In an age of Victoria’s Secret models and Sport’s Illustrated cover girls, there’s a lot of talk about what makes a woman sexy. We thought it would be fun to turn the tables and take a look at the men. Here, in chronological order starting with the first in 1985, we present every single one of People magazine’s sexiest men alive.
And what does make a guy sexy? According to millions of years of evolution, typical “manly” physical features include a strong jaw and brow, and universally attractive markers include facial symmetry and clear, even skin. But you can’t have the brawn without the brain—women today want smarts, compassion and a good sense of humor. It’s a tall order—so how do these men stack up? Click through to see us put our hunks through a hotness test (our Face Flip Quiz), and let us know your favorite in the comments section!
11985: Mel Gibson
Oh, Mel. Your reputation has been tarnished as of late, but we won’t let that ruin our memories of how much you kicked ass in the 80s. In ’85, Gibson was fresh off “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” and women everywhere were swooning over his rugged looks and baby blues. Little did they know, the best was yet to come: “Braveheart” was still nine years away.
21986: Mark Harmon
If it seems a little random to have Mark Harmon (currently starring on the CBS drama “NCIS”) on the list, let’s take a trip down memory lane. In 1986 Harmon was kind of a big deal for his role on the acclaimed TV show “St. Elsewhere,” where he played a character who contracted HIV through unprotected sex. His fresh-faced good looks and innocent smile made for a lot of crushes, and also paved the way for playing notoriously charming serial killer Ted Bundy in a TV movie. Fun!
31987: Harry Hamlin
Before courtroom drama became the ubiquitous television staple it is today, “L.A. Law” set the stage for shows like “Ally McBeal” and “Boston Legal.” It was hugely popular, and so was the handsome lead actor, Harry Hamlin. Despite his manly strong jaw and sensitive gaze, Hamlin’s movie career never quite took off, but TV success is nothin’ to sneeze at—his most recent role is ad exec Jim Cutler on “Mad Men.”
41988: John F. Kennedy Jr.
The young son of President Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was every young lady’s dream man—smart, good-looking, connected. In 1988 Kennedy was still in law school and unmarried. He would go on to serve as a prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, found political-lifestyle magazine “George,” inspire a very funny “Seinfeld” episode, and marry Carolyn Bessette. Tragically, the couple, along with Bessette’s sister, died in a plane crash in 1999.
51989: Sean Connery
Wait. Before we get to Sir Connery, can we talk about how John Goodman is decreed “Sexiest Big Guy?” Is that a compliment? Anyhoo, back to Sean. Why 1989, you may be asking, when he had clearly been in like a million movies before this, including “James Bond?” Connery beat out many a bright young thing when “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” proved some things do get better with age.
61990: Tom Cruise
Tom! It’s about time you made an appearance. Cruise, with his impish grin and floppy, man-boy hair, had already been making girls go weak in the knees with roles in “The Outsiders,” “Risky Business,” and, the ultimate panty-dropper, “Top Gun.” In 1990, the sexiest man of the year starred in “Days of Thunder” with his future (ex)wife, Nicole Kidman—it was her American film debut.
71991: Patrick Swayze
That body, that chiseled face, that giant hair, those dance moves. Swayze is the single biggest reason we can think of to make every boy take dance lessons (you can get any girl you want!). In 1991 Swayze starred alongside Keanu Reeves in the awesomeness that is “Point Break,” but as far as the ladies were concerned, they were still daydreaming about the pottery scene in the previous year’s smash hit “Ghost.” Sadly, Swayze died from pancreatic cancer in 2008, but his legacy grows every time a young girl watches “Dirty Dancing” for the first time.
81992: Nick Nolte
Although Nolte started his career as a model, he had well over a decade of solid acting behind him when he received an Academy Award nomination for his 1991 role in “The Prince of Tides” (he lost to Anthony Hopkins for “The Silence of the Lambs”). By ’92, 51-year-old Nolte had the square jaw, perfect teeth, hot dad thing down pat, working well for him with father roles in both “Cape Fear” and “Lorenzo’s Oil.”
91993: Richard Gere & Cindy Crawford
Fresh off his success with 1990’s “Pretty Woman,” Gere married himself a supermodel. As in, the biggest bombshell supermodel of the time (and all time?), Cindy Crawford. In 1993 they were basically the only thing the paparazzi took photos of, but can you blame them? The beautiful union ended in 1995, but their matching early-90s curls will live with us forever.
