Friends is the ultimate comfort show, with timeless comedy and characters that future generations are destined to fall in love with. At the very least every episode is a bit of good fun, but I certainly have my favourites (and least favourites…).
I tried to get a nice spread of episodes across all ten seasons, otherwise the “worst” ones would be packed with Seasons 9 & 10 – and that wouldn’t be very interesting, would it!
You can check out some of my related blog posts below:
20 (WORST): The One with the Tea Leaves (S8E17)
These first few episodes on the “worst” list aren’t bad by any means, just boring.
None of the plot lines go in particularly new directions, and none of the jokes really stand out either.
20 (BEST): The One with Ross’s New Girlfriend (S2E1)
I hold the slightly unpopular opinion that Season 1 isn’t as good as it could have been, but Season 2 banished all of my complaints in its opening episode.
The characters all feel so comfortable with each other, and the comedy flows so naturally that there’s a joke every few seconds.
19: The One with the Evil Orthodontist (S1E20)
Barry is one of the worst Friends characters, and Rachel’s quick fling with him undermined an entire season of character growth.
19: The One with Monica and Chandler’s Wedding (S7E23/24)
Monica and Chandler are my favourite couple on the show, and their wedding is so wholesome.
The episode also ends with a tease of Rachel’s pregnancy, setting up the storyline for Season 8.
18: The One Where They’re Going to Party! (S4E9)
They do not, in fact, party. What a let down.
“The One with Two Parties” from Season 2 is the best party episode, if you’re interested.
18: The One with the Jellyfish (S4E1)
The Ross and Rachel will they / won’t they was starting to get a bit stale, so I’m glad it all blew up in one big climax and then fell to the backburner for a while.
Other than that, the titular jellyfish embarrassment leads to some classic Joey, Chandler and Monica moments.
17: The One with the Lottery (S9E18)
I think I’m in the minority of people who dislike this episode, but the lottery gimmick is overplayed in sitcoms.
You can tell exactly how it’s going to play out as soon as it starts, and all of the character conflicts feel so artificial.
17: The One with Ross’s Tan (S10E3)
Even though Season 10 isn’t my favourite, it certainly starts off strongly.
The spray tan bit is stupid on paper but David Schwimmer makes it work, and we get to see some long-overdue sarcastic Chandler.
16: The One Where Joey Speaks French (S10E13)
Joey hasn’t always been the sharpest tool in the shed, but this is borderline offensive.
It’s as if he suffered immense brain damage across the final seasons, and this is the worst offender in that regard.
16: The One with the Morning After (S3E16)
It was a bold move to have a super emotional break-up episode, but it was a move that payed off.
Aniston and Schwimmer give career-best performances, and the jokes in the other room provide some much needed levity.
15: The One with Monica’s Thunder (S7E1)
Not an episode that you’re likely to see on people’s “worst of” lists, but the Season 7 opener felt like a huge step down.
The emotional climax of the previous season is immediately undercut, and the fake conflicts between characters feel so out of place and poorly written.
15: The One with the Flashback (S3E6)
Friends did a fair few flashback episodes since the Season 3 original, but this is still one of the best.
It feels like the most complete insight into pre-Friends times, and it’s fascinating to see what could have been if things had played out differently.
14: The One with the Chicken Pox (S2E23)
A complete filler episode, and Charlie Sheen can’t even save “The One with the Chicken Pox” from mediocrity.
14: The One Where Ross Is Fine (S10E2)
Another strong episode near the start of Season 10, I’d argue that this is David Schwimmer’s best performance.
Ross is absolutely insane from start to finish, and yet it’s grounded enough to be hilarious throughout.
13: The One Where Phoebe Runs (S6E7)
It’s baffling that the writers thought Phoebe running weird would warrant a full episode, and it’s no surprise it doesn’t work.
13: The One with the Proposal (S6E24/25)
Probably the most emotional Friends episode (excluding the finale), the scene with the titular proposal always makes me well up. I really like the build-up to it too, with how the writers place that seed of doubt in your mind as to whether it will ever happen.
Fun fact – this is the only season finale that has nothing to do with the Rachel-Ross relationship. That includes Chandler and Monica’s wedding from Season 7!
12: The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS (S5E4)
I’m from the UK so the PBS jokes go way over my head, and Phoebe’s insistence that there is no such thing as a selfless good deed starts to get annoying and illogical after a while.
12: The One in Vegas (S5E23/24)
One of the most balls-to-the-walls Friends finales, both the Chandler-Monica and Rachel-Ross relationships take centre stage. Also, Ross and Rachel getting married is one of my favourite cliffhangers.
11: The One with the Screamer (S3E22)
Ben Stiller is a legend, but this character is up there with my least favourite Friends characters.
I hate the “boy who cried wolf” style of stories, and nobody believing Ross just does my head in. An irrational hatred, but a hatred nonetheless.
