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Episode Recap: Top 20 Countdown - Judges' Favorites


You've heard the judges' favorites, and if you haven't - or you just need to know how many "bitchins" Ve awarded to each of Face Off's most memorable looks - click on over to our Judges' Favorites Countdown Image Gallery. Now that you know which designs have serious staying power, can we hack the list and find a formula for a makeup that will wow the judges every time?

How to Watch

Catch up on Face Off on Peacock or the SYFY App.

Face Off is a hotbed for creativity, and we know that no two looks, challenges, or even judging sessions are the same, but is there a common thread between those entries that even Glen couldn't criticize? Let's break down the top 20 Face Off makeups from across all 5 seasons and see if we can't crack the code.

But first, we should probably key you into the highly scientific method and metrics that I will be using to determine the quickest way to become a judges' pet. We'll obviously be looking at which artists, and seasons made the biggest splash on our top 20 list, but how else can the electric talent behind 5 seasons worth of jaw dropping feats of artistic accomplishment be quantified? Here's how:

We've divided the makeups into two additional categories that we believe sum up the spirit of a piece - form and aesthetic. Though there are obviously blurred lines and outliers, characters tend to fall into one of the following three forms:

Humanoid - Like looking in a mirror, but with more polyfoam
Beastly - Obscuring the human form to create characters that defy their canvas
Fabricated - Augmenting the human form with outrageous props

And the following three aesthetics:

Beauty - While potentially alien or strange, these makeups maintain a visually pleasing quality
Humor - The first and primary reaction to these looks is a good laugh!
Gruesome - There's an element of repulsion here, even if there is a certain beauty to it as well

Take a peek at the chart at the bottom of this page to see how we broke things down!

Before we get started in earnest, it might be useful to look at a quirk that emerged from our vigorous research here in the Syfy labs. For starters, 15 out of our top 20 looks were also the winning looks in the episodes from which they were plucked. And only 2 of the "non-winning" looks that made the Top 20 were not featured ranking below the winners from their challenge; these are Rayce and Ian's Cowardly Lion and Connor's Dancing Zombie. So, while the judges' top picks were mostly consistent with their past verdicts the winds of time, or possibly just the addition of Neville Page, have changed how we view our history.

Essentially this means to take everything with a big ol' grain of salt, because subjectivity is king when art is involved!

Top 20 Break Down


Season 1: 4 Mentions, Season 2: 6 Mentions, Season 3: 5 Mentions, Season 4: 2 Mentions, and Season 5: 3 Mentions

Top Artists

Connor: 3 Mentions, Laura: 3 Mentions, Roy: 2 Mentions, Anthony K.: 2 Mentions, and Rayce: 2 Mentions

By Form

Humanoid: 14 Looks
Beastly: 4 Looks
Fabricated: 2 Looks

By Aesthetic

Beauty: 11 Looks
Humor: 2 Looks
Gruesome: 7 Looks

According to this chart, Season 2 was the strongest performing season, but it only produced Rayce (with his 2 mentions) on the list of top artists. The humanoid form and the Beauty aesthetic seem to be the quickest ways to wow the judges, and it looks like they aren't interested in giving points to novelty (i.e. fabrication/humor). That's all well and good on the surface, but these numbers are partially skewed by a few factors that get hidden in the chart.

First and foremost, the majority of Face Off challenges call for a humanoid form. While a beastly design could arguably be applied to most of the series' creative prompts, reshaping the humanoid figure into something "other" is time consuming and risky. At the end of the day, a human-shaped model is best suited to portray a humanoid character, though it must be noted that when a beast is presented (like Tate's Crabwalker and Eric F.'s Puddle of Goo from the candy challenge) to the judges as an ambitious augment to the given challenge, it always catches their attention and rarely goes up for elimination.

It seems, that the judges have a soft spot for novelty, and enjoy being surprised by daring feats of creativity that plant a flag firmly outside of the box (who doesn't?!), but they are hesitant to give these looks the win. At its core, Face Off is a show about using the human form to propel the mind on flights of fancy through the medium of makeup - and it is the looks that achieve this that are crowned winners and not just applauded for their ingenuity.

Not to harp on this point, but our Top 20 special seemed to be self-aware enough to know that many of the more novel makeups the show has seen have become fan favorites, and thus both honorable mentions, the Largest Makeup, and Funniest categories existed outside of the official Top 20 countdown, excluding them from prestige. It's undeniable, however, that these impressively zaney efforts (mostly coming from Roy and Eric F - both contenders whose off-the-beaten-path style got them only close enough to taste the finals) resonate with both the judges and fans of the series.

But should the #20 entry be weighed as heavily as our #1 look? Instead of creating a fancy sliding scale, we've decided to award double points in all categories to looks in the top ten. For example, Laura's winning Season 5 finale look would count as 2 points for season 5, 2 points for Laura, 2 points for Humanoids, and 2 Points for Beauty, whereas her Cubism piece would only earn 1 in each of the same categories. And that looks something like this...

