The 50 Best Memes of 2020, Explained
50 of this year’s funniest, weirdest and most chaotic viral internet videos, images and jokes
If you somehow didn’t have the luxury of experiencing 2020 for yourself, you could pick up on the year’s vibe just by looking at the internet memes it produced.
The memes of 2020 undoubtedly reflected a chaotic, unpredictable, fucked-up timeline. Back in October, we looked at how some of the biggest memes perfectly embodied this terrible year. Anxieties about the grossly mismanaged COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 presidential election seeped into our memes. Hyperrealistic cakes drove us to the brink of madness; we related to a photo of a perturbed-looking Robert Pattinson maybe a little too hard, and the word “Da Vinky” became a crutch for a deeper existential crisis.
But as dismal as this all may seem, the memes of 2020 ultimately gave us some much-needed relief. As we’ve said before, memes, by definition, translate complex emotions and sentiments into easily shareable photos, videos and text posts. There is a comfort in knowing that our own feelings resonate with thousands — or even millions — of people who feel similarly. Particularly in a time when we can’t be together, the memes of 2020 have offered us the connection we’re so desperately yearning for.
Whether it was the ever-growing memes during a long and exhausting Election Week or a video of a man blissfully riding a skateboard, listening to “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac and drinking cranberry juice, or a successful TikTok crowdsourcing attempt to put on a Ratatouille Broadway musical, the memes helped us through 2020. And if you’re confused by anything I just said, no worries, because below, I’ve compiled and explained 50 of this year’s funniest, weirdest and most chaotic memes.
50. They Don’t Know I…
The very end of 2020 saw a resurgence of an old Wojak meme. Also known as “I Wish I Was At Home,” “They Don’t Know I…” is a poorly drawn comic of a man standing alone in a corner wistfully watching partygoers and silently thinking to himself a secret or mild achievement no one else knows or really cares about.
As noted above, there was a plethora of wonderful memes from election week, but if we had to highlight just one, we’d have to give the spotlight to Gritty. After it became clear the city of Philadelphia would push Biden to a presidential victory, many on the internet were offering praise to the Philadelphia Flyer mascot, a bedraggled orange beast who has, over the years, emerged as an enduring symbol of hope for the nation. Various memes imagined the monster as the future Secretary of Defense, while others made clever Game of Thrones references or mockups of Gritty sitting on the Supreme Court.
48. I Can’t Talk Right Now, I’m Doing Hot Girl Shit
This popular TikTok trend uses lyrics from rapper Meghan Thee Stallion’s song “Girls in the Hood” to showcase all the non-traditional “hot girl shit” one is participating in.
47. Robert Pattinson
This photo of Robert Pattinson dressed like a complete dirtball and looking extremely perturbed became a long-standing meme this year. The photo, taken by Josh Safdie on the set of the movie Good Time, exuded an energy similar to the one many had been experiencing all year long, it had users across Twitter and TikTok meme-ing the photo for months.
46. The Show Villain/ The Real Villain
In July, the internet opened our eyes to who the real villains were in our favorite movies and TV shows opposed to the classic on-screen ones we’ve been sold.
45. Everything is Cake
Back in July, the internet was overrun with hyperrealistic cakes. Compilation videos of what looked to be regular old vegetables, fruits or inanimate objects were sliced into and revealed to be … cake! While initially the internet made jokes about the level of gross fondant on these things or even attempted to cut into real tissue boxes, the hyperrealistic cakes soon began to take an existential toll, with some commenters questioning if they themselves were in fact cake.
44. Spotify Wrapped
At the end of every year, Spotify compiles all our data into a shareable recap of all the music and artists we listened to. This provides ample opportunity for people to show off their cool, alternative music taste or poke fun at how terrible it actually is. But while many (like me) enjoy looking at everyone’s Spotify Wrappeds, others make it a point to let proclaim that nobody cares. Well, many in favor of the trend began using the above copypasta as a counterpoint.
