Welcome to The Ringer’s 100 Best Moments in Culture in 2019 So Far, an exhaustive ranking of everything good that has happened this year in film, TV, celebrity news, and memedom. This is a list that seeks to capture the tiny moments that made a giant impact—the things from the first half of this year that brought us immense joy, that made us feel alive, and that will live on in our hearts and minds for years to come. Over the next week we’ll unveil our favorite moments, putting them in context, reminiscing on their importance, all while counting down to the best moment of the year. The first six months of 2019 have been a long, content-filled journey; now that we’re on the other side of it, it’s time to celebrate. (Click here to check out Part 1 of the list, and here to see Part 2.)
50. NoHo Hank returns, better than ever, for Season 2 of Barry (March 31)
Kate Knibbs: There’s no shortage of violent guys with soft sides on TV, but NoHo Hank is a singular and surprising creation. Anthony Carrigan delivers a performance so specifically weird and tender, it transforms the “mobster with a heart of gold” trope into something new. (And his Chechen-goes-SoCal accent is so convincing on the show that it is a little jarring to hear his real, standard American English speaking voice.) Barry is a tonally swervy comedy, and Hank’s blend of positive thinking and nonchalance about murder is one of the elements that sounds like it really shouldn’t work, but does anyway. [Originally published on April 26]
49. Spike Lee speaks for all Knicks fans at the Oscars: “We’re trying to tank!” (February 24)
48. Hulu starts a Fyre Festival documentary release war with Netflix (January 14)
Rob Harvilla: There’s a self-congratulatory air to the PR war at the core of the Fyre vs. Fyre Fraud dustup. Bizarrely, the Hulu doc ends by announcing the existence of the Netflix doc, and highlighting Jerry Media’s involvement in it, and underscoring that the social-media team there kept posting rhapsodically about the Fyre Festival for weeks and even days before the shit hit the fan. Which is true, but in the Netflix doc, even with Jerry Media’s direct involvement, company CEO Mick Purzycki doesn’t work too hard to exonerate himself, copping to a mass complaint-deletion policy as angry customers started spamming Fyre Festival’s accounts as the event drew nearer. But he adds that eventually, he refused to tweet out any more promises or flowery images from the promo video once the full scale of the carnage was clear, whereupon he was introduced to the new social-media team. Everyone will take only so much blame; everyone is willing to look bad on camera only if it’ll presumably make somebody else look worse. [January 17]
47. The Call Me by Your Name gag in The Other Two (March 14)
46. Fat Thor (April 26)
Miles Surrey: Ahead of its release, Avengers: Endgame kept a ton of details close to the vest. That made its many revelations—that Thanos would be killed in the opening 30 minutes, that there would be a five-year time jump, that the survivors plan a “time heist,” and that the film would insert itself into old MCU entries—all the more rewarding. But the biggest shock of all was the aesthetic transformation of Thor, who went from Chiseled Norse God–slash–Chris Hemsworth lookalike to someone closer to Jeff Bridges from a certain Coen brothers movie.
Fat Thor, as the internet has affectionately referred to him, has a couple of post-snapture interests: inhaling large quantities of beer, and Fortnite. (Oftentimes he likes combining the two while shouting at online users, such as “noobmaster69.”) He is, as the kids say, extremely washed—as evinced by an important meeting about saving the universe that he casually falls asleep in. Fat Thor offers a ton of physical comedy, but more importantly, he also provides Endgame with a surprising dose of pathos. He’s let himself go because of a depressing downward spiral, unable to forgive himself after missing the chance to kill Thanos and prevent the rapture at the end of Infinity War. After everything he’s lost—including both his parents, his evil sister who is also Cate Blanchett, and his devious brother Loki—Thor deserves our love and sympathy. Fat Thor is proof even the God of Thunder can be as emotionally vulnerable as the rest of us, and could use a hug every now and then.
