Orcas, Ice Spice, Matty Healy and Lana Del Rey
Collage: Loe Lee | Images: Getty and Shutterstock

The 203 Biggest Pop Culture Moments of 2023

Our review of the biggest, best, and most viral events from a very messy year.
Looking back on the biggest stories of the year.

Welcome to the end of another year in the Terrible Twenties. (Or the assholocene, the jackpot, or any number of things that people have come up with to describe our current *gestures wildly*). Things happened, and then they just kept happening, and then everything everywhere all at once. Worse of all: It’s still happening!! To paraphrase William Gibson: “The end of the world is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed.” It’s nice to be here with you anyway. 


This was the year that Barbenheimer entered the dictionary, being a “gooner” started meaning more than just being an Arsenal football fan, and AI versions of Homer Simpson and Spongebob Squarepants took over TikTok. It’s the year of people pleading with celebrities—nay, straight-up begging—to stop using private jets. Everyone briefly insane over an energy drink. You were either a litty lengy or you weren’t. (Maybe you’re a nepo baby, though.) 

You may have reposted a headline about wild javelinas ripping up golf courses with the words “she’s so me”. You became increasingly scared about your screentime, but whenever you did post, you made sure not to show feet (for free, at least). You probably paid way too much money for a concert ticket. X—formerly known as Twitter, yada yada—imploded, but you’re still there.

What can we say? It’s been a lot. Don’t worry, though. We at VICE used our big brains to come up with a completely subjective list of 203 of the year’s biggest pop culture moments. Read on for the main characters, the beefs, the silly trends and biggest viral blow-ups. Here’s to another year of being alive.


1) Mexican drug cartels allegedly designed guns with Lana del Rey’s face on the magazine. Very on-brand for her.

2) The death of the MCU. Marvels tanking at the box office. The big yawn of Loki season two. Whatever Oscar Isaac's weird accent was in Moon Knight. Is Marvel done? We can pray!

3) All the rich people taking drugs in the desert for Burning Man getting stuck in the mud.

4) BeReal dying. It was fun while it lasted.

5) The TikTok Child Who Sings With a Goat. How Very Very Sweet and Blessed We Are To Live In This Time.

6) NYC Mayor Eric Adams’s “war on rats”. He appointed a “bloodthirsty” rat czar to commit a "wholesome slaughter”. Weird guy!

7) "Aren't you guys bankrupt?"

8) M&Ms retiring their ’spokescandies’. A victory in the conservative culture war against talking chocolate.

9) The Idol being trash in a bad way, not a good way.


10) The big animal uprising: Orcas, otters, bedbugs, feral Canadian pigs are invading the US. Forget AI, start worrying more about animals taking their revenge on humanity.

11) Although, actually, do continue worrying about AI art, history’s worst type of art.

12) Men with microphones accosting random women in the street to ask what their bodycount is. The spiritual cousin of this is redpilled prepubescent boys getting voxpopped and coming out with just the most chauvinistic shit you’ve ever heard.

13) This oppossum: That’s me.

14) All the people who got mad about André 3000's flute album.

15) Podcasts died, brah.

16) Jada Pinkett Smith. Everything I have learnt about this woman’s marriage or lack thereof to Will Smith has been against my will.

17) Baby Gronk Rizzed Up Livvy. Really, what more is there to even say?

18) The Sphere. It’s big, it’s bad, and it’s almost certainly going to give someone a migraine if they look at it for too long.


19) Mia Goth doing her best scream.

20) That kissing Shrek filter on TikTok.

21) “Zac Muffron”.

22) Ozempic. Big year for non-diabetic people injecting themselves with diabetes medicine.

23) Caroline Calloway's book Scammer finally released. And to positive acclaim as well! Bless her for following through on something.

24) AI Spongebob 9/11: The kind of phrase the CIA probably used in MKULTRA as a trigger.

25) The rise of Instagram accounts that steal people's photos and videos and thank “their community” for “being with them” from the start, but the curation is on point.

26) Music well and truly fracturing. For proof, try this 100 gecs and Basement Jaxx collaboration.

