Ronaldo, who is the current holder of the prestigious award, and Messi, who has won the gong four times in his career, are expected to be included in the final three prior to the announcement in January.
Gareth Bale, who is in his second season at Real Madrid, has also been named in the 23-man party among Premier League stars Diego Costa, Angel di Maria, Eden Hazard, Yaya Toure and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Colombian James Rodriguez, whose performance at the World Cup in Brazil earned him a summer move to Real Madrid, is also in contention for the award, along with Barcelona star Neymar and Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba.
Barcelona's Luis Suarez, who was named PFA Player of the Year last season during his prolific stint at Liverpool, has not been included in the list, while there is also no place for Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero.
The FIFA Football Committee and France Football teamed together to choose the shortlist.
Ballon d'Or shortlist
Gareth Bale (Wales, Real Madrid)
Karim Benzema (France, Real Madrid)
Diego Costa (Spain, Chelsea)
Thibaut Courtois (Belgium, Chelsea)
Angel Di Maria (Argentina, Manchester United)
Mario Gotze (Germany, Bayern Munich)
Eden Hazard (Belgium, Chelsea)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden, Paris Saint-Germain)
Andres Iniesta (Spain, Barcelona)
Toni Kroos (Germany, Real Madrid)
Philipp Lahm (Germany, Bayern Munich)
Javier Mascherano (Argentina, Barcelona)
Lionel Messi (Argentina, Barcelona)
Thomas Muller (Germany, Bayern Munich)
Manuel Neuer (Germany, Bayern Munich)
Neymar (Brazil, Barcelona)
Paul Pogba (France, Juventus)
Sergio Ramos (Spain, Real Madrid)
Arjen Robben (Netherlands, Bayern Munich)
James Rodriguez (Colombia, Real Madrid)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, Real Madrid)
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany, Bayern Munich)
Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast, Manchester City)