Weighted Top 20 Breakdown


Season 1: 7 Mentions, Season 2: 9 Mentions, Season 3: 5 Mentions, Season 4: 4 Mentions, and Season 5: 5 Mentions

Top Artists

Connor: 5 Mentions, Laura: 4 Mentions, Roy: 2 Mentions, Anthony: 4 Mentions, and Rayce: 4 Mentions

By Form

Humanoid: 21 Looks
Beastly: 7 Looks
Fabricated: 2 Looks

By Aesthetic

Beauty: 17 Looks
Humor: 2 Looks
Gruesome: 10 Looks

First off, take a look at the numbers for Roy, Fabrications, and Funny looks. They haven't budged. These looks are so fondly remembered that they couldn't not be recognized, but they somehow fall short of the factors that the judges are looking for when proclaiming a top look.

They all get a nice bump, but the general ratios remain the same. Season 2 becomes the standout, and Season1 jumps into 2nd place - which make sense, because most of its real estate was in the top 10 - whereas all of season 3's mentions fall in the so-called bottom 10. So, season 3 got more spots on the list, but season one tended to rank higher and earns more points in our weighted grid. So, who wins? we'd argue for Season 1 on the basis on concentrated quality. These are the looks that created the most powerful Wow moments, and therefore probably provide a better window into the - even subconscious - criteria that the judges used to populate out Top 20 countdown.

Top 10 Breakdown


Season 1: 3 Mentions, Season 2: 3 Mentions, Season 3: 0 Mentions, Season 4: 2 Mentions, and Season 5: 2 Mentions

Top Artists

Connor: 2 Mentions, Laura: 1 Mentions, Roy: 0 Mentions, Anthony K.: 2 Mentions, and Rayce: 2 Mentions

By Form

Humanoid: 7 Looks
Beastly: 3 Looks
Fabricated: 0 Looks

By Aesthetic

Beauty: 5 Looks
Humor: 0 Looks
Gruesome: 5 Looks

Here's where things really get interesting. The data hides a few interesting gems, specifically in the realm of Form. Even though only 4 Beastly forms made it into the Top 20, three out of the four cracked the Top 10. So, although a monstrous form is uncommon and potentially risky, when the judges like it, they love it! This in stark contrast to their feelings towards novelty, and, when you think about their background, it kind of makes sense. With CGI on the rise, the actual art of special effects makeup exists in a rapidly terraforming landscape. Humanoid figures get the job done and are a little less cost- and labor-intensive, but a living, breathing beast (like Connor's frog prince) is rarer. That is the sort of thing that gets the judges excited, because it stretches the medium and honors the craft.

The Top 10 also levels the playing field when it comes to aesthetics. While there may be a more apparent "artistry" in makeups on beauty end of the spectrum, when the cream rises to the top it is equally beautiful and horrifying. This makes sense, because there is something aesthetically pleasing, no matter how deeply its camouflaged, in the most successful horror makeups. Chalk it up to the tenets of design and the golden ratio, but at the end of the day exceptional work, so long as it glorifies the makeup is going to be rewarded on this show, and that's probably just how it should be.

So that's that - the scientifically flawless analysis of the Face Off Top 20 Judges; Favorites. Do you see anything we missed? Or are we just completely off the mark about everything? Feel free to complain about what did and didn't warrant a mention on FaceBook and Twitter with #FaceOff

And don't forget the Face Off phenomenon is far from over! See which of your favorites will be dropped like a hot silicon potato when Season 6 airs in 2014!

Face Off Top 20 Countdown Categorization
*All subject to Debate, so hit us with your best shot!

#20 Laura's Cubism Man: Humanoid, Beauty
#19 Connor and Jo's Regal Alien Diplomat: Humanoid, Beauty
#18 Roy's Zombie Queen of Hearts: Humanoid, Gruesome
#17 Nicole's Junkyard Cyborg: Humanoid, Beauty
#16 Ian's Crippled Bat: Humanoid, Grotesque
#15 Roy and Rod's Small Man in a Walker: Fabrication, Humorous
#14 Derek and Tommy's Red and Golden Dragon: Beastly, Beauty
#13 R.J.'s Bellhop: Fabrication, Humorous
#12 Matt and Tara's Underwater Nymph: Humanoid, Beauty
#11 Laura and Sarah's Amphibious Bounty Hunter: Humanoid, Beauty
#10 Rayce and Ian's Cowardly Lion: Beastly, Gruesome
#9 Anthony P's Body Paint: Humanoid, Beauty
#8 Matt's Ice Cream Man: Humanoid, Gruesome
#7 Connor's Frog Prince: Beastly, Gruesome
#6 Laura's Victorian Swan Lake: Humanoid Beauty
#5 Anthony's Cirque du Soleil: Humanoid, Beauty
#4 Connor's Emaciated Zombie: Humanoid, Gruesome
#3 Rayce's Violin Woman: Humanoid, Beauty
#2 Anthony and Alam's Icy Hindu Goddess: Humanoid, Beauty*
#1 Miranda and Tate's Pumpkin Woman: Beastly, Gruesome