1. Lupita Nyong’o
For her turn in 12 Years a Slave, Nyong’o won the 2013 Best Supporting Actress Oscar becoming the first African actress to win the award and the first Kenyan actress to win an Oscar of any kind. It also happened to catapult her to the top of every magazine in the world’s ‘best-dressed’ and ‘most beautiful’ lists, where she has remained ever since.
2. Blake Lively
Lively’s breakthrough role came in teen drama Gossip Girl, during the filming of which she dated her onscreen boyfriend – life imitating art and all that. She’s since appeared in multiple films including an impressive performance in The Shallows and married Ryan Reynolds. A lucky man.
3. Zoë Kravitz
The actress and band front-woman who inherited her father Lenny’s swagger and musical talent, Zoë Kravitz recently appeared in the hit show Big Little Lies to widespread acclaim. She can also crochet, which is nice.
4. Emma Watson
Harry Potter’s best friend, millionaire, actor, philanthropist, gender equality advocate and global book club founder (cool, hey?), there aren’t many boxes that 27-year-old Brit Emma Watson hasn’t ticked.
5. Brigitte Bardot
The original blonde bombshell, ‘B.B.’ was an actress, model and one of the biggest sex symbols of the 50s and 60s before becoming an animal rights activist and – somewhat regrettably – a convicted race hate inciter in her later years.
6. Audrey Hepburn
“I don’t understand why people see me as beautiful” the British actress – regarded as one of the greatest screen icons of all time – apparently used to tell her son, leading to the obvious question: what hope is there for any of the rest of us?
7. Natalie Portman
Oscar-winning actress and Harvard University graduate, Natalie Portman is someone with talent to burn who also happens to be one of the great beauties of the modern celebrity era. Oh, and she’s also a promising director now. Expect her to cure cancer around 2035.
8. Freida Pinto
2008’s Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire was an over-rated film in all but one respect: it launched the career of Freida Pinto. A darling of fashion magazines ever since, she is also considered in her home country as “arguably the biggest global star from India.”
9. Jessica Chastain
Over the past 5 years Jessica Chastain has quietly established herself as one of the most talented and versatile screen actress working today. We say quietly because – the odd jaw-dropping red carpet appearance aside – she keeps her private life private, preferring to let a growing body of work speak for itself.
London-born Mathangi Arulpragasam is a creative polymath: rapper, singer-songwriter, record producer, director, visual artist, activist, photographer and fashion designer. Oh – and a model. Naturally.
11. Ursula Andress
Best known as the original Bond girl having starred alongside Sean Connery in Dr. No, Ursula Andress’ entrance in that film as (cringe) ‘Honey Ryder the shell diver’ was voted #1 ‘greatest sexy movie moment’ in a Channel 4 survey some forty years later. “This bikini made me into a success. As a result of starring in Dr. No as the first Bond girl, I was given the freedom to take my pick of future roles and to become financially independent,” she later said of the white two-piece still etched into the minds of generations of movie-goers.
12. Monica Belucci
Starting her career as a model, Monica Belucci moved into acting in the early 90s. You may know her as the star of The Matrix Reloaded, Enter the Matrix or The Matrix Revolutions – all the Matrix films that aren’t The Matrix, basically – or for making rather patronising headlines as ‘the oldest ever Bond girl’ in 2015’s Spectre. But perhaps her most interesting work known by English audiences was as a rape victim in Gaspar Noé’s extremely controversial Irréversible.
There is little new to observe about Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, arguably the most powerful female celebrity in the world. Celebrated musician, businesswoman and activist, in her spare time she makes Jay-Z look like the luckiest man in the world.
14. Halle Berry
2002 was the Great Year of Halle Berry, when she’d just won a Best Actress Oscar for Monster’s Ball and had enough credibility banked to slum it as asex symbol in the ludicrous Swordfish and Die Another Day, which actually made Swordfish look like Citizen Kane. Anyway – then came Catwoman and Cloud Atlas and bunch of other crap and now she’s perhaps best known as looking better with short hair than any other woman in history.
15. Marilyn Monroe
No name is as immediately synonymous with female beauty than Marilyn Monroe, the 1950s screen siren whose glamorous public life obscured an often tragic private life. Despite playing the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype demanded by her era, off camera she was integral in building her own star power and in 1954 founded her own film production company because she was unhappy with the derisory contract offers from major studios.
16. Marine Vacth
They say there is no beauty like a French beauty (it’s the French who say that, by the way), and in the case of model-turned-actress Marine Vacth they may have a point. The star of 2013’s foreign language hit Jeune & Jolie (‘Young & Beautiful’), her upturned gaze briefly adorned the sides of buses and tube stations across London causing more than a few commuter collisions.
17. Scarlett Johansson
Many journalists have made fools of themselves over the years trying to capture the essence of Scarlett Johansson’s beauty in words, so we won’t. What we will venture is that beside the obvious, a lot of it is to with her voice: husky, sardonic and – would you guess it – beautiful when she sings. Still too much? OK we’ll stop.
18. Miranda Kerr
The only celebrated Australian beauty known in Britain not to have once had a part on Neighbours, Miranda Kerr became at model at 13 and has never looked back, becoming one of the most bankable faces in the world for beauty companies, fashion labels and magazines looking to sell copies including, in 2013, us.
19. Carey Mulligan
Anyone who has seen Carey Mulligan’s mournful 5 minute-long singing scene in Shame will be left in no doubt she deserves her place on this list. A BAFTA-winner with a string of quality films to her name, the fact she is married to one of Mumford & Sons can be taken as proof she has a generous heart and tolerant spirit, too.
The biggest pop star in the world is, as these things tend to go, also one of the world’s most beautiful women. With an output of ridiculous consistency – eight albums in 10 years tell its own story – there’s barely a day that goes by the average person in the west doesn’t see Rihanna’s face somewhere, doing something – usually somewhere and something pretty cool.
21. Sophia Loren
The Italian actress’s heaving trophy cabinet includes Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Grammys and – of course – an Oscar, the latter being particularly impressive as it made her the first artist to win one for a performance in a foreign language (in 1962 for Two Women – remember that for your next pub quiz).
22. Gigi Hadid
Still only 23, Gigi (and her sister Bella) has already become one of the most successful models in the industry. A glittering career of being hired to sell even more lovely things awaits, and presumably a move into acting at some point.
23. Alicia Vikander
2015 very much belonged to the Swedish actress when two roles – as a robot in sci-fi sleeper hit Ex Machina and a painter whose partner undergoes sex reassignment surgery in The Danish Girl – earned her a BAFTA nod and an Oscar respectively. Impeccable acting credentials established, she was most recently seen shooting wolves while performing backflips as the next Lara Croft.
24. Zoe Saldana
One of the few members of the Hollywood A-list self-aware enough to realise that Hollywood A-listers moralising about politics wasn’t likely to help the liberal cause, Zoe Saldana is by all accounts one of the most down to earth Beautiful People in the world of Beautiful People.
25. Grace Kelly
Jimmy Stewart said the woman who became Princess Grace of Monaco had “a soft, warm light every time I saw her, and every time I saw her was a holiday of its own”, and even if you’ve only seen her in Rear Window or Dial M For Murder you can see exactly what he meant.
26. Anita Ekberg
Swedish actress Anita Ekberg will always be remembered as Sylvia Rank, the “dream woman” of Fellini’s masterpiece La Dolce Vita. The legendary role didn’t have a hugely positive impact on her career, however: “Things became a little bit boring for me after La Dolce Vita because every producer or director in Italy, England and America wanted me to recreate the same role,” she said of the period. “The movie star from America who comes over to Italy.”