The 46 Best Memes of 2020
Good memes only.
The memes, they never stop. Though we've been stuck inside for nearly an entire year, the memes have only gotten more powerful and more relatable. Alas, we can't ask everyone to please stop memeing, especially given the decreasing shelf life of how long jokes stay funny for, so we remain committed to keeping up with this breakneck cycle for the sake of handy content. We've compiled this final list of the funniest, weirdest, and grossest memes of 2020, the best parts of the worst year ever.
46. 2020 ASCIIRemember when we thought that 2020 was going to be a good year for a change?
45. Broom challengeFirst off, let's clear the air here: this whole thing is a hoax; a broom cannot stand upright on its own due to the gravitational forces of Saturn and Venus on one day only—NASA even says so. So why did we start taking videos of brooms standing upright on their own? If you forgot (I did), we tried this in 2012 and memes tend to come full circle at one point or another, so here we are, with another Twitter user (@mikaiylaaaaa) going viral for doing the broom challenge.
44. LinkedIn / Facebook / Instagram / TinderAlso known as the #DollyPartonChallenge, this was quite literally inspired by a post by Parton herself, which is where this meme should have ended; it remains the only good one of these. Alas, that's not how it works on the internet, and so our timelines were treated to lots of four-panel appropriate profile pics for the social media sites.
43. Which character are you?The first big Instagram trend of the year was this interactive face camera filter that told you which Pokémon you were based on… who knows! Other custom effects dupes popped up shortly after, like "Which inanimate object are you?", "Which Sailor Moon character are you?", and "Which Disney character are you?" like the video above from Robin Williams' daughter, who appropriately gets the Genie from Aladdin.
42. D.W. holding fenceIn much of the country, Americans are still in some sort of quarantine, observing mask rules and staying home whenever possible. Our newly Extra Online lives (online work meetings, online school, online Hinge dates) at the height of summer force us to relive happier summers through memory alone, bereft at the loss of what we never even knew we had. A screenshot of D.W., Arthur's little sister, gazing longingly through a chain link fence is the perfect encapsulation of this otherwise indescribable emotion.
41. Tiger King memesWhen the docuseries Tiger King dropped on Netflix in March, it ignited a wave of people adopting Joe Exotic- and Carole Baskin-isms ripped from the episodes. Some people identified as "gay and broke," as big-cat owner Joe Exotic stated; others started their days greeting others as "cool cats and kittens," as Carole would in her vlogs for Big Cat Rescue.
40. Everything is cakeIn the summer of 2020, every citizen of Earth was forced to ask themselves one question: Am I a human, or am I cake? The profound, existential uncertainty arose from a single video, posted by Turkish baker Tuba Geçkìl, which went viral through Buzzfeed's Tasty Twitter account, and features a bunch of everyday household objects that look perfectly normal until sliced through with a knife and revealed to be hyperrealistic cakes. Terrifying. Illegal. Against god. Nothing is certain anymore. I could be typing this on a cake. You could be reading this on a cake. We… could be cake.
39. The PS5 logoA new PlayStation model is due out sometime late this year and what better way to welcome it into the world by memeing the shit out of the "new" (a.k.a. barely different than before) logo that Sony revealed at its CES 2020 presentation in early January.
38. Jo March saying "I can't!"There's a lot about Jo March, by far the most beloved character in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, that's extremely, extremely relatable. She's stubborn, she's funny, she's creative, and sometimes, she can't. She can't! Saoirse Ronan's rendition of Jo and Laurie's famous and controversial breakup from last year's film adaptation of the novel included a very relatable phrase when Jo finally tells Laurie she just can't imagine them getting married, a line reading that can apply to any situation where you can't, you can't, you've tried it, and you can't.
37. How it started/how it endedHow it started: a cute trend for couples to show how far they've come from first date to marriage or from wedding to full blown nuclear family. How it ended: a viral meme about things not always ending up as planned.
