Each new era of entertainment, from Old Hollywood to the Brat Pack, brings with it ever-changing perceptions of what is sexy. But over the last hundred years, some famous figures have had such undeniable sex appeal that it transcends fleeting fashions or beauty standards. Here are 100 of the most timelessly attractive people to have ever walked the planet.
A busty Brit who eventually acquired the nickname “The Most Photographed Nude Woman in America,” Wilkinson’s bare-chested odyssey began in the late 1950s when, at age 15, she was the youngest topless dancer at London’s Windmill Theater.
Almost immediately she caught the eye of a young(ish) Hugh Hefner, and over the next decade, Wilkinson appeared in Playboy more than half a dozen times. Wilkinson appeared in more than 50 other men’s magazines during the ’60s, and also enjoyed a modest career in show business. She was given roles ranging from minor characters to leading ladies in 14 films, the last of which was released in 1974.
In the decades since, Wilkinson appeared frequently in live entertainment shows of the Las Vegas variety, and has hosted multiple television shows involving film and fashion.
After years playing deeply complicated men in The Wire and Luther, it’s no surprise that people want Idris Elba to take on the role of James Bond now that Daniel Craig is done with it. He has a voice as smooth as a newly serviced motor and you get the feeling that if he looked directly at you for longer than a few seconds, you’d blurt out your innermost secrets.
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You can thank Catherine Bach for popularizing short, cut-off jean shorts in her role as Daisy Duke on The Dukes of Hazzard. The show took every opportunity to show off her long, tanned legs, whether in those famous cut-offs (later known as “Daisy Dukes”) or by wearing a red bikini to distract a dim-witted sheriff. Daisy played the naïf but proved herself smarter and tougher than any of the Dukes’ nemeses; she never backed down from a fight and always stood by her family. In short, she was the perfect Southern girl—sparkling, sassy, and ready for anything. (That accent, too, was surely part of her charm.) Oh, and did we mention she was good with cars? No wonder so many Dukes episodes featured strangers falling in love with Daisy.
Imagine being such a smokeshow that people are still sharing GIFs of you in your prime, in a dirty grey vest, years after your death. Brando’s performances in A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront bristle with a raw, scintillating energy that is making people horny half a century later.
Turner’s long legs and powerful voice propelled her to an epic music and acting career spanning more than five decades.
The “Queen of Rock and Roll” first became a star with hits like “Proud Mary” and “River Deep, Mountain High,” which she performed alongside her ex-husband Ike.
Sashaying across the stage with her big hair and even bigger vocal chords, Turner walked the line between consummate entertainer and leggy babe.
Her divorce exposed a dark history of domestic abuse, but she returned to the stage with her trademark vivacity fully in tact, and would go on to sell more concert tickets than any other solo performer in history.
After noticing Cybill Shepherd’s face on a 1970 issue of Glamour, director Peter Bogdanovich was so smitten that he immediately called her in for an audition.
Shortly after that, Shepherd landed the role of Jacy, a small-town Texas beauty queen who plays a pivotal role in Bogdanovich’s career-defining 1971 film, The Last Picture Show. The role was hardly a stretch—Shepherd herself was a pageant winner in Memphis before launching a successful modeling career.
That led to roles in Taxi Driver, as well as the sitcoms Moonlighting and Cybill, which eventually earned Shepherd three Golden Globe awards.
Cool Hand Luke’s handsomeness speaks for itself. Nobody here needs to make a case for that. But did you know that Newman made it onto President Nixon’s list of enemies in the Sixties? And that he cited this as one of his greatest accomplishments? In addition to being a longstanding anti-war advocate and supporter of the gay rights movement, Newman was also a staunch environmentalist, and attended the first ever Earth Day. In other words, he was a woke bae before either of those played-out words ever existed.
We’ll always remember her as the original Pretty Woman—the ginger, curly-haired call girl with the wide, toothy smile who charmed Richard Gere in the hit 1990 romantic comedy.
After that film catapulted her to stardom, Roberts gradually became one of the most powerful—and bankable—actresses in Hollywood, starring in movies like The Pelican Brief, Runaway Bride, Erin Brockovich, and Eat, Pray, Love.
Known for her sultry voice and an unparalleled ability to ooze straightforward sex appeal, Turner broke out in the 1981 film Body Heat. Acting alongside more famous actors like William Hurt, Turner’s frank sexuality (and steamy fellatio scene) made her an instant star. She would later become one of the eighties’ biggest box-office stunners, starring in hits like Romancing the Stone, which earned her a Golden Globe.
And in 1988, she proved she could convey her sultry side just fine without even appearing on camera when she lent her seductive voice to Hollywood’s most memorable animated femme fatale, Jessica Rabbit.
With his tight black tank top and hypermobile hips. Swayze launched a thousand sexual awakenings in 1987’s Dirty Dancing. Of course, it’s important to note the many ways in which the film is hella problematic in retrospect; Johnny was 25 and Baby was only 16, not to mention the entire romance hinges on a secondary character’s unwanted pregnancy. All of which slips our minds the moment he charges into that ballroom and insists “nobody puts Baby in the corner.”
