101 Canonical Tweets: The best, most influential tweets in Twitter history

Source: Tri Vo/Mic
Source: Tri Vo/Mic

Twitter is like a drug: addictive, poorly regulated, responsible for dazzling highs and rock-bottom lows. But right now, at this moment, let's forget all the trolls, mansplainers, Nazis and sitting U.S. presidents who make the platform a living hell on a daily basis. Instead, we will come together and celebrate the life of tweets that — in one way or another — have attained canonical status.

Some of these are funny, some are thought-provoking and some are flat-out stupid. We could spend months arguing which are which. What really matters is that every single one reveals the crucial truth of how we think and speak in the age of 140 characters. Study them. Recite them. Accept them as your gospel.

Understand that this is in no way a ranking; I love all my children equally.

1.

Former member of U.K. Parliament Ed Balls can't be the only person to accidentally tweet his own name while attempting to search what people were saying about him on Twitter, but he's the only one with the last name Balls.

2.

A tweet so good that the Paris Review had to actually review Paris.

3.

4.

Twitter has shown a surprising facility for snippets of script-like dialogue, and if you can use that format to make fun of Star Wars, so much the better. 

5.

Narrative at its finest: no thread, no explanations, just one indelible image spun from a few choice details. Hemingway would've wept for such perfection.

6.

With "four eels," @JNalv set the high-water mark for all Twitter lyric parodies. The true measure of an alternate-song-lyrics tweet, as with the pop song it riffs on, is how well it sticks in your head. This one comes with a lifetime guarantee.

7.

8.

It is categorically impossible to choose the best tweet from the mysterious @dril, who could have easily taken up 20 spots on this list with classics like his candle budget, his weekend plans, his flag fantasy or his customary reply to the haters. Yet his masterful vision of what it means to be "owned" in web discourse is perhaps most essential to our understanding of Twitter.

9.   

All you need to know about our culture of clickbait and backlash.

10.

"RIP my mentions" was, for way too long, a stock phrase used by people pretending to enjoy the negative replies to their very bad tweets. Now it is dead and buried forever, and the rest of us can get on with living. 

11. 

One of the few lyrics tweets that could hope to compare with "four eels." 

12.

Before she became the reluctant first lady of the United States, Melania Trump spent her days trying to mind-meld with photos of large marine mammals. Now we try to understand what's going through her head.

13.

A non-sequitur for the ages. It's Britney, bitch.

14.

We all have our personal internet quirks; the revelation that our own devices know them better than anyone is at once sobering and liberating. Plus, it's your karmic duty to share any photo that makes you laugh uncontrollably.

15. 

"The way [someone] looks at [someone/something]" is a standard Twitter formulation at this point, but no other instance will ever be this pure. 

16.

17.

Twitter has seen some legendary roasts over the years, and your favorite is bound to be a matter of taste. But where many of the funniest take on the proportions of a dog-pile or avalanche — with multiple users burying the victim under a slew of abuse — this rogue insult is a K.O. all by itself.

18.

19.

Which is more compelling here: that 50 Cent would soon be bankrupt, or that he wouldn't do a simple favor for his poor grandmother, instead publicly complaining and abandoning her along with the trash?

20.

If everyone who knew how to use Photoshop was using it for jokes like this, Twitter would be a far happier place. Also, a nice subversion of casual misogyny. 

21.

A pop-culture reference that's funny only because it's 11 years out of date, applied to a titan of literature. This could well be the only good brand tweet.

22.

If you can read this without saying "Emma Stone" out loud, you're not human.

23.

The vulnerability of the look, the shock twist of the caption, the bland loneliness of the cafeteria setting — yep, it's the all-time greatest selfie.

24.

It was 2011. There were definitely other usernames left.

25.

Plato's Republic meets WorldStarHipHop. What more could you want?

26.

This tweet came too late to establish the meme-universe Joe Biden we came to know in the course of his vice presidency. (The Onion can take most of the credit.) But that caricature of Biden was most purely expressed in this tweet. 

27.

On a social media platform where everyone is constantly wondering if the world is about to end, this is by far the most plausible post-apocalypse. 

28.

Angry conservatives love to post self-owns. Mark knows how it's done. 

