For many people born between the mid 80’s and early 90’s, Friends was a cornerstone of our generation. In 10 years and 236 episodes, the show captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people more prominently than any other sitcom at the time. It’s dated extraordinarily well too (save for some of the fashion choices and one reference to the statistics of a laptop). You could argue though, that the shows strongest seasons are the first three or four. Well, maybe – but I would counter that while the subsequent six seasons that followed may not be quite up to the standard of the first four, the decline is relatively minor. And save for the occasional irritating or unlikeable character, or ridiculous subplot/cliffhanger, Friends remained consistently excellent right up until its final season.
Throughout it’s run, while some were better than others, Friends never really had a bad episode. Picking just 30 of them was an incredibly difficult task, although I have bent the rules slightly by including some 2 part episodes as one. So, without further ado, here are the 30 finest episodes of Friends.
IMDB links are in the episode titles. 2 Spotify playlist links are also included at the bottom of the page.
“You boys are about to see something reeeally special…”
An episode late into the Friends run, Phoebe’s birthday dinner has a barrage of comic gold in its 22 minutes. From Ross’s sarcastic, disastrous picture-painting scenario to Rachel about the safety of their child, to Monica tricking Chandler into sex, to Phoebe’s “Pick up the sock!” rant, and of course, the hysterical finale of Joey finishing all 6 meals after being left alone in the restaurant.
“I Just Bamboozled Chandler! Which is not a sexual thing…”
Between the ludicrous Bamboozle storyline with the boys and the hilarious Monica Vs. Rachel’s mother plot, this was one of the strongest episodes in Friends’ 8th season.
“I’m wearing two belts…”
There’s many a great moment in this two-part episode of Monica and Chandler’s wedding. Chandler’s inane panic about the wedding, Ross talking him down from running away, and of course, the surprise pregnancy reveal at the end of Part Two. The highlight though, has to be Gary Oldman’s cameo as Richard Crosby. It almost feels like two different characters: the eccentric spitting actor in Part One and the inebriated moron in Part Two. Easily one of Friends’ finest guest characters.
“That was the best nap I ever had!”
Ross and Joey positively steal the show here. First as the titular “Nap Partners” and additionally as the easily swayed judges for Phoebe Vs. Rachel for Monica’s bridesmaid.
“No! I don’t care! I’m not playing one on one Strip Poker game with you for practice!”
This episode sees the six friends at a beach house. Games of “Strip Happy Days Game,” Rachel convincing Ross’s new girlfriend to shave her head, as well as the hypothetical relationship discussion between Monica and Chandler make this a classic season 3 finale.
“We’re the same, you and me!”
The morning after episode is probably one of the most, if not the most emotionally charged episode of Friends, since it sees the break up of Ross and Rachel. Comic relief comes firstly through Joey and Chandler. Their “cover the trail” advice to Ross after he sleeps with someone else while he and Rachel were “on a break” is hysterical. As is the arm-waxing/wax-eating sequence while the gang are trapped in Monica’s room.
“Hey, that’s Joincidence with a ‘C’!”
It’s a simple premise for this one. The guys play poker, the girls insist on joining in and hilarity ensues. It also further solidifies Ross’s feelings for Rachel, with the implication that he lets her win in the end.
“The only thing weird would be if someone didn’t like Mexican food, because I’m making fajitas!”
When Ross Geller is an emotional wreck, it always results in comic gold. His marriage falling apart made for some of the best episodes in season 5. Seeing his best friend and the love of his life going out together here quite frankly drives him batshit, making for one of the strongest episodes of the final season.
“I got off the plane!”
Another emotional rollercoaster, the last episode has all sorts of surprises. Monica and Chandler find out their adoptive child is in not alone: they are in fact getting twins. Then there’s Ross finally getting the courage to go after Rachel and tell her how he feels before she emigrates. A fitting end to an excellent series.
“Hello? Vegas? Yes, we would like some more alcohol, and you know, we would like some more beers too… hello? Oh wait… I forgot to dial!”
This two-part episode has Joey going to Las Vegas with the rest of the gang following soon after. The episodes best moments come from Ross and Rachel’s escalated prank war, culminating in their drunken marriage.
“You’re fake-laughing too, right?”
Ross moves in with Joey and Chandler and subsequently annoys the bejesus out of them. Highlights include the changed answering machine (“We will, we will call you back!”) and the fort sequence during the closing credits.
“I don’t know what to say Joe, there’s never a good time to stop… catching on fire.”
A bout of nerves at Ross’s new job prompts him to put on a fake British accent. Meanwhile, Joey suffers a hernia, inconveniently at the same time as losing his health insurance. The “dying man” audition is magnificent, not to mention the hilarious closing credit scene once Joey gets his insurance back.
“Pizza’s on the way. I told you we wouldn’t have to get up.”
If this episode doesn’t make you want to get a Barcalounger, then we’re obviously very different people. Joey and Chandler’s bout of lazing on their new chairs is an overall series highlight. Then there’s the first appearance of guest character favourite Dr. Richard Burke. Plus Ross and Rachel have some sex. Good times.
“See, the Netherlands is this make believe place where Peter Pan and Tinkerbell come from…”
The gang all decide to play American Football on Thanksgiving to compete for the prize of “The Geller Cup,” which is in actual fact a Troll doll on a stick. The dirty tactics and sibling rivalry make for one of the most memorable episodes of the third season.
“I’m trapped in an ATM vestibule with Jill Goodacre!”