27) The Christmas episode of The Bear. Maybe the most chaotic episode of television ever broadcast?

28) Teenagers got really weird about showing feet and it’s begun to transcend generations. Everyone is blurring their feet in pictures now.


29) Quiet luxury. Stealth wealth gets its moment.

30) George Santos. Please, I am begging you, please stop paying this man $400 to make a Cameo.

31) Lil Tay being dead… and then not dead. Confusing! Sort of sad! But good for her!

32) Cyberpunk 2077 is good now.

33) Bryan Johnson. Does anyone else feel like this an elaborate psyop?

34) “This is why you guys are bankrupt.”

35) Kim Kardashian’s nipple bra. Bad marketing campaign (nobody wants to associate a bra with the planet being on fire, Kim!) but actually quite good news for post-op breast cancer survivors, it turns out.

36) Donald Trump’s mugshot: Looking like an angry Oompa Loompa got caught shoplifting in the dollar store wig shop – slay!

37) That Sammy Virji DJ Mag set.

38) Nepo babies (see: our UK showbiz list). Absolutely nothing has changed, except everyone giving them endless TikTok airtime, maybe.


39) Samantha's cameo in And Just Like That. Iconically low effort.

40) Joe Biden's dog attacking people. Sleepy Joe’s dog Commander has gone for 12 so far.

41) Kendall Roy being babygirl. With that soft, Snoopy-coded masculinity that all the gurls, gworls and girlies want to mother.

42) The “Attenzione! Attenzione! Pickpocket!!!” woman getting canceled. She’s a councillor for the hard-right political party Lega Nord, unfortunately.

43) Loafers are still here.

44) So is Jack Harlow.

45) Incels trying to convince everyone that Margot Robbie is mid. Come on now.

46) Shakira dumping Pique. Figuring out her partner of 12 years was cheating because of a jam jar is a sublime instance of women’s intuition.

47) Zuckerberg’s Threads. It came and it did not conquer.

48) The Driving Crooner in I Think You Should Leave.

49) The guy who drank 2,000 pints in 200 days. Congratulations to Jon May for inventing a new endurance sport – drinking thousands of pints without being hospitalised – and making himself world champion.


50) Taylor Swift’s boyfriend being a himbo. May we all attract a golden retriever boyfriend into our lives next year. Ha ha #crazy!

51) Taylor Swift’s boyfriend being sexist and fatphobic on X – well, it couldn’t last forever, especially if you’re a white guy who’s been tweeting since the 2010s.

52) Mudwash jeans. Gross before and they're still gross now.

53) Jennifer Coolidge saying that her neighbours don’t invite her to things in her Golden Globes speech.

54) A$AP Rocky revealing that his “best” collaboration is the child he and Rihanna had together.

55) “Girl” everything. Girl dinner this, girl maths that – how about everyone grow the fuck up for once?

56) HÖR getting cancelled. Dance music is a radical form of community that brings people together, except when one of them is wearing pro-Palestine clothing, apparently.

57) Also: Israel having the most insane Twitter presence of any country, let alone one currently at war.


58) People saying they're done with “this hellsite”, then retreating back a couple of weeks later to have another hit on X, like they've done for the past half decade.

59) Casisdead finally releasing an album.

60) Ridley Scott on the Napoleon press circuit. Scott going to war over a movie about Napoleon kind of checks out, but saying he was convinced by Phoenix's portrayal after putting a funny little hat on him is next level.

61) Paint-eating dad dying. Sad, but also intrigued how the paint thing itself wasn’t more lethal.

62) The self-proclaimed “sniffluencer” who rates various toilets around the globe for doing lines in. Shout out to her.

63) Girls Aloud are back!!!

64) Victoria Beckham pretending to be working class in Beckham. David Beckham outs her for being driven to school in, um, a Rolls-Royce.

65) “Who’s that wonderful girl? Could she be any cuter????”


66) Andrew Tate saying people who attend festivals are “sweaty peasants”and calls girls “festihoes”. Festihoe Summer loading.

