The Most Viewed YouTube Videos

YouTube is arguably the internet’s biggest wormhole. These are the most viewed YouTube videos.

wiz khalifa see you again

Image via YouTube

wiz khalifa see you again

Few people realize that the first video ever uploaded to YouTube was an 18-second clip titled “Me at the zoo.” Shot by a friend of YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim at the San Diego Zoo, the video—which is still online—is a quick monologue about elephants with large trunks.

That was in 2005. Less than a year after YouTube’s founding, Google bought the company for $1.65 billion. In the years that followed, YouTube became available in countries outside the U.S. and also launched an HD option. Gamers and vloggers had the earliest success from the debut of ad revenue.

Today, YouTube is the leader in online video hosting, with 300 hours of video uploaded each minute and almost 5 billion videos watched each day. However, the site’s most popular videos have nothing to do with elephants or even zoos. Shockingly, they aren’t vlogs, beauty tutorials, or Vine compilations, either. Music videos dominate the top 100 videos on the platform. And in 2012, Psy’s “Gangnam Style” became the first YouTube video ever to hit one billion views.

That music videos are the most popular type of video on YouTube comes as no surprise. Videos like Drake’s “God’s Plan” and even older ones like Kanye’s “Bound 2” give music fans the ability to associate a stunning visual with their favorite tracks. Of course, if they don’t like the video, this can backfire—but that certainly isn’t the case with some of the most watched videos on YouTube.

Although it’s likely that a lot of music video views come from people simply playing the music without necessarily watching their screen, YouTube has overall proven that even in a post-video-MTV world, music videos are still an incredibly popular form of content. Check out the most viewed YouTube videos below.

Note: View counts as of 10/30/2018

10. Katy Perry, “Roar”

View this video on YouTube

View Count: 2,650,915,906

Released: Sept. 5, 2013

This five-year-old Katy Perry music video is, for some reason, the tenth most viewed video on YouTube. The visuals are pretty sick, though.


9. Taylor Swift, “Shake It Off”

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View Count: 2,669,425,931

Released: Aug. 18, 2014

Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” is hard to forget. The message was further instilled by the Mark Romanek-directed music video, where Taylor quite literally dances her troubles away with various crews.

8. Maroon 5, “Sugar”

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View Count: 2,789,600,298

Released: Jan. 14, 2015

Maroon 5’s “surprise” performances of “Sugar” to multiple couples getting married in Los Angeles over the course of one day created the material for this now-famous music video. Directed by David Dobkin, the video is a heart-warming celebration of love.

7. Justin Bieber, “Sorry”

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View Count: 3,026,264,934

Released: Oct. 22, 2015

Instead of the usual pop video, Justin Bieber recruited dancers from New Zealand’s ReQuest Dance Crew and The Royal Family Dance Crew to star in his “Sorry” video. Directed by Parris Goebel, who also appears in the video, “Sorry” has brighter, happier visuals to make up for the apologetic lyrics.

6. Psy, “Gangnam Style”

View this video on YouTube

View Count: 3,231,016,170

Released: July 15, 2012

Psy’s “Gangnam Style” video, directed by Cho Soo-hyun, will forever be remembered for being the first-ever YouTube video to reach 1 billion views. Whether you contributed to hose views or not, there was no escaping the “Gangnam Style” dance move or electropop song when it came out.

5. Get Movies, “Masha and the Bear: Recipe for Disaster”

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View Count: 3,303,873,808

Released: Jan. 31, 2012

If there is an outlier on this list, it’s “Masha and the Bear: Recipe for Disaster,” an episode from the Russian animated series. There’s Masha, a bear, some field hockey, some porridge, and a few other details that make no sense to us, but are clearly a big hit with the kids.

4. Mark Ronson f/ Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk”

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View Count: 3,306,296,048

Released: Nov. 19, 2014

Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars have proven themselves to be a dream team, and “Uptown Funk” is certainly no exception. Directed by Bruno and Cameron Duddy, the “Uptown Funk” video is packed with Bruno’s street dancing and some head-nodding appearances from Mark Ronson.

3. Wiz Khalifa f/ Charlie Puth, “See You Again”

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View Count: 3,837,916,767

Released: April 6, 2015

Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth contributed the song “See You Again” to the Fast and Furious 7 soundtrack. The video serves as a tribute to the late Furious 7 actor Paul Walker. Directed by Marc Klasfeld, the video features clips of Walker from previous Fast and Furious films interspersed with clips of Wiz and Puth.

2. Ed Sheeran, “Shape of You”

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View Count: 3,874,221,995

Released: Jan. 30, 2017

Arguably Ed Sheeran’s biggest hit to date, “Shape of You” had high stakes for its music video. Directed by Jason Koenig, the video follows the singer to a boxing gym, where he meets and falls in love with a fellow boxer.

1. Luis Fonsi f/ Daddy Yankee, “Despacito”

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View Count: 5,652,927,130

Released: Jan. 12, 2017

“Despacito” is a video that took the world by storm, thanks to the song’s catchy melodies that resonate beyond understanding of the Spanish language (a Justin Bieber remix helped a bit, too). Directed by Carlos Perez, the video features steamy dance scenes in a Puerto Rican club.

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