10 Most Viewed YouTube Videos of All Time (And How They Did It)

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From catchy songs to hilarious viral videos, YouTube is home to some of the most viewed videos of all time. If you’re looking for the secret sauce of the most viral videos on the planet, you might find want to check out some of these videos. Don’t worry, we do some of the legwork for you by breaking down what helped make these videos the most viewed YouTube videos of all time.

Top 10 Most Viewed YouTube Videos of All Time

1. Despacito by Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee – 6.15 Billion YouTube Views

If you take a look at Billboard’s Hot 100 Songs of 2017, you’ll find Despacito in the number two spot. It’s pretty clear that popular songs can also become highly watched YouTube videos. And with over 6.15 billion video views, it’s pretty clear why this is the most watched YouTube video. You have the music repeat factor where you watch it over again just to hear the song. And back in 2017 Spotify was popular, but not as popular as it is today. Despacito’s video has all the trademarks of a popular music video: dance sequences, good-looking people, palm trees, naturescapes, club scene, and of course the catchiest song to sing along to. The song is entirely in Spanish, making it one of the three on this top ten most viewed YouTube videos list that aren’t in English.

2. Shape of You by Ed Sheeran – 4.17 Billion YouTube Views

The second most viewed YouTube video is the Shape of You music video with over 4.17 billion video views. Another interesting tidbit is that it was actually the number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 Songs of 2017, beating out Despacito. Unlike most videos, where the singer sings in front of the camera, Shape of You is like a 4-minute movie telling the story of an athletic couple, and the song is just background music. The movie style music video isn’t too common, which makes it a compelling love story to watch. There are also some funny moments where Ed Sheeran and a sumo wrestler fight in the ultimate match. It also has a profound female empowerment message in it: Sheeran is a weakling compared to his love interest.

3. See You Again by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth – 4.08 Billion YouTube Views

See You Again is the main song for the Fast and Furious 7 movie. One of the stars, Paul Walker, died in an infamous car crash shortly before its release. The song and music video are a tribute to Paul Walker and his journey in the Fast and Furious series. If you take a look at the video’s comments, you’ll see several notes about Paul Walker, suggesting that the video went viral because of his sudden death. The song in the video was also popular enough to earn a number three spot in the Billboard Hot 100 for 2015. The sad tone of the song and video make it worth watching over and over again. Emotions can play a big role in helping make a video go viral. Everyone can relate to the pain you feel from losing a loved one, which helps make this one of the most viewed YouTube videos of all time.

4. Masha and the Bear: Recipe for Disaster by Get Movies – 3.55 YouTube Views

The only non-music video on this list, Masha and the Bear: Recipe for Disaster, is the fourth most viewed YouTube video with over 3.55 billion video views. Shockingly, the video somehow has a high percentage of dislikes, clocking in at about 2.4 million dislikes while only 4.4 million likes. What’s made this Russian animation short so popular? It’s likely that the short became popular because it’s made for kids. Kid-friendly content tends to perform well on YouTube (you’ll learn about another example later in this article). The storytelling element is understood even if you don’t speak Russian, which makes this an easy watch. Plus, the story has some funny moments to entertain young children.

5. Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars – 3.53 Billion YouTube Views

Uptown Funk was the number one song of 2015 on the Billboard Hot 100. According to Joe Bennett, a music professor at Bath Spa University, the song’s popularity is due to two key elements: a lack of a chorus and a slower tempo. These two elements make the song stand out. And as we’ve seen with other songs on this list, a number one hit makes it easier to score one of the most viewed YouTube videos. Another interesting tidbit is that Bruno Mars performed at the 2014 Super Bowl halftime show, which helped elevate his popularity and make his video more viral. The video itself has an old-school feel to it which makes it a unique watch that you don’t really see in music videos anymore.

6. Gangnam Style by Psy – 3.3 Billion YouTube Views

Gangnam Style was once the most viewed YouTube video of all time, as it was the first YouTube video to reach one billion views. The song is undeniably catchy, but the video shines with a level of quirkiness mainstream American media hadn’t seen before. The silly dance moves in unexpected places just makes this an all around fun video to watch. And let’s be honest, you’ve probably tried Psy’s dance moves yourself. The YouTube video has a carefree element which makes it easy to just allow yourself to be entertained while watching. With over 3.3 billion YouTube video views since it was published in July 2012, it’s pretty clear that Psy’s colorful personality is what helped make this video a raving success.

