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The most famous internet memes of all time

, Contributing editor · ·
Opinion Based on the author's interpretations and judgement of facts, data and events.

(Pocket-lint) - The Oxford English Dictionary defines "meme" as "an image, video, piece of text, typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by internet users, often with slight variations."

And if you've spent any time on Reddit or Buzzfeed then you'll probably find many who believe this is what the internet was made for.

Well, they say laughter is the best medicine so crack a smile at some of the best, stupidest and most famous memes we've found from around the web.


In the early days of 2018, comedian Steven Crowder posted a photo of him sitting at a table with a sign that read "Male privilege is a myth, change my mind."

His actions were designed to spark debate outside a Texas University for his Podcast and Youtube channel. The results were interesting.

The photo quickly became a template for many memes with people changing the words on the poster, but also Photoshopping someone else behind the desk. The meme also proved incredibly popular on the Subeddit /r/dankmemes.

The Verge

Success kid (also known as "I hate sandcastles") became popular in around 2008 when a photo of a smug baby at the beach was used across the web on social media, mainly as personal profile photographs.

Later, the photograph was Photoshopped and turned into thousands of different memes in the animal advice style or referencing his apparent hatred for sandcastles.

Success kid goes by the real name Sammy Griner and has now aged a few years, but still seems just as pleased with himself in all the recent photos we've seen. His fame also helped to successfully pay for his father's new kidney after a plea for funding for a transplant went online in the middle of 2016. So maybe he is successful after all!

Maggie Goldenberger

In 2012, a post titled "Just a book owner's smile…" was submitted to Reddit and, shortly after, the glory that is Ermahgerd girl was born. Featuring a young girl, awash with nerdy excitement and brandishing a trio of Goosebumps books, the photo soon became synonymous with "oh my God" levels of excitement.

Some say the misspelling of "oh my God" as "ermahgerd" is meant to represent the difficulty that would come speaking with teenage braces. As a result, the text accompanying these memes is often misspelt along the same lines.

Ermahgerd spawned many spin-off memes in the form of various excited animals eying up treats and tasty morsels.

The girl in the original photograph was eventually found. Maggie Goldenberger was actually just playing dress-up with friends when the snap was taken and found it hilarious many years later when told about the meme.


Animated science-fiction series Futurama features a down-on-his-luck delivery boy Philip J. Fry who finds himself trapped somewhere in the 31st Century after an unfortunate incident with a cryogenic freezing machine.

In season six, an episode aired called "Attack of the Killer App" in which the creators parodied Apple with the release of the new "eyePhone". Fry rushes to purchase one of the new devices and interrupts the sales genius with the phrase, "Shut up and take my money!"

Fry's words and a screengrab of him waving money quickly became a famous internet meme and a subreddit.

Many other nerdy memes also appeared along similar lines and became a simple expression of desire for an invention, proposed idea or consumer product.

Splash News

Keanu Reeves is something of an internet legend to the point that some have said he might be immortal. There's even a Snopes page dedicated to dispelling (or enforcing) some of the myths.

So when he was snapped by paparazzi miserably snacking on a sandwich on a bench in New York city, "Sad Keanu" was born.

The photograph first became a meme in 2010 when it appeared on Reddit and Green-ovale and from then on lead to Keanu being Photoshopped, sandwich and all, into other photos and settings across the world.

The meme got such attention that the BBC even asked Keanu about it in an interview with him in 2011.

Quick Meme

A favourite meme for when things get a bit crazy or out of control on the internet, this meme comes from a memorable quote by Will Farrell when he played character Ron Burgundy in 2004's Anchorman.

This phrase was heavily quoted across the web on message boards, social networks and in blog comment systems. The Anchorman film has spawned a number of other memes due to its popularity, but this is perhaps the most well-known.


Ceiling Cat is perhaps one of the earliest known internet memes dating back to 2003 when the original photograph of a ginger cat peering through a hole in the ceiling was submitted to FunnyJunk.

The image later became a Photoshop meme and appeared in many different variations across the web. The most popular and common version didn't appear until 2006 when the photo was given the wording "Ceiling Cat is watching you...".

