The best deepfake examples continue to amaze us, whilst also raising concerns about whether we can be sure what’s real. Over a few short years, technology like AI and deepfaking has advanced to the point where it’s becoming really quite difficult to see the flaws in these creations. They used to all have that ‘uncanny valley’ feel that made it obvious that what we were looking at isn’t real, but we’ve seen increasingly convincing deepfake examples in the last year or so.
Deepfakes have been used for various purposes, mainly for entertainment and parody, but what actually is a deepfake? At the most basic level, a deepfake is a video that uses impressive technology to replace one person’s likeness with that of another. Scroll down for a more in-depth dive into deepfakes, and for more on the wider phenomenon of AI-generated imagery, see our guide to how to use DALL-E 2 and how the best AI art generators compare.
The best deepfake examples
01. Deepfaked Nicki Minaj and Tom Holland
HELP!!! What in the AI shapeshifting cloning conspiracy theory is this?!?!! I hope the whole internet get deleted!!! https://t.co/fFx1SDtj8oJuly 9, 2023
Among one of the stranger deepfake examples, is a clip from ITVX’s Deep Fake Neighbour Wars, a show that’s riddled with strange deepfaked celebs in bizarre settings. The video in question depicts rapper Nicki Minaj and actor Tom Holland as a distraught couple, recounting a home invasion by none other than Mark Zuckerberg. The odd clip was shared to Twitter where it was seen by Minaj, who was rather disturbed, to say the least.
Responding to the video, Minaj writes: “HELP!!! What in the AI shapeshifting cloning conspiracy theory is this?!?!! I hope the whole internet get deleted!!!” – maybe a little dramatic, but who can blame her? The video is giving some serious uncanny valley vibes with that dead behind-the-eyes look on their AI faces.
02. This is not Morgan Freeman
One of the most scarily convincing deepfakes is this Morgan Freeman deepfake. The video was first shared by Dutch deepfake YouTube Channel Diep Nep last year, crediting the concept to Bob de Jong and the (very good) voice acting to Boet Schouwink.
The video’s still hugely impressive, and frightening, a year on, as we saw when it resurfaced on Twitter last month. “How can this tech NOT be deployed in the 2024 election?” one user commented. “Soon we’ll see that even this is essentially child’s play when it comes to the actual, ever-present (yet invisible) capabilities of identity manipulation and whole-cloth digital identity creation…the implications of which are far-reaching & bone chilling,” someone added.
03. The Shining starring Jim Carrey
Bizarre film/actor crossovers are popular amongst deepfake creators; you can find plenty of them on YouTube (including the above Jerry Seinfield and Pulp Fiction mashup). This terrifyingly good edit sees Jim Carrey take on the role of Jack Torrence in a series of videos showing the most important moments from the 1980 film The Shining. It’s scarily convincing, and makes us want to see Jim Carrey staring in a horror film. His exaggerated expressions would be perfect.
If you want to see a better comparison of the Deepfake edit versus the original, the creators Ctrl Shift Face have uploaded a before and after of the Jack to Jimmy transformation.
04. Spider-man: No Way Home but it’s Tobey Maguire
Everyone has a favourite Spider-man actor, and if your favourite is Tobey Maguire you’ll love this particular edit. Popular deepfake creator Shamook took the Spider-man: No Way Home trailer and replaced Tom Holland’s face with the original spidey, Tobey Maguire. It’s a subtle effect, but executed brilliantly so you can barely tell there’s been a change at all.
This kind of edit makes us wonder what the future of film could look like using this technology. Imagine being able to choose your preferred actor to play the lead in the film you’re watching. Wild.
05. Jerry Seinfeld in Pulp Fiction
This hilarious and perfectly executed creation sees DesiFakes puts Jerry Seinfeld into one of the most famous scenes from Pulp Fiction, and it works fantastically. The audio editing is as important as the visuals here, with perfect timing right down to the inappropriate canned laughter and the jingle and credit roll. The facial expressions could come straight out of a Seinfeld episode. This is the kind of things deepfakes were made for.
06. The deepfake Tom Cruise on TikTok
Keep your hands clean.
Deepfakes have come so far in recent years that there’s now a TikTok account dedicated entirely to Tom Cruise deepfakes. There’s still a hint of the uncanny valley about @deeptomcruise‘s videos, but his mastery of the actor’s voice and mannerisms along with the use of rapidly advancing technology has resulted in some of the most convincing deepfake examples yet.
