The 10 best memes of 2023 - from Trump's mugshot to the Kevin James smirk

The 10 best memes of 2023 - from Trump's mugshot to the Kevin James smirk
The Kevin James Smirk - Know Your Meme / VideoElephant

To meme or not to meme – that was often the question in 2023.

Questions around taste were raised on more than one occasion as internet culture got ahold of some of the biggest news stories of the year. Was it really appropriate to joke about the tragedy of the Titan submersible back in the summer? Or the very public health issues suffered by Mitch McConnell?

But when users got together to share delightful nonsense about friendlier subjects, it showed that there’s still life left in social media despite the increasingly deranged direction from Elon Musk.

These are the biggest memes of 2023.

The Kevin James Smirk

The internet can still be a very wholesome place at times, it seems, and nothing personified that more than an image of Paul Blart Mall Cop’s own Kevin James becoming the most-seen thing on social media for a little while.

It shows the actor standing with his hands casually in his pockets with a sheepish smirk on his face, and it’s taken from a promotional shoot James did for his ’90s sitcom The King Of Queens.

The image first became a meme template when a Twitter/X user posted the photo with the caption: "me after 1 double rum and diet," on September 22 which went viral with over 24,000 tweets, according to Know Your Meme.

James himself quickly took notice too and posted a mock-up poster for his comedy tour using the "Doublehands in the pocket" photo.

As the tagline he added: "Sheepishly coming to a city near you."

"Gearing up for my new Stand Up Tour… so happy I found this headshot…," the actor added in the caption.

Good clean fun, and we're here for it.

Donald Trump's mugshot

It’s easy to forget just how bonkers things have been in US politics this year, but the country faced a landmark day back in August when Donald Trump surrendered and posed for a mugshot after turning himself in to face charges of election interference in Georgia.

The mugshot marked a historical moment, as the first taken of a current or former US president, and it’s sure to become one of the most shared images of the 21st century.

Trump, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and 17 other associates were indicted in Georgia this month for allegedly conspiring to subvert the 2020 election results in the state.

But while the implications of the charges were lost on no-one, it was the ‘blue steel’ pouting from Trump in the mugshot itself that people had the most fun with.

George Santos

And the most recent addition to the 2023 meme line-up comes courtesy of George Santos, with one of the longest-running sagas in US political history has come to an end with him being expelled from the US House of Representatives.

It came as he was ousted 311-114 in a bipartisan vote on the "overwhelming evidence" that he misused campaign donations.

Safe to say, internet users were glad to see the back of the ‘messy drama queen’, and it made a late run for the best meme of the year.


Barbenheimer was the movie event of the year – and possibly the decade – but some of the best action could be found away from the cinema and on social media.

They made an incredinly unlikely pairing, but Barbie and Oppenheimer provided us with the kind of movie going event that rarely comes along. One, Greta Gerwig's ostensibly frothy take on the world of Barbie, the other a chilling look at the destroyer of worlds and creator of the atom bomb, combined to make something truly unique and unexpected back in the summer.

From deciding which order to watch them in (Barbie second, for light relief, was clearly the play) to more niche takes celebrating the unusual mash-up, it was all unmissable stuff.

Grimace shake

We’ll be honest, we still don’t really understand the Grimace shake memes, but that’s sort of made it so bewildering and eye-catching in the first place.

For the avoidance of doubt, we're talking about the big purple character from McDonald's, who inspired a new milkshake in June in US branches.

Gen Z kids quickly jumped on the release and turned it into something ever so slightly sinister, taking a sip from the drink before the camera cut to them in a compromised position seemingly overcome by the flavour of the purple drink.

Yeah, weird. But for a brief time we couldn't take our eyes off it.


Orcas had an absolutely wild time of it in 2023.

Killer whales showed increasingly unhinged behaviours across the world over the last 12 months, attacking everything in sight – and no one really knows why.

Whales began smashing into the side of boats off the coast of Portugal and near Gibraltar in March as incidents exploded in number.

It's thought that a white orca named Gladis started the trend which has led to other orcas copying her and ‘organising’ into bigger groups – and Gladis and co. inspired one of the social media crazes of the year.

Elon Musk ruining Twitter

It’s easier to see things with rose tinted spectacles, but it really did feel like Twitter used to be a much friendlier place that it does now – especially after Musk took over.

But perhaps it was a nicer place to be before the Brexit vote and Trump’s ascension in 2016, and it’s not just us misremembering.

Things had been getting nastier for years before Musk bought out the platform last year for $44 billion and has since made a string of controversial moves.

Now, we’re at the stage where he’s opened the app up to misinformation by removing the old blue tick system, as well as allowing a load of very controversial figures back on the platform after being previously banned.

To top things off, there was a hasty rebranding to “X” and now we’re in the position where Musk told advertisers to ‘go f*** themselves’ after pulling out following accusations of Musk sharing antisemitic content on the app.

Still, there was gallows humour to be had, with Twitter/X users laughing as the walls closed in around them in 2023, laughing at the bizarre name change back in July.

Blue Smurf Cat

Venturing onto to TikTok can be a bit alienating especially if you are of an older persuasion and if it wasn't already confusing enough on there, then we are pleased to say that memes are really weird.

Take for instance the Blue Smurf Cat, which was a piece of art created back in 2014 which ask the question that we've all pondered from time-to-time 'what if Smurfs were real?'

The meme didn't really answer that question but TikTok couldn't get enough of the blue character, which was seemingly everywhere on the app for a few weeks.


WE LIVE WE LOVE WE LIE🗣️🔥#catsmurf #smurfcat #thespectere #edit #vsp #youthshake #meme #fyp

Skibidi Toilet

If you thought the Blue Smurf Cat was weird, wait until you hear about Skibidi Toilet.

The meme is based on a YouTube series by Georgian animator Alexey Gerasimov which became a hit after uploading its first episode earlier this year.

The meme is not much more than a man with his head sticking out of the basin of a toilet but what makes this one unique is that Gen Alpha not Gen Z have latched on to this. As Helen Lovejoy once said: "Won't somebody please thinkof the children?"

Mexican aliens

Now for some normality - if you class mummified Mexican aliens as normal.

One of the strangest stories of the year was undoubtedly the 'alien corpses' that were presented to the Mexican congress in September by an alledged conman.

The aliens which were found to be 'non-human' soon spawned hundreds of memes which is what will definitely happen if aliens touch down on Earth one day.

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