The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue has been getting bigger every year, but what a lot of fans don’t know is that the magazine dates all the way back to 1964 with just one model — Babette March. The special edition has since grown to account for 11% of Sports Illustrated‘s revenue in 2009 (that number is probably higher today) and become an international sensation.
For us, though, the draw has always been about the women. In the 49 years that the issue has been published, 125+ female models and celebrities have posed for the magazine. That’s a lotta hotties.
So in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the influential magazine, we’ve decided to rank the top 25 hottest SI Swimsuit Models of all-time. We would hope that you would be chivalrous enough to fight for your favorites in the comment section at the bottom.
25. Genevieve Morton: Genevieve is one of the office favorites who for some odd reason hasn’t gotten the shine she deserves. She was “Kate Upton” before Kate Upton. The South African model got her first start in Sports Illustrated in 2010 and has been in the magazine ever since.
24. Beyonce: Is there anything this fierce female hasn’t done? We love her GQ shoot as much as anyone but there’s no comparison to the photos she took when posing for the Special Edition of the 2007 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
23. Monica Bellucci: Monica’s been involved with a lot of stuff since her appearance in the magazine, so a lot of young guns will probably be surprised to know that she used to be in the Swimsuit Issue way back in 1991. Unfortunately, it was one and done.
22. Nina Agdal: Nina was last year’s Rookie of the Year, but that award alone isn’t enough to land you on this HOF list. No, Nina’s here because her work with VS and numerous other lingerie/swimwear companies show that she’s the real deal. Hell, she’s even rumored already to have landed the 2013 cover (but we’re not so sure about that).
10. Heidi Klum: If you now associate Hedi with her recent divorce from Seal or her work on Project Runway, you’re an idiot. This supermodel has been in eight issues since 1998 and graced the cover of the 1998 issue.
20. Carol Alt: The Queens-born stunner appeared in four consecutive issues from ’81-’84 (gracing the cover in ’82) then came back for the ’87 and ’89 editions.
19. Laetitia Casta: The 34-year-old French fox is best known for being the GUESS? Girl in ’93 and for her work with Victoria’s Secret from ’98-’00, but she also appeared in three consecutive SI issues.
18. Izabel Goulart: The 27-year-old Brazilian beauty is best known as one of the Victoria’s Secret Angels from 2005 to 2008, but also made a spalsh with her appearance in last year’s issue. That same year, she also made FHM Magazine‘s list of the “100 Sexiest Women In The World.”
17. Daniela Pestova: Yet another Czech model bringing the European fire, Daniela has been in four issues of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, earning the rights to be on the cover of the 2000 issue.
16. Irina Shayk: This Russian smokeshow is best known for her SI Swimsuit Issue appearances from 2007 to 2011. As of now she’s only got one cover appearance but considering that it was just last year, she makes a strong favorite for this year’s cover.
15. Ana Beatriz Barros: Featured in seven issues (2002-2008), this Brazilian beauty has yet to make it onto the cover. That’s the level of talent that this magazine brings to the table year after year.
14. Rachel Hunter: Born in New Zealand, Rachel is best known for her appearances in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She first rose to global prominence when she was featured as the Swimsuit Issue’s cover model in 1989 and has been in a total of five issues.
13. Rebecca Romijn: The American model and actress may now be known best for her role as Mystique in X-Men, but at one time this chick was one of the hottest Swimsuit Issue cover models. Rebecca’s been in five issues of SI, including a 1999 cover appearance.
12. Paulina Porizkova: This Czech-American model was the first woman from Central Europe to grace the cover of the SI Swimsuit Issue issue in 1984. Following up her strong performance with a consecutive cover appearance in 1985, Paulina was in a total of four issues (1983-1985).
11. Elle Macpherson: An Australian model known by the nickname “The Body,” Elle is perhaps best known for her record five cover appearances on the SI Swimsuit Issue. Not including her covers, Elle has been featured in an additional four issues.
21. Stephanie Seymour: Stephanie first appeared in the magazine in 1988, returned in 1989, and made one final appearance in 1991. She’s a perfect example of one of the forgotten beauties of issues-past.
9. Kate Upton: One of the newest entries to the 25 Sexiest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Models of all time, Kate has already left a very lasting impression. In only her first year, Kate was featured as an inset on the 2011 cover. We expect big things (and possibly a 3rd cover appearance) this year.
8. Christie Brinkley: Making a total of six Swimsuit Issue appearances, Christie first made her first cover in 1979. She made the next two consecutive covers in 1980-81. Fun fact: she’s the third richest model according to the Daily Mail.
7. Kathy Ireland: Having first posed for the Swimsuit Issue in 1984, she was featured on the pages for 13 consecutive years. While this alone would make her a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Kathy is only surpassed by cover appearances (3) by Elle Macpherson.
6. Bar Refaeli: After taking a one-year hiatus from the Swimsuit Issue, Bar came back and was hotter than ever last year. This Israeli hottie graced the cover once in 2009, posing for the issue three years before that. Why she chose to leave the iconic magazine, no one knows. We were just happy to have her back.
5. Cindy Crawford: Among the most popular supermodels of all time, Cindy graced the cover of the only SI Swimsuit Issue she was ever in. If that’s not star power, I don’t know what is.
4. Marisa Miller: Marisa was featured in every issue of the SI: Swimsuit Issue from 2002 to 2008. While she ended her run on a high by being the cover model, her most famous photo is probably found in the 2007 issue – she’s wearing only an iPod.
3. Tyra Banks: Tyra got her start in the SI Swimsuit Issue in 1996 as the cover model with Valeria Mazza. She made the cover a year later without anyone, making her the first African American woman to grace not only SI Swimsuit but also GQ. 1997 was huge for her because she also won VH1′s Supermodel of the Year.
2. Brooklyn Decker: The reason why every guy wants to be Andy Roddick and the only excuse to see Just Go With It, Brooklyn was featured as the cover model for 2010. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to keep Battleship from sinking. The good news is that she’s still sticking to her modeling day job.
1. Cheryl Tiegs: While the Minnesota-born Cheryl Tigs was featured on the cover of the SI Swimsuit Issue in 1970, 1975, and 1983, she is perhaps best known for the poster of her posing in a pink bikini – an iconic 70s pop culture image.