The 50 Best Memes of 2017
In 2016, memes had such a strong run they became bigger than Jesus. This year? Dozens of heavy hitters sought to steal the thrones of yesteryear's web royalty. Whether it was a screenshot, a GIF, or a heavy dose of sarcasm, the internet didn't disappoint when responding to 2017's insanity. (It helped that there was a lot.) Read on for a ranking of our 50 favorites, the ones that made a big impression and became impossible to forget.
50. Elf on the Shelf
This old Christmas tradition got new life when the Tumblr and Reddit crowds popularized a catchy refrain: "You've heard of Elf on the Shelf, now get ready for... Ash in the Trash? Waluigi on a Squeegee? Shrek on a Deck?" Thanks to visual clues, the rhyme was for you to (roll your eyes at and) finish. The admittedly dumb template became unavoidable after it surfaced, but, when used correctly, it was a damn treat.
49. The Great American Eclipse
Wow. "The Great American Eclipse" of 2017 was really special. It was the first time since 1979 a total solar eclipse was visible from the U.S., and when that moon started to obscure the sun, man, people really lost their shit. Some celebrated with special Eclipse glasses, others with earthbound eclipses (see above), and a special few with downright bad decisions. Bright!
48. The Floor Is...
The #FloorIsLavaChallenge videos you might have seen were bad -- they called to mind that obnoxious gallon-smash fad; never replicate -- but their cousins, the floor is X pics, were not bad. Remember playing lava monster when you were a kid? "The floor is X" pics were kind of like that, just poking fun at other things you either needed to, or couldn't, avoid.
The iconic Playstation character will be remembered not for his heroics, but for all the WOAHS he inspired. This was one you hated so much you eventually loved it.
46. Apple Glitch
At the end of October, Apple released an iOS update that came with an unfortunate bug. Mobile users noticed that every time they tried to type a standalone "i" an "A," along with a question-mark box, took its place. Some Apple devotees got mad. Some adapted with the lowercase "L." But best of all, many simply embraced their new alphabetical overlord.
A very funny joke retort that became a Twitter staple -- no matter how many points you actually had to make.
44. Expanding Brain
These images made the internet's inevitable crescendoes to absurdity beautiful. Beginning as an illustration for the "whomst" meme, the expanding brains quickly evolved into a template for other jabs at those boasting supposed intellectual superiority: "The earth is round." "No, it's flat!" "Actually... it's a cube." Boom.
43. Salt Bae
Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe isn't your average chef. He's the kind of culinary artist who thinks knives are paintbrushes, slabs of red meat are canvases, and evil omens about spilling salt are straight-up horse pucky. Thanks to one Instagram upload, Gökçe's signature finishing salt pose spawned delectable soccer celebrations, street art pieces, and parodies galore.
Do you like pigs? What about oats? (Sorry: öats.) If you're a fan of them separately, you probably loved this inexplicable tweet combining the two. It became so popular earlier this year it led to a spamming practice called "oatposting," which had people saying bye to Dat Boi and hello to their new Prince of Random.
One of the weirdest (but best) parts of Trump's inauguration was that moment when Melania handed Michelle Obama that mysterious Tiffany's box. Michelle's Jim-facing was all of us that day, in more ways than one.
40. Tiny Trump
Google would have had you believe that Donald Trump's height came in at 6-ft-2. According to this Lilliputian meme, that shit was fake news.
39. Redbone Remix
Last December, Childish Gambino (also dba Donald Glover) released Awaken, My Love! The album's second single, "Redbone," would debut as a sleeper hit, the kind that, thanks to the "What 'Redbone' would sound like while X" meme, would give the song new life. The kind that would come full circle at Governors Ball, where Glover would reference said meme and make everyone explode.
38. Rick and Morty Fans
Rick and Morty, the show, had a good year. Season 3 unspooled on Adult Swim to much fanfare and acclaim.Rick and Morty fans? Bad year. Some of the more "passionate" viewers did very dumb shit and very terrible shit. Thankfully, the proliferation of a certain copypasta came to skewer the more pretentious, toxic, self-important of the lot.
37. Monkey Haircut
Early this year, footage of a macaque getting a haircut went viral. The world immediately fell in love with the old soul trapped in the monkey's body, just trying to enjoy a fancy trim while the inevitable deluge of existential questions rocked it to its very core. Just look at that face. The video was already good, but then the monkey started getting Photoshopped onto famous screengrabs with... hands? Everywhere, basically. For a time it felt like no photo with hands was safe -- the kind of danger maybe you were OK with.
Late last year, The Dr. Phil Show unwittingly gave birth to a star, a 13-year-old girl who called members of the studio audience hoes and asked them to "catch her outside... how 'bout that?" The aggressive question has attained immortality in the form of a sassy but multipurpose comeback.
35. Asahd Khaled
Meet Asahd, DJ Khaled's young son who, despite the diapers, spent the beginning of his young career bagging an executive producer credit, a Ferrari, and his very own meme shrine. How's business? Obviously, BOOMIN'.
