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It is better to look good than to feel good,” Billy Crystal used to say when he was doing his Fernando shtick on Saturday Night Live. A High-Flying ’80s concept, to be sure, one that came easily in the era of Reagan glitz and Dynasty glamor. Now, in the No-Fun ’90s, feeling good about yourself has become as important as looking good. Today’s heroes and heroines have improbable veneers: the Silver Fox, Barbara Bush; a Beast only a Beauty could love; and Thelma and Louise, a couple of pistol-packin’ rebels in search of self-respect. The blunt message: It’s what’s inside that counts.

But let’s not kid ourselves; what’s outside rates too. Beauty isn’t everything, but it’s a foot in the door. No matter how much the world values depth and sensitivity, whose head isn’t turned by a mane of fabulous hair, a sparkling eye, even a well-turned ankle? (We’re not kidding—see Iman, page 110.)

With that in mind, meet the 50 fantastic faces who made us do double takes this year. Some of our choices are perennials: Can anybody quibble with the divine Mel Gibson or the magical Michelle Pfeiffer? Others are new and intriguing: mambo king and Spanish heartthrob Antonio Banderas and exuberant young actress Halle Berry. Still others are Hall of Fame stunners who, because of a blissful life event, are suddenly sporting a new glow: Consider fresh-from-the-altar Elizabeth Taylor (newly 60) and Warren Beatty (newly 55).

So if there is a ’90s version of Billy Crystal’s slogan, it’s this: If you feel good, you look better. All of us, heavenly or homely, can aspire to that much at least. For a look at the lucky 50 who have managed to give pleasure to our senses, read on.