The 50 Best Photos from 2019 Will Make You Emotional
From the victory of the U.S. women's soccer team to the rebuilding of Notre Dame, these photos will bring tears to your eyes.
As 2020 approaches, we find ourselves examining the kind of year 2019 shaped up to be. And in that process, it's important to not only look back on how we can do better in the year ahead, but also to cherish the amazing moments that brought us together in the last 365 days. Even the most difficult years bring plenty of inspiring moments to reflect upon and celebrate—and 2019 was no different. To create a yearbook of sorts, we collected the 50 best photos of 2019 that represent the moments we'll never forget, nor do we want to. Take a look at the images that will make you smile, laugh, and cry happy tears for years to come.
The U.S. women's soccer team celebrates their World Cup win
This image of the U.S. women's soccer team celebrating their 2019 World Cup victory in July is oozing with emotion, particularly co-captain Megan Rapinoe's expression of unadulterated joy in the center. Rapinoe was one of the breakout stars of 2019, especially thanks to her speech after the team's victory parade in New York City. "This is my charge to everyone: We have to be better. We have to love more, hate less. We gotta listen more, and talk less," she said. "It's our responsibility to make this world a better place."
Astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch prepare for the first all-female spacewalk
Here are NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch (right) inside the Quest airlock preparing their spacesuits in October, just days before making history by completing the first all-women spacewalk. "This is really just us doing our jobs," Meir told The New York Times, paying homage to the female explorers, scientists, engineers, and astronauts who came before her.
A 12-year-old boy sees color for the first time
Twelve-year-old Jonathan Jones of Cottonwood, Minnesota, is severely colorblind. According to a video posted by his brother, Ben Jones, in November, Jonathan was recently learning about color blindness in class when his principal—Scott Hanson, who is also colorblind—let him borrow a special pair of color blind glasses that enable the wearer to see the full spectrum of colors in the world. When Jonathan put the glasses on, he was first stunned and then moved to tears.
And this story only gets better: After Jonathan's mom, Carole Walter Jones, set up a GoFundMe page to raise $350 to get her son his own pair of the amazing specs, they were so overwhelmed by donations that they decided to use "100 percent of donated funds to purchase color blind glasses for those who can't afford them." As of Dec. 1, they raised more than $31,500, enough money to purchase the glasses for 125 people.
A horse rescues its fellow horses from the California wildfires
Each year, California braces itself for a new round of wildfires, and 2019 was no different. When the Easy Fire broke out in Simi Valley outside of Los Angeles in October, a local CBS video crew captured the heroic efforts of a dark horse running off the highway and charging right into a road filled with smoke. Further footage shows the horse reuniting with a brown horse and a pony and leading them back to safety. It's proof that "horses live by the code 'stronger together,'" as Betsy Connolly, a local equine veterinarian, tweeted at the time.
Notre Dame starts to come back together
Following the tragic fire at the historic Notre Dame cathedral in April, the world banded together and donations for restoration poured in. Work was well underway in November, as seen here, despite disagreements about how the new Notre Dame should look.
Michael Mayor reacts to becoming a Nobel Prize winner
Michael Mayor, 77, was on a lecture tour in Spain when he learned that he'd won a Nobel Prize in Physics for "the discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star." In this image, shared by the official Nobel Prize's Instagram account, we see Mayor with a look of pure awe and amazement on his face as the news sinks in, and his sweet reaction quickly went viral.
The Knife Angel statue takes a stand against violence
The Knife Angel sculpture, photographed here in March on display at the medieval Coventry Cathedral in England, is made up of knives confiscated by the United Kingdom police force. Artist Alfie Bradley created the 27-foot sculpture from 100,000 blades handed into police across the country. He told the BBC it was a "monument against violence and aggression" and "a memorial to those whose lives have been affected by knife crime."
