17 Pop Culture Moments That Blew Up on Social Media in 2023

As the year winds down, it’s time to stroll down memory lane and revisit the moments that defined 2023 on social media. From groundbreaking technological advancements to glitzy entertainment releases, this year had it all. But not every trend was a welcome one.

This year Forekast, in partnership with Something Great Marketing, explored the events that shook social media to its core, captivated our feeds, and reminded us that you never know what trend is just around the corner. This retrospective offers a unique lens into our shared digital experience — the highs, the lows, and everything in between. 

Let’s give 2023 a quick rewind.

The big screen

2023 was a landmark year for cinema, with the big screen offering a mosaic of storytelling that captivated audiences worldwide. From box office records to a near-clean sweep of the Academy Awards, each moment resonated deeply on social media, sparking discussions, celebrations, and, yes, memes. So many memes. 


The live-action Barbie movie, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, became the cinematic sensation of 2023. In Forekast’s 2023 Trend Rewind report, 85% of respondents said that Barbie was the most talked about movie of the year. 

Greta Gerwig’s direction led this vibrant film not only to be the highest-grossing film of the year, earning $1.4 billion but also to become a cultural phenomenon.

The Barbie Dreamhouse has become reality and it’s in Malibu. pic.twitter.com/ulFwNsBnEA

— DiscussingFilm (@DiscussingFilm) June 26, 2023

It sparked a global trend in pink fashion and accessories, resonating powerfully with audiences. A pink billboard went viral on social media, along with a brand collaboration with Airbnb, and maybe most significantly, fans made thousands of memes combining Barbie with another blockbuster that shared its release date: Oppenheimer. 

The Barbenheimer mashup became a cultural phenomenon that no social media marketer (or user, for that matter) missed in their feed. It made such a big impact that it even has its own Wikipedia page

Barbenheimer, obviously! https://t.co/H2baNWEyZY pic.twitter.com/Ms4yrYcewI

— Nat🎄❄️ (@nattheawknerd) December 14, 2023

Its success was a testament to the enduring appeal of the theatrical experience in a streaming-dominated era. Barbie’s impact was so profound that it earned a nomination for TIME’s Person of the Year, highlighting its significant cultural influence. 

What a year for Barbie. 


Onto the second half of the Barbenheimer equation. When Christopher Nolan announced he was making a movie about theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, he absolutely didn’t foresee Barbie playing a huge role in the marketing and box office success of the film. 

Looking back on the year, there’s little doubt that Barbie is Nolan’s second favorite movie of 2023. 

Oppenheimer blew up on social (pun intended), earning over $950 millon at the box office worldwide in 2023. It became the third highest-grossing film in IMAX history in the US and has essentially become the most successful biopic of all time. 

Thinking about the fact that Christopher Nolan made the most romantically heartbreaking film of the year 2023, Oppenheimer. pic.twitter.com/4KYVG06ZuB

— deserted scope ⚰️📑 (@DesertedScope) December 20, 2023

AMC Theaters reported that over 20,000 people purchased tickets to both Barbie and Oppenheimer on opening weekend. The double dip and talk of the double feature on social media was a huge trend in July. 

The Super Mario Bros. Movie

It’s also been a heck of a year for video games in all of their forms and adaptations. Believe it or not, Oppenheimer was only the third most successful movie at the box office this year. Number two featured a couple of plumbers and a very angry turtle. 

@supermariomovie We all need more Mario in our lives. Bring him home today. Own #SuperMarioMovie ♬ original sound – The Super Mario Bros. Movie

The Super Mario Bros. Movie generated $1.36 billion worldwide in 2023, becoming the highest-grossing film based on a video game just one week after its release. 

When you throw in the success of Spider-Man 2, The Last of Us, and the excitement surrounding the GTA 6 Trailer this year, it’s easy to see why 2023 could be dubbed the year of the gamer. More on those trends later. 

The Academy Awards

The fervor surrounding Everything Everywhere All at Once at the 2023 Oscars highlighted the evolving landscape of cinema and the power of social media in amplifying cinematic milestones. The film took home Oscars in three of the four major acting categories, along with Best Director and Best Picture. 

The groundbreaking movie, celebrated for its innovative storytelling and captivating performances, swept the major awards, creating a buzz across social media platforms. Its unique blend of science fiction, family drama, and humor resonated deeply with audiences and critics alike, sparking widespread discussions and admiration. 

