Ranking All the YouTube Rewinds
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
It's time to reflect on a decade of rewinds. For this list, we're taking a look at all ten videos in the “YouTube Rewind” series, which annually recap the major events and trends of the past year. We'll naturally be starting off with the worst of the worst, working our way up to the best of the best. And yes, we understand the irony that WatchMojo is doing a list on this particular subject. More on that later… Welcome to WatchMojo and today we'll be ranking all the YouTube Rewinds.
Ranking All the YouTube Rewinds
It’s time to reflect on a decade of rewinds. Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be ranking all the YouTube Rewinds.
For this list, we’re taking a look at all ten videos in the “YouTube Rewind” series, which annually recap the major events and trends of the past year. We’ll naturally be starting off with the worst of the worst, working our way up to the best of the best. And yes, we understand the irony that WatchMojo is doing a list on this particular subject. More on that later…
#10: YouTube Rewind 2018: Everyone Controls Rewind
Was there any doubt that this would be at the bottom of our list? The 2018 edition of “YouTube Rewind” is not only the series’ most disliked entry, but it accumulated more downvotes than any video in the platform’s history. That’s right, more than Justin Bieber’s “Baby” music video! Much of the video is dedicated to trends like “Fortnite,” flossing, and Pinkfong Baby Shark, all of which had drastically declined in relevance by December 2018. The video is also tonally confused, abruptly shifting gears as YouTubers go from partying to talking about serious subjects. For a video that’s supposedly about “giving the people what they want,” the makers seemingly have no idea who their audience is. At least it gave us this Will Smith meme.
#9: YouTube Rewind: The Shape of 2017
While not as reviled as the following year’s video, 2017 is when people really started hating on “YouTube Rewind.” Named after Ed Sheeran’s song, "Shape of You," “The Shape of 2017” has generated well over 4 million likes. Yet, it also has over two million downvotes, remaining among the most disliked YouTube videos. It may be disjointed and cringey, but the video wasn’t without some visually interesting callbacks and plenty of YouTube stars. One YouTuber who didn’t make the cut, however, was PewDiePie, who got left out of the 2018 video as well. This was reportedly due to controversy surrounding the Swedish YouTuber around the time. PewDiePie himself understood why he wasn’t included, but his numerous fans were nonetheless displeased by his absence.
#8: YouTube Rewind 2019: For the Record
“YouTube Rewind 2019” acknowledges upfront that 2018’s video was universally despised, promising to give viewers what they like this time around. So, how did YouTube reinvigorate the series? By doing a compilation of Top 10 lists on that year’s most-liked videos. Thousands of people on Twitter were quick to point out that this “YouTube Rewind” shared a striking resemblance to a certain YouTube channel that specializes in Top 10 countdowns. We think the video can be best summed up through some of these Tweets: “Youtube rewind was a just glorified watchmojo vid.” “Youtube managed to get Watchmojo trending on this hellsite over their own hashtag.” “It was basically a watchmojo video, AND THERE WASN'T AN ETIKA TRIBUTE!” Don’t worry, we went ahead and “fixed” it.
#7: YouTube Rewind 2010: Year in Review
In all fairness, 2019 wasn’t the first time that “YouTube Rewind” took on a “Top 10 Year in Review” format. That distinction goes to the series’ first video published in 2010. While fairly straight-forward and not as flashy are some of their later efforts, the video is an enjoyable time capsule looking back almost a decade later. Remember how awesome OK Go’s Rube Goldberg machine video was? Remember when “Twilight” was the very definition of popular culture? And hey, what’s Mike from “It Chapter Two” doing in an Old Spice commercial? On top of all that, the three-year-old girl who cried while meeting Justin Bieber has got to be a teenager now. Man, that makes us feel old…
#6: YouTube Rewind 2011
The second “YouTube Rewind” featured another Top 10, but this time they got Rebecca Black to host. For those too young to remember, Black hit the scene in 2011 with her music video “Friday.” Despite going viral, it was also YouTube’s most disliked video for a period. So, we’re not sure if Black’s presence here was supposed to be intentionally funny. In any case, the video is a fun throwback to a simpler time when Michael Bolton became an honorary pirate and that Volkswagen commercial looked like the closest thing we’d get to more “Star Wars.” Given the host, however, it shouldn’t come as a surprise which video topped the list. FYI, YouTube, if you need another Rebecca to host 2020’s video, we know somebody.
