What Is the Fortune 100?

The Fortune 100 is a list of the top 100 companies in the United States within the Fortune 500, a list of the 500 largest U.S. public and privately held companies published by Fortune magazine. Fortune creates the list by ranking public and private companies that report annual revenue figures to a government agency. The 100 ranking is based on total revenues for the company's corresponding fiscal year.

Key Takeaways

  • The Fortune 100 consists of the top companies in the more significant annual Fortune 500 list.
  • The Fortune 500 has been around since 1955 and ranks companies by reported revenues for their fiscal year.
  • The Fortune 500 changed in 1994 to include a broader range of company types from different sectors.
  • In 2021, the top 100 companies included many healthcare companies.
  • The same big companies often show in the top 10, even if their rankings shift slightly, year after year, like Amazon and Walmart.

Understanding the Fortune 100

Fortune first published its first Fortune 500 in 1955. Since that year, the publisher has published an annual list of the top-500 revenue-producing companies. The Fortune 100 is an "unofficial" list within the Fortune 500.

The Fortune 100 described here is not the same as Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work for.

The Fortune 500 in 1955 was led by General Motors, a company that held the top position for more than 30 years. General Motors had revenues of $9.82 billion to top the list. The remaining nine rounded out as follows:

  • Exxon Mobil at $5.66 billion
  • U.S. Steel at $3.25 billion
  • General Electric at $2.96 billion
  • Esmark at $2.51 billion
  • Chrysler at $2.07 billion
  • Under Armour at $2.06 billion
  • Gulf Oil at $1.71 billion
  • Mobil at $1.70 billion
  • DuPont at $1.69 billion

Fortune includes in its 500 list all public and private companies that file financial statements with the government, and are incorporated and operate in the United States.

Requirements for the Fortune 100

At first, the magazine's editors were stricter on which business sectors were included. From 1955 to 1994, the Fortune 100 list (again, a subset of the Fortune 500 list) only included businesses in the manufacturing, mining, and energy sectors. This left out many of the top-earning companies across the country. However, Fortune did publish individual sector lists for the top 50 companies in the industries of banks, utilities, insurance, retailers, and transportation.

In 1994, Fortune expanded its list of companies to include service companies, opening the door for many newcomers to join. This change added many new companies to the top 100 companies on the Fortune 500 list and also dramatically increased the amount of annual revenue required to make the prestigious list.

The Fortune 500 does not include foreign companies, though many of the listed companies have significant international operations.

Walmart, which joined the list after 1994, was #1 in 2018 with $500.34 billion in revenue. It has been a frequent top 10 company since its inclusion.

2021 Fortune 100 Top 10

  1. Walmart
  2. Amazon
  3. Apple
  4. CVS Health
  5. UnitedHealth Group
  6. Berkshire Hathaway
  7. McKesson
  8. AmerisourceBergen
  9. Alphabet
  10. Exxon Mobil

How Are the Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 Different?

Based on rankings from Fortune magazine's Fortune 500 list, the Fortune 100 are the 100 largest public and private companies in the United States based on revenues. The Fortune 100 are a subset of the Fortune 500, derived from a list of companies that operate in the United States and report to federal agencies. Prior to 1994, the Fortune 100 only included companies that operated in the mining, manufacturing, and energy sectors. It has since included companies that operate in the services sector.

What Is the History of the Fortune 100?

In 1955, Fortune magazine established the Fortune 500 list. At the time, General Motors ranked at the top of the list with revenues in excess of $9.8 billion. This was a position that it continued to hold for the next three decades. Along with General Motors, many of the largest companies by revenue in 1955 are names that still exist today—including Chrysler, Exxon, and General Electric. 

What Is the Difference Between Fortune 100 and Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For?

The Fortune 500 ranks the highest revenue-generating companies in the United States each year. By contrast, the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For are ranked according to a survey of employees, who are asked about topics including trust in their organization, reaching their potential, and the effectiveness of leaders, among other variables. To be eligible, companies must employ at least 1,000 employees, and government agencies are not applicable.