1. Accusatory Donald Sutherland
Origin: Donald Sutherland, in 1978's remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Actual meaning behind the meme: Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one of the few truly great remakes ever produced by Hollywood - and not only is this a great moment from the film, it's THE moment that solidifies it as something dark and powerfully unique. Donald Sutherland has watched all of his friends and loved ones be taken by the pod people and lost to him - then at the very end of the film, he runs into someone who has managed to escape the alien menace. She approaches him with joy and excitement and DONALD SUTHERLAND STARTS TO POINT AND SCREECH - meaning even he, our last hope for humanity, has too been turned. It's a powerful and dark note to end the film on, and way better than "Donald Sutherland accusing hipsters of being lame" or whatever stupid meme thing that is now.
To put it into modern context - imagine if the last moments of The Mist (which are truly fucked up beyond regard) were turned into a meme about being sad you sent a text without enough emojis or something.
2. Annoyed Picard
Origin: Patrick Stewart, in Star Trek: TNG's episode, Menage A Troi
Actual meaning behind the meme: In one of the goofier moments from TNG (which doesn't narrow this down at all, really), Picard (aka Patrick Stewart) is trying to negotiate for a crew member's mom's return from a lovelorn alien who's kidnapped her. When she comes on the videoscreen, she pretends that she and Picard are former lovers, and tries to nudge Picard into playing the part of a spurned ex-boyfriend. And so Picard does, reciting Shakespearean sonnets to declare his undying love for Lwaxana Troi (ugh, the names on this show). So no, it's not a Starfleet captain saying "Come on, old school Family Guy is WAYYY better" or whatever - it's something infinitely better: PATRICK STEWART ROCKING SHAKESPEARE IN SPACE TO TRICK ALIENS.
The specific frame is even the classic line "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" And no, Jean-Luc, you probably shouldn't. Ugh, Lwaxana, am I right? Also, ugh, we were SO CLOSE to getting rid of Wesley here. Really, if not for this great scene from ol P-Stew, this episode wouldn't have been worth nothin'. Why do you want to take this from me, memes?
3. Nicolas Cage - You Don't Say!
Origin: Nicolas Cage in an insane scene from Vampire's Kiss
Actual meaning behind the meme: He's not saying "You don't say!" Nicolas Cage doesn't utter anything REMOTELY LIKE "You don't say!" in this entire scene. But that's fine - because whatever the hell IS going on in the scene is infinitely better.
Some context - Vampire's Kiss is an objectively terrible film. Nicolas Cage is straight-up out of his mind the entire time and virtually none of the plot - sort've a proto-American Psycho where Cage is a high-powered business guy who thinks he's becoming a vampire - makes a goddamn lick of sense. The Washington Post declared it and Cage "incoherently bad." And this scene is a perfect summary of the film. Cage is ranting to a lowly secretary about the real shitty job he's gonna make her do - and how he's going to revel in making her suffer through the most menial, painful task possible. His eyes bug out and and he chews the scenery like only Nicolas Cage can. Really, it's one of the most watchable bad performances ever, and so much more than that meme would lead you to believe.
4. Tobey Maguire's Funny Face
Origin: Outtakes from Spider-Man 3
Actual meaning behind the meme: Listen, Tobey Maguire makes some great faces. When he cries. When he screams. When he's angry. When he does...anything that's not supposed to be hilarious. Those are great because those are his serious faces, and they look ridiculous.
But the "funny face" he makes is a goofy face that he's making ON PURPOSE. Us making fun of his goofy face there defeats the point - he knows it's funny and is expressly doing it to be funny. This is not the Tobey-face to turn into a joke, people. THESE ARE:
5. Bitch Please
Origin: Yao Ming laughing during a press conference
Actual meaning behind the meme: No, Yao Ming isn't derisively laughing in a condescending manner towards anyone - he's just genuinely enjoying a funny story from teammate Ron Artest, particularly the moment where Artest talks about a guy in the stands trying to give him some beer during a playoff game. This is nothing but two pals enjoying a wonderful, funny moment between them - talking about a goofy thing that just happened. Of course, the internet had to insert the word "bitch" into it and make it about dismissing others.