36. Ma editsEarly last summer, a movie called Ma came out and nobody saw it. The film starred Octavia Spencer as a loner who befriends high schoolers and invites them into her party basement after they convince her to buy alcohol for them and ends up terrorizing the teens, and it was fine. But the Blumhouse movie got a second life when people realized that Spencer's look in this movie is something special, with that bowl cut and faraway stare, and so the movie poster mashups began.
35. Large boulder the size of a small boulderThis meme lasted all of one day, but like a large boulder tumbling down a cliff into a large body of water, it made a big, satisfying splash. It started with a confusing tweet made by the San Miguel County Sheriff's Department in Telluride, Colorado, in late January warning drivers about a road hazard: a large boulder the size of a small boulder. Their poor menchies.
34. Animal CrossingNintendo blessed us all with Animal Crossing: New Horizons this year, right when quarantine started to get really bleak. What better way to spend hours and hours of every day at home during the nicest time of year than on a virtual island populated by animals who want to sell you neon sunglasses?? For a while, Animal Crossing was the only thing anyone was talking about, which means that there are plenty of memes to go around.
33. Chicky nuggiesI'm pleased to announce that this very 2011 abbreviation of "chicken nuggets" has made a return in 2020 by way of Baby Yoda, one of our favorite memes of 2019. Usually, these are about the crushing loss of not being allowed to have chicky nuggies for dinner.
32. "Say So" danceThere have already been a bunch of new TikTok dances that have taken over the video app this year, but by far the most prevalent was the "Say So" dance, created by user Haley Sharpe and done to the tune of Doja Cat's hit song off her newest album. The story of how this dance made the song go viral and vice versa is a fascinating one, but even if you're not up to delving into the complexities of internet fame, this dance is easy enough to learn—you can even do it on stilts.
31. Mi PanThe origins of the viral, seemingly nonsensical "Mi Pan" song are almost as strange as the song itself. When a Tiktok of a dancing red llama with inexplicably over a million likes started making the rounds, users picked up the audio and used it for their own surrealistic videos, but many more were just perplexed, wondering where the song had actually come from. For a little while, it was even adopted by Spanish Tiktok for a series of videos involving all different types of bread -- as "mi pan" translates in Spanish to "my bread." As it turns out, it's actually a cover of a Russian cereal commercial jingle, just with the lyrics mistranslated. I think we can all agree, though, that mi pan su su sum su su su.
30. Face touchingBack when the coronavirus pandemic hadn't snowballed into the catastrophe it is right now and it was fun to make jokes about it (okay, people are still making plenty of jokes about it), a lot of us latched on to the very silly-sounding (but completely rational!) advice from various health departments that we all stop touching our damn faces to keep the virus from spreading. It's sound advice, but it's also very funny to be constantly aware of exactly how many times we touch our own faces every day -- and how impossible it is for us to STOP.
29. Wii Shop vibe danceThough it's unclear exactly where this came from, this predominantly Japanese trend of awkwardly dancing to a remix of the the Wii Shopping music in public takes a lot of courage to pull off.
28. Four Seasons Total LandscapingThe prolonged, agonizing U.S. election cycle had a little something for everyone who didn't spend the week huddled under their weighted blanket waiting for all the votes to be counted, but by far the best nonsensical wrinkle was a little SNAFU on the part of the Trump campaign, who ended up holding a press conference in the parking lot of a landscaping company in Philly that suspiciously shared a name with an iconic hotel a few miles down the road. We still don't know exactly how it happened, but boy, was it funny. And before you ask, yes, the company's website is selling officially licensed merch.
27. No one has this rangeBy now, we've evolved past telling each other when people don't have the range: instead, we've reached a new form of enlightenment, a more positive space to grow and celebrate those who DO have the range. Who has the range? Wishbone the dog has the range. Amy Adams has the range. Jake Gyllenhaal has the range. The bear that played Paddington, the monster from Annihilation, the suit from Midsommar, and the grizzly that threw Leonardo DiCaprio down a hill has the range. Congratulations to all.