45. The vampire council meeting in What We Do in the Shadows (May 8)
Claire McNear: In a show that is very easily both the weirdest and funniest thing I’ve watched this year, nothing has come close to being either as weird or as funny as vampires Nandor, Laszlo, and Nadja watching in repulsed bafflement as the austere Vampire Council—the bloodsuckers’ ruling body, which they’re fairly sure is about to sentence them all to death—welcomes them with what can only be described as an interpretive dance. What We Do in the Shadows is mostly concerned with exploring vampiredom as the province of pettiness, incompetence, and bureaucracy, and a simply splendid debut season reached its apex with the absurdity of the Council. Also? Guest stars for days—a who’s who, more or less, of every actor who’s ever played a vampire. See: Tilda Swinton, mankind’s most likely vampire hiding in plain sight; original What We Do in the Shadows movie vampires Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement, and Jonny Brugh (Waititi and Clement wrote the episode); Evan Rachel Wood; Danny Trejo; and so on. Brad Pitt was apparently eager to participate, but they never got back to him. Oops!
44. Drake gives Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse a quick shoulder rub (May 21)
43. Meryl Streep’s “short girl” speech on Big Little Lies (June 9)
42. Constance Wu reacts to Fresh Off the Boat’s renewal: “Ugh. Fuck” (May 10)
41. Vampire Weekend returns with Father of the Bride (May 3)
Lindsay Zoladz: Father of the Bride has been called Vampire Weekend’s feel-good record, their post-Rostam reinvention, their unabashed coming-out as a jam band. It is and isn’t all of those things. The songs are bright and loose, yes, but they’re also haunted by melancholy. Batmanglij left the band in 2016, but he had a hand in a few of these songs, and his presence still hangs over the record like an ineffable mist. It’s true that [Ezra] Koenig has name-checked the Grateful Dead, but the longest song on the record is just over five minutes, and quite a few of them are under three. As ever, Vampire Weekend remain slippery, plural, winkingly contradictory.
“I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die,” Koenig sings on the sprightly “Harmony Hall.” He sang the same lyric on “Finger Back”—a song with similar concerns if a much more frenzied tone. Koenig once had a tendency to overstuff his lines, rattling off his verses in the sped-up cadence of the guy who reads the terms and conditions at the end of a radio commercial. He’s in less of a hurry on Father of the Bride; here there’s space, time. [May 6]
40. “Ah shit, here we go again.” (April 3)
Kate Knibbs: Rockstar Games released Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for PlayStation 2 15 years ago, in 2004. Through the magic of the internet, an opening snippet from the game—in which the protagonist CJ Johnson realizes that he’s about to get up to some grand theft once more—reached its height of popularity in 2019 as a versatile meme. (It started gaining steam online in 2015, but exploded this year when someone uploaded CJ against a green screen, according to KnowYourMeme.) “Ah shit, here we go again,” Johnson huffs, ready to face some absolute bullshit for the umpteenth time despite his better efforts, resigned but prepared, weary but not defeated. It is, as they say, “a big mood” for this current moment. It’s appropriate for just about every time you open Twitter, commute to work, go to sleep, wake up, and fire up The Ringer dot com to read some delightful coverage of sports and pop culture: Ah shit, here we go again.
When you see another CJ meme on your timeline pic.twitter.com/hdklcKbJcA— Cilvanis (@cilvanis) April 8, 2019
39. New mixes, costume changes, and Coachella: Beyoncé releases Homecoming (April 17)
Rob Harvilla: There is a tendency, even during the lushest and most bombastic of concert films, to zone out in places, but Homecoming is relentless in its quest to constantly bombard you with something new and absurdly flashy to gawk at: an extended Destiny’s Child guest spot here, a solo crane ride during the towering “Drunk in Love” there, an aura of lithe ferocity hanging over everything. The choreography is so seamless that any song might shift from Yellow (weekend one) to Pink (weekend two) at any moment. The Lemonade bromide “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” from Beyoncé’s introductory vocal assault (“Who the fuck do you think I am?”) onward, is the killer hard-rock moment for those of you whose last Netflix music documentary was Springsteen on Broadway. The way “Sorry” slides seamlessly into the vintage pop-R&B elegance of 2003’s “Me, Myself and I” is one of many gracious nods backward; the full-pyramid dance party that powers “Get Me Bodied” is the single moment when you’ll feel the full weight of this production most acutely and conclude that the Beyoncé Pyramid wouldn’t be such a bad place to be buried. [April 17]
38. Sonic the Hedgehog’s teeth (April 30)
Justin Sayles: I’ve got a simple rule when it comes to teeth: If you’re spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about them, something’s gone horribly awry. That goes for dreams, sports, and, in the case of the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie, beloved childhood video game characters. Just look at this still from the film’s trailer. That’s a human mouth grafted onto the most famous anthropomorphic hedgehog of the 1990s, and it easily edges out whatever the hell Jim Carrey is doing for the most horrifying image from the promo. Viewers were predictably unnerved, and the ordeal allowed the Detective Pikachu cinematographer to get some shots off. Fortunately, the Sonic team—most prominently the movie’s director—listened to the backlash.