43. I Am Going To Create An Environment That Is So Toxic
An old meme of Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester from the show Glee saying, “I am going to create an environment that is so toxic” had a resurgence this year, possibly due to the toxic environment 2020 had created. The original quote was widely used particularly as an environmental message, but many blocked out the photo’s text to create a ton of different variations of the meme.
41. Gal Gadot “Imagine”
Celebrities had a difficult time relating to us at the start of the pandemic (and continuously throughout.) One of the most egregious offenses, though, came from actress Gal Gadot, who got a bunch of her famous friends together to sing John Lennon’s “Imagine” to us. Why did they think we wanted this? It is still unclear, but we did get to mock it relentlessly which made for some pretty great memes, so thanks, Gal.
40. Taylor Swift Folklore and Evermore
Even if you’re not a hardcore Swiftie like the rest of us over here at InsideHook, you probably heard that Taylor Swift just couldn’t stop dropping albums this year. After shocking fans with the surprise release of her 8th studio album Folklore in July, the internet was thoroughly #shook just five months later when Swift announced she was releasing a sister album titled Evermore. Memes of course ensued as the internet attempted to process the news.
39. Go Piss Girl
One of the first memes of quarantine was one of the best. Somehow everyone’s Twitter feeds were bombarded with variations of this Gossip Girl meme. The original meme featured a still of Serena (Blake Lively) saying “I have to pee” to Blair (Leighton Meester) who responds “Go piss girl,” a rearrangement of the show’s title. The template was used to succinctly answer questions related to Peppa Pig and the U.S.’ invasion of Iraq. I don’t know what exactly makes this so funny but I am still laughing about it.
38. Me, Still Processing…
This image of a man wielding a knife was the perfect template to express all the terribly tumultuous events our poor brains tried to process this year. Like Taylor Swift releasing another surprise album, or the fact that March is somehow already approaching.
37. Among Us
Among Us was the hottest video game of the year, and it inspired a ton of memes across TikTok, Twitter and other social platforms. While the online multiplayer social deduction game was developed back in 2018, it became a hit this year thanks to quarantine, offering kids, teens and young adults a quick answer to boredom while allowing them to safely socialize with friends and others on the internet. Even U.S. Reps Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar played a few rounds of the game in late September to get out the vote, inspiring more viral internet reactions and even fancams.
36. Don’t Worry About What’s In The Vaccine
Successfully immunizing the population against COVID-19 is going to have its setbacks, especially as anti-vaxxer rhetoric, conspiracies and misperceptions about the efficiency of the vaccine have been circulating on the internet. As the COVID-19 vaccine began to deploy across the nation to millions of healthcare workers, many on the internet tried to mitigate concerns with a copypasta, assuring those who have consumed the OG Four Loko or played beer pong with the beer in the cups, they don’t have to worry about what’s in the vaccine.
35. D.W. Holding Fence
This image of D.W. from the children’s cartoon Arthur clinging onto a fence and gazing out longingly perfectly summed up the feeling of being in lockdown and barred from margarita night.
34. $600 Stimulus
After nine months of virtually no relief during the on-going COVID-19 crisis that has left millions unemployed, thousands facing eviction from their homes and small businesses at risk of permanent closure, Congress finally passed a $900 billion stimulus package that would give every eligible American a whopping $600. At the sight of a lean relief check that would cover the medium monthly rent in exactly zero states, many on the internet channeled their anger and frustrations at the government’s blatant disregard for the American people into memes and jokes.
33. Dancing Pallbearers (Coffin Dancers)
No coronavirus meme has managed to transcend its interweb plane quite like the Dancing Pallbearers, also known as the Coffin Dancers. The meme refers to a Ghanian group of pallbearers who dance with coffins in order to make funerals a more celebratory occasion. The group gained worldwide attention from a 2017 BBC feature story, where they were seen showing off some impressive choreography all while hoisting up a coffin. In March 2020, the video of the dancing pallbearers was paired with the EDM song “Astronomia” by Tony Igy and used in conjunction with “epic fail” photos and videos. But as the pandemic started to unfold, the pallbearers were used as PSAs for the virus. In Brazil, their image was plastered on billboards next to a warning message: “Stay home or dance with us.” Then in May, the pallbearers themselves adopted the message. A video posted to Twitter by one of the members of the group showed the pallbearers wearing surgical masks, thanking first responders and again urging the public to stay home or dance with them.