29. 

We don't have time to get into the tangled history of @Horse_ebooks' evolution as a novelty account. Fortunately, this amazing koan — which, like all their best, sounds half-human, half-spambot — speaks for itself.

30. 

31.  

A masterpiece of missing context. Then we found out that Cher was furnishing bare classrooms in the third world, which made this even better.

32.

33.

Before he rage-quit altogether, Kanye West had a beautiful talent for compressing the sum total of all the overconfidence and pretension found on Twitter into a singular voice of hilariously unchecked ego. We miss you, man. 

34.

35.

Twitter is definitely a place for the realizations of stoned 14-year-olds.

36.

Apparently this was soccer-related, but when you're as widely despised as Piers Morgan, you can't bring up the subject of your death without causing celebration. More importantly, however, this attitude is — in the words of writer Alex Pareene — "always appropriate and always welcome" on Twitter. Each time someone retweets this onto our timeline, for whatever reason, we relive the joy of being alive only to wish for the sweet embrace of the grave.

37.

The headline is brilliant enough, but the superhero-like solemnity of the punchline could power the next dozen Batman sequels alone.

38.

The saga of @dog_rates, an account that originally charmed with its enthusiasm for cute photos of canines but morphed into a depressing business venture and alienated both the pro- and anti-Planned Parenthood crowds, is a lesson in craven choices: Absolute virality corrupts absolutely. But for a moment there, its author seemed to know the sanctity of loving dogs for the dogs' sake.

39.  

Anyway, here's the most important tweet invoking the 1995 Oasis single "Wonderwall," perhaps the most memeable song in music history.

40.

This appears to be the moment that we all started using the "extremely [descriptor] voice" frame in our tweets, efficiently converting our written words into an aural experience — and, by necessity, a collaborative one.

41.

There's a proud Twitter tradition of mistyping and mangling words until their inherent meaninglessness is laid bare. With "Pepsi" being the mutated word in this example, we also get a delightful gloss on the hollow language of capitalism, a destabilizing system in which arbitrary sound is valued over information. Bet you didn't know Pepsi was originally called "Brad's Drink."

42.

43.

A fascinating glimpse into how corporations see their customers in the digital age: as a gigantic focus group eager to define themselves through products.

44.

An essential trope of all online interaction is the Horny Guy Who Sucks at Flirting but Won't Stop. He should be as pretentious as he is ignorant.

45.

You can yell at the haters all you want, but living well is the best revenge.

46.

A celebrity humblebrag elevated by an outstanding hashtag.

47.

48.

49.

Nothing says "dangerous rebel" like an aged rock star who shows up for his court date and asks his lawyer to snap a pic of him flipping the bird in the hall.

50.

51.

God's bizarre creative process is a Twitter genre unto itself, but nothing hits quite as hard as this too-real mashup of evolution and intelligent design.

52.

@skullmandible's better known and arguably funnier tweet is the delightful entry known as "who's this clown" — but his true masterwork is above. You have blood (and salt) on your hands, Mr. Peanut.

53.

54.

Scientists have yet to definitively prove this, but once you hit a certain follower count — around 10,000 — you become an internet microcelebrity. That means, among other things, that almost everything you tweet goes somewhat viral and incites fawning engagement. It could be a bland platitude, or just some "random" stab at humor. It literally doesn't matter. Welcome to hell.

55.

The most aggressive thirst-@ in Twitter history. All hail Queen Amanda.

56.

You never have to scroll far to find someone correcting someone else's misapprehensions about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The fact that he came up in a discussion about men's rompers just proves it.

57.

This tweet is most notable because it's probably the sole admission of weakness President Donald Trump has made in his life.

Yeah, yeah — Donald Trump's tweets are now the stuff that nuclear wars are made of. But long before he wielded a frightening amount of actual power, he used Twitter to pursue the weirdest vendettas imaginable. Besides his notorious case against Kristen Stewart, he also had harsh words for Diet Coke. Apparently under the impression that it's supposed to help you lose weight, he claimed the beverage "doesn't work" and continued to rail against it until, at last, he conceded that he was hopelessly addicted himself.

58.

How do you do, fellow kids? Yes, this is how everyone talked in 2007.

59.

