Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos Courtesy of the studios
Nicole Kidman has been acting for nearly four decades, and with that impressive resume comes an equally extensive and glorious, albeit highly questionable, history of wearing wigs. The Academy Award winner has not only solidified herself as one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood, but also as an actress who is committed to wearing every manner of wigs at any chance she gets.
With over 40 entries so far, including her latest in Roar and The Northman, the Nicole Kidman Wig Cinematic Universe (NKWCU) is stronger than ever. It features numerous scene-stealers, ranging from those that are … let’s say distracting (Lion, Nine Perfect Strangers) to the rare shining lights in her collection (Moulin Rouge!, Stoker). Kidman is first and foremost a Wig Actress, and her wigs will always be the best supporting players in whatever she’s in. They honestly deserve their own awards campaigns.
Because Kidman’s wigs make movies — and television — better, we’ve ranked every single wig Nicole Kidman has worn from the most nightmarish to her crowning achievements.
In Lion, which tells the true story of an Indian child who gets adopted by an Australian couple, Kidman gave an Academy Award–nominated turn as the adoptive mother. She wears two different wigs in the movie — in flashback scenes, she dons a horrifying, short, curly red wig, and in present-day scenes, she sports a more typical fluffy mom haircut. The former wig is what I imagine a grown-up Orphan Annie’s hair would look like, and the latter, while not as bad as the first, is still distracting and, to put it bluntly, ugly. It honestly can’t get worse than this.
In John Cameron Mitchell’s 1970s-set How to Talk to Girls at Parties, Kidman plays Queen Boadicea, an eccentric punk-rocker alien who looks straight out of a Party City catalog. Her choppy platinum wig with black streaks — and the film’s overall need to consistently remind us that we are in fact watching a movie about the English punk scene — is a tragically failed attempt at matching the punk aesthetic.
Kidman once again gives a transformative performance as undercover LAPD detective Erin Bell in Karyn Kusama’s gritty crime-thriller Destroyer. Despite a great performance, she wears not one but two drastically terrible wigs. The first is a decent brunette wig seen in flashbacks and the second is a short brown flippy mess that closely resembles a rat’s nest. It’s so bad that it overshadows the actual plot and becomes the main character. I imagine that at least 75% of Destroyer’s budget went to funding these wigs, which look slightly similar to her husband Keith Urban’s hair.
Kidman fully leans into the southern style in Boy Erased, in which she plays a small-town conservative mother who sends her young gay son to a church-supported conversion-therapy program. She sports an uneven southern accent, acrylic nails, and most important, a voluminous white wig. The teased-to-death wig is as bad as her wrongheaded character, though it succeeds at matching the southern matriarch look she was aiming for. In the wise words of Dolly Parton, the higher the hair, the closer to God!
The Family Fang is an indie gem about a dysfunctional family starring Jason Bateman (who also directed) and Kidman as siblings who investigate the mysterious disappearance of their performance-artist parents. As a failing actress pushed into doing a topless scene for a movie, Kidman wears a choppy, lifeless brunette wig that is awful to look at for longer than five seconds at a time.
While Bombshell took home the Oscar for best makeup and hairstyling in 2020, which was admittedly deserved in the case of Charlize Theron’s transformation into Megyn Kelly, Kidman’s wig was an abomination. Portraying Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, Kidman’s wig, which cost between $7,000 to $10,000 according to the Washington Post, is a stiff mess that will haunt us forever. Naomi Watts did it slightly better in The Loudest Voice.
Was The Goldfinch — a failed adaptation of Donna Tartt’s beloved 2013 novel of the same name — a fever dream? Highly plausible. However, there’s nothing better than watching a movie just to see Kidman introduce another questionable addition to the NKWCU, and The Goldfinch certainly doesn’t disappoint in that realm. The first wig, worn during scenes when the main character is still a child, is actually a quite decent portrayal of the typical wealthy NYC socialite. When the narrative shifts to the protagonist as an adult, Kidman’s large wig, meant to reflect her character’s aging, is much worse and lacks a natural-looking hairline. I have to assume that everyone, including the hair department, gave up halfway during production and allowed her to wear doomed wigs the rest of the time.
It feels like Kidman received her fifth Oscar nomination ages ago, but it was just last month that we witnessed her lose to Jessica Chastain, who wore a far better wig in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. There are many things wrong with Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos, one aspect being that a miscast Kidman — who has been able to pull of a hefty amount of wigs in her career — can’t pull off the strawberry-blonde perm and uneven bangs meant to resemble Lucille Ball’s iconic 1950s updo.
