(i•con also i•kon (i’kon’) n. [Lat. 1. a. An image: representation. b. A simile or symbol.)
Carving down an Icons of the Century list to a mere 100 and making sure that list represents the wide variety of entertainment Variety has covered throughout the century was a daunting task.
We measured our Icons by creative, commercial and social impact, weighing factors such as international recognizability, but also taking account of innovation, emulation and odds against success. We polled the entertainment community,
Variety‘s far-flung editorial team and our readers via Variety.com.
We learned along the way the difference between “iconic” and “impactful.” Some of the greatest figures in entertainment history changed the way we think about and relate to their art form and our world. But they weren’t Icons.
Some amazing artists from decades ago were iconic for their times, but unlike Chaplin, their artistic impact waned or virtually disappeared. So they were Icons, but their iconic status hasn’t endured.
Some working in the past decade or so show great promise, but they’re not yet iconic.
Finally, there were figures who were iconic, impactful and enduring, but there was another figure from their particular field who outshone them.
In addition to the 100 Icons of the Century, this section also celebrates iconic movie, TV, American pop culture and Oscar moments, major moguls and groundbreaking deals. We’ve tallied up the literary figures who’ve driven so many great entertainment dramas, comedies and adventures. In a nod to our theatrical roots, we’ve examined the stage impresarios and playwrights and we’ve taken stock of the century’s key music movers and shakers.
Here’s to the symbols of Variety‘s past century of entertainment. May they inspire, intimidate and motivate everyone toiling in the biz today to make the list 100 years from now.
Icons written by: Josef Adalian, Bill Bentley, Steve Chagollan, Lawrence Christon, Amy Dawes, Phil Gallo, Steven Gaydos, Richard S. Ginell, Lisa Hirsch, John Hopewell, Carole Horst, Sharon Knolle, Jan Lindstrom, Keith McCarthy, David Mermelstein, Michael Schneider, David Sprague.