101995: Brad Pitt
For some reason, “People” skipped 1994, but man did they come back with a bang in 1995. “Legends of the Fall”-era BRAD PITT. (When he tips his hat.) The brooding gaze, the long cowboy hair, the…everything else. In 1995, Pitt starred in “Seven”—you know, the incredibly uplifting movie where future gf Gwyneth ends up with her head in a box?
111996: Denzel Washington
Washington was on fire in the 90s, starring in major movie after movie, including “Malcom X,” (which earned him an Oscar nom), “Philadelphia,” and “The Pelican Brief.” In 1996, he starred in two—“The Preacher’s Wife” with Whitney Houston and “Courage Under Fire” with Meg Ryan. What made Washington so sexy is that he’s no vapid Hollywood pretty boy—there’s some serious smarts behind the handsome face. Hot and intelligent—isn’t that the sexiest combo possible?
121997: George Clooney
It was only a matter of time before Clooney showed up here, amiright? Before the multiple Academy Awards and string of model-y girlfriends, Clooney was just a guy on a TV show (“ER”) who became Batman (for the ’97 movie “Batman & Robin”). Even then, Clooney oozed cool—like the more mature, hotter version of your most sophisticated friend. Is it the strong eyebrows? The crinkly laugh lines that make it look like he’s in on a joke you don’t get? All of the above.
131998: Harrison Ford
(OK, truth: We love Harrison Ford, but it’s a little hard to focus on him with babyfaced Leo peeking out from the bottom corner.) Ford had been throwing it down in a gajillion blockbuster movies by 1998—“Star Wars,” “Indiana Jones,” and “The Fugitive,” to name just a few. Ford’s sexiness stems from being a guy who looks like he can take care of business, like, you know, kicking ass all over Russian terrorists who just took over your presedential plane, à la this year’s hit movie “Air Force One.”
141999: Richard Gere
He’s baaack! Sans Cindy this time, Gere lands the sexy title all on his own in 1999, the year “Runaway Bride” came out. Is it the thick head of silver fox hair that keeps us coming back for more?
152000: Brad Pitt
Sorry, but 2000 Brad < 1995 Brad. Still hot, but the spiky rave hair wasn’t cool even then. Oh, who are we kidding, he could wear a pager clipped to a visor and we’d still drool.
162001: Pierce Brosnan
He’s a tall drink of water, for sure, but it’s that smooth Irish voice that gets us every time. Super suave and looks damn good in a designer suit—it’s as if the man were born to play James Bond, which is exactly what he was doing circa 2001.
172002: Ben Affleck<
Launched into stardom by 1997’s “Good Will Hunting,” for which he earned an Oscar for best screenplay with bosom buddy Matt Damon (Sexiest Man class of ’07), Ben Affleck—and his boy next door charm—soon landed roles is some major Hollywood titles, including “Armageddon” and “Shakespeare in Love.” He then moved on to bigger and better things—but not before missteps into movies neither bigger nor better (see: “Daredevil” followed by “Gigli,” “Paycheck” and “Jersey Girl”). When the 2002 issue hit newsstands, he was engaged to J.Lo, but a year later traded Jennifers for now wife Jennifer Garner. At least something good came out of “Daredevil.”
182003: Johnny Depp
Frankly, Johnny, you had us at “Edward Scissorhands.” Scratch that. “21 Jump Street.” Scratch that. “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” But we understand if the mainstream didn’t catch on until the blockbuster coming out party that was “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.” Who could resist the dangerous allure of Captain Jack Sparrow, Depp’s smoldering ne’er-do-well in sexy black eyeliner? Not us, matey. Not anyone.
192004: Jude Law
Law is not just another pretty face—although early on in his film career, the dashing actor was cast in roles linked to his good looks, from the perfect specimen in “Gattaca” to the tan, charming and selfish Dickie in “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (which earned him an Oscar nod for best supporting actor). The talented Mr. Law soon graduated to more character actor-type roles, including the creepy hitman in “Road to Perdition” and the soldier enamored with Nicole Kidman in “Cold Mountain” (resulting in another Oscar nomination). At one point, it seemed as though Jude Law starred in every movie you could think of—in 2004 alone he was in six (!!) films. Not that we’re complaining.
