What This Year’s Most Popular Animated Images Tell Us

The most-viewed GIFs of 2020 reflect the year we’ve experienced and what matters to us most.

Author: Casey Gale       


The most-viewed GIF of 2020: “Thank You” by Red & Howling

In the past couple of Recovery Dashboard surveys, we asked respondents how they were feeling. Responses ranged from “hopeful” to “just getting by,” but in a year like this one, sometimes words just aren’t enough.

Just as the emoji has helped us express ourselves throughout this turbulent year, so has the GIF. Recently, GIPHY — the largest GIF search engine — compiled a list of the Most-Viewed GIFs of 2020. And while we can (and do) wring our hands in emails and on Zoom about what a relentlessly challenging year it has been, in the world of short, animated messages sent among friends, family, and colleagues — love and encouragement won out.

The most-viewed GIF of 2020 — seen more than one billion times — was a thank-you message to frontline workers (see top image). The other four most-viewed GIFs all conveyed love and gratitude (see below).

GIPHY also noted in its list that inspirational content around social justice has also been popular this year, as its partner channel Into Action — a group of designers, illustrators, animators, and artists looking to build momentum around civic engagement with their work — was their most-viewed partner channel of 2020, with more than 21 billion views.

Of course, not everything has been sunshine and roses — after all, an animated drawing of a dumpster fire made it into the top 10 most-viewed GIFs, with nearly 438 million views. But the overwhelming majority of popular GIFs this year were loving and expressed a desire to gather together when it’s safe to do so. GIPHY found — and we agree — that the top GIFs of the year are “actually very encouraging.”

Here are the rest of the Top 5 GIFs of 2020:


No. 2: “Grateful for You” by GIPHY Cares



No. 3: “I Love You” by RisuDong



No. 4: “I Love You” by Rain to Me



No. 5: “Long Distance Love” by Chibird

Casey Gale is associate editor at Convene.


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