When it boils down to finding the photos that grabbed the world’s attention in 2012, it’s hard to come up with only the 10 best. We’ve seen it all, from hilarious expressions that have spawned memes and fake Twitter accounts to those that captured those overlooked heartwarming moments. These 10, however, not only captured the attention of thousands but have prompted users to discuss, remix and meme them extensively throughout social media. So sit back, look and reminisce at the 10 most viral photos in 2012.
1. Obama Hug
Hours after winning re-election, President Obama and his campaign team posted this photo of him embracing his wife Michelle on Facebook and Twitter with the caption “Four more years.” They tweeted it out, and it became the most retweeted photo ever in a matter of hours as well as the most-liked photo ever on Facebook.
2. Stingray Photobomb
Nothing freaks a trio of girls on spring break more than a creepy stingray surprising them in their photoshoot. Even though the three girls in the photo tried to submit this photo for a segment on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” when they took it back in 2007, this stingray photobomb became insanely viral in 2012.
3. Not Impressed
Who would have thought winning a silver medal in the Olympics prompted so many memes? That’s the impression McKayla Maroney got when someone took a photo of her smirking as she stood on the podium. It spawned a Tumblr, numerous memes and imitators. Hell, even the president donned the smirk for a photo when he posed for a photo with McKayla when she visited the White House a few months later. The photo of McKayla and the president doing the “not impressed” expression also went viral.
4. This Seat’s Taken
After Clint Eastwood made his bizarre speech at the Republican National Convention this summer to an empty chair that symbolized President Obama, his social media team made sure that he was here to stay with the viral photo posted on all his social media accounts.
5. Barefoot Homeless Man Gets New Shoes
A New York City police officer’s selfless gesture of buying warm boots for a barefoot homeless man became world famous after a tourist snapped the random act of kindness for her Facebook page. Unfortunately for the people who sympathized with the barefoot homeless man, we all found out later that he wasn’t homeless at all.
6. Photogenic Homeless Guy
Once a fashion model in Brazil, Rafael Nunes’s drug habits caught up with him, and he ended up homeless on the streets of his hometown. A photographer snapped a photo of still-handsome Nunes near the town square, and it went immensely viral on Imgur and other social media networks. After a bizarre and incoherent interview with a local television station, his family sent him to rehab.
7. Angelina Jolie’s Leg
This is the leg that launched a thousand memes and even its own Twitter account. Behold, the beautiful right leg of Angelina Jolie making its star-studded appearance at this year’s Oscars.
8. Ridiculously Photogenic Runner
If someone photographed me running a marathon, I probably wouldn’t be smiling; rather, I’m sure I’d have some awful open-mouth expression. Apparently Zeddie Little had the key to looking radiant in marathon photographs and got more than 40,000 up votes on Reddit after photographer Will King uploaded his money shot.
9. Love in 22 Frames
Photographer Tim Dodd followed Navy serviceman Taylor Morris and his girlfriend Danielle Kelly over the course of many years from Morris’s enlistment to how the couple coped after he lost all his limbs to an IED in Afghanistan. What followed is a beautifully crafted love story that 1,000 words cannot explain.
10. Man Swimming With His Sick Dog Goes Viral
One heartwarming moment of 2012 that has been shared everywhere is this photo of Wisconsin resident John Unger swimming with his ailing dog Schoep on Lake Superior. Unger told a local newspaper that it was therapeutic for his aging buddy, who suffers from arthritis. When it was first posted on Facebook back in August, it received more than 207,000 likes and 116,000 shares.