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Legendary Icons – Male Sex Symbols Through The Years

Featured, Pop Culture — By on January 10, 2011 7:23 pm

Not too long ago, we did did a post on legendary female sex symbols, and we felt like we were really leaving out a lot of eager eyes.  So, here is a list of legendary male sex symbols throughout the ages.  Since any “measurements” we’d include would be downright pornographic, I’ve gone ahead and found a nice shirtless picture of almost every gorgeous guy.  Also, it turns out that a lot of male sex symbols wear cowboy hats at some point of their career, so if there’s one of those floating around I’ve included it.

1920′s

Rudolph Valentino

Rudolph Valentino Close Up
Rudolph Valentino, also known as The Latin Lover, The Great Lover, The Sheik, and The Great Lover of the Silver Screen, starred in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the role made him a star.  He had two scandal-filled marriages, and also sang and danced.

Rudolph Valentino Shirtless

And while no cowboy hat picture was readily available, the following gem was available, and it simply boggles the mind.

Rudloph Valentino Indian

Nice shoes, Rudy.

1930′s

Errol Flynn

Errol Flynn Close Up
Also known as The Tasmanian Devil, Flynny, Satan’s Angel (thanks, Marlene Dietrich), and The Baron, Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn was best known for his role in The Adventures Robin Hood (1938) and In the Wake of the Bounty (1933) where he played Fletcher Christian.  I think that’s also the one where he sticks the knife in the ship’s sail and rides it down.  He was married 3 times, had 4 children, and died at 50 of a heart attack.

Errol Flynn Robin Hood
This is him as Robin Hood.  Holy bad hair day, Batman.

Errol Flynn Shirtless
Jude Law portrayed Errol Flynn in the movie The Aviator.  Jude Law did not make this list.  I take issues with his jaw.

Clark Gable

Clark Gable Close Up
Known as Gabe, The King of Hollywood, and Pa (thanks to Carole Lombard), Clark Gable was a very big movie star who was very well known for many roles, including that of Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind.  He was married five different times.  He may have stayed settled with Carole Lombard, but she died in a plane crash in 1942.  Seven years later he remarried.

Clark Gable Shirtless
He is still a sex symbol, regardless of his moobs (see above) and the fact that Vivien Leigh (Scarlett O’Hara) claimed he had the worst breath in the whole world.

Clark Gable Mutiny on the Bounty

Neato fact – Clark Gable ALSO played the role of Fletcher Christian – in the 1935 movie Mutiny on the Bounty.  The thirties were a big time for movies about the HMS Bounty.  Fun times, that led to the discovery of the Pitcairn Islands.

Gary Cooper

Gary Cooper

The coolest thing, by far, about Gary Cooper, is the fact that he was friends with Ernest Hemingway for over twenty years.  In fact, though it’s purely coincidence (probably), Hemingway’s suicide was one short month after Cooper died of prostate cancer.  Gary Cooper was the epitome of style and dashing handsomeness, and he stared in a lot of  Westerns.  That’s why there is a picture of him with a cowboy hat.

Gary Cooper Cowboy
Unfortunately, no pictures were found with Cooper shirtless.  If you have one, please feel free to leave a comment.  Another tidbit of info – Cooper turned down the lead in Gone With The Wind.  Lucky for Clark Gable, eh?

1940′s

Cary Grant

Cary Grant Close Up

Cary Grant was one smooth mofo.  He did have slightly Puritan morals, in that he refused the role of Humbert Humbert in Kubrick’s Lolita.  He WAS married to five different women during his lifetime, so he wasn’t THAT much of a Puritan.  He also, to my knowledge, doesn’t have a photo with a cowboy hat.  But this outfit is pretty cool:

Cary Grant Outfit

Cary Grant was British, but he cultivated an American midwest accent very well, and was sort of known for it.

Cary Grant Shirtless

Also, there is a shirtless picture.  You’re welcome?

Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra Close Up

Chairman of the Board, Ol’ Blue Eyes, La Voz, The Voice, Swoonatra, The Sultan of Swoon – all these names apply to the one and only Frank Sinatra.  A Hoboken native, Sinatra won the hearts of a collective America with that voice, those eyes, and that swagger.

Frank Sinatra Sailor

He also played a sailor at one point, apparently.  He was married four times – once to Mia Farrow – and he was a member of the Rat Pack along with Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop.

1950′s

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley Close Up

Named Elvis Aaron Presley, he is better known as The King…of Rock ‘n’ Roll.  He was a pop singer, an actor, a soldier, and an absolute dreamboat.  Check him out in uniform:

Elvis Presley in Uniform

It can be easy to overlook the later, bloated, sequin years.  Especially when you see a picture like this:

Elvis Shirtless

How cute was he?

James Dean

James Dean Close Up

James Dean, star of Rebel Without a Cause, died tragically at the age of 24 years old.  Not before he captured the hearts and loins of young women in the 1950′s.  His bad-boy image and soulful eyes continue to haunt generations of women far beyond Dean’s time.

James Dean in Giant

Looked good in a cowboy hat, didn’t he?

James Dean Shirtless

And, whoa.

Rock Hudson

Rock Hudson Close Up
Rock Hudson was a sex symbol to women, who were attracted to his masculine good looks in the movies, and to men, too, since it turns out that Hudson was actually homosexual.  He died of AIDS, and was the first famous person to announce he had it.  So, handsome, talented, and BRAVE.  That was Rock Hudson.

Rock Hudson Cowboy Hat
He was in Giant with James Dean, hence the cowboy hat.

Rock Hudson Shirtless AND he wasn’t afraid to take his shirt off.

1960′s

Paul Newman

Paul Newman Close Up

The blue eyes, the pouty lips, the exceptional pecs.  Paul Newman was a sex symbol first, and a saintly philanthropist after that.  He was awesome.  The Long Hot Summer is one of the best movies ever.  And not that crap remake with Don Johnson.  Who also didn’t make the list.

Paul Newman Cowboy

Obligatory cowboy hat picture.

Paul Newman Shirtless

Can we just say?  Damn.

Robert Redford

Robert Redford Close Up

Blond, blue-eyed Robert Redford was the Condor in Three Days of the Condor , Gatsby in The Great Gatsby, and an A-1 hunk of the first degree.  The Way We Were?  Wowsa.

Robert Redford Cowboy Hat
He is a man’s man – he did a lot of his own stunts in movies and he made sure the stunt men were paid anyway.  Nice.

Robert Redford Shirtless

And I guess  he plays a mean game of tennis.

Sean Connery

Sean Connery Close Up

Even at 81 years old, Sean Connery is still considered one of the sexiest men alive.  Back when the was none other than 007 – James Bond – he was unstoppable.  Plus, that Scottish accent is to die for.

Sean Connery 007

In lieu of the cowboy hat shot (which is very hard to find, by the way) we thought we’d remind you of Bond…James Bond.

Sean Connery Shirtless

And….ah.

1970′s

David Cassidy

David Cassidy Close Up

David Cassidy was, well, a pretty big deal in the 1970′s because of his role as Keith Partridge on The Partridge Family.  His mom on The Partridge Family was also his stepmom in real life – having married David’s dad Jack Cassidy (of TV fame).  Because the mullet precludes any need for a picture with a cowboy hat, here is a picture of a single cover that should please the snarkier of you.

David Cassidy Puppy Song
The Puppy Song was actually written by Harry Nilsson.  He wrote it because Paul McCartney asked him to.  That might bring the question, “Why does this list lack a single member of The Beatles?”  Well, Gentle Reader, your humble author is a stark raving Beatles fan, and can’t just stick them in a list of sex symbols.  Plus, most girls wanted to MARRY a Beatle.  Anyway, Paul McCartney asked Harry Nilsson to write this song for Mary Hopkin.  David Cassidy covered it as his B-side to “Daydreamer.”

