A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words: Simply 50 of the Greatest Memes of All Time

Meme Overload

This is a fitting meme to start this list – it highlights the fact that, these days, there is a considerable number of memes circulating the internet.

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It’s impossible to tell how many there are in total, but thousands of new ones are generated every single day throughout the world about a plethora of subjects. That’s why, as this particular meme shows amusingly when you try and search for one you have or saw previously on a social media site, it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Keep Calm and Carry On

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This meme has its roots in history – the famous phrase “keep calm and carry on” was first used in 1939 when World War II had broken out, and the British propaganda machine was beginning to whir. Fast-forward to the year 2000 when the originals of these posters were unearthed, and their simple design and strong message helped them become some of the fastest-spreading memes of all time.

Now edited slightly to provide amusing variations, these memes are some of the most commonly used in the world and convey simple, straight-to-the-point messages with a historical connotation.

The Kardashians and Jenners

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The Kardashians and Jenners seem to have dominated the internet in the last few years, so it comes as no surprise that they are the source of many great memes. As many of their critics claim, the family are incredibly famous for doing very little, so Kardashian or Jenner memes are often used to convey this message in a slightly underhand way.

This is a perfect example – although the meme centers mainly around stress and self-criticism, these feelings are transferred to the Kardashian-Jenner clan by using the still image of Kendall Jenner feeling extremely sorry for herself.

Karate Kyle

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These memes always use the image of a young man dressed ready for a karate fight, with the humor derived from a situation that he is unhappy about. As a result, he is always ready to unleash his fury on the perpetrator – in this case, a teacher that has pronounced his name wrong.

Karate Kyle memes are often relatable but greatly exaggerate the warranted reaction to the given situation. Amusingly, he looks exceptionally unthreatening and perhaps incapable of unleashing the fury of any kind!

Too Stressed Out

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This meme highlights the modern life of millennials, which is often associated with being stressed out and attempting to do too much. According to an article published in the New York Post last year, a study showed that the average millennial spends an average of four hours a day worrying about something.

That’s a considerable amount, and it’s no wonder there are so many jokes about millennials being “the most stressed out generation.”

Literally Speaking

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Some humor relies on the fact that it is sincere – and let’s face it, sometimes other people’s unfortunate situations are funny. In this case, the meme focuses on how little the person posting it has but is presented using language that insinuates they are fortunate, presenting humor in a dry, almost satirical way.

Ceiling Cat

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This meme was undoubtedly inspired by the constant government surveillance that the majority of the first world is subject to in this modern, digital age.

It is well known that there’s little we can do these days that can’t be tracked or monitored by the authorities and it has, therefore, become the subject of many jokes that are often satirical in nature.

Stepping Out

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Like some of the others in this list, this meme is mocking the modern generation and its dependence on technology.

The amusing picture of someone mistaking a butterfly for a bird is a condescending way of suggesting that young people these days spend all their time in the house and have little to no knowledge of the outside world – something that makes them the brunt of many new jokes.

Life Goals

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This particular meme is funny because it highlights the change that happens in most of us as we grow older.

Of course, when we’re young, the punishments listed here are almost too much to bear, but they amusingly become some of life’s enjoyments as we age and mature. It’s oddly relatable to the majority of us, which is where it gets its humor and huge popularity.

Priorities

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This meme shows the new Apple smartphone – something that is extremely popular but expensive to buy, as well as notoriously easy to break – and suggests that it is so precious the average person would instead break a bone than crack the screen.

Of course, this is not literally true, but the relatability of the situation mixed with the extreme reaction is very amusing, and it’s no wonder that it’s been shared countless times on social media.

Beauty of Exaggeration

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This meme plays on what a lot of us are guilty of every once in a while: exaggeration. We use it for effect and to make a particular point about something.

It also gives somewhat serious situations an amusing twist, as exemplified by this meme.

The Honey Badger

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Honey Badger memes originate from a video of a honey badger that circulated the internet in 2011. It was in the form of a National Geographic documentary with an amusing voice-over detailing the confidence, power, and unpredictability of the “ferocious” honey badger.

Since then, a vast variety of memes have been made to convey similar emotions, as exemplified by the meme shown here. The honey badger is given a persona of not caring about anything, which in turn makes it one of the fiercest creatures in the animal kingdom.

Vegans

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Leading a vegan lifestyle is way over just a “growing trend” in today’s world, with a continually increasing number of people adopting a plant-based diet. However, as a consequence, light-heartedly making fun of vegans has become a classic internet pastime, and a huge amount of memes have been produced to this effect.

This is a great example that is sure to rile the vegans that see it, but likely to make a non-vegan chuckle, as it is mocking the common perception that vegans like to “preach” in an insensitive but amusing way.