Michelle Yeoh says she hasn’t stopped working since her Oscar win for “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” She’s being honored at the Cannes Film Festival. pic.twitter.com/iiY0sbwiDI

— The Associated Press (@AP) May 21, 2023

The film’s success at the Oscars not only marked a significant shift in the type of movies celebrated by the Academy but also dominated social media trends, with fans and industry insiders alike celebrating its achievements. 

The small screen

We Netflix-ed and chilled a lot in 2023. Just swap out Netflix-ed for HBO-ed and FX-ed. 

The Last of Us

Many of us started 2023 with a new series full of amped-up mushroom people and what some are suggesting is one of the best episodes of television in recent memory. The Last of Us fans will know the episode we’re talking about. 

The show was highly anticipated. The first teaser which masterfully integrated themes from the game, generated over 57 million organic views in 72 hours, making it HBO’s most-watched teaser of all time. HBO slowly released glimpses of the show on social media that stayed true to the source material and caused a huge stir amongst fans of the game. 

All of the promotion on social media led to a smashing success, making The Last of Us the most successful case of a video game making the leap to a show. 32 million viewers per episode and one Game Award for Best Adaptation later, and audiences can hardly wait for season two. 

Oh, and a new meme was born

Realizing I have to wait until 2025 for new The Last of Us episodes pic.twitter.com/VKA3VcaL63

— Forekast 🔮 (@theforekast) December 5, 2023

The Bear

Yes Chef, audiences around the world renewed their love for cooking in 2023, thanks to the fast-paced, stunningly shot scenes from season two of The Bear. 

While FX and Hulu haven’t disclosed specific streaming numbers, they did confirm that season two garnered the highest viewership for any FX series premiere on Hulu, with a 70% increase in viewership from season one. 

@yuyuyu3666 #movie #thebear #film #tiktok #foryou ♬ original sound – yuyuyu3

Featuring guest appearances from the likes of Jon Bernthal, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, John Mulaney, and Olivia Colman (to name a few), it’s clear that Hollywood itself respects this show just as much as viewers do. 

Not bad, cousin. 


It was the end of an era for one of HBO’s big-name shows, as Waystar Royco’s saga wrapped up at the end of May. 

@hbo See, dramaturgically it did make sense. #succession ♬ original sound – HBO

Succession had viewers guessing until the very end as to who would be taking the reigns at the company, a question that basically took the series four seasons to answer. Some fans loved the finale, some hated it, but all agreed that the acting throughout the show was pretty spectacular.

The return of the concert

It wasn’t so long ago that people were wondering if live events were dead. Did Covid put a stop to the public gathering? Did Gen-Z kill the concert? 2023’s answer is an emphatic: NO.

The Eras Tour

TIME named Taylor Swift the person of the year, and a whopping 72% of Forekasters agreed she was the most talked about person of the year. The smashing brilliance of The Eras Tour had a lot to do with her success. 

The tour is the first ever to cross the $1 billion mark in ticket sales, selling 4.35 million tickets and an additional $200 million in merchandise sales. Throw in a concert film that’s generated another $250 million and a new relationship with the best tight end in football, and you’ve got one very happy Taylor Swift. 

With 146 dates across 5 continents, it was truly the year of the Swifties. 

The Renaissance Tour

Had Taylor Swift not blown pretty much every live music record out of the water this year, it’s possible that we’d be declaring this the year of the BeyHive. 

​​Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour earned nearly $600 million for Queen Bey, who brought in roughly $10 million per show. The New York Times estimated that the Bey bump generated about $4.5 billion for the American economy, comparable to what the 2008 Olympics did for Beijing. 

​​Beyoncé means business. 

Rihanna’s Super Bowl Halftime Show

2023 saw plenty of records broken, including the most-watched telecast of all time, which now belongs to Super Bowl LVII. And there’s no doubt that Rihanna’s Super Bowl Halftime Show had something to do with those numbers. 

Sporting a baby bump, she floated above the crowd in Arizona while working her way through her entire discography and even sneaking in product placement for her Fenty makeup brand. 

.@rihanna‘s Super Bowl Halftime Show performance has now surpassed 200 MILLION views on @YouTube.

It becomes the fastest halftime show in history to reach this milestone (10 months). pic.twitter.com/0GLkkU2bdc

— FentyStats (@FentyStats) December 14, 2023

Because as you’ve probably heard, Rihanna is all about work, work, work, work, work. 

Burning Man gets wet

A quick moment to mention the disaster that was Burning Man this year. We all watched on social media as one in a hundred-year rains fell in Nevada, trapping festival goers, including Chris Rock and Diplo, who was seen escaping by a pickup truck. 

