By Mandi Bierly
April 29, 2010 at 07:32 PM EDT

Image Credit: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images; Koichi Kamoshida/Getty ImagesTime has released its annual list of the world’s most influential people — 100 artists, heroes, leaders, and thinkers who affect our world. You’ll find Iron Man director Jon Favreau explaining how Elon Musk was the inspiration for Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark in Thinkers, and Bono waxing poetic on Bill Clinton and Robert De Niro riffing on Ben Stiller ( in Heroes. But obviously, it’s the Artists category we flipped to first. Among those making the cut: Conan O’Brien, Glee‘s Lea Michele, Lost‘s Carlton Cruse and Damon Lindelof, James Cameron, Sandra Bullock, Simon Cowell, Robert Pattinson, Oprah Winfrey, Taylor Swift, District 9 director Neill Blomkamp, Elton John, Prince, Ricky Gervais, Ashton Kutcher, Penny Arcade’s Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, fashion designer Marc Jacobs, chef David Chang, conductor Valery Gergiev, blogger Han Han, artist Banksy, and authors Suzanne Collins and Chetan Bhagat. Three of the write-ups that stood out for me:

Neil Patrick Harris, by Joss Whedon: “He’s been nominated for an Emmy three times for his role as hetero hound Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother not because he’s playing straight but because he’s very funny. He made the issue of his sexuality disappear without desexualizing himself. He can get the girl and sing about the boys, and it all works. The public’s perception of gay men is shifting because of this guy, and they’ll be too entertained to notice. That’s more than a good trick. That’s magic.”

Lady Gaga, by Cyndi Lauper: “When I see somebody like Gaga, I sit back in admiration. I’m inspired to pick up the torch again myself. I did an interview with her once, and she showed up with a sculpture on her head. I thought, How awesome. Being around her, I felt like the dust was shaken off of me. I find it very comforting to sit next to somebody and not have to worry that I look like the freak. She isn’t a pop act, she is a performance artist. She herself is the art. She is the sculpture.”

Kathryn Bigelow, by Oliver Stone: “Yet despite enormous accolades, her film is considered a financial failure — like all films about the Iraq war. The question lingers: Why, despite our country’s love affair with violence, do Americans refuse to see these realistic films? With The Hurt Locker, Bigelow unflinchingly stuck her finger in the tragic heart of a national wound — our inability to face ourselves.”

What do you think of Time‘s influential artist picks?