David Cassidy Shirtless
This photo appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.  Taken by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz, it was Cassidy’s attempt to knock a little of the good-boy glow off his image.

Burt Reynolds

Burt Reynolds Close Up
Burt Reynolds.  Famous for many “road” films, as well as his amazing mustache (seen in the below photos), his wildly popular Smokey and the Bandit solidified his sex symbol status long after notable appearances in Deliverance, The Longest Yard, and White Lightning.

Burt Reynolds Cowboy Hat
Another well-known part of Burt Reynolds’ life was his high-profile romance and marriage to Loni Anderson.  They were married for 7 years, and were tabloid fodder when they decided to break up.  He was also romantically linked to Sally Field and Dinah Shore.

Burt Reynolds Shirtless
He obviously, ahem, was not afraid to take his clothes off, either.  Wow.  Awkward.

Billy Dee Williams

Billy Dee Williams Close Up
Probably best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, beautiful Billy Dee Williams is also an accomplished painter.  His paintings cost a bundle.

Billy Dee Williams Gangster Outfit
He also looks awesome in a fedora, eh?

Billy Dee Williams Colt 45
For a short time, Williams was also the spokesperson for Colt 45 Malt Liquor.  Many people consider advertisements of his ads as highly collectible, though you won’t get him to sign one of those “collectibles.”  He refuses.

1980′s

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford Close Up
Harrison Ford did a little bit of acting in the 1960′s, but it didn’t take, and he became a carpenter.  He had a role in American Graffiti, but the real breakthrough came in A New Hope, the first Star Wars movie.  The role of Han Solo started in 1977, and it was VERY well received by the female population.  Then, in 1981, Ford appeared as Indiana Jones in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark and it was all over.  A whole nation was in love.

Harrison Ford Indiana Jones
He continues to make films, and is still a fabulous actor, and handsome to boot, but the 1980′s were the heyday of Ford’s career.  More Star Wars movies, Blade Runner, Working Girl, and a slew of other movies made Harrison Ford arguably the most popular actor of the 1980′s.

Harrison Ford Shirtless

I don’t know what this photo is from, but are we complaining?  I didn’t think so.

Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis Close Up
New Jersey-raised Bruce “Bruno” Willis found his fame playing David Addison on the popular TV show “Moonlighting.”  The chemistry between Willis and co-star Cybill Shepherd was amazing…until the show jumped the shark and allowed the two leads to get together.  Thus, “Moonlighting” became a cautionary tale.  Too bad TV continues to refuse to listen.


Willis also played John McClane in the Die Hard movies, making him an even BIGGER star.  No cowboy hat, though.  Sorry.

Patrick Swayze

patrick Swayze Close Up
Patrick Swayze (RIP) started his career as a heartthrob with his portrayal of Darrel Curtis in the movie The Outsiders in 1983 and became every boy’s hero as Jed in Red Dawn in 1984.  He won the hearts of everybody’s mom and grandma as Orry Main in the mini-series North and South.

Patrick Swayze North and South

But the crowning jewel – the role that sealed his fate as an iconic sex symbol, was his role as Johnny Castle in 1987′s Dirty Dancing.  Oh yeah, and then there was Road House.  Yeah, Patrick Swayze was the sexy king of the 1980′s.

Patrick Swayze Shirtless

1990′s

Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt Close Up
Brad Pitt had a number of TV roles in the 80′s, including a guest spot on 21 Jump Street, an uncredited role in Less Than Zero (ok, so that was a movie),  a stint on Dallas, and a short run on Growing Pains.  His nothing status was elevated to Sex Symbol History with his role in 1991′s Thelma & Louise.

