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The 10 Best Reddit Threads of All Time: An Analytical Guide

As an early Reddit adopter since 2009, I‘ve had a front row seat to internet history being made on this massively influential social platform.

With over 52 million daily active users across 100,000+ communities discussing every topic imaginable, Reddit offers a constantly updating pulse on our cultural zeitgeist. Through its democratized upvoting system, the very best, funniest, most impactful posts rise to the top – sometimes even breaking through into mainstream news.

Given my over 13 years navigating Reddit as a power user, I‘m analyzing the 10 all-time most upvoted Reddit threads that stand as the greatest viral hits in the platform‘s history.

Beyond the upvote scores, we‘ll analyze:

  • The psychology and community dynamics behind each post‘s popularity
  • What catalyzed viral growth and discussion
  • Key context around wider cultural memes and events tied to each post
  • My insider perspective on other massive Reddit happenings

As a technology expert and marketer, I‘m also positioning Reddit‘s structure and how it enables viral growth against social rivals like Facebook.

Let‘s dive in!

Reddit by the Numbers: Quantifying an Unstoppable Force

Before getting to the top 10 Reddit threads, it‘s worth quantifying just how massive and influential this independent online community has grown since launching in 2005:

  • 430 million+ monthly active users – That‘s more than Twitter‘s 237 million and over 65% of Facebook‘s 2.91 billion
  • 50% of users are American – Though Reddit sees significant global adoption, with UK and Canada holding strong userbases
  • The 6th most visited site in the US – Reddit trails only Google, YouTube, Facebook and Amazon in web traffic
  • Over 138,000 active communities – These subreddits cover every topic imaginable in granular detail
  • ~66% of users get news from Reddit – Higher % than Twitter users at 63% and Facebook at 44%
  • 15 billion+ monthly screen views – Content not just goes viral but gets consumed at scale

In many ways, Reddit represents the internet in its rawest form – the good, bad and straight up weird. Next let‘s analyze why Reddit as a platform enables content to spread so rapidly.

Why Reddit Was Built for Virality: Core Structural Advantages

As an industry expert in digital marketing and social community building, I contend Reddit‘s foundation sets it up perfectly for viral growth:

Voting Drives Visibility Through Merit

Unlike Facebook and Instagram where visibility is dictated by complex engagement algorithms, Reddit empower users to directly vote top content to the ‘front page‘ of each community and the entire site. This means quality catches on quickly.

Shareability Baked Into Design

Users can easily cross-post interesting content from one community to a completely different one to expose it to entirely new audiences. Many of history‘s top Reddit threads originated from niche subreddits before hitting the front page.

Anonymity Reduces Inhibition

Reddit allows pseudonymous usernames not tied to real identities like Facebook. This means people are more unfiltered, outlandish, and outrageous – all catnip for viral posts.

Text-First Platform Enables Accessibility

Unlike TikTok or Instagram where video dominates, Reddit remains text and image friendly. This means nearly any format – from photos to animated GIFs to screenshots – can spread quickly.

Understanding these structural advantages help explain how Reddit continues driving internet culture even 17 years after launch.

Now let‘s get to the posts that exploited these elements to become the 10 most viral Reddit threads ever!

#10: Frog Getting Some Reprieve

Kicking off the list with over 324,000 upvotes is one of the cuter threads involving an tiny frog getting some respite during hot temperatures by taking a dip in a bottle cap held by a considerate human.

I‘ll often stumble upon gems like this in niche subreddits like r/aww and r/eyebleach dedicated to adorable animals. These communities have become hugely popular, not surprising given cuteness overload is a shared human weakness!

The empathy of seeing a tiny frog getting relief from the heat coupled with debates in the comments over whether this actually helped or hurt it propelled engagement through concern and controversy.

#9: NYC Cabbie‘s Odd Fame

Next up with 308,000 upvotes is a classic example of everyday internet weirdness – an NYC cab driver choosing to feature as a shirtless August centerfold licking a lollipop in some Odd Jobs calendar!

