Dancing Baby (1996)
Also known as the “Oogachaka baby”, this clip of a CGI baby in a diaper dancing to Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” is known as the first viral video of all time. Debuting almost a decade before YouTube, the clip was shared primarily through e-mail chains. Watch it HERE*
*links do not necessarily lead to original upload
All Your Base Are Belong To Us (Early 2000s)
The English translation of the 1989 video game Zero Wing had more than a few errors, but this one became iconic when a remix of the butchered sentence blew up on sites like Newgrounds and Flashplayer. Watch it HERE
Star Wars Kid (2002)
Ghyslain Raza, 15 at the time, didn’t intend for this video of him practicing the lightsaber moves of Darth maul to be seen by anyone. But when high school classmates got ahold of it, they posted it online and it went viral. While many people praised the “Star Wars Kid”, many others mocked him, and he eventually dropped out of school to seek psychiatric help. The video became an early warning of a new form of harassment made possible in part by viral videos: cyberbullying.
Peanut Butter Jelly Time (2002)
Everybody knows this one. And when it went viral, it was the first time the broader world was exposed to the weirdness of online video. People realized that internet content — as well as the future of entertainment — was going to be random, bizarre, and unlike anything we’d seen before. Watch it HERE
Badger Badger Badger (2003)
The internet was a much simpler place in the early 2000s — and this video is a prime example of the difference between viral content then and now. A weird ass clip of a guy chanting “badger badger badger” repeatedly over a pulsing techno beat was all it took to make it in 2003. Of course, the badgers had some help from the “Mushroom mushroom” and the “SNAAAAAAKE!” Watch it HERE
Potter Puppet Pals (2003)
The series from Neil Cicierega exploded when it was uploaded to Newgrounds, especially the “Mysterious Ticking” episode, which stands as further proof that repeating words over and over again was the key to early 2000s internet comedy. It is either really annoying or really hilarious. Maybe a bit of both. Watch it HERE
Numa Numa (2004)
Gary Brolsma became one of the first — if not THE first — internet-made icons when he posted a video on Newgrounds of him dancing to the Romanian-language song “Dragostea Din Tei.” Watch it HERE
The Evolution of Dance (2006)
Motivational speaker Judson Laipply concluded his presentations at schools by demonstrating the evolution of dance, busting out the most popular moves of every era from Elvis to Jay-Z. A video of his performance, originally recorded in 2001, was uploaded to YouTube in 2006 and quickly became most viewed video the site had seen at the time.
Sneezing Baby Panda (2006)
When this classic clip of a baby panda startling its mother with a loud sneeze was uploaded, it became one of the first viral cute animal videos as well as an early staple of a new website called YouTube. Watch it HERE
Chocolate Rain (2007)
Tay Zonday also joined the ranks of internet celebrity thanks to this original song. The nonsensical lyrics, Zonday’s strange voice, and his decision to inform viewers “**I move away from the mic to breathe in” made it a classic. Watch it HERE
Leave Britney Alone (2007)
Chris Crocker’s tearful plea to stop mocking Britney Spears for her comeback performance at the 2007 VMAs was auto-tuned, remixed and parodied into oblivion. It also launched a career for Crocker, who has since become an internet celebrity, blogger, songwriter, and even landed a role in a porno.
The Rickroll (2007)
The bait-and-switch prank got its start on the internet forum 4Chan as a spinoff of “duckrolling”, where people would post a sensational headline, but the link would lead to an image of a duck with wheels. Rickrolling was the same concept, but the link would lead to a clip of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Watch it HERE
David After Dentist (2009)
David’s father recorded his son after a trip to the dentist, where he was clearly given some sort of potent drug. David’s drugged out ramblings, which teetered between nonsensical and deeply philosophical, inspired countless parody videos. Watch it HERE
Hide Yo’ Kids Hide Yo’ Wife (2010)
Well… OBVIOUSLY I had to include this video in the list. Antoine Dodson went from hero to Hollywood when a local news station interviewed him after he fended off a man attempting to rape his sister. What really propelled Dodson to fame was the ridiculous auto-tune remix.
Double Rainbow (2010)
I have never been as excited about anything as Paul Vasquez was at the site of a double rainbow, which he recorded in his front yard at Yosemite National Park. His extremely emotional reaction to the rainbow sounded almost orgasmic, with him weeping in between cries of “IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL! WHAT DOES IT MEAAN!?”
Friday by Rebecca Black (2011)
The cringiest music video that should have never happened had people across the world rolling, and offices and classrooms blaring the nasally tune at the end of the workweek. Rebecca is now a successful vlogger and laughs about the embarrassing project. FUN FUN FUN FUN
Kony 2012 (2012)
This video about Ugandan cult and military leader Joseph Kony marked the ability of the viral video to instigate global change. Over half of young adults in America had viewed the short documentary within days of its release, and its depiction of child soldiers and horrific war crimes sparked a resolution by the United States Senate. Watch it HERE
Gangnam Style by PSY (2014)
The catchy tune with unforgettable dance moves and a funny video introduced the world to what K-Pop could do and solidified the industry as South Korea’s biggest export. Psy’s “Gangnam Style” also became the first YouTube video to reach 1 billion views (it has since tripled that number).
Definitive viral videos that everyone has seen have become more and more rare in the past few years, largely due to the huge and ever-increasing number of content and outlets to choose from. But one video everyone saw in 2017 captured a man discussing serious business on BBC from his home when he was interrupted by his dancing children. Watch it HERE