7. Sorry by Justin Bieber – 3.1 Billion YouTube Views

Sorry, the seventh most watched YouTube video, is quite a unique music video. Throughout the entire three minutes and 25 seconds, I waited… and waited… for Justin Bieber. It’s basically a Waiting for Godot music video because *spoiler alert* the Biebs just never shows up. Instead, the entire music video features an all-female dance crew in neon outfits and expressive faces. One of the non-song related reasons why this video might’ve been popular is because you can literally dance along with the simple moves. Some might’ve chosen to add this to a workout playlist on YouTube which can help elevate the number of views it gets. But aside from that, Justin Bieber currently has four music videos with over one billion YouTube views, so it’s likely that his 44.45 million YouTube subscribers help boost his videos’ viral success.

8. Sugar by Maroon 5 – 2.94 Billion YouTube Views

I vividly remember the marketing of this music video. There were countless articles from top media outlets reporting that Maroon 5 made a viral video. How did they do that? They crashed a bunch of weddings and performed a mini concert for couples in Los Angeles. Of course, there was later some negative publicity about how the stunt was actually fake, though the band denies this. Regardless of whether it’s real or fake, the reality is that it went viral anyway – I mean, there are literally only seven other videos more viral than the Sugar video.

9. Roar by Katy Perry – 2.8 Billion YouTube Views

Katy Perry is the first female on this list so far with her ever-catchy song and video for Roar. In the video, Perry is stranded in a jungle after a plane crash and is forced to survive on her own after her partner is eaten by a tiger. The comical video shows Perry constantly facing her fears, striving to survive, and taming animals while wearing scantily clad outfits. While Katy’s song was popular, landing at number 10 on the top 100 songs in 2013, her sizable fanbase of 33 million subscribers helped launch her view to a 2.8 billion view count. Plus, as with any lead single, it usually gets the biggest budget and most hype, which helps her land the most viewed YouTube video for a female artist.

10. Shake It Off by Taylor Swift – 2.76 Billion YouTube Views

The legendary Taylor Swift also inched her way into the top 10 most viewed YouTube videos of all time with an epic 2.76 billion YouTube views. Her highly controversial music video received backlash for cultural appropriation as it perpetuates black stereotypes. However, this negative publicity may have actually helped Taylor Swift get more YouTube views to her video. Her 33 million YouTube subscribers, who heavily promote her music and videos on social media, surely didn’t hurt either.

So, How Can You Create The Most Viewed Youtube Videos?

There are a few ways you can create your own viral videos using the strategies that top celebrities use. You might not be able to rake in the multi-billion YouTube views some of these artists get, but you can still create a super popular video. Here are a few ideas to help you create the most viewed YouTube videos:

  • Create videos you can watch multiple times: Songs have a repeat factor where you listen to it non-stop for hours. Videos can also have that effect. Workout videos like Justin Bieber’s dance video can be a good blend between using popular music while having your own unique content. Check out Mark Kramer Pastrana’s YouTube channel for repeatable workout inspiration. You can also create countdown timers, productivity timers, relaxation videos, and similar content with background noise or music that would encourage daily use.
  • Jump on viral trends: Like Maroon 5’s wedding crashing video, we’ve seen a viral video types emerge over the years like flash mobs, lip dubs, prank videos, parody videos, ice bucket challenges, and others just like it. While it’s always amazing to be the first to do something original, it can also be difficult to innovate. If you’re up for it, you’ll need to experiment a lot to inch closer to viral success. Otherwise, you could easily focus on jumping in on trends as they happen.
  • Have fun: Funny videos kept topping the list of the most watched videos. Being funny comes down to being yourself and carefree. So bust out those ridiculous dance moves, show off your expressive face, laugh at your own jokes, or tell a funny story. The more you let yourself enjoy the process of creating YouTube videos, the more people will enjoy watching them.

Conclusion

The most viewed YouTube videos of all time share a few common feats that are worth exploring. Music has a powerful way to make you watch something on loop. So don’t be afraid to explore creating your own songs to help you skyrocket to YouTube success. If you focus on tying the common themes found in these videos like being controversial, throwing in some humor, and jumping on viral trends, you’ll inch closer to the top of the most watched YouTube videos.

What’s your all-time favorite YouTube video? Share it in the comments (feel free to share your own too!).

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