20 Most Unforgettable Viral Videos of 2013 - Rolling Stone
Home Culture Culture Lists

20 Most Unforgettable Viral Videos of 2013

Air-drumming grandmas, singing spacemen, twerk fails, and, of course, Ylvis


Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

From Norwegian lunacy to out of this world (literally) musicianship, brilliant parodies to mind-bending stunts, 2013 offered a treasury of viral videos — and a whole lot of twerking. Here, we revisit the year's best widely seen and shared clips. So get ready to laugh, cry, cringe, and wonder if some of these people have too much time on their hands. BY DAN REILLY

Play video

“The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)”

Ylvis, the comedy project of two Norwegian siblings, released this ridiculous promo video for the upcoming season of their television sketch-comedy show and quickly become an international sensation. Nearly 300 million YouTube videos and a Top 10 Billboard single later, perhaps only Psy can rival these Scandinavians' lightspeed transition from obscurity to ubiquity.

Play video

“Harlem Shake”

In February, five teens from Australia made a 30-second video in which one dude, clad in a motorcycle helmet, dances to DJ/producer Baauer's 2012 track while his pals sit by obliviously. Then comes the song's drop and the video cuts to all of them gyrating wildly, inadvertently spawning one of the year's most omnipresent memes.

Play video

“Space Oddity” in Space

Not content to be known as only the former commander of the International Space Station, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield just had to go and make an amazing video where he performed David Bowie's classic in, yep, space. A simple concept, but as 19 million YouTube views proved, also an effective one.  

Play video

“How Animals Eat Their Food”

Two Liberty University students, Nick Sjolinder and Ian Deibert, crafted this short, which features the former imitating the eating habits of various animals while the latter just sits there stoically. Come for the cow, stay for the rhino.

Play video

Bob Dylan’s Interactive “Like a Rolling Stone”

Forty-eight years after the release of "Like a Rolling Stone," director Vania Heymann helped create this interactive video that allows viewers to flip through 16 faux-TV channels of various celebrities – from The Price Is Right host Drew Carey and rapper Danny Brown to tennis players and BBC hosts, even Dylan himself – seamlessly singing along to the song, with each image instanteously inviting a subtle re-interpretation of the song.

Inside Bob Dylan's Brilliant Like a Rolling Stone video

Play video

Microsoft’s “Child of the ’90s”

Like much of the rest of the Internet, Microsoft decided to perpetuate the '90s nostalgia boom with its latest Internet Explorer ad. The spot aimed straight for the generation that grew up loving Oregon Trail, Reebok Pumps, and Pog. Never underestimate the appeal of looking back. 

50 Things Millennials Have Never Heard Of

Play video

“Worst Twerk Fail EVER”

Within weeks of Miley Cyrus' controversial performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, a video of a girl twerking, then falling into a candle and becoming engulfed in flames appeared on YouTube. Once the clip was a national sensation, Jimmy Kimmel revealed the "director's cut" on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and we then saw bursting into the room with a fire extinguisher to put out the fire, thus revealing the whole thing to be a prank.

Play video

“Kai: the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker”

Here's a recipe for viral local news: Find a drifter who used a hatchet to foil a potential crime, and then interview the hero. Earnest "Homefree Hippie" Kai became a micro-celebrity for his efforts, only to be arrested himself on murder charges four months later. Such is the life of a human meme.

Play video

The Ultimate “I Quit” Kiss-Off

Like winning an Oscar or a Super Bowl, quitting a job in satisfying eff-you fashion is something most people will never experience. Thus, millions lived vicariously through Marina Shifrin, a who filmed her resignation in her office at 4:30 a.m. and set it to the tune of Kanye's "Gone." Coincidentally (or not), the aspiring comedian worked for Next Media Animation, which produces those hilarious, goofy Taiwanese news videos you've likely seen. They created their own recap about the incident soon after.

Play video

The Surprise Drum God

No disrespect, but it's easy to see why the employees at Wisconsin's Coalition Drum Shop were floored when 63-year-old Mary Hvizda ambled in and proceeded to bang out a kickass solo. 

Play video

Sports Anchor’s Rap Reference Mastery

Louisville, Kentucky, sports anchor Adam Lefkoe made a name for himself when he infused his on-air report with 41 Seinfeld references – "Pitino had his celebration, now it's a Festivus for the rest of us"; "These touchdowns are making me thirsty!" – and followed it up a week later by tossing off 46 classic hip-hop phrases in one broadcast: "E.J. Manuel says knock you out. Coming off a contract, apparently cash does not rule everything around Stevie."

Play video

Russian Heavies Sing “Get Lucky”

One of the prime contenders for America's Song of the Summer gets remade in this video by the (surprisingly charming) Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs Choir.

Play video

Morgan Freeman Classes Up Twerking

Perhaps for the first time in its short history as a cultural phenomenon, twerking was lent a certain dignity in this video — thanks to Morgan Freeman's reading a definition of the dance in that regal voice of his. 

Play video

Bird Sings Dubstep

Various bird species have long been understood as gifted mimics, but our feathered friend in this video sets a new standard as a culture vult — oh, you get it.

Play video

Samuel L. Jackson Covers Taylor Swift

Hollywood's best swearer and music's sweetheart have little in common. Which is exactly why this video is so satisfying.

Play video

Home Depot Flash Mob Marriage Proposal

The lumber aisle of a Salt Lake City Home Depot probably doesn't spring to mind when thinking of the most romantic spots for a marriage proposal. Unless, that is, you're Spencer Stout, who popped the question to his boyfriend Dustin following a flash mob, family-filled dance routine set to Aussie pop singer Betty Who's "Somebody Loves You." Dustin said yes.

Play video

Oil Tanker Crew Sings Toto’s “Africa”

If you needed a pick-me-up after the nautical dread of Captain Phillips, you could've done far worse than watch the crew of the oil tanker Bourbon Peridot stave off boredom by offering an elaborate version of Toto's 1982 soft-rock classic "Africa," filmed while motoring along the coast of Equatorial Guinea.

Play video

Jay Pharoah Spoofs Kanye

With lyrics like "Hurry up with my damn croissants," Kanye West's "I Am a God" lends itself to easy parody. But few could match Saturday Night Live impression master Jay Pharoah's "I Am a Dog," which manages to simultaneously spoof Yeezy's "Black Skinhead" video and volatile personality. Lyrics such as "Hurry up let me out the garage/Hurry up give my balls a massage" and "Now I don't bark I roar/Now watch me drag ass all across ur floor" particularly hit home for all of us dog-owning Kanye fans. 

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.