The 20 Greatest Internet Memes of the 1990s Anything
by  tags 75,217 views 20 items f p @

The 20 Greatest Internet Memes of the 1990s

List Criteria: Meme must have appeared in the '90s, not just reference something from the decade

As early as the ‘80s, there were precursors to the Scumbag Steves and the Socially Awkward Penguins of the world. The ‘90s, though, were the decade that made it harder to drag yourself away from the computer and into the harsh daylight of the "real world." Nobody knew it at the time, but the '90s were swimming in memes.

Here’s your history lesson on memes, which is clearly better than any other history homework you were going to pretend to do today.

Prologue to the Top 20: Yes, you'll notice that "All Your Base" is not #1; hell, you may even be commenting on that before you get around to reading this. Fact is, if this were a Top 20 Greatest Memes of the 1990s (and the First Couple Months of 2000) list, "All Your Base" would be #1 with a bullet. But it's not! So go look at some Goatses and wait for the list of the 2000s to come out so you can bitch about the fact that something that hit the web on January 2nd, 2010 isn't on THAT list.

Check out more lists like the hilarious 'how to internet' guides from the 90s, the best scary memes, and the top memes of all time

L The List
B Comments
& Embed
G Options
  1. 1


    A man, his hands, and his anus. Save for certain parts of the Internet population, this is not an image you’re going to seek out on your own. Hence the beginnings of one of the original bait-and-switch shock sites on the web, the goatse.

    In what could be dubbed the father of the Rickroll, the Goatse marks that time in a person’s life where an initial reaction of horror (hopefully) turns into a humorous reaction after the shock subsides. “Oh my God, I can see that man’s prostate!” becomes “Oh my God, I just saw that man’s prostate! I bet Bill will think this is hilarious, too.” The original (which is no longer found at was literally a man spreading his butt cheeks for all to see (presumably because he was really excited about what the proctologist had to tell him that afternoon).

    Now, in case you're looking for some real man jelly and not just the strawberry variety that led the Goatse recap, you can continue scrolling down to see the =O= riginal shot.

    Hey! Don't want your boss to walk by and see somebody's colon staring back from your desktop? DON'T SCROLL DOWN!

    OK, you've carried on. You're either not at work, or you have a boss as twisted as you are. Please continue.

    Did you really want to look at butthole today? Because that's what Goatse is. OK, just checking.

    Did you scroll down on purpose or did you decide to keep pressing your luck? Do you think we're playing Goatse chicken here? Listen, if you keep scrolling, it's going to be a man, not a muppet, next time. You've been warned.

    Click here and you're going to see the real Goatse.

    Oh my God, that was really it! Well, if your desire to see goatse in more comedic forms has not been extinguished after that, click here to check out the Ranker spread on Goatse.

  2. 2

    ??? Profit

    Oh, South Park, only you could point out the obvious flaws in the corporate money quest by using underpants and gnomes. It all blooms in Tweak’s bedroom, where he claims gnomes are stealing his pants for profit. Upon finding out this is true, the South Park gang seek to understand the gnomes’ business plan, consisting of three easy steps:

    1) Collect underpants
    2) ???
    3) PROFIT!

    Brilliant in its simplicity except…oh yeah, no one knows where the profit - like Bill O’Reilly’s rolling tides - comes from.

  3. 3

    Every Time You Masturbate...

    God kills a kitten.

    Do you want to bear that responsibility? Baskets full of fuzzy, cheerful, bright-eyed, soul-having kittens - all dead because YOU couldn’t handle your self-pleasuring needs?!

    I think not! Hence the origins of the anti kitten-hate propaganda of the late 1990s are revealed.

    Though the images of two Domo monsters chasing down a hapless kitten in a green field became more popular in 2002,

    the concept first found its way to the kitten-hating public in May of 1999 on the pages of BarFly Magazine. Leave it to a drinking publication to extoll the virtues of NOT having a wank (when you could have a drank).

  4. 4


    Better than duh, better than dur, it’s derp!

    The all-encompassing exasperated utterance of idiocy. Tracing its genesis to the Trey Parker/Matt Stone movie Baseketball, the boys - after being caught going through a drawer full of unmentionables they believe to belong to the hot chick of the house - runs from the room dropping the “derp” when it’s discovered that the panties, vibrator, et al. belong not to the hot chick, but to her mom.

    Often characterized in picture memes by characters whose eyeballs jut out to either side, the word is a four letter admission of an absurd fail in humanity.

