The Most Influential Contemporary Americans People

The Most Influential Contemporary Americans

116,587 votes 6,310 voters 274,863 views 128 items tags f p @

List Criteria: Americans who are alive today (or who died less than 20 years ago) and have impacted the way Americans live their lives

A list of the Americans who have had the most central influence on, or importance to, the modern era. This would include Americans who have most significantly altered the course of events from roughly the 1980s onward. So while someone like Ronald Reagan or Steve Jobs might very well apply, figures like Franklin D. Roosevelt or even Martin Luther King Jr. would probably not be considered contemporary enough to qualify.

Americans from every walk of life and every industry have managed to profoundly influence the country. This can include efforts to alter the culture or perspective of Americans, technological or scientific innovations that forever changed the way we live, business achievements which altered the course of one or multiple industries, or political decisions that permanently shifted later events in America and the world.

Vote for the important Americans below you think had the greatest impact on the way we live today. Or if you don't see your selection, add it by making your own list.

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    Heywood "Woody" Allen is an American actor, writer, director, comedian and playwright, whose career spans more than 50 years. He worked as a comedy writer in the 1950s, writing jokes and scripts for television and publishing several books of short humor pieces. In the early 1960s, Allen began performing ...more

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    • Profession: Film Score Composer, Comedian, Musician, Film Producer, Screenwriter, + more
    • Age: age 80
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    Nelle Harper Lee is an American novelist widely known for her 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird which deals with the racism she observed as a child in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. Though Lee only published this single book for half a century, she was awarded the Presidential ...more

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    • Profession: Novelist, Author, Writer
    • Age: age 89
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    Michael Francis Moore is an American documentary filmmaker, screenwriter, author, journalist, actor, and liberal political activist. He is the director and producer of Fahrenheit 9/11, a critical look at the presidency of George W. Bush and the War on Terror, which is the highest-grossing documentary of ...more

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    • Profession: Film Producer, Screenwriter, Actor, Writer, Critic, + more
    • Age: age 61
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    William Henry "Bill" Gates III is an American business magnate, philanthropist, investor, computer programmer, and inventor. Gates originally established his reputation as the co-founder of Microsoft, the world’s largest PC software company, with Paul Allen. During his career at Microsoft, Gates held ...more

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    • Profession: Programmer, Software Architect, Businessperson, Investor, Entrepreneur
    • Age: age 60
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    Stephen Edwin King is an American author of contemporary horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy. His books have sold more than 350 million copies, many of which have been adapted into feature films, miniseries, television shows, and comic books. King has published 54 ...more

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    • Profession: Columnist, Television producer, Novelist, Screenwriter, Actor, + more
    • Age: age 68
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    Steve Jobs
    Photo: CC BY-SA 3.0/via

    Steven Paul Jobs was an American entrepreneur, marketer, and inventor, who was the cofounder, chairman, and CEO of Apple Inc. Through Apple, he was widely recognized as a charismatic and design-driven pioneer of the personal computer revolution and for his influential career in the computer and consumer ...more

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    • Profession: Businessperson, Entrepreneur, Inventor, Designer
    • Age: Died at 56 (1955-2011)
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    Elena Kagan
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain

    Elena Kagan is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Kagan is the Court's 112th justice and fourth female justice. Kagan was born and raised in New York City. After attending Princeton, Oxford, and Harvard Law School, she completed federal Court of Appeals and Supreme Court ...more

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    • Profession: Professor, Law professor, Lawyer
    • Age: age 55
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    Steven Allan Spielberg is an American filmmaker. Spielberg is consistently considered as one of the leading pioneers of the New Hollywood era, as well as being viewed as one of the most popular and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema. In a career spanning more than four decades, Spielberg's ...more

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    • Profession: Television director, Businessperson, Television producer, Entrepreneur, Film Producer, + more
    • Age: age 69
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    Robert Duvall
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain

