Faces of celebrities come and go with the ages, leaving some stars back in their time while others become timeless. With the quickness in which Hollywood trends change, it’s fun to look back on some of the earlier stars, seeing who was popular each year.
These famous stars are former chart-toppers, Oscar winners, and people so memorable they’re on the tips of everyone’s tongues years later. So, keep reading if you’re interested to learn who the most popular star was the year you were born.
1952 Was All About Gene Kelly Singin’ In The Rain
In 1952, Gene Kelly made a splash in the world of entertainment with his musical Singin’ in the Rain, of which he directed, choreographed, and starred in opposite Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor.
Kelly is said to have changed the formula of the Hollywood musical, with his various innovations and making ballet a film norm. It was during ’52 that Kelly was awarded an Academy Honorary Award for his achievements in the industry.
Barbra Streisand’s Funny Girl Fame Made Her THE Star Of 1968
If you were born in 1968, then you might have been too young to realize what an absolute sensation Barbra Streisand was that year. Upon the release of the musical Funny Girl, people couldn’t get enough of the singer and Broadway-turned-film star.
That year, Streisand actually became the first actress to tie for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She shared the honor with Katherine Helburn, who won for The Lion in Winter.
Audrey Hepburn Was The Star Of 1953
British actress Audrey Hepburn rose to international stardom after the release of her 1953 romantic comedy Roman Holiday. Her performance as Princess Ann earned the young actress her first Academy Award, a BAFTA, and a Golden Globe, making her the first actress to receive all three for a single film.
But ’53 wasn’t done with Hepburn quite yet. That same year she starred in the play Ondine, winning a Tony Award for her outstanding stage performance.
Julie Andrews Was Alive With The Sound Of Music In 1965
Coming off an Oscar win for her title role in the 1964 film Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews was beyond popular come the following year. But her fame only grew with her starring role in the period drama The Sound of Music.
As Maria von Trapp, Andrews won her second Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical. The film was also the highest-grossing of the year, producing $286.2 million at the box office.
The King Elvis Presley Had People Swingin’ Their Hips In 1956
The year 1956 was the year the world was introduced to The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley. That year, his first RCA single, “Heartbreak Hotel,” was released, quickly becoming the number song in the charts in the United States.
But ’56 wasn’t just a year of music for The King; it also marked the year of his film debut, Love Me Tender. While Elvis appears in a number of films throughout his career, Love Me Tender is considered to be his worst performance.
Natalie Wood Was All Anyone Talked About In 1961
Natalie Wood had a fine career as a child and teenage film star, but her name became huge once 1961 rolled around. This was the year the play West Side Story was brought to the silver screen, with Wood playing the lead role of Maria.
Although she doesn’t actually sing in the film, West Side Story is considered to be Wood’s best performance. And considering she had a career that started in the 40s and lasted through the 80s, that’s saying something.
1963 Was The Year Of Elizabeth Taylor
Since actress Elizabeth Taylor was wildly popular before 1963, it’s hard to imagine her fame growing. But it did, with the help of a little movie called Cleopatra. According to film historian Alexander Doty, her role as the Egyptian queen made her more famous than ever before.
She became the first actress to receive one million dollars for a role, as well as ten percent of the film’s total profits. It wound up making $40.3 million at the global box office.
Kirk Douglas Was All The Rage in The 1950s
Actor Kirk Douglas was a leading box office star throughout the 1950s, known for his acting work in a series of dramas, westerns, and war films. He was a star during the Golden Age of Hollywood and, through his long and storied career, appeared in over 90 films.
Some of his more memorable roles include Spartacus, Champion, and The Bad and the Beautiful, the last two for which he received Oscar nominations for Best Actor.
Gregory Peck Was In More Than One Crowd Pleaser In 1962
Actor Gregory Peck was in more than one hit film in the year of 1962, something that made him very popular among moviegoers. First, he was in the film adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird as the infamous Atticus Finch, a role that won him an Oscar for Best Actor.
Second, he was in the thriller Cape Fear as Sam Bowden, an attorney whose family is in danger from a recently released felon. It looks like Peck had an affinity for playing a lawyer!
Grease And John Travolta Were The Word In 1978
Coming fresh off of Saturday Night Fever, actor John Travolta was already hot on everyone’s minds. Little did he know, but the following year, in 1978, his fame would skyrocket with the release of the musical Grease.