It's hard to believe that Lettuce Head doesn't know she's famous.

60.

If you're going to repurpose an old Trump tweet, please do it justice.

61.

Every now and then, a malapropism goes viral — there's "colon" for "cologne," "scissor salad" for "Caesar salad" and even "all of garden" for "Olive Garden." Yet none has reached the heights of "bone app the teeth," an incredible perversion (whether deliberate or not) of "bon appétit." This saying has proved so popular that it's no longer possible to tell who's using it in earnest.

62.

Bees are, for some reason, an essential ingredient in meme culture — with Bee Movie a canonical reference point. Combine them for ultimate bee content.

63.

It took about three years, but Danny DeVito did kill Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. To honor his innovative use of the imperative, the phrase "retire bitch" is now routinely tweeted at anyone of status who should immediately cease transmission of their opinions and disappear from public life.

64.

This tweet was so notoriously hot that it got retweeted by someone in the office of Rep. Keith Ellison, which then had to issue a statement about it.

65.

A legendary declaration of intent. Widely applicable, too.

66.

A fitting ode to the ultra-chill artist the entire web seems nostalgic for.

67.

Am white, can confirm.

68.

69.

Where some would see filthy pests, others find the contours of art.

70.

Twitter is, unfortunately, a place where lots of bad dating and romance tips get passed around, but once in a while you discover a flawless gem like this.

71.

Somehow I can only read this in a Werner Herzog voice?

72.

Speaking of Kermit, here's the all-time funniest corporate tweet about memes. We still don't know who was trolling whom — either way, never forget.

73.

When self-deprecation folds in on itself, creating a black hole.

74.

The paintings of yore provide much amusement as we read them under a 21st-century lens, yet they've also taught us how humans never change.

75.

Every other tweet about video games is inherently bad.

76.

77.

It's nice to reflect on how far we've come as a species.

78.

You can't tell me that's not how he got famous.

79.

Jaden Smith is a walking encyclopedia of iconic tweets, but the image and insistence on capitalization here raise this tweet to the level of holy scripture.

80.

Check the replies if you disagree.

81.

Often cited as the best political take ever produced by Twitter.

82.

One of two known instances of physical comedy working in tweet form.

83.

The other known instance of physical comedy working in tweet form.

84.

Every children's book should have some cheater texting drama.

85.

First of all, Sean, that's not how Twitter works. Secondly, you mean "whoever" — stop trying to sound smart. Thirdly, how have you always been this sad?

86.

Don't bother trashing Woody Allen — his son has it covered.

87.

A quick fix to address every millennial's greatest fear.

88.

If this were a Saturday Night Live sketch, it would go on for another eight insufferable minutes, but all you really need is the priceless opening.

89.

90.

The seemingly endless stock skeleton art and nerdy white-collar warriorhood of @dasharez0ne make it one of the most consistently confounding and hilarious novelty feeds, and this Dyson takedown is its crown jewel.

91.

As vivid as it is inevitable.

92.

There's only one way to deal with a troll like Oates — troll her back.

93.

Barely edges out "Assume deer dead" for the all-time greatest tweet from Sen. Chuck Grassley, mostly because it doesn't involve an animal death... or does it?

94.

Why even watch reality TV when I can just reread this over and over?

95.

Anime and American politics have been strangely intertwined for years in the meme scene, with people ascribing the promise to "make anime real" to various presidential candidates. It would only make sense that Barack Obama, conveying the audacity of hope, believes it has always been real.

96.

The utensil work in this reply to Trump's Cinco de Mayo taco bowl tweet puts it over the top. Can't help but think of the water soup my grandma used to make.

97.

The late Tom Reynolds was a Twitter savant gone too soon, and the layers to this give a sense of his brilliance: Take a closer look at the handle he tagged.

98.

99.

I can't believe we got this deep into the list without going existential.

100.

One last lyrics tweet for the road.

101.

Good luck not thinking of this every time you wash your clothes now.

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Miles Klee

Author of the novel Ivyland and the story collection True False. Words in Electric Literature, Lapham's Quarterly, Vanity Fair, The Awl, Guernica, Motherboard, Vulture, McSweeney's and elsewhere. Probably eating tacos right now.

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