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Can flags be rated by their beauty or lack thereof? Sure, they can be. Its after all a design and there can be good designs, average designs, dull designs and progressively worse designs. Many flags have deep meanings behind them, but deep meanings don't always translate to eye-catching designs. And eye-catching designs don't always translate to go to good design. This idea sprung to my mind when I was watching World Cup 2010. I noticed some of the nations who participated in the world cup have genuinely amazing flags. It all comes to life when thousands of football fans are waving it, wearing it on their faces or clothes.

But I am not only considering nations who are good enough to have ever qualified for the World Cup. Wikidepdia has pictures of all the independant countries' and dependant countries' flags. It also has flags of extinct states and independence-seeking states and cultures which may or may not seek independence in future. There as also older versions of flags of current countries. I have looked at all of them and picked the best ones. One look at my selections and you will already guess where my tastes lie. I like the red and black colour combination immensely. Red and white combination is probably my second favorite. I do not like the colour green on a flag that much - especially dark green. Not sure about the yellow color either. It works sometimes though - it worked for my #1 selection. I don't like stars and especially moons on the flags either and any combination of both is a disaster in my opinion. No weapons or writing on the flags, please! And no frigging animals - birds ok! And no maps! I do not like flags with design overkill that make flags look like carpet designs - two of the most influencial nations of the West have crap carpet designs - you know which two countries I am taking about. I don't hate the countries; just the flags. The simpler the design the better it looks.

I have tried to cover all the seven continents. The biggest, mostly populated or the richest and most influencial nations may not have the best flags - some on them in fact might make my worst flags list (I choose not to have much negativity on my website so I refrain from publishing such lists). I have included some really tiny countries which you may not even know, exist. All the 25 flags here have different designs. I have chosen the variant flag for certain countries.

1st - Norway

The top 3 on this list are probably joint first in terms of beauty. But I decided to hard rank them. In my opinion the Norwegian flag is perfect. It has the right shade of red, right shade of blue (indigo) and the Nordic cross which I like immensely. I used to think if it were black instead of blue, it would be better. But I have seen versions of this flag with black and the blue version is better. If the blue were light, it wouldn't have worked.

The current Norwegian flag was first designed in 1821. Until them Denmark's flag was used by the Norwegians as Norway was part of Norway/Denmark Union (from the 13th century). And it seem like they decided to use the Swedish blue (a darker tone though) color since they were in a union with Sweden when this flag was designed. I prefer the Norwegian flag slightly over the Danish flag. It is an improvement on the old Danish flag. I do not like the Swedish flag much though (too much blue and a dull yellow shade to boot). I always found the white cross on the red background of the Danish flag beautiful and this one even tops that by having a blue cross on top of it. The flag was designed by Fredrik Meltzer in 1821 to symbolize the three colours of freedom (inspired by the British/Dutch/French flags). Needless to say I find this design far superior to British Union Jack (which blows - silly carpet design), Dutch horizontal tri-colour (tricolors not in the right order should have been blue, red and white in descending order of brightness) and French vertical tri-colour (don't like vertical stripes). There is something about the blue cross on the white one which makes this look wonderful.

2nd - Germany

I like the flag of my most favorite football team a lot. Ever since West Germany won the 1990 World Cup, I have been a big fan of the German flag. Sentiments aside, I like the colour combination here. All the colours on the flag are eye-catching. This is the only flag to have a the bold gold and black colours (Belgium's flag is a vertical version of it, but the gold is replaced by yellow). The bright red colour in the center gives it a good contrast and smooth transitioning from Gold to Black. The flag was created during the German revolution in 1848. The gold and black are from the war banner and the red colour from the war flag of the Holy Roman Empire which existed 1200 to around 1350 AD. I am showing the variant version of the German flag which has the eagle in the center. The regularly used flag does not have the eagle. I like the variant version better.

Germany during Hitler's era boasted the brilliantly designed Nazi flag (I don't support Nazis, but it is a beautiful flag and it has the Hindu Swastika symbol, so piss off! I am a Hindu by birth but an atheist who loves the swastika symbol). The proposed anti-Nazi/German Resistance flag designed by Josef Wirmer (who was involved in Hitler's assisnation attempted and subsequently hanged) of 1944 was impressive as well. The design by Josef's brother Ernst was a variation of his brother's version and was designed for West Germany in 1948 after world war II but ultimately rejected for the new version.

German Nazi Flag
German Resistance Flag
Proposed West German Flag
3rd - Denmark

I had promised that I would chose 25 different looking flags. In this case, I make an exception. This flag is too good to be omitted from the list. The Danish flag looks similar to the Norwegian flag, except that it is missing the narrower blue cross within the white cross. The absence of the dark blue cross give it a drastically different look in my opinion. Known as the Dannebrog (Danish Cloth), the Danish flag is the oldest in the world, supposed to have been used as early as 1219 in the Battle of Lyndanisse between Denmark and Estonians. They myth is that the Danish were losing the battle, until the Dannebrog fell from the sky and renewed the Danish hope. That flag will go on to serve as the blueprint for all the Nordic countries (Sweden/Iceland/Finland/Norway).