34. I GOT SOME LOUD
The rapper Young King Dave likes to enjoy the weather and let people know he has loud. At least that's what it looks like in this Instagram, which has gotten everything from a Family Guy edit to an autotune treatment.
32. Beyoncé's Order
As a recent restaurant visit proved, truly everything Bey does gets meme-orialized.
The Force Awakens had BB-8. The Last Jedi will have the Porgs. When the cute creatures were introduced on the official Star Wars website, Lucasfilm Story Group's Pablo Hidalgo explained that they can "be found dwelling along the cliffs of the island where Luke and Rey are. In many ways, they're the Star Wars version of puffins. They build nests. They can fly." And, oh, baby, they can be memed! Enjoy now, because by the end of December, they'll surely be as divisive as Baby Groot.
30. The Mooch
Anthony Scaramucci might have only been the president's hype man for a week-and-a-half, but he spawned a lifetime of memes. See: Futurama comparisons, bad 'mooch jokes, Kate Hudson movies, Simpsons clips, inspirational quote flubs, and so much more. (Thank you for your service.)
Step aside, mixtapes. Spotify playlists are the new keys to musical seduction. Or stringing song titles into sentences.
28. Living in 3017
If you've ever doubted the existence of time travelers, you need to open your eyes. They walk among us.
In January, BuzzFeed published a report alleging that one of Trump's attorneys (Michael Cohen) had met with Kremlin officials in Prague. Cohen's response: a sick close-up of the front of his passport. The randomness of the rebuttal inspired countless copycat uploads -- all of which similarly made no sense.
Much of the internet wasn't thrilled with the idea of Trumpcare. To illustrate its frustration in simplest terms, the internet built a meme, a meme that starkly juxtaposed purity with disappointment, goodness with garbage, a meme that yelled, "Fuck that shit!"
Why has this Star Wars character been having a breakout year, trying to tell everyone the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise? Because he's the Senate.
23. The Babadook
In 2014, The Babadook terrified moviegoers. Then, in 2016, the movie found a home in Netflix's LGBT section. Now, the movie's title character is a queer icon, a hero who has made fans the world over Babashook.
22. Bad Statues
Many were stoked when protesters in downtown Durham toppled a racist Confederate soldier statue. Actor James Woods was not, instead tweeting a pic of the Marine Corps War Memorial and writing, "Before the #liberals find a reason to deface, destroy or degrade this one, I thought some of you might like to see it one more time…" Woods, as you can see, missed the point -- something the #liberals #relished.
21. Donald Trump's Paper Towel Shot
At the end of June, one of Trump's minions embarked on a mission: Visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame, clean Donald Trump's vandalized star, and send a passive-aggressive message to the opposition. "Nothing but respect for MY President," the minion tweeted, before adding the hashtag "#RaisedRight." The outcome of this mission? The emergence of greater heroes and more appropriate idols.
Volume sliders: those things you click or drag your mouse on to get more volume or less volume. Simple. Intuitive. Great. Well, not anymore. Thanks to PM_ME_YOUR_WATERMELO, who asked, "Who can make the best volume slider?" in the ProgrammerHumor subreddit, alongside a counterintuitive slider, other creative Redditors have abandoned simplicity and embraced absurdity to create volume not-sliders. Yes. It's all very bad. But sometimes it's good to be bad.
When Robbie Tripp posted a love letter to his wife and her "curvy body" on Instagram, it went viral, prompting mixed reactions and taking on a life of its own. To quote Jezebel: "Rage gave way to a pretty decent set of memes."
(Warning: The links and origins associated with this entry are NSFW.) Your friend gives birth to a beautiful baby boy. What do you say? Obviously: "Are you serious?! Right in front of my salad?" That same incredulous reaction, which came from a porno extra, is already one of the year's most memorable quotes, partly because of its context but mainly because of its surprising versatility.
16. Retire Bitch
In March 2013, actor Danny DeVito tweeted "Antonin Scalia retire bitch." His reasons for doing so are still unclear. But four years later, the concise demand has bloomed into a popular refrain, a call for controversial men, especially politicians, to cut their bullshit and pack it in.
Since taking office, President Trump has found a new favorite hobby: signing executive orders. The internet's way of dealing with this has been to turn all his fancy black folders into silly statements and rudimentary doodles. Say what you want, but this walking Ralph Steadman cartoon can draw.
14. Sly Duck
A feathered celeb who's either up to no good or, as Twitter user @whomstami noted, "has the tea on EVERYBODY I'm crying." We are all crying.
13. Trump Orb
At the end of May, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Saudi Arabia's King Salman, and our very own President Trump joined forces to do some very good orb touching. Photos were snapped, a mystery born -- WHAT IS ORB??? -- paving the way for apt comparisons (like Bill Kristol's Macbeth reference) and poignant insights (you know "orb" is "bro" spelled backwards, right, bro?). To this day: SOS.
