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30 Celebrities Who Ruled the 1960s

Cary Grant

Cary Grant

With his debonair look and perfect Transatlantic accent, the actor formerly known as Archibald Leach was a smash in numerous Hitchcock films – and plenty of others. He did most of his best-known work in the late 50s, but he was still going strong enough in the 60s to star alongside Audrey Hepburn – and was an original contender to play James Bond.

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Doris Day

Doris Day

Doris Day went into the 60s having just struck gold with Pillow Talk. She went on to star in a huge string of romantic comedies alongside the likes of Rock Hudson and Cary Grant. She routinely set box office records as a leading lady. She even had a TV show – even though her ex-husband signed her up for it without her knowledge, it was a success for five years.

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Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe

The forward-thinking actress was an international sex symbol, and her dalliances with the likes of JFK, Joe DiMaggio, and Arthur Miller were the stuff of headlines.

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Rock Hudson

Rock Hudson

After ascending to stardom in the 1950s, Rock Hudson spent the 60s starring in a jaw-dropping number of romantic comedies with the likes of Julie Andrews and Doris Day. 

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The Beatles

The Beatles

It might seem wrong to include a whole band on here, but The Beatles’ fame wasn’t really like anything else at the time. They were obsessed over in a way that hadn’t been seen since the days of Liszt, and that hasn’t really been seen since. At least in those early days, their celebrity arguably outshone their music.

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Ann-Margret

Ann-Margret

The Swedish-born dancer-turned-actress became a hit after starring in Bye Bye Birdie and Viva Las Vegas. At one point her stardom was so intense that Elvis’s manager had her songs from Viva Las Vegas suppressed, for fear of her celebrity outshining his.

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Annette Funicello

Annette Funicello

In the 60s, Annette Funicello graduated from Mickey Mouse Club to teen idol. She helped kick off the beach movie craze with the wildly successful Beach Party, which spawned 11 sequels in just four years.

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John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy

JFK’s youth and charisma gave him a sort of weird stardom as a politician. His life was covered with the same breathlessness that papers covered pop stars – and he gave them plenty to talk about.

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Johnny Carson

Johnny Carson

Johnny Carson took over The Tonight Show in 1962 and became a pop culture sensation. His rein on the show lasted for 30 years, and he helped launch careers from Richard Pryor to Ellen DeGeneres. 

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Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson was a huge part of the New Hollywood moment, starring in countercultural classics like Easy Rider and The Monkees’ Head. While his success came later in the decade, his general style is closely tied to it.

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Zsa Zsa Gabor

Zsa Zsa Gabor

Zsa Zsa Gabor’s status as an actress and socialite had already been well-established. Having previously married the likes of Conrad Hilton and George Sanders, the 60s saw her continue to star in films and guest-star in TV shows (usually as parodies of herself). The decade also saw her fourth and fifth marriages.

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Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen’s comfort playing the antihero made him the star the 60s needed. Movies like The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, Bullitt, and The Thomas Crown Affair made him a megastar.

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Warren Beatty

Warren Beatty

From Splendor in the Grass in 1961, to directing his own Bonnie and Clyde in 1967, Beatty had a string of huge hits. He was as influential as anyone in the budding New Hollywood movement.

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Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol

Warhol’s daring pop art, his bold experimental film, his playfulness, and his brazen, open sexuality made him an instant icon, and an influence on the New York art scene (and modern art in general) that still echoes today.

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Jackie Kennedy Onassis

Jackie Kennedy Onassis

Independent of her famous husbands, Jackie O. represented a sort of optimistic glamour. Her fashion choices were widely-seen and often-imitated.

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Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier

Bahamian Sidney Poitier became the first black actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. From In the Heat of the Night to Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, Poitier secured a position as one of the all-time greats. 

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Raquel Welch

Raquel Welch

Raquel Welch became an instant icon after One Million Years B.C. She parlayed that celebrity into a series of roles that cemented her as a sex symbol – but not a submissive one. 

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Sean Connery

Sean Connery

Connery made some rough decisions later in his career – turning down The Matrix and Lord of the Rings. But in the 60s, it felt like he could do no wrong. In addition to playing James Bond, he starred in classics by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Sidney Lumet. 

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Charlton Heston

Charlton Heston

Before Heston was a political activist, he was the devastatingly attractive, and often shirtless, star of films like Ben-Hur and Planet of the Apes.

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Michael Caine

Michael Caine

A suave, young Michael Caine got attention in films like The Italian Job, Alfie, and The Ipcress File. He’s had pretty nonstop success since then, up to his current collaborations with director Christopher Nolan.

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Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren

Sofia Loren’s star had been on the rise for awhile, but in the 60s, she catapulted to international fame. The Italian actress commanded $1 million (matching a record set by Liz Taylor just one year prior) to star in The Fall of the Roman Empire. She starred alongside the likes of Paul Newman, Gregory Peck, and Marlon Brando, and found success across national borders in a way few people had. 

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Adam West

Adam West

For a whole generation of Baby Boomers, Adam West and Batman were on and the same. While the superhero boom we’re in now may seem overwhelming, the Batmania at the time was perhaps just as fervent – and basically focused on the one hero.

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Twiggy

Twiggy

When someone gets away with using a mononym, you know they’ve made it. Twiggy’s slender frame made her a perfect showcase for the direction fashion took in the 60s. She was dubbed “the face of ’66,” but she lasted longer than that. In 1967, The New Yorker devoted 100 pages to covering her.

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Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

Elvis was the King of Rock and Roll, but that label has been used so much that it sort of feels hollow. It doesn’t really communicate what a massive figure he was in the musical landscape during the 1960s. 

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Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn

Hepburn had been acting for awhile by the 60s, but most of her best-known work – like Charade, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and My Fair Lady – happened during the decade.

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Richard Burton

Richard Burton

The 1960s were arguably Richard Burton’s peak. After appearing in The Longest Day and having broadway success on Camelot, he was brought in as a replacement on Cleopatra. There he met second wife Elizabeth Taylor, and had great success starring alongside her throughout the decade.

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Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald

Some of the stars on this list shot to fame later in the decade. Ella’s heyday arguably came in at the start. In the mid-50s, she signed to Verve Records and began releasing a series of composer-centric albums that carried on until 1964. The “Songbook” albums almost singlehandedly defined the American pop standard, and established her as the quintessential performer for most of it.

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Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor had already seen teen stardom, followed by a transition into critical acclaim and popular success as an adult. But in 1963 she made headlines when she was paid a record $1 million to star in Cleopatra. The film was the biggest hit of the year, and led to her marriage to fifth husband Richard Burton, with whom she went on to star in 10 more films.

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Robert Redford

Robert Redford

The dreamy star was already bankable going into 1969. But that year was a huge turning point for Hollywood, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was part of that shift. Redford would continue to rule the 70s, and he founded one of the most influential film festivals in the world. 

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Paul Newman

Paul Newman

Like his Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid costar Robert Redford, Newman was basically royalty by the time that movie was made. His piercing blue eyes brought that much more intensity to films like Cool Hand Luke and The Hustler.

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