Weird History

The Most Influential Contemporary Americans  

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Originally by Ranker Community
138.5k votes 7.9k voters 302.7k views 119 items

List Rules 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.
Stephen King is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Americans
Photo: Kevin Winter/Staff/Getty Images Entertainment
1 1,648 VOTES

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 novels, including seven under the pen name Richard Bachman and six non-fiction books. He has written nearly 200 short stories, most of which have been collected in book collections. Many of his stories are set in his home state of Maine. King has received Bram Stoker Awards, World Fantasy Awards, and British Fantasy Society Awards. His novella The Way Station was a Nebula Award novelette nominee. In ...more on Wikipedia

Profession: Columnist, Television producer, Novelist, Screenwriter, Actor, + more

Age: 71

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Steven Spielberg is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Americans
Photo: Featureflash/Shutterstock.com
2 2,735 VOTES

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 films have covered many themes and genres. Spielberg's early science-fiction and adventure films were seen as archetypes of modern Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking. In later years, his films began addressing humanistic issues. He is one of the co-founders of DreamWorks Studios. ...more on Wikipedia

Profession: Television director, Businessperson, Television producer, Entrepreneur, Film Producer, + more

Age: 72

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Harper Lee is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Americans
Photo:  Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images
3 830 VOTES
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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 Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature. Lee has received numerous honorary degrees, and declined to speak on each occasion. Lee assisted close friend Truman Capote in his research for the book In Cold Blood. In February 2015 at age 88, nearly blind and deaf after a 2007 stroke, and after a lifetime of maintaining that she would never publish another novel, a statement was issued ...more on Wikipedia

Profession: Novelist, Author, Writer

Age: Dec. at 89 (1926-2016)

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Woody Allen is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Americans
Photo: via Reddit
4 1,259 VOTES

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 as a stand-up comedian, emphasizing monologues rather than traditional jokes. As a comedian, he developed the persona of an insecure, intellectual, fretful nebbish, which he maintains is quite different from his real-life personality. In 2004, Comedy Central ranked Allen in fourth place on a list of the 100 greatest stand-up comedians, while a UK survey ranked Allen as the third greatest ...more on Wikipedia

Profession: Film Score Composer, Comedian, Musician, Film Producer, Screenwriter, + more

Age: 83

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