Brad Pitt Cowboy Hat AND Shirtless
Thelma & Louse led to the ill-fated Johnny Suede (though he looked really good), and he continued being a hot ticket until he hooked up with Angelina Jolie and became a goateed father to millions.  Sad.

Brad Pitt Shirtless
But that makes us feel better, doesn’t it?

Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington Close Up
Let’s face it.  Denzel hasn’t lost any of his charm, even now that it is well into the 2000′s.  And, he didn’t reach iconic sex symbol status by playing sexy, substance-less roles.  In 1992 he played Malcolm X in the biopic, and continued to play serious roles for the majority of the 1990′s.  So, he’s a serious sexy man.

Denzel Washington Laughing
Another thing we love about Denzel is that he’s been married to the same woman, Pauletta Washington, since 1983.  They have four kids together.

Denzel Washington Suspenders
Denzel has won two Best Actor Oscars (Training Day and The Hurricane), won a Best Supporting Oscar for Glory, and was nominated for two other Oscars in his career.  And that’s so far, Folks.

George Clooney

George Clooney Close Up
George Clooney rose to sex symbol status on the small screen, first with his role as Booker Brooks on Roseanne, then on a show called Bodies of Evidence, and then on the hit show Sisters.  Come 1996 he got a prominent role (leading, that is) in From Dusk Till Dawn, that weird Quentin Tarantino vampire movie, and then his career was off like a rocket.

George Clooney Uniform
In 1998 he played Capt. Charles Bosche in The Thin Red Line, but since everybody and his brother was in that movie, the photo above comes from 1999′s Three Kings – a surprisingly good flick.  He also played Batman, but we won’t talk about that.

George Clooney Shirtless
And, who are we kidding, plenty of people still have huge crushes on Clooney.  He is, thus far, a confirmed life-long bachelor.  Despite the fact that he was married for a brief period, he has embraced bachelorhood to the nth degree.  He’s said that he will never again marry, and that he will never have any children.  Michelle Pfeiffer and Nicole Kidman both lost a $10000 bet that he would father a child before his 40th birthday.  He sent their money back, saying that he bet double or nothing that he still wouldn’t have any kids by the time he turned 50.  That’ll be May 6th of this month, so unless there’s something we don’t know, both ladies will be paying up soon.

2000′s

Robert Pattinson

Robert Pattinson Close Up
We all first took notice of RPatz (as TMZ calls him) when he played Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  Then.  Oh then.  Then Twilight happened.  Stephanie Meyer’s clumsy yet wildly popular series about a regular young girl who falls in love with a noble and tortured vampire (played by Pattinson) has taken the world by storm and people simply freaked over him.

Robert Pattinson Suit
He’s done other projects during this time, like when he played Salvador Dali and was in that movie with that blonde girl from Lost, but all anybody talks about is the Twilight stuff, and whether or not Robert is dating/married to/having a baby with his costar, the much-less-pretty-than-him Kristen Stewart.  With a break in the movies, or once they’re over, will RPatz fade into obscurity, or will he end up belonging on this list?

Robert Pattinson Shirtless
So, he’s a really big deal, and we couldn’t leave him off the list, but if he’s on the list there is somebody else that needs a spot as well.

Taylor Lautner

Taylor Lautner Suit
Robert Pattinson’s co-hunk in the Twilight series is Taylor Lautner.  And, he’ll be 19 years old in February, so I’m telling myself that his appearance in this list is not at all creepy.  Heck, James Dean was pretty darn young when he was so popular, so…

Taylor Lautner Guns
Since Lautner was only 16 years old when the first Twilight movie came out, lots of people felt pretty skeezy thinking he was cute and all.  Still though, there were countdown clocks until his 18th birthday ala The Olsen Twins.  He was seventeen when New Moon (the second of the Twilight series), so still off limits, but since the producers had considered replacing him because of his lack of muscles, he buffed up big time.

Taylor Lautner Shirtless
Now he’s not only a big movie star, he’s a model of fitness and stuff.  Will he stand the test of time?