So popular was this meme that a mythology appeared around it which purported that Ceiling Cat was the LOLcat equivalent of God and his nemesis Basement Cat was akin to the devil.


Grumpy Cat is a particularly irritable looking pussy who goes by the real name "Tardar Sauce". This meme again took off thanks to Reddit, in late 2012 when original photos of Grumpy Cat were posted online.

Various Photoshopped pics of Grumpy Cat appeared online with captions expressing his distaste for whatever the topic happened to be about.

Grumpy Cat proved so popular that it spawned all sorts of spin-offs including stuffed toys, books, t-shirts and even a coffee drink.

Know Your Meme

Domo-kun is of Japanese origin and was originally a mascot for one of the major TV stations there. He was originally seen in sketches in 1998.

The character first appeared in meme form when two Domo-kuns were photoshopped into an image to look like they were chasing a kitten a relevant threat about God killing a kitten. 

That meme saw many different iterations itself, then Domo-kun began making appearances in disaster-based photos giving the impression that he was the cause of the misery.

Dave Roth

In 2004, a photograph of a young girl with a devilish smile in front of a burning house appeared online. It was picked up four years later by Buzzfeed and soon got the attention of the internet with posts and re-posts all across the web.

Zoe's face has since been doctored onto a multitude of disaster scenes ranging from WW2 to modern sinkholes and natural disasters.

Know Your Meme

A really simple meme that shows a car aggressively exiting the motorway at high speed. This photo is simply tweaked by adding a caption to the road sign which shows the author's preference between two choices. Simple, effective and ever-so-popular. 

Antonio Guillem

This meme is fairly unusual in that it spawned from a stock photograph. That image was originally snapped by photographer Antonio Guillem who uploaded it to iStock in 2015. It wasn't until two years later that the image became a popular meme. With simple captions added to the image to represent real-life things people are distracted by. 

This meme continued to prove popular in the months that followed, to the point that near the end of 2018 it was even banned from use in an advert by a recruitment company showing the lure of its offers versus viewers current jobs. 


In 2006, Jonathan Goldsmith appeared in a series of advertising campaigns for Dos Equis beer in which he was pitched as "the most interesting man in the world".

During that campaign, his catchphrase was "I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis…". The campaign took off and the resulting meme was born - all using the same format "I don't always…" and finishing "…but when I do…"

Video spin-offs popped up all over the place and Jonathan Goldsmith even appeared in a Reddit Ask Me Anything.

Know Your Meme

The classic Nokia 3310 mobile phone has developed somewhat of a legendary status over the years. Originally released in 2000, this phone was a brute of a device; hard-wearing and long-lasting compared to today's fragile phones.

The result has been many an amusing meme purporting the 3310 to be indestructible with near God-like qualities.


Originating in the depths of 2010, this meme came to life thanks to some glorious photos of Shiba Inus - a breed of tiny and agile Japanese dog with a quizzical face. Posted on a personal blog, the original photos appeared with one such dog named "Kabosu" casually lounging on a sofa with a sideways glance at the camera.

With the help of Reddit, "Doge" was then born. Images of the dog are Photoshopped into various poses and situations, plastered with internal monologue quotes in Comic Sans font and delivered to the internet for the world to enjoy. 

This popular meme spawned a trademark claim, a satirical form of cryptocurrency (Dogecoin) and much more besides.

Know Your Meme on the moon

In 2010, Leonardo DiCaprio was caught on camera merrily strutting around the set for blockbuster hit Inception.

The image of DiCaprio was promptly cut-out and put online as an exploitable template on a transparent background which meant that anyone could have their way with it and thus, Strutting Leo was born.

The cut-out photo then found its way into a variety of different scenes including one of Leo strutting his way casually into Mordor and across the moon.


The classic facepalm is a well-known symbol for dismay at someone's foolish actions – especially where a lapse in judgement or common sense might apply.

The most common usage of this meme features an image of Patrick Stewart playing Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek with his head in his hands in reaction to events unfolding on the bridge of the Enterprise.

There have been many other instances since, including the joy of double facepalms and this wonderful collage.

Know Your Meme/Meme Generator

Joseph Ducreux was an 18th Century French artist known for a peculiar style of portrait paintings. In 2009, his particularly quirky self-portrait joined the world of internet memes when superimposed with rap lyrics.

