#01 The US is invaded by the “polar vortex” and the world by Frozen. Though the film released in 2013, an AP survey found that the most successful animated movie was the top entertainment story of the year. Justin Beiber is arrested in Miami for racing a Lamborghini in January and French President François Hollande gets embroiled in a sex scandal. NBA legend Dennis Rodman makes a fourth visit to hang with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. Producer-rapper Pharrell Williams gets an Oscar nomination for Happy. A week later, he wins four Grammys, including record of the year for producing the funk-electronic anthem Get Lucky.
#02 Russia hosts the Winter Olympics in Sochi despite fears of violence, but the games go smoothly until late in the opening ceremony on February 7 when — in what observers view as a troubling omen — the Russian biathlon team wipes out the entire Ukrainian delegation. Philip Seymour Hoffman is found dead in his Manhattan apartment. The ground shifts in the late-night TV landscape when Jimmy Fallon takes over for Jay Leno on The Tonight Show with a younger, fresher vibe perfect for next-day YouTube viewing of bits like celebrity lip-syncing duels. Kicking off an eventful year in the tech world, Facebook pays a massive $19 billion for WhatsApp. Actress Ellen Page, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Juno, comes out of the closet.
#03 The news is dominated by the baffling disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which has millions of viewers tuning in to CNN to follow its round-the-clock exclusive coverage of random objects floating in the ocean. On March 2, it’s Oscar time, and this year’s show gives us a slew of pop culture moments. Introducing Idina Menzel, John Travolta mangles her name in epic fashion: “Adele Dazeem”. Ellen DeGenres takes that famous selfie, causing Twitter to crash. Time for a new phrase: “conscious uncoupling” — used by Gwenyth Paltrow to describe her “enlightened split” from Chris Martin.
#04 David Letterman announces he’ll retire in 2015 and that his replacement is Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert, whose last show for the award-winning The Colbert Report aired on Decmber 17. Kim Kardashian and soon-to-be hubby Kanye West “grace” the prestigious April cover of Vogue, sparking existential angst among some fashionistas. Kardashian tweets that it’s “a dream come true!!!”. A 15-year-old boy sneaks into the landing-gear compartment of a Boeing 767 and somehow survives a five-hour flight from San Jose to Maui. Mid-April, 276 teenage girls are kidnapped by militant group Boko Haram, sparking the Twitter movement with hashtag #bringbackourgirls, and then 50 escape their captors. The rest are still missing. Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez, the master of magic realism, dies.
#05 But the real dream comes when KIMYE ties the knot at a Renaissance fortress in Florence, Italy, following lavish pre-wedding festivities in France. Angelina Jolie makes a splash in May as Maleficent, giving us a new take on the Disney character that’s now more superheroine than villainess. On Satrurdays, people across the globe are glued to their screens watching the fourth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Laverne Cox, the openly transgender actress on Orange is the New Black, features on the cover of TIME. Barbra Walters signs off after five decades on television and the bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst wins the Eurovision Song Contest 2014, stirring anti-gay hate in Russia. CCTV footage emerges that appeared to show Beyonce Knowles’ sister Solange physically attacking Beyonce’s husband Jay-Z in a lift.
#06 The World Cup in Brazil drives more Facebook conversation than any other event in the site’s history. The sports event even endures a biting controversy, courtesy Uruguay’s Luis Suarez. US goalie Tim Howard becomes a social media darling after and even Secretary of State briefly on Wikipedia after making a record-setting 16 saves in a match. And he inspires an Internet meme naming all the “Things Tim Howard Could Save: including dinosaurs from extinction”. Rafael Nadal sees off the threat of Novak Djokovic for another year to win his ninth French Open title on June 8. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum come back as bumbling cops masquerading as college students to crack a campus drug ring in the hit 22 Jump Street.
