making the name somewhat inaccurate) in the Sera Myu musicals. Past actors who played the character usually eschewed the mask as well. However, the mask does exist in the show: Yamato puts it over her face, then throws it offstage before Tux actually begins singing his introduction song.
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera altered the Phantom's mask (and underlying deformity) so that it now only covered half of his face, allowing Michael Crawford and all subsequent Phantom actors to more easily sing and emote. The half-mask has become such an icon of the show, which ran for over three decades with advertisements in every corner of New York City, that it is likely now the first imagery to come to mind upon hearing "The Phantom of the Opera" even if you've never seen the show.

    Video Games 
  • Laguna Loire, Kiros Seagill, and Ward Zabac from Final Fantasy VIII never wore the standard Galbadian Military head gear for their enlisted troops during their active service.
  • In the video game Splinter Cell: Conviction, Sam Fisher starts the game wearing a dressed-down ensemble and a standard gun, which is a far cry from the iconic infiltration suit getup he wore in the first three games. Over the course of Conviction, though, he eventually reverts back to the original getup by obtaining several key pieces of equipment (including his signature gun and trademark goggles).