The Most Iconic Memes Of The Last Decade

From Doge to Pizza Rat, this has been the decade of memes.

best memes of the decade

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It’s an irrefutable fact that the 10’s were the decade where memes took over.

Over the last ten years the internet landscape has shifted dramatically, leading to a tsunami of memes and memery — even spilling out into the offline world. In the ultimate glow up, memes are out here influencing the youngin’s, changing culture and baffling the oldies.

Memes have become not only the way we critique and consume culture, but the very paddle with which we try and wade through the uneasy rapids of (post-post-post?) modern living.

It’s no secret that over the last decade some truly world changing, society shifting things have happened, things that this list is going to utterly ignore — like a dog with a hat in a room that’s on fire — because in the end, the only noteworthy moments of the last decade were those moments that you could share online (and remix, and photoshop, and auto-tune, and parody, and retweet, and hashtag).

To salute the 2010’s, and usher in a brand new weird and wacky decade, let’s take a possibly literal trip down memory lane, as we sound off some of the decades “dankest” memes.

Sad Keanu (2010)

Before Keanu stole E3 by telling us we were all ‘breath taking’, before he was dubbed a hero for dating a woman his own age — Keanu Reeves spiralled into internet notoriety in the only way Keanu Reeves can: being delightfully and mundanely himself.

In early 2010 paparazzi snapped a picture of Keanu sitting on a bench with a sandwich, looking depressed.

Sympathy for the million-dollar actor spread virally across Reddit and the wider internet.

It was universally decided that the age of Chuck Norris memes was over, Keanu Reeves deserved our love. This spawned a whole Photoshop campaign of Sad Keanu in different places; in the oval office, on the moon, at children’s birthday parties, being as alone and forlorn as possible.

Throughout the 2010’s Keanu would continue to have a long legacy of memery including ‘Conspiracy Keanu’, ‘Happy Keanu’ and a wild array of John Wick memes. What can I say, Keanu Reeves makes for an incredible meme: Keanu grieves.

Other notable memes of this year

  • Trololo
  • NOPE
  • Bed Intruder
  • The Most Interesting Man in the World
  • Old Spice Guy
  • Double Rainbow
  • One Does Not Simply

Took An Arrow To The Knee (2011)

Not since the original Spyro the Dragon’s “Thank you for releasing me” has there been a video game NPC stock line impotent enough, and repetitive enough to take the internet by storm.

Between the hilarious MODs, and even funnier glitches, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a meme-farm ripe for the picking, yet none of its memes left quite the same impact as this single line:

“I used to be an adventurer like you. Then I took an arrow in the knee.”

This melancholic reminiscing of the past uttered by several town guard NPCs stuck like an earworm in the mind of the internet. Indicating some untold story, and more hilariously had gamers everywhere picturing an army of former adventurers, all now retired due to the same knee injury.

I used to make funny Skyrim memes, but then I took an arrow to the knee.

Other notable memes of this year

  • ‘Friday’ Rebecca Black
  • WINNING/Charlie Sheen Rant #TigerBlood
  • Nyan Cat
  • Numa Numa
  • First World Problems
  • Do a Barrel Roll
  • Somebody That I Used to Know

Slenderman (2012) 

If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet in the last decade then you’re probably familiar with creepypastas — those ooky-spooky ‘real life accounts’ of supernatural happenings such as black-eyed demon children and Men in Black government conspiracies.

The most enduring of those stories (so much so he got his own movie) is probably the tall, faceless (but still quite dapper) Lovecraftian horror, Slenderman. A being of mysterious motives and origin, who haunts human targets and compels them into acts of violence and/or causing ‘slendersickness’.

The myth of Slenderman went the way of many oral traditions this time accessible to anyone anywhere in the world. While enriching creepypasta lore Slenderman also inspired a number of macros, Blair Witch-esque videos, and photoshopped image ‘sightings’.

As with most things on the internet, there were also some more thirsty appreciators of Slenderman, dubbing this internet cryptid Daddy Long-legs among other things, and creating rule 34 fanart.

For a guy with literally no face, Slenderman has been one of the most recognisable faces of the internet since 2012.

Other notable memes of this year

  • Ridiculously Photogenic Guy
  • Overly Attached Girlfriend
  • Ermahgerd!
  • Grumpy Cat
  • Call Me Maybe
  • You Tried Star
  • Gay Porn Reaction GIFs

Doge (2013)

Throughout your time online you’ve probably come across Doge, a Japanese Shiba Inu (named Kabosu) with a very particular look on his face; a weird mix of judgement/fear and derision.

Doge began as a series of Tumblr macros featuring the Doge’s internal monologue in the internet’s favourite font (comic sans), an internal monologue in broken English which was emphasised by the words much, very, so, such, wow.

Tackling GIFs, manips and macros, the Dodge meme takes many forms. Or in shibe speak: Wow. Much image. So meme.

Other notable memes of this year

  • I Knew You Were Trouble
  • [intensifies]
  • You Had One Job
  • Moon Moon
  • Mishapocolypse
  • Shrek is Love Shrek is Life
  • Sloths

I Came Out To Have A Good Time And I’m Honestly Feeling So Attacked Right Now (2014)

Gaining popularity from a Tumblr post by user chardonnaymami (and originally from a transcript of a conversation chardonnaymami had about the nature of so-called ‘virgin mai-tai’s) “I came out to have a good time and I’m honestly feeling so attacked right now” is a sarcastic expression one uses to complain about being criticised or challenged, and after it’s peak in 2014 grew to challenge any and all emotions one might feel.

Cresting high at the peak of relatable online content, “I came out to have a good time and I’m honestly feeling so attacked right now” was a quick-witted weapon and till today remains a part of regular internet lexicon (particularly of Libras, says this Gemini).

