Some videos are destined for viral fame. A firefighter rescuing a cat? That’s enough to break the Internet. (Take note, Kim Kardashian.) And since we basically live on the Web here at Greatist—it’s a thankless task paid in GIFs—we thought we’d put our expertise to good use and round up our favorite viral videos from the past year. Some made us laugh, some made us cry, but all left a lasting impression on our otherwise goldfish-like attention spans. So click away and take a much needed productivity break. Just make sure you have a box of tissues nearby—we weren’t kidding about the tears.
1. Always #LikeAGirl
When did tacking the phrase “like a girl” onto things become an insult? And, more importantly, when does this long-held stereotype get cemented in young girls’ minds? This short film from female hygiene company Always gives us the answers. And then it flips the script by suggesting we use “like a girl” as an empowering phrase to describe impressive feats made by women. Try and leave this video without a fist-pumping attitude that we can be the change we want to see in the world.
2. John Legend: What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?
This mini-documentary is the companion to John Legend’s power ballad “You and I.” After crooning empowering lyrics (“You fix your makeup just so. Guess you don’t know you’re beautiful.”), Legend and his team ask the women in the music video what they see when they look in the mirror. The answers will take you on a roller coaster of emotions, from full-belly laughs to welling with tears. Our favorite answer: “When you look at yourself in the mirror, I think it’s almost like a personal time to really acknowledge your difference and your individual beauty.”
3. What Guys Look for in Girls
This slam poetry about the many ways society knocks women down for not reaching impossibly high beauty standards is guaranteed to give you chills. Savannah Brown doesn’t let the boys who taunted her for being a flat-chested teenager with braces define her worth. Instead, she delivers powerful lines like: “You don’t need any miracle cream to keep your passions smooth [and] hair free or diet pills to slim your kindness down.” We just wish we could’ve listened to this as 13-year-olds.
4. I Will What I Want
This video is the perfect reminder that everyone—even the world’s best athletes—face rejection on their journey to the top. Misty Copeland is an unlikely ballerina—she only started taking lessons as a teenager, and her muscular and curvy figure is a stark opposition to the elongated, waif-like bodies of most ballerinas. But Copeland’s perseverance (that “I will what I want” attitude) led her to become a soloist in the American Ballet Theatre.
5. My Biggest Insecurity: Loose Skin
California native John Glaude feels great—and he should. In the last two years, he’s lost 160 pounds through a combination of diet and exercise. But there was one topic he was too nervous to discuss until recently: loose skin. In a society that scorns even the slightest bit of cellulite, exposing your transformed body—extra skin and all—is a hugely courageous move. Even more impressive than Glaude’s courage is the message he’s spreading: He’s proud of the way he looks.
6. Never Lose a Fantasy Football Bet
Sure, we’ve seen many bets go awry. If you lose, you have to shave your head or don an opposing team’s jersey. But this shot-by-shot reenactment of Sia’s music video for “Chandelier” takes the cake. A middle-aged guy in a tan leotard prances and dances around hitting all the creepy-meets-mesmerizing moves of this modern dance.
7. Daddy/Daughter Dance to Shake It Off
We’re not shy about our obsession with Taylor Swift’s pop anthem “Shake It Off.” But of all of versions floating around the Web, this dance with a dad and his daughter is definitely the cutest. You just can’t compete with her hip-shaking, finger-pointing swagger and his fancy footwork while wearing a horse mask.
8. Ellen’s Anaconda Video
We’re in the midst of a booty revolution. Derrieres are prominently featured in everything from The New York Times to Sports Illustrated. And then there’s the rise of the belfie—yes, the butt selfie. Not one to miss out on the fun, Ellen did her own version of Nicki Minaj’s infamous “Anaconda” music video, and it’s hilarious. We can’t believe Ellen has been hiding those moves for so long! It’s safe to say, she’s got back.
9. Tiny Hamster Eating Tiny Burrito
We can’t exactly explain what makes us smile from ear-to-ear every time we watch this video. Maybe it’s the adorable fluff ball of a hamster or the perfectly crafted miniature burritos. Or the way the hamster devours said burritos in one bite. At least we’re not alone in our obsession. Millions have watched these tiny animals eat Thanksgiving dinner and a birthday cake too.
10. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver: Dr. Ozand Nutritional Supplements
Our favorite senior British correspondent branched out from his Daily Show roots with his very own show this fall. And even as a late night talk show, Last Week Tonight managed to do some of the best investigative and in-depth reporting on TV this past year. This piece on Dr. Oz and the nutritional supplement industry is no exception. Oliver is like 60 Minutes for the millennial set, explaining how the nutritional supplement industry has grown exponentially in recent years while remaining mostly unregulated.
11. Small Plates
Bringing a half dozen second graders to one of New York’s fanciest restaurants sounds like a recipe for disaster. But that’s exactly what The New York Times did. The kids were treated to a seven-course tasting menu with everything from Maine lobster to caviar to chocolate truffles hidden inside balloons—you’ve got to know your audience! The children’s excitement (and disgust) for each course is adorable.
12. CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side
CrossFit and yoga both have loyal followings, but The Atlantic’s resident doctor—and all-around adorable human—James Hamblin only has time for one community. So he has a CrossFitter and a yogi make the case for their chosen exercise regimen. Is Jim the competitive type or would he rather get his zen on?
13. Arnold Works at Gold’s Gym
We all know that annoying gym type who tries to talk to us when we’re running on the treadmill or swinging around a kettlebell. But if that guy was Arnold Schwarzenegger dressed up as a Gold’s Gym manager, then maybe we’d crack a smile instead of throwing him some side eye. Entertainment factor aside, Arnold is using this stunt to raise awareness for a worthy cause: after-school fitness programs!
14. Mother and Daughter Lose Weight Together
Moms are awesome. And if you ever need a reminder, just watch this video. This mother/daughter duo sets out on a 100-day challenge to lead healthier lives. They lost a combined 74 pounds in the three-month program, proving once again that working out (and making healthier choices) is much easier when you have a partner in crime.
Bring on the Laughs
15. Hilarious Southwest Flight Attendant
Flying can be such a drag. There’s all that time spent going through security, hardly any healthy food available, and, oh yeah, delays. By the time you board, the last thing you want to do is review the plane’s safety information—unless you have this hilarious Southwest flight attendant. She keeps the passengers in stitches with one-liners (describing oxygen masks: “Although the plastic bag may not inflate, you are receiving lots and lots of gin—oxygen that is.”) and actually makes flying an enjoyable experience.
16. It’s the Thought That Counts
In a snack rut? Watch this video and rediscover the joy of eating fresh fruit. No spoilers, but this kid’s reaction to a gift is bananas and might involve some dancing in the kitchen. Now we finally understand those Gwen Stefani lyrics!
17. Grandmas Smoking Weed for the First Time
With the legalization of weed—at least for medicinal purposes—in many states, sooner or later grandma will be asking you what it’s like to blaze. OK, so she probably won’t know the correct terminology, but just send her this video. And then this guide.