The 50 Best Memes of 2019, Explained by a Young Person
Baby Yoda, cats with boobs, Adam Driver punching a wall — what a year it's been
Sometimes the internet goes over our heads. Luckily, we have a college student on staff to help us navigate those times. This is the many memes of 2019, youthsplained.
“Memes have a lifespan of about 12 days.”
This was a comment my 19-year-old cousin made during our conversation about the best memes of 2019. While this is a true statement, most memes aren’t lucky enough to last more than a day. Brands try to capitalize on the meme, we become overexposed to the meme, and then we get bored of the meme. But the lifespan of a meme truly depends on when it reaches the bad place — Facebook — where it typically suffers the slow, painful death of being shared two weeks late by a parent to their child who has already moved onto the next internet joke. Or when the New York Times writes about it.
Perhaps this is a bit too cynical. Memes are great! They’re (mostly) funny and meant to be shared, laughed at and enjoyed together, whether that be with friends, family, co-workers or strangers on the internet — nothing brings people together quite like a great meme.
And 2019 saw loads of great videos, photos, phrases and templates that were shared widely across social-media platforms, in text messages and IRL. So before the year ends and a new decade of memes begin, we’ve gathered 50 of 2019’s best. Some you may remember, some you may have never seen and some you may still be confused about, in which case we’ll try our best to clear them up. And because all memes are subjective (and no one is ever pleased) we didn’t even bother to rank them — just know that Baby Yoda is #1.
50. White Claw
Hard seltzer had its moment this summer — but White Claw in particular was the real winner, catapulting itself to meme status thanks to the frat bros who loved drinking it. There were #NoLaws when drinking claws, and the brand was so unprepared for virality that it eventually faced a shortage in September.
49. Wrong Answers Only
“Wrong answers only” is a pretty self-explanatory social game that’s been around the internet for a while, but for some reason had a moment this summer.
48. Ight Imma Head Out
Another year, another Spongebob meme. This year it involved a very dejected looking Spongebob getting up from a chair with the caption “Ight imma head out.” The image was widely used to express desire to get the fuck out of whatever situation you are currently in.
47. We Irritating
A Snapchat photo of two girls dressed identically, covering their faces with the caption “We irritating” became an image template, as people started editing different photos and captions onto the original image. We can’t exactly explain why this meme is hilarious but it just is, and it’s a longstanding one as far as memes go.
46. 30-50 Feral Hogs
For one entire day, the internet became obsessed with the idea of 30-50 feral hogs. It all began when musician Jason Isbell tweeted, “If you’re on here arguing the definition of ‘assault weapon’ today you are part of the problem. You know what an assault weapon is, and you know you don’t need one.” Twitter user Willie McNabb responded to Isbell, asking, “Legit question for rural Americans – How do I kill the 30-50 feral hogs that run into my yard within 3-5 mins while my small kids play?” The strange detail and hilarious image of a fleet of feral hogs invading a backyard evoked hundreds of jokes and insight into a very real feral hog problem that exists in certain parts of the country.
45. Cultural Impact
A meme in which contemporary pop-culture moments or artists were deemed to have a larger cultural impact than, say, something like “The Beatles,” who supposedly had “great historical impact” on art or whatever. Very useful for irritating boomers, who we’ll get to below.
44. Paul Rudd on “Hot Ones”
First We Feast’s popular celebrity wing-eating interview show “Hot Ones” is a hotbed for memeable moments, including Idris Elba choking on a hot wing. But this exchange between Paul Rudd and host Sean Evans loading up on hot sauces became an extremely relatable one.
43. Powerful Shaggy
You know that a celebrity meme has achieved noteworthy status when the celebrity involved publicly comments on it, as was the case with “Powerful Shaggy,” in which behind-the-scenes interview footage of Matthew Lillard as Scooby Doo’s best pal gets annotated with apocryphal quotes positioning the character as a soul-possessing demon of sorts. There’s entire lore about the power of Shaggy Rodgers, with the joke depicting Shaggy as an ultra god-like being with vast power.
42. “you were at my wedding Denise….”
Meghan McCain (yes, you read that correctly) delivered this, uh, clap back (?) to conservative writer Denise McAllister, who tweeted an article and some harsh words about McCain and her show The View. McCain simply replied “you were at my wedding Denise….” and the internet found her presumably hurt-felt words hilarious.
41. Spell Coconut
What started as a strange Cosmo-esque sex tip became a widespread joke, mainly on Twitter, after user @_lexwil tweeted “dick riding tip #1: spell COCONUT with your waist.” And the rest is history.
40. This Shot Is Brilliant
“This shot is brilliant/beautiful” is a copypasta based off of a tweet by one Twitter user who sincerely tweeted “This shot is brilliant and should be shown in any film study class” in reference to a shot from the Game of Thrones finale in which Drogon appears and spreads its wings behind Daenerys Targaryen … so they looked like hers. People clearly did not find the shot as praiseworthy, and the derision began.