26. How TF am I an essential workerWhen quarantine first began, essential workers were encouraged to keep returning to their regular jobs, in order for the rest of us to have some semblance of normalcy, and so that the economy didn't grind to a complete halt. People whose jobs were grocery store employees, pharmacists, and some doctors kept showing up to work, but a number of positions the government deemed "essential" seem… a little odd.
25. Forbidden snacksWe've deliberated thoroughly over why human beings want so desperately to consume Tide Pods, but what about the other inedible objects that nonetheless make our mouths water? The squishy, slick rubber of Polly Pocket's clothes, the crunch of Himalayan salt lamps, the delectable fruit-gummy color of D&D dice, the tempting ooze of literal molten lava. All forbidden, all irresistible.
24. Harry Potter/Twilight POVsWe're not sure if this qualifies more as a "cursed" meme, but it brings us joy all the same. Every few years or so, there's a powerful resurgence of both Harry Potter and Twilight, as the newest generation precedes to meme them to within an inch of their lives. This year, it's reared its twin heads on Tiktok, where Gen Z has been making cringeworthy POV videos, usually involving the subject dating one or more characters in either universe. Feel your skin peel itself away from your body as you descend into Cedric Diggory/Draco Malfoy love triangle Tiktok, scream into the void of Filch simp Tiktok, feel the sweet relief of Charlie Swan thirst Tiktok.
23. Oh to be...In our strange, anxiety-ridden times, there's a certain wistful longing for a simpler life, perhaps as a cat massaging the back of a pregnant sheep, or a lovingly rendered flower in a Studio Ghibli movie. Everyone wants to get away from it all sometimes -- not just get away, but become something smaller, simpler, more primal and more boring, and this meme encapsulates that exact feeling.
22. It's corona timeTikTok is a strange, irreverent place, so it makes all the sense in the known universe that its creators would find a way to turn a worldwide pandemic into a meme. The result is someone saying "it's corona time… hey, it's corona time right now" over and over again over the intro of club track "Don't Stop the Rock" by Freestyle from 1985. According to the Los Angeles Times, user @playboierik21 made the original sound that's blown up to remind the world to wash your hands and wear a mask outside and for less sincere, more deranged content about dousing your phones in hydrogen peroxide or opening doors with your mouth.
21. The Witcher memesThe Witcher dropped on Netflix at the tail end of December 2019, yes, but the memes have kept chugging along as the decade turned over and more and more people aggressively binged the fantasy series. The main character, Geralt of Rivia, has two catchphrases: "Hmm" and "fuck," and every time he grumbles either of them have been compiled into supercuts as they inevitably would. Memers have also capitalized on the mismatched bromance between hardened Geralt and Jaskier, the naïve bard, and musicians have remixed Jaskier's catchy witcher reputation-correcting ballad, "Toss a Coin to Your Witcher." Bring on the Season 2 memes in 2021.
20. Da VinkyThere are paragraphs and paragraphs, whole analytical papers, to be written about every aspect of this TikTok. The Voros Twins' cursed Trolls World Tour hairdos. The dead-eyed stare into the camera lens. The way one of them answers, "Mona Lisa," like of course that's the answer. The perfectly in-sync, identically inflected "Da Vinky???" Superb.
19. "Cancelling plans is ok"All the way back in 2017, Chance the Rapper fired off an earnest tweet about the importance of self-care, starting with "cancelling plans to read is ok." Practically three years later, "self-care" has turned into a Goop-ified parody of itself, leaving plenty of room to make fun of it. Hence, these memes that usually use the plot of a movie (above: Parasite) to justify "doing what you have to do to cope."
18. Dirtbag Robert PattinsonIf there's one thing the internet will never stop loving, it's former vampire and current Batman Robert Pattinson. When an image surfaced of RPattz rigidly standing in a kitchen wearing an Adidas jacket and Timbs, allegedly a costume test for the Safdie brothers' Good Time, it was everywhere within days, on Twitter, TikTok, and even edited into iconic Pattinson vehicles Twilight and Harry Potter. Although, given Pattinson's quarantine habits, we'd also believe that this was just a random photo of him in his own kitchen.
