Every year, Fortune magazine publishes its list of America's Most Admired Companies. With criteria that stretch across a wide range of attributes, it's not a perfect science. More importantly, because different things make our respective hearts go pitter-patter, it's only natural that such lists are up for some debate.

At the top of this year's list, you will find Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT). Clearly, it's a well-run money machine. However, the way the company has been blasted over the past year for everything from its labor practices to the way it snuffs out the competition, are we smitten with a misunderstood giant or a heartless bully?

Actually, Fortune grades Wal-Mart appropriately. It scored highest under "financial soundness," and lowest in "social responsibility." In sum, it still edged out Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A), which many Fools would argue is the more appropriate gold medalist.

Third place was also a surprise. Yes, Southwest (NYSE:LUV) has thrived in what has to be one of the lousiest sectors out there. But the company's success is no longer unique now that low-cost carriers like JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU) are flying high with more bells and whistles at the same bargain price points.

The rest? In order, the admired blue chippers are GE (NYSE:GE), Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), FedEx (NYSE:FDX), and IBM (NYSE:IBM). That last is noteworthy, as Big Blue returns to the list after a 17-year hiatus.

Does this list seem right to you? It's hard to not admire companies like Dell and Starbucks. Last year, we singled out FedEx in our Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter. Earlier this year, another stock from this year's Fortune list made the Stock Advisor cut. But shouldn't eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) or Costco (NASDAQ:COST) be up there? Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) seems to have done a bang-up job of getting back into our good graces, don't you think?

I realize that Fortune boils it down to a statistical showdown. Ranked lists tend to go that way. However, admiration -- by definition -- is so much more subjective.

How does your list of the most admired domestic companies vary from this one? Which international companies do you think would make the cut? How will these companies stand out in good times and bad? All this and more -- in the Armchair Economists discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz stopped admiring companies when he got caught passing notes to Berkshire Hathaway in grade school. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.