Taye Diggs

Taye Diggs Close Up
Taye actually became a sex symbol with 1998′s How Stella Got Her Groove Back, but he’s been such an enduring example of hotness that he made the list for the 2000′s.  He was a hottie patottie on Ally McBeal in 2001, and appeared as a suave bandleader in 2002′s Chicago.

Taye Diggs Outfit
I’d be lying if I said I never watched Private Practice, and Diggs is a lead on that show.  In addition to being super handsome, and having a rocking physique, he’s also a fine, fine actor.

Taye Diggs Shirtless We mentioned the physique, right?

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp Close Up
This picture is actually from the 1990′s, when Johnny Depp was Tom Hansen on 21 Jump Street.  Orignally, I was going to put him on the 1990′s portion of the list because of that.  21 Jump Street was Depp’s road to the American heart and mind (and other parts) and got him to an audience that his role in Nightmare on Elm Street didn’t quite achieve.

Johnny Depp Shirtless

So, the 1990′s saw Depp do Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Benny & Joon, and Don Juan DeMarco, all films that reinforced his OH-my-goodness he’s the most beautiful man alive status, but it was also in the 1990′s where he took some risks.  He did Ed Wood (if you haven’t seen it, well…), Dead Man (a stunning Jim Jarmusch fiilm), The Ninth Gate (a devastatingly weird Polanski film), and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (he played the Hunter S. Thompsonesque character).

johnny-depp-jack-sparrow

The 2000 years saw him play a combination of edgy roles and crowd-pleasing roles.  Either way, he’s been an iconic, massively popular sex symbol (which he has a very hard time understanding, which just makes him more attractive) since the 1990′s and will likely continue to be so for years to come.

29 Comments

  1. facebookguru says:

    Pretty good list but disagree with some of the personalities of Hollywood screen.Would have better if included some other forgotten personalities.

  2. klasdjsadkl says:

    Good list until the robert patterson and that jacob guy..

    Ewh.

  3. aera says:

    disagree with alot of the newer ones, and the order you put them in.. considering Depp has been around for ever while Pattison only just made it big screen.

    Plus both Pattison and Laughtiner are only known for one role. Sure, they are hot but I believe being a “sex symbol” involves some ammount of class and timelessness that they do not yet possess. Point is, it’s pretty much impossible to accredit young actors who became famous within the last decade as symbols, because we have absolutly no idea how memorable and sucessful they will they will continue to be.

  4. tierra says:

    its a good list dont get me wrong, but you forgot marlon brando!!!

  5. Alice says:

    I am shocked that RPatz and Taylor whats-his-face made this list. I understand people think they’re sexy, but it is one role and only 3 years of sexiness. What about Freddie Prinze Jr.? Leonardo DiCaprio? They are much more sex symbols than the Twitard guys.

    I am also dismayed that Marlon Brando didn’t make this list… Yes, his appearance in Apocalypse Now was shocking but in films like Guys and Dolls he was gorgeous. Like, cause-my-ovaries-to-swell gorgeous.

    • Liz says:

      For Real!!! You’re seriously going to put Rob Pattinson and Taylor Lautner in a list with Cary Grant, James Dean, Frank Sinatra, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Harrison Ford??? Please!! I was expecting a sarcastic comment about them being oh-so-sexy when I first saw their pictures. They may be attractive to some people (another thing I don’t get), but they certainly don’t have the talent to run with the big boys higher up in the list.

  6. Kelsie says:

    Uhhh… good until Robert Pattison and Taylor Lautner. No thanks

  7. Cargirl says:

    How on EARTH can you do this list and NOT have Steve McQueen? Man’s man, hot, brooding, in love with Ali MacGraw, raced cars and motorcycles…and hello, BULLITT.

  8. kls says:

    Denzel didn’t win for The Hurricane, only for Training Day. He was *nominated* for The Hurricane.