202005: Matthew McConaughey
In the mid-aughts, Hollywood was still trying to make McConaughey as a rom-com/blockbuster heartthrob happen. 2005 saw us deep into “Sahara” territory—yikes. He did have the trappings for it—pretty-boy face, hot body, and slow, Southern drawl. But it didn’t fit, and thankfully McConaughey seems to have taken it upon himself to drop the cheese and focus on riskier, critically acclaimed roles, such as the recent “Dallas Buyers Club,” which earned him a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination.
212006: George Clooney
Oh, hey George, nice to see you again. It’s 2006 and you’ve won an Academy Award (for “Syriana”) and now have a slew of mega-hits on your resume (“Ocean’s Eleven” comes to mind). Still sexy, still not married. Carry on.
222007: Matt Damon
How can you not crush on this wicked smart, salt-of-the earth family guy who is the very definition of charming? Damon showed off his acting and writing chops—and stole our hearts—in “Good Will Hunting,” (garnering him and co-writer/Boston buddy Ben Affleck an Oscar for best original screenplay), and in 2007 showed he can stand out in a star-studded ensemble with the “Ocean’s” series, and kicked some serious butt in the “Bourne” trilogy. Damon is refreshingly humble, sweetly sexy, and has a great sense of humor to boot—and yet you know he’d go all Boston on anyone who ever messed with someone he loved. Sigh.
232008: Hugh Jackman
Is there anything that Hugh Jackman can’t do? He can sing, he can act, and he can dance. Sure, he starred in some duds (“Australia” came out on ’08 but didn’t live up to the hype) but the affable Aussie X-man—best known for playing Wolverine for which he gets into (drool-worthy) fighting shape—is irresistibly likeable and dreamy in everything he does, on screen and off.
242009: Johnny Depp
Captain Jack strikes again. Not even his creepy Willy Wonka or dastardly Sweeney Todd could distract from his sexy ascendance. With second and third “Pirates of the Caribbean” features under his belt since his first title in ’03, Depp joined George Clooney, Richard Gere and Brad Pitt in the exclusive two-time cover club. (There’s a fifth installment of the “Pirates” series planned for 2016—can he make it a threepeat?)
252010: Ryan Reynolds
In 2010, the Canadian hottie (and his eight-pack abs) was married to Scarlett Johansson. His sexiest mandom happened as he was filming “Green Lantern,” in which he co-starred with his current wife Blake Lively. Hmmmm.
262011: Bradley Cooper
There was a time when Bradley Cooper was mostly known as the bad guy from “Wedding Crashers.” Then suddenly—holy hotness—”The Hangover” happened and we got a closer look at his handsome hair and baby blues. It’s been a swoonfest ever since. While his reign as sexiest man in 2011 happened in a sweet spot of his career, he’s still on fire: He nabbed an Academy Award nomination for his role in “Silver Linings Playbook” and also starred in “American Hustle,” which he executive produced.
272012: Channing Tatum
After spending the duration of “Step Up” drooling over his rock solid abs, arms (and basically everything), it was hard not to have the hots for the rebellious bad body turned disciplined, dedicated dancer. And watching his character become a better person to prove his love for a woman—who later ended up being his wife in real life—made him all the dreamier. In 2012, he finally showed the world his comical side in “21 Jump Street,” and then he stripped on the big screen in “Magic Mike.” Dancer, romancer, comedian and stripper. Phew, that’s a lot of sexy right there.
282013: Adam Levine
Adam Levine was a busy man in 2013. The Grammy Award-winning Maroon 5 frontman went on tour with his band, and if you didn’t get the chance to see him in concert, you could be sure to catch a glimpse of him on NBC’s “The Voice,” where he has been a judge since it first aired in 2011. To officially make him the envy of every man around the world, Levine also got engaged to Victoria’s Secret Angel Behati Prinsloo (who isn’t the first VS model he’s dated). Levine’s win caused quite a bit of protest, but even if the scruffy, tatted-up crooner isn’t your cup of tea, at least we can all agree the guy’s got a killer falsetto.
29Jude Law, sexiest man 2004
Since facial symmetry is oft touted as an important marker of attraction, we put some of our sexy men through our Face Flip Quiz to see how symmetric these A-listers are.