The 30 best memes of 2021: From the Suez Canal to Bernie’s mittens

The 30 best memes of 2021: From the Suez Canal to Bernie’s mittens

Let's be honest 2021 hasn't exactly been the year that we were hoping for.

After the absolute misery that 2020 brought us there were hopes that 2021 would be a lot better and while it was, it wasn't exactly the giant party that many of us would have hoped for.

Covid continues to be a problem, politicians are as awful as always, global warming is getting worse and conspiracy theories are rife.

Thankfully, those of us that still manage to find some fun in the internet and social media have not been shy of memes to enjoy this year.

No matter how absurd or serious the story, the internet often found a way to create a meme out of virtually any situation and the internet was better for it.

Sign up to our new free Indy100 weekly newsletter

Literally from the get go in 2021, the internet was serving up viral delights that were just begging for meme treatment. We've had chaotic parish council meetings, politicians’ unusual fashion choices and container ships bringing a halt to international trading. And we've also had those classic type of memes that seemingly come from nowhere only to dominate your timeline for months on end.

So, as the embers of 2021 are dying out and we look forward to whatever 2022 can offer us (please be better) we can at least celebrate the best memes of 2021 and we have to say that it has been a stellar year.

30. Let’s Go Brandon

Few right-wing memes are actually funny and ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ barely gets a chortle out of us, but to see Trump supporters twist a case of mistaken chant at a NASCAR race into a way of mocking Biden, is almost, almost impressive. Inevitably it will probably end up the subject of a documentary as the joke already appears to have gotten way out of hand.

29. Facebook goes Meta

In one of the strangest moves of the year, Facebook decided to expand their empire and in doing so changed the company’s overall name to ‘Meta.’ Given that Mark Zuckerberg is hardly the most popular person on the internet, it was rife for meme treatment.

28. Francis Bourgeois becomes the internet's favourite trainspotter

TikTok star Francis Bourgeois simply loves trains and his videos about spotting his favourite locomotives are possibly the most wholesome things on the internet right. He’s such a big star that he’s appeared in adverts with Thierry Henry and can even do his hobby full time. In a rare twist, the memes about him aren’t done mockingly but are affectionate in tone as he’s given a lot of people joy this year.

27. Yassify

In November, Twitter became obsessed with a word that would sound ridiculous if you used it in real life: Yassify. The meme basically involves taking pictures of celebrities or characters from movies and making them look way more glamourous and attractive than they already are. It’s daft but what meme isn’t?

26. Jeff Bezos goes into space on a crudely shaped rocket

In July, Amazon founder and one of the richest men in the world, Jeff Bezos blasted off into space, albeit very briefly. While this was no doubt a historic occasion for the billionaire all anyone could talk about was the rather NSFW shape of his Blue Origin rocket.

25. Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend’s testicles

Now, to one of the oddest stories of the year. Rapper Nicki Minaj claimed that she wouldn’t be at this year’s Met Gala because she wasn’t vaccinated. Her reason for not getting the vaccine? Because her cousin’s friend in Trinidad got the vaccine and his testicles swelled up so much that he couldn’t get married. As bizarre of an excuse as this was, it proved to be gold for meme treatment.

24. DJ Khaled dramatically stands up

One of the best all-purpose memes of 2021 was DJ Khaled, one of the all-time greats in the world of memes, dramatically taking a sip of his drink and then leaping to his feet.

23. ‘It was Agatha all along’

Marvel’s WandaVision proved to be one of the year’s best TV shows and produced many infectious memes that people couldn’t get enough of. However, the twist that Kathryn Hahn’s Agatha was the villain (all along) gave us a meme that keeps on giving all these months later.

22. The Weeknd gets lost during his Super Bowl performance

The Weeknd’s half-time show at this year’s Super Bowl might not have been the best the event has ever seen but it did give us a fantastic meme as the Canadien singer got lost in a hall of mirrors giving us all flashbacks of getting lost in a shop as a child.

21. Tony Blair gets a mullet

Tony Blair only really pops up now when he wades into the latest Labour dispute so it was nice to see him in the news for another reason this year - namely his peculiar mullet haircut, which made him look more like a weary time traveller from a 19th-century novel than a former world leader.

20. Ted Cruz takes an ill-advised trip to Cancun

In the absence of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz emerged as the Republican figure who is ridiculed on an almost weekly basis on Twitter, usually because of his own doing. Back in February, while his state of Texas was experiencing a deadly winter storm, the senator decided to take an ill-advised trip to Cancun, Mexico drawing a lot of comparisons to a scene from The Simpsons.

19. Salt Bae opens up his new restaurant in London

If Francis Bourgeois was the lovable viral hit of the year, spreading wholesome content, Salt Bae was almost the antithesis to that heartwarming trend. Turkish chef, Nusret Gökçe, who in all fairness has been a meme for years, had a sudden resurrection as a viral joke due to his incredibly expensive new restaurant.

18. Lads on a night out

When Jamie, Connor, Kevin and Alex went on a night out in Birmingham in 2019 they couldn’t have predicted that two years later that a picture from that night would become a meme, mostly thanks to their questionable outfits. Their picture was everywhere in the first few weeks of January and coincided with one of the best TikTok trends of the year too - the sea shanty.

17. Chet Hanks’s White Boy Summer

Definitely one of the most controversial and baffling memes of the year came from Chet Hanks (yes, his father is Tom Hanks)and his White Boy Summer. The idea was that Caucasian men could experience the same sort of liberation that women enjoyed during ‘hot girl summer.’ Hanks’s rules for the occasion were pretty in-depth and he even started making merchandise for it but it never really manifested itself in anything beyond memes.

