As far as click-bait goes, lists of photos that “broke the Internet” must rank in the top five most popular articles, both in terms of how many writers choose to scour the Interweb for juicy images, and in terms of the popularity of these lists among readers across the pop/entertainment blogosphere.
What’s more fascinating is that these lists in fact feed back into the popularity of the already-viral images they describe, and the cycle never ends. Today’s new generation of web-savvy amateur entertainers are fueled by ‘clicks’, ‘Likes’, views, and ‘re-Tweets’ first before necessarily even concerning themselves with generating original content, and they make a living. With a few strategically posted Vine videos or Tweets somebody can launch a career and sustain it as long as they keep their posts at the top of lists like these.
Because this is the most popular kind of list, you would think there is a lot of overlap or that it would be hard to come up with an original set of photos, but there’s a quick turnover in pop culture, and these lists constantly need updating. This article pays homage to some classic viral pics of the last few years, while also including a few newer additions in the mix. Here are 12 Celebrity Photos That All But Broke The Internet.
12. Ellen Degeneres and Friends at The Oscars
This is the image that started getting people talking in the first place about photographs going so viral, becoming so infectious, that they supposedly could overload social media outlets on the web.
This photo op was a scripted gag that actually did not go according to plan: While hosting the 2014 Academy Awards, the ever-relevant comedienne was originally set to take a selfie during the show with actress Meryl Streep and whoever else was seated nearby. As a joke, Ellen was supposed to ask Streep to take the photo herself, ironically forcing the Oscar-winning actress out of her own selfie. What happened instead was long-armed Bradley Cooper offered to take the picture instead, and the rest is history.
Before the Oscar ceremony even concluded, Degeneres had set a new record for re-Tweets and, to date, this photo has been re-Tweeted over 3.3 million times.
11. Kanye Smiles! (With Baby North)
Until he guest starred on The Cleveland Show in 2010, after taking a ribbing from the South Park crew not so well, and then was caught on camera smiling courtside at an NBA finals game in 2015, the world assumed Kanye West had no sense of humor or at least couldn’t let go of the posturing and chest-puffing required of hip-hop artists who wish to stay relevant. But babies warm even the coldest hearts, and it turns out even the self-proclaimed musical genius, Yeezus himself, isn’t totally made of stone. How he’s going to keep his onstage persona going, comprised of two parts narcissist, to one part underdeveloped political awareness, and a dash of chipped shoulder, after the hip-hop world sees him melt in the presence of his newborn daughter, North.
10. Best Buds Bieber And Smith
This is another classic that did make the list because it is still one of the most viewed images on the net; an image of two of the most unlikely friends, or acquaintances, that may or may not have been a PR stunt. At 1.5 million Likes on Instagram within the first year after it was posted, this buddy-gram was actually the most popular Instagram shot of 2013. Skepticism aside, Kevin Systrom, CEO of the wildly successful photo-sharing social media app believes this image went viral because the unlikely pair look to be having a genuinely good time—something that’s missing from so many popular celebrity pics these days.
9. Jonas Brothers Gone Wild
Pop culture consumers seemed to be saying, ‘It’s about time,’ when they flocked to brother Jonas’ Instagram page to find the family-friendly musician showing off in his skivvies. This selfie actually seems to have unleashed the voyeuristic beast within the youngest of this band of brothers. Former mainstays in the Disney company’s revolving door stable of innocent talents-turned-shameless attention wh*res, Nick Jonas has since been professionally photographed for a 2014 issue of Flaunt magazine in even more risque and some downright trashy shots. Of course there are legitimate reasons besides egotism that Nicholas is ripped and comfortable showing that fact off: Not only was he dating Miss USA 2012 at the time, but he was preparing for a dramatic role as a boxer in DirectTV series Kingdom.
8. Taylor Swift + Kittens = “Teh” Cuteness
This picture combines two things that attract clicks to make the perfect storm of cute, the Bambi-esque singer/songwriter showering affection on a fuzzy baby animal. This photo is one of the many pictures Taylor Swift has posted of her cat or having to with her favorite feline, whose full name is Olivia Benson (named after Mariska Hargitay’s Law & Order: SVU character). Not only does Swift post heart-wrenchingly adorable pictures of Olivia but also has seen fit to upload pictures of what happens when kitty isn’t acting so cute.
The old-souled 24-year-old posted a photo of her scratched up thigh in 2015, joking that Olivia, the cat, now owes her owner millions for damaging insured body parts. Luckily this celebrity pet recently kicked off a successful modeling career that will most likely cover any legal costs.