Don’t Look But…

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Sometimes, classical art or illustrations prove that human behaviors transcend the borders of time, and there’s no better way to exemplify this than with a well-constructed meme.

In this case, a classical picture has been captioned so perfectly that we can’t help but laugh – after all, we’re more than likely to have all been in this situation ourselves at least once before! It seems like it’s human nature to make it visible when we’re trying to look at someone else discreetly – and that makes it easier to laugh at this behavior!

Drakeposting

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Featuring a still shot of Canadian singer Drake from his 2015 video to “Hotline Bling,” “Drakeposting” memes use his facial expressions to convey a feeling or opinion over the subject the caption is focusing on – in this case, feeling unwell and going to the doctors.

In this fast-paced, self-diagnostic world, the majority of us have likely felt like Drake in this meme at some point!

If It Fits, I Sits

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The subject topic “cats” is one of the most searched topics on the internet, with viewers seemingly unable to get enough of them! There are many variations of “If I fits, I sits” memes, and the one shown here is a great example.

These memes originated from the 2009 United States Postal Service advert, which featured the slogan “If it fits, it ships.”

Business Cat

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The caption usually includes something an office boss would do or request, but with a feline twist. It started in 2011 when a picture of Daniel Vecchitto’s cat Emilio was posted on a social media site wearing a tie that he had been bought for Christmas.

Three days later, it had gone viral after being photoshopped multiple times, and Business Cat was born.

Awkward Moment Seal

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Unfortunately, life’s full of them – those awkward moments when you don’t know what to say or how to act, and you feel like you want the ground to swallow you up. Luckily, now we have a meme to accompany these horrible moments – the Awkward Moment Seal.

Featuring a seal with a wide-eyed expression that is associated with awkwardness and captions describing uncomfortable situations, these memes – of which there is a huge variety for all kinds of social situations – have been circulating the internet since 2014.

The World’s Most Interesting Man

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Inspired by the highly successful advertising campaign for the Dos Equis beer brand (ran from 2006 to 2018), the character of the world’s most interesting man is depicted as an upper-class, highly charismatic and well-traveled gentleman with refined tastes, often accompanied by captions based on the template “I don’t always X, but when I do, I Y.” Since it gained popularity on the internet, a parody campaign called “The Most Ridiculous Man in the World” featuring Canadian basketball player Steve Nash has been released.

Bad Joke Eel

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The Bad Joke Eel specializes in bad jokes, which is pretty evident from its name and the example we’ve given here. There are many variations of this meme, but they all feature what we consider to be “bad” jokes – often also known as “dad” jokes – plus a close-up photo of a Moray eel that was taken in the Philippines in 2012.

Hugely popular on social media sites, the Bad Joke Eel memes often make people groan rather than laugh!

Crying Wesley Snipes

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Like so many other memes on this list, this particular one has many variations regarding the caption. However, they all feature the same image of actor Wesley Snipes pointing a gun and crying – an extremely intense scene that is mainly amusingly used to dramatize small or everyday occurrences, as exemplified perfectly by this particular version, which is commonly used to show that the posters emotions have been “triggered” – often, due to trivial circumstances, hence the dramatic scene in the picture.

Different Perceptions

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This popular meme highlights the different perceptions people can amusingly have of one thing. Personifying a rat eating a huge piece of pizza as a single parent trying to feed its family trivializes the hardships of single parenthood while drawing on a comparison with popular children’s show Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. Taking an everyday, almost non-descript image and making it fun with a witty caption, this meme has proved to be extremely popular, being shared countless times on social media.

Procrastination

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The funny image of a cat in replacement of a human in bed, surrounded by junk food and glued to a computer screen, is relatable to many people. We’re all guilty of procrastinating on the internet sometimes, and this meme uses an example of a quiz (which actually exists!).

“Are you not entertained?”

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Russell Crowe initially said this iconic line in the hit film Gladiator. Like many other memes on this list, this meme serves as a form of self-deprecation, highlighting and mocking the difference between the intention and the result and finding humor in the misjudgment.

McKayla is not impressed

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These kinds of memes are derived from the scowl produced by US gymnast McKayla Maroney on the podium at the 2012 Olympic Games when she won a silver medal. Clearly, she was not impressed by the result and was deeply unhappy that she did not win the gold, and this expression is now used to convey a similar feeling of being totally and utterly unimpressed with a situation.

The photoshop of Maroney is often set against a background of historical or spectacular scenes, which make it even more amusing. Since that day, she has been unimpressed with virtually everything in the world!

Nigerian Prince

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There are many variations of this meme, which originates from a well-known scam that involves receiving an email in poor English from a stranger asking for financial assistance in the event of a death or medical emergency. As a meme, it serves as an amusing comeback to anyone perceived to be gullible and mocks the stereotype that Nigeria is the home of money extortion scams.

“You Mad?”