Simone Biles makes gymnastics history
Elite gymnast Simone Biles, seen here in October at the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, broke the world medals record to become the most decorated American gymnast in history and the World Championships' most decorated gymnast of all time. She took home five golds in the 2019 competition alone, bringing her grand total to 25! But perhaps the most heartwarming? Watching the tears roll down her mom, Nellie Biles', cheeks.
Alex Trebek takes home a bittersweet Daytime Emmy
Alex Trebek, who has been very forthright with fans and viewers about his battle with pancreatic cancer, celebrated his Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Game Show Host at the 46th Annual Daytime Emmys in May. It was a bittersweet moment for Trebek and for those who've watched him on Jeopardy! for 35 years.
"I have worried about this moment," Trebek admitted in his acceptance speech after a standing ovation. "I was concerned that sympathy might play a big role in the voting this year. I'm not a big fan of sympathy votes. I believe that we should all be judges on the merits of our work." He added: "Maybe I've been worrying about the wrong thing and I should just do what Sally Field did in a venue many, many years ago and look at this as a sign that you guys like me and that you value my work. And I'll tell ya, if that's the case, I can live with that."
An emotional reunion between a military dad and his son
Professional photographer Brittany Watson's images of military dad David Chevalier reuniting with his family in September after a long deployment will bring you to tears. Watson captured the sheer joy and emotion of Chevalier seeing his wife, Mary, and his four-year-old son, Gage, again after such a long time away, and meeting his six-month-old son, Caspian, for the very first time.
"You could see the joy on Gage's face and it was the sweetest thing in the world," Watson told Best Life. "Every time I look at the photos, I think the same thing everyone else thinks, 'Daddy's finally home and all is good in the world.'"
A teary father prepares to give his youngest daughter away
There's something so special about fathers and their daughters on their wedding day. In this image by photographer Alyssa Lee, which went viral in September, Ricky Schaeffer gets teary-eyed when seeing his youngest daughter, Corinna, for the first time on her wedding day. "Our father is a former senior chief in the Navy and normally a tough guy," Schaeffer's oldest daughter, Veronica Lutz, told Best Life. "But he is a softy with his daughters."
A nursery full of newborns dressed as Mr. Rogers
Newborns were dressed up like Mr. Rogers, in hand-knit red sweaters at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh in honor of World Kindness Day. "Mr. Rogers was a Pittsburgian," Stephanie Waite, media relations representative for the hospital network, told Best Life. "So we thought it was a good way of celebrating kindness and spreading his message of being a good neighbor." Also in attendance was Rogers' widow, 91-year-old Joanne Rogers. Her reaction to seeing the little cardigan-clad infants is just too sweet for words.
A Disney-themed photo series shines the spotlight on Down Syndrome
Special needs teacher Nicole Louise Perkins, based in Birmingham, U.K., is also a part-time photographer who is trying to show the world that children with Down Syndrome are a blessing. She created a photo series called "Down With Disney," featuring babies and children with Down Syndrome dressed as characters from Disney movies. And they've been melting the hearts of everyone who views them! "I'm around children with Down Syndrome a lot of the time and, honestly, they make my life so much better," Perkins told Best Life.
The most prestigious math honor finally goes to a woman
Karen Uhlenbeck received the 2019 Abel Prize from King Harald V of Norway in May, becoming the first woman to ever win what's known as the Nobel Prize of mathematics. "It's really hard to describe to people who are not somewhere near me in age what it was like for women then," Uhlenbeck told The New Yorker of her early days in the mathematics field. "The women who had jobs during World War II were fired. Men came home from the war, and women sat home. And it was only because of the women's movement and books like Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique that the consciousness came up that women could actually do other things. I figured if I'd been five years older, I could not have become a mathematician, because the disapproval would be so strong."
A beautiful commemoration of the fall of the Berlin Wall
The art installation Visions in Motion, by Los Angeles artist Patrick Shearn, was created in Berlin using 120,000 streamers with messages of love and peace in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. "I feel it is a time to be bold, gather together with a unified voice, and throw our shared colors and our dreams skyward for the world to see," Shearn said in a statement.