17. But I'm shy"[Doing a thing] but I'm shy" is TikTok's Icarus, flying high and too close to the sun where it caught fire and became broadly irritating. Still, we can't help but laugh at the whistling song and real-life take on a shy anime character's pose of their toes turned inward and index fingers touching that cosplayers (also a big topic for people to make fun of on TikTok) coopted.
16. I am going to create an environment that is so toxicAn out-of-context Glee screenshot in which Jane Lynch's Sue Sylvester plots to ruin the glee club became one of the best meme formats of the year when people started tinkering with the onscreen subtitles, subbing in other words to make humorous situations. Some even pared down the "I am going to create a ___ that is so ___" format to fit classic hacker lines and famous philosophical sayings, and even made sure to include an iconic Britney Spears hit.
15. Gossip GirlAn early but no less powerful meme of 2020 involved an innocuous question posed by Gossip Girl's Serena van der Woodsen and answered by Blair Waldorf rearranging the "Gossip" part of the letters of the show's title card. Why did the U.S. invade Iraq? Oil, girl. What is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter? Pi, girl. Peppa who? Pig, girl.
14. Every day I do my silly little tasksThis one's been around for a while, as a mercilessly re-edited image, but given how 2020's socially distanced quarantine has made life's most mundane tasks seem more pointless by the day, the meme came roaring back in text-based form. Every day we put on our silly little sweatpants and check our silly little emails and have a silly little mental breakdown over whether we'll be allowed to go get some silly little drinks with our silly little friends ever again.
13. Ariana Grande eatingThis mildly disgusting trend has faceless people dressed in oversized sweatshirts where the sleeves cover most of their hands, a la Ariana Grande. Only here, the memers neglect to roll up their sleeves, dipping sweatshirt-covered hands into piles of mashed potatoes and saucy gravy for a Thanksgiving feast or some other sloppy food item. We've also seen the occasional activity, ie. rock climbing. This trend started in late 2019, but we're rooting for it to get even more popular in 2020 because for as gross as these videos tend to be, they're also very, very funny.
12. "This is how I win."Uncut Gems, our favorite movie from 2019, is inherently memeable. Adam Sandler? As a Diamond District dealer? Who's addicted to risky gambling?? Kevin Garnett??? A gemstone Furby???? Six-way parlay?????? Especially in the wake of the film's Oscar snubs, a few choice screenshots have become memes, including the Sandman's confrontation with his bookie telling him that's the dumbest best he's ever heard ("I disagree.") and his pump-up chat with KG, "This is how I win."
11. Which is the best seat?New Yorkers have specific preferences for many things, one of which is their choice of seat on the subway. That idea kicked off this meme, which started as an innocuous tweet from @gplatinum_ posted ("All my New Yorkers, which is the best seat?") and blew up after Bodega Boys and Desus & Mero host Desus Nice retweeted with the commentary "90% of videos that show subway fights involve seat 4." After that, it was a free-for-all of regions and best seats.
10. RenegadeRenegade is THE hottest dance on TikTok, an app that has no shortage of people trying to create viral dance routines. Though the Renegade, set to "Lottery" by Atlanta-based rap group K Camp, was first done by 14-year-old Atlanta dancer Jalaiah Harmon (@_.xoxlaii) in September 2019 on Instagram and Funimate, it migrated to other apps like TikTok through the end of the year, amplified by influencers and their followers trying to replicate the deceptively difficult dance. It hit its critical peak when, 1) Jalaiah was profiled in the New York Times and credited as the true creator of the Renegade routine, and 2) Jalaiah performed it at the NBA All-Star game. Learn Renegade now before the Facebook boomers inevitably ruin it.
9. BardcoreWhile "medieval" style covers of pop songs have been a thing for a few years now, they've finally hit it big in 2020, a year where the similarities between now and a certain Black Plague era are undeniable. Occasionally these songs will pop up on Tiktok, where they're used as ambience for whenever someone does something that puts them in mind of the Middle Ages, such as eating a slice of bread with cheese or carrying the laundry basket on their hip like a fair village maiden. Also, these covers slap, so there's that.