In Monica’s apartment during a blackout, Ross decides to try and finally make a move on Rachel, in spite of Joey’s skepticism on the idea. Luckily, for the audiences amusement, Ross gets cock-blocked by a wild cat, and a douchebag Italian guy with about 2 and a half words of English. The acme of the episode though, comes from Chandler struggling to deal with the fact that he’s trapped in an ATM vestibule with a beautiful model. The delivery of “I loathe myself” is one of his greatest lines in the series.
“The cold has now spread to my special place, so I’m gonna do the short version of this…”
Phoebe’s reaction to an over-bearing Monica along with the rivalry between Chandler and Ross to become Mike’s groomsman resulted in one of the final seasons best episodes.
“You-you-you-you threw my sandwich away. MY sandwich? MY SANDWICH?!”
Another prime example of Ross unraveling for the audience’s amusement, the scene where he loses his temper (to say the least) over his boss eating his sandwich is one of the most hysterically funny scenes in the shows run. Meanwhile, Rachel and Phoebe end up at loggerheads over a literature class that they both attend, with Phoebe pulling an uproarious burn on Rachel in the process.
“I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m very thankful that all of your Thanksgivings sucked.”
The first Friends Thanksgiving special sees Monica roped into making dinner for everyone (with three types of potatoes to boot) when their plans all fall apart. Joey’s subplot of becoming the face of a VD advertising campaign is a further high point of the episode.
“Hey check it out. Ugly Naked Guy’s got a naked friend…”
This episode sees everyone finally finding out about Chandler and Monica’s relationship, but not before Rachel and Phoebe opt to mess with their heads for their own amusement. The ensuing game of chicken between Chandler and Phoebe is priceless. Elsewhere, the subplot of Ross’s bonding with the ugly naked guy is absolutely comical, as is the episode finale of Ross finding out about Chandler and Monica, by seeing them fooling around through his apartment window.
“He’s her lobster!”
Generally speaking, any Friends episode with a flashback to Ross’s college days and Rachel’s high school days tends to be essential viewing. It’s also the episode where Ross and Rachel finally get together, over a year and a half into the show’s run.
“I may only have a couple beers in me, but… I love you, man.”
The last episode of season 1 finally sees Rachel copping to the fact that Ross is in love with her, thanks to Chandler letting it slip. At the same time, Joey participates in a fertility study, meaning he can’t currently have sex with his girlfriend until the study is complete. The first of several excellent season finales.
“You’re over me? When were you… under me?”
This one speaks for itself. Ross finally realises the girl of his dreams since he was a teenager is in love with him. Also, Monica becomes Chandler’s personal trainer.
“Oh there he is, the father of my child, the porn king of the west village.”
One of the most impeccable episodes of the latter half of the series, it transpires here that not only did Ross impregnate Rachel, he accidentally videotaped it too. The writing in the episode is razor sharp, with the question of who made the first move on the night of the baby’s conception leaving you guessing right up until the last second.
” Look at me, I’m Chandler, could I be wearing any more clothes?”
A bottle episode in episodic television uses as few sets, and sticks to the main cast of the TV show in question as much as possible. This is often for the purpose of making an episode at a low cost price so as to allocate more of the budget elsewhere in the season. A recent example would be the Breaking Bad episode Fly. In this episode of Friends, the entire 22 minutes is spent with the 6 main cast members in Monica’s apartment, with the exception of the closing credit sequence in a restaurant, featuring one other character and a number of extras. It’s a testament to the brilliance of the shows writing staff that they managed to pull one of the most iconic episodes of the series from a bottle scenario.
“Sometimes late at night I can still hear the screaming…”
Two classic scenes came out of this one. The titular jellyfish confessional scene, and the huge fall out between Ross and Rachel. This fourth series opener kicked things off in tremendous style.
“It’s a traditional Mexican custard dessert… Look talk to Monica, she’s on the food committee…”
The guys party Vs. Monica’s party had gags coming thick and fast. From Chandler having a random girl saying “I want you, Dennis,” and “Sticking her tongue” down his throat, to Phoebe sneaking people out of Monica’s party to go to the guys place, to Joey wearing the face off Rachel’s mother, this episode is ridiculously entertaining.
“The meaning of the box is threefold. One, it gives me the time to think about what I did. Two, it proves how much I care about my friendship with Joey. And three… it hurts!”
Chandler is the obvious highlight of this episode, his time in the titular box going from comical to tragic as he waves goodbye to Kathy, moments before Joey finally forgives him for kissing his girlfriend.
“Rachel, no, you weren’t supposed to put beef in the trifle. It did not taste good!”
This episode builds and builds to a crescendo, that leaves you gasping for breath from laughter at the point where Ross and Monica’s mother wearily declares, “That’s a lot of information to get in 30 seconds!” All 6 main characters are given plenty with which to shine, with Jack and Judy Geller on top form to boot.
“Would you all stop yelling in our apartment! You are ruining moving day for us!”
The game that Ross invents in this episode became so iconic that it even spawned a board game which is still available to buy online. The game portion is both tense and hilarious, with the results nothing short of euphoric, assuming you’re rooting for the guys, like I was. The episode is then capped off with the news that Phoebe has successfully become pregnant.
“I’m afraid I have to agree with your friend ‘Pheebs.’ This is a… this is a… terrible, terrible plan!”
So, why choose this as the number 1 episode of Friends? Well, quite frankly, it’s because it has it all. It’s hysterically funny, has a number of huge twists, turns and surprises, and has the best cliffhanger ever to occur on a season finale of the show. The guest spots are a treat too, particularly Hugh Laurie as the plane passenger scolding Rachel for planning on crashing Ross’s wedding. Will hearing Ross say “I Ross, take thee Rachel” ever get old? Not to me, it won’t.
Official Warner Brothers Playlist:
Fan Made 7 Hour Playlist: