Wikipedia’s most-popular articles of 2018 show that pop culture rules over us all

The celebration and pandemonium of winning the men’s World Cup — this year’s second most-popular English Wikipedia article. Photo by Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0.

People visited Wikipedia over 190 billion times in 2018 alone, many motivated by the encyclopedia’s wealth of in-depth articles about topics you didn’t know enough about.

But in looking at the English Wikipedia’s most-popular articles of 2018, it’s clear that one motivation reigned supreme. People wanted to keep up with the popular culture moments happening around them-including celebrities, the newest film and television releases, and football, known as “soccer” to Americans. (Some notes on these topics follow, with the full list farther down.)

From celebrity news, we’ll get the bad news out of the way: with over 38 million views, the most-popular Wikipedia article of 2018 was the article about deaths in that year.*mob

Following at #8 was Stephen Hawking, who passed away in the middle of March and was one of the most influential scientists of all time. Over ten million of these views came in the week of his death. If you add up all the pageviews across all language Wikipedias, that total went above 27 million-articles about Hawking were the most popular in March on the Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Arabic, Polish, and Farsi Wikipedias. At #16 is rapper XXXTentacion, who had three different singles chart in the 2018 Hot 100 lists before his death at the age of 20. Finally, #26 is reserved for beloved chef and television presenter Anthony Bourdain, who died in June. His Wikipedia article describes him as one of the most influential chefs in the world, and his traveling television shows are credited with creating unique windows into history, people, and cultures.[1]

Celebrity marriages also seemed to captivate Wikipedia’s readers in 2018. Meghan Markle, who married the British monarchy’s Prince Harry this year, came in at #5. She was followed by Ariana Grande at #25, whose brief engagement to comedian Pete Davidson was the subject of much tabloid attention, and Priyanka Chopra at #30, who married singer Nick Jonas.

The second major topic of 2018 on Wikipedia was film and television. Worthy of special mention is the Marvel superhero film universe, whose blockbuster part one capstone grossed over two billion dollars and was Wikipedia’s third-most-popular article of the year. It was followed by (#7), which credited with “elevat[ing] superhero cinema to thrilling new heights,” and the list of films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (#10). Also of note was , #23 on our list, which was a surprise breakout hit and a seemingly rare success story for original film material. The film, nearly unique for using almost no dialogue, made over $340 million.

Finally, from the world of football, Wikipedia’s article about the 2018 World Cup was subjected to over 34 million pageviews in 2018-enough to make it the second-most viewed Wikipedia article of 2018. Two of the sport’s superstars, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, also placed highly.

Here’s the top thirty most-popular English Wikipedia articles of 2018.[2]Our grateful thanks go to researcher Andrew West for collating the data.

  1. Deaths in 2018, 38,610,433 page views[3]
  2. 2018 FIFA World Cup, 34,306,615
  3. , 32,818,606
  4. Exo (band), 27,344,440[4]
  5. Meghan Markle/ Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, 25,943,520[5]
  6. Freddie Mercury, 22,052,837
  7. (film), 21,229,590
  8. Elizabeth II, 19,889,009
  9. Stephen Hawking, 18,849,484
  10. List of Marvel Cinematic Universe films, 18,356,670
  11. Cristiano Ronaldo, 18,012,179
  12. Cardi B, 17,841,201
  13. Elon Musk, 17,512,694
  14. Donald Trump, 17,494,734
  15. BTS (band), 15,689,780[4]
  16. XXXTentacion, 15,157,204
  17. United States, 14,923,252
  18. List of Bollywood films of 2018, 14,651,427
  19. List of highest-grossing films, 12,630,796
  20. LeBron James, 12,464,017
  21. Jason Momoa, 12,098,906
  22. 6ix9ine, 12,027,717
  23. (film), 11,914,129
  24. George H. W. Bush, 11,904,465
  25. Ariana Grande, 11,784,406
  26. Anthony Bourdain, 11,772,481
  27. Lionel Messi, 11,752,001
  28. , 11,720,404
  29. 2018 in film, 11,623,526
  30. Priyanka Chopra, 11,491,748

Footnotes

  1. Other celebrities who died in 2018 and nearly made this list include Avicii (#33), Stan Lee (#35), and John McCain (#37).
  2. As with every year we’ve done this list, the top articles are screened using the percentage of mobile views. However, we upped the percentages last year to remove articles with less than 10% or more than 90% mobile views, as it almost always indicates that a significant amount of the pageviews stemmed from spam, botnets, or other errors. You can see the full list over on Wikipedia. (Our apologies go out to Darth Vader, stand-up comedians everywhere, and the concept of tunnels.)
  3. As time marches on, volunteer Wikipedia editors divide the list into months to make reading it more manageable. That’s why if you click the current link to that page, you’ll be redirected to a “list of lists of deaths.” (This year’s list has already been started at deaths in 2019.)
  4. Fans of EXO and BTS have organized to visit these articles several times per day to artificially up the pageviews of these two articles.
  5. The article about Meghan Markle was moved to “Meghan, Duchess of Sussex” after she married Prince Harry.


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