2008's Sexiest Men Alive
He's a triple threat: a star who can sing, dance and wield a weapon. At 6 ft. 2 in., all scruff and biceps, Jackman, then 40, looms large in the epic Australia, and left people stammering, "Oh ... my ... God," according to costar Nicole Kidman. Jackman's wife of 12 years, Deborra-Lee Furness, calls his perfect form "the Body of Doom – but I like what's inside": a romantic who sings ballads at home and makes pancakes for kids Oscar, 8, and Ava, 3.
So who is his favorite Bond girl? The "one on my arm," says Craig, now 41, who brought longtime girlfriend Satsuki Mitchell to his London premiere of the latest 007 film, Quantum of Solace. But the British actor's current onscreen Bond girl, Olga Kurylenko, isn't so shy about 'fessing up to playing favorites, saying of Craig, "He suits the part of James Bond perfectly."
"I try to be a good person. I'm loyal and I'm trustworthy. I'm kind," says the Mad Men star, then 37, who has been in a 10-year relationship with actress Jennifer Westfeldt. "And I'm a really good driver."
As he gets older, the High School Musical 3 star finds himself graduating from a "jeans and sandals" wardrobe to a more sophisticated look. "There's something timeless about suits," says Efron, then 21. "A few years ago I didn't own a single one. Now I've got a small collection going."
What keeps this former economic consultant in the gym? "Being half-naked in front of millions of strangers," says Buckley, then 27, of his work on Lipstick Jungle. Next up: Lifetime's Flirting with Forty, with Heather Locklear.
A star since his L.A. Law days, the Dirty Sexy Money actor, now 45, is still surprised by his effect on women. Once at school drop-off, "a mother came up and grabbed my butt cheeks! And I'm like, 'How is that okay?' I was so caught off-guard that I couldn't help but laugh," says the married dad of three. He's shocked, but his kids "find it entertaining."
How did Gossip Girl's bad boy sum up his dating style at 21? "I'm childish at times, passionate, a little crazy, I guess," says the actor, now 22. "And I pride myself on being one of the last romantics." Oh, and ladies, just FYI: "My weakness is the neck – when girls get too close to my neck, crazy things start to happen."
What do you do after winning eight gold medals and shattering world records at the Beijing Olympics? If you're Phelps, then 23, you enjoy "being lazy." As for the overnight female attention, the Baltimore native says, "I don’t really notice it. ... I don't think of myself as a sex symbol. My mom is by far the most important woman in my life."
His appeal? A well-worn truck, says country singer Shelton, now 33, who dates songstress Miranda Lambert and has a new CD, Startin' Fires. "The wussiest thing a guy can do is drive a clean truck. Dents, scratches and mud – that's manly."
"When you play the piano, you feel your blood pressure go up," says the single Chinese-born virtuoso, then 26, who performed in the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. "You become part of it. It's a very sexy instrument."
The star once known as Saved By the Bell's Zack has been married for 13 years, has two kids and plays an ace lawyer in Raising the Bar. "My legal education comes from watching Law amp Order and NYPD Blue." Fans still love his hair – so much so that TNT created an online game about it. As for him, he says, "I'm a guy. I don't get my hair cut unless I need to."
His girlfriend Penélope Cruz raves, "He's an amazing actor!" His Oscar-winning performance in No Country for Old Men certainly proved that, though Bardem, now 40, once joked that it would take three months for him to get laid thanks to his haircut in the movie.
"Last year all I was trying to do was get a girlfriend," says Pattinson, then 22, Twilight's resident vampire and previously Harry Potter's Quidditch foil, Cedric. "What happened? It's like the face of what is attractive has changed. Girls used to want to see guys take their shirts off. Now it's, 'I want you to bite me.' It's bizarre."
What's changed since he was a Dawson's Creek pinup? "I'm not nearly as embarrassed being called attractive at 30. At 18, you're tall, gawky, bad haircut. Somebody tells you you're a heartthrob and you feel like a fraud. At 30, I'm happy, I'm in love," says Jackson, now 31, dating actress Diane Kruger and starring on FOX's paranormal drama Fringe. "I can take it all with a grain of salt."
The soccer star, now 34, made a lot of women happy when he posed in just his underwear for Emporio Armani (country singer Miranda Lambert, whose boyfriend Blake Shelton is among PEOPLE's Sexiest Men, says, "That Armani ad sort of changed my life"). Alas, except one: his mum. "When the photos came out," Beckham says, "she was the first one to call me and say, 'What are you doing?' "
See who else made the list in PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive issue, on stands Friday!