Famous 21st Century Activists

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai.
23
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: July 12, 1997
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Mingora, Swat, Pakistan

Named to Time 100 thrice, Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai exhibits phenomenal grit and inspires young girls everywhere. An assassination attempt by Islamic fundamentalists could not dampen her spirit, and she fought back with a bestselling memoir and won the Nobel Peace Prize as its youngest recipient, at 17.

 2 Joan Chandos Baez

Joan Chandos Baez.
8
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: January 9, 1941
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Staten Island, New York, United States

Singer, songwriter, musician, and activist Joan Baez has been active in the music world for over six decades. She emerged as a major musical figure in the counterculture era of the 1960s. Her music encompasses various genres like pop, folk-rock, country, and gospel music. She is involved in civil rights, human rights, and environmental activism as well.

 3 Steve Irwin

Steve Irwin.
11
Famous As: Television Personality
Birthdate: February 22, 1962
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Upper Ferntree Gully, Victoria, Australia
Died: September 4, 2006

Australian Steve Irwin was a world famous, high-spirited, lively host of The Crocodile Hunter television series. A conservationist, he was also part of other shows and documentaries on wildlife and environment. He was known for close encounters with some of the most dangerous and endangered animals in various jungles. He died after being pierced in the chest by a stingray barb while filming in Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

 4 Shailene Woodley

Shailene Woodley.
18
Famous As: Actress, Activist
Birthdate: November 15, 1991
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: San Bernardino County, California, United States

A child model at four and a television actor at eight, Shailene Woodley began working early and found fame with The Descendants, The Spectacular Now and the Divergent film series. She later gained tremendous appreciation for her work in the movie The Fault in Our Stars and HBO series Big Little Lies. The award winning actress is also an environmentalist and activist

 5 Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin.
4
Famous As: Singer & Activist
Birthdate: March 25, 1942
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Died: August 16, 2018

Widely regarded as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin was a singer-songwriter, actress, and civil rights activist. Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Aretha was ranked number one on Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Singers of All Time list in 2010. Having sold over 75 million records, she is also one of the best-selling musicians ever.

 6 Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden.
4
Famous As: Computer Professional, Former CIA Employee
Birthdate: June 21, 1983
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Elizabeth City, North Carolina, United States

A Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee who came into the limelight after leaking confidential information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013, Edward Snowden has been variously called a “hero", “whistle-blower", and “traitor". A controversial figure in USA, he was granted asylum in Russia, where he now lives with his wife.

 7 Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg.
62
Famous As: Environmental Activist
Birthdate: January 3, 2003
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Stockholm, Sweden

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg is known for her straightforward speaking manner in which she addresses world leaders for failing to take sufficient action regarding the climate change issue. She is considered a youth icon for starting the movement Fridays for Future. She has been included in Time magazine's 100 most influential people list.

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 8 Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks.
18
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: February 4, 1913
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Tuskegee, Alabama, United States
Died: October 24, 2005

Rosa Parks, “the first lady of civil rights,” was a pioneer in the American revolution against color segregation and racism. Her refusal to leave her bus seat to a white passenger gave rise to the iconic Montgomery Bus Boycott, which also led her to work with Martin Luther King Jr.

 9 Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu.
4
Famous As: Anti-Apartheid Activist
Birthdate: October 7, 1931
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Klerksdorp, South Africa
Desmond Tutu is known for his anti-Apartheid activism in South Africa. The first black Archbishop of Cape Town, he has also been the Bishop of Johannesburg. His efforts to eradicate AIDS, poverty, anti-LGBT sentiments, and human rights violations earned him the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

 10 Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson.
5
Famous As: Musician, Activist
Birthdate: April 29, 1933
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Abbott, Texas, United States

An accomplished musician and one of the most popular names of the late 20th century American country music, Willie Nelson garnered fame with his albums Shotgun Willie, Red Headed Stranger, Stardust and Always on My Mind. The multiple Grammy award winning musician, who continues to record even today, has also appeared in numerous films and authored a number of books.

 11 Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky.
5
Famous As: Linguist
Birthdate: December 7, 1928
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States

Regarded by many as the father of modern linguistics, Noam Chomsky has authored over 100 books on varied topics, such as politics, linguistics, and war. A multi-talented personality, Noam Chomsky is considered a popular figure in analytic philosophy. Apart from influencing a wide array of academic fields, he has also contributed to the development of cognitivism.