We all forgot Kidman was in The Upside, a comedy starring Kevin Hart as a man hired to help a wealthy man with quadriplegia (played by Bryan Cranston). It’s unclear why exactly Kidman would want to sign on to a film that underutilized her talents and gave her a terrible wavy wig. They did her so dirty.
While Kidman’s bangs in Before I Go to Sleep look half decent, the rest of her wig does not. From the textured waves to the terrible middle part, everything about it is painful to look at and marks another entry in the NKWCU’s peak Bad Wigs Era.
The Invasion, which currently sits at a 19 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, stars Kidman as a Washington, D.C.–based psychiatrist who discovers an epidemic that turns human beings into aliens and realizes her son is the key to help stop it. It’s a rare occurrence for Kidman’s wigs to upstage the wigs worn by her co-stars, but her short blonde hair — which is still really bad — is miles better than whatever Daniel Craig is subjected to wearing.
There’s not much to say about Kidman’s role as Aline Bernstein in this dreary biopic about editor Maxwell Perkins. There’s not much to say about her shapeless, messy brunette wig either.
In Lee Daniels’s The Paperboy, Kidman plays Charlotte Bliss, the spray-tanned fiancée of a convict (played by Matthew McConaughey) in 1960s Miami. Because of the movie’s low budget, The Paperboy marked Kidman’s first time ever doing her own hair and makeup. Her glorious bleach-blonde wig is full of volume and helps achieve her character’s bimbo look. The Paperboy is one of Kidman’s campiest roles to date, and the same applies to her wig.
An English-language remake of the 2009 Argentine film of the same name, Secret in Their Eyes fails in many ways, one of which being the two bad Kidman wigs it subjects us to looking at — though they’re not nearly as bad as the one it’s put on Julia Roberts’s head. Kidman’s aren’t completely terrible, but they look like they’re floating at certain angles.
Let me emphasize that Joel Schumacher’s Trespass, despite starring Kidman, Nicolas Cage, and Ben Mendelsohn, is a train wreck of a movie. However, it offers us one sliver of hope: a decent Kidman wig. The long, straight hair with curtain bangs looks mostly natural aside from when it becomes stringy once her character is in distress.
New Kidman wig just dropped! In Apple TV+’s star-studded anthology series, the second episode casts Kidman as a woman who scarfs down old photographs in order to experience the rush of being transported back to her childhood memories. She eats paper a lot, gets the rare opportunity to keep her Australian accent for a role, and sports a short red haircut. Despite not really looking like Kidman is actually wearing a wig (could her natural hair actually be a bob? There’s a high chance), the choppy wig is very distracting to look at, especially when styled in a way that makes it stand out — literally.
Kidman is great at doing two things: starring in adaptations of Liane Moriarty’s novels and accepting any role that lets her wear a funky wig. In Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers, she gets to do both, playing a Russian wellness guru who operates a mysterious retreat in California that invites (and traps) a group of desperate people for a transformational experience. Not only does she don an incredibly long blonde mane that looks as if it was doused in beach-wave spray, she also puts on an equally distracting Russian accent. It’s television at its finest.
Starring opposite Hugh Jackman in Baz Luhrmann’s romance epic set against the backdrop of World War II, Kidman wears yet another classic blonde hairdo. While she has said she isn’t proud of her performance in Australia, at least her wig wasn’t completely terrible.
Superhero movies don’t have the best track record for delivering great wigs (see X-Men’s Mystique and the ones worn by Woody Harrelson in Venom: Let There Be Carnage), and Kidman’s extremely, extremely long platinum waves in DC’s Aquaman (which also features a bad red wig on Amber Heard) is definitely a member of the Bad Superhero Wigs Club™. The lively blonde mermaid waves are nearly identical to the wig she later wears in Nine Perfect Strangers, and I’m fully convinced the Hulu series reused it.
Based on the true story of Eric Lomax, The Railway Man is centered on a British man (played by Colin Firth) struggling with the psychological trauma of his experience as a Japanese prisoner of war during World War II. Kidman gives a poignant and understated performance as his supportive wife, Patti, all the while wearing a brunette bob that resembles her Paddington hair. Kidman loves a bob more than anyone, but this one is not her best.
Many of Kidman’s better wigs are blonde or shoulder length, but this unfortunately doesn’t ring true in the HBO movie Hemingway & Gellhorn, which stars Clive Owen as a caricatured Ernest Hemingway and a Golden Globe–nominated Kidman as his wife, the journalist Martha Gellhorn. The wig isn’t perfect — there are some moments when it looks good and others when it clearly looks like a wig is attached to her scalp — but at least it resembles Gellhorn’s hair to an extent.