  9. pam says:

    YOU FORGOT JAMES FRANCO

  10. Sarah says:

    There’s only one person I really feel is missing from this list and that is Gregory Peck. Joe in Roman Holiday? YES PLEASE!

  11. prudence says:

    The absence of Brando and the presence of Pattinson and Lautner make this a questionable list. And, as someone else has mentioned, Washington has won only one lead actor Oscar and that was for Training Day.

  12. sandi says:

    Where is Tom Selleck? He has aged so-o-o wonderfully! Always was and always will be a hottie!

  13. Anna says:

    I don’t really think refusing to do a film about being a statuatory rapist makes you a puritan…

  14. John says:

    Ok I’m a bloke and even I’m amazed you missed Leonardo DiCaprio. He was THE guy chicks swooned over in the 90′s and still do today. And Twilight dudes? Besides, those abs on Lautner are obviously shopped.

    • Enea says:

      Wow, yes! I didn’t notice, but that’s so true. Leo should definitely be on this list!

  15. Kendra says:

    All the great ones of the past up to the 90s’ what the heck happened to what we consider a male sex symbol i will never know.Just shows older generations will always be the best.However i agree with Jhonny Depp but can’t you replace Robert and Taylor with men..you know of age to be a sex symbol.How about actors like Jude law,Matthew Mcconaughey and there are many more deserving of the list that had ol blue eyes and dean on it.

  16. nym says:

    Where the bleep is Steve McQueen! In the army, as a cowboy, as a cop – he was the hottest -!

  17. Gypsy says:

    Hmmm…very good list. I wonder if I can buy any of them…battery operated? ;)

  18. Claude says:

    Where r the frontmen of rock’n roll era..hello Jim Morrison and Mick Jagger. And where r Jul Brynner, Steve McQueen and Marlon Brando ?

  19. iva says:

    How could you not include the sexiest man that ever walked the planet – Marlon Brando????

  20. Reya says:

    Only a few things to say :
    1. You forgot Yul Bryner, who was smokin’ hot and waaay ahead of his time
    2. Both Sean Connery and Johnny Depp don’t belong to a single decade.
    3. You really blew it with the 2000′s selection. Can’t believe you can add those 2. They are this famous because of marketing, not their own merit, plus they don;t even look good. Pattison is hideous and completely asimetric, while lutner is just another playmate bundle o muscles

  21. thekla says:

    where is Clint Eastwood?? EPIC FAIL

    and of course marlon brando..

  22. ParisGrrl says:

    I’m going to stifle my laughter at the inclusion of Robert Pattinson just long enough to protest the omission of Tyrone Power. Much like Michelle Pfeiffer, people who met Power said he was even more beautiful in person. As if that is possible….

  23. phylly3 says:

    I do really like your list but have to agree with the ones who don’t like your more recent picks. The problem is they probably won’t stand the test of time.
    Tyrone Power is a reasonable suggestion for looks but I’m not so sure he would be considered one of the all time greats! Gregory Peck was a good suggestion. I might also suggest Montgomery Clift from way back when.
    I do agree with Clint Eastwood, (especially over Burt Reynolds). Definitely Steve McQueen. As a modern hunk with talent too I would suggest Pierce Brosnan, and Robert Downey, Jr.
    And get ready for a new name in the talented hunk stratosphere the up and coming Richard Armitage! Currently starring in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit (still being filmed in New Zealand). He was be a sensation when people finally learn about his amazing talent and smoking hot good looks!

    • phylly3 says:

      Sorry, He “will be” a sensation! I was going to say.. He was also in the BBC’s North and South (not the one with Patrick Swayze). This was a dramatization of the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell about the clash between the social classes in Victorian Age Britain.

  24. ROSE says:

    What happened to LEONARD DICAPRIO- he belongs on this list too. THANK YOU!

  25. Mari says:

    Good until the 2000′s… (except Johnnny of course ;) )

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