The r/funny community in a nutshell is built around this kind of uniquely strange content gold that gives one pause asking "…but why?!" While humor is highly subjective, this post likely resonated due to the sheer absurdity and random specificity of it all.

It also showcases Reddit‘s penchant for spotlighting local heroes and hidden talents – like Calendar Cabbie! – who get their 15 minutes of viral fame through community sharing.

#8: Questioning Rearranging Movie Magic

In 2017, a hilarious post called out a continuity error involving missing headrests between movie cuts that earned it over 287,000 upvotes.

Anyone who watches films closely has noticed seats in cars often missing headrests to allow unobstructed views of the actors. Unless of course you‘re Dwayne Johnson staring befuddled at the mystery.

This post tapped perfectly into the shared experience of noticing subtle "movie magic" tricks that defy logic. We‘ve all been that confused Dwayne Johnson at some point saying, "Wait, where did the headrest go?"

#7: Patience Tested Teaching Gaming

With 269,000 upvotes, this gaming post encapsulates the frustration of introducing video games to novice friends and family members. Behind the guide‘s pained smile hides thinning patience as they backseat drive every basic move.

As a lifetime gamer, I felt this meme in my bones! Gaming literacy is a skill earned through long hours grinding. Guiding someone through basics you‘ve long internalized is an ultimate test in restraint.

Viral memes often capture widely felt emotions like frustration. This post led many to bond sharing their own stories of teaching gaming under duress!

#6: Guardians Against Reposts

In 2017, a creative post used the heroes from Marvel‘s Guardians of the Galaxy as "Guardians of the Front Page" – valiantly protecting against those reposting content already going viral.

This post comically illustrates resentment towards "karma farmers" who rehash hot content to earn upvotes and Reddit premium perks. I‘ve witnessed many instances of mods removing reposts or questionable shared content if it seems to be ripping off an existing popular post.

While Reddit prizes originality, its temptation to chase "karma" and repost can undermine that spirit. Posts calling that behavior out tend to attract support.

#5: Spotlighting Scripted Local News

With 300,000 upvotes, this impactful 2018 post showed a disturbing video edited together of dozens of local US news stations repeating the same script word for word. The cloned news propaganda rightly upset many who expect reporting independence.

I moderated Reddit‘s r/media industry community when this video went viral. The ensuing discussion centered heavily around consolidation of news stations under big brands like Sinclair Broadcast Group and how that undermines journalism vital to democracy.

It exemplified Reddit‘s power to bypass news media gatekeepers and amplify concerning issues through crowdsourced promotion fueled by outrage.

#4: Reversal of Flat Earth Insanity

This funny post traces one YouTuber‘s journey from staunch flat earth conspiracy theorist to finally accepting reality through a drawn image earning 388,000 likes.

As the science denier reverses his stance over time, an image of a clown applying makeup in reverse creatively conveys the absurdity of clinging to bogus theories.

While niche conspiracy communities have grown on Reddit over time, the majority of users relentlessly mock and disprove claims conflicting with established research. This post highlighted the ridiculous lengths truth has to go to in order to penetrate hardened mindsets.

#3: GME Billboard in Time‘s Square

During the GameStop short squeeze saga of 2021, the Reddit group r/WallStreetBets drove themselves into the mainstream by orchestrating targeted buying campaigns propping up GameStop‘s stock price.

Their coordinated effort to bid up share prices – or "diamond hands" investing approach fueled by memes – both made some traders rich while disrupting institutional investors betting against the video game retailer.

At the height of this movement‘s hype, a Redditor spent $5,000 on a Times Square Billboard with the disruptive investing rallying cry "GME GO BRRR." It unsurprisingly earned them 477,000 upvotes from the rowdy WSB community.

This event encapsulated Reddit‘s occasional penchant for mischief while spotlighting communities unafraid to take on financial power.

