The Hottest A-List Celebrity the Year You Were Born
Here's who dominated headlines when you entered the world.
When you look back on specific years, there are certain faces, songs, movies, or shows that come to mind. In 1964, was there a single American unaffected by Beatlemania? Did anything else even happen in 1997 besides the release of Titanic? And if you weren’t watching The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour in 1971, that was probably only because you didn’t have a TV.
Historical pop culture markers say a lot about what was going on with society at the time. So, to truly understand what life was like when you were born, we’ve uncovered the hottest A-list celebrities every year, from 1950 to 2000. Read on to find out who was dominating headlines when you entered into the world.
1950: Lauren Bacall
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Lauren Bacall first began modeling in the early 1940s and was starring in major films just a few years later. But the actress finally gained superstar status with her performances in Bright Leaf and Young Man With a Horn, both released in 1950. In the latter, her sultry look solidified her as a screen siren, earning her a place among other female icons of that decade. She died in 2014, but continued to find work until the year she passed.
1951: Lucille Ball
Though Lucille Ball might have been a household name before I Love Lucy captivated millions, her fate was sealed when the show premiered on CBS in 1951. Not only did I Love Lucy cement the comedian’s legendary status, it strengthened her relationship with her real-life and on-screen husband, Desi Arnaz. Their careers, with those long hours and late nights, had begun to strain their relationship. Since the show allowed the couple to spend more time together, it helped salvage one of the most famous working relationships in the history of show business.
1952: Gene Kelly
The 1952 release of Singin’ in the Rain saw Gene Kelly dance into the role that made him an icon. Throughout the rest of his career, Kelly starred in and directed many musicals and movies, including Hello, Dolly! and Inherit the Wind. Also in 1952, Kelly received an honorary Oscar for his career achievements at only 40 years of age. That remains, surprisingly, the only Oscar Kelly won. He was nominated seven years earlier for Best Actor in Anchors Aweigh.
1953: Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn’s first starring role was in 1953’s Roman Holiday. It’s the big break that almost wasn’t: The role was supposed to go to Elizabeth Taylor, but she was unavailable. After the release of the movie, it was clear that audiences and critics everywhere were smitten with Hepburn. She unexpectedly won the Academy Award, the BAFTA, and the Golden Globe for her performance as Princess Ann. And the rest, as they say, is history.
1954: Marilyn Monroe
To this day, Marilyn Monroe manages to stay present in pop culture, despite the fact that she died nearly six decades ago. While her pin-up career began in the 1940s, Monroe didn’t see any international fame until the release of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire in 1953—films that made her the definitive sexy blonde. By 1954, Monroe was one of the most recognizable faces in the world. These days, that’s still true.
1955: James Dean
In 1955, 24-year-old James Dean was a cultural icon. He was the definition of a Hollywood bad boy, thanks to his roles in Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden. When he died the year those legendary movies came out, it was a true tragedy. In 1956, Dean became the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
1956: Elvis Presley
In 1956, the unofficial king of rock and roll released his first single, “Heartbreak Hotel,” which quickly became a number one hit in America. That same year, Elvis Presley appeared in his first motion picture, Love Me Tender, which further cemented him as a legend of both stage and screen. And, of course, it was in 1956 that Presley first gyrated to the glee of many—and horror of others—as he performed “Hound Dog” on The Milton Berle Show. Nothing has been the same since.
1957: Doris Day
By the time actress and singer Doris Day appeared in 1957’s The Pajama Game, she had already appeared in at least a dozen box office hits. Her vocal performances had also gained critical acclaim, with Billboard ranking her as the number one female vocalist nine times between 1949 to 1958. But as Babe in The Pajama Game, Day truly broke through in Hollywood and broke hearts along the way. She starred opposite legendary leading men like Clark Gable, Cary Grant, David Niven, and Rod Taylor throughout the 1950s and 1960s. She began to focus on other pursuits in 1970s—like animal activism—and now enjoys a quiet life in California at the impressive age of 96.
1958: Sidney Poitier
In 1958, the entire world watched as Sidney Poitier became the first Bahamian and African American actor to receive an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Defiant Ones. After that breakthrough performance, Poitier went on to star in many other critically acclaimed movies like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, To Sir, with Love, and Lillies of the Field, which made him the first African American actor to win an Oscar for Best Actor. To this day, Poitier is credited with bringing racial issues to the big screen—and winning over an entire nation with his profound talent.