Torrential rain turns Burning Man festival into mud bath https://t.co/YFhpRUeNUn pic.twitter.com/TqrQTGiCMr

— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) September 4, 2023

Hey, not every trending event this year went according to plan. 

A mighty year for tech

If you took the year off of work in 2023, we have good news and bad news. 

The good news is, AI is getting pretty close to being able to do all of your work for you. The bad news is, well, AI is getting pretty close to being able to do all of your work. Bit of a double-edged sword, there. Here are the tech moments of the year.

ChatGPT Plus

ChatGPT shook up the tech world in 2023, with Microsoft investing in the company and Google, Meta, and every other tech giant scrambling to launch their own AI offering. 

Should Taylor Swift not have won Person of the Year, there’s a strong case to be made that Sam Altman, OpenAI’s founder, would have taken home the distinction (though he was dubbed TIME’s CEO of the Year). The digital world looks much different today than it did just 18 months ago, and ChatGPT has a big role to play in the changing landscape. 

TIME’s CEO of the Year Sam Altman on the future of AI: “No one knows what happens next. I think the way technology goes, predictions are often wrong” https://t.co/OhKDrFzn0R

— TIME (@TIME) December 16, 2023

Mix in an ouster and return to the company in November, and it’s easy to see why OpenAI stole so many headlines this year. Heck, ChatGPT might have even written a few of them. 

Apple Vision Pro

We all watched in awe as Apple introduced us to its first spatial computer back in June at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Vision Pro marked the company’s first entrance into a new product category since the 2015 Apple Watch, and the demo left audiences with more questions than answers. 

Is this what the future looks like? Time will tell. Apple suggests they’re on track for a release in early 2024. With a starting price tag of $3,499, we’ll have to wait and see whether tech enthusiasts have an appetite (and deep enough pockets) for Apple’s latest innovation. 

Spider-Man 2

Back to video games for a moment. Gamers were thrilled when Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 dropped in October, giving the game a score of 91/100 on Metacritic and purchasing 2.5 million copies on launch day. 

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 has won IGN’s Best Game of 2023 Fans’ Choice! 🏆 pic.twitter.com/cwA8BC5Ue8

— IGN (@IGN) December 20, 2023

That made Spider-Man 2 the fastest-selling game in PlayStation history, proving that while it may have been a quiet year at the box office for comic book movies, there’s still a huge demand for the genre in the gaming industry.

The royal treatment

In the wise words of Lorde, we will never be royals. But these folks are, and they stole plenty of headlines – particularly in the first half of the year.

Prince Harry’s memoir

With a title like Spare, you knew that Prince Harry’s memoir was going to have more than just a little drama in its pages. And dramatic it was. 

ICYMI: Prince Harry’s autobiography Spare (Bantam) is the bestselling book on Amazon this year.

Read more 👇 https://t.co/0PNp5pxqyi

— The Bookseller (@thebookseller) December 16, 2023

Spare now holds the Guinness Record for the fastest-selling nonfiction book since records began. It moved 3.2 million copies in the first week of publication alone. 

The Coronation of King Charles

We get a new chapter of The Lion King in 2024, but in 2023 it was King Charles who stole the most royal headlines. 

King Charles III was confirmed as the head of state and head of the Church of England on May 6. His coronation drew roughly 6 million fewer British viewers than Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. 

The Crown final season

On our last royal note of the year, it’s back to TV we go. 

Netflix wrapped up one of its most popular shows this fall when The Crown season six was released in two parts. Part one covered Princess Diana and her tragic fate, while part two was a look at her children, William and Harry. 

@netflix willsmania: what a time. #TheCrown ♬ original sound – Netflix

If you haven’t seen it yet, the show is brilliantly done. It deserves all of the accolades it receives from both critics and viewers. 

Looking ahead to 2024

As we look forward to the next year, there’s plenty to be excited about. From the Summer Olympics in Paris to blockbuster movies like Gladiator 2 and The Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, there’s so much to anticipate. 

The UEFA Euro 2024 and the US Presidential Election promise to keep us on the edge of our seats, while astronomical events like a total lunar eclipse on April 8 offer moments of wonder. 

The anticipation for Super Bowl LVIII, featuring Usher at the halftime show, is already building. And, of course, at the year’s end, we’re all curious about Fyre Festival, round 2. Seriously, it’s happening. 

If 2023 taught us anything, it’s that you never know exactly what will be trending tomorrow.

Thanks for the trends, 2023, and cheers to an exciting year ahead in 2024. 

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