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The year’s top YouTube stars

Adrian Lee | posted Tuesday, Dec 16th, 2014

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Is this the year the Internet found its soul? Some of 2014’s most viral videos had an eye on issues—from a woman filming her catcall-filled walk around New York, to Emma Watson’s stirring speech about feminism at the UN. One, First Kiss, a short film where 20 strangers lock lips, was both artful and sweet. Then again, that catcall walk spawned a number of spoof spin-offs (“5 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Jets fan”). And some of the year’s other biggest hits involved a man getting kicked in the head by a train engineer while taking a selfie, and a “devil baby” prank video. Honourable mentions: The Tonight Show’s edit of clips from news anchor Brian Williams so that he performed Rapper’s Delight; and Too Many Cooks, an absurdist swell of genre films and sitcom tropes plucked from intentioned obscurity that propelled scores of think pieces. Here’s some of the best videos from the year that was:

Schadenfreude is a powerful, addictive thing, and this video of a selfie-taker being kicked in the head by the driver of a passing train proves it, with its 35-million views.

A newscaster takes advantage of a break to let loose and dance to the viral-on-its-own remix of a quote from the rapper T.I.—to the dismay of his co-anchor.

An argument between three toddlers over how to precisely describe how much it had rained ended up poking more than 11-million people right in the heart.

The Tonight Show edits NBC newsmen Brian Williams and Lester Holt to rap the Sugarhill Gang’s seminal song—with respects due to Sugarhill Gang’s real-life Big Bank Hank, who passed away this year.

This trailer for an otherwise forgettable horror flick loosed an animatronic ‘devil baby’ in the streets of New York, ratcheting up a stunning 48-million views. But while New Yorkers’ terror is amusing, the video’s popularity can perhaps be exclusively explained by the unimpressed passerby in the video’s middle portion.

The message of “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” was powerful, but just as the enduring legacy of “S*** Girls Say” was its template for spin-offs of other niche categories, the video’s real success can be measured in the copycats it spawned. Some were equally stirring (“10 hours of walking in NYC as a woman in a hijab”); others were more jocular (“10 hours of walking in NYC as a Lamborghini”).

Good news: Emma Watson, refusing the typical dance that some female actresses feel the need to practice to avoid talking about feminism, made a speech to the United Nations that helped push it to the fore. Bad news: it earned her threats from men’s rights trolls on the controversial network 4chan.

It was never meant to live—it was intentionally consigned by absurdist cartoon purveyors Adult Swim to 4 a.m. infomercials—but we’re better off that someone loaded the catchy Too Many Cooks up to Youtube for the masses to relish. Ends up too many cooks don’t spoil the broth, after all.

Lauren Hill, a freshman player on Mount St. Joseph’s basketball team who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, lays in the game’s opening basket—to the roar of another school’s crowd.

More from the sports file: five days before Isaiah Austin was expected to be drafted in the first round of the NBA draft, his draft physicals found a genetic disease that would immediately end his career, before it could even begin. So on draft day, the league commissioner Adam Silver decided he needed to right that cosmic wrong.

Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe is a wizard after all—at rapping, at least.

Viral videos are sometimes all about luck. This pilot lost the camera he had attached to his plane and it plummets, somehow, landing intact and face-up—where it is greeted by a confused yet hungry pig.

On the other hand, virality can also require the extreme, delicate precision needed to hand-craft tiny burritos to feed to a hamster.Either way, this is adorable.

John Oliver’s takedown of net neutrality may not have received as many eyeballs as most of the clips on this list, but the fact that a video about deeply wonkish material got 7-million views—and inspired one legislator to actually deny the video’s claim that he was a dingo—means it well-earned its spot.

Chris Picco was set to have a child with his wife Ashley. But then Ashley died suddenly during childbirth, and his son, Lennon, had to bedelivered prematurely by C-section. Knowing that he would likely pass away too, Chris sang the Beatles’ mournful tune. Lennon died the next day.

Richard Dunn, trapped alone in the Las Vegas airport, filmed a creative music video for Celine Dion’s All By Myself—earning more than 16-million views and a plaudit from Celine herself.

All by myself from Richard Dunn on Vimeo.

With remarkably advanced moves, this plump baby from Korea captured more than 13-million hearts. (The one on the left gives a valiant effort, also.)

This artful short film of 20 strangers kissing ended up being an ad for a clothing line—but wasn’t a less cynical time when we simply believed in the pure spontaneity of 20 beautiful people making out?

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