A lesser-known entry in Kidman’s filmography is Fur, an unconventional romance about photographer Diane Arbus’s relationship with Lionel Sweeney (Robert Downey Jr.). It’s a bizarre film that tells a fictionalized story about a woman who was known for her strange photos. Kidman wears an average brunette wig with side-swept bangs throughout, and there’s not much special about it aside from the fact that it’s not cripplingly bad to look at.
Gus Van Sant’s black comedy To Die For features Kidman at the top of her game, giving a stellar performance as femme fatale Suzanne Stone, an ambitious and narcissistic local weather girl adamant on getting out of her small suburban town and making it in the big leagues. Beatrix Aruna Pasztor’s vivid costumes are very much of the ’90s, and so is Kidman’s fluffy news-reporter hair that predates the bad wig she wears in Bombshell.
This 2014 biopic about Hollywood icon turned princess of Monaco Grace Kelly opened to scathing reviews at Cannes Film Festival and ended up being dumped on Lifetime, never to be heard of again. It does a big disservice to the late actress, and Kidman’s attempt to recreate Kelly’s glamorous hairstyles don’t quite live up to expectations. While the wigs are a decent attempt at recreating the real-life inspiration, they’re forgettable and not nearly as gorgeous.
Kidman is capable of tackling any type of vivid story that comes her direction, and The Golden Compass is a great example of her range. Long before HBO adapted Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, Kidman starred in this fantasy film based on the first installment, Northern Lights. As Mrs. Coulter, Kidman sports a stunning blonde bob with pin curls that is a perfect match for the iconic character’s stone-cold villain vibes in a bold but ultimately successful departure from Coulter’s original sleek black hair.
Twenty-one years after starring in Jane Campion’s The Portrait of a Lady, Kidman reunited with the Academy Award–winning filmmaker for Top of the Lake: China Girl. No stranger to doing everything it takes to transform into a character, Kidman wears a nose prosthetic, a false tooth gap, and faux freckles for her part in the series. Most notably in this physical transformation, Kidman’s role as Julia Edwards — the estranged adoptive mother of Robin Griffin’s (Elisabeth Moss) daughter, Mary — required her to wear another transcendent wig. The larger-than-life salt-and-pepper locks channeling artist Kiki Smith suit her well and are a great fit for her character’s vibes, though the wig is nowhere near her best.
Kidman gives an unhinged performance in Robert Eggers’s highly anticipated Viking epic. Equally unhinged is her extraordinarily long white wig that’s sometimes styled with braided pigtails. She plays Alexander Skarsgård’s mom just a few years after playing his wife in Big Little Lies — the duality! Despite Eggers practically assembling a film lover’s version of the Avengers, The Northman’s true scene-stealer is Kidman and her volumeless wig. Sorry to Skarsgård’s abs and Willem Dafoe’s enormous faux forehead, which must deal with placing in second and third place, respectively.
Kidman’s strawberry-blonde wig evidently went through a lot between seasons one and two of Big Little Lies. What started as an effortlessly sophisticated wig that lacked a clear origin point turned into a wispier (and sometimes lifeless) hairdo that does actually resemble human hair to some extent. While everyone was too distracted by Shailene Woodley’s haunting (and very real) bangs in the second season, the true star was the increase in the quality of Kidman’s hair. If we choose to ignore season one’s Valerie Cherish knockoff that flows perfectly in the California breeze, then we have a good second wig in an otherwise disappointing season.
The Undoing is a great example of the phrase “Great gowns, beautiful gowns” — or in this case, coats. Kidman reunites with fellow Paddington villain Hugh Grant, playing an Upper East Side mom who sports all of the aforementioned fabulous coats. Aside from her style, the highlight of this HBO limited series is Kidman’s luscious, enormous locks that closely resemble her own natural hair color and texture. Back when The Undoing was airing, many viewers questioned whether Kidman’s natural hair was making the rare appearance, which is a testament to the wig’s strength and success.
Both the vibes in Nora Ephron’s remake of the beloved 1960s sitcom of the same name and Kidman’s wigs are bewitching (sorry). Her curly blonde bob with bangs is gorgeous and doesn’t look like it was slapped on at the last minute, much to our delight. It’s also superior to the wig worn by Amy Adams in Ephron’s otherwise lovely Julie & Julia — you have to pick your battles.