 12 Julian Assange

Julian Assange.
4
Famous As: Computer programmer
Birthdate: July 3, 1971
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Townsville, Australia

Julian Assange made headlines all over the world in 2010 when WikiLeaks, a non-profit organization founded by him, gained international attention after publishing leaks, such as the Afghanistan war logs and Iraq war logs. After dodging arrest for several years, he was finally arrested in 2019 and is currently imprisoned in HM Prison Belmarsh.

 13 Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie.
13
Famous As: Actress, Filmmaker, Activist
Birthdate: June 4, 1975
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, U.S

A fashion icon, acclaimed actress, influential humanitarian and Special Envoy for the UNHCR, Angelina Jolie is a highly noted celebrity in Hollywood. She has been hailed for her philanthropic efforts around the globe and praised for her power packed performances. Mother of six, of whom three are adopted, Angelina Jolie is a role model for the women of this generation.

 14 Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky.
7
Famous As: American Television Personality
Birthdate: July 23, 1973
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States

Activist and TV personality, Monica Lewinsky, is a former White House intern who was involved in an affair with Bill Clinton, an incident that later became known as the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. The scandal brought her international publicity and she eventually became a successful businesswoman. She is also a social activist who speaks against cyberbullying.

 15 Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox
7
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 29, 1972
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Mobile, Alabama, United States

 16 Betty White

Betty White.
10
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: January 17, 1922
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Oak Park, Illinois, United States

Betty White, American actress and comedian, is considered as the pioneer of television and has had the longest television career of any entertainer, straddling more than 80 years. She’s known for her award-winning performances in shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls and Hot in Cleveland

 17 Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall.
6
Famous As: Primatologist
Birthdate: April 3, 1934
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London, England

Jane Goodall is an English anthropologist and primatologist. Goodall's research proved that chimpanzees could use tools like stalks of grass to fish out termites from termite holes; this also challenged the long-held belief that chimpanzees were vegetarians. Goodall also discovered that chimpanzees are capable of emotions like sorrow and joy. Goodall is also credited with founding the Jane Goodall Institute.

 18 Amal Clooney

Amal Clooney.
10
Famous As: Lawyer, Activist
Birthdate: February 3, 1978
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Beirut, Lebanon

Amal Clooney is a Lebanese-British barrister, specializing in human rights and international law. Her clients include popular and influential personalities like Yulia Tymoshenko, Nadia Murad, and Julian Assange. Her work and philanthropic activities gained media coverage after her wedding to actor George Clooney. The Clooneys are well-known philanthropists and are founders of the Clooney Foundation for Justice.

 19 Jessica Lange

Jessica Lange.
6
Famous As: Actress & Producer
Birthdate: April 20, 1949
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Cloquet, Minnesota, United States

Jessica Lange is a prominent actress with over four decades of experience in Hollywood. She is one of the few female performers to achieve the “Triple Crown of Acting,” having won an Academy Award, Emmy Award, and Tony Award. She has appeared in many critically acclaimed films. Also a photographer, she has published four books.

 20 Bea Arthur

Bea Arthur.
5
Famous As: Actress, Activist
Birthdate: May 13, 1922
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Died: April 25, 2009

American actress Bea Arthur worked extensively in television and was hailed for her comic timing. All in the Family, Maude and The Golden Girls are some of her acclaimed series. In her long career, she also worked in films like Lovers and Other Strangers, History of the World 1 and For Better or Worse. She won many accolades, including two Emmy awards.

 21 Fran Drescher

Fran Drescher.
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: September 30, 1957
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Kew Gardens, New York, United States

Fran Drescher is an American actress and comedian. Characterized by her thick New York accent and nasal voice, Fran Drescher serves as an inspiration to many cancer patients as she successfully fought off the disease after suffering from uterine cancer. She is also an outspoken LGBT rights activist and healthcare advocate.

 22 Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd.
4
Famous As: Actress, Political activist
Birthdate: April 19, 1968
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Granada Hills, Los Angeles, California, United States

Ashley Judd is a popular American actress who is vocal about topics, such as sexual assault. As a three-time rape survivor—as claimed by her—Ashley serves as an inspiration to rape survivors around the world. Known for her humanitarian work, Ashley has worked on gender equality for over a decade. She is also famous for her political activities.

 23 Woody Harrelson

Woody Harrelson.
0
Famous As: Actor, Activist
Birthdate: July 23, 1961
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Midland, Texas, United States

Actor Woody Harrelson has been active in the entertainment world for over 40 years now. The son of a convicted hit-man, he had a difficult childhood and grew up in poverty. However, he was determined to build a good life for himself and earned a BFA in theater before venturing into acting. He is a vegan and an environmental activist.