Other notable memes of this year

  • Dank memes
  • Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar
  • Awkward Moment Seal
  • Sad Batman
  • I crave that mineral
  • Press F to Pay Respects
  • Dashcon

#TheDress/What Colour Is This Dress? (2015) 

In 2015 there were only two kinds of people: those who saw this dress as #BlackandBlue, and those who swore it was #WhiteandGold.

Perhaps there was a third kind of person, who had no idea why battle lines were being drawn world-wide over the colour of one Tumblr user’s mum’s dress. Perhaps that third kind of person lived a blissful life. Perhaps they reared prize winning fish.

After the science side of Tumblr couldn’t ascertain the dress’ colours, the entire internet, mainstream media and also celebrities joined Tumblr users in the maddening debate. Splitting the world in two until science prevailed!

Turns out that experts cite the colour constancy of human perception as the biological mastermind behind the optical illusion, a system which attempts to make colours appear consistent under varying types of illumination.

TLDR; If you look at the dress your brain assumes the lighting is white, the dress appears blue and black. But if your brain assumes lighting closer to blue, the dress appears white and gold.

Other notable memes of this year

  • Lenny Face
  • 5/7
  • Left Shark
  • Miley, What’s Good?
  • Pizza Rat
  • Why You Always Lying?
  • Just DO IT!

This Is Fine (2016) 

This Is Fine is a two-pane image of an anthropomorphic dog trying to assure themself that everything is fine, despite sitting in a room that is engulfed in flames.

Wow. Mood.

You could say that 2016 is arguably the year that the art form that is meme fully went mainstream.

In the past there would be blips and moments where these obscure internet gems would rise to the surface like particularly frothy pond scum.

But 2016 featured escalating political unrest, social injustice, climate crisis, generational and racial divide, and the loss of celebrities like: David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, Harper Lee, Gene Wilder, Dame Zaha Hadid, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds.

In 2016, memes became the way in which we consumed and commented on (and coped with) real world news.

Taken from an issue of the webcomic series Gunshow by K.C. Green, the This Is Fine meme became the reaction image of a generation. Representing the growing sense of self-denial and acceptance the internet and beyond had facing a kind of transcendent hopelessness.

Reinterpretations and the original itself are still in wide use today. Don’t think about the reality of that too hard.

Other notable memes of this year

  • Dat Boi
  • The Babadook
  • Harambe the Gorilla
  • Pokemon GO!
  • Millennials are Killing…
  • Hello Darkness My Old Friend
  • Evil Kermit

The Future That Liberals Want (2017)

Like Titanic’s Rose, the internet aged about 84 years between the start of 2016, and the end of 2017 as Youtube comment sections and family Facebook groups ripped themselves apart over seriously divisive issues like Trump’s Presidency and The Last Jedi.

Also, Vine died (RIP).

And yet light was at the end of the tunnel when Twitter user @polNewsNwtwork1 participated in the ultimate self-own posting a photo of a Muslim woman and a drag queen riding the subway next to each other and proclaiming derisively “the future that Liberals want”.

Needless to say this one tweet got memed and recreated and reinterpreted to absolute oblivion with increasingly hilarious results.

Ultimately the internet answered @polNewsNetwork1 calling out a resounding “We’re into it.” Ha.

Other notable memes of this year

  • Fyre Festival
  • Distracted Boyfriend
  • White Guy Blinking
  • Salt Bae
  • He protec he also attac
  • Right in front of my Salad
  • Szechuan Sauce

Hit Or Miss/Nyannyancosplay (2018)

Hit or Miss? Well as far as platforms go, when it comes to memes and creative online content we can definitely count TikTok as a hit.

While Nyannyancosplay’s lip dub of the iLOVEFRiDAY diss track ‘Mia Khalifa’ wasn’t the first TikTok meme to emerge, it was certainly one of the first to have that sweet sweet mainstream cut through, the meme acting as many peoples first introduction to the new video based platform.

Hit or Miss, which features Nyannyancosplay lip syncing while dancing in a pink mini skirt and crop top, harkens back to simpler, sillier, ~ wow that’s so random-er~ days of the internet, much to the delight of the masses.

The original TikTok sparked duets with people using the song while doing various things, imitations, recreations and parodies which helped to draw more and more eyes to the Vine (RIP) replacement.

Other notable memes of this year

  • This is so sad, Alexa play Despacito
  • Female Presenting Nipples
  • Gru’s Plan
  • Miss Vanjie
  • Bowsette
  • Weird Flex but Okay
  • Rockefeller Street

The Memes Of 2019

In the year of our Lord 2019 I am still completely in love with the endless SpongeBob memes. I’m still fighting on the hill I shall die upon which declares that internet challenges (Ice Bucket Challenge, Karma’s a Bitch and Planking) aren’t memes (the exact definition of which is still up for debate), and before you @ me is the reason why you haven’t seen any viral challenges on this list.

While ‘what actually counts as a meme’ is a subject I could dive into for another 3000 words, this isn’t an article for classification, merely celebration.

If there’s one thing the last decade of memes has showed us is that aside from bringing people together, like Icarus, a meme’s sheer speed of ascension to iconic status is beautiful, impactful and fleeting.

Like Icarus, and apparently like the 2010’s, a meme doesn’t last forever.

Notable memes of this year (so far)

  • 30-50 Wild Hogs
  • Untitled Goose
  • Ok Boomer
  • Powerful Shaggy
  • Me and My Boys
  • H20: Just Add Water
  • Area 51
  • Marie Kondo and Sparking Joy
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
  • I don’t know who needs to hear this but
  • Celebrities as Twitter threads of things

Jes Layton is @AGeekwithaHat, writing, drawing and discussing queer-nerdy things in Melbourne.