1959: Tony Curtis
Though his career spanned six decades, actor Tony Curtis was at the peak of his fame in the 1950s and 1960s—namely, in 1959, when he starred opposite Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot. Though his early films mostly highlighted his good looks, with Some Like It Hot, audiences began to see a more refined, accomplished side of Curtis. He had one of the most wide-ranging careers in Hollywood, appearing in more than 100 films, from westerns to dramas to comedies and even a musical.
1960: Sammy Davis Jr.
Sammy Davis Jr. became a member of the Rat Pack in 1959. At the time, Frank Sinatra had been calling the group of elite stars “the Clan,” but Davis said that was too reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan, so Sinatra renamed the group “the Summit.” To the media and the rest of the world, though, they were the Rat Pack. In 1960, Davis Jr. reached the summit of his career when he appeared in Ocean’s 11 with Sinatra, becoming one of the most prominent and influential talents of the 20th century.
1961: John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy took over the White House at the beginning of 1961. He won the hearts of millions across the country with his good looks, his unmatchable charm, and the intrigue of his personal life. Since his assassination in November of 1963, conspiracy theories about his death, along with the mystery of the Kennedy family curse, have kept the interest in this politician alive. But 1961 was really the year of JFK.
1962: Elizabeth Taylor
Though her legendary role in Cleopatra wouldn’t come until the following year, Elizabeth Taylor was already a huge celebrity in 1962. She gained international acclaim for her roles in A Place in the Sun, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Butterfield 8, which scored her an Oscar. Even now, Taylor is still an international sex symbol and an icon of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
1963: Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most prolific leaders of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. He believed in nonviolent protesting in order to achieve peace and unity during an incredibly turbulent time. But it was in 1963 that he gained the ear of every man and women in the country when he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. Tragically, five years later, he was assassinated while in Memphis, Tennessee, fighting for the rights of the black sanitary public works employees. But King’s dreams still live on.
1964: The Beatles
Decidedly one of the most influential music bands in history, The Beatles first touched down in the United States in February of 1964. Though they had put out two albums already, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison’s American debut in 1964 solidified their status as true icons, and it marked the beginning of the British Invasion in music. Since their first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show later that same year, The Beatles produced more hit music—and caused more hysteria—than any other musicians in the world.
1965: Julie Andrews
Though Julie Andrews had earned her place in America’s hearts with Mary Poppins, it was 1965’s The Sound of Music that ultimately made the actress a household name. For her performance as Maria von Trapp, Andrews won the Golden Globe award for Best Actress—and the title of dame from Queen Elizabeth II for her services to the performing arts. Today, Andrews has an Academy Award, a BAFTA, six Golden Globes, three Grammys, two Emmys, the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, the Kennedy Center Honors Award, and the Disney Legends Award. All we need to do now is get this woman a Tony!
1966: Clint Eastwood
After the release of the 1966 western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Clint Eastwood was permanently typecast as a rough-riding cowboy—and the entire world seemed captivated by his grit. His star status rose with the Dirty Harry films throughout the ’70s and ’80s. Decades later, Eastwood continues to direct and act in groundbreaking films, proving the antihero really is king.
1967: Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix found international fame in 1967, particularly after setting his guitar on fire at the Monterey Pop Festival. Just a year later, in 1968, Hendrix released his third and final album—Electric Ladyland—before his untimely death in 1970. Rolling Stone included all three of Hendrix’s studio albums in its list of the 100 greatest albums of all time. Though his career was too short, Hendrix is celebrated as one of the most talented and influential guitarists of all time.
1968: Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand, one of the best-selling recording artists of all time, made her acting debut in Funny Girl in 1968, winning her an Academy Award for Best Actress. To date, Streisand has released over 50 studio albums and earned two Academy Awards, ten Grammys, three Emmys, a special Tony Award, a Kennedy Center Honor, four Peabody Awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and eight Golden Globes. But to many, she will always be Fanny Brice.
1969: Paul Newman
Despite achieving success early on in his career, Paul Newman captured the hearts of millions with his 1969 performance in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. His good looks and suave personality made him an instant Hollywood heartthrob, who had an extensive career before his death in 2008. He was also a voice actor, director, producer, race car driver, Indycar owner, entrepreneur, and philanthropist.
1970: John Wayne
Since his first lead role in 1930’s The Big Trail, actor John Wayne has maintained his status as the king of the classic Western film genre. He taught the entire world what it meant to be a cowboy. They don’t call him “The Duke” for nothin’. And with his 1969 performance as Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn in True Grit, he won his first Oscar. The film’s success brought him to new levels of fame in 1970. He died in 1979, but his legend lives on thanks to the 170 films he appeared in.
