An impersonator of Star Wars character 'Darth Vader' stands on the roof of a van during an election campaign event for the Ukrainian Internet Party. Party members have legally changed their names to resemble 'Star Wars' characters. Kiev, Oct. 21, 2014.
An impersonator of Star Wars character 'Darth Vader' stands on the roof of a van during an election campaign event for the Ukrainian Internet Party. Party members have legally changed their names to resemble 'Star Wars' characters. Kiev, Oct. 21, 2014.SERGEY DOLZHENKO—EPA
An impersonator of Star Wars character 'Darth Vader' stands on the roof of a van during an election campaign event for the Ukrainian Internet Party. Party members have legally changed their names to resemble 'Star Wars' characters. Kiev, Oct. 21, 2014.
A giant statue of actress Marilyn Monroe is seen at the landfill site of a garbage collecting company in Guigang, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China, June 18, 2014.
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A giant fork designed by Jean-Pierre Zaugg is set up on Lake Geneva, Switzerland, Oct. 17, 2014.
The mother of Abdolah Hosseinzadeh, who was murdered in 2007, slaps the man who killed her son during his execution ceremony just before she removed the noose around his neck with the help of her husband, sparing the life of her son's convicted murderer, Nowshahr, Iran, April 15, 2014.
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish girl wearing a costume, sits in a cage, during the Purim festival in Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, Israel, March 16, 2014.
Competitors fight during a traditional wrestling tournament in the village of Draginovo, south-east of Sofia. Bulgaria, May 04, 2014
A golfer plays as African migrants sit atop a border fence during an attempt to cross into the Spanish north African enclave of Melilla, Oct. 22, 2014.
A Ka'apor warrior chases a logger who tried to escape after he was captured during a jungle expedition to search for and expel loggers from the Alto Turiacu Indian territory, northeast of Maranhao state, Amazon basin, August 7, 2014.
Divaldo Aguiar, who is playing the part of character Pachencho, lies inside a mock coffin as villagers splash rum into his mouth during the annual "Burial of Pachencho" celebration at a cemetery in Santiago de Las Vegas, Cuba, Feb. 5, 2014.
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People throw turnips at the Jarramplas as he makes his way through the streets during the Jarramplas Festival in Piornal, Spain, Jan. 20, 2014.
A cutout of a policewoman is seen on the highway that connects the Peruvian towns of Aucayacu and Tocache. The cutout is meant to remind potential criminals that police are in the area, Peru, Sept. 26, 2014.
Revelers of the Nene de Vila Matilde samba school perform during the second night of carnival parade at the Sambadrome, Sao Paulo, March 01, 2014.
Djalma Antonio Jardim who has a rare inherited skin disease known as xeroderma pigmentosum looks in a mirror at his home in the Araras community of Brazil's Goias state, March 3, 2014.
Flyers are dropped over Gaza City by the Israeli army urging residents to evacuate their homes, July 30, 2014.
Pope Francis with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres during a joint peace prayer at the Vatican Gardens, Vatican City, June 8, 2014.
The U.S. side of Niagara Falls, partially frozen from exposure to frigid air from a polar vortex, is pictured from Ont., Canada, Jan. 8, 2014.
Russian President, and his Serbian counterpart, Tomislav Nikolic, attend a military parade in Belgrade on Oct. 16 to mark the 70th anniversary of the city’s liberation from Nazi occupation
A sculpture of a giant hippopotamus built by artist Florentjin Hofman is towed up the Thames past the Houses of Parliament in central London, Sept. 2, 2014.
A harpist plays at a public maternity hospital in Caracas, Oct. 1, 2014.
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A painting is seen on the island of Yeonpyeong, which lies on the South Korean side of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), in the Yellow Sea, April 9, 2014.
A paper frog is surrounded by paper pandas at an exhibition called "Pandas on Tour" at the National Theater, Taipei, Feb. 24, 2014.
A huge tire blocks the door where Michel Dheilly and Bernard Glesser are being held. French workers held company bosses hostage at a Goodyear Factory in Amiens, France, Jan. 6, 2014.
The body of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that fell through the roof of a home near the crash site in Rasipnoye, Ukraine, July 18, 2014.
An employee of the Russian Space Training Center hangs space suits out to dry, July 2, 2014.
Two bolts of lightning hit the antenna on top of One World Trade Center, New York, May 23, 2014.
A man dressed in protective hazmat clothing treats the sidewalk in front of an apartment where a second person diagnosed with the Ebola virus lives, Dallas, Oct. 12, 2014.