Videos show Cruise doing everything from golfing to demonstrating a magic trick, even in everyday situations like washing his hands. The description of the TikTok account simply reads, “Parody. Also younger.”
07. The Mandalorian Luke Skywalker deepfake
Star Wars fandom exploded at the sight of Luke Skywalker in the season two finale of The Mandalorian. Once the space dust eventually settled though, viewers were quick to point out what they saw as flaws in the digital recreation of a younger Mark Hamill. Once again, YouTuber Shamook had a go at deepfaking a Return of the Jedi-era Luke Skywalker with very impressive results.
In fact, it was later confirmed that Shamook had been hired by none other than Industrial Light and Magic, the legendary visual effects company that help bring the Star Wars galaxy to life. Deepfake technology is now being used to shape the galaxy far far away.
08. The deepfake Keanu Reeves on TikTok
Cruise isn’t the only phoney celeb with his own TikTok following. He’s since been joined on the platform by a deepfake Keanu Reeves and many more. Unreal_Keanu has picked up an incredible 7.4 million followers, who seem to love the references to his movie rolls, his dancing (it is TikTok) and jokes about living with a partner.
As with Cruise above, this particular deepfake celeb is being used for laughs and isn’t being passed off as real. But despite the humour, it shows the risks deepfakes pose for celebs. On the one hand, the tech could allow celebrities to sell their image to brands without having to go to the trouble of actually filming a spot or going to a photoshoot. But on the other side, there have already been reports of unscrupulous brands using deepfakes to push their products without the celebs’ permission.
09. Korean newsreader Kim Joo-Ha
Many deepfake examples are fun parodies or experiments designed to test the limits of deep learning technology. However, perhaps the biggest indication that deepfakes could become part of everyday mainstream media came late last year when the Korean television channel MBN presented viewers with a deepfake of its own news anchor Kim Joo-Ha.
The channel warned viewers in advance that the newsreader would be faked, and Kim Joo-Ha still has her job. However, MBN said it planned to continue using the deepfake for some breaking news reports, and the company behind the deepfake, South Korea’s DeepBrain AI (formerly known as Moneybrain), has said that it’s looking for media buyers in China and the US, leading some to fear that newsreaders may become obsolete.
10. Wonder Woman
Remakes and reboots continue to be a massive part of the modern film landscape. Whenever new actors are cast in classic roles, comparisons are inevitably made between the different portrayals. Deepfake technology has allowed people to take those comparisons one step further, by putting one actor in the place of another for a sequence, highlighting similarities and differences that are incredibly interesting to observe.
This example, from DeepFaker, places actress Lynda Carter, from the classic ’70s Wonder Woman TV show, into the reimagined world and costume of Gal Gadot’s big-screen Wonder Woman – with breathtaking results.
11. The deepfake Snoop Dogg Doggy Dog tarot readings
Phoneline fortune telling used to dominate late night TV in many places, with viewers phoning in to have their future told to them by highly dubious psychics. It was a shady business, so it seems rather app for deepfake treatment, and who better to star in it than West Coast gangsta rapper Snoop Dogg. This hilarious deepfake is the work of Brian Monarch.
12. Deepfake Roundtable
The entertainment landscape is undergoing a seismic shift right now, as streaming services like Netflix battle with the big screen for attention. With this in mind, Collider put together this hilarious deepfake with the super recognisable faces of Tom Cruise, Robert Downey, Jr, George Lucas, Ewan McGregor and Jeff Goldblum discussing streaming and the future of cinema. This is a favourite of ours not only because it’s incredibly convincing but also because it’s a highly amusing video. As one commenter puts it, this is ‘scary good’.
13. Donald Trump joins Breaking Bad
This video takes a scene from the mega-popular Breaking Bad series and introduces Donald Trump as crooked lawyer Saul Goodman. In the scene, Goodman explains the basics of money laundering to Jesse Pinkman, played in the show by Aaron Paul. To add a touch of realism, Donald Trump’s deepfaked son-in-law Jared Kushner takes over from Paul, making the parody an almost personal heart-to-heart.
YouTube creators Ctrl Shift Face, the team behind the parody, used DeepFaceLab to create Trump and Kushner’s faces frame by frame. The voices, which complete the scene, were provided by Stable Voices, a custom AI model that is trained on real speech samples.