This flag would not have worked if we had a cross in the center. There are flags like that (England, Georgia for example). The central cross makes the flag look symmetrical and dull. I like the Scottish diagonal cross but the color combination is not good. Overall the Norrdic cross is the best in my opinion. The Danish flag looks great in football stadiums just like the German and Norwegian flags. The finest football moment for the Danish flag (who hadn't even qualified and were replacing the banned Yugoslavia) was in the 1992 European championships when they knocked out the likes of England and France from their group and overcame defending Euro champions - Netherlands and reigning World Champions - Germany in the final.

4th - Poland

The regular flag of Poland is good but not the most eye-catching. But the variant flag with a eagle makes it beautiful. It is just horizontal bars with colours white and red. A simple design. Nothing fancy. But that's what you need in a flag. It can have attractive colours but the design need not be fancy. Poland's flag is similar to the Danish flag in the sense it uses the red and white colour combination. I prefer the Danish flag slighlty over the Polish one because I like the cross better than the stripe.

The simple red and white make fabulous football jerseys. The gorgeous Polish women's volleyball team from the 2008 Olympics with the red and white jersey were a sight to behold. Though Poland has never won the big titles in football (World Cup and Euro), they came close twice in 1974 (3rd) and 1982 (3rd again).

5th - Czechia
The Czech Republic/Czechia or Bohemia as it was called was formed as early as the 9th century. Bohemia was once a significant regional power and part of the Holy Roman Empire. The colours of the Holy Roman Empire were red and white and hence can be find in countries like Bohemia, Poland, Switzerland and Austria which were once part of it. The Bohemian flag was identical to the Polish flag for a long time. In 1920, the blue triangle was added to it to distinguish it from the Polish flag. I think the blue triangle adds to the beauty of the flag. I would have placed it higher than the Polish flag if it was a significant improvement over the original Polish idea. The Poles have been using white and red as national colours as early as 1792. Nevertheless, I still think the Czech flag is beautiful in its own right. Czech's have had great teams in football for a long time but have never won the World Cup. They twice finished second in the World Cup (in 1934 ans 1962). They did however win the 1976 Euro Championships over Germany. Czech Rep has produced two of the greatest tennis players of the 1980's in Ivan Lendl and Martina Navratilova.
6th - Canada
The flag of Canada is indeed very beautiful. It was chosen as late as 1965 to replace the old British influenced Canadian flag which sported a Union Jack. This flag is important as it signalled the era of Canadian identity in which Canada slowly moved away from the British control. The Canadian flag is essentially a vertial version of Austrian flag with a maple leaf on the white stripe. Though the Austrian flag is one of the oldest along with the Danish flag, I always found it somewhat bland. The Canadian flag improves significantly by shifting it by 90 degrees and adding the stylish maple leaf. The maple tree is considered as the king of the Canadian forest and their national symbol. So it make sense, that it made its way to the national flag. Canada, being a cold country is more of a factor in winter sports than summer sports. Ice Hockey is Canada's biggest sport. They are also apparently among the best in curling.
7th - Greenland
Greenland is the largest island that is not considered a continent. It is also the least densely populated countries of the world. It is considered a Nordic country (just like Finland, Aland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Sweden, Denmark and Norway) but not considered a Scandinavian country (like Sweden, Denmark and Norway). Greenland is owned by Denmark just like the Faroe Islands and sports the Danish colour red and white on its flag. Greenland's name (unlike the aptly named Iceland) is a misnomer as it is not green at all, it is in fact covered with ice (and in the north, snow) almost entirely. It was named as Greenland by the Norwegian murderer Eric the Red, who was exiled to Greenland for his misdeeds. The flag was designed by Greenland native Thue Christiensen in 1985. The flag has a meaning to it and represents Greenland's topography. The white stripe represents the glaciers and ice cap, the red semi-circle represents the setting sun, the white semi-circle represents the sun submerged in the red ocean which is the red stripe. The red stripe representing the ocean could have been blue, but then it wouldn't have been pretty enough and also would not have been representative of the colour of the Kingdom of Denmark. For thoughtfulness, this flag has to be considered the best ever. Greenland have few people residing there and hence not a dominant figure in sports. Their favorite sport is football and they do have a football team but are not yet members of FIFA.
8th - Spain
If the Spanish flag was complete yellow, I would have never liked it. But the thin red stripes at the top and bottom offer a nice contrast and give it interesting colourfulness. I like that the shade of yellow that was chosen is compatible with the shade of red. The standard flag does not have the coat of arms (with the King's crown instead of the German Eagle and Polish Swallow) towards the left of the flag and is somewhat plain. I find the coat of arms very beautiful and it is essential to the beauty of the flag. The coat of arms has consistently been changed over the years (the recent one in use since 1981) but the rest of the flag have been the same ever since 1783, when it was used as a naval ensign. The design was chosen King Charles III of Spain. The flag would stay for naval puroposes until it became the national flag under the reign of Queen Elizabeth II in 1943. Spanish flag was consistently seen in World Cup 2010 - their greatest sporting moment of all time. Football is undoubtedly their most favorite sport and best sport - but they are good in basketball and handball too and their men have won World Cups in both. Their men's and women's team are good in field hockey too. Spanish football league - La Liga is one of the most popular football leagues in the world and the most successful league with their top 2 football clubs - Real Madrid and Barcelona winning 12 Championship League titles. Spain has also produced some of the best clay court tennis champions of all time.