A devotee is seen with swords inserted into his cheeks as he takes part in a street procession during an annual vegetarian festival, Phuket, Thailand, Sept. 29, 2014.
A man wearing a horse mask reaches out to shake hands with U.S. President Barack Obama during a walkabout in Denver July 8, 2014.
Members of the Morphix Group inspect the eyelashes of a Baby Jesus statue to be displayed during the annual Candlemas celebrations at the Sanctuary of the Lord of the Holy Sepulchre, Mexico City, Feb. 1, 2014.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government employees are seen lighting a large underground regulating reservoir in Tokyo, July, 28, 2014.
A masked person smokes marijuana during the World Day for the Legalization of Marijuana in Medellin,, Colombia, May 3, 2014.
Woman argues with members from the Ukrainian Interior Ministry security forces during a rally outside a trade union building in Odessa
Former astronaut Mamoru Mori, now director of the National Museum of Emerging Science a musuem staff appointment letter to a robot named Otonaroid, Tokyo, June 24, 2014.
A couple sunbathe near a rhinoceros sculpture by Australian artist Mikaela Castledine on Sydney's Tamarama Beach, Oct. 23, 2014.
An Israeli woman wears a unicorn mask during the first Midburn festival, modeled after the popular Burning Man festival, near the Israeli kibbutz of Sde Boker, June 6, 2014.
Coaches from the U.S. and Canada wear chimpanzee masks from their perch in a tree to watch the downhill portion of the men's supercombined at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 14, 2014, Krasnaya, Polyana, Russia
Locals take part in a performance which involves being buried up to their waists as part of the commemoration of the National Week of Remembrance, Medellin, Colombia, Oct. 16, 2014.
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An entertainer performing as the character "Mumtaz Begum", a fox-human hybrid creature, sits inside a wooden canopy in a small room called Mumtaz Mahal, to amuse visitors at Karachi Zoo
Marta Llorente, 28, a contestant, poses backstage before taking part in a body paint pageant during Expobelleza Andalucia (Expobeauty Andalusia) in the Andalusian capital of Seville
A cut-out prison guard silhouette with flashlight, part of a current exhibition at Eastern State Penitentiary, stands in the grounds in Philadelphia
kim jong un, North Korean leader, looks out from the submarine of a Korean People’s Army naval unit during an inspection on an unspecified day at an unknown location
A fallstreak hole forms in the sky over Wonthaggi, Australia, Nov. 3, 2014.
Obama acts out the line "gnashed their terrible teeth" from the children's book "Where the Wild Things Are" during the 136th annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington
Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) soldiers and firefighters conduct rescue operations at mountain lodges, covered with volcanic ash as volcanic smoke rises near the peak of Mt. Ontake, Nagano and Gifu prefectures Sept. 28, 2014,
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Syrian children perform in an adaptation of Shakespeare's "King Lear" at the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Mafraq, Jordan.
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A Chinese shopper sleeps with her child on a bed in the showroom of an IKEA store in Beijing, July 6, 2014.
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Gao Bingguo is covered with bees during an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for being covered by the largest number of bees, in Taian
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An impersonator of Star Wars character 'Darth Vader' stands on the roof of a van during an election campaign event for t

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The Most Surprising Photos of 2014

Dec 15, 2014

While the culture of social media did its best to ensure that 2014 had its fair share of entertaining, captivating and, above all, shareable photo moments, ultimately the past 12 months included as many genuinely shocking as surprising pictures. The year left us in varying states of outrage, bewilderment, bemusement and astonishment.

But there were some wonderfully unexpected and unusual images—from Darth Vader on the campaign trail in Ukraine and the Pope with a lamb around his neck, to pole dancing robots and a giant hippo in London's Thames river—that delighted, enthralled and distracted us. Here, TIME looks back over the past 12 months and presents a selection of underreported, improbable and astounding images that caught the attention of TIME’s photo editors—and which, we trust, maintain their ability to utterly, thoroughly surprise.

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Read next: TIME Picks the Top 10 Photos of 2014

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