Soldiers pay homage during a D-Day anniversary service
Here, British soldiers gather at a ceremony in Normandy, France, during the 75th anniversary of D-Day in June 2019. Some soldiers who were there on D-Day returned to Normandy for the first time in decades. "We know we don't have much time left, so I tell my story so people know it was because of that generation, because of those guys in this cemetery…" 99-year-old veteran Steve Melnikoff of Maryland, told The Oregonian. "These guys in the cemetery, they are the heroes."
A magical butterfly tribute from a groom to his late sister
For his wedding, Max Van Gorder asked his parents to release butterflies during the ceremony in honor of his sister, Vanessa, who died just a few years prior in a car accident. To the amazement of everyone in attendance, the butterflies clung to the dress of the bride, Lydia, the groom's mother, and even landed landed on the finger of the groom's father and lingered there, resulting in this incredible photo that went viral in the summer of 2019. Photographer Jessica Manns said it was "probably the most emotional thing I've witnessed at a wedding."
One man's best friend becomes his best man, too
This photo of Mark Doublet and his best man, Marley, by photographer Julie Newman went viral this year when it found its way to the Home Is Where My Dog Is Facebook page. People were touched by the obvious love Marley has for Doublet as well as by how seriously he seemed to be taking his best man duties. "He has gotten me through a lot of tough times," Doublet told Best Life. And with the birth of Doublet's son, Marley's now taking on a new role: big brother.
A man dines with his late wife's memorial at his granddaughter's wedding
When Sahrah and Zachery Elswick were married at an intimate ceremony in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, on July 6, they set up a memorial chair for Sahrah's late grandmother, Barbara Gray, who had passed away in May 2017 from colon cancer. Warming the hearts of all in attendance, Sahrah's grandfather, Billy Gray, sat to eat with the memorial to his late wife of 45 years. A guest snapped this photo of the heartfelt moment, which quickly went viral. "I had to have a guest at my wedding get a picture because I completely broke down when I saw what he was doing," Sahrah told Best Life. "It was the most pure thing I have ever seen and it completely broke my heart."
A 13-year-old with a heart defect gets the dog of his dreams
Austin Lewis is a 13-year-old from DeSoto, Texas, who was born with a rare heart defect. He dreams of becoming a chef and loves to watch cooking shows on YouTube. After seeing a corgi named Gatsby on a web series called Life After College, Austin desperately wanted a dog just like him. This viral image caught the moment Austin's dream came true and he got his very own Gatsby. "He was so excited that he was in tears," Austin's mom, Jennifer Lewis, told Best Life.
A student helps his classmate with autism get through the first day of school
On Connor Crites' first day of second grade at Minneha Core Knowledge School in Wichita, Kansas, in August, the eight-year-old with autism found the experience to be overwhelming and broke down in tears. Luckily Christian Moore, another eight-year-old, was there to comfort him. When Christian saw Connor crying after being dropped off at school, he took his hand and gently guided him inside. Christian's mother, Courtney, managed to get a snap of the compassionate exchange, which went viral after she posted it on Facebook.
A newly married man shaves his wife's head in the midst of her breast cancer battle
When newlyweds Charlie and Kelsey Johnson learned of Charlie's breast cancer diagnosis, they decided to do a photoshoot of Kelsey shaving Charlie's head. The series of images were captured by photographer Mandy Parks and soon, they went viral. "It's an ugly part of a terrible disease. We wanted to shed a more positive light on it and make it beautiful," Parks explained to Best Life. "There are so many husbands out there that have to watch the people they love go through this and it's a helpless feeling. There's nothing they can do, beyond loving and caring for them."
Robert F. Smith announces he's paying the debt of Morehouse College's class of 2019
Billionaire Robert F. Smith shocked students, faculty, and families alike when he announced during his 2019 Morehouse College commencement speech that he would be forgiving the debt of the entire 2019 class. "On behalf of the eight generations of my family who have been in this country, we're going to put a little fuel in your bus," Smith said. "My family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans. … Now I know my class will make sure they pay this forward, and I want my class to look at these alumnus. … Let's make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward."
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry introduce royal baby Archie to the world
In this photo, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex—Meghan Markle and Prince Harry—hold their son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, who was born on May 6th. After much speculation about the secrecy surrounding the birth of their first baby, the newest member of the royal family was introduced to the world on May 8th.
A teacher's touching letter to the tooth fairy
When seven-year-old Lily Sciulli lost her tooth at school in June, she was excited for a visit from the tooth fairy that evening. But after discovering that she'd thrown the tooth away at lunch accidentally, she was heartbroken. Her teacher, Laura Roth, found her in tears, so she wrote a letter to the tooth fairy vouching for Lily so that she could still claim her reward. And luckily, it worked! Lily got $2 and a sweet note back from the tooth fairy, which quickly gained national attention.
The underdog Washington Nationals win the World Series
A crowd of exuberant and joyful fans stood on the steps of the National Archives Building during the Washington Nationals' World Series victory parade in Washington, D.C., in November. It was the team's first appearance in the World Series—and of course, their first win—since they were founded in 2005. The Nationals' 2019 journey was a true underdog story: In May, they were 19-31 and had a 0.1 percent chance of winning the World Series, according to the MLB. They had the fourth worst record in professional baseball. Then, on Halloween 2019, they achieved the near impossible, winning the World Series and giving us all something to believe in.
The California wildflower super bloom leaves everyone in awe
Tourists and Californias alike were in awe of the wildflower super bloom that had everyone venturing out to photograph and be photographed with the colorful flowers in early 2019. Here, folks walk along the trail of Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, California, in March.
Tiger Woods masters the Masters
Tiger Woods' exuberance at winning the Masters Tournament on Apr. 7, 2019 graced the cover of Sports Illustrated that month. Woods became the first golfer to win the newly increased $2 million prize, proving just how far he's come in 20 years.
Serena Williams and Bianca Andreescu embody good sportsmanship
After an injury took Serena Williams out of the women's singles final at the 2019 Rogers Cup in Toronto in August, she broke down in tears. Her competitor, Bianca Andreescu of Canada, was there to console her, a true display of good sportsmanship. Then, in September, Andreescu beat Williams again at the U.S. Open. "I know you guys wanted Serena to win, so I'm sorry," Andreescu told reporters after the match. "Obviously it was expected for Serena to fight back, she's done that so many times in the past and that's why she's a true champion on and off the court." We wish all competitors were this kind to one another!
The moon landing's 50th anniversary takes over the National Mall
A full-sized, 363-foot Saturn V rocket was projected on to the east face of the Washington Monument in July, 50 years to the day after astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin launched on Apollo 11, the first mission to successfully land astronauts on the moon. "An estimated half a million people over two steaming hot nights came to the National Mall to watch the tale unfold on the obelisk-shaped national monument, far exceeding the predicted 150,000," DCist reported.
And pieced-together panoramas allow the world to see the moon in a new light
Also in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landings, NASA imagery specialist Warren Harold built panoramic views of the rockets on the moon by combining multiple images. NASA released the stunning images in June—this one was taken on the lunar surface from just inside the rim of Surveyor Crater on the first moonwalk of the Apollo 12 mission.
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's intimate Oscars performance
After bringing theater-goers to tears with their remake of A Star Is Born, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper gave fans something else to cry about when they performed an intimate version of the film's hit song "Shallow" at the Oscars in February. Though it sparked tabloid headlines that the two were dating, Gaga cleared up those rumors in November in an interview for Elle with Oprah Winfrey. "We made a love story. For me, as a performer and as an actress, of course we wanted people to believe that we were in love," she said. "And we wanted people to feel that love at the Oscars. We wanted it to go right through the lens of that camera and to every television that it was being watched on." Mission accomplished.