32. “Mi Pan Su Su Sum”
A Russian cereal commercial sound went viral on TikTok over the summer. The song, known as “Mi pan su su sum” became a weird yet insanely catchy sound on the video-sharing app, often paired with similarly strange animations or videos of dancing llamas.
31. Mike Pence vs. The Fly
If you witnessed a fly land on Vice President Mike Pence’s head during the VP debates in real-time, you don’t need much of an explanation. But if you didn’t, yes — a fly landed on Mike Pence’s head and proceeded to just chill on the VP’s white hair for a considerable amount of time. The fly spawned hundreds of “The Fly on Mike Pence’s Head” Twitter accounts and the meme died as quickly as it started, but for a brief second, many found joy in the omen.
30. Bad Things Happen In Philadelphia
Another meme inspired by a debate during the 2020 election cycle, this time from President Donald Trump. While making a baseless claim about voter fraud in the upcoming presidential election, Trump referenced the city of Brotherly Love saying “Bad things happen in Philadelphia.” Philadelphians, of course, took the statement in stride and proudly produced T-shirts, mugs and more with the declaration on them, while others on the internet turned the phrase into a meme noting the city’s not-so-great sports teams and dating scene.
29. Sexualizing the USPS
In August, there was a call to save the United States Postal Service, after Donald Trump admitted to intentionally blocking federal aid to the USPS in an attempt to discourage mail-in voting. Some on the internet devised a full-proof solution: sexualizing the USPS.
28. Nature Is Healing, We Are The Virus
At the start of lockdown, as humans retreated into their homes for an extended period of time, Twitter users began posting photos of nature returning to its natural state. Dolphins and swans were showing up in Venice’s now clear canal waters, wild boars were romping around Bergamo, Italy — nature was healing! These tweets racked up millions of views and likes, the only problem? None of it was real according to Buzzfeed News (save for a Wales town overrun by goats.) But it was too late, a meme was born. Users began posting photos of lime scooters and dildos returning to their natural bodies of water with the caption, “nature is healing, we are the virus.”
Everyone had something to say about rappers Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s chart-topping “WAP” when the song dropped this past August. Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro was so horrified at the idea of women claiming ownership over their bodies that he, for some reason, told the internet he’s never gotten his wife wet. Thankfully though, it seemed the rest of the general populace was thoroughly enjoying the raunchy rap song, so much so that a “WAP” dance created by Brian Esperon became a viral dance challenge across Instagram and TikTok.
26. I Am Once Again Asking…
Many Bernie Sanders memes came out of the candidate’s presidential run earlier this year, but the best is “I am once again asking…” The meme is taken from a campaign video where Sanders says, “I am once again asking for financial support” for his campaign. Users turned the plea into a viral meme, replacing text to reflect their dire needs.
At the start of the year, the threat of a potential WWIII with Iran (remember that?) prompted the teens on TikTok to joke about how they would evade a hypothetical draft and how terrible they’d fare in conflict. It was a way of channeling the very real anxiety about the possibility of war into some comedic relief.
24. This Claim Is Disputed
After four years of letting misinformation run rampant on the platform, Twitter rolled out a feature ahead of the election designed to flag tweets that had false or misleading info in them. The feature gained viral attention after President Donald Trump continued to tweet baseless claims about election fraud after his loss, causing his Twitter feed to have “This claim is disputed” warning labels stamped all over it. The warning label quickly became a meme, with users posting personal claims that have been disputed by outside sources.