When far-right Twitter user @polNewsNetwork1 tweeted a photo of a drag queen sitting next to a woman in a niqab in a New York subway car, deriding the image as "the future that liberals want," said liberals clapped back by celebrating diversity and offering self-aware visions of their own utopias. (Enter dogs, superheroes, Guy Fieri.) "I hope one day that a picture of a woman in modesty garb sitting next to a colorful drag queen isn't out of the ordinary," the drag queen in the original picture, Gilda Wabbit, told BuzzFeed News, "that it's everyday life for everyone!"
11. One Thicc Bih
Snapchat's greatest invention to date: a break-dancing hotdog who may or may not have split personalities. Swoon as this easygoing wiener wins your heart with sweet moves and an irresistible smile. Cry when it kicks babies, commandeers your nightmares, and terrorizes Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside. Hot dog, we love you and we fear you.
The hilariously truncated version of "he protects, but he also attacks" got a second wind this year when memelords introduced a third panel to its initial two-panel set-up. Now the best way to win a fight is with a good fun fact.
8. "Man's not hot" / "The ting goes"
At the end of August, comedian Michael Dapaah brought some characters to BBC Radio's 1Xtra for a fun "Fire in the Booth" session. His resulting Big Shaq freestyle parodied U.K. gangster stereotypes and birthed two great memes: the "man's not hot" retort and a surprisingly long string of gunshot onomatopoeias -- both ripe for overdubbing (above) and remixing.
The Bag Raiders' "Shooting Star" song is now more than just a song -- this year it became a salute to someone special, someone the internet sent flying, flipping, or falling into a void. It was the soundtrack of a great video meme, proof that, yeah, we're dying without Vine (RIP), but we're not completely dead yet. In other words, the soundtrack of hope.
Sure, you've heard the phrase. But did you see all these amazing metaphor-stretching, sometimes visually punny, always well-labeled spins on the phrase?
Thanks to Dash Tsushï and other Twitter users, 2015 SAG Awards Meryl became one of social media's most ubiquitous concertgoers, completing or echoing the iconic lyrics to damn near everything with the infectious enthusiasm of a nostalgic mom. Be grateful all these exist -- especially the ones with "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Bill Nye.
SpongeBob, ever the meme supplier, was once in a bizarre episode in which he responded to things like a chicken. You know how Melissa McCarthy's Sean Spicer disses reporters by repeating their questions back to them in a mocking tone? That's basically SpongeChick. Weird text overlays do the rest.
3. Roll Safe
Last summer, while playing the character R.S. (aka Roll Safe) in the BBC Three's #HoodDocumentary series, actor Kayode Ewumi made a coded oral sex quip. The screengrab of that moment is now, and forever, your best-worst source of advice.
Shot by Antonio Guillem, the stock photo "Disloyal Man Walking With His Girlfriend and Looking Amazed at Another Seductive Girl" depicts... just that. The Meme Documentation Tumblr traces its birth as an image-macro meme back to as early as January, but it didn't explode until it hit Twitter this summer, functioning as a metaphor for pretty much anything involving competing desires, getting remixed with other memes, and folding in on itself in that inevitably meta way. "I do not really have the time to follow these things," the guy in the pic told SelectAll, "but for what I have seen, I can say that it's crazy what people can imagine."
Baffled by something? Blindsided by someone's idiocy? The virtuosic blinks of Drew Scanlon were there for you. This GIF was quickly called the internet's "most relatable meme," and by December, Tenor's most-used GIF of the year. You might have had to be a gaming fan to recognize its origins, but after it exploded, it became a simple meme that could be used as a punchline or reaction by anyone. Retired football player Terrell Owens proved that when addressing his Hall of Fame snub; same with Ava DuVernay, Stephen Colbert, countless other Twitter users, and this Dutch talk show. "I think the pervasiveness of it also has to do with the fact that there are so many crazy things happening in 2017," Scanlon, the man whose face you're looking at, told Thrillist. Fair. In just a few seconds, those blinks perfectly encapsulated how we felt at several points during this wild, crazy, and often incomprehensible year.
RIP to some of our other favorite, bold, wonderful, but ultimately short-lived memes from the year, including Trump and Pope Francis, Persona 5, everything 13 Reasons Why, sad athletes and student athletes, the Best Picture Gaffe, Gold Ceelo, Fyre Fest, the #GetOutchallenge, this one, the emoji sheriff, #InADreamChallenge, Nic Cage in Kazakhstan, Kellyanne Conway's couch, Kendrick Lamar's album cover, Bush's poncho, BBC Dad, Outback Steakhouse's satanic ties, Shaq's singing, drive-by dunks, powder that makes you say yes, Fox News distractions, Tom Holland's mouth, "Sometimes, things that are more expensive… are worse," #StopandStareChallenge, Taylor Swift's Reputation, blur dogs, Your Eyes on Drugs, the #BowWowChallenge, Gossiping Gosling, Italian hand memes, Whomst, What in tarnation, Hopper dancing, Drake pouring Perrier, "yeah sex is cool but...," and Bella Hadid's insane sneaker-shopping interview.
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