Twelve years after its founding, YouTube is still one of the most trafficked and widely used websites on the entire Internet—second only to Google, the company that owns it. It boasts more than 30 million unique visitors every day, and every minute, 300 hours of content gets posted to over 50 million individual channels. By even the smallest stretch of the imagination, those metrics are unbelievable.
With so much being uploaded, you can find channels devoted to absolutely anything. Want to learn to fight? There’s enough up there to get you halfway to Jason Bourne. Like documentaries? There are hours worth of programming, all for free. These channels and plenty more are captivating, creative, engrossing, and even thrilling—a lot of them for reasons we can’t quite put our fingers on.
Drug culture is one we mostly experience at arm’s length. We’re not heavy into the scene, but for whatever reason, other people’s drug stories can make captivating programming. The people behind DrugsLab know this and turned the whole idea into a channel. It sounds a bit juvenile, but the series is done very well, almost from a researcher’s perspective. The three hosts, Rens Polman, Nellie Benner, and Bastiaan Rosman dabble in everything from lean, to MDMA, to cannabis oil, and a bunch of weird and obscure stuff we’ve never heard of. Their appraisals are open and honest, and aside from being fun and personable to watch, the channel is great because it’s apparent that they do take the educational aspect of their drug use seriously. They’re making an honest attempt to document the mind-altering effects of different drugs, and they’re having an enviable time doing it.
The Slow Mo Guys
Have you ever wondered what a guy leaping head first onto a trampoline of 1,000 mousetraps looks like when filmed through the lens of a $150,000 high speed camera and slowed down to a near stand-still and in 4K resolution? Because that’s exactly what this channel is all about. The Slow Mo Guys, Dan Gruchy and Gavin Free, seriously love watching high-energy things happen in a very low-energy format. Think explosions, demolition, guns, fire, and everything that happens quicker than you can blink, all filmed in breathtaking detail and slowed down to infinitely small fractions of a second. Their latest video, uploaded a few days ago, shows what happens when two paintballs are shot at one another head on and collide mid-air. The results are spectacular. Watch
Hydraulic Press Channel
This is literally nothing more than a channel dedicated to squishing things with a giant mechanical hydraulic press—and it totally fucking rules. Have you ever wondered what happens to a bowling ball when it’s placed under thousands of pounds of direct pressure? What about a phone book? Or a block of solid aluminum? How about a fucking typewriter? We never have either, but you bet your ass that we watch it religiously, along with the channel’s 1.7 million other subscribers, all of whom are still trying to figure out why they smile during every single video.
Binging With Babish
Binging With Babish’s host, Oliver Babish, is a completely self-trained cook who takes the famous (and not-so-famous) foods from our favorite TV shows and films, and turns them into tantalizing real-life plates—complete with recipes. He’s featured things like Pauly’s Prison Pasta Sauce from Goodfellas, the Big Kahuna Burger from Pulp Fiction, Freddy’s Ribs from House of Cards, and a ton of other mouth-watering meals we’ve always wondered about, but never knew could actually be done in real life. The best part about the channel is that Babish puts a ton of love and research into imitating these recipes as best he can, but also isn’t afraid to make some tasteful (and noted) adjustments where he sees fit. Not only are the plates visually stunning, but most of the recipes are completely doable.
Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell
Explanation after explanation after explanation for some of the world’s most confusing topics, all summed up in a way that even dummies like us can understand, accompanied by simple—but beautiful—animations. That’s what you’ll find in the unpronounceable Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell channel. The series tackles questions like, “Are GMOs Good or Bad?” and “Do Robots Deserve Rights?” The topics are seemingly random (“What Happens If We Throw an Elephant From a Skyscraper?” “Why Earth Is A Prison and How To Escape It” “The Most Efficient Way to Destroy the Universe), with a clearly nihilistic leaning. A lot of it is very “wtf,” but we’ve literally spent hours binge-watching this channel, and we still can’t quite figure out what makes it so perfect.
AOL Instant Messenger screen name, or moderately well known YouTube channel? We’re still trying to figure that out, but it doesn’t make Steve1989MREInfo’s channel any less appealing to us. “MRE” is short for “Meal, Ready-to-Eat” a military term for self-contained field rations consumed by soldiers starting in the Vietnam War, and continuing on to today. Steve1989MREInfo tracks down MREs from all over the world, presenting, explaining, and even taste-testing them live on his channel.
But just because the term MRE wasn’t invented until the Vietnam War doesn’t mean he’s limiting himself to old food from the 1960s and ‘70s. He’s reviewed stuff as old as Civil War-era Hardtack crackers (yes, this dude seriously tries to consume a 150-year-old cracker), WWII-era British Special Ration canned meat, along with more modern—and safer—2016 Indonesian C1 Portable Ration Pack MREs and beyond. Aside from appealing to our inner history nerd, this channel is also a lot like daring that one kid in the lunchroom to eat the three-month-old bologna sandwich you found at the bottom of your backpack. And he does it, every time.
You Suck at Cooking
This channel is another complete mind fuck for us, but we really can’t turn away. It’s kind of sort of a cooking channel—the term applies extremely loosely here—but it’s complemented extremely well by the mysterious host’s ridiculous comedic outbursts and completely bat shit creative mind. You’ll actually learn how to cook things like mozzarella sticks, kale chips, potato latkes, caramel apples, and the perfect breakfast burrito, but by the time you’re done listening to how absurdly funny this guy is, you’ll have forgotten the entire purpose of the video. Example? His video on how to make corn on the cob.
The Great War
The Great War is a YouTube channel dedicated to bringing you the history of the First World War in real time, as the events were actually occurring exactly 100 years ago. The channel started in 2014 to coincide with World War I’s 1914 start. It’s incredibly well produced and the information shared is painstakingly researched. We love how the new videos every week describe developments in the war as they happened on a weekly basis, making it far easier to understand the cause and effect of different decisions, as well as giving the war an easily understood human timescale. While the channel only has a little more than a year of videos left until it gets to November, 1918, it’s an easily binged channel, so catch up and get the last year of the war as it unfolds.
An entire YouTube channel dedicated solely to building primitive tools, huts, and shelter from scratch using only natural materials found in the actual wild? Uhh, yes please. This YouTube channel, run by a completely anonymous person (from Queensland, Australia, apparently), is dedicated to primitive survival methods and shows nearly step-by-step processes on how to hunt for food, build shelter, fashion clothing and footwear, make tools like hatchets and baskets, and a bunch of other stuff. The man covers everything from how to start fires and build traps, to how to build complete thatched dome huts and tiled roof structures. Just thinking about it makes us want to smash our computers and go live in the woods somewhere.