39. Me Explaining to My Mom
These two unrelated photos (the first is a still from a video posted by Quenlin Blackwell, and the second is of Ms. Juicy from Little Women: Atlanta) together created a lot of meme variations. But “Me explaining to my mom” hit a little close to home for lots of people. Parents just don’t understand.
38. “I’m Actually at My Emotional Capacity”
Writer Melissa Fabello posted a Twitter thread about establishing boundaries when it comes to discussing difficult issues, including a template to use when “you don’t have the space to support” someone. And because this is a pretty cold and clinical response to a friend in need, people began roasting the hell out of it, and soon enough it became a copypasta.
37. “Are you in the right headspace?”
Similar to the emotional-consent take above, another Twitter user suggested the internet inquire first with the receiver before sharing info with them, providing another template: “Are you in the right headspace to receive information that could possibly hurt you?” The internet responded in the only way it knows how.
36. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper perform “Shallow” at the Oscars
There was lots of speculation during the A Star is Born press run that there was something romantic going on between Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, and their beautiful, but very intimate, performance at the Oscars only fueled more rumors … and memes.
35. “I’m gonna tell my kids…”
Similar to “Wrong answers only,” “I’m gonna tell my kids” is another social game that even some celebs got in on, this time involving lying to your future children.
34. Kids’ Youtube
2019 also saw the return (and possible demise) of Kids’ Youtube: super strange videos aimed at children that tend to make a shit ton of money due to their easy marketability. (It bears noting that after the FTC fined YouTube $170 million this year for collecting data on children, this could all change going forward.) These shoddy CGI videos typically include lots of bright colors, weird singalongs and obvious computer-generated translations. And because they are simply weird as fuck, we adults had to share them with each other.
32. Old Town Road ft. Billy Ray Cyrus
Sure, the song has been regurgitated and overplayed to dizzying effect, but after Billboard removed the Lil Nas X track — which features a surprisingly fire verse from Billy Ray Cyrus — from the country charts for not being “country” enough, the internet collectively lost its mind.
31. A Marriage Story
This one scores extra points for its status as meta meme: the format is an update on the American Chopper meme that might have topped this list in 2018. Noah Baumbach’s critically acclaimed Marriage Story got a last-minute 2019 meme treatment. An emotional scene between Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver’s divorcing characters became a template to depict some rather less serious arguments – but ones that are still deserving of Driver’s wall-punch.
30. Vibe Check
Urban Dictionary defines a “vibe check” as “A spontaneous and usually random time where someone checks your vibe. A vibe check should usually be a pleasant experience where the person being checked is vibin.” While another definition involves getting hit over the head with a blunt object. We’re gonna go with the first one … but best not to fail the vibe check.
29. Learning to Be Spider-Man
You may remember a little film called Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse because it won an Oscar and it’s one of the best animated movies in years. But it also gave us a meme that’s used to convey everything from listening to your friend talk about their interests to stealing content to watching your dad get frustrated while you hold the flashlight.
28. Cats Movie Trailer
Reactions to the perplexing and just plain wrong film adaptation of the Broadway musical Cats! are still pouring in after its December release, and when the first trailer dropped back in July, the reaction to the creepy, hyper-sexualized cats was pretty similar.
27. Flight Attendant
A meme everyone who couldn’t live up to their parents’ expectations can relate to.
26. Tough Guy Entrance
A video of a man dressed in a full tracksuit, dramatically entering a room and trying to look tough in front of snapping cameras quickly became a hilarious “caption this” game. Less hilarious, though, is the meme’s origin. Turns out this guy is Jawad Bendaoud, who was sentenced by the Paris Court of Appeal in March after being accused of harboring terrorists.
25. 6ix9ine Snitching
In September, rapper Daniel “6ix9ine” Hernandez testified about his involvement with the Nine Trey Bloods gang in court and made claims that rappers Cardi B and Jim Jones are both members in the gang. Following news of the testimonies, memes mocking the rapper and parodying his claims took over the internet.
24. Cats Can Have a Little Salami
A 2017 Google search result for “can cats eat salami” randomly turned into a pretty wholesome meme in 2019. All you need to know is that cats CAN, in fact, have a little salami.
23. “If I were…, I would simply…”
A lot easier said than done, although I’m sure any one of us could have written a better GOT finale.
22. im baby
Another meme that’s a little hard to explain, but “im baby” essentially connotes a person who yearns to be free of all responsibility and accountability … like a baby. The original context of the meme is actually kinda dark, but what it birthed was glorious.
21. “Rise and Shine”
After Kylie Jenner posted an unintentionally hilarious YouTube video of her waking up her already awake daughter Stormi by awkwardly singing “Riiise and shiiine,” the internet took the clip and meme’d the hell out of it. Then Jenner quickly trademarked the phrase and ruined a beautiful thing.