23. I Ain’t Never Seen Two Pretty Best Friends
TikTok user @jayrscotty gave us a real gift this year when he prophetically proclaimed he had “never seen two pretty best friends” because “always one of them got to be ugly.” The inane, unfounded and kinda misogynistic statement became one of the biggest memes of the year with users going viral for mimicking @jayrscotty’s strange mannerisms and kids convincing their parents to say the phrase in Rickroll fashion.
22. We Did It Joe
A viral video of Kamala Harris calling Joe Biden and telling him, “We did it Joe. You’re gonna be the next president of the United States,” became a viral sound and meme on TikTok, with users mimicking the Vice President-elect’s mannerisms and elated, but somewhat strange, tone.
21. “After 2 weeks of multiple health screens…”
When Kim Kardashian West shared photos from her 40th birthday party on Twitter back in October, the internet did not share her “humbled” and “blessed” sentiments. Not long after posting photos from her private island extravaganza, West got the full meme treatment. The sentence from her post that seemed to irk people the most, “After 2 weeks of multiple health screens and asking everyone to quarantine, I surprised my closest inner circle with a trip to a private island where we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time,” became a copypasta. Twitter users began posting “private island” images from popular moments in pop culture alongside the insane sentence.
20. Lin-Manuel Miranda Lip-biting Selfie
Lin-Manuel Miranda gave us the masterpiece that is the Broadway musical Hamilton. He also, unfortunately, gave us this cursed lip-biting selfie that has now been mocked and meme’d into oblivion, mainly on TikTok, simply because of how uncomfortable and cringy the sight truly is.
19. Smooth Brain
It was “no thoughts, head empty” all year for obvious reasons. So we decided to celebrate our “smooth brains,” which according to a 2011 Urban Dictionary entry is “A stupid person; [Smooth brain] refers to the lack of surface area on an individual’s brain. The general thought is that the more surface area (wrinkles, creases, etc.) a brain has, the smarter the person is. Conversely, a person with a smooth brain (no wrinkles) has less surface area and would therefore be stupid.” All hail our stupid, smooth brains.
18. Dolly Parton
After the internet learned that country icon Dolly Parton had partially funded Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, respects were rightfully paid.
17. Four Seasons Total Landscaping
A few days after the presidential election, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani set up a press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, a small landscaping business located in Holmesburg, Pennsylvania. Even for Giuliani, the location, which sits between a sex shop and crematorium, was a bizarre move and had many speculating that the Trump campaign meant to book the presser at Philadelphia’s more well-known and upscale Four Seasons Hotel. The entire debacle led to memes, in-depth investigations and even a profile on the sex shop next door.
16. I Just Flipped The Switch
A line in rapper Drake’s song “Nonstop” became a huge trend on TikTok with couples dancing in the mirror, flipping a lightswitch and swapping clothes.
15. Future Sending Exes Texts (Coronavirus Edition)
Future Sending Exes Texts is a meme that emerged in late 2019. An image of rapper Future texting on his phone was captioned with typical texts your toxic ex might send you over the holidays. This year, the meme received a coronavirus update with Future now sending you corny COVID-related lines. The meme was even used by Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health to promote mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing.
14. Tiger King
The hit Netflix docuseries that captivated almost everyone at the start of quarantine was something out of a fever dream. There were big cats, mullets, a thruple wedding ceremony, murder, arson and surprisingly catchy country music. The show spawned much discourse, Halloween costumes and, of course, memes.
13. LinkedIn / Facebook / Instagram / Tinder
Also known as the “Dolly Parton Challenge” because the queen of country herself started the trend, “LinkedIn / Facebook / Instagram / Tinder” was a meme that most-likely took over your Instagram feed for a couple of days. The challenge is pretty self-explanatory, making light of how we choose to represent ourselves across different social platforms.
12. “Dreams” Fleetwood Mac
TikTokker Nathan Apodaca (who you might know better as doggface208) skateboarding with a jug of Ocean Spray Cran-Raspberry in hand while lip-syncing to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” was arguably the biggest meme of 2020, and inspired over a hundred thousand tribute videos including ones from Mac Fleetwood and Stevie Nicks. We’ve already discussed what makes Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” so meme-worthy, and it’s not difficult to see why millions of people resonated with Apodaca’s video. The vibes are simply immaculate and exemplify a relaxed state we’ve all been dreaming for.