Donald Trump must be one of the people who has most been subject to deepfakes, often with very amusing results. In fact, the creators of South Park originally planned to make an entire movie out of their Sassy Justice (see below). Deep Fake: The Movie appears to be currently on hold, but this is a taster of what it might look like.
14. Obama’s public service announcement
Many of the most convincing deepfake examples have been created with the help of impersonators that mimick the source’s voice and gestures, just like this video produced by BuzzFeed and comedian Jordan Peele using After Effects CC and FakeApp. Peele’s mouth was pasted over Obama’s, replacing the former president’s jawline with one that followed Peele’s mouth movements. FakeApp was then used to refine the footage through more than 50 hours of automatic processing.
Politicians and celebrities are often the subjects of deepfakes. Less than a year before the above video, University of Washington computer scientists used neural network AI to model the shape of Obama’s mouth and make it lip sync to audio input.
High-profile figures make for such perfect sources in deepfaking because their public profiles provide plenty of source material for an AI to learn from, but with the number of selfies the average person takes in a lifetime and rapid technological advances, perhaps soon anyone could be used as a source.
15. Zuckerberg speaks frankly
In response to Facebook’s refusal to remove a doctored video of Nancy Pelosi, artist Bill Posters posted this deepfake on Facebook-owned Instagram, showing Mark Zuckerberg boasting of how the platform “owns” its users. Would Facebook react differently when its own founder was being manipulated?
The film originally formed part of Posters’ and Daniel Howe’s Spectre piece, which was commissioned for Sheffield Doc Fest to draw attention to how people can be manipulated by social media. It was made using Israeli startup Canny AI’s VDR (video dialogue replacement) software, which it’s promoted with a deepfake singalong starring various world leaders.
Instagram didn’t take the Zuckerberg video down, but said it would, “treat this content the same way we treat all misinformation on Instagram. If third-party fact checkers mark it as false, we will filter it.” The posters had flagged it using the hashtag #deepfake. While the video is reasonably convincing on mute, the voice gives it away, showing that a good actor is still needed to make plausible deepfake examples (although AI voice synthesis has been advancing by leaps and bounds, so perhaps not for long).
16. Donald Trump lectures Belgium
Trump again! This one’s an old one, but it’s notable for having been the first example of a political party using a deepfake, Belgium’s Socialistische Partij Anders (sp.a) posted this video on Facebook back in May 2018 showing Trump taunting Belgium for remaining in the Paris climate agreement. With Trump’s hair looking even stranger than usual and the crude movement of the mouth, it’s very clearly fake, and the voiceover says as much, though the final line “We all know that climate change is fake, just like this video,” isn’t subtitled in Flemish, but it was still enough to provoke one user to comment “Trumpy needs to look at his own country with its crazy child killers,” and for sp.a to have to clarify it was fake.
A more convincing Trump (below) was later created by YouTuber Derpfakes, who trained DeepFaceLab to map a composite of Trump’s face over Alec Baldwin’s Saturday Night Live impersonation of him, showing how far the technology has come in a year. The video has been blocked in the US and Canada.
17. Dove’s Toxic Advice deepfake
Here’s an example of deepfakes being used by a major brand, and for a marketing campaign with a positive mission. Dove used deepfake technology to put very unlikely advice into the mouths of the mothers of teenage girls, the aim being to raise awareness of the negative impact of a lot of the dangerous ‘beauty’ advice shared by influencers on social media apps. In the campaign video, the participants sit mouths wide, clearly horrified by the distorted advice being given by their mums. Entitled Toxic Influence, the ad was created by Ogilvy.
18. Bill Hader morphs into Pacino and Schwarzenegger
If a great impersonation is the basis of a convincing deepfake then this video of actor and comedian Bill Hader morphing into Hollywood legends Al Pacino and Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn’t fail. Although the team at Ctrl Shift Face aren’t trying to trick anyone with this video, they do demonstrate how crucial it is to have an actor that can capture the mannerisms of your source. The subtle morphing of Hader’s face into that of Pacino and then Schwarzenegger is slightly terrifying and completely hilarious.
19 . Salvador Dalí comes back to life
Agency GS&P pulled off the kind of headline-grabbing stunt that the publicity-loving Dalí would have appreciated when they resurrected the Catalan artist as a charismatic host at the Dalí Museum in Florida. Billed as “art meets artificial intelligence”, Dalí Lives was created by pulling more than 6,000 frames from old video interviews and processing them through 1,000 hours of machine learning before overlaying the source onto an actor’s face. The text was comprised of quotes from interviews and letters with new commentary designed to help visitors empathise with the artist and relate to his work.
