50 Famous Photos That Changed Our World

Published September 5, 2021
Updated November 7, 2023

From Tank Man to the Burning Monk, see the famous photos that captured the attention of the world and changed history in ways we can still feel today.

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Many of history's most famous photos are burned into our brains whether we realize it or not — even if we don't know the stories behind them.

Take "Tank Man," the iconic image of a man standing in the middle of the road as an entire row of tanks heads toward him. We understand the power of this image even if we know little of its circumstances.

Then there's the "Burning Monk," which shows Thich Quang Duc burning to death stoically after lighting himself on fire in protest. And, again, even if we have no idea what he was protesting or don't recognize the name Thich Quang Duc, we know that image and we know its power.

Modern history is filled with famous photos like these, images that speak to all of us in ways we can sometimes barely articulate. They show us the very best that humanity is capable of as well as the very worst, and everything in between.

Thus, whether we know the stories behind these famous photos or not, they define our history itself. One could all but compile a survey of the 20th century itself, for example, using only photos like the ones included in the gallery above.

Click through the gallery to see these iconic photos and learn a little about the stories behind them. From Tank Man to Burning Monk to the moon landing, the Kennedy assassination, D-Day, the moon landing, and beyond, the influential images above provide a history lesson more powerful than any you've ever experienced before.

For more famous photos, be sure to visit our posts on life inside North Korea and the best photographs on All That Is Interesting. Then, see how photographer Kevin Carter took one iconic image that changed the world and ultimately helps explain why he took his own life.

Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
Cite This Article
Cox, Savannah. "50 Famous Photos That Changed Our World." AllThatsInteresting.com, September 5, 2021, https://allthatsinteresting.com/influential-photographs. Accessed April 21, 2024.