67) The Saltburn jizz-slurping scene. The Call Me By Your Name peach scene for cruder Brits. 

68) Australians having snake worms in their brains. Foraging sounds so nice until you hear a woman in Canberra – after suffering from depression, diarrhea and memory loss for two and a half years – had a six centimetre worm parasite only found in carpet pythons pulled out of her brain.

69) Hamster raves on TikTok.

70) Troye Sivan’s “RUSH” music video.

71) Gooning. By some horror, the word “gooning” has gone mainstream to the point that even Norm Finkelstein knows what it is.

72) JPEGMAFIA and Danny Brown’s Scaring the Hoes. “Just a really good album” – VICE.


73) Gloryhole Dad. Sadly debunked (by us), but nonetheless almost definitely the most forwarded message on WhatsApp this year.

74) British tourists being so horrendous that they compelled the city of Amsterdam to launch an entire campaign instructing them to “stay away”.

75) Related: The UK flight to Ibiza. There wasn’t a month – or week – that went by without hearing about utter mayhem on one of these.

76) Also related: The Brit who carved his and his girlfriend’s names into Rome’s 2,000-year-old Colosseum and pretended he didn’t know it was a historic site. Brits really just can’t be trusted, can we?

77) YouTuber merch becoming inescapable. That includes Prime Energy. How some people spent over £1,000 on one bottle is something I’ll never comprehend.

78) MSCHF’s big red boots.

79) Tube girl.

80) NFTs all being worthless now. Who could have seen that coming?


81) DJ Mandy being the best DJ on TikTok.

82) AI Spongebob cover songs: Who doesn’t want to hear Squidward sing “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”? Psychopaths, that’s who.

83) The Hot Topic, flippy bangs and guyliner revival era of emo is upon us. It’s led by Jimmy Butler on the most recent Heat media day.

84) Please, These Gays… They’re trying to murder me!

85) That was fun when Bill Murray and Kelis briefly dated, those crazy kids.

86) The FDA warning Americans not to confuse poppers with 5-Hour Energy Shots. Easy solution: Avoid energy shots. Too much caffeine.


87) That Wagner guy fucking around and then finding out. He went for it, at least.

88) Pete Doherty finding peace in Normandy.

89) The Chinese spy balloon.

90) The Mean Girls reboot. Looks like an uncanny valley of Y2K-00s aesthetics but with clearly modern, cheap-looking clothes. And they’re all on TikTok??

91) The Met Gala cockroach. Don’t talk to her, don’t make eye contact, just make sure the train of her gown is fluffed on the red carpet and she gets some face time with Anna.

92) Brian Jordan Alvarez becoming the unofficial meme creator of the year with his various character creations, including his foreign exchange student role and the “Sitting Is the Opposite of Standing” song guy.

93) The return of Big Brother after a five-year hiatus.

94) Pickleball. Still not sure what this even is. Still not looking more into it.


95) Cigfluencers.

96) You need to watch Polite Society, the only martial arts mash-up comedy film of the year.

97) While you’re at it, watch Raging Grace, the only Get Out-meets-Saltburn horror of the year.

98) This WKD and Guiness combo.

99) All of those knitted hats that the teens wear. Hope they are keeping warm out there!

100) Fans throwing random shit at celebrities. Harry Styles, Drake, Adele – and most recently Florence Pugh at a Dune: Part Two press event – have all been nearly concussed by flying projectiles.

101) Cardi B throwing a microphone at someone. Striking back on behalf of celebrities everywhere.

102) Nathan Fielder and Emma Stone ripping off the Anyone But You trailer.


103) Donald Trump mentioning Hannibal Lector. So many questions: Is he referring to the actor Antony Hopkins? Does he know who Hannibal Lector is outside of name recognition? Did either the character or actor say "I love Donald Trump"? And finally: Has anybody actually seen Silence... of the Lambs?

104) The endless cascade of crazy-ass Brazilian funk songs made out of random, blown-out sound effects.

105) The nepo baby discourse may have rotted our brains, but here’s hoping Sofia Coppola’s daughter stays cool.

