By the 1970s, the list was mainly comprised of members of organized crime syndicates. In the 1980s, the list was dominated by drug criminals and serial murderers. Since the 1990s, the list has included members of large drug trafficking cartels, pedophiles and money launderers.
Increasingly, the list has reflected U.S. concerns with international terrorism, featuring both Ramzi Yousef, charged with masterminding the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, and Osama bin Laden, head of al Qaeda.
Of the nearly 500 fugitives whose names have appeared on the list, just eight of what the FBI calls "Top Tenners" have been women.
The first woman added to the list was Ruth Eisemann-Schier, who, in December 1968, was wanted for the kidnapping of 20-year-old heiress Barbara Jane Mackle. Seventy-nine days after the kidnapping, Eisemann-Schier was arrested in Oklahoma. Tried and convicted, she spent four years in prison.
The most recent woman to appear on the list, Shauntay Henderson, wanted for murder, spent just 24 hours on the list on March 31, 2007.
Though the FBI has a nearly 94 percent rate for apprehending fugitives who make the Top Ten, the Feds don't always get their man.
In May 1981, Donald Eugene Webb's name was added to the list, accused of killing a small town police chief in Pennsylvania. Webb remained on the list for 25 years and 10 months, making him the person to remain on the list the longest. He was removed from the Top Ten in 2007, but has never been captured. Today he would be 78 years old. The FBI did not say why Webb was taken off the list other than to say he no longer fit the criteria for a most wanted felon.
By contrast, Billy Austin Bryant spent the shortest amount of time on the list, just two hours from 5 to 7 p.m. on Jan. 8, 1969.
For many agents, capturing a top tenner is the highlight of a career spent in pursuit of America's most hardened criminals.
Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent who works as a consultant for ABC News, was the first agent to question Ramzi Yousef following his capture in 1995.
Garret remembered just how influential the Top Ten list was in that initial interrogation.
Yousef refused to acknowledge who he was, so Garrett showed him a copy of the list, with his picture on it.
"I just happened to get my hands on a 'Top Ten' wanted poster and I held it up," Garrett said. "I said, 'Is Ramzi Yousef one of [the names you go by]?'" To which Youself said, "Oh, yeah. That's me in the picture.'"
Yousef is one example of when U.S. political and criminal history collide, but for Brad Bryant, head of the FBI's major offenders unit, no capture has been more significant than that of James Earl Ray, one of America's most infamous assassins.
On April 20, 1968, 16 days after shooting Martin Luther King Jr. at the Loraine Hotel in Memphis, Ray was added to the Most Wanted list. A little more than two months after the assassination, Ray was arrested at London's Heathrow Airport.
Nine years later, in 1977, Ray once again made the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list when, on June 11, he escaped from a state prison in Tennessee. He was caught and removed from the list two days later.
Just five other fugitives have been on the list twice.
Bryant said he believed Ray was the most significant capture on the list to date.
"Because of the terrible crime he did, he is a very recognizable criminal in American history," said Bryant.