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The Most Influential People in 2018

Updated September 17, 2020 69.7k votes 2.6k voters 68.6k views41 items

List RulesVote up the individuals who have made the biggest impacts this year so far.

Editor's Note: Voting and Reranking have been closed.

From Oscar winners and musicians to political figures and activists, this list compiles the most influential people of the year. The year 2018 has marked many major changes in the realms of entertainment and politics. We've watched groundbreaking films like Black Panther and Get Out change movie trends in America, listened to passionate teenage activists challenge organizations like the NRA, and have seen world leaders navigate unprecedented conflicts and natural disasters. Who was the most important person of this year? Help decide below! 

In 2018, Kendrick Lamar became the first rapper in history to win a Pulitzer Prize and Jordan Peele and Ryan Coogler broke boundaries for African American representation in cinema. However, it's not just entertainers who have proven to be important public figures this year. Donald Trump continues to play a major role worldwide as the president of the United States and Kim Jong-un has a massive impact on world events and politics as leader of North Korea. Given these tumultuous times, celebrities are sharing their perspectives more than ever, with figures like Kanye West speaking frankly about their opinions on current events.

Who had the most influence this year overall? Vote up the 2018 influential people you feel truly made a difference. Then, go see who is influencing 2019.

  • 1

    In May 2018, Glover dropped a new Childish Gambino track titled "This is America." It's a symbolic piece about public perception of Black culture and the epidemic of systemic violence against African American communities in the United States. Glover's TV series, Atlanta, is also known for challenging stereotypes around Black culture, meaning he has been hugely influential in starting dialogue and debate regarding race in 2018. 

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  • 2

    Known for portraying the antagonist of Black Panther, Michael B. Jordan's sympathetic portrayal of Killmonger was met with praise for its nuanced take on race relations. 

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  • 3

    Kendrick Lamar is an American rapper, songwriter, and poet. In 2018, he earned four Grammys, a Pulitzer Prize (the first rapper ever to do so), and a Billboard Music Award for his latest album DAMN

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  • 4

    Chadwick Boseman

    Chadwick Boseman is an actor, director, and producer who starred in Ryan Coogler's Black Panther. The film marked a huge shift in Hollywood in 2018 as studios tried to make the industry more diverse as a whole. 


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  • 5

    Pope Francis is the 266th pope and has been influential for questioning traditional Catholic views, especially on topics like homosexuality and atheism, and has had a big influence on Catholic doctrine worldwide. 

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  • 6

    Former actress Meghan Markle became the Duchess of Sussex in 2018 when she wed Prince Harry in a ceremony that was broadcast across the globe. As part of her new role, Markle will represent the royal family and the United Kingdom worldwide. 

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  • 7

    Beyoncé, long considered a strong voice for Black women, performed at Coachella in 2018. Her act was an homage to women, heritage, culture, strength, and humanity as a whole, proving she remains a relevant public figure. 

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  • 8

    Her powerful speech at the 2018 Golden Globes made many want to see the TV mogul go for a presidential run in 2020. While she declined the chance, Winfrey continues to have an influence on culture and politics, recently promoting a book written by a wrongly convicted former death row inmate. 

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  • 9

    While still alive, XXXTENTACION pushed for positivity and happiness. He started the helping hand challenge which aimed to donate the most to charities. Even after his tragic death his songs continue to top the charts and influence others.

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  • 10

    After the lackluster release of Revival in 2017, many had written off Eminem as a has-been. On August 31, 2018, the rapper surprise-released Kamikaze, putting him back on the hip-hop radar. 

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  • 11

    Formally most well known for the comedy program Key and Peele, Jordan Peele has shifted the way cinema approaches race with his 2018 Oscar-winning film Get Out. 

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  • 12

    Post Malone's album is the first to have every song to enter the Billboard 100 chart. He has continually broken records in the music industry and continues to be a very influential figure in the music world.

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  • 13

    Emma Gonzalez is a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School shooting in February 2018. Since then, she's grown into the voice of her peers as an activist and gun control advocate. 

  • 14

    Robert Mueller

    The former FBI director is head of the Special Counsel investigation looking into possible Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Regardless of whether you believe collusion occurred, the scandal has had an incredible impact on United States politics and Mueller has played a major part in that. 

  • 15

    The 23rd Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau has made major changes for Canadians in regards to healthcare, taxes, and foreign policy. 

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  • 16

    Cardi B became a household name throughout 2017 and 2018 with the success of her single "Bodak Yellow" and her studio album Invasion of Privacy. 

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  • 17

    As the first female Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel has played a significant role in America's communication with Germany during Trump's presidency. 

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  • 18

    Currently the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin has been a Russian politician since the early '90s. Given the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Putin remains an influential (and controversial) figure in 2018.

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  • 19

    In 2018, various scandals about the misuse of Facebook data emerged, resulting in CEO Mark Zuckerberg appearing before Congress. Regardless of one's thoughts on Facebook and social media in general, such sites continue to have a big impact on our daily lives. Given Zuckerberg is the mastermind behind one of the biggest social media platforms out there, he's undoubtedly had influence this year. 

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  • 20

    Our 45th POTUS is an American entrepreneur turned politician. Regardless of your personal opinions on the Trump presidency so far, no one can argue the Commander in Chief's policies and public statements have not been hugely influential in 2018. 

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  • 21

    Xi Jinping is the 7th President of the People's Reublic of China. As the Trump administration navigates tariffs and foreign policy, Xi Jinping has been a huge player in American economy. 

  • 22

    Ryan Coogler is the co-writer and director of the year's must-see movie, Black Panther. His first feature film, Fruitvale Station, documented the last day of Oscar Grant's life, a victim of a police shooting in Oakland, CA. 

  • 23

    He won Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars for The Shape of Water.  Guillermo del Toro is a Mexican writer, producer and director famous for many films that include fantastical and paranormal creatures. 

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  • 24

    She's a singer, songwriter, and performer who continues to be highly popular in 2018. Swift has also recently become more vocal about her feminist views, and in October 2018, she made an unprecedented political post on her Instagram. Over 65,000 people registered to vote within 72 hours after her post.

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  • 25

    A survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School shooting, David Hogg has become an outspoken activist who pushes for stricter regulations on gun control in the United States.