By 1971, Cher revived her career with her then-husband Sonny Bono thanks to the launch of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. The variety show brought in more than 30 million viewers every week. After her marriage with Bono ended in 1975, Cher pursued a solo acting and singing career, eventually becoming the only artist who has ever managed to have a number one single on the Billboard chart every decade from the ’60s to the 2010s. She’s still dominating today, with a concert tour, a Broadway show, a box office success with the Mamma Mia sequel, and, of course, her iconic tweets.
1972: Marlon Brando
Actor Marlon Brando had an incredibly prolific career spanning nearly six decades. Though he starred in many successful films prior to 1972, it was his role in The Godfather that year that won him both an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actor. Along with his role in Last Tango in Paris, which premiered in the same year and won the actor even more accolades, Brando earned a place among cinematic royalty.
1973: Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon, the 37th president of the United States, remains one of the most fascinating political figures of all time. The politician’s fame was not a direct result of his prowess, but perhaps more because of his lack thereof. His time in office eventually culminated in the Watergate Scandal, which dominated headlines in 1973—just a year before his resignation from the presidency. He’s still the only president who has ever resigned from office. It’s not the claim to fame anyone wants, but it’s still historical.
1974: Stevie Wonder
Though Stevie Wonder had been recording and making music since the young age of 11, by 1974, he’d hit his stride. With the release of Fulfillingness’ First Final that year, Wonder won the Grammy for Album of the Year. He was only 25 at the time. As of today, he’s recorded more than 30 top 10 hits and received 25 Grammy Awards, making him one of the most awarded musicians in history.
1975: Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro first found international fame with his role in 1974’s The Godfather Part II, which completely transformed his career. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance and then, his career took off. Soon came Taxi Driver, which earned him even more critical acclaim, and helped contribute to his growing list of accolades. It’s only been up from there. At 75, De Niro is still a very active force in Hollywood.
1976: Farrah Fawcett
Everyone has seen that poster of Farrah Fawcett in a red one-piece bathing suit. The 1976 image became the best-selling poster in history with over 20 million copies sold around the world. It’s no surprise that after that, Fawcett’s acting career took off. She scored roles in Charlie’s Angels and Small Sacrifices. Towards the end of her life, Fawcett struggled with a rare form of anal cancer, which was documented in a two-hour documentary called Farrah’s Story. The film earned her an Emmy nomination after her death in 2009 at the age of 62.
1977: Stevie Nicks
Though Stevie Nicks achieved success with Fleetwood Mac’s first self-titled studio album, it was their second album, Rumours, that propelled the bohemian singer into the mainstream. By 1977, Nicks’ vocals and onstage look—the flowing skirts, shawls, and platform boots—earned her a lifetime of imitators and dedicated fans around the world.
1978: John Travolta
By 1978, actor John Travolta had two smash hits under his belt: Saturday Night Fever, released in 1977, and Grease, released in 1978. He was ruling the box office. Just two years later, his starring role in Urban Cowboy, alongside Debra Winger, had Hollywood taking him even more seriously. Throughout the rest of his still active career, Travolta has managed to keep his filmography interesting, appearing in films like Pulp Fiction and Face/Off.
1979: Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep still manages to stun and captivate audiences with her acting chops and seemingly endless supply of wisdom, but her impressive career had to start somewhere. It was 1979 that saw the rise of Streep’s career with her roles in Woody Allen’s Manhattan, The Seduction of Joe Tynan, and Kramer vs. Kramer, the latter of which earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Not only that, but Kramer vs. Kramer became the highest-grossing film of 1979, earning $106.3 million on an $8 million budget. It was a sign of what was to come for a living legend.
1980: Freddie Mercury
By the time Queen released their eighth studio album in 1980, “The Game”—which featured the bass-thumping “Another One Bites the Dust”—lead singer Freddie Mercury was handily the top pop star on the planet.
1981: Princess Diana
In February of 1981, Diana, Princess of Wales, upon her marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales, soon became a household name. For the next decade and a half, Princess Diana, was one of the most electrifying (and arguably still is) stars in the world. Her wedding in at St. Paul’s Cathedral was watched live by a staggering 750 million people.
1982: Michael Jackson
The King of Pop released perhaps his most prolific catalog of work ever in 1982, with the premiere of his sixth studio album, “Thriller,” one of the best-selling albums of all time. It earned Michael Jackson seven Grammys and eight American Music Awards. Fact: The early 1980s belonged to Jackson.