 24 Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood.
6
Famous As: Writer, Environmental Activist
Birthdate: November 18, 1939
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Margaret Atwood is a Canadian poet and novelist. Her works encompass themes, such as religion and myth, climate change, and gender and identity. An award-winning writer, many of Atwood's works have been made into films and television series; her work, The Handmaid's Tale, has had several adaptations. Perhaps, Margaret Atwood's most important contribution is her invention of the LongPen device.

 25 Mark Ruffalo

Mark Ruffalo.
2
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 22, 1967
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kenosha, Wisconsin, United States

An actor best known for playing Bruce Banner / Hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero films, Mark Ruffalo has been active in Hollywood for over three decades. Even though he began acting in the late 1980s, he started getting noticed for his skills only in the 2000s. He has been nominated for numerous awards, including an Academy Award.

 26 Kate Walsh

Kate Walsh.
6
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 13, 1967
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: San Jose, California, United States
Kate Walsh is best known as Dr. Addison Montgomery from Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice. Fans also loved her as Mrs. Baker from the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Kate is also known for her political activism. She has also launched a beauty and lifestyle brand named Boyfriend LLC.

 27 Bindi Irwin

Bindi Irwin
6
Famous As: Television Personality
Birthdate: July 24, 1998
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Buderim, Australia

Daughter of legendary Australian wildlife expert The Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, Bindi Irwin has followed in her father’s footsteps and is now a renowned conservationist and TV personality. Her stint on Bindi the Jungle Girl made her the youngest Daytime Emmy winner. She is also associated with the Australia Zoo.

 28 Kailash Satyarthi

Kailash Satyarthi.
4
Famous As: Child Rights Activist
Birthdate: January 11, 1954
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Vidisha, India

 29 Jameela Jamil

Jameela Jamil.
6
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: February 25, 1986
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Hampstead, London, England

Jameela Jamil, who works as an actress, model, writer, and radio presenter, is a fighter in every sense of the word; she fought conditions like hearing loss, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, coeliac disease, and anorexia nervosa before establishing herself as an entertainer. Not to mention a car accident that damaged her spine when she was 17 years old!

 30 Manute Bol

Manute Bol
4
Famous As: Basketball player
Birthdate: October 16, 1962
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Gogrial, Sudan
Died: June 19, 2010

Known for his 7’ 7” frame, Manute Bol made headlines as one of the tallest NBA players ever. Born in Sudan, he was initially a soccer player but quit it because of his height. He later moved to the US to represent basketball teams such as the Golden State Warriors.

 31 Lupita Nyong'o

Lupita Nyong'o.
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: March 1, 1983
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Mexico City, Mexico

Lupita Nyong'o is one of the most popular black actresses of all time. The first Kenyan-Mexican actress to receive the prestigious Academy Award, Lupita Nyong'o has often been named in lists, such as the world's most beautiful woman. In 2020, she was named by Forbes magazine as one of Africa's 50 Most Powerful Women.

 32 Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou.
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: April 4, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: May 28, 2014
Poet, author, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou was a champion for black feminism and is best remembered for her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sing. The recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and over 50 honorary degrees was also a child sex abuse survivor.

 33 Kim Seok-jin

Kim Seok-jin.
6
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: December 4, 1992
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Gwacheon, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea

As a member of the popular South Korean boy band BTS, Kim Seok-jin is idolized in Korea and drooled over by girls across Asia. One of the most popular singer-songwriters in Korea, Kim Seok-jin is popular for his falsetto voice. Also a well-known philanthropist, Kim is a UNICEF Honors Club inductee.

 34 Jesse Williams

Jesse Williams.
4
Famous As: Model, Actor, Activist
Birthdate: August 5, 1981
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Jesse Williams is best known as Dr. Jackson Avery from Grey's Anatomy. He has also been part of films such as The Cabin in the Woods and The Butler, and has done voice-work for video games such as Markus in Detroit: Become Human. Williams is also associated with Black activism.

 35 Common

Common
8
Famous As: Rapper
Birthdate: March 13, 1972
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: South Side, Chicago, Illinois, United States

 36 Bradley Whitford

Bradley Whitford
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 10, 1959
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Best known as Josh Lyman from The West Wing, Bradley Whitford is a Juilliard-trained and Primetime Emmy-winning actor. Also known for his roles in series such as The Mentalist and movies such as Billy Madison, he also launched the charity Clothes off Our Back, which mostly donates to children’s non-profits.