11. How It Started VS. How It’s Going
The meme that originated on Twitter as a framework for showing the progression (or digression) of your relationship, morphed into a template to explain the timeline of just about anything, including how many people suddenly forgot we were still in a pandemic.
10. Oh To Be…
Oh to be a cow on the beach peering into the ocean or a bear made of rice chilling in a bowl of curry or a cloud-like Japanese pancake or a capybara simmering in a bath with an orange sitting on its head. Oh to be mentally stable in 2021.
9. TW: Matthew Morrison
Actor Matthew Morrison became public enemy #1 on TikTok this year after fans of the show Glee started to point out all the wildly inappropriate and creepy stuff his character Will Schuester did on the show. Eventually hating Morrison became an inside joke on the video-sharing app with users compiling his cringy dance moves, Rick-rolling and making sure to put “trigger warnings” on videos or images of Morrison. The actor also wasn’t doing himself any favors when he tried to sex-up the Grinch during NBC’s “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical!” in December, leaving viewers deeply unsettled.
8. How The Email Found Me
A way-too-relatable meme that made me feel somewhat reassured about everyone’s inbox causing them similar emotional distress.
7. Da Vinky?
For months, the internet couldn’t stop thinking about one particular TikTok of the Vörös twins mispronouncing “Da Vinci.” In the TikTok, the question “Who painted the Mona Lisa?” was answered with a quizzical “Da Vinky?” from the two identical Hungarian Canadian twins. The clip became a popular sound to duet on TikTok, but soon found its way to Twitter, where “Da Vinky?” memes about the Teletubbies and Armie Hammer in The Social Network began to spread. But as we all kept repeating this dumb word into oblivion, it soon became clear that “Da Vinky?” was the only thing our rotten brains were capable of muttering.
6. The 2020 Challenge
Reese Witherspoon started the “2020 Challenge” that had other celebs like Viola Davis and Mindy Kaling sharing a visual representation of 2020’s decline with stills from their various on-screen characters.
5. Dear Men, What is Preventing You From Looking Like This
After Twitter user @katiey_ke_ asked the men of Twitter what was preventing them from looking like this model with rock-hard abs, many on the internet had a different idea of what male peak performance looks like.
4. The Last Dance
The Last Dance was a serious saving grace in quarantine. Every Sunday night throughout April and May, we gathered around the TV to watch and livetweet ESPN’s blockbuster docuseries following the Chicago Bulls’ 1997-98 championship run. The docuseries was a goldmine for memes, and we got a ton of Jordan faces to add to our collection.
3. Why Are You Dressed Like That
While we couldn’t be with our families this year for the holidays, we had this meme to remind us of those awkward, dreadful family interactions we missed out on.
2. Home Depot’s 12-Foot Tall Skeleton
For whatever reason, Home Depot added a $300 12-foot tall skeleton to its inventory this year. As spooky season approached, photos of the skeleton looming in people’s yards began circulating across the internet, and very soon, we all became infatuated with the monstrous lawn ornament.
1. Ratatouille: The Musical
When the quarantine gets tough, the tough … create an original Broadway musical inspired by the beloved 2007 Pixar film Ratatouille? As Vulture explains in its comprehensive timeline of how Ratatouille: The Musical was born, “Composers, singers, actors, musicians, dancers, and set designers have come together to write and perform original songs for a Ratatouille musical that does not exist on any stage, but is alive and ever-growing on TikTok.” That’s right, Broadway fans on the video-sharing app have gone viral for writing and performing numbers inspired by the movie’s plot, creating playbills and building impressive set designs. The crowdsourced endeavor gained so much viral attention it’s actually being given the official Broadway treatment on January 1st. You can get your tickets for Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical here.
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