16. The sudden rise and fall of the European Super League

In April, club football as we know was threatened by the emergence of a breakaway league involving 12 of the top teams in Europe announced that they would be forming a Super League and leaving the Champions League competition, widely seen as the elite club competition in world football. However, the backlash from fans was so visceral that within days the whole thing was abandoned leaving us with just the memes to savour.

15. Dominic Cummings tries to explain the Spider-Man pointing meme

Definitely, the most bizarre British political moment of the year wasn’t when Boris Johnson talked about Peppa Pig but when his former aide, Dominic Cummings tried to describe the Spider-Man pointing meme during a select committee hearing into the government’s handling of the pandemic. Meme’s about memes - how meta.

14. Lady Gaga, Jared Leto and Adam Driver strike a pose

Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci was definitely in the conversation for the most memeable movie of the year, but that award went elsewhere. However, its UK premiere gave us a superb meme as the stars of the film Lady Gaga, Jared Leto and Adam Driver, all adorned in contrasting outfits struck a pose on the red carpet and thus a meme was born.

13. Kim Kardashian's Met Gala outfit

The Met Gala is always a prime event for meme inspiration and this year’s provided us with a doozy in the form of Kim Kardashian and her striking head to toe outfit. Although the outfit was worthy of the meme by itself it was taken to another level when Kim posed alongside her sister Kendall Jenner who was in a less amusing outfit.

12. Jack Grealish as Keira Knightley

Rarely did a day go by during Euro 2020 where we weren’t provided with an incredible new meme. We had the tiny car carrying the match ball, the Switzerland fan losing his mind as his team beat France and Scotland’s David Marshall getting tangled up in his goal net. Our favourite has to be the uncanny likeness between England midfielder Jack Grealish and Keira Knightley in the film Bend it Like Beckham.

11. Growing concrete

It’s rare that you get a good meme from the radio but in late October, the UK’s TalkRadio station created a moment that is likely to live on in infamy for years to come when presenter Mike Graham attempted to interview Insulate Britain activist and boldly claimed that concrete could ‘grow’ like a tree. Despite doubling down on what he said and claiming that he used the word metaphorically, it didn’t stop the memes blossoming online.

10. Matt Hancock

Few MPs unwittingly embodied the true spirit of a meme quite like Matt Hancock this year. When he wasn’t running away from the press or walking like a zombie the former health secretary was caught having an affair with one of his aides in his office on CCTV. Given Hancock’s status as a bit of an Alan Partridge of the political world, the memes were both unbelievably funny and incredibly awkward.

9. Mary Jane and Peter Parker

Memes have a habit of plucking things out of obscurity and creating a joke out of it. A prime example of this was a still image from the 2002 Spider-Man movie starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. The internet turned it into a meme where it looked like Mary Jane was defending Peter Parker despite the actual scene being anything but that...

8. Dune

Let’s not skirt around the issue, if you are a die-hard Dune fan, memes about the complex sci-fi franchise have been around for years but the release of the awe-inspiring new film starring Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya kickstarted a new wave of Dune memes that definitely got the spice flowing again.

7. Matt LeBlanc as everyone's Irish uncle

The long-awaited Friends reunion might not have been what fans were hoping for as, in all fairness, it was just a glorified clip show. Yet it did give us an absolutely fantastic meme as people couldn’t help notice that Matt LeBlanc (who has clearly enjoyed his post Friends life) looked just like an Irish uncle.

6. Oprah is stunned by Harry and Meghan's revelation

Without a doubt, the biggest television moment of 2021 was Oprah’s much talked about interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. There were memes aplenty that came out of the interview but the best was when Harry made a huge revelation to the stunned reaction of Oprah.

5. Bernie Sanders in his mittens

An enduring image of 2021 was Senator Bernie Sanders sitting crossed legged, wearing his mittens looking completely unmoved by Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony. Considering this happened in January there is a possibility that Sanders has now been Photoshopped into every feasible scenario ever.

4. Jackie Weaver and that chaotic Handforth Parish Council meeting

Before February 2021, we doubt many people had even heard of the Cheshire town of Handforth and almost nobody would know what a parish council meeting was. Yet after their chaotic meeting became an international viral sensation the names of Handforth and more importantly, Jackie Weaver will live on in internet infamy.

3. Daniel Craig welcomes you to the weekend

If you haven’t been on Twitter during a weekend this year and not seen Daniel Craig, warmly welcoming you to the weekend and blowing off the shackles of the previous five days, then you probably haven’t been on Twitter. Oddly, this was actually a moment from 2020, when Craig hosted Saturday Night Live when The Weeknd was the musical guest - which makes this the second time the Canadian artist has appeared on this list.

2. The Evergiven blocks the Suez Canal

When we look back to 2021, few stories will sum up the despair, hope and gallows humour of the last 12 months quite like one of the largest cargo ships on the planet getting wedged on the banks of the Suez Canal and effectively shutting down global shipping routes for a week. It proved to be one of the most unusual stories of the year but the images of the Evergiven being hopelessly stranded proved to be all the inspiration that people needed to create some truly amazing memes.

1. The Star Wars Anakin and Padme meme

Some memes are great for a week or so (see Bernie Sanders and the Suez Canal ) but their fire soon burns out quickly. However, some memes are meant to live on forever. Think Spongebob or the distracted boyfriend meme - formats that are so perfect that they’ll never get old. Entering this elite group of memes was a scene from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones a maligned film that has somehow seen a resurgence in relevancy thanks to a meme involving Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen’s respective characters in the movie. The premise of the meme is to call out red flags as the two actor’s conflicting facial emotions was the perfect template for those wishing to expose something that didn’t agree with...even if the original scene doesn’t work for the format.

The meme will be knocking around the internet for years, right? Right?

The Conversation (0)