The words often featured on these memes include an archaic reinterpretation of the original lyrics with an 18th Century spin. The first recorded version read "Disregard Females, Acquire Currency" – a take on Notorious B.I.G’s song Get Money but has since seen many variations.

Know Your Meme

In 2017, for the sake of 10 seconds of fame, a disturbing trend emerged where people starting recording videos of themselves eating laundry detergent and uploading the results to YouTube. This trend quickly resulted in a great swathe of different memes around the stupidity of doing so.

Fortuntely, the so-called "Tide Pod challenge" is no longer a thing. 

Be like Bill

In the wonderful world of the web, keyboard warriors and discourteous people are rife. "Be like Bill" is aimed at combatting that plague and trolls in general by sending a message of common sense through means of a simple stick figure called "Bill".

In a series of single frame comic strips, Bill is put into different everyday situations with simple guidance on how to act – basically tips on how not to annoy other people in real life and online.

Quick Meme/Meme Wow

Good Guy Greg is rumoured to have its roots in the murky depths of 4chan. This simple photo of a cheerful chap is meant to symbolise a kind and generous human being who we'd all be happy to call our friend.

The actual subject of the original photograph is unknown and was a matter of some debate on Reddit in 2011. Nonetheless, Good Guy Greg has been spreading his excellent attitude ever since.

Daily Dot

Scumbag Steve is the antithesis of Good Guy Greg. He stands for everything Greg does not. He is selfish and doesn't care about your feelings or being polite.

The original photo of Scumbag Steve features a young man with a baseball cap on sideways standing in a doorway. The photo appeared on Reddit in 2011 and quickly caught on as a popular meme. It often features text portraying Steve as a bad buy who'd happily steal medication from his grandparents or borrow money and never pay people back.

The real subject of the photograph is Blake Boston a rapper from the group "Beantown Mafia" who purports not to be a bad guy after all. Though he's certainly making the most of his internet fame. 

Huffington Post

US President Donald Trump has been the subject of many a meme in the run up to and well into his Presidency.

One of our (and the internet's) favourites is the Photoshop meme that shows various drawings, doodles and delightful scribbles on the open folder that in reality displayed his signature on an executive order from January 2017.

This all started on Reddit with the posting of a Dickbutt GIF.

Then various examples of the meme found their way onto Reddit and the joyful Twitter account that is @TrumpDraws was also born.


This meme takes several different forms and often uses a variety of photographs commonly including a woman crying with head in her hands, a tearful photo of James Van Der Beek from 90's TV Show Dawson's Creek and more.

The idea behind this one is the summing up of the (often insignificant) frustrations of privileged peoples of the developed world. These memes are meant to be delivered with a dash of tongue-in-cheek humour poking fun at how trivial first world problems are.

Know Your Meme

From the Liam Neeson film "Taken" comes a meme based on his character's memorable quote paraphrased to "I will find you and I will kill you."

The meme is used to show annoyance with frustrating situations in everyday life, often in a similar way to the First World Problems meme.


Dating back to 2001, this meme originates from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and features Boromir (played by Sean Bean) explaining how "One does not simply walk into Mordor" to throw the ring into the fires of Mount Doom.

The meme features a picture of Sean Bean and is often used to express the difficulty of doing something particularly arduous. The meme proved so popular that it even appeared as an Easter egg on Google Maps.

Know Your Meme

Sean Bean has proven popular in the meme world, so much so that he made another appearance thanks to his character Ned Stark from Game of Thrones.

Here the character's quote "brace yourselves, winter is coming" has been used in various ways to humorously predict the influx of internet posts about a specific event or product. The classic example being an increase in the number of people complaining about changes to their Facebook newsfeed.


This meme is a paraphrasing of a scene from the Matrix. In the film, the character Morpheus (played by Laurence Fishburne) is explaining to the main character Neo (Keanu Reeves) that he exists inside a computer simulation. He poses a choice between two pills to find out the truth or to carry on living in blissful ignorance.

Like many other memes, this one apparently first appeared on Reddit and has since been used to show a revelation about a particular behaviour.