In the first Paddington movie, Kidman takes on a villain role as Millicent, a taxidermist who wants to stuff the adorable and innocent titular bear and add him to her collection at London’s Natural History Museum. Kidman succeeds in achieving the villain look, sporting a sleek, Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory–esque platinum-blonde bob with bangs (along with some incredible costumes.) It’s not natural looking or perfect, but it’s an ambitious wig ideal for the heightened world of Paddington.
After stepping foot in the suburban town of Stepford, where wives sacrifice their lives in order to please their husbands, Kidman’s hair shifts from a short brunette moment to long blonde hair that makes her look exactly like Barbie. I’d show my hairdresser a picture of the first haircut, and both of these wigs are some of Kidman’s best to ever grace the silver screen.
Kidman is the MVP of this musical, which lets her take a break from the dramatic roles she’s known for and gives her the space to have as much fun as possible — she literally sings a song called “Zazz.” It’s shocking that it took a Ryan Murphy production for Kidman to finally get a good wig, but alas, it had to happen this way. While Kidman’s gorgeous wig appears to have gotten all the attention, Meryl Streep’s was left to fend for itself.
In Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding, Kidman’s titular character is an insufferable and unlikeable person, but if there’s anyone who could make you like a movie centered on an annoying character, it’s Kidman. She wears a brunette wig that looks good enough to make you question whether she’s actually wearing a wig or if she just dyed her hair. Kidman, her convincing wig, and the Paddington-esque hat she wears were robbed of an Oscar nomination.
Rob Marshall’s divisive 2009 romance-musical Nine seems as if it was crafted for the sole purpose of seeing how many people with Oscars recognition could be in the same movie (there are six winners and seven nominees). Kidman and the rest of the ensemble did the best they could with the material they were given, but thankfully Nine gave Kidman another musical and stunningly elegant blonde wig to add to her resume.
Kidman’s luscious bobbed red wig is amazing — as is her monologue about why people have children — in Park Chan-wook’s English-language debut that casts her as Mia Wasikowska’s mom. Plus her hair transforms into a literal field of grass. The hair team gave it their all with this wig, and it’s cinematic hair at its finest.
The Others and Moulin Rouge! were released in the same year, giving us two of Kidman’s greatest performances and wigs. As Grace in Alejandro Amenábar’s gothic thriller, she plays a single mother of two who decides to move to the old mansion she lived in as a child and later has to protect her children from the ghosts lurking in the haunted home. Her short red hair is a great fit for the eerie atmosphere of the movie and also just looks pretty damn great.
I aspire for my hair to look like Kidman’s in The Peacemaker, a 1997 movie about a U.S. Army colonel (George Clooney) and a nuclear specialist (Kidman) who track down stolen Russian nukes before they lead to a disaster. Her shoulder-length brown hair with side-swept bangs is all-around stunning and one of her most simple yet beautiful looks.
In Batman Forever, one of the many Batman iterations we’ve seen within the past few decades, Kidman plays the Selina Kyle–Catwoman to Val Kilmer’s Bruce Wayne–Batman. She looks stunning throughout the superhero flick, and it’s largely thanks to her elegant strawberry-blonde hair. It’s arguably some of the best hair to ever grace a superhero movie.
Kidman is nearly unrecognizable as Virginia Woolf in The Hours, a brilliant performance that earned her a well-deserved Academy Award. She transforms into the beloved English author from head to toe with the help of a prosthetic nose, heavy makeup, and a killer brunette wig pulled back into a loose bun. The wig is essential to her performance, and had it been any less convincing, Kidman wouldn’t have made such an impact in the film.
Thanks to its convincing look and similarities to her natural hair, it’s frequently difficult to tell if Kidman is wearing a wig throughout Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 classic Moulin Rouge! Her performance as Satine is undoubtedly one of her greatest and most iconic, as is her dreamy, thick scarlet wig. Everything about Moulin Rouge! is to die for, from the amazing soundtrack to the elaborate set designs to the over-the-top costumes, and Kidman’s silky wig is just as great in quality.
Kidman’s collection of wigs peaked when it introduced the pixie cut in Jonathan Glazer’s 2004 film Birth, in which she plays a woman who becomes convinced that her dead husband has been reincarnated into a 10-year-old boy. The departure from her typically long curls is a perfect complement to this complex and chilling role. It’s nearly impossible to tell if it’s a wig or if she decided to chop all her hair off, and I highly doubt Kidman will ever top this perfectly fitted wig.