What Makes An Icon?
Pop culture icons represent some of the most famous and widely-known celebrities in the world. While some celebs might only be known within their respective circles and industries, nearly everyone will recognise an icon, even if they might not necessarily consume the medium in which they’re famous.
For example, nearly everyone knows pop icon Michael Jackson as a legendary singer and dancer, even if they don’t actively listen to his genre of music, or even music in general.
The biggest icons can even be described as having ‘defined a decade’. The Beatles defined the sound of the 60s, for instance, while Madonna was the queen of the 80s.
Some of the names on our list are so famous by themselves that their stardom transcends their nationality. Many fans might not even know that they’re Australian if they regularly portray American roles on TV, or if they’re singers with a neutral accent!
The Top 11 Famous Australian Icons
There’s been a wide variety of Australian TV personalities, music icons, sporting icons, and other celebrities who have shaped the pop culture landscape over the last couple of decades. Here are some of the best-known Australian men and women who’ve become pop culture icons.
11. Hugh Jackman
It would’ve been easy for Hugh Jackman to be typecast as his iconic role of Wolverine in the X-Men series, which he held onto for seventeen years. But since then, he’s been cast in a huge spectrum of memorable roles, including Les Miserables, The Prestige, and The Greatest Showman. As a hugely flexible film and theatrical actor, he’s definitely one of Australia’s best.
10. Olivia Newton-John
Who could forget Olivia Newton John’s neon-coloured workout costumes in ‘Physical’, or her starring performance in Grease? With 100 million records sold, four Grammys and one of the most successful film soundtracks in history, Olivia is one of the most iconic singer-songwriters not just in Australia, but of all time.
9. Kylie Minogue
Kylie Minogue is one of the seminal princesses of pop, a veritable Britney Spears of the early 90s. She’s sold over 60 million records, and has taken home dozens of awards for her music. Adding to her fame was a successful battle with breast cancer, which saw her return triumphantly in a massive 2006 homecoming tour.
8. Ben Simmons
The newest, youngest member of the list, basketball star Ben Simmons is easily the most widely popular Australian athlete in recent memory. He had an award-winning college basketball career that quickly led to his NBA career in 2016. He’d go on to land the 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year title, then appeared in the 2019 All-Star games.
7. Eric Bana
While Eric Bana started his celebrity life as a comedian on Australian TV, he had a huge Hollywood acting career in the 2000s, with a rapid-fire string of triple-A films that started with Black Hawk Down in 2001. He’d go on to have starring roles in Hulk, Troy, Munich, and The Other Boleyn Girl, culminating in no less than five appearances in 2009 including The Time Traveler’s Wife and Star Trek. Since then, he’s maintained a somewhat low acting profile, with mostly supporting roles in the years since.
6. Paul Hogan
Paul Hogan is best known for playing Crocodile Dundee, one of the most famous Australian characters of all time. His comedic chops allowed him to portray the titular bushman with great success, and Crocodile Dundee became the second-highest-grossing film of 2016, making $USD 328-million ($AUD 485-million) on a shoestring budget of $USD 8.8-million ($AUD 13-million). His performance created one of the most internationally famous Australian heroes ever.
5. In Memoriam: Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger’s life might have been tragically cut short, but his legacy lives on through an array of tremendous performances. From his breakout role in 10 Things I Hate About You, to his critically-acclaimed performance in Brokeback Mountain, and ultimately his truly iconic magnum opus as the Joker in The Dark Knight, nearly everything he touched was a magnificent work of art.
4. Chris Hemsworth
Perhaps no Australian has had such a rapid pop culture apotheosis as Chris Hemsworth, whose role as Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe catapulted him to instant fame, captivating audiences all over the world and scoring him literal billions in the box office. But he didn’t stop there – he’s also appeared in Rush and Cabin in the Woods, where he showcased a diverse range that dispelled any notions that he was nothing more than a thunderous beefcake.
3. Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett’s classy, ethereal demeanour and tremendous acting range has earned her a place among the greatest of Hollywood’s thespians, with iconic and award-winning roles such as Galadriel in Lord of the Rings and Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator. She’s also been recognised as one of TIME’s 100 most influential people, and also among the highest-paid actresses in the world.
2. Russell Crowe
Russell Crowe was arguably one of the biggest stars of the 2000s, with two consecutive critically-acclaimed roles in 2000 and 2001 for Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind respectively. His dual performances in A Beautiful Mind and Master and Commander with co-star Paul Bettany created one of the most chemistry-driven acting duos in the industry. He became Hollywood’s go-to man for powerful, serious performances in historical epics and fantasy films, and in 2015 he made his directorial debut with The Water Diviner.
1. Nicole Kidman
As one of the most famous Australian stars ever, Nicole Kidman has made her mark on Hollywood with a wide array of blockbusters and critically-acclaimed flicks alike. From Eyes Wide Shut to Moulin Rouge, her award-winning, world-renowned filmography alone is enough to make her a pop culture icon. But on top of that, her power couple status with Tom Cruise made her one of the biggest celebrities of her time.
Australian celebrities are perhaps our best cultural exports, and with the rise of a new wave of Australian celebs (like the amazing Margot Robbie), it doesn’t look like we’re going to be slowing down anytime soon!