Last week we sent out a message on Twitter asking people which pop culture moments from this past year made them the happiest. So much year-end content trades in extremes and superlatives—The Best This, The Worst That—that we wondered what things, forget about any sort of critical eye, just made us smile. Made us feel something. Lord knows we needed that this year.
It ended up being the most successful social media callout that we’ve ever had. (Read all the replies here.)
The picks below are by no means an exhaustive list. In an uplifting twist, it would take more time than we have to include all of the year’s most joyous, emotional moments you all singled out. Some are my personal choices. Some are suggestions from The Daily Beast newsroom. Some are from you readers responding on social media, and many were recommended by all four. So here you are. Smile, friends.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’s “Super Trouper” Finale
Basically all of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, really. The “Dancing Queen” boat dance party that was so full of joy we cried. Marveling over the Young Christine Baranski doppelganger. O.G. Christine Baranski asking to have Andy Garcia “washed and sent to my tent.” That bonkers, ecclesiastical disco dance party at the end. Oh, and Cher singing, “Fernando”? That’s the best kind of party, little girl.
David and Patrick on Schitt’s Creek’s “The Best” Romance
No TV comedy had any right to make us cry over a rendition of Tina Turner’s “The Best.” Twice. Dan Levy’s David had a sweet and swooning romance with Noah Reid’s Patrick and it was TV’s purest love story, punctuated in season four by two heart-exploding big romantic gestures that transcended TV scenes to become experiences that the show’s gay fans, especially, have cherished deeply.
Kelly Clarkson, Just in General
OK, but maybe specifically her jaw-dropping Billboard Music Awards opening medley, when she rightfully called out iHeartRadio for not playing her songs, and that time she met Cher and told us that automatically made her life better than all of ours. No arguments here.
Priyanka Chopra’s Wedding Veil
Quoth Daily Beast deputy managing editor Tamara Best, “Because, sheesh.”
Nailed It! on Netflix
We’ve never had a cooking show host quite like Nicole Byer and I don’t know how we lived before we did.
SNL’s “Diner Lobster” Sketch
What in the world is this sketch and why does it make us wheeze with laughter each of the (roughly 745) times we’ve watched it?
Many people wrote in with their favorite singular moments of the epic set, but Twitter user @RukhDesai nailed the true highlight: “Every damn minute.”
Natasha Rothwell on Insecure
Kelly getting tazed at Beychella on Insecure is unequivocally the funniest TV moment of the year. Kelly joking/laughing/breathing/doing anything on Insecure is unequivocally the funniest TV performance of the year.
“I Just Wanted to Take Another Look at You” Memes
“There Could Be 100 People in a Room…” Memes
Hell, Just the A Star Is Born Trailer
The memes are fun, but let’s not act like the Star Is Born trailer wasn’t the best content produced this year.
Chloe Kim at the Olympics!
Remember that the Olympics happened this year? Remember how awesome Chloe Kim was? Remember how cute her dad was?
Adam Rippon at the Olympics!
2018’s other “a star is born.”
Gus Kenworthy Kissing His Boyfriend at the Olympics!
This was a big deal!
This concludes the sports section of this list!
Paul McCartney’s “Carpool Karaoke” With James Corden
This was one of the most earnest, kind-hearted, and surprisingly emotional viral bits of pop culture we got this year, entertainment that puts the kind of happiness out into the world that we truly believe makes it better.
Jennifer Garner’s Love, Simon Monologue
“You get to exhale now, Simon. You get to be more you than you have been in a very long time. You deserve everything you want.” Honestly, guys, I cried just typing that again.
Paddington 2’s End Credits Song and Dance
GIVE HUGH GRANT THE OSCAR HE DESERVES.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Costumes
Midge’s coats! I die! (While we’re praising Maisel, how about that phenomenal one-shot opening scene? Or the first Catskills episode? Or Tony Shalhoub in a romper?)
Josh Hamilton’s Monologue in Eighth Grade
Bo Burnham’s revelatory film, especially through breakthrough star Elsie Fisher’s astonishing performance, captured every itchy, painful, insecure, hopeful, confused, innocent, traumatized, and otherwise normal feeling about adolescence. How cathartic and beautiful to, at the end of it all, get to release all those feelings through Josh Hamilton’s touching monologue as her dad.
The Crazy Rich Asians Wedding Scene
You barely even know the couple when the aisle floods for the ridiculous, over-the-top Crazy Rich Asians wedding scene, so why are you bawling like it’s your own best friend when the bride walks down the aisle? It’s a gorgeous scene with unabashed extreme emotion, befitting one of the most gratifying showbiz stories of the year: this film’s blockbuster success.