20. Woman Trying Kombucha
TikTok user @brittanyt445, better known as Kombucha Girl (and her real name, Brittany Broski), posted a video of her taking a sip of the fermented beverage and having a mixed reaction. The video of her emotional, confusing face journey was basically the perfect reaction video to many life conundrums: going out, getting married and texting your ex.
19. “Ah shit, here we go again”
“Ah shit, here we go again,” refers to a 2004 Grand Theft Auto scene in which protagonist CJ delivers the phrase in such a relatable way that it was destined to become a meme used to depict similarly frustrating situations.
18. The Fish Tube
The Fish Tube, the Salmon Cannon — whatever you choose to call it — was a good day on the internet. A video of salmon being launched through a “salmon cannon” went viral one day in August, with everyone from Chrissy Teigen to Mark Hoppus weighing in. The video shows salmon being loaded, one by one, into a small tube through which they travel over land and then plop into another body of water at what looks to be a very fast rate. It is absurd and evokes a sort of chaotic energy and relatability that makes you also want to be shot through the fish tube — which, of course, made it primed for internet virality.
17. “Sorry to this man”
Actress Keke Palmer gave us one the top memes of 2019 after she couldn’t identify (and subtly roasted) a picture of Dick Cheney during a Vanity Fair interview. Don’t worry, Keke, we wish we didn’t know who he was either.
16. Gummy Bear Challenge
A time-consuming meme to say the least. The gummy bear challenge is a popular TikTok trend in which a huge gummy bear sits over hundreds of regular-sized gummy bears while concert audio of Adele’s “Someone Like You” plays in the background. Does this make any sense? No, but it is impressive.
15. Storming Area 51
When a Facebook event called “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” started gaining traction, the internet was loaded for weeks with jokes about storming the top-secret government location and stealing the aliens hidden inside.
14. “Some Of Y’all…and it SHOWS”
One of the first memes of 2019 (with a reappearance at the end of the year, we love a full circle) was an easy-enough meme format where you could plug in almost anything relatable, nostalgic or, in the case above, oddly specific — and someone would be bound to understand.
13. 5-Minute Hacks
5-minute hacks or 5-minute crafts is a web-series of short “hack” videos that are supposed to make your life easier. And while some do provide useful information, others are just truly bizarre and unnecessary. Like this egg that is “bigger than before.” Thanks 5-minute crafts.
12. VSCO Girls
VSCO girls, the scrunchie, Birkenstock-wearing, Hydroflask-carrying white girls, were the latest youth trend of the year. Save the turtles!
11. Act My Age
A vine resurrected from the dead! Back in 2014, Vine user Aspect Za’Vier posted this video of his family dancing and it went viral. It wasn’t until recently someone set it to One Direction’s “Act My Age,” and made it go viral once more.
10. Girl Looking Up and Down
A video of Kayla Nicole Jones looking down at a phone then looking up to the camera with a tentative smile garnered many a captions — mainly because it’s a look we’re all guilty of giving when confronted with a messy situation.
9. “What it do babyyyy?”
Sure, NBA player Kawhi Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to a championship in 2019, but he also became a bit of a meme king this year. You’ve got the laugh, you’ve got “hey hey hey,” but truly his best work is “what it do babyyyy?” The perfect video to use while sliding into your ex’s DMs.
8. __Could Do…
Some actors just don’t have the range.
2019 was the year all our therapists’ advice went right out the window.
6. “And I -Oop”
A video of drag queen and former Rupaul’s Drag Race contestant, Jasmine Masters, accidentally hitting her balls mid-sentence and saying “and i-oop,” created possibly the biggest phrase of all 2019.
5. Hot Girl Summer
We wrote a full hot girl summer explainer back during that golden era, but here’s the quick run-down. Fans of rapper Megan Thee Stallion started the summer’s hottest meme and it turned into a self-actualization mantra for everyone. You don’t have to be a hot girl to have a hot girl summer, you just have to channel your inner bad bitch.
4. Woman Yelling At Cat
Twitter user @Missingegirl put together two popular reaction images — Taylor Armstrong screaming on an episode of The Real Housewives of Beverley Hills and a confused-looking cat sitting behind a dinner plate (later identified as Smudge the Cat) — inspiring close to a million variations of the meme.
3. Ok Boomer
community college student out here gettin bold
Have you ever seen a meme die so quickly? “Ok boomer” was the perfect dismissive retort to those out-of-touch baby boomers, and then the New York Times murdered it.
2. No One:
No one asked, but that didn’t stop anyone.
1. Baby Yoda
Not much to explain here. Disney’s “The Mandalorian” gave us Baby Yoda — the cutest goddamn creature in the galaxy. Meme him you must.