106) Martin Scorcese’s daughter Francesca also brought some joy into the world by creating cute content with her father.

107) The Zuckerberg-Elon fight that never happened.

108) Kevin James: The cheeky 90s stock image meme was everywhere, and communicated whatever you wanted it to.


109) Gay Halloween costumes. What do you mean, you’re the lost leather glove from Carol??

110) White men and the Roman Empire. Recommend checking out the Battle of Alesia.

111) The Selling Sunset clothes, specifically Amanza's Chanel ball bag.

112) The mushroom cook murder. A “Dingo Got My Baby” for the 21st century. The best thing about this story was how all the news reports referred to the accused as the “architect of the mushroom lunch” or “the woman at the centre of the mushroom lunch that left three people dead and one in critical condition in the sleepy town of Leongatha, Gippsland South”. True Australian Gothic.

113) Colleen Balinger's 10-minute ukelele apology.

114) Prince Harry doing magic mushrooms and talking to the moon.

115) Robert DeNiro's eye goggles in The Killers Of The Flower Moon.

116) The anal douching station getting closed at Whole Festival. Bit of a deep cut, but if you know, you know.


117) The TikTok charvas.

118) Record-breaking, millionaire-making tours. Harder to get tickets for than Glasto (see: Beyoncé, Madonna and Taylor Swift).

119) A premiere of a documentary that highlights excessive police force is overshadowed by, you guessed it, the police. If you were after an immersive movie experience, you were handed it on a platter at the Onefour: Against All Odds documentary premiere at SXSW 2023.

120) The Grimace shake. Trying to remember if the whole thing was inspiring or depressing.

121) Aime Leon Dore's lookbooks.

122) Blink-182 reuniting, releasing a pretty good album and sparing 15-year-old me 45 minutes of quiet disappointment.

123) Pints, chit chat and good people >>>>>>>>>>>>>>.

124) Brian Jonestown Massacre. You can replace everyone in the band as many times as you want, Anton Newcombe will always guarantee a few things.


125) Mitski's general TikTok presence (and the new album The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We).

126) Ariana Grande and Spongebob man.

127) Everyone’s gotta have their niche, and this guy found his cranking Soulja Boy into every song ever.

128) Hyper-local Instagram memes.

129) Temu taking the crown from Wish for being the most ethically-disturbed cheap tat site.

130) Pope Francis's huge, white – sadly AI – puffer jacket.

131) The Gwyneth Paltrow ski-crash trial. From “I wish you well” to “I lost half a day of skiing”, it’s catapulted her to queer icon status. There’s even a London musical with music by Drag Race’s Leland now.

132) God, this fucking heat.


133) Celebrities and their evil private jets. So evil that we started a whole column about them. (Please, Peggy Gou, we’re begging you: Lay off the PJs.)

134) That one Doja Cat song "Agora Hills". Fuccccccccking hell it’s good.

135) Doja Cat versus her fans. The beef that inspired a thousand thinkpieces about the tortured relationship between an artist and their stans.

136) Liverpool hosting Eurovision and giving the world a perfect patriotic mess.

137) King Ch*rles getting coronated. Lots to laugh about. Where to start, really?

138) Community notes on X. Surely the best – and only – thing about Elon’s reign is the advent of crowdsourced fact-checking (read: dunking on right-wing BS).

139) Shrooms becoming relentlessly more popular every single year. I went to New York for a work thing and they were selling shroom chocolates in bodegas??? Wild.

140) Just Stop Oil becoming a meme. Men are wearing their t-shirts on stag dos now.


141) It was a hot year for Deftones, but no moment is as critical in my heart as when Megan Thee Stallion posted a sexy video of herself on Instagram with Deftones playing.

142) Tom Wambsgans wins. He finally got his Tomlette.

143) My guy Hayao Miyazaki announcing The Boy And The Heron would be his last film only to almost immediately announce he'd come up with another idea for a new one.

144) “Boundaries” taking a plummet as part of the rejection of therapy speak, thanks in large part to Jonah Hill enforcing his in a bizarre way.