A military widow does a pregnancy photo shoot with relics of her late husband
The day before his deployment to Afghanistan, Sgt. James Johnston found out he and wife, Krista Johnston, were expecting. Heartbreakingly, he was killed in action three months later on June 25, 2019. In the wake of his death, Krista did a pregnancy photo shoot to honor the father her child will never get to meet and the images, shot by professional photographer Alicia Miller, will send chills down your spine. "He was really looking forward to becoming a father," Krista told Best Life. "I'm not all that into taking photos … But I knew I'd regret it if I didn't do it, so I put my brave face on."
The eight-way National Spelling Bee tie
Eight victorious spellers celebrated becoming 2019 National Spelling Bee co-champions after an unprecedented final on May 30th in Oxon Hill, Maryland. The 20-round final lasted more than five hours when the official pronouncer for the Bee announced the tie. Rishik Gandhasri (13), Erin Howard (14), Abhijay Kodali (12), Shruthika Padhy (13), Rohan Raja (13), Christopher Serrao (12), Sohum Sukhatankar (13), and Saketh Sundar (13), all walked away with the 2019 title. According to The Guardian, each was awarded the full cash prize of $50,000. "Spellers improve," Sukhatankar told the paper. "It's natural and the rate at which people are improving is amazing." Another good sport of 2019!
The first photo of a black hole
Residents of Earth were offered a historic first look at a black hole and its shadow when an international network of radio telescopes called the Event Horizon Telescope unveiled the image in April 2019, two years after it was taken. That's how long it took for the photo to be assembled by more than 200 scientists. "It's truly remarkable, it's almost humbling in a certain way," project director Shep Doeleman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Institute for Astrophysics said at a press conference, according to National Geographic. "Nature has conspired to let us see something we thought was invisible."
The plastic ban protests start to make a difference around the globe
The Extinction Rebellion protests, advocating for the banning of plastic in London, has been going on for months—and here's one demonstration of pink paper boats that read, "We're all in the same boat" in Oxford Circus.
"We couldn't deal with the reality that humanity was racing towards the precipice of extinction … This is our chance to really act differently," Robin Boardman, who helped start Extinction Rebellion, said during a press conference in London in October, according to BuzzFeed News. "I am prepared to go out on the streets and do everything I can to create that change." In March, signs started to point to some serious developments: The European Parliament approved a new law banning single-use plastic items.
Snow White helps a young boy with autism at Disney World
When Brody, a six-year-old with autism, began to have a meltdown at Disney World while taking photos with Snow White, the Disney character, who could tell Brody had special needs, knew just what to do. In photos that have since gone megaviral, she comforted the child and took him for a walk away from the crowd to soothe him. "It was nice to see good people in the world going out of their way to do the kind thing," Brody's mother, Lauren Bergner, told Best Life. "There is magic in the world."
Europe celebrates the 90th anniversary of the birth of Anne Frank
Seen here in a mural in Frankfurt in July, 2019 marked the 90th anniversary of Anne Frank's birth in June 1929. Two of Frank's classmates at Amsterdam's Jewish Lyceum, Albert Gomes de Mesquita (89) and Jacqueline van Maarsen (90), came to her former home in Amsterdam for the occasion and shared their experiences with students visiting the museum. "I've slept in 12 different places during hiding and my lesson is: Good people can be found everywhere," Gomes de Mesquita told the kids, according to the Associated Press.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan go for a walk before his abdication
Just a few months before his abdication from the Chrysanthemum Throne after 30 years, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko took a walk in January 2019. His abdication in April, due to his age and declining health, was the first of its kind for a Japanese emperor since 1817. In his final speech as emperor, Akihito said he "wished Japan and the world peace and happiness," according to the BBC.
The Women's March has its third go-round
This year, for the third year in a row, women continued their push forward for more and equal rights during the Women's March, which took place across multiple cities across the world in January. Here, one New York marcher holds up a sign that reads, "Women's rights are civil rights."
And other women celebrate the 150th anniversary of their right to vote
While there is still much to fight for when it comes to women's rights, there was also something to celebrate: the 150th anniversary of women's right to vote. Here, in July, women in Cheyenne, Wyoming—the Wyoming Territory was the first to allow women to vote—march in suffragette garb in honor of the historic moment.