8. Doug DimmadomeSome context: Doug Dimmadome was a recurring character on the Nickelodeon cartoon The Fairly Oddparents, a wealthy southern business mogul sporting a mustache, a white suit, and a very large hat. The moment he introduces himself to protagonist Timmy Turner got remixed into the song that accompanies the video above. People did all kinds of stuff with this sound, but the best efforts were making extremely tall hats and taking them out into public.
7. JoJo PoseA little context: JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is a long-running and beloved anime series (one of our favorites of the decade!) that is indeed quite bizarre, especially with its dramatic-looking characters, and rapper Hello Apollo remixed its theme song into a perfect TikTok song, "JoJo Pose." So anime fans on TikTok (of which there are many) took to replicating some of the more intense screencaps and character key art of the series with second-long poses that match up with the still. That has gone beyond JoJo's Bizarre Adventure to other anime, like Naruto or boys' high school volleyball series Haikyuu!!, and even non-anime related phenomena, such as photos of Adam Driver in very specific poses. It's weird, sure, but also very fun!
6. "I am once again asking..."Politics can be a dead zone of unfunny memes -- if we see another Nancy Pelosi clapping GIF ever again, we're going to lose it -- but the memes made from screenshot of Bernie Sanders asking for supporters to donate money to his campaign are pure gold, ranging from hyper-specific ("I am once again asking for vocals in my monitor" in front of the stage at Trans-Pecos, a small venue in Queens) to viral callbacks ("I am once again at the combination taco bell and pizza hut") to the highly relatable (above). M4A stands for both Medicare for All and Memes for All.
5. The sprinting javelinaThis singular-minded running hog has captured the hearts of many an online person, just as a video of it sprinting along a road in Tucson, Arizona. But then people started editing songs over the javelina (also called a skunk pig or peccary), and then an account solely dedicated to javelina edits emerged, and it was all over from there. Why is this meme so good? It's hard to explain, but there's something about the way it clears the sidewalk and how almost any piece of music pairs with the video that it just feels like an instant classic.
4. Bong Joon Ho making his Oscars kissIt was the most satisfying Oscars in years primarily due to Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho, director of 2019's incredible (and now Academy Award-winning) Parasite and other movies like Okja and Snowpiercer, sweeping and historic victories in categories like Best Picture and Best Director. He already had the best pre-show campaign, calling the Oscars a "local" award (amazing) and giving interviews about just wanting to go back home because America stinks (again, amazing). But taking four trophies in total, director Bong's sweet, earnest giddiness from the night became a meme in and of itself: Accepting his first award of the night, you could see him staring in awe at his Oscar while his producer gave his speech; twice, he told the audience that he was going to get wasted later; and he posed with his statues in all sorts of silly poses, including, post importantly, making two of his Oscars kiss after the telecast was over, which is exactly what we would have done!
3. Marriage Story argumentMarriage Story was a lovely movie that looks very silly if you only learned about it through the memes. Namely, the most intense scene wherein Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson's separated characters have a blowout argument about the terrible things they did to each other in their relationship got turned into the late 2019/early 2020 equivalent of the American Chopper argument.
2. Hand gesture TikToksTikTok is at the front of the social media pack when it comes to interactive filters and effects. This sequence of three hand gestures that act as a camera timer has been available for more than a year, but it surged in popularity in late 2019/early 2020. Most of the time, people struggle to get the tech to work, which is half the fun of watching these, but the final three photos, which tends to be someone punching or choking themselves, is usually worth the effort.
1. Ghanian pallbearersThere's a phrase you learn in English class, "dramatic irony," which is a specific type of literary device in which the audience is aware of what the characters don't know. A sort of modern spin on the "fail" video, the Ghanian pallbearers meme, which consists of video taken of a famous troupe of funeral dancers from Prampram dressed in suits and cool sunglasses hoisting coffins on their shoulders, mashed up with clips of people doing stupidly dangerous things and then supposedly "dying," is perhaps the perfect visual representation of exactly what dramatic irony is all about.
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