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Trivializing and making fun of a person’s anger or jealousy is almost guaranteed to infuriate them, which is the exact purpose of the response “You mad?”. Cam’ron first used this in response to Bill O’Reilly during a TV segment on whether rap music is harmful to children. Consequently, the phrase has been included in virtually every format – including memes such as this one, which is most frequently used to infuriate someone who is passionate or angry about something. Like this example, they usually feature a picture of a person (or in this case, baby!) with an amusing expression on their face.

Leeroy Jenkins

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Leeroy Jenkins is a character from World of Warcraft known for screaming his name before charging into battle and ignorantly killing everyone in his party. Although believed to have been staged, the internet has transformed it into one of the most popular and recognizable memes available.

As exemplified by this particular meme, “Leeroy Jenkins” – often spelled with multiple letters to give the impression of a long scream – is captioned with images that depict someone attempting something elaborate, and often dangerous and stupid.

“Bye, Felicia”

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In the classic 1995 comedy Friday, star Ice Cube says the line “Bye, Felicia” in response to a girl who is asking for free goods, as she always does. On March 11th, 2007, YouTuber HyFlyer988 uploaded a clip of the scene, gathering over 870,000 views and 290 comments.

Since then, it has become a popular dismissive catchphrase – one that is used to bid farewell to someone who is deemed to be unimportant – and frequently appears on the internet in the form of a meme, used as a quick, simple and effective put-down, usually during a disagreement.

The Philosoraptor

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On October 8th, 2008, the original illustration of the Philosoraptor – a Velociraptor that, by its posture, appears to be deeply immersed in philosophical thought – was released and copyrighted by creator Sam Smith as a T-shirt design for sale on the online retailer LonelyDinosaur.

Since then, the image has been paired countless times with captions depicting the dinosaur’s thoughts, which are always philosophical in nature – often so much so, in fact, that they become a joke as they are deemed to go “over the top.” There are many variations, but this seems the most appropriate for our list!

First World Problems

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Typically used in a tongue-in-cheek way to make light of trivial inconveniences, “first world problems” are frustrations and complaints that are only experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries.

Used in meme form, they make a mockery of how these privileges often cause individuals to take things for granted and become exasperated and upset over trivial circumstances – effectively creating a mountain out of a molehill! This example shows the subject being able to find something to complain about despite clearly being privileged – and sun reflecting off a computer screen really is a perfect example of a first world problem!

“Imma let you finish but…”

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This meme originates from popstar Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, during which rapper Kanye West stormed the stage and took the microphone from Swift to declare that Beyoncé had “one of the best music videos of all time”. Much like West’s original use of the phrase, which resulted in him being booed off stage, it is used to disregard what someone is saying in an almost mocking and condescending fashion.

James Van Der Beek Crying

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James Van Der Beek starred in hit series Dawson’s Creek, and it’s safe to say that his role involved a lot of emotional scenes that centered mainly around high-school breakups – so much so that his crying face has turned into a universally recognized expression of immense grief over things considered to be trivial. In this sense, these memes also serve as self-deprecating and sarcastic. When asked for his reaction, Van Der Beek said: “I love it. It’s hilarious to me that you can work for six years on a show…and it gets boiled down to three seconds.”

Grumpy Cat

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“Grumpy Cat” is, in fact, a pet called Tardar Sauce that lives with her owners in Arizona. Suffering from a disorder called “feline dwarfism,” she has a distinctive underbite that causes her to constantly have a pout – or, as the majority of the world have interpreted it, a grumpy facial expression. As a result, Grumpy Cat has become the pin-up for everything that warrants sarcasm and negativity, and thousands of captioned memes have been created as a result. In reality, however, Tardar Sauce is actually a very friendly cat, which makes the memes even more amusing!

Chuck Norris

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Satirical media about Chuck Norris’ perceived “manliness” has been circulating the internet since as early as 2005, mainly based on Conan O’Brien’s recurring jokes about “Walker, Texas Ranger.” This meme is a perfect example – simple, and to the point, it emphasizes Norris’ legendary status among men and suggests that he is capable of everything. The use of the well-known phrase “killed two birds with one stone” – something that is not meant to be taken literally but has been presented in a literal manner to highlight Norris’ apparent incredible abilities – makes this even more amusing.

Be Like Bill

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The “Be like Bill” meme was first created in 2015 and has propagated faster than any other. It always features an illustration using a stick person – “Bill” – with a caption and is used in a passive-aggressive way to make judgments about other people’s actions, opinions or general life choices in a public forum. As with many other memes, this enables people to criticize and feel superior to others without having to justify and without allowing the subject to defend themselves.

But That’s None of My Business

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Much like the “Be like Bill” memes discussed elsewhere, these memes are used to be openly sarcastic about or pass judgment on someone or an issue. It usually consists of a picture of Kermit the Frog drinking tea – an image with connotations of “minding your own business” – with two captions: one stating the issue and the other being “But that’s none of my business.”

