40. Communal Scream (Midsommar)
Midsommar is the sort of film that wholeheartedly embraces the fact that comedy and horror are much more closely related than many of us would care to admit. As such, it’s got some seriously weird energy, and as such, plenty of prime meme content. While there’s much to be said about bears and William Jackson Harper becoming the first actor to ever be typecast as “self-destructive Ph.D. student,” the standout meme thus far has to be this particular shot of protagonist Dani (Florence Pugh) engaging in some group primal scream therapy. Thanks to being featured in the trailer, this gem began gaining traction online before the film even made it to theaters. Still, this entry is the most recent release featured in this list. But that said, all signs point to this shot sticking around as a lasting member of the movie meme canon.
39. “Get in, Loser.” (Mean Girls)
Especially for those of us who reached adolescence in the 2000s, Mean Girls was perhaps the meme movie of our formative years. It’s the sort of thing that became day-to-day shorthand, from “the limit does not exist” to Glen Coco (you go, Glen Coco!) to “on Wednesdays we wear pink.” People mimicked the pose on the posters and used rudimentary Photoshop skills to make their own versions, and so on and so forth. But as mentioned in the intro, the thing that separates a true meme from other forms of quotation, reference, and homage, is mutability. Not only has internet culture turned Regina George (Rachel McAdams) pulling up in her convertible into an image macro meme accompanied by countless variants of “Get in, ____, we’re _____” text, but it also applied the same basic syntax structure to various other images of individuals—e.g. Obama in a go-kart with “get in, loser, we’re getting healthcare”—expanding the meme possibilities exponentially.
38. Mark’s Love Declaration (Love Actually)
Generally speaking, scenes with charts or signs are inherently meme-able due to how easy it is to swap out the contents of a sign with literally anything else. As such, Mark’s silent declaration of love to Juliet, his best friend’s wife (I’m sorry, am I supposed to be finding this romantic? Seriously?! I know that’s not the point of this article but come on) is prime meme material. It’s actually a bit of a two-for-one deal. While most meme-makers will take the simple but highly effective route of replacing Mark’s “But for now let me say… without hope or agenda… just because it’s Christmas… (and at Christmas you tell the truth)… to me, you are perfect” signs (there’s even a few more before and after that, but I can’t be bothered) with whatever messages their heart desires, some more ambitious denizens of the internet will keep the “to me, you are perfect” sign intact and instead photoshop in various other characters giving and receiving the declaration.
37. “First Time?” (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs)
The Coen brothers are masters at a very particular brand of absurd, fatalistic humor, perhaps most succinctly reflected in what has quickly proven to be one of their most meme-able scenes to date: a grim little number in which a convicted man played by James Franco, neck already in a noose, asks another man in the gallows if it’s his “first time.” Absurd, because the idea that one only ever goes through being hung a maximum of (1) time is pretty fundamental to the concept and therefore “first time?” is hardly a relevant question, and fatalistic, because, and I repeat, they’re at a hanging. It’s a very particular brand of humor, but one that, as of late, has proven unfortunately relevant. See: Exhibit A, below.
36. Bee Movie but _______. (Bee Movie)
The way Bee Movie went from relative obscurity to beloved social media icon nearly a decade after its release is perhaps the ultimate proof that internet culture is as volatile and unexpected as 30 to 50 wild hogs. From “The entire bee movie but every time they say bee it gets faster” to “The entire bee movie but it is just Kenny,” this particular lineage of memes that involve remixing the entire film in increasingly convoluted ways is emblematic of how the Bee Movie corner of the movie meme universe is a particularly weird one. It’s also something of a nightmare for DreamWorks Animation, who has repeatedly gotten many of the most popular iterations of this meme taken down, such as the original “Bee movie trailer but every time they say bee it gets faster,” which gathered more than 11 million views within 2 weeks of being posted on Youtube, on the grounds of copyright infringement. But memes are not so easily defeated, and several iterations on the same basic theme have been posted since. (Also, check out our own Hans Qu’s deep dive into the wacky world of Bee Movie memes.)
35. “Is This Your King?” (Black Panther)
As you might have noticed, there are a fair number of quotes from villains on this list. Considering great villains tend to have a flair for the dramatic, they tend to make for good meme material. Killmonger is easily one of the MCU’s most compelling villains to date, thanks in part to a motivation that’s actually well-developed plus a dynamic performance from the one and only Michael B. Jordan. In addition to being one of its best big bads, he also gave the MCU one of its best memes with the gloriously versatile “is this your king?!”
34. “Stop Trying to Make ____ Happen.” (Mean Girls)
So we’ve reached the second Mean Girls meme on this list, and guess what? It’s also a Regina George quote. Sometimes, people just need to be shut down. And there’s no better way to do that than channeling your inner high school mean girl. That’s precisely what this meme is for.
33. “I Guess You Can Say Things Are Getting Pretty Serious” (Napoleon Dynamite)
Real talk: I don’t get the appeal of Napoleon Dynamite. But this isn’t a list of Ciara’s 50 favorite movies, it’s “50 best movie memes of all time,” and even though it was made with considerable personal bias and little to no shame, I am trying to reflect the realities of the internet at large to at least some degree, which means considering perspectives other than my own. Which means including something from Napoleon Dynamite, because I’m not blind. And admittedly I’ve encountered some iterations of this meme that were actually quite funny. Still don’t like the movie, though.
32. Why Can’t You Just Be Normal? (The Babadook)
“AHHHHHhhhhHHHHHHHH!” They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and when you smash two pictures together, the growth in potential significance is not linear but exponential. These two images in which a mother finally loses her cool and screams at her child are the perfect embodiment of the angry jumble of things felt when rationality is forced to deal with irrational, unstoppable forces that just scream and flail and don’t know how to use their words in any productive capacity. As such, this is frequently a particularly useful meme for expressing political opinions.
31. The Cats Trailer (Cats)
So, maybe calling an entire trailer a meme is cheating a little, but I mean, come on. Just look at it. To quote Interpol, “Everything is wrong, truly wrong; everything is wrong.” Where do you even begin? The terrifying CGI? The completely nonsensical proportions that make German expressionist cinema look tame (are the “cats” tiny or is the world around them weirdly oversized)? Why is this movie happening? Do you think if T. S. Eliot knew what would ultimately be unleashed when he wrote Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, he would have published it? Or would he have been able to do what Isildur never could and destroy it, avoiding the need for a whole saga? So many questions and no real answers, only more questions. And memes. Oh boy, the memes. Within minutes of the trailer’s release, the internet was turning out memes by the hundreds. We’re in an era of well-oiled mach-meme-ery. (Yep, I’m gonna go sit in the corner now.)