In just over a decade, YouTube has gone from a site that hosts home video clips, amateur dance montages and news outtakes into one of the most important forces in global pop culture.
The ever-expanding collection of videos now include premium, professional content, original shows, news and trends from the around world. Also, Shia LaBeouf.
As 2015 comes to a close, we decided to look back at some of the most inspiring and challenging videos of the last year. (Also, feel free to let us know what we missed, and put some of your favorites in the comment section.)
Rob Bell / Evangelical
Ever since the release of his book Love Wins, Rob Bell has been a polarizing figure in evangelicalism. Unfortunately, for some audiences, the controversy has overshadowed what Bell has always been best at: Communicating big ideas in simple ways. Ever since his days hosting the Nooma Bible teaching videos, Bell has been able to communicate complex topics in short, compelling monologues. In this clip, Bell examines the root of the word “evangelical,” and explains why it needs to be reclaimed—not as the definition of a political voting block, but as an announcement of the Good News. It’s a challenging message—even a controversial one—in the midst of election season, but it’s well worth the watch, even if you don’t agree with everything Bell says.
Dear Graduates – A Message from Kid President
Kid President is one of the most inspiring personalities on the Internet, and YouTube is better because of him. In this video, released back in May, the young sage offers four minutes of encouragement that’s pretty great whether you’re a graduate or just someone looking to make a difference in the world.
Shia LaBeouf TED Talk
Sure, this one is meant to be a big joke—lampooning both the at times overly serious TED Talk format and Shia LaBeouf’s own weirdness. But the video actually works on two levels: It’s funny satire and it’s actually kind of motivating. The YouTube clip was created from footage LaBeouf created with the help of filmmaking students. He asked dozens of them to write their own short scripts, and he agreed to read them in front of a green screen. It was only a matter of time before it got turned into the perfect YouTube clip.
Valspar Color For The Colorblind
In this short documentary produced by Valspar, the paint company shows how high-tech “EnChroma” glasses are giving individuals who suffer from colorblindness, the ability to see the full spectrum of color. Watching people experience color—from a sunset to drawings created by children with crayons—for the first time, is a surprisingly emotional experience.
Heartbeat During a Marriage Proposal
After a Reddit user uploaded data from a heart rate monitor he wore when he ask his girlfriend to marry him, GOOD Magazine decided to put the data to music (a Sufjan Stevens song) and show exactly how the event played out—through heartbeats. Wearable tech took some pretty massive leaps forward in 2015, but it’s cool to be reminded of the real, human element of the emerging technology.
I AM SECOND – Lecrae Testimony
Today, Lecrae is a best-selling, critically acclaimed hip-hop artist, but before he became one of the genre’s most recognizable Christians, Lecrae was a struggling kid, who suffered from neglect and abuse. His story (which is explored in-depth in the latest cover story of RELEVANT) is a powerful look at redemption and faith.
Mary Browder Had Cancer, But Her Spirit Is Unstoppable.
Mary Browder is just a kid, but her bravery, positivity and good nature in the face of a devastating diagnosis will give you courage no matter how old you are, or what difficulties you’re facing.
Victims Address Dylan Roof
Just days after Dylan Roof opened fire at a Bible study at a historic black church in South Carolina killing nine people—all of them African-American—he attended a videoed bond hearing, and faced more of his victims and their families. But instead of anger or hate, members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church addressed Roof, forgiving him for killing their pastor, their friends, their own children and their family members.
One of them can be heard saying, “We are the family that love built. We have no room for hate.” The courtroom footage—which focuses on Dylan’s unflinching face the entire time as person after person comes forward to offer him forgiveness—is one of the most powerful videos you will ever see.
Jack Black Meets A Homeless Boy (in Uganda for Red Nose Day)
As part of the “Red Nose Day” primetime special benefitting anti-poverty programs, comedian Jack Black visited Uganda, where he met a homeless street child named Felix. It’s not an easy watch, but it’s a dramatic look at why more needs to be done to help those living in extreme poverty.
The Voice 2015 Jordan Smith – Top 12: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”
This performance of the worship classic “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” not only brought The Voice audience to its feet, it also made it a best-seller in iTunes the following day.
Banning Syrian Refugees: Unsettled in America
The Syrian refugee crisis is one of the most polarizing issues in American politics. But behind the rhetoric is a nuanced problem—and misconceptions about how to solve it. This mini-documentary from Vice News is not only informative, but it also offers a look at the stories of real people who have fled violence to find a new home in America.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.