#5: YouTube Rewind: The Ultimate 2016 Challenge
Most people would agree that 2016 was the last year that “YouTube Rewind” hit its target. How can you go wrong when your video opens with the Rock rocking a fanny pack? The video’s title pays tribute to the various challenges that defined 2016, from the running man challenge to the bottle flipping challenge. It’s ultimately a well-shot hodgepodge of pop culture, taking cues from music videos like Beyoncé’s “Hold Up” and Kanye West’s “Famous.” It’s also loaded with references to games like “The Witness,” “Street Fighter V,” and especially “Pokémon Go,” as YouTubers scavenger the world in search of “Rewind” emblems. We even get a nice nod to Hodor, still holding that door. Throw in some “Carpool Karaoke” and you’ve got 2016 in a nutshell.
#4: YouTube Rewind: Turn Down for 2014
Music has always been a major part of “YouTube Rewind” and 2014 was no exception. The video opens up with a salute to “Guardians of the Galaxy,” as a hooded figure whips out an Awesome Mix tape. Instead of primarily focusing on one song this time around, DJ Earworm mashed up ten songs that defined the previous year, including Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” and of course “Let It Go” from “Frozen.” It all comes complete with infectious dance moves and slick production values. This video wasn’t all about the music, however. It also found the time to work in references to “Flappy Bird” and the Ice Bucket Challenge, although we’re not sure why so many late-night hosts cameoed.
#3: YouTube Rewind 2015
2015 was a major year for YouTube, as it marked the video-sharing platform’s 10th anniversary. Even more significant, 2015 is the year Marty and Doc travel to in “Back to the Future Part II.” Thus, “YouTube Rewind” decided to go back even further than usual. In addition to callbacks from the past year, such as “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” Shia LaBeouf's “Just Do It” speech, and America’s legalization of same-sex marriage, the video reflected on a decade’s worth of content. Reaching its climax, the nostalgia is taken into overdrive with recreations of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s “Epic Split” commercial, Lonely Island’s “I'm on a Boat” Digital Short, and the JK Wedding Entrance Dance. It was definitely a welcome way to celebrate ten years of YouTube.
#2: Rewind YouTube Style 2012
2012 was the year that “YouTube Rewind” started coming into its own. Rather than turning in another traditional Top 10, this video offered a mash-up of the year’s biggest cultural highlights, from Barack Obama’s presidential re-election to the rising popularity of “Minecraft.” Stitching it all together is PSY’s K-pop sensation “Gangnam Style,” which became the first YouTube video to hit the billion-view milestone, as well as the platform’s most-viewed video at the time. While Carly Rae Jepsen's “Call Me Maybe” also plays a prominent role, the choreography and overall style clearly derived from PSY. The video isn’t simply a glorified “Gangnam Style’ homage, though, upping the ante with an onslaught of YouTube personalities. Plus, who doesn’t love a dancing zebra?
#1: YouTube Rewind: What Does 2013 Say?
Although 2012’s “YouTube Rewind” was generally well-received, some people took issue with the lack of PewDiePie. Since PewDiePie became the platform’s most-subscribed user in 2013, that year’s recap appropriately ended with him picking up a “Rewind” symbol on the beach. The epic ending was merely the icing on the cake, though. Everything about this video fired on all cylinders, from Kai Hasson’s direction, to the special guests, to the song selections. Speaking of which, this video owes a lot to “What Does the Fox Say?” The way the “YouTube Rewind” button is integrated into the narrative is especially effective, reminding viewers that a floodgate of content is only a click away, no matter where they are. So, let’s press that button and watch it again!