american people The Most Influential Contemporary Americans  

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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.
Woody Allen is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Americans
Photo:  Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images
1 795 VOTES

Woody Allen

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 ...more

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

Age: 82

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467 328
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Stephen King is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Americans
Photo:  Kevin Winter/Getty Images
2 1,178 VOTES

Stephen King

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

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

Age: 70

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#25 on The Best Novelists of All Time

#1 on The Greatest Living Writers & Most Famous Authors Today

#22 on The Greatest American Writers of All Time

#40 on The Best Science-Fiction Authors

535 643
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Harper Lee is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Americans
Photo:  Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images
3 474 VOTES

but chickens double d added Harper Lee

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

Profession: Novelist, Author, Writer

Age: 91

Also Ranked

#31 on The Greatest American Writers of All Time

#8 on The Best Female Authors of All Time

#45 on The Best Writers of All Time

#3 on The Greatest Female Novelists Ever

312 162
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Bill Gates is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Americans
Photo: Freebase/CC-BY-SA-2.0
4 3,330 VOTES

Bill Gates

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 ...more

Profession: Programmer, Software Architect, Businessperson, Investor, Entrepreneur

Age: 62

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#78 on Famous Men You'd Want to Have a Beer With

#9 on Celebrities You Think Are The Most Humble

#40 on The Most Influential People of All Time

#22 on Celebrities Whose Assistant You'd Actually Want To Be

1,528 1,802
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