1983: Eddie Murphy
Though comedian and actor Eddie Murphy’s career began with a bang in 1976, it wasn’t until the release of “Delirious,” a stand-up comedy act filmed as a movie in Washington D.C. in 1983, that his career finally took off as one of the premier funnymen to have ever lived. The next year he’d release Beverly Hills Cop—and the rest is history.
In 1984, Prince released “Purple Rain,” the accompanying soundtrack to his film of the same name—both of which earned the accomplished musician an Academy Award and the distinction of being the third bestselling soundtrack of all time, certified 13 times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
1985: Molly Ringwald
With the release of The Breakfast Club in 1985, actress Molly Ringwald found international success and recognition for being a member of the Brat Pack, along with Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Rob Lowe, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, and Ally Sheedy. Throughout the 1980s, Ringwald was known for portraying several characters in coming-of-age films like Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and For Keeps.
By the 1986 release of Madonna’s third studio album, “True Blue,” the singer had already embarked on her “Like a Virgin” tour. Soon she was a full-blown phenomenon with an enormous cult following. “True Blue” would become so popular during the ’80s that it was featured in the 1992 edition of The Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling album of all time by a woman. Decades later, Madonna still holds the distinction of being the best-selling female recording artist of all time.
1987: Patrick Swayze
Two words: Dirty Dancing.
1988: Bette Midler
In 1988, no one was busier than Bette Milder. With the release of Big Business, Oliver & Company, and Beaches (and the accompanying soundtrack), her career shot to space and beyond.
The soundtrack to Beaches, including the song “Wind Beneath My Wings,” proved to be incredibly instrumental to Midler’s career, eventually earning her a Grammy for Record of the Year.
1989: Tom Cruise
It’s difficult to choose what 1980s year to anoint Tom Cruise the biggest star on earth, but we’re opting for 1989. Here’s why: He was fresh off of Tom Gun (1986) and Cocktail and Rain Main (both 1988) already one of Hollywood’s emerging heavyweights, but in 1989 he achieved both commercial and critical success as an actor, starring in Born on the Fourth of July, portraying a Vietnam veteran. He won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor, the Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor, the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Motion Picture Actor, a nomination for BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and garnered his first Best Actor Academy Award nomination.
1990: Julia Roberts
Two words: Pretty Woman.
1991: Jodie Foster
Though a child prodigy who was a star in the 1970s, Jodie Foster’s career found its zenith in the early 1990s, especially with the release of Silence of the Lambs in 1991. For her portrayal of FBI trainee Clarice Starling, she received an Academy Award, a Golden Globe award, and a BAFTA award.
1992: Whitney Houston
She was already an icon as a singer for years, but Whitney Houston dominated 1992 with her crossover role opposite Kevin Costner in the film The Bodyguard. The film was a smash hit, and her rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” which was featured in the movie’s soundtrack, became the best-selling single by a woman in the history of music.
1993: Denzel Washington
TV lovers and moviegoers had known Denzel Washington’s face for years, going back to his roles in the pioneering 1980s hospital drama St. Elsewhere and the Civil War drama Glory (1989). But in 1993, Denzel became Denzel.
Fresh off of his role in Malcolm X, he starred in Philadelphia, The Pelican Brief, and Much Ado About Nothing—cementing his status as one of the great actors and heartthrobs of the 1990s.
1994: Sandra Bullock
One word: Speed.
1995: Tom Hanks
The biggest star of the 1990s was at his biggest in 1995—that was the year he took an Oscar home for Forrest Gump and released Apollo 13 and was fresh off of a string of hits that included Philadelphia and Sleepless in Seattle.
1996: Will Smith
Fresh off of his success from the sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, actor and rapper Will Smith starred in the massive blockbuster Independence Day in 1996, which stablished him as a major box office draw. By the following year, Smith had further solidified his position in Hollywood, starring in Men in Black.
1997: Leonardo DiCaprio
One word: Titanic.
1998: Meg Ryan
America’s sweetheart had an amazing decade that culminated in the 1997 release of You’ve Got Mail.
1999: Beyoncé Knowles
This was the year Beyoncé officially broke out, with the release of Destiny’s Child’s second album, “The Writing’s on the Wall,” which contained the hits “Say My Name” and “Bills, Bills, Bills.” Suffice it to say, the world’s never been the same.
2000: Britney Spears
Britney Spears became an instant icon right after the release of her first album, “…Baby One More Time,” in 1999. And for more intriguing facts to make you nostalgic for the 20th century, check out these 50 Facts About the 20th Century That Will Make You Feel So Old Today.
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