  5. 5

    This Looks Shopped

    Referencing Corel’s Paint Shop Pro, the statement is meant to be both a subtle and obvious reference to a badly edited picture. Think Madonna’s head on Taylor Swift’s body; nobody’s buying that.

    Of course, in the '90s, when dial-up was still all the rage and desktop HD monitors were a decade away, what was the harm in dropping Barbara Walter’s head on Jennifer Aniston’s body? Oh right, EVERYTHING.

  6. 6


    Like the hipsters who knew about Deathspell Omega before they were mainstream (they’re French meta-physical black metal omega lords, in case you didn’t already know), you feel the need to express to the Internet at large that you were the first person to discover a post. Whether or not you took the time to read it or make an actual comment on it, you were the first person to see a link and click it, you goddamn genius, you. The world, and all the other posters to follow, thank you for your genuinely thoughtful insight.

  7. 7

    Hampster Dance

    Holy sh*t, a dancing hamster!

    Must. E-mail. Everyone.

    The dancing hamster craze started when Canadian Deidre LaCarte’s best friend challenged her to a web page view contest. Deidre’s bright idea: animate her hamster THREE HUNDRED AND NINETY TWO times doing different dances moves to a nine second sample of a Roger Miller song.

    It was a popular e-mail, blog, and bait-and-switch share, and was even sampled in a 1999 song by The Cuban Boys. The song peaked at #4 in the UK, besting ‘90s faves like Sugar Ray, Crash Test Dummies, Smash Mouth, and LFO. Thank you?

  8. 8

    Demotivational Posters

    MOTIVATION. If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon.

    Let’s face it: Some people need a slap of reality right in their gaping smile of a pie hole. Anyone who thinks a kitten can hang in there, dangling from a tree branch for eternity should probably check the date their motivational poster was printed (thank you, Marge Simpson).

    Demotivational posters - which came about in 1998 courtesy of Despair Inc. - are the equalizers to those infernally optimistic posters hung in the offices of every corporate buffoon who has ever asked you about a TPS report. If this poster

    had been hanging over your boss’s boss’s desk the last time he went in for a promotion talk, maybe there would be less of an appearance of inbreeding in the higher rungs of your company by now.

  9. 9

    Bert is Evil

    While we all know that Bert is a flaming homosexual, it may come as news to some that Bert is also evil incarnate, or so the Bert is Evil meme would have you believe.

    Stemming from a website started in 1998 by Dino Ignacio, the trend involves photoshopping Sesame Street’s resident unibrow into hilariously evil situations like the JFK Assassination, a Ku Klux Klan rally, and other PBS unfriendly adventures.

    The best part of the meme is that you’d never expect Bert to be a stone-cold killer or bigoted racist (like Big Bird, who isn't fooling anyone), but dammit he looks so at home with a burning cross! I wonder if Ernie cuts himself to deal with it all…

  10. 10

    Last Page of the Internet

    You’ve had a full day of searching for Star Trek fan fiction, beef stroganoff recipes, and kitty porn (spelling errors aside, you still happened upon something amusing), and you start to wonder, “gosh, does the internet have no end?”... so you search to see if there’s a last page of the internet.

    By cracky, there is! Meant to be a quick joke about how little most users knew about the Internet at the time, the last pages of the Internet were intended to make people feel stupid and/or seek out other activities away from their monstrous 15” desktop screens.

  11. 11


    Believe it or not, the term was originally meant to denote the pain felt from a disciplinary spanking, the kind you get from your mommy not your “daddy.”

    Perhaps stemming from the childlike connotation of the feeling, it’s often used in a derogatory manner meant to marginalize the person who’s complaining about something trivial.

    For example: “Oh, Johnny told Maria she looked better today even though you were both wearing the same whorish outfit? How about some warm milk so you don't feel so butthurt?”

  12. 12

    Dancing Baby

    Believe it or not, the Dancing Baby did not get its start on Ally McBeal; it began making the rounds via e-mail chain in fall of 1996. Passing along something via e-mail that’s not an invitation to invest with a Nigerian Prince… how quaint.

    Despite its high annoying factor, it spread like an STD in a frat house, from the minds of Michael Girard and Robert Lurye (who jointly conceived of the 3D baby) to the desk of LucasArts employee Ron Lussier, who sent the e-mail around to other employees at the company. Still not the worst animation to come out of LucasArt (*cough* Jar Jar *cough*).

  13. 13

    I See What You Did There

    A reference that got its start on TV (Friends, of all places), I See What You Did There is a sometimes clever, sometimes condescending way to tell someone you know what they did.

