The story goes like this: Back in 1985, at a PEOPLE magazine staff meeting, a smoking hot picture of Mel Gibson, then 29, caused something of a stir. The editors were at a loss to think of a story to go with it, until somebody blurted out, "Just call him the Sexiest Man Alive." And so a franchise was born that has seeped deep into the American culture-one that, for better or worse (and that means you, Mel!), follows our title-holders for the rest of their lives.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Sexiest Man Alive, this year's winner, Ryan Reynolds, joins a fraternity that includes two-time recipients George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp-whom PEOPLE.com readers voted Sexiest Man of All Time. Reynolds, a Canadian, raises the count of international men to five. We've also crowned three guys over 50, including our oldest, Sean Connery, who was 59 in 1989. John F. Kennedy Jr., the youngest ever at 27 in 1988, and 1991's Patrick Swayze are our Sexiest Men who've sadly passed away.

Since 1985, some sexy attributes and attitudes have changed, as you'll see from the retrospective in this issue and on ABC's prime time Nov. 17 special, 25 Years of Sexy: PEOPLE Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive! hosted by Kim Kardashian. This year we added a Sexiest Man Alive on Facebook contest (congratulations on your win, Vin Diesel), and we've teamed with Charitybuzz for an online auction where you can bid on experiences such as a meet and greet with Prince William or a swimming lesson with Olympian Michael Phelps. Proceeds go to the stars' favorite charities. Log onto charitybuzz.com for more information.

Please join me in looking back, looking ahead and feasting your eyes on the fit and fabulous Ryan Reynolds.

LARRY HACKETT, MANAGING EDITOR