Every year for over 30 years, People magazine has scoured Hollywood’s ranks to dub one male celebrity the “Sexiest Man Alive.” Since the annual issue’s inception in 1985, many famous figures, from Mel Gibson to Brad Pitt, have landed the coveted spot on the cover.
This year, actor Idris Elba became the latest to earn the title. As he joins the select group of good-looking men recognized on People’s pages, here’s a look back at all of the previous honorees.
Idris Elba, 2018
After watching the 2018 romance drama, “The Mountain Between Us,” plenty of fans likely dreamed about being stranded on a cliff with Idris Elba, so it’s no surprise that People crowned Elba its Sexiest Man Alive for 2018. The actor’s long and varied career has included roles in everything from prestige TV shows, like “The Wire” and “Luther,” to mega-blockbusters, like Marvel’s “Thor” franchise. And in case the star’s on-screen work isn’t proof enough of his charms, just look at the public’s ongoing obsession with him.
For years, men and women alike have demanded that Elba take over the role of James Bond. And to some, this Sexiest Man title is years overdue. Elba, for his part, has taken it in stride.
“To be honest, it was just a nice feeling,” the dad of two told People. “It was a nice surprise — an ego boost for sure.” Elba is only the third man of color to nab the cover.
Blake Shelton, 2017
The country star was crowned People’s Sexiest Man Alive in 2017, but Twitter didn’t exactly agree. Dozens took to social media to express their disbelief over the decision. While some named candidates (or even food) they deemed more worthy of the title, others cracked jokes at the singer’s expense. Despite the backlash, even critics can’t deny Blake Shelton’s rise in star power in recent years. As a judge on “The Voice” since season one, the artist has won over millions of fans with his good-natured wisecracks and bromance with Adam Levine.
His love life is also intriguing. Shortly after his high-profile divorce from Miranda Lambert in 2015, the singer began dating “The Voice” co-star Gwen Stefani, and the two have basically been inseparable ever since.
Dwayne Johnson, 2016
2016 was a big year for former WWE champ Dwayne Johnson. In addition to being crowned the Sexiest Man Alive, he was also named the world’s highest-paid actor and lent his voice to the Disney smash, “Moana.”
“I said, ‘That’s awesome.’ And then what went through my mind was just how cool and exciting it is,” Johnson told People of his reaction to the news. “And then I thought, ‘Wow, we’ve pretty much reached the pinnacle.’ I’m not quite too sure where we go from here. I’ve done it all, this is it.”
David Beckham, 2015
British heartthrob David Beckham scored People’s 30th anniversary Sexiest Man crown.
“It’s a huge honor,” he said of winning the title. “And I’m very pleased to accept.” The global superstar, who is famously married to Victoria Beckham, has been a sex symbol for decades, though he admitted that he doesn’t usually think of himself as a particularly attractive person.
“I mean I like to wear nice clothes and nice suits and look and feel good, but I don’t ever think of myself that way,” he said at the time.
Chris Hemsworth, 2014
Chris Hemsworth was 31 when he nabbed the Sexiest Man Alive title. At the time, the actor, already known for fighting off bad guys as Marvel’s Thor, was gearing up for the release of a slew of 2015 projects, including “Blackhat,” “In the Heart of the Sea” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” After hearing the news, the dad of three joked that he planned to use the honor for “a couple of weeks of bragging rights” to wife Elsa Pataky, whom he married in 2010.
Adam Levine, 2013
Two years after joining “The Voice” as a coach, Adam Levine landed in the public spotlight in a different way — on the cover of People’s Sexiest Man Alive issue. At the time, the Maroon 5 frontman was also looking forward to settling down with now-wife, model Behati Prinsloo.
“As a musician, you have fantasies that you want to win Grammys, but I didn’t really think that this was on the table,” the singer, who has since become a dad of two, told People of winning the title. “I was just amazed and stunned and it almost seemed like they were kidding, but they weren’t, so that’s cool.”