Few women could catch your eye—and, for that matter, your ear—in the ’70s quite like Linda Ronstadt. Nicknamed both the “First Lady of Rock” and the “Queen of Rock,” at the height of her career, the 10-time Grammy winner became a fixture on the covers of magazines like Rolling Stone, Newsweek, and even Time. She followed her pop, punk, and folk rock success with a stint on Broadway—winning a Tony award for her role in 1981’s The Pirates of Penzance. But while her stage presence showed a tantalizing knack for reinvention, her sex appeal remained as steady as her six-string.
Who could mistake that voice, that music…that bosom? If there’s a Dixie bombshell out there that trumps all the rest, it’s Dolly Parton. The country music star turned heads for decades, and not just because of her famous figure.
Parton’s toured and recorded since the late ’60s, and her career hasn’t waned nearly five decades later. That’s one reason why the legendary Country star has piled up an astounding 25 number-one singles and more than 40 top-10 country albums.
She’s also had a fairly prolific career in film and television—starring in classic films like Steel Magnolias and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. And if all that wasn’t enough, Parton continues to operate her own charity foundation, as well as a successful theme park, Dollywood, based near her Tennessee home.
In Indiana Jones and Han Solo, Harrison Ford created two iconic figures in pop culture that many straight men would build their entire personalities around for years to come. Women and gay men, meanwhile, were imprinting like baby animals on the photos of Ford in the 1970s, at the height of his no-fucks-given handsomeness.
With all due respect to Christina Aguilera, no actress (or musician) has ever portrayed a sexier wish-granter than Barbara Eden, star of the hit TV series I Dream of Jeannie that ran five seasons from 1965 to 1970. Despite the alluring premise—a bachelor (played by Larry Hagman) who lives alone with a permanently scantily clad, bottled-up blonde—the show rarely dabbled in the risqué. Its wholesome approach allowed it to become a modest hit and cult favorite that lasted in syndication for many decades afterward.
When Jeannie’s run concluded, Eden starred in a handful of short-lived shows and made-for-TV movies, but they never reached the same level of popularity, despite the wishes of her many fans.
She set the standard for every teenage guy’s poolside fantasy in 1982’s cult classic Fast Times at Ridgmont High. Nearly 30 years later, the scene still remains an unparalleled and iconic bikini-drop moment—with Cates glistening divinely as she emerges from the water in Judge Reinhold’s soon to be not-so-private fantasy.
On that credit alone, Phoebe Cates ensured the destruction of a million VCR rewind buttons, as proud a legacy as any eighties teen idol could hope for. After Fast Times, though, Cates starred in only a handful of other noteworthy films—Gremlins and Drop Dead Fred among them—before settling into semi-retirement with her husband, actor Kevin Kline.
Dorothy Dandridge, one of the first Black actresses to have a major Hollywood career, inspired future generations of Black entertainers like Halle Berry, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Janet Jackson.
Her parents gave her an early start in showbiz—acting in a troupe that toured the South, which eventually led to steady film work. Dandridge’s career peaked in 1954, when she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Carmen Jones—the first black actress to do so. Until then, Dandridge had been known for portraying more conservative characters, and the role allowed Dandrdige to show a more sensual, and seldom-seen side of her personality.
Dandridge died of an accidental overdose in 1965, but her legacy lived on in HBO’s 1999 biopic Introducing Dorothy Dandridge—starring, fittingly, Halle Berry as Dandridge.
There are as many facets and phases to Brad Pitt’s appeal as there are signs in the zodiac. From the young cowboy in Thelma and Louise, to the long-haired force of nature in Legends of the Fall, to the shredded, subversive Tyler Durden in Fight Club, to his latter days as a swaggering member of Quentin Tarantino’s repertory, Pitt has always exuded an easy, Redfordian charm – with a sly twinkle of something slightly edgier behind those blue eyes.
While many of the men on this list have been celebrated for embodying traditional masculine archetypes, Prince went his own way. The diminutive, fey musician brought a unique sensuality and sensitivity to the craft of writing love songs—while having passionate affairs with the likes of Madonna and Kim Basinger along the way.
Grace Kelly began her acting career on Broadway when she was just a teen, starring in Broadway shows like The Father and The Philadelphia Story. It didn’t take long for the Philly native to go Hollywood, earning a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for her role opposite Clark Gable in Mogambo. Kelly also appeared in classic films like The Country Girl, Rear Window, and The Bridges at Toko-Ri.
Her poise and elegance lent her an almost regal bearing off-camera, and so it surprised few when Kelly transitioned with ease into life as a Princess, marrying Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956.
Sure, Jenna Jameson is a household name, and other San Fernando Valley starlets occasionally pop up in mainstream Hollywood productions, but Sasha Grey may be the first true star to cross over from the realm of porn.
And while Grey's recurring role as herself on HBO's Entourage wasn't exactly a stretch, her turn as a high-end sex worker in Steven Soderberg's The Girlfriend Experience earned generous praise from critics like Roger Ebert.