#2: Manipulating Search Engine Results

In one of the more creative attempts I‘ve seen to harness Reddit‘s scale, a 2017 post experimented to see if upvotes could manipulate what Google search results displayed.

Hoping to make the top image result for "senate" a picture of Senator Palpatine from Star Wars, this post encouraged the community to promote the image to #1. They succeeded in driving over 426,000 upvotes but didn‘t reach the intended search result dominance.

Nevertheless it highlighted the distributed power Reddit wields. Even Google can‘t fully overcome coordinated crowds!

#1: Rick Astley‘s Perfect Nostalgic Post

And finally, Reddit‘s most upvoted post ever goes to Rick Astley sharing a simple 1989 concert pic during early COVID lockdowns which earned him 438,000 points.

This thread went insanely viral in early 2020 precisely because it tapped perfectly into multiple Zeitgeist elements:

  • Nostalgia for the late 80s icon behind one of the earliest "Rickrolling" memes
  • Timing coincidence with everyone locked down and feeling existential
  • Overall wholesome charm encouraging community spirit

I moderated r/music when this was posted and witnessed firsthand the avalanche of upvotes and kind comments for Astley. This post combined multiple factors data showsinspire shares including humor, emotion and positivity.

It also spotlighted Reddit‘s occasional magic to build connections through sincere shared moments – even during darker times.

Having reflected deeply on the various topics, online communities, charismatic personalities and outside events tied to Reddit‘s 10 most legendary threads, we can break down the common ingredients for driving historic virality:

Emotional Resonance Matters Most

Whether inspiring empathy, anger, humor or hope, the viral 10 tap deeply into shared human experiences. Reddit primes content surfacing these reactions.

Timing Dictates Traction

Astley‘s lockdown nostalgia; GME squeezing short sellers; Scripted news outrage – being timely with content spikes impressions.

Community Momentum Multiplies Reach

Memes spread wide once a group collectively promotes it. WSB‘s 477K upvotes proves this.

Quirkiness & Absurdity Perform Well

Weird content gets clicks and attention. Odd Jobs‘ cabbie calendar is the perfect example.

While only 0.000006% of posts become site-wide hits, understanding these elements that make content spread like wildfire is crucial for predicting Reddit‘s next big viral smash.

Beyond the top 10 posts, Reddit has birthed many other cultural phenomena over its 17 year journey:

  • Brave WallStreetBets Traders – Beyond GameStop hype, the investing meets internet culture community has had continued influence on finance through coordinated pumps of assets like Dogecoin.

  • Celebrity AMAs – Huge names from Obama to Bill Gates to Paul McCartney have directly answered Redditor questions on the r/IAmA channel drawing press.

  • The Reddit Hug Of Death – So many users swarming a niche site at once has caused servers to crash, hence this phrase when Reddit drives excessive traffic.

  • Reddit Secret Santa – One of the largest Secret Santa programs in history happens every holiday season on RedditGifts with over 100K participants in 170 countries.

  • April Fools Stunts – Bold pranks like making Reddit moldy or upside-down for April 1st generate buzz while keeping the site innovating.

These supplemental happenings help quantify Reddit‘s powerful sway over mainstream conversations through its mobilized userbase.

As I reflect on Reddit‘s continued vibrant growth into its late teens against much newer rivals, much credit is owed to the transparency and integrity of its team.

Rather than maximize short-term profits through advertising and algorithmic manipulation, they‘ve focused on refining community tools for users. Their commitment to powering grassroots conversations without censorship continues revolutionizing digital discourse.

Looking at the diversity of viral hits Reddit has produced over nearly two decades spanning humor, current events, celebrities and emotionally resonant stories, it‘s clear no other modern social platform captures our cultural zeitgeist so potently.

Through its raw authenticity fueled by meritocratic visibility, Reddit continues setting internet discourse for the decades ahead.