Ronaldo's nomination comes after the 33 year old last week denied rape allegations levelled against him by a woman who sued him in court in the United States.
For a while the award was combined with world football's governing body FIFA's Best Award, but the association was cut off in September 2016.
The ceremony to announce the victor will take place in Paris on 3 December, when a women's award will also be presented for the first time.
The last player other than Ronaldo or Lionel Messi to win the award was Kaka in 2007, but in 2018, Real Madrid midfielder Modric, who took his team to the World Cup final in Moscow, as well as winning the Champions League, is set to break the duopoly.
Ronaldo is the current defending champion, having won his fifth Ballon d'Or in 2017.
Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero is nominated as is another prolific South American striker, Edinson Cavani of Uruguay and Paris Saint-Germain.
De Bruyne was nominated for helping City win the Premier League and Belgium reach the World Cup semi-finals.
France internationals Amandine Henry, Amel Majri and Wendie Renard are joined on the list by Germany's Dzsenifer Marozsan, England's Lucy Bronze, Ada Hegerberg of Norway and Japan defender Saki Kumagai.
The Ballon d'Or, which was first won by Englishman Stanley Matthews in 1956, is decided by a ballot of journalists from around the world.