Not as well-known as he should be in the West, Toshiro Mifune almost immediately cemented a legacy as a stone cold fox in his feature debut, 1947’s crime thriller Snow Trail. Watch the movie and just see if your hand doesn’t reflexively rise up to push that artfully dishevelled lock of hair away from his face.
This former beauty queen from St. Paul, Minnesota, became a sex symbol playing Jennifer Marlowe, the superhumanly competent receptionist on WKRP in Cincinnati.
With her pert nose, dimples, and bleached-blonde hair, she was often mistaken for a stereotypically dim blonde, but in reality she was the station’s most capable (and highest-paid) employee. She had the best lines, too: “I like older men better. They're so mature and kind, and they tire easily.”
Anderson’s bucked the 1970’s trend of “Jiggle TV” with her portrayal of a smart, ambitious, eminently capable woman. After WKRP, Anderson settled into lighter roles: she was always beautiful, but it was the class and verve she brought to Jennifer Marlowe that made her an icon.
You could argue Lili St. Cyr was the Lady Gaga of her time. Though she wasn’t a musician, St. Cyr was brash and confident, elevating her raw, untamed sexuality into a kind of burlesque-inspired artform. Like Gaga, she also changed her name after high school (from Willis Marie Van Schaack) and unapologetically sought fame and fortune. “What’s the use of being beautiful,” she once said, “if you can’t profit from it?”
And profit she did: At the peak of her career in the forties and fifties, St. Cyr earned nearly $7,000 a week, and even (allegedly) inspired Marilyn Monroe. Her most famous performance involved taking a bubble bath on stage, earning an indecent exposure charge in 1951. Scandal, as always, only helped fuel the hype, and St. Cyr quickly became one of America’s most famous (and infamous) showgirls, even enjoying a brief fling with director Orson Wells. She proved too much for Citizen Kane, however, and many other men, too, marrying six times before her death in 1999.
For most of her career, Audrey Hepburn portrayed women with class (Roman Holiday, My Fair Lady)—roles that mirrored her personal life. But make no mistake: Hepburn could exhude sex appeal and sophistication in equal measure—as evidenced by her turn as a call girl in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Petite and fashionable, with wide, dark eyes and porcelain skin, Hepburn was the kind of woman you could imagine around your arm at a state dinner—at ease next to Jackie O. In later years, her status as a fashion icon—she was a favorite of designer Hubert de Givenchy—threatened to overshadow her considerable acting career: She’s still one of few actresses in history to win an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy, and a Tony award.
Those accolades, among others, prompted the American Film Institute to name Hepburn the third greatest screen legend in history.
Dubbed the “Latin Lover” by the press, silent movie star Valentino was one of the very first 20th Century sex symbols. In fact, he was such an icon of the roaring Twenties that when he died at the tender age of 31, approximately 100,000 heartbroken admirers lined the streets of Manhattan on the day of his funeral.
Legendary silent film star Clara Bow was so seductive that her on-screen sex appeal didn’t even require her to speak. And though we know better than to judge a woman based on appearances only, guys in Bow’s era didn’t have much of a choice.
Appearing in dozens of silent standards like Mantrap, Wings, and Dancing Mothers—which now sound like foreign films—Bow epitomized the flapper woman of the 1920s: Short hair, shorter skirt, lavish lingerie, and plenty of bare skin. She’s still America’s first, and finest sex symbol, impossible to forget.
You know you’ve made it as a supermodel when your peers nickname you, simply, “The Body.” The Australian model left her biggest impression on popular culture in the eighties when she appeared on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue a record six times, as well as inside dozens of issues of Elle.
While she’s less visible in front of the cameras today, focusing more on her flourishing cosmetics and lingerie businesses, MacPherson still, by some miracle, has managed to maintain her otherworldly physique.
One look at Kim Novak and you might empathize with Jimmy Stewart for losing his mind over the actress. Best known as the sexy, yet cunning star of Vertigo, Novak earned the respect of Hollywood thanks to her mastery of dual roles in the Alfred Hitchcock-directed thriller. Fueled mainly by that film’s success, Novak won star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She also starred in a slew of other critically acclaimed films like 1960’s Strangers When We Meet before retiring abruptly from acting in 1991.
Gyllenhaal entered Internet’s Boyfriend-adjacent territory when he joined Instagram for the Spider-Man: Far From Home tour, and his social media dispatches from lockdown have only further endeared him to anyone who might be partial to wide-eyed, earnest theater boys.
Like so many other women before her, British-American actress Jane Seymour cemented her place as an international sex symbol after starring as a Bond girl, portraying Solitaire in 1973’s Live and Let Die opposite Roger Moore. But while her Bond days may be a thing of the past—most people remember her as the less salacious Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman—Seymour recently showed a flash of her old self. In 2005, she played a minor, but memorable role in Wedding Crashers as Kathleen "Kitty Kat" Cleary—the randy, alcoholic wife of Christopher Walken who puts the moves on a stunned Owen Wilson. Down, Kitty.