Origin: Japanese show Prank King Face
Actual story behind the meme: As great as this meme is - oh wait, I mean as lazy and stereotypical and racist as shit this meme is - the actual story of how this pained face came to the internet is infinitely better.
Let me preface this with something: Japan is a land of great diversity and culture - to generalize any aspect of the Japanese society would be ignorant and insulting, and stereotypes are far too readily accepted in America simply because of Japan's status as a foreign oddity to many. That all being said, Japanese game shows, am I right?! This certainly fits exactly in that stereotype of "Japanese game shows are all totally insane and involve audiences laughing uproariously as a dude cowers in terror, convinced he is about to be brutally murdered." Because...that's exactly what happened here.
Comedian Ayumu Kato was on the show Prank King Face (roughly translated, obviously), engaging in a fake job interview...when a hail of sniper bullets kill every other person in the room. After the initial shock/terror wear off, he tries to escape, but the door is locked. Soon, a faux-policeman enters to try to take control of the situation, but Kato is too panicked and horrified to answer any of his questions. It should be noted that - again - the audience is laughing appreciatively the ENTIRE TIME. It's terrifying! The face he made was one of legitimate terror and fear...but it was also a PRETTY funny face, and people noticed - since then, making the face has become Kato's calling card, often making the face on his other television appearances.
But the main lesson here is that "legitimate fear of imminent death" > "a guy thinking something is impossible"
Origin: KC Green's Horribleville comic, "Tree. You've Been Good To Us" (Horribleville's original domain was abandoned and taken over by some Japanese company, but here's KC Green's website)
Actual meaning behind the meme: Here's the original comic. The joke isn't that DickButt shows up unexpectedly in a GIF - it's that a person who promised to protect and value nature has wasted it in the most ridiculous way possible. DickButt is the ultimate slap in the face to the Lorax.
You may know KC Green from some of his other works - Gun Show and Back, most notably - and from being one of the great modern webcomic dudes. And if you like memes, there's a good chance you know of ANOTHER one of his works that has been turned into a meme - Staredad is a heavily-edited version of his comic "Dad Wasps Oh No."
Support his Patreon if you appreciate the man who brought DickButt into this world.
8. M'lady Guy
Origin: Jerry Messing...also known as PUGSLEY ADDAMS (from the Addams Family Reunion TV movie, but still pretty weird!)
The Actual Meaning Behind the Meme: Yep, it's actually Pugsley. Well...A Pugsley. For real. No joke. Turns out he was getting a round of headshots done (because, ya know, acting) and he was goofing off a little when they had some extra film and had completed all of the shots they needed. Just a fun dude doin' a goof - who has now been turned into the poster child for creepy internet manchild who thinks fedoras make him look "mature" and "not like an overgrown toddler trying to cosplay as Humphrey Bogart."
On top of all of this, the guy is incredibly aware and articulate about the weird relationship he has with the rest of the internet in the wake of the M'lady meme. As he wrote on Facebook:
Something has been bothering me with increasing frequency of late. Because of the fedora meme, many people seem to be making many assumptions about me, first and foremost, my beliefs. I realize it is not possible to remove this association fully, and I know I do not speak of my religious/spiritual views in open forum, but there is a strong reason for that. As such, I would ask that others not jump to a conclusion about my personal life based off of a single picture that reveals nothing of substance about who I am (besides I like taking goofy photos). If you know someone who identifies me in a personal way and has never even spoken to me, please feel free to pass along this message. As I said, I'm under no illusion of it ending, but even informing a few can make some kind of impact. No person should be judged by a measure they aren't even compliant to; a picture may be worth a thousand words, but it is not ideals.
Pugsley turned out pretty cool. Who woulda guessed?
BONUS! Try Not To Cry / Cry a Lot
Well, the meaning of this one doesn't really change when you divorce it from the larger illustration it's a part of, but it's a LOT funnier when you look at the original piece. Which is here. Written by the great Alex Watt and illustrated by the equally-great Caldwell Tanner. Go to this and read this and stop posting heavily JPEG'd imgur mirrors of this, you monsters.