    “You told the head cheerleader you might go out with her if she were as pretty as the girls on the flag team? I see what you did there.”

    Or “You took the Power Point slides from lecture and tried to sell them to me as 'your notes'? I see what you did there.”

  14. 14

    Shock Sites

    Perhaps the best thing ever to happen to your annoying co-worker, the shock site is the place you send the woman in the cubicle down the hall to when she refuses to stop mass mailing the whole office life-affirming messages delivered by babies dressed as vegetables.

    From the up front (you have to click this, it’s disgusting!) to the bait-and-switch (you should check out this Republican Party website; it’s really informative!), the shock site is something you never want to blow up on a big screen or squint at on a small one. They’re images that will be etched into your brain forever (like this super cute bunny dressed like Abe Lincoln). It's sites like these you have to thank for later gross-outs like "Two girls, one cup."

    For your general gross-out topics, check out

    For the bait-and-switch, it's gotta be

  15. 15

    Cuppycake Gumdrops

    Is it possible to simultaneously love and hate something as much as Honey Boo Boo Child? Because if that’s possible, that emotion can be transferred to then 3-year-old Amy Castle, who performed mom Judianna Castle’s song in 1996 in a one minute burst of audio genius.

    The saccharine sweet performance, which is surprisingly good for a 3-year-old, spawned bunches of imitators, one of whom, Cuppycake Sam,

    got even more attention than Amy! Attention whore! (We still love you, Amy... and you too, Sam)

  16. 16

    Dihydrogen Monoxide

    Scary chemical alert! Scary chemical alert! Check your mail, seal your doors, stock up on emergency supplies because Dihydrogen Monoxide is coming! This nefarious compound threatens your very existence as a direct result of… hydration.

    Leaflets highlighting the dangers of DHMO listed such concerning facts as “is fatal if inhaled,” “is the major component in acid rain,” and that it “has been found in the excised tumors of terminal cancer patients.” As if that weren’t scary enough, the pamphlets also warned that the compound was used in nuclear power plants, pesticides, and Styrofoam. Pretty scary stuff until you realize -

    Dihydrogen Monoxide is water.

    If you didn’t realize that from the start, there’s this really great page you should check out. It’s THE LAST PAGE of the Internet!

  17. 17

    Fake/Funny Error Messages

    Much like the dirty animation that “mistakenly” ends up in Disney movies, funny error messages started when some programmers who were having a laugh forgot to clean up after themselves. Once one of these mistakes made it through the cracks and out into the windows of computer users at large, it was open season for anyone frustrated either at their computers or their stupid friends. Take, for example:

    “Your mouse is not working, please click here to acknowledge.”

    “Not enough memory to display this dialog.”

    And of course: “The procedure failed with the following error: The command completed successfully.”

    The fake/funny error messages tied in nicely to the "404: File Not Found" pages, which worked their way into the meme world about the same time.

  18. 18

    Agony in Pink

    Perhaps the best, and most disturbing, piece of fan fiction ever, this tome takes aim at Kimberly Hart, the Pink Ranger in the original "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" television series.

    Although many of us would have surely delighted in seeing someone like Cobra Commander or maybe even He-Man get his comeuppance at the short end of a bar of soap in a prison shower, the graphic details of Lord Zedd and the otherworldly Tortura getting into the stink of the Pink was simultaneously too much for some to handle, and too much for some to miss.

    If the mental images you're currently conjuring aren't enough, you can read the original "Agony in Pink" fan fic here.

  19. 19


    Isn’t it hilarious when things get lost in translation? Like when an English person comes up to you at the bar and asks to “bum a f*g”? Comedy gold! And that’s just English to Amurrican; can you imagine the possibilities when East-Asian texts are translated for the ease of English-speaking tourists. Not quite Asian, nowhere close to English… herro, Engrish!

    Awesome examples include:


  20. 20

    Godwin's Law

    Because you wanted some math mixed in with your memes. Godwin’s Law simply states that the longer a conversation thread becomes, the greater the chances somebody will drop the Hitler/Nazi bomb, effectively eradicating the chances of the thread’s continuation.

    Whether as a way to gain the upper hand on posters who have valid, legitimate points to counter your claims that “REO Speedwagon is the best band EVER,” or to simply bring someone down a notch, the N Bomb is the way to silence your detractors. Witness the law in use.

    You think Godwin’s Law should be the #1 meme of the ‘90s? I hope Nazis killed your grandparents.

L List Options B Comments & Embed z Share Next List >