145) This TikTok captioned “No wonder half you guys don't like your girls going out when you've got lads like us around them”. Unintentionally a work of modern art.

146) Homer Simpson singing “Born Slippy”. What AI was truly made for.

147) Getting Chanel Beats-pilled off the back of a few songs they've released. Emo for 2023.

148) Rest in peace, Sophie Anderson. One-half of the Cock Destroyers, pansexual porn icon, the genius behind some of the campest moments in 21st century Britain culture (“fuck, it’s a Sunday”, etc) and an outspoken fundraiser for LGBTQ charities like the Terrence Higgins Trust. A diamond in the 32JJ-cup sized rough.


149) Rihanna doing the Super Bowl Halftime Show while pregnant and it becoming the most watched of all-time.

150) Ecco2k playing Barry Lyndon piano music instead of anything resembling a normal Boiler Room set.

151) Kissgate at the Women's World Cup final. Spanish Football Association president Luis Rubiales just couldn’t let the team have their moment.

152) Watertok. People (Americans) going mad for water with syrups in or something, with unspecified financial interests to the affiliate links in bio.

153) Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner’s divorce. Turner was recently spotted kissing a British aristo named Peregrine Pearson, which, in alliteration terms at least, is a definite upgrade from plain ol’ Joe Jonas. – ZT

154) Related: Kurt Cobain’s daughter marrying Tony Hawk’s son. A big year for men named after birds!

155) The secretive Sault gig which sold out in minutes despite being £99 and not sharing any details about what to expect, like who’s even, um, in the band.


156) The fact you can now face up to two years in prison in the UK for being repeatedly caught with NOS.

157) Literally everyone going on strike. Amazon employees, rail staff, actors, journalists, doctors, teachers – let’s just call it the year that everything broke down.

158) Snoop Dogg saying he quit smoking. It was all a ruse to promote his smokeless fire pit collab.

159)  Saying “norrr” or “naurrr” instead of “no”. Because everyone knows life is more fun in an Australian accent.

160) Bottle smash TikTok. The original auteurs of the genre had something real: beauty in simplicity, various glass bottles rolling down cement stairs. Enter a wave of wannabe entrepreneurs with no respect for tradition, piffing giant glass jars of dyed water off five-story buildings and throwing bottle after bottle of beer at a wall.

161)  Bristol Airport opening a new ‘multi-faith’ room that’s literally just a freezing bus shelter in a car park.


162) Every celeb and their dog getting buccal fat removal. Skeletons are sexy again, apparently.

163) The one where we had to say goodbye to Matthew Perry. RIP.

164) “Baddadan”. Completely inescapable on TikTok and IRL, which is fine! Because it’s great!

165) Related: Flowdan having a fucking gigantic year. “Rumble”, “Badders”, “Shella Verse”, “Baddadan” – all huge, all featuring Flowdan. Finally, the best voice in grime gets a proper moment in the sun.

166) The Alchemist producing some of the best rap this year. For guys who like to nod their head and smoke themselves into a daze.

167) Why the fuck does everyone suddenly love massive sandwiches and why is getting one like lining up at Supreme in 2012?

168) The PlayStation controller on the Titan. Very sad stuff.

169) Lana Del Rey being number one on Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese’s Spotify Unwrapped. Albo is... one of the girls?

170) Dunkin’ finally getting on the canned alcoholic bev game. It’s only 5 percent ABV – call me when Dunkin’ comes out with an iced coffee pre-loaded with Fireball and a methadone prescription, like a true New Englander.


171) Seth Rogan still smokin' that 'erb (and creating a pretty lucrative business off it).

172) People getting mad about millennial home makeovers. Someone please stop the few 30-somethings who can afford property!

173) Frank Ocean at Coachella. His first show in six years was a disaster (or was it?)

174) The white-gold dress guy is charged with attempted murder. That’s one way to milkshake duck yourself, I guess.

175) The Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg non-fight. The least cool guys threatening to duke it out.