 37 Carrie Symonds

Carrie Symonds.
9
Famous As: Boris Johnson'Partner
Birthdate: 1988 AD
Birthplace: East Sheen, South London
Carrie Symonds, the fiancée of British prime minister Boris Johnson, is the first unmarried partner of a prime minister to stay at 10 Downing Street. A former Conservative Party press officer, she now works with Oceana. She was the youngest victim to testify against serial sexual offender John Worboys. 

 38 Elizabeth Smart

Elizabeth Smart.
11
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: November 3, 1987
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

Elizabeth Smart is a child safety activist who gained national attention when she was kidnapped from her home at the age of 14. She was held captive for nine months before she was rescued by the cops. Smart went on to become an activist and works against human trafficking and abduction. In 2011, she became the founder of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation.

 39 Rosalia

Rosalia
5
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: September 25, 1993
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Sant Esteve Sesrovires, Spain

 40 Ali MacGraw

Ali MacGraw.
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: April 1, 1939
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Pound Ridge, New York

A veteran actress with a career spanning over half a century, Ali MacGraw first came to prominence in the 1970s after acting in many popular action and romantic films. She was also active on the stage and in TV shows. Besides acting, she has been an animal rights advocate throughout her life.

 41 Anna Friel

Anna Friel.
5
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: July 12, 1976
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Rochdale, Lancashire, England, UK

Anna Friel is a British actress who gained international recognition after portraying Charlotte "Chuck" Charles on the popular American fantasy mystery TV series Pushing Daisies. After starting her professional acting career at the age of 13, Friel went on to establish herself as a successful adult actress. Friel also serves as an ambassador for The World Wide Fund for Nature.

 42 Indya Moore

Indya Moore
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: January 17, 1995
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York, United States

 43 Patti Smith

Patti Smith.
4
Famous As: Singer & Musician
Birthdate: December 30, 1946
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Patti Smith is an American singer-songwriter. Referred to as the punk poet laureate, Smith became an influential figure of the punk rock movement with the release of her album Horses. Many world-renowned musicians, such as Madonna and Michael Stipe, have cited Smith as their inspiration. Even actresses like Ellen Page and Maria Doyle Kennedy have called Smith a major influence.

 44 Pia Wurtzbach

Pia Wurtzbach.
4
Famous As: Model, Actress
Birthdate: September 24, 1989
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Stuttgart, Germany

Pia Wurtzbach is a Filipino-German beauty queen who participated in the 64th Miss Universe pageant where she was crowned Miss Universe 2015. Wurtzbach is also a model, actress, and TV personality; she had to quit her showbusiness career temporarily to participate in the beauty pageant. She is also an advocate for gender equality and works towards raising awareness of HIV.

 45 Jodie Whittaker

Jodie Whittaker
6
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: June 17, 1982
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Skelmanthorpe, West Yorkshire, England, UK

English actor Jodie Whittaker made waves with her debut film Venus, which earned her a Satellite Award nomination. She made headlines when she became the first female to play the doctor in Doctor Who. She is also known for her roles in Black Mirror and Broadchurch.

 46 Doris Roberts

Doris Roberts.
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: November 4, 1925
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: April 17, 2016

Five-time Emmy Award-winning actor Doris Roberts is best remembered as Marie Barone from the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond and as Mildred Krebs from Remington Steele. She also appeared on various talk/game shows and in films such as The Honeymoon Killers. She was a prominent animal rights activist, too.

 47 Jazz Jennings

Jazz Jennings.
5
Famous As: LGBTQ Rights Activist, Internet Personality, Spokesmodel
Birthdate: October 6, 2000
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Florida

 48 Cybill Lynne Shepherd

Cybill Lynne Shepherd.
9
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: February 18, 1950
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Cybill Shepherd is best known for her roles in films such as The Heartbreak Kid, Taxi Driver, and Alice. Fans also loved her for her Golden Globe-winning portrayals of Madelyn 'Maddie' Hayes in the series Moonlighting and Cybill Sheridan in the sitcom Cybill. She is a follower of goddess-worshipping Paganism.

 49 Anita Hill

Anita Hill
6
Famous As: Attorney
Birthdate: July 30, 1956
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Morns, Oklahoma, USA

 50 Walton Goggins

Walton Goggins
10
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 10, 1971
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Birmingham, Alabama, USA

Walton Goggins is best known for his Emmy-nominated performance in Justified and has also played a long-running role in The Shield. His short film The Accountant won an Academy Award. He is an avid traveler and photographer, too, and also co-owns the spirits company Mulholland Distilling.