Channing Tatum, 2012
Channing Tatum was pretty much everywhere in 2012. He stole hearts in the romantic drama “The Vow,” got laughs alongside pal Jonah Hill in “21 Jump Street” and showed off his chiseled physique in the smash hit film “Magic Mike.” So, no one was really surprised when he nabbed People’s Sexiest Man Alive honor that year — except Tatum himself.
“My first thought was, ‘Y’all are messing with me,’” the actor said of his reaction.
Bradley Cooper, 2011
Bradley Cooper graced People’s Sexiest Man Alive cover in 2011, having achieved breakthrough success with the first two titles in “The Hangover” trilogy and appearing in blockbusters like “The A-Team” and “Limitless.” At the time, the actor — who now shares a baby with longtime girlfriend Irina Shayk — was single, having previously been linked to Renee Zellweger and Jennifer Lopez. But after winning the title, he says the only woman he had on the brain was his mom.
“[The] first thing I thought was, ‘My mother is going to be so happy,’” he said.
Ryan Reynolds, 2010
Ryan Reynolds took the Sexiest Man Alive crown back in 2010. Unfortunately, things took a bit of a downturn for the actor shortly after winning the title. Following the cover’s release, he announced his split from ex-wife Scarlett Johansson. His highly hyped superhero flick, 2011’s “Green Lantern,” also bombed critically and commercially. All’s well that ends well, though: He’s now married to Blake Lively, with whom he shares two kids, and he’s back on the superhero circuit as the star of “Deadpool.”
Johnny Depp, 2009
In 2009, Johnny Depp became one of only three stars to win the Sexiest Man title twice. The pick came as a bit of a surprise at the time as, other than the release of his movie “Public Enemies,” Depp kept a relatively low profile that year. But he didn’t stay out of the spotlight for long. Around the time the cover was released, Depp signed on to join “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tales.” The following year, he starred in “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Tourist.”
Hugh Jackman, 2008
The triple-threat actor was the Sexiest Man Alive in 2008, the same year that he starred opposite Nicole Kidman in the romantic historical drama, “Australia.” Kidman herself acknowledged her co-star’s good looks, telling the magazine, “Women’s jaws drop when Hugh walks into a room.” But his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, couldn’t resist cracking a joke about the title.
“She said, ‘Obviously, Brad wasn’t available this year,’” Jackman told People of her reaction.
Matt Damon, 2007
In 2007, Matt Damon closed out one franchise with “Ocean’s Thirteen,” delivered a hit sequel in “Bourne Ultimatum” and also won the mantle of People’s Sexiest Man Alive. After receiving the news, the actor penned a funny letter to People explaining why he couldn’t take the crown, writing, “You gave an aging suburban dad the ego boost of a lifetime.” The magazine later published the letter alongside its announcement, saying it demonstrates the charm and humor that make Damon so irresistible in the first place.
George Clooney, 2006
George Clooney also joined the two-time winner’s club in 2006 at the tail end of a packed year. He took home the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in “Syriana” and also stayed busy with his social activism, spending much of the year advocating for a resolution to the conflict in Darfur.
“There’s a lot of pressure,” he jokingly stated of the Sexiest Man Alive honor at the time. “There are all the events you have to show up for. The sash you have to wear is embarrassing.”
Matthew McConaughey, 2005
When Matthew McConaughey took on the Sexiest Man mantle, it was still relatively early in his days as a rom-com leading man. At the time, the actor talked to the magazine about his approach to fitness, saying, “My rule is to break one sweat a day. Whether that’s going for a run, whether that’s dancing, whether that’s loving — just break a sweat a day.”
A lot has changed in 13 years. These days, McConaughey has turned to more serious fare, achieving critical success for his roles in 2013’s “Dallas Buyers Club” and 2014’s HBO series, “True Detective.”
Jude Law, 2004
The year Jude Law was crowned Sexiest Man alive was a busy one for the actor. He starred in no less than six movies, including “Alfie,” “I Heart Huckabees,” “Closer” and “The Aviator.” At the time, Law was dating his now-ex, Sienna Miller.