7. James Franco: Social Commentator Or Strung-Out?
This is the one image on the list that was popular because it attracted all sorts of criticism and snarky Instagram jabs; most of which are valid complaints about an overly revealing shot of Franco in a disheveled and not particularly well-nourished state, at least by appearances. Not to mention the famously (and decidedly) eccentric Apatow-crew member is one step away from committing a sex crime, not to mention traumatizing the world with a full frontal crotch shot that nobody asked for. It is highly likely however that Franco posted this photo as a mockery of other celebs who, unprompted, shower their fans with borderline p*rnographic pictures. If this was indeed the actor’s intention, it was lost on most of the Instagram community.
6. Justin Bieber Working Out
You know the Biebs had to show up on this list at some point, and what could it be other than the pop superstar showing some skin. These shots of the Canadian-born teen idol pumping iron have been floating around the Net since 2014, when then 21-year-old Bieber decided he needed the muscle mass of a grown man to go with his expanding rap sheet. More images of the densely tatted singer lifting weights or more accurately showing off his new, improved physique can be seen in a 2015 issue Men’s Fitness along with a detailed description of his workout routine, for any Beliebers who want to follow their role model’s lead.
5. Kim And Kanye’s Wedding
It should be no surprise to anybody reading this that Kim, Kanye and Bieber each made this list twice; they are trendsetters and tastemakers and together probably hold a monopoly on Twitter followers, Vine subscribers, Facebook fans, and enamored bloggers. So it only makes sense that pictures of the union between two of these cultural icons have gone viral. In a sign of the times, the power couple, Kardashian and West, rejected any and all offers from TMZ and the like, and instead have been slowly leaking personal photos of the event through Instagram, and there seems to be no end in sight—to celebrate their 1st anniversary in 2015, a grip of never before seen pics from the wedding reception surfaced on Kardashian’s Instagram.
4. “The Rock” And His Fanny Pack(s)
Everybody likes an ironically unfashionable outfit on otherwise cool people; hipsters worldwide take advantage of this fact daily. The effect is even more entertaining when someone who otherwise is intimidating and not at all trying to be ironic does it. This photo is the only one on the list from a time before social media, but that doesn’t mean the wrestler-turned-actor doesn’t still rock a fanny pack. As recent as 2014, The Rock was photographed onset, sporting what is now euphemistically called a belt-pack…as well as what appears to be a bulletproof vest.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has come a long way from his humorless WWE persona, but in or out of character, it’s still hard to imagine anybody openly mocking Johnson for his fashion choices. In fact, this photo has garnered over 40,000 comments on Facebook, all respectful, and has been turned into one of the few non-hurtful memes on the Web.
3. Kim Kardashian In Paper Magazine
Kim Kardashian is the only celebrity who seems to get more popular the more she acts like and hangs around strippers and p*** stars. At this point we’re all so familiar with Kim’s body, naked and not, that I am actually more interested in knowing how the photographer manipulated this image make it look like Kim is actually skilled enough at something to make that champagne curve right into that glass. Or maybe the crew at the creatively named Paper magazine actually spent hours positioning Kardashian’s table-esque butt, and popping bottle after bottle of bubbly to get that already much-parodied perfect shot.
2. Gisele Bündchen: Working Hard Or Hardly Working?
Sidestepping for a moment the debate over whether public breastfeeding is appropriate, a debate sparked by this and countless other overly-revealing Instagram and Facebook photos from new mothers, this photo went viral most likely for the fact that the supermodel pictured is being attended to by a three-person team who are just as busy attending to the diva as they are trying to pretend Gisele Bündchen’s nipple won’t be exposed at any second. Talk about multi-tasking.
The fact that such a professional-grade photo was taken in this moment, begs the question of whether the supermodel allowed the recording of a candid moment or was trying to make a point about the right of working mothers to be just that…or she really couldn’t decide whether to prioritize makeup or motherhood, so she chose both. Even before giving birth, Gisele has been irresponsibly vocal about how other women should raise their children, but she may have spent too much time in her celebrity bubble to realize most mothers don’t have the resources to be a jetsetter and a mother.
1. John Legend And Chrissy Teigan
For all his sentimentality and politically charged rhetoric during his acceptance speech at the 2013 Academy Awards and his sorrow over the slow progress of racial relations in the U.S., John Legend’s personal life seems to be on a never ending upward spiral. After marrying professional model/Instagram sex symbol, Chrissy Teigen in 2013, he won the Oscar for his song, “Glory”, written for the film Selma, garnering him popularity far beyond his loyal cult following.
The pictures of the two together, mostly available on Teigen’s Instagram page, generally show her partially clothed, and the two of them enjoying a “candid” moment that is uncomfortably intimate. The contrived candid feel of these photos makes it seem like the couple’s intention with these photos is to brag and rub their fairytale love in everybody’s face, which may actually explain why haters and lovers alike have flocked to the couple’s photos.