Thank you for the support. And the criticism. The message is loud and clear... you aren't happy with the design & you want changes. It's going to happen. Everyone at Paramount & Sega are fully committed to making this character the BEST he can be... #sonicmovie #gottafixfast ✌️— Jeff Fowler (@fowltown) May 2, 2019
These changes won’t be simple—originally slated for a November 2019 release, Sonic now won’t hit theaters until 2020—but they’re unprecedented nonetheless: An animated character was so creepy looking that complaints about it actually forced a studio to commit (to spending way more money) to fix it. The final design likely won’t be enough to erase that tortured image from our collective subconscious, but it will hopefully help us think about those damn teeth a little less.
37. Russell Westbrook goes 20-20-20 in honor of Nipsey Hussle (April 2)
Dan Devine: The final two rebounds came in the closing seconds of the game, with the outcome already decided. Thunder coach Billy Donovan had sought to pull his starters with 1:04 remaining, a 16-point lead giving Oklahoma City plenty of cushion for its 45th win of the season. But as Paul George, Jerami Grant, and Dennis Schröder all headed to the bench, Westbrook waved off would-be substitute Hamidou Diallo. He stayed on the floor, muscling through the 6-foot-11, 240-pound Mike Muscala to pull in a missed free throw by the ever-giving Steven Adams and then beating just-signed rookie swingman Jemerrio Jones to an Isaac Bonga miss for his 20th board.
Then, and only then, could Westbrook come out. As he did, he shouted something to the OKC faithful: “That’s for Nipsey.”
YOU’RE ONE OF ONE BRO!!! Rest Up King pic.twitter.com/fXzJesHlaB— Russell Westbrook (@russwest44) April 1, 2019
36. Olivia Colman’s speech at the Oscars (February 24)
35. A coffee cup finds its way into an episode of Game of Thrones (May 5)
Ben Lindbergh: The defining image of Game of Thrones’ final season was one HBO never intended to air: a coffee cup insouciantly sitting in front of Daenerys Targaryen in “The Last of the Starks.” Not since the 2005 Hot Coffee mod had a piece of overlooked coffee content caused such uproar. The presence of a staple of modern life at the feast that followed the Battle of Winterfell was shared, mocked, and memed on social media in the days after the episode, but the biggest PR problem wasn’t the jarring sight itself, which HBO belatedly removed from the footage. It was what that sight seemed to signify, fairly or not: that Game of Thrones’ creators had rushed the final season. The confluence of the coffee cup, David Benioff’s “Inside the Episode” explanation that “Dany kind of forgot about the Iron Fleet,” and the literal darkness of the previous week’s episode, “The Long Night,” reinforced the perception that the show was cutting corners and sabotaging its story. The resulting stain on the series’ reputation wasn’t something the network could digitally wipe away. Now all we can do is laugh about the coffee cup.
34. Soulja Boy wonders: DRAAAAKE?! (January 16)
33. Basically everything about Serenity (January 25)
Miles Surrey: All I can say is that the final 15 minutes of this movie is genuinely some of the wildest shit I’ve ever seen. Serenity intercuts between Baker and Karen taking a drunk and injured Frank on the fishing boat just as Justice the tuna shows up while Patrick, in real life, thinks about finally killing his stepdad with a knife he’s got in his room. Baker catches Justice with his fishing rod and passes it over to Frank, who is dragged off the boat and drowns in the ocean because of Justice’s immense tuna-strength. Patrick gets up from his computer and, off-screen, kills his abusive stepdad. Justice … is served.