“I grew up, I suppose, always looking for commitment and looking for a relationship, and that’s why I got married so young. … And I’m in another relationship now,” he told the Associated Press. “So that just seems to be my pattern.” The couple broke up two years later.
Johnny Depp, 2003
Yup, you’ve already seen his name on this list. The first of the two times that Depp won People’s annual title was in 2003. That also happened to be the year he starred in “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” and a small film you may have heard of, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.” Depp earned an Academy Award nomination for his debut as the daring, rum-loving pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow.
Ben Affleck, 2002
Ben Affleck took the Sexiest Man crown at the height of the tabloid frenzy surrounding him. At the time, he was still engaged to Jennifer Lopez. He was also awaiting the release of the action superhero film, “Daredevil” (and we all know how that turned out).
Ironically, the first person quoted in People’s article is his co-star from that movie, Jennifer Garner, who would later become his wife and mother to their three kids. “He’s your basic tall, dark and handsome,” Garner said of Affleck at the time. “He’s it. You want him to save you.”
Pierce Brosnan, 2001
Who better to pick for Sexiest Man Alive than James Bond himself? The actor, who played 007 from 1994 to 2005, was about to start filming his fourth movie in the franchise when he won the title. But it seems he wasn’t particularly impressed with the honor.
“It’s all a joke — a merry, merry jest,” he told the New York Post of the cover in 2014. “It came and it went. I was there, and then I wasn’t. Some other dude was.”
Brad Pitt, 2000
Brad Pitt was the first star to ever become a two-time Sexiest Man Alive in 2000, having already won in 1995. His second time holding the mantle came just a few months after he starred in one of the biggest cult hits of all time, “Fight Club.” At the time, the actor had only recently married his now-ex-wife Jennifer Aniston. The two had a messy and high-profile split in 2005.
Richard Gere, 1999
Several years after being crowned one-half of People’s Sexiest Couple Alive (with Cindy Crawford), Richard Gere appeared on the cover again — this time, solo. The actor took over the Sexiest Man Alive mantle in 1999, right around the time that he reunited with “Pretty Woman” co-star Julia Roberts in “Runaway Bride.”
Harrison Ford, 1998
By the time Harrison Ford won People’s Sexiest Man Alive crown in 1998, he had already established two of the most iconic roles in movie history: the titular adventurer in “Indiana Jones” and the wisecracking Han Solo in “Star Wars.” He had also portrayed the eponymous CIA agent in the Jack Ryan trilogy and starred in a little movie called “Blade Runner,” among a slew of other hits. But when it came to his sex symbol status, Ford maintained a modest attitude.
“Why this sudden outpouring for geezers?” he said, according to People. “I never feel sexy. I have a distant relationship with the mirror.”
George Clooney, 1997
George Clooney won Sexiest Man Alive for the first time in the same year that he starred as Bruce Wayne in the much-maligned “Batman & Robin.” He was also still portraying a certain handsome doctor in the medical drama, “ER.” The actor earned an Emmy nomination for his performance on the show a year earlier.
Denzel Washington, 1996
Denzel Washington became the first man of color to win People’s Sexiest Man Alive title in 1996. At the time, the actor said he was more focused on his work than his looks.
“I don’t take myself too seriously,” he told People. “I don’t stop in the mirror and go, ‘Hey, Sexy Man.’”
Still, his star power was inarguable. By that point in his career, the accomplished actor had already racked up three Oscar nominations: two Best Supporting Actor nods for “Cry Freedom” and “Glory” and a nomination for Best Actor in “Malcolm X.”
Brad Pitt, 1995
Four years after first raising eyebrows with his breakout role in “Thelma & Louise” and a year after starring in “Interview with the Vampire” and “Legends of the Fall,” Brad Pitt landed the Sexiest Man Alive cover for the first time. The actor was only 31 at the time and still in a relationship with “Seven” co-star, Gwyneth Paltrow, from whom he split two years later.
