The Top 10 Most Watched YouTube Videos of 2012

The Top 10 Most Watched YouTube Videos of 2012

This was the year regular videos went something north of viral.  PSY's "Gangnam Style," for instance, pulled in so many views it would have beat all 10 of last year's top 10 videos combined, and it's not even close.   It's certainly the top dog of 2012…by 800 million views or so.  This year's top 10 videos are filled with music.  It's been a big theme of the last two years: half of these videos have a musical element.  And if you can combine comedy with music, it seems to be a huge winner every time.  So let's fire this year's top 10 most-watched videos up and delve into their awesomeness.

YouTube Rewind 2012 – A Year in Review:

First off, YouTube has made a star-studded recap video celebrating the year they had along with a new "YouTube Rewind 2012" channel (HINT – turn on annotations to see the cool easter-eggs in the video):

YouTube's Top 10 Videos of the Year

One thing about the YouTube Top 10: videos that are released early in the year and have all twelve months to get on the list have a huge advantage.  And those that are released at the end of a year and might actually have a comparable amount of views aren't counted.

Just think about where our #10 video might be if it had 12 months to accumulate views.  Here they are in reverse order for the heck of it.  Click here to skip to #1 ->

#10 Felix Baumgartner's Supersonic Freefall from 128k' – Mission Highlights (More than 30 million views)

This jump was seen by 8 million people live.  Seriously, Felix Baumgartner redefined what it means to have huge stones.  The highlight reel was released on October 14 and would have been much higher had it came out sooner.  But this is another huge hit for Red Bull:

#9 Facebook Parenting: For the Troubled Teen (35 million+ views)

Some people thought this might be a fake.  But then again, who cares?  It's pretty entertaining as a train wreck, "over-the-top," window into the human condition.  You want to see a laptop get shot?  Here you go:

#8 Dubstep Violin – Lindsey Stirling – Crystallize (38 million+ views)

The totally cute, totally talented Lindsey Stirling released this gorgeous video in February and it might be my favorite of all the videos released this year:

#7 WHY YOU ASKING ALL THEM QUESTIONS? ..#FCHW (39 million+ views)

Released during the height of "S*** Girls Say," back in January, Spoken Reasons released this comedy/music video about women and men being unable to communicate with each other and the result is pretty funny:

#6 A DRAMATIC SURPRISE ON A QUIET SQUARE (40 million views)

TNT's motto is "We Know Drama" and to prove that, they created a simple situation whereby a button is pressed and…drama happens.  Ironically, the video is very funny.  Released in April, this video barely misses the top 5:

#5 Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney.  Epic Rap Battles of History Season 2. (45 million views)

Epic Rap Battles is such a tremendous brand.  Almost everything they do gets into the tens of millions of views.  This Epic Rap Battle was released in October, just before the election, and it soared to the top 5 in no time.

#4 "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen – Feat. Justin Bieber, Selena, Ashley Tisdale, & MORE! (55 million views)

This one is a massive cheat, mainly because Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" was one of the top viewed VEVO videos, then this star-studded lip-synching video came out and just rode the wave.  It goes to show the power of tent-poling.  Although in this case, nothing really new is being made here:

#3 KONY 2012 (94 million views)

Perhaps the most talked-about video of the year, KONY came out in March and got over 75 million views almost instantly.  With 30 minutes of content, it's a miracle the way this blew up, but its "shareability" made it the hit that it became:

#2 Somebody That I Used to Know – Walk Off the Earth (Gotye Cover) (141 million views)

Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" became a huge radio hit in its own right after Walk Off the Earth did this memorable 5-on-1 guitar rendition of the song.  This would have easily been number one if it weren't for that pesky PSY.  Released January 5, this video had the whole year to accumulate second-place views:

#1 Most Watched YouTube Video of 2012 (and All-Time)

PSY – GANGNAM STYLE (강남스타일) M/V (982 million views…and still killing it)

Psy's "Gangnam Style" will soon be the first video to hit 1 billion all on its own.  It's reach is such that it would be amazing if you can find anybody on the Earth that hasn't seen this, or at least been exposed to it in some way.  This is a gigantic breakaway hit because yes, the song is catchy, but the video has everything you want: lunacy, hot girls, and a funky dance:


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Posted in Youtube Marketing
About the Author -
Chris Atkinson joined ReelSEO in 2011. He is a longtime film and television reviewer, and has almost two decades of experience in the theater industry. He also writes on his personal blog - http://nymoviereviews.com. View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • Peter Shields

    Great article. You should revise the Carly Rae Jepsen segment though – the lip-syncing video was published on February 18th, when the official music video had merely 100k views on YouTube. It's what actually broke the song into pop culture consciousness. The VEVO video wasn't uploaded to her channel until March 1st. This 'cheap' lip-sync video is actually a really significant moment in further empowering influencers (Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, etc) over traditional institutions (MTV, VH1) – the coolest moment of 2012 for me, however meticulously planned it was (Justin's manager had recently acquired Carly as a client).

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