The Portugal international triumphed over fellow Ballon d'Or candidates Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery at the award ceremony on Monday in Zurich.
"There are no words to describe this moment," he said. "First of all I have to say a great thanks to all of my team-mates with the club and the national team. Without all of their efforts this would not have been possible. I am very happy, it is very difficult to win this award."
Ronaldo's victory broke a run of four consecutive Ballon d'Or trophies won by Argentinian superstar Messi.
Jupp Heynckes claimed the Men's Coach of the Year award after leading Bayern Munich to a treble of trophies, beating Borrusia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp and retired Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic claimed the Puskas Award for the best goal of the year with his strike against England, while the Women's Coach of the Year award went to Silvia Neid of Germany, and Nadine Angerer was named the FIFA Women's World Player of the Year.
Pele was awarded an honorary Ballon d'Or, an accolade he could not possibly have won during his career, as he never played in Europe.
Ronaldo was widely expected to claim his second Ballon d'Or this year, scoring 69 goals in 60 appearances for club and country.
However, he faced strong competition from Frenchman Ribery, who was an integral part of the Bayern Munich side that won the treble of the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup last season.
Four-time winner Messi scored 45 times in 46 appearances despite having a sub-par year by his standards, spending long spells on the sidelines through injury.