Keanu Reeves, 1994
People Magazine actually neglected to name a Sexiest Man Alive in 1994, skipping the annual tradition altogether. More than 20 years later, editorial director Jess Cagle decided to right that wrong by choosing Keanu Reeves as the magazine’s belated pick for that year. At the time, Reeves had won over a lot of hearts with his performance opposite Sandra Bullock in “Speed.”
Richard Gere And Cindy Crawford, 1993
In 1993, People decided to skip choosing just one sexy star and instead crowned the Sexiest Couple Alive. Richard Gere and his then-wife, supermodel Cindy Crawford, landed on the cover. The power duo, who had an 18-year age difference, were married for two years at the time, but split up only a year after the issue hit stands.
Nick Nolte, 1992
Nick Nolte had just delivered his Oscar-nominated performance in the Best Picture nominee “The Prince of Tides” when he nabbed the Sexiest Man Alive honor. And apparently, the actor couldn’t help but be amused by the title. According to People, the star kept a framed copy of his cover above his desk and would often joke about it to others.
Patrick Swayze, 1991
Three years after teaching Jennifer Grey the art of “Dirty Dancing,” Patrick Swayze again made audiences swoon in his role opposite Demi Moore in “Ghost.” His steamy performance not only earned him a Golden Globe nomination, it also cinched the Sexiest Man Alive cover for him the following year.
“[That] pedestal … is a strangely wonderful and confusing place to go,” Swayze, who passed away in 2009, reportedly said at the time.
Tom Cruise, 1990
After leading a string of hits like “Risky Business,” “Top Gun” and “Rain Man,” Tom Cruise was not only a bonafide movie star, but also People’s Sexiest Man Alive. He landed on the cover in 1990, the same year he married his second wife, actress Nicole Kidman. The two divorced in 2001, following the adoption of two children, Isabella and Connor.
Sean Connery, 1989
Age isn’t always a factor in sex appeal, as Sean Connery proved in 1989. The actor was almost 60 years old when he landed the Sexiest Man Alive cover. The former “James Bond” star was reportedly stunned by the honor, telling People, “For once, I’m speechless. It’ll all be downhill from here.”
John F. Kennedy Jr., 1988
In 1988, John F. Kennedy Jr. — then considered one of the world’s most eligible bachelors — was named People’s Sexiest Man. At the time, Kennedy was still only a 27-year-old law student at New York University. The eventual Manhattan assistant district attorney went on to marry Carolyn Bessett in 1996. The two tragically passed away in a plane crash in 1999.
Harry Hamlin, 1987
When Harry Hamlin was named Sexiest Man, he was only a year into his five-season run as suave attorney Michael Kuzak on “L.A. Law.” The actor bashfully discussed his appearance with People, saying, “Certainly when I look in the mirror, I don’t get turned on. Well, ah, it’s not something I spend a lot of time considering, but, uh, as long as my wife does, then I suppose I do.”
At the time, Hamlin was married to Laura Johnson, although they divorced two years later.
Mark Harmon, 1986
Mark Harmon was finishing up his run as Dr. Robert Caldwell on the ’80s medical drama “St. Elsewhere” when People named him its second-ever Sexiest Man Alive. Harmon later revealed he found out the news when he spotted the cover plastered on billboards around town. In 2015, he told People that he initially felt a bit “silly” about earning the title, saying, “There are people who take it certainly much more seriously than I do.”
Mel Gibson, 1985
The original Sexiest Man Alive? Mel Gibson. Long before his headline-making scandals, the actor was turning heads with his good looks as the star of the “Mad Max” trilogy. Two years after landing on the People cover, he starred in the first entry of what would become a hit franchise, “Lethal Weapon.” Though his career was later derailed by legal issues and public controversy, he made a comeback in 2016, directing the Oscar-nominated picture, “Hacksaw Ridge.”