People's Sexiest Man AlivePatrick Swayze, 1991 - This year, Patrick Swayze was in the spotlight for his huge hit "Ghost" co-starring Demi Moore. This same year, Freddie Mercury of Queen died and the average price of a new house was $120,000.
People's Sexiest Man AliveNick Nolte, 1992 - This year, Nick Nolte starred in "Lorenzo's Oil" with Susan Sarandon. This same year Woody Allen left his long-term partner Mia Farrow after she discovered his secret affair with her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn.
People's Sexiest Man AliveRichard Gere, 1993 - This year, Richard Gere was banned as an Academy Award presenter after he denounced the Chinese government during a speech at the ceremony. This same year, Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" was a hit.
People's Sexiest Man AliveBrad Pitt, 1995 - This year, Brad Pitt starred in the thriller "Seven" alongside soon-to-be fiance Gwyneth Paltrow.
People's Sexiest Man AliveDenzel Washington, 1996 - This year, Denzel Washington starred in "The Preacher's Wife." This same year, Ali Landry was crowned Miss U.S.A.
People's Sexiest Man AliveGeorge Clooney, 1997 - This year, George Clooney was celebrated as the heartthrob in "ER." This same year, the movie "Titanic" was released.
People's Sexiest Man AliveHarrison Ford, 1998 - This year, Harrison Ford starred in "Six Days, Seven Nights." This same year, President Bill Clinton infamously uttered the words, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" and "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."
People's Sexiest Man AliveRichard Gere, 1999 - This year, Richard Gere scored his second "Sexiest Man Alive cover. This same year, Furbies were the coolest toy on the market.
People's Sexiest Man AliveBrad Pitt, 2000 - This year, Brad Pitt scored his second "Sexiest Man Alive" cover (following Gere's second). This same year, Jennifer Lopez wore that jaw-dropping green, barely-there Versace dress to the Grammys. She was also dating Puff Daddy (now known as Diddy).
People's Sexiest Man AlivePierce Brosnan, 2001 - This year, Pierce Brosnan married journalist Keeley Shaye Smith. This same year, Gisele Bundchen became fashion's "It" girl. And, of course, the 9/11 tragedy rocked the world and changed New York forever.
People's Sexiest Man AliveBen Affleck, 2002 - This year, Ben Affleck began dating Jennifer Lopez. This same year, Michael Jackson dangled Prince Michael II (aka Blanket) off a balcony from a Berlin hotel room.
People's Sexiest Man AliveJohnny Depp, 2003 - This year, Johnny Depp starred as Jack Sparrow in the first installment of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series. This same year, Angelina Jolie passionately kissed her brother, James Haven, at the Oscars while dressed like Morticia from the Addams Family.
People's Sexiest Man AliveJude Law, 2004 - This year, Jude Law's movie "Alfie" came out (the movie set where he met Sienna Miller). This same year, "Shrek 2" was the biggest movie and Janet Jackson flashed her breast at the Superbowl Halftime Show.
People's Sexiest Man AliveMatthew McConaughey, 2005 - This year, Matthew McConaughey starred in "Sahara" with Penelope Cruz. This same year, Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" was popular and Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah's couch.
People's Sexiest Man AliveGeorge Clooney, 2006 - This year, George Clooney won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in the Middle East thriller "Syriana." This same year, Zinedine Zidane headbutted Marco Materazzi during the World Cup Final.
People's Sexiest Man AliveMatt Damon, 2007 - This year, Matt Damon received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This same year, Anna Nicole Smith died of a drug overdose at age 39.
People's Sexiest Man AliveHugh Jackman, 2008 - This year, Hugh Jackman was also named as Open Salon's "Sexiest Man of the Year." This same year, "The Dark Knight" was the biggest movie.
People's Sexiest Man AliveJohnny Depp, 2009 - This year, Johnny Depp scored his second "Sexiest Man Alive" cover. This same year, Alan from "The Hangover" uttered, "You guys might not know this, but I consider myself a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack." Rihanna also faced domestic abuse at the hands of boyfriend Chris Brown.
People's Sexiest Man AliveRyan Reynolds, 2010 - This year, Ryan Reynolds announced his split from wife, actress Scarlett Johansson. This same year, Justin Bieber became the a heartthrob for tweens around the world.
People's Sexiest Man AliveBradley Cooper, 2011 - Bradley Cooper has been named People's "Sexiest Man Alive" for 2011. The actor was nothing but humble about his win. "My mother is going to be so happy," he said.
People Magazine has been awarding Hollywood hunks with the title Sexiest Man Alive since 1985, the year the magazine gave its first award to Mel Gibson.
People's Sexiest Man Alive honor has been compared to TIME's Person of the Year, though obviously People's accolade focuses mostly on physical attractiveness and celebrity clout.
The story of the award's origin roots back to an article on Mel Gibson in 1985. As the editors readied the story, Someone said, 'Oh my God, he is the sexiest man alive!' And someone said, 'You should use that as a cover line,' Julie Jordan, the magazine's special correspondent in L.A., told the Washington Post in 2007.
The honor has been bestowed at varying intervals of time over the past 26 years. No one was nominated in 1994 and there have been gaps of up to a year and a half between winners.
However, since 1997, the announcement typically comes in mid-November or early December.
So how do they decide on the victor each year?
We look at all the men who have created some sort of buzz or have been in front of the mainstream, said Jordan.
Bradley Cooper has been chosen as the Sexiest Man Alive for 2011.
Cooper's name has been in the headlines ever since his debut in Wedding Crashers followed by huge box offices hits (The Hangover movies, The A-Team, Limitless), a relationship with Renee Zellweger, and rumors of whirlwind romances with Olivia Wilde and Jennifer Lopez.
The studly star is quite modest about the win.
I'm waiting for Dax Shepard to come out, and that it's an episode of 'Punk'd,' Cooper said to People.
The 36-year-old actor is quite the heartthrob and certainly has a way with the ladies. He told People that the sexiest thing he has done to woo a woman was Getting on a plane to go get them.
Take a look at People magazine's Sexiest Man of the Year winners from the past 20 years.
Who is your favorite?
All cover images were retrieved from the People.com archives.