That’s it. That is the very real plot of Serenity. Get a Brink’s truck filled with Razzies to Steven Knight’s driveway posthaste; we’ve got a runaway winner on our hands. This is 2019’s Book of Henry; The Snowman for the tropics; The Simsby way of McConaughey’s Lincoln commercials and bare ass. Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life. Time to catch some tuna. [January 25]
32. The final scene of Catastrophe (March 15)
Alan Siegel: What made Catastrophe so great was Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney’s commitment to the show’s titular premise. Built on a week-long sex bender that resulted in a surprise pregnancy, their onscreen relationship was messy from the start. Their life together, as the audience saw during the four short seasons of the recently wrapped romantic comedy, was always emotionally chaotic. Thrashing against their profound personal struggles only made things worse. The only way their marriage could survive, they learned the hard way, was to ride the wave. That’s why the final scene of the series was perfect.
The day following Rob’s mother’s seaside funeral, after which he and Sharon fought viciously, they stop at a deserted beach. He apologizes for being a dick to her. She tells him that she’s pregnant. He admits that he noticed a home test in the trash can. “I threw up when I saw it,” he says, “Then I thought, why not? It could be fun.” Moments later, Sharon strips to her underwear and runs into the ocean. After noticing a sign warning against rip currents, Rob tears his clothes off and jumps in too. When he reaches her, they kiss. Then, as Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs (Continued)” begins to play, they swim through dangerous waters toward the shore.
We never see whether they make it. It’s Catastrophe at its best. Disaster always looms, but that’s not enough to ruin the fun.
31. Chuck’s public confession about BDSM on Billions (April 7)
30. BTS wholeheartedly breaks into the U.S.
Kate Halliwell: Another year, another slew of broken records and international dominance for Korean boy band BTS. Their tear through the United States this year seemed like a victory lap, as if they were celebrating their newfound Western media evolution; from a slew of “Who Is BTS?” articles in 2017, to 2018’s theme of “How Did BTS Do It?,” and now, in 2019, the realization that yeah, they’re here to stay. Kicking off their 2019 in the U.S. at the Grammys didn’t hurt. As the first K-pop presenters ever, they crushed the red carpet, bopped to “Jolene,” and promised they’d be back. (At this point, who would dare to doubt it?) And that was just to start. A few months later, BTS returned to the U.S. to promote their new album, Map of the Soul: Persona, featuring lead single “Boy With Luv,” a collab with Halsey. And for the last few months, BTS has truly been everywhere: They appeared on Saturday Night Live (with noted K-pop fan Emma Stone), drew intimidating crowds on Good Morning America!, and casually spoofed the Beatles on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert—all while selling out massive venues across the country on their first U.S. stadium tour. The question is no longer how BTS got here, or why; it’s what will they do next?
29. Stephen Dorff’s resurgence (and Mahershala Ali’s jackets) in True Detective Season 3 (January 13)
Andrew Gruttadaro: The return of True Detective came with much trepidation. After all, the glory of a coked-out Colin Farrell aside, the second season of the series was quite awful. What a pleasant surprise, then, that Season 3—which returned to the formula of the first season, following a murder and a missing-persons case in Arkansas across three time periods—was legitimately compelling, a satisfying detective story that often crossed over into profound territories. Notably though, the season’s greatest joys came in two forms: in cataloging Ali’s many flawless, ’80s- and ’90s-era fits, and in witnessing the long-awaited return to greatness for Dorff. I can let Ali’s looks do the talking:
As for Dorff, seeing him inhabit Roland West was revelatory. The troubled, somewhat forgotten actor imbued West with a steely brand of brokenness, the cracks of which began to show more and more as the years—and the case of Julie Purcell—dragged on. By the time he was making friends with a stray dog in the season finale (I stan!), it was clear that his performance was more than enough to justify True Detective’s return.