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14 deepfake examples that terrified and amused the internet

Deepfake examples: Wonder Woman
(Image credit: DeepFake)

Deepfake examples continue to terrify and amuse the internet as the technology evolves. Emerging as a means to prank an unsuspecting public with uncanny alterations, deepfakes have become increasingly prevalent in mainstream media, including blockbuster movies and news broadcasts.

Concerns about deepfake technology continue to grow and these days a quick YouTube search can reveal realistic creations that can go toe to toe with those seen in mega-budget movies. The very best deepfake examples don't just terrify people though, they show new ways to revolutionise the creative process of artists and filmmakers. For examples of how deepfake technology is transforming moviemaking take a look at this list of our favourite 3D movies.

In this feature, we've rounded up the very best deepfake examples on the internet, including recent creations and old favourites. Still not entirely sure what a deepfake is? Scroll down to the bottom of this article where we've explained all.

01. The deepfake Tom Cruise on TikTok

@deeptomcruise (opens in new tab)

Keep your hands clean.

♬ original sound - Tom (opens in new tab)

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 (opens in new tab)'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."

02. Korean newsreader Kim Joo-Ha

Many of the deepfake examples around right now are simply 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 (opens in new tab) (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.

03. 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 (opens in new tab), 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.

04. Deepfake Roundtable

The entertainment landscape is undergoing a seismic shift right now, as streaming services like Netflix battle with the big screen for your attention. With this in mind, Collider (opens in new tab) 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'.

05. 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. YouTuber Shamook (opens in new tab) 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. We look forward to seeing how deepfake technology goes on to shape the galaxy far far away.

06. Donald Trump joins Breaking Bad

Some deepfakes are intended to try and fool the viewer, but Better Call Trump: Money Laundering 101 is a straight-up parody. 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 in the deepfaked scene, making the parody an almost personal heart-to-heart.

YouTube creators Ctrl Shift Face (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab), a custom AI model that is trained on real speech samples.

07. 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 (opens in new tab)

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.

08. Nancy Pelosi slowed down

This one isn't actually a deepfake, instead, it's an example of why their potential misuse has become so feared in politics. This really was Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, but the video was slowed down by 25 per cent and the pitch was altered to make it seem like she was slurring her words. 

The video was posted by a Facebook page called Politics Watchdog and was shared widely, including by former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who tweeted: “What is wrong with Nancy Pelosi? Her speech pattern is bizarre.”

Facebook initially refused to remove the clip but said it had reduced its distribution after it was fact-checked as false. The post was later removed but it’s unclear who by. The case illustrates the kind of misuse people fear could be made of tech presented by Stanford University in June (opens in new tab) that allows audio in a video to be edited as easily as a text document.

09. Zuckerberg speaks frankly

In response to Facebook’s refusal to remove the video of Nancy Pelosi, artist Bill Posters posted this on Facebook-owned Instagram in June, 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, but with AI voice synthesis already mooted by Lyrebird (opens in new tab) and Adobe VoCo, it may not be long until passable voices can easily be added to deepfakes.

10. Donald Trump lectures Belgium

In the first known case 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.

11. Yang Mi travels in time

A couple of years ago a video pasting the face of Yang Mi, one of China’s best-known contemporary actors, into 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. While it seems likely that there will be an initial backlash against deepfakes from 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 through manipulating dialogue, incorporating alternative scenes or even inserting themselves as characters. Expect also to see video games chock-full of celebrity appearances.

12. 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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.

13. Gabon’s president shows prompts questions

For the time being, the majority of deepfake examples online are clearly flagged as fake and are not intended to fool anyone, usually being played for laughs, for example putting Nicolas Cage in everything ever produced (opens in new tab), or for sordid fantasy – it was through fake celebrity porn that the technology first took root. But while there’s been no confirmed case of anyone trying to pass one off as real, one case has been questioned. 

No one knows quite what to make of this video of Gabon’s president Ali Bongo, who had been absent from the public eye for some time – leading to speculation about his health. This New Year's video address was supposed to lay doubts to rest but backfired due to opposition claims that it was actually a deepfake, allegations that possibly played a role in provoking an attempted military coup.

This incident shows that the mere existence deepfakes means that any video that looks slightly odd could be called into question to sow doubt. It’s a fear that’s being taken seriously enough that the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is investing in research into detecting deepfakes, while both China and the US are discussing new legislation.

14. 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.

What are deepfakes?

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 (opens in new tab) and DeepFaceLab (opens in new tab) 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.

Now, let's take a look at the deepfake examples that have most scared (and amused) people on the internet so far.

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Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He's in charge of getting our product reviews up onto the website and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to office supplies. He's worked as a writer and translator for 20 years and also works as a project manager at a design and branding agency based in London and Buenos Aires, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors.

With contributions from