Meme Generator

Philosoraptor is an unusual one in the meme world as it came about after the creation and copyrighting of a design for a new t-shirt.

However, that may well have had some inspiration from the web too as in 2007 a Photoshopped image was posted to 4Chan of a Velociraptor from Jurrassic Park holding a book by Plato.

Since then, the Philosoraptor t-shirt image has been the subject of many memes and is simply accompanied by various philosophical questions that an intelligent dinosaur might ponder.

Examples include "is a key still a key if there is no lock?" and "is a fly without wings called a walk?"


This meme features a young lad with braces wearing a tartan vest and a cheeky smile. It originally appeared on Reddit in 2012 and was used with an accompanying caption to describe various embarrassing circumstances.

The photo was later revealed to be of Kyle Craven who rose to some level of internet fame after revealing himself in a Reddit AMA. Kyle also has a claim to fame after being spotted (and recognised) by Seth Rogan when out in public.

By all accounts, he's not as down on his luck as the internet would have you believe.

Know Your Meme

The Walking Dead is a very popular, often controversial TV show about zombies. Also popular is poking fun at the way the show's character Rick Grimes pronounces his son's name "Carl".

He said/shouted and called it a lot during the various seasons.

And is often heard mispronouncing it as "Coral".

Besides this, the scene where Rick discovered his wife was dead also reached the internet in meme form but this time as a comic strip for poor dad jokes.  


From the 1999 classic "Office Space" comes a meme derived from Gary Cole's character Bill Lumbergh. His sole purpose in life seems to be getting people to finish paperwork and work extra hours over the weekend.

The meme is inspired by this scene where Peter tries to duck out of the office on Friday but is caught at the last second by Bill who asks him to come in on Saturday.

This is phrase is then turned into a meme where something horrible is requested followed by a non-confrontational "that'd be great".

Meme Generator

What's funnier than a baby drinking beer? An intoxicated infant spouting drunken wisdom that's what. And that's how this meme was born when a photo of a child sitting next to a pint was uploaded to Reddit in 2012.

This simple meme gained popularity on 9gag, Facebook and more with a variety of different captions being added to the original photo.

Image Flip

In 2012, Kimberly Wilkins (aka Sweet Brown) was interviewed by a local news station in Oklahoma City after being evacuated from an apartment building that was on fire.

Her quote finished:

"….I said 'Oh Lord Jesus, it's a fire', then I ran out, I didn't grab no shoes or nothin' Jesus! I ran for my life. Then the smoke got me. I got bronchitis. Ain't nobody got time for that!"

Which made hilarious waves on the internet, especially when autotuned.

In the meantime, the perfect meme was created and could easily be used for anything taxing that you might not have time for.


The classic Nokia 3310 mobile phone has developed somewhat of a legendary status over the years. Originally released in 2000, this phone was a brute of a device; hard-wearing and long-lasting compared to today's fragile phones.

The result has been many an amusing meme purporting the 3310 to be indestructible with near God-like qualities.

Meme Generator

This classic meme was inspired by American TV show Pimp My Ride. In it, host Xzibit and his team improved people's automobiles, usually by adding something they liked into the vehicle so they could experience it while out and about. And thus the meme was born.

This meme follows a simple formula where X and Y are replaced with the relevant subject matter:

"Yo dawg, I herd you like X, so I put an X in your Y so you can VERB while you VERB"

This simple yet effective humour lent itself to thousands of memes across the years, with Xzibit's smiling face happily photoshopped into relevant images.


After the captain of the MV Ever Given managed to get the massive cargo ship stuck in the Suez Canal, holding up masses of other ships trying to pass through the region all manner of memes appeared online. Although a mishap of fairly epic proportions, the event still managed to bring chortles to many of us around the world. 

The Daily Meme

At the 2022 Oscars, Will Smith went onto the stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock for what he deemed to be an inappropriate joke about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, The slap was televised and whipped up quite a storm online with all sorts of memes and jokes quickly appearing. 

The actor apologised but that didn't stop him from quickly becoming the source of many memes based on screen grabs of the incident.

This is one of the most amusing ones we saw which used the opening scene from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air to relate what happened with the intro to the show that made him famous. 

Writing by Adrian Willings.