The novelty of this deepfake example is its interactivity. A total 45 minutes of footage split over 125 videos allows for more than 190,000 possible combinations depending on visitor responses and even includes comments on the weather. It finishes with Dalí turning around and snapping a selfie with his audience. Dalí claimed it was unlikely he would ever die, and maybe he was right, because he was brought to life a second time recently by Samsung’s AI lab in Moscow, this time by training AI on landmark facial features from just a handful of images rather than the usual thousands.
20. The Volodymyr Zelensky deepfake
A deepfake of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky calling on his soldiers to lay down their weapons was reportedly uploaded to a hacked Ukrainian news website today, per @Shayan86 pic.twitter.com/tXLrYECGY4March 16, 2022
Fortunately, most known deepfake examples online are clearly flagged as fake and are not intended to fool anyone. They’re usually being played for laughs, for example, putting Nicolas Cage in every film ever produced, or at worst for sordid fantasy (deepfake celebrity porn through which the tech first took root has been banned). But there have been cases of people using deepfakes for nefarious ends and trying to pass them off as real.
This frightening example was broadcast on a hacked Ukrainian TV station barely a month into the Russian invasion of the country. It shows the president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky ordering the country’s troops to surrender to Russia. Although the quality is poor and it doesn’t look very convincing, it’s an example of why people are so concerned that deepfakes could be used to spread fake news.
21. Yang Mi travels in time
Back in 2019, a video pasting the face of Yang Mi, one of China’s best-known contemporary actors into the 1983 Hong Kong television drama The Legend Of The Condor Heroes went viral, racking up a reported 240 million views before it was removed by Chinese authorities.
Its creator, a fan of Yang Mi, issued an apology on microblogging site Weibo and said he’d made the video as a warning to raise awareness of the technology. We can actually see lots of possible uses of deepfakes for the film and television industry. It’s also possible to see how the industry could eventually embrace the technology and turn it to profit by allowing viewers to play director on home releases, manipulating dialogue, incorporating alternative scenes or even inserting themselves as characters. We won’t be surprised if we see a lot of video games with celebrity appearances too.
What is a deepfake?
Deepfakes take their name from the fact that they use deep learning technology to create fake videos. Deep learning technology is a kind of machine learning that applies neural net simulation to massive data sets. Artificial intelligence (AI) effectively learns what a particular face looks like at different angles in order to transpose the face onto a target as if it were a mask.
Huge advances came through the use of generative adversarial networks (GANS) to pit two AI algorithms against each other, one creating the fake and the other grading its efforts, teaching the synthesis engine to make better fakes.
Hollywood has famously transposed real or fictional faces onto other actors in recent years, for example, bringing Peter Cushing back to life in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but the technique has required complex and expensive pipelines with face-mounted cameras. Accessible software tools such as FakeApp and DeepFaceLab have since made deepfake technology available to all.
The technology behind deepfakes offers many interesting possibilities for various creative sectors, from dubbing and repairing video to solving the uncanny valley effect of CG characters in films and video games, avoiding actors having to repeat a fluffed line and the creation of apps that allow us to try new clothes and hairstyles.
The technology is even being used to produce corporate training videos and train doctors. However, there remains a prevailing fear that the technology could be used for sinister ends. If you’d like to delve deeper into these concerns, check out our piece on the ethics of digital humans.
How can you spot a deepfake?
With fears growing that convincing deepfakes could be used for criminal purposes or to trick whole populations, a lot of people are inevitably wondering how deepfakes can be spotted. There are organisations that work to validate the authenticity of videos and images shared online using various techniques, but if you ever find yourself on a video call with someone who you suspect might not be reel, one good idea is to ask the person to turn to the side.
This works because the software used to estimate facial poses for deepfake videos doesn’t do too well at acute angles and assign more landmarks to the front of a face than they do to the side. In most cases, there are fewer images of people in profile too, meaning they have fewer example images to learn from.
If you’re after more strange deepfake phenomena, check out Volkswagen’s deepfake AI ad, or take a look at this creepy ‘live action’ Southpark deepfake that’s got fans feeling a little disturbed.