Good Guy Greg

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Unlike many other memes in this list, “Good Guy Greg” promotes small and random acts of kindness and proper behavior, and does not serve in any way as a sarcastic means of passing judgment – which is quite refreshing! The photos of Greg, who is grinning, portray him to be a likable character, if a little simple, and the captions detail what good deed he has done. A welcome relief from some of the more condescending memes on the internet these days, Good Guy Greg serves as a reminder that, sometimes, a little goes a long way.

Drunk Baby

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In these memes, a baby that has been caught on camera looking like he’s had too many drinks is photoshopped in various scenarios with funny captions that are reminiscent of an adult’s drunken slurring. There’s almost always an alcoholic drink present so that it’s obvious the baby should be assumed to be drunk, and these juxtaposing images of a baby and getting drunk are what makes these memes so funny and popular.

Royal Life

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This meme shows a picture of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles laughing hysterically, with the caption mocking their high social standing and vast wealth, and highlighting the fact that they could be saying this to most people. The Royals are generally well-liked throughout the UK and the rest of the world, though, so these royal memes are, more often than not, light-hearted in nature.

Condescending/Sarcastic Willy Wonka

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In the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, released in 1971, Gene Wilder strikes a pose when introducing a strange machine. The film conveys a feeling of suspense but, when used as a still image, the expression on Wilder’s face is almost one of mockery and sarcasm – as a result, it has been used the world over for a variety of different memes that want to indicate these emotions.

Me IRL/It Me

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The phrase “me in real life” – which is often shortened to “me irl” – has recently taken the meme world by storm for this very reason. In the majority of cases, the poster of the meme doesn’t actually consider the example used to be them in real life, but it is shared with the aim of making others laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation, as well as the self-deprecating nature of the joke.

Success Kid

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This meme began with an innocent photo taken by a mother of her son playing on the beach in 2007, which was captioned “Why I oughta…” The image started to circulate the internet, and it wasn’t long before it was photoshopped and turned into a meme by placing the picture of the child on a blue background, leaving room for captions above and below. Centering around the theme of success – no matter how trivial it may seem – the Success Kid memes highlight the importance of the little things in life in an amusing, light-hearted way.

“Thanks, Obama”

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The phrase “Thanks, Obama” first appeared on the internet in 2009 as a hashtag in a sarcastic tweet about the perceived problems of US President Barack Obama’s health care bill.

As a result, supporters of Obama, as well as the opposition, used this to become an increasingly sarcastic way of blaming the President for everything that went wrong in life – effectively mocking those who blamed him for problems over which he had little or no influence.

Evil Kermit

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Over the last few years, the lovable and amusing Muppets character Kermit the Frog has earned himself a completely different online identity, now being recognized worldwide as the internet’s mascot for the “devil on your shoulder” – that is, the voice in the back of our minds encouraging us to do the wrong thing. Every one of these memes, though, features two Kermits – the one we recognize and a dark, hooded figure lurking behind.

Epic Fail

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These memes are extremely simple in nature: they are mistakes that everyday people around the world have made. Falls, wardrobe malfunctions, bad drivers, stunts went wrong… you name it; the “Epic Fail” memes have covered it! Although not everyone would admit it, delighting in the misfortune of others can often be extremely humorous, as evidenced by these memes.

I Regret Nothing!

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The “I Regret Nothing” meme first appeared on the internet way back in 2004 when the phrase was used on the web series “Red vs. Blue.” Now, it’s widely used in a variety of memes to convey a feeling of remorselessness regarding one’s actions and their consequences. Decidedly unapologetic in nature, they feature still pictures that are often of animals doing silly and often dangerous things – combined with the confident phrase “I regret nothing,” it is extremely amusing.

Male Stupidity

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There are many variations of this meme, and they all have two things in common. Firstly, the caption reads “This is why women live longer than men,” and secondly, it features a picture of a boy or a group of boys doing – or attempting– something that is both incredibly dangerous and stupid. This is a play on the fact that, scientifically speaking, women have a longer average life expectancy than men.

Prankster Joe Biden

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Prankster Joe Biden is a series of memes in which ex-US Vice President Joe Biden suggests to ex-President Barack Obama different ways to play practical jokes on controversial newly elected President Donald Trump. It plays on the close personal friendship Biden had with Obama during their time in the White House together and portrays Biden as being a childish prankster that is up to no good.

The Difference in Dressing

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This amusing meme shows the difference between, say, 20 years ago and today. In the past, before the rise of the internet and social media, the majority of children wore hand-me-downs plus had unstylish haircuts. Old photographs evidence this, and they’re usually a source of embarrassment for the subject.