#07 A collective “Awwwwww” ricochets around the world as Britain’s royal couple, William and Kate, release photos of Prince George upon his first birthday on July 22. Turns out his fashion choices — lots of blues, and bib overalls — prove as influential as his mom’s. Russia has questions to answer when Malaysia Airlines MH17 is shot out of the sky, killing 298 people. The Gaza conflict shocks the world and 2,200 people are killed over seven weeks. Veteran pop parodist Weird Al Yankovic laughs his way to the top of the charts with his 14th album, Mandatory Fun. The FIFA World Cup ends with a party that only Brazil could have hosted after Germany beat Argentina in the final. Homeland returns for its fourth season after losing its anti-hero Nicholas Brody to an Iranian gallows.
#08 August sees the rise of the goofy Chris Pratt with the release of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. The oddball comedy manages to defy the odds and become one of the year’s biggest hits. The ALS ice bucket challenge generates many millions of dollars to fight the disease and many epic reactions. Brangelina finally ties the knot in a small ceremony on their French estate. The death of Robin Williams, whose manic energy graced screens big and small, leaves a gaping hole in the cultural landscape. Williams’s death would end up topping Google’s list of the year’s top searches. US journalist James Foley is murdered by an ISIS militant. The fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson ignites a national debate while Ferguson, Missouri, is rocked by sometimes violent protests. The usual suspects sweep the 66th Emmy Awards as Modern Family won a record-tying fifth best comedy series Emmy Award and a dominant Breaking Bad captures the top drama award.
#09 Nothing is bigger than the lavish Venice festivities surrounding the nuptials of the bachelor who said he’d never marry again — George Clooney, when he married human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin on September 27. This isn’t even the only Hollywood celebrity wedding in Italy this month — Neil Patrick Harris, next year’s Oscar host, marries David Burkta. The new iPhone 6 arrives, with its larger screen and inevitable prestige factor. Rumours of how it bends swirl on social media and are debunked. Apple unveils its smartwatch and Microsoft spends $2.5 billion for the company that created the hit game Minecraft. Sadly, the world loses deliciously tart-tongued Joan Rivers. Scottish voters, in a closely-watched referendum, decide by a large margin that they do love their fish and chips.
#10 Kate Middleton appears in public in October the first time since announcing that she’s expecting her second royal heir. Jennifer Lawrence, about to make a splash with the latest Hunger Games film, speaks out on the hacking scandal that led to nude photos of her being published on websites. Taylor Swift releases her first official pop album, 1989, and receives rave reviews only to become the top grossing non-soundtrack album on iTunes this year. Renee Zellweger caused some hysteria when she steps out for the Elle awards looking a bit different than we’re familiar with. We find out what 10 hours of walking in NYC as a woman is like. The 40-day mystery of Kim Jong Un’s absence ends. The massive outbreak of Ebola becomes a heightened focus of attention as the US discovers its first case.
#11 Remember when Ellen’s selfie “broke the Internet”? Well, Kim Kardashian, aiming to do the same, poses nude for Paper magazine’s November issue. On a more serious note, Bill Cosby, once America’s most beloved TV dad, faces a cascade of allegations that he sexually assaulted women decades ago. The craze surrounding Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar makes people around the world read more about space than ever before and black holes and wormholes become part of conversations everywhere. The force awakened with the release of the 88-second trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as passionate fans take to the Internet to fill it with memes, parody trailers and even a shot-for-shot Lego version.
#12 Discovery’s two-hour Eaten Alive spectacle, with Paul Rosolie’s attempt to be swallowed by an anaconda, turns out to be a total cop-out. Seventeen people are taken hostage in a cafe in Sydney on December 15. The world watches in horror as the Taliban kill 132 children in Peshawar. Raspy-voiced British singer Joe Cocker dies at the age of 70. And suddenly, the only thing anyone is talking about is the Sony hacking scandal. After weeks of embarrassing disclosures in hacked emails, the focus turns to genuine fear as hackers threaten violence at theatres showing The Interview — the film depicting the fictional assassination of Kim Jong Un. Sony shelves the movie, but has a change of heart after a scolding from Obama. Now sadly for the company, its dirty laundry is hanging in public and the film can be downloaded online.