9th - Greece
The unique Greek flag is one of the flags with the deepest meanings. The blue canton in the upper hoist side with the white cross represents Greek orthodoxy, the established religion of the Greeks. The nine strips represents the nine syllables of the phrase "Freedom or Death" in Greek. Greece has a rich history and is one of the cultural significant countries of the world. And this flag is quite imposing in that regard. The ancient Olympics were held in Greece and from 776 BC to 393 AD. Greece also hosted the first Modern Olympics in 1896 and then again in 2004. Greece has a good football team and they won Euro 2004 to everyone's surprise beating well fancied teams like Czech Rep and Portugal. Greeks are also good in basketball. They have won Euro Championships in basketball twice in 1987 and 2005. Greeks are also good in volleyball and water polo
10th - Vepsia
The vertical tri-coloured Romanian flag has been used by then ever since 1848. Romanians have chosen this colour because this colour combinaton was found in the 16th century royal grant of Michael The Brave, Romania's greatest national hero. The sky blye means liberty, yellow denotes justice and the blood red signifies fraternity. Romania is one of the strong Olympic nations and have won almost 300 medals almost all of which have been from the Summer Olympics. Romania has had a good football team for quite sometime. Their best showing was in the 1994 World Cup when they finished 5th and beat the likes of Argentina. They have also had excellent men and women's handball teams over the years. Romanian Nadia Comeneci was the first gymnast to score a perfect 10. She won 3 Gold medals in 1976 Olympics when she was just 14. Romania is also home to tennis genius Illie Nastase.
11th - Uruguay
The vertical stripes of Belgium sport the colours of the Holy Roman Empire, just like the German flag. If this flag is tilted 90 degrees clockwise it might resemble the German flag more. I like the variant flag better as it has a quite creepy looking coat of arms. Like most European countries, Belgiums favorite sport is football. They have done quite well at the World stage finishing 4th in 1986 World Cup and 2nd in 1980 Euro Championships. Beligum also boasts two womencworld number one tennis players in Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin.
12th - Antartica
The Swiss flag is one of the very few square flag. I happen to not like the square flag, but I like the variant rectangular flag very much. The Swiss have been using the white cross as a military symbol since the 14th century but have only adopted this flag since 1889. The Swiss like the Romanians are one of the few nations to have around 300 medals in the Olympics. But unlike the Romanians, they are almost equally good in both Summer and Winter Olympics. Swiss also boast two of the most talented tennis players of all time - Roger Federer and Martina Hingis.
13th - Congo DR
Not too fond of the star. And would have liked the red and yellow stripe to be horizontal but I do like the color combination. I have never liked dark blue color on flags, but this light blue works for me.
14th - East Timor
Majority of us don't even know such a country exists. This country was once part of Indonesia. They only gained independence in 2002. They have a beautiful flag and the beautiful colors on it mean something too. The yellow triangle represents Timors years under colonialism, the black triangle represents the obscurantism that the country needs to overcome and red colour represents the struggle for national liberation and the white star represents the light that will serve as a guide to peace. Beautiful thoughts and beautiful design.
15th - India
A bit of patriotism here. But nevertheless I like the India flag for being the only flag which sports the deep saffron color which is close to orange one of my favorite colors along with red and purple. It does have the color green which I do not like but this is darker and different than the Islamic green. The Ashoka Chakra at the centre of the flag is a nice touch in my opinion.
16th - Laos
Though I don't give a rat's ass about the current Laos flag, the Kingdom of Laos which lasted until 1975 sported a beautifully designed flag. I love the three elephants in the centre.
17th - Gibraltor
Not sure what that silly key is doing in the flag but I love the color combination. And I dig the castle too. Black and red combination is my favorite. And the castle of any other color combination would not have worked for me.
18th - Marshall Islands
Kyrgyzstan's flag has a werid sun like symbol. A regular sun like symbol simply would not have looked that great. But this symbol looks great.
19th - Malawi
Another Asia country, another flag with elephant! I like this old imperialistc Thailand flag. The new one blows!
20th - Hong Kong
Another good combination of red, white and blue
21st - Tanganyika
The crescent and star in the centre supposedly represents the Ottoman empire under which Tunisia was. I like this design in the centre in white. It gells well with the red background.
22nd - Tuva
Red white combination never disappoints!
23rd - Gambia
Red, Blue and Green, the three primary colore are cobined here with white to give a colorful flag. I don't mind the dark green here. It is unlike the Islamic green which I do not like.
24th - Aceh
Good flag design from this tiny island nation.
25th - Mongolia
The flag is only one the list because of the extremely beautiful Soyombo symbol (Mongolias's national emblem) on the left. The Soyombo symbol represents fire, Sun, Moon, Earth, water and the Yin-Yang symbol.