    Robert Selden Duvall is an American actor and director. He has been nominated for seven Academy Awards, six Golden Globes, and has multiple nominations and one win each of the BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Emmy Award. He received the National Medal of Arts in 2005. He has starred in some of the ...more

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    • Profession: Soldier, Television producer, Film Producer, Screenwriter, Truck driver, + more
    • Age: age 84
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    Barack Obama
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain

    Barack Hussein Obama II (/bəˈrɑːk huːˈseɪn oʊˈbɑːmə/; born August 4, 1961) is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama served as a U.S. Senator representing the state of Illinois from January 2005 to November 2008, when he resigned ...more

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    • Profession: Politician, Author, Law professor, Writer, Lawyer
    • Age: age 54
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    Alfredo James "Al" Pacino is an American actor and filmmaker. He is well known for playing mobsters, especially Michael Corleone in The Godfather films and Tony Montana in Scarface, and often appeared on the other side of the law—as a police officer, a detective and a lawyer. Pacino won the Academy ...more

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    • Profession: Theatre Director, Film Producer, Screenwriter, Actor, Film Director
    • Age: age 75
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    Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States. Before his presidency he served as the 33rd Governor of California and was also an actor from 1937–1964. Born and raised in small towns in Illinois, Reagan graduated from Eureka College and then worked as a radio broadcaster. He moved to ...more

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    • Profession: Spokesperson, Politician, Soldier, Lifeguard, Radio personality, + more
    • Age: Died at 93 (1911-2004)
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    William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Previously, he served as Governor of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981 and 1983 to 1992, and the state's Attorney General from 1977 to 1979. A member of the Democratic Party, ...more

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    • Profession: Statesman, Politician, Author, Lawyer, Teacher
    • Age: age 69
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    Ruth Bader Ginsburg
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain

    Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Ginsburg was appointed by President Bill Clinton and took the oath of office on August 10, 1993. She is the second female justice and the first Jewish female justice. She is generally viewed as belonging to the ...more

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    • Profession: Judge, Jurist, Lawyer
    • Age: age 82
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    William James "Bill" Murray is an American actor and comedian. He first gained exposure on Saturday Night Live for which he earned an Emmy Award and later went on to star in comedy films, including Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, What About Bob?, and Groundhog Day. Murray garnered ...more

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    • Profession: Businessperson, Comedian, Television producer, Screenwriter, Actor, + more
    • Age: age 65
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    Robert John Downey Jr. is an American actor, producer, and singer, whose career has included critical and popular success in his youth, followed by a period of substance abuse and legal troubles, and a resurgence of commercial success in middle age. Making his screen debut at the age of five, appearing ...more

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    • Profession: Comedian, Singer-songwriter, Film Producer, Screenwriter, Actor
    • Age: age 50
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    Oprah Gail Winfrey is an American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist. Winfrey is best known for her multi-award-winning talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was the highest-rated program of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011.more

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    • Profession: Businessperson, Journalist, Television producer, Film Producer, Actor, + more
    • Age: age 61
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    Mark Zuckerberg
    Photo: Freebase

    Mark Elliot Zuckerberg is an American computer programmer and Internet entrepreneur. He is best known as one of five co-founders of the social networking website Facebook. Zuckerberg was made the chairman and chief executive of Facebook, Inc. in April 2013. and his personal wealth, as of March 2015, is ...more

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    • Profession: Programmer, Businessperson, Entrepreneur
    • Age: age 31
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    George Walker Bush is an American politician and businessman who served as the 43rd President of the United States from 2001 to 2009, and the 46th Governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000. The eldest son of Barbara and George H. W. Bush, he was born in New Haven, Connecticut. After graduating from Yale ...more

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    • Profession: Pilot, Public speaker, Businessperson, Politician, Author, + more
    • Age: age 69
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    Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, artist, and writer. He has been influential in popular music and culture for more than five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s when his songs chronicled social unrest, although Dylan repudiated suggestions from journalists that he ...more

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    • Profession: Film Score Composer, Record producer, Poet, Guitarist, Musician, + more
    • Age: age 74
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