At the time of the film’s release, it was the highest-grossing musical in history. His portrayal of Danny Zuko was so iconic there was a sequel, a live-action event, and now it’s been announced that there will be a prequel made in the coming years.
Marlon Brando Gave Fans An Offer They Couldn’t Refuse In ’72
The year 1972 brought with it one of the most admired films in Hollywood history, The Godfather. As for Marlon Brando, after years of not making much of a splash, he captured the role of Vito Corleone, the head of the Corleone crime family.
The film is one of the most commercially successful films of all time, winning Brando his first Academy Award for Best Actor. Of course, you can’t forget that he refused the award, stating he wouldn’t until Hollywood fixed its misrepresentation of the Native American people.
Carrie Fisher Became Princess Leia In 1977
Before 1977, actress Carrie Fisher had a few projects under her belt. But nothing could have prepared her for the role she was going to take on that year, Princess Leia Organa in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.
Fisher would go on to reprise the role of Princess/General Leia for many years to come. But, in 1977, she was one of the most popular actresses in Hollywood. And she was only 20 at the time!
1973 Was Robert Redford’s Best Year
Critics argue that 1973 had the biggest hit of Robert Redford’s acting career. And considering he was the most popular actor that year, the critics might be on to something! It was the year the blockbuster The Sting was released, a performance for which he earned an Oscar nomination.
But that wasn’t his only project for the year. Redford starred alongside Broadway star Barbra Streisand in the romantic drama The Way We Were.
Sidney Poitier Was The Talk Of Hollywood In 1958
In 1958, Sidney Poitier was chained together with Tony Curtis as two escaped convicts in the adventure drama The Defiant Ones. Both actors earned Academy Award nominations for Best Actor for their roles in the film.
And while neither won the award due to vote splitting, Poitier did walk away with a BAFTA. Of course, as history would have it, the talented man won with Oscar a few years down the road.
James Dean Was A Rebel Capturing Everyone’s Hearts In 1955
Now known as a cultural icon and one of the leading actors of Hollywood’s Golden Age, James Dean was wildly popular in 1955. This year, Dean was coming off an Academy Award nomination for his role in East of Eden.
So, when Rebel Without a Cause was released later in the year, the actor and his teenage heartthrob character Jim Stark were all anyone was talking about. Nothing says popularity quite like a bad boy persona!
Tony Curtis’ Best Performances Happened In 1959
Actor Tony Curtis was the most popular actor in 1959, with the release of two comedies back to back. First, Some Like it Hot where Curtis starred alongside Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe, the two men dressing in drag in order to escape mafia gangsters.
The second film was Operation Petticoat, a World War II submarine film in which Curtis stars opposite Cary Grant as two Lieutenants aboard the USS Sea Tiger during the Battle of the Philippines.
Everyone Wanted To Dance With Patrick Swayze In 1987
Actor Patrick Swayze became very popular in 1987 upon the release of the romantic drama Dirty Dancing. In the film, Swayze plays a resort dance instructor, Johnny Castle, who falls in love with Baby, a young lady who is on vacation with her family.
Needless to say, the actor, along with his character’s signature lift dance move and the song “The Time of my Life,” became wildly popular among the female population that year.
Farrah Fawcett Was Everyone’s Angel In 1976
In 1976, the hit crime show Charlie’s Angels shot Farrah Fawcett straight to stardom. The blonde-haired beauty was cast as one of the leading ladies in the series, Jill Munroe.
And even though she was only part of the cast for the first season, it was enough for her to be the most popular actress that year. Her fame made girls and women everywhere want her giant blow-out with curls!
Meryl Streep Made Herself A Household Name In 1979
While she had a few awards to her name prior to 1979, this was the year actress Meryl Streep really made a name for herself in the entertainment industry. After coming off an Emmy Award win for the miniseries Holocaust and an Oscar nomination for Deer Hunter, Streep went all in for her role as Joanna in the 1979 film Kramer vs. Kramer.
And let us tell you, people noticed. The film wound up winning five Academy Awards, the most of any film that year. One of the awards included Streep’s Best Supporting Actress.
In 1969, Paul Newman Starred In One Of Cinemas Greatest Westerns
In 1969, Paul Newman became the most popular star in Hollywood after his portrayal of Butch Cassidy in the western film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Loosely based on the true story of the title character, the film is considered to be one of the best westerns in American cinema.