176) Terri Joe trolling literally everyone on the internet. Doja Cat, James Charles, Trisha Paytas: No one is safe from this cross-bearing, Jesus-praising, homophobic, self-proclaimed proud white woman.

177) A woman shitting in different toilets and reviewing them – e.g “Come Take a Shit With Me @ Louis Vuitton”. It’s what TikTok always envisaged for the app!


178) Angel’s Du$t’s Brand New Soul monopolised my Spotify Wrapped. Pretty impressive considering it was only released in September.

179) (Fake) mobsters having (real) babies with (much) younger women. Robert De Niro (79), Al Pacino (83)... Come on, guys.

180) A Venice boat company banning Kanye West and Bianca Censori after an alleged BJ on board.

181) The Zack/Irina/Bliss drama on Love is Blind. A classic love triangle. Zack went with Irina initially, but their connection wasn’t right – she was seemingly not into him at all maybe??? Anyway, after the honeymoon Zack proposed to Bliss and now they’re having a baby.

182) That moment in The Bear where the angry guy starts wearing a suit and becomes really polite and awwwwwwwww smushy smushy mushy wooshy.

183) Remember PSY? He’s still massive – and he’s launching himself into the air at massive stadium shows in South Korea with all the intensity of you tooting on a lil line in the cubicle at the club.

184) Elon Musk running Twitter into the dirt. Everyone rags on Elon Musk for not being funny, but to his credit, buying a website for $43 billion and then doing everything in your power to absolutely ruin it is actually very funny.

185) The Montgomery brawl (and the song that was made about it). We all saw those white folk get their asses handed to them on a dock in Montgomery. Now there’s a song to help memoralise it forever!

186) The end of Bottoms. Specifically, when the girls beat up the jocks in an over-the-top fight scene, everyone goes home happy, and this song plays as the end credits roll. Now, that’s a hit movie.

187) One of the best genres to come out of the UK continues to be a mellow take on grime, led by a guy called KwolleM who released a super slick and supreme album named Grandma’s Kitchen.

188) A German invention the VICE office called “legal schniff”, which its creators say allows you to “SNIFF THE POWER OF THE ALPS”.

189) XL Bullies!!!!!! I’d never heard of the breed until suddenly they started attacking members of the public seemingly every other day for a bit??

190) The whole Matty Healy/Ice Spice debacle on the Adam Friedland Show, plus Rina Sawayama calling him out for watching Ghetto Gaggers. Get him, Rina!

191) Captain Tom's daughter's spa. The schadenfreude is thick with this one.

192) Not sure how well they hold up now, but those AI pics of Timothée and Lana posing like the little monkey at the Apple Store really did make a lot of sense at the time.

193) “lol thought u guys were bankrupt”

194) PR spin celebrity docs. What, no mention of the Qatar scandal in the Beckham doc? Might it have something to do with Beckham getting a producing credit, perchance? (See also: Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Coleen Rooney…)

195) Furries going mainstream. When you have George Santos congratulating someone for coming out as a furry to their family, all bets are off.

196) Bret Easton Ellis returning to form with The Shards, an autofiction horror novel that combines all his best bits (taking coke, loneliness, paranoia, describing songs playing on the radio) into his best book yet.

197) The triumvirate of Rachel Sennott, Ayo Edebiri and Emma Seligman coming to take over Hollywood.

198) The cyclist who wasn't wearing a helmet and got knocked off his bike, along with his viral cat Sigrid.

199) Zyns becoming the new vapes.

200) Mickey Rourke telling Piers Morgan to read his mind.

201) Barbie pink taking over the world (and briefly releasing Margot Robbie from her Chanel contract stylists).

202) Bobbi Althoff’s interviews. Let’s not flex for the gram, etc.

203) Mac Demarco’s 199-song album (“just garbage, but it’s fun to make”).

Contributions from Arielle Richards, Adele Luamanuvae, Becky Burgum, Brad Esposito, Duncan Schnipper, Jamie Clifton, Magdalene Taylor, Nick Thompson, Rachel Barker, Ryan Bassil and Zing Tsjeng