A sculptor creates the first statues of women to be featured in Central Park
Sculptor Meredith Bergmann spent 2019 working on the Monumental Women statues she's creating for installation in New York City's Central Park. These sculptures of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Sojourner Truth will be the first to feature women in the park. "None of the women depicted on the monument lived to see the ratification of the 19th Amendment, let alone the Voting Rights Act of 1965, whose work is still incomplete," Bergmann wrote in a statement. "But as we struggle towards greater justice, we need and deserve a monument commemorating some of the important work that has come before us." The unveiling of Bergmann's work is set for August 2020.
The Spacex starship prepares for Mars
The Spacex Starship MK1, which debuted in September, entered its first test phase in November. The shiny spaceship is the company's deep-space transportation vehicle which aims to someday reach Mars. According to The New York Observer, SpaceX is in the process of building the Starship MK2, and is about to start working on MK3, which is designed to fly to Earth's orbit.
Woodstock turns 50
On the last day of the Woodstock 50th anniversary celebrations near Bethel, New York, in August, one man took it all in. With a sunflower in his hat and a tattoo of the word "love" across his back, he was likely imagining what the three-day festival on a dairy farm celebrating peace and music was like 1969.
Adam Sandler pays tribute to Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live
In an episode of Saturday Night Live in May, Adam Sandler performed a tribute song for his friend and former fellow cast mate Chris Farley, who died 22 years ago. "Hey buddy, life's moved on but you still bring us so much joy / Make my kids laugh with your YouTube clips or Tommy Boy," he sang. "And when they ask me who's the funniest guy I ever knew /
I tell 'em hands down without a doubt it's you."
The 75th anniversary of the liberation of Paris
Parisians and visitors celebrated the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Paris, France, from Nazi occupation on Aug. 25. It had been three-quarters of a century since Charles de Gaulle led a joyous march of freedom down the Champs-Élysées and in 2019, cars and army trucks from World War II did the same. "Paris outraged! Paris broken! Paris martyred!" De Gaulle famously declared. "But Paris liberated! Liberated by itself. Liberated by its people."
Greta Thunberg's solo strike in Sweden
Seen here in Stockholm, Sweden, on a school strike in April 2019, 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg has ignited a worldwide movement in people of all ages, sounding the alarm on climate change and pushing for substantive action. Just a few months after this photo was taken, Thunberg delivered an impassioned speech at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit in September that took the world by storm. "You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words," she said. "For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you're doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight."
Chef José Andrés helps victims of Hurricane Dorian
Chef José Andrés, founder of World Central Kitchen, which provides disaster relief in the form of hot meals, gave food to victims of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas in September. "I am so proud and inspired by our World Central Kitchen team and incredible local volunteers working tirelessly to prepare and deliver 1000s of sandwiches and hot meals," he tweeted. "We have much more to do…but we will keep going!"
Tom Hanks slips on the impossible-to-fill shoes (and cardigan) of Mr. Rogers
Tom Hanks tugged on our heartstrings as the good-natured children's television personality Fred Rogers in the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. The trailer alone, which debuted in July, brought tears to the eyes of the generations who grew up watching the late TV host. And when the movie was released in November, emotions ran high, especially during a scene in which a group of New York commuters sing the show's theme song to Rogers. "We humans are a sorry lot, prone to all kinds of self-deception, which often only leads us to lie to others. But we still know how to sing, even in a place that some days seems god-awful, the New York City subway," wrote Time critic Stephanie Zacharek. "There's hope for us yet, and it lies in making the most of this beautiful day."
Baby Yoda takes over the internet
This past year was a big one for new streaming services entering the market, including Disney+ and Apple+. More streaming services means even more original content to choose from for viewers, including the Disney+ show The Mandalorians, which has delighted fans with their baby Yoda-like character who has taken over the internet. Who could resist those big, wise eyes?