The fact that the film starred the iconic pairing of Newman and Robert Redford made the reputation of the former that much bigger during this time.
It Was Hard Not To Love Lucille Ball In 1951
On October 15, 1951, the sitcom I Love Lucy aired on CBS and quickly became a legendary show. That year, the star of the series, Lucille Ball, became one if not the most popular actress in Hollywood.
The show became the most-watched series in America through four of its six total seasons. Today, I Love Lucy is considered to be one of the most influential shows in the history of television.
Marilyn Monroe Had A Public Year In 1954
Actress and beauty icon Marilyn Monroe had quite a public year in 1954. It was the year she had a huge feud with 20th Century Fox, resulting in her suspension from a few different projects, including The Girl in Pink Tights.
The suspension made front-page news, but it became old news once The Seven Year Itch was released later that very same year. The suspension was all but forgotten when people caught a glimpse of Monroe in that iconic white dress.
Clint Eastwood Finished The Dollars Trilogy In 1966
In 1966, actor Clint Eastwood put a final wrap on the critically acclaimed western Dollars Trilogy. The final film was titled The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, with Eastwood starring as Blondie.
Technically, the film is considered a prequel to the first two in the trilogy, even though it came last. Even so, the star actor said that he believes the three films changed the way people approached filming westerns.
John Wayne Was Coming Off An Oscar Win In 1970
It’s no surprise John Wayne was the most popular actor in Hollywood come 1970, as he was coming off of his Academy Award win for Best Actor for his role in True Grit. The original film made a huge splash in cinema, changing the way people viewed American westerns.
So, when the television special Raquel! aired in 1970, and people heard John Wayne was going to be a guest star, a solid percentage of the population tuned in to watch.
Sonny And Cher Got Their Own Comedy Hour In 1971
While the rock duo Sonny and Cher were already wildly popular prior to 1971, it was that year when they were at the top of their game. The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour debuted that year as a replacement series for The Merv Griffin Show.
The comedy sketch series was an immediate hit, shooting to the Top 10 shows on television in 1971. During its run, Sonny and Cher’s series earned 13 Emmy nominations, winning one.
Robert De Niro Won Best Actor In 1975
In 1974, the second part of one of the most iconic films in cinematic history was released, The Godfather Part II. In the movie, Robert De Niro plays a young Vito Corleone, the soon-to-be head of the Corleone crime family.
The film was a hit, winning De Niro the Oscar for Best Supporting actor at the 47th Annual Academy Awards in 1975. That year, he was the most popular actor in Hollywood. His popularity status wasn’t going anywhere fast since the following year Taxi was released!
Sally Field Was All Over The 1980s
Actress Sally Field was pretty much the sweetheart of the 1980s. After winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for Norma Rae and Places in the Heart, Field was a household name for many.
But if we’re talking about the actual year of 1980, that was the year Field appeared in the comedy Smokey and the Bandit II, opposite another popular name of the time, Burt Reynolds. While she didn’t remain as popular as she was during the 80s, Field went on to make many more critically acclaimed films.
Eddie Murphy Continued To Make People Laugh In 1983
By the time 1983 rolled around, actor Eddie Murphy really didn’t need any help becoming popular. He was a regular on the hit show Saturday Night Live, hosting the Christmas episode in 1982, and was fresh off his successful debut film 48 Hrs.
So, when the film Trading Places was released in 1983, Murphy was one of the most popular stars in Hollywood. The movie wound up earning more in the box office than 48 Hrs, to the surprise of a lot of people.
Molly Ringwald Was The High School Princess In 1985
Fresh off the set of Sixteen Candles, actress Molly Ringwald was well on her way to becoming the most popular actress in Hollywood. The following year, in 1985, her place at the top of the totem pole was set with the release of the critically acclaimed coming-of-age film The Breakfast Club.
In the film, Ringwald plays Claire, aka “the Princess” of high school. And while Ringwald went on to star and appear in an array of other films and television shows through her career, 1985 will still be remembered as her peak popularity.
Bette Midler Was The Big Name Of 1988
After receiving an Academy Award nomination in 1979, it took a few years for actress Bette Midler to climb the popularity ladder in Hollywood. But she did it! And in 1988, Midler was one of the most talked-about actresses in the industry.
That year, Midler starred in two films, Big Business, where she plays a set of identical twins separated at birth, and Beaches, where she plays a singer. The former earned her an American Comedy Award nomination.