Modric, 33, won his third progressive Champions League in May before helping Croatia to a first World Cup last.
Previous Brazil and AC Milan forward Kaka, in 2007, was the last player other than Messi or Ronaldo to win it.
Ronaldo, who joined Juventus from Real Madrid in the mid year, came next.
Barcelona forward Messi completed fifth, with Atletico Madrid frontman Antoine Griezmann and PSG assailant Kylian Mbappe – both of whom won the World Cup with France – third and fourth individually.
Triumph tops an outstanding year for Modric, who additionally was named the world’s best male player at the Best Fifa Football Awards and got the Golden Ball grant for the best player at the World Cup.
“It’s an incredible inclination,” said Modric, the principal Croatian player to win the honor. “It’s a major delight to be here among every one of these players.
“I am as yet endeavoring to understand that I have progressed toward becoming piece of a gathering of uncommon players to win the Ballon d’Or.”
Modric depicted Ronaldo and Messi as “amazing players”, including: “To win implies I accomplished something extremely unique on the pitch this year, that is the reason 2017-18 was the year for me.”
The previous Tottenham midfielder, who started his senior vocation with Dinamo Zagreb, said thanks to his folks for the “penances” they made to enable him to end up an expert.
“In my vocation I’ve understood that diligent work and ingenuity in troublesome minutes sets the establishment to demonstrate your ability,” he included.
“One expression I get a kick out of the chance to state: ‘The best things never come simple.’ For me to accomplish such an excess of, nothing was simple.”
Lyon and Norway striker Ada Hegerberg, 23, won the debut Women’s Ballon d’Or while Mbappe, 19, turned into the principal victor of the Kopa Trophy – granted to the best under-21 player and chosen by previous Ballon d’Or champs.
The main 10
1. Luka Modric (Real Madrid and Croatia)
2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus and Portugal)
3. Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid and France)
4. Kylian Mbappe (Paris St-Germain and France)
5. Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina)
6. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool and Egypt)
7. Raphael Varane (Real Madrid and France)
8. Eden Hazard (Chelsea and Belgium)
9. Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City and Belgium)
10. Harry Kane (Tottenham and England)