Video-hosting site YouTube has over a billion active users. Most of them are happy to get a few dozen views on the videos they share. But let’s compare that to the viral-video elite. One of the site’s top-trending videos for 2016 pulled in over 136 million views. Come with us as we stroll back through 2016, revisit some of the best viral videos and remember why we (and millions of others) clicked on them in the first place.
1. Adele sings car karaoke
"Late Late Show" host James Corden has conquered YouTube with his Carpool Karaoke series that welcomes celebrities to ride shotgun and sing along to hits over the stereo. British musical sensation Adele took a seat next to Corden way back in January and the collaboration turned out to be one of YouTube’s biggest video hits of the year.
What makes this so charming is the mix of comedy brought by Corden and the knockout singing chops of Adele. She even sings along with one of her own hits, the emotionally compelling "Hello." Corden hams it up, but he also hits the high notes right along with her. He jokingly calls Adele "the female Phil Collins" right before she spills her drink on her lap. It’s a joyous 15 minutes of musical meanderings and witty banter. No wonder it’s still pulling in masses of viewers nearly a year later. Come for Adele, stay for the hilarious Spice Girls karaoke.
2. Hydraulic press vs. diamond
There is something primal about a hydraulic press. The industrial machine can squish even the sturdiest of objects, whether they are made from metal, plastic or vegetable (yes, vegetable) matter. The year 2016 has been the breakout party for the Hydraulic Press Channel, a YouTube channel dedicated to (you guessed it) smooshing things with a heavy-duty hydraulic press.
It’s hard to choose just one outstanding video from the many offerings on display, but we’ll have to go with the wildly popular "Crushing diamond with hydraulic press." A lab-grown 1.2-carat diamond goes up against the awesome power of the relentless machine. Diamonds may have the reputation of being one of the hardest substances on Earth, but the press wins the day, turning the gemstone into dust. It’s a fascinating experiment and one that attracted over 10 million views.
3. Human dog toy warms hearts
Meet Jolene. She’s a golden retriever and her favorite chew toy in the whole wide world is a plush Gumby designed after the green claymation star. Jolene’s owner Ben Mesches dressed up in a full human-sized Gumby costume to surprise his adorable pup with her favorite character come to life. Jolene goes bonkers.
This is the dog equivalent of a child seeing Santa Claus at the mall for the first time. The video is only a minute long, but it pulled in over 9 million views and left everyone who watched it with a smile.
4. One fancy airline seat
Nearly 27 million people looked on in awe as filmmaker and YouTube personality Casey Neistat shared a rare glimpse into the luxury high-flying lifestyle of first-class seating on Emirates Airlines. Neistat received an upgrade while traveling from Dubai to New York City. The seat comes with a $21,000 price tag.
Neistat described the experience as one of "the greatest days in my entire life." Besides high-end drinks, Neistat got his own sliding doors, a writing kit, total privacy, plenty of room to stretch out his legs, and a large touchscreen television. It’s more of a hotel room than an airline seat. Regular passengers may snack on peanuts, but the sunglasses-wearing Neistat received caviar. He even took a hot shower. This video is the closest most of us will ever get to such eye-popping in-flight luxury.
4. Christmas goes to the dogs
U.K. department store John Lewis found itself with a bona fide holiday hit when its charmer of a Christmas ad gave millions of YouTube viewers a good laugh. The video features Buster the Boxer and his human family. Dad spends Christmas eve putting together a trampoline in the back yard. It attracts a magical collection of playful critters, including foxes, a badger, squirrels, and a hedgehog. Buster looks on wistfully from inside.
The ad’s punchline shows a delighted Buster set free outside to bounce on the new trampoline. Yes, the video is a great piece of marketing, but it’s also a touching story featuring one of the internet’s favorite things: a cute dog.
5. T. rex conquers “American Ninja Warrior”
The “American Ninja Warrior” television show lets you follow the athletic exploits of some of the country’s finest athletes as they attempt to conquer a bizarre obstacle course featuring floating steps, a rotating block run, and a massive vertical wall. Now add an extinct dinosaur to that mix and watch the joyously surreal results.
A very capable athlete attired in an inflatable Tyrannosaurus rex costume turned in an admirable performance despite battling the bulky outfit. The announcers get into it, calling out, “Oh man...extinction looms here for the T. rex!” The crowd chants “dino, dino, dino.” It’s impossible not to root for the plucky predator. Spoiler alert: T. rex doesn’t win, but he does come back for an impressive wall-climbing encore.