Fergie’s Sexy National Anthem
What a mess. What a joy.
Everything Anne Hathaway Does in Ocean’s 8
Hathahate? More like Hathaslay. (Heh.)
Oprah’s Golden Globe Speech
A galvanizing, spirited, perfectly pitched sermon on the mount about the state of our country, the state of womanhood, the state of blackness, the state of justice, and the state of what’s right and wrong. (It took all my strength to put this moment here instead of the resurfaced Oprah Winfrey Show clip in which she makes fun of the white lady for not seasoning her chicken.)
The “Home” Scene From Pose
We’re tempted to populate this entire list with moments from the first season of Pose, a triumph of human storytelling, showmanship, and inclusion. Instead we’ll celebrate its emotional high point: Billy Porter and Mj Rodriguez’s duet of “Home.” Performed at an AIDS treatment center, it could have been the most upsetting scene of the year. Instead, their voices lifted our hearts and hopes to the heavens—the memories and legacies of all those lost during the crisis up with them.
Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next” Homage to The First Wives Club
This is when I knew, when it comes to Ari and me, it was going to be true love.
The Long Overdue Celebration of Sandra Oh
Far too long after she left Grey’s Anatomy, TV’s most brilliant actress—and her luxurious hair—gets the moment she deserves with Killing Eve.
20 Years Later, Glitter Hits Number One
One of the greatest vocalists and songwriters of our time more than earned the surprise vindication from one of the darkest points in her career when #JusticeForGlitter sent the notorious Mariah Carey soundtrack to the top of the charts.
Alex Newell’s “Mama Will Provide” in Once On This Island
The only time in 2018 it was still acceptable to shout, “Yaaas queen!”
Whatever Is Going On in the The Favourite Dance Scene
It was between that and the now-iconic line, “I like it when she puts her tongue inside me.”
The Ascendance of Ellen Pompeo, TV Queen
The ‘Real Housewives’ Go to Colombia
The “Boat Trip From Hell” is just the tip of iceberg (bottom of the scene) in what is the best edited episode of reality TV this year—and maybe even comedy series, too.
Barbra Streisand Cloning Her Dead Dog
I will talk about this story for a minimum of two hours, at any time, with anyone.
“Miss Vanjie…” on Drag Race
The most memorable reality TV exit...ever?
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Rescued From Cancellation
Comforting to know that not every network executive has lost their damn mind!
The Royal Wedding, Duh!
Don’t even act like you didn’t watch the whole thing, find yourself getting misty-eyed, and wondering, “What is happening to me?”
2018’s Biggest Movie Heroes: RBG and Mr. Rogers
Searching for beacons of strength, moral upstanding, and hope in dark times, we found them in Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Fred Rogers, both subjects of hit documentaries and feature films (On the Basis of Sex is out now; Won’t You Be My Neighbor is coming next year). How inspiring.
The One Day at a Time Prom Proposal
A feminist, queer-cheering remix of “We Didn’t Start to Fire!” More of this! All of this! Always!
Billy Magnussen’s Ass in Tell Me a Story
Every Moment Stephanie J. Block Was on Stage in The Cher Show
If I could turn back time...I would see this show over and over and over! LOL!
Pete Davidson Apologizes to Lt. Com. Dan Crenshaw; Crenshaw Skewers Pete Davidson
The best possible outcome to what was brewing to be a maddening news cycle.
Jesus Christ Superstar Live!
NBC took me to church!
The Rom-Com Renaissance
To Lana Condor, Zoey Deutch, and all the rom-com queens I’ve loved before.
The Parkland Survivors Perform “Seasons of Love” at the Tony Awards
The tears justly flowed during this celebration of the Parkland school shooting survivors’ strength, resilience, and hope for the future, a poignant reminder of how everyone in the theater community is united in the same community, by the same values, under the same seasons of love.
Mac’s Dance Sequence in It’s Always Sunny
2018, the year even It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia made me cry.
Dick Van Dyke’s Mary Poppins Returns Cameo
Nothing this year made me smile more.
The Senior Citizen Who Skips a Cardi B Performance to Call His Repairman
Breakout star of the year.
Maya Rudolph Saying “Bubble Bath” in Big Mouth
Song of the year.
Rihanna Slo-Mo Dancing at the Met Gala
Movie of the year.
Feeling of the year.