11: The One with Ross’s Wedding (S4E23/24)
The best two-part finale, almost everything about “The One with Ross’s Wedding” has become iconic – Ross’s flubbed line, Joey’s childlike innocence while touring, and the start of the Chandler-Monica relationship.
Also, these episodes are set in the UK! As a Brit I loved seeing all the cameos and references to British media.
10: The One with Five Steaks and an Eggplant (S2E2)
This feels like a complete filler episode, and yet it comes at episode 2 in the second season.
I also don’t like how they pit the friends against each other based on wealth – that kind of class divide doesn’t make for inherently funny television.
10: The One Where Ross Got High (S6E9)
Thanksgiving episodes are always a highlight, and Season 6’s is certainly one of the best.
The lightning round confessions is one of Friends’ best scenes – I haven’t laughed that hard to many other comedy shows.
9: The One with the Cat (S4E2)
After one of the head writer’s mother passed away, she wrote an episode where Phoebe thinks a cat is her dead mum to help herself grieve. None of the other writers were willing to challenge her on this, so as a result we get one of the weakest and overly serious Friends episodes.
9: The One with All the Thanksgivings (S5E8)
Both a flashback and a Thanksgiving episode – I really couldn’t have asked for much more.
This has some of the most wholesome Chandler and Monica scenes, and the part where Monica confesses her love with a turkey on her head is a fantastic moment (albeit derivative of Mr Bean).
8: The One with the Stain (S8E7)
The whole stolen jeans premise isn’t that great to begin with, but it’s Sean Penn that lets “The One with the Stain” down.
His previous appearance in the Halloween episode was saved by the episode itself being good, but his lack of comedy chops is on full display here. He’s a fantastic dramatic actor, but sitcoms aren’t for him.
8: The One with the Prom Video (S2E14)
The one where Ross and Rachel finally became a couple.
Usually I find these sickly sweet episodes to be agonising, but it’s handled with charm and finesse. Also, Chandler’s “How many cameras are on you?” joke is one of my all-time favourites.
7: The One with the Sharks (S9E4)
The absolute worst premise of them all, I have no idea who thought the “Monica thinks Chandler watches shark porn” idea was a good one. None of the jokes justify that crazy premise.
7: The One with the Rumour (S8E9)
My favourite guest appearance, Brad Pitt does a surprisingly good job in the role.
Any Thanksgiving episode is usually a winner, but having it all take place in one room where the cast can riff off each other leads to gold.
6: The One in Barbados (S9E23/24)
The worst of the season finales by far, and also the worst non-clip show episode.
You can tell the writers are trying way too hard to manufacture the drama, and the Joey-Rachel cliffhanger they leave us on is really weak.
6: The One with the Holiday Armadillo (S7E10)
The most underrated episode, as soon as Ross comes in as the Holiday Armadillo it’s just laugh after laugh.
Chandler’s Santa Claus is hilarious enough, but then Joey triumphantly entering as Superman is a top 5 moment for sure.
5: The One with Joey’s Interview (S8E19)
Ah, the clip show episodes. I’ve held off on them for long enough, but now they’ve reared their ugly heads.
The least offensive one (at least, in terms of clip show standards) has to be the one from Season 8. It’s still a waste of time, but after eight seasons I’m willing to let this one slide.
5: The One with the Blackout (S1E7)
The episode that cemented Friends as one of the truly great comedies of our time.
Paolo is a fun addition, Ross getting attacked by the cat is hilarious, but it’s Chandler’s awkward humour that steals the show. His interactions with Jill Goodacre are so funny, and Matthew Perry’s performance is sensational.
4: The One with the Vows (S7E21)
Another late-game clip show. Probably worth skipping.
4: The One Where No One’s Ready (S3E2)
One of the best bottle episodes in history, having the friends in a room together can only lead to comedy gold.
All of the feuds and conflicts are well built-up and don’t feel forced, and every character gets their moment to shine.
3: The One with Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E. (S6E20)
The whole Joey / Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E. plotline is already silly to begin with, but then it morphs into yet another clip show. Urgh.
3: The Last One (S10E17)
One of the most-viewed finales in TV history, and it still remains one of the very best.
Everyone gets a satisfying conclusion to their character arcs, and the emotional moments hit way harder than usual. They couldn’t have made a more fitting conclusion.
2: The One with Christmas in Tulsa (S9E10)
I would have been willing to let this late-game clip show slide, but it effectively replaces the Christmas episode.
On top of that, the writers had the nerve to sabotage Chandler and Monica’s relationship – the most stable and wholesome couple in the show.
2: The One with the Embryos (S4E12)
The most famous episode, the apartment quiz has gone down in TV history as one of the best sitcom moments of all time.
Everyone is on scintillating form, and all of the quiz jokes are super quotable. I love how they commit to the ending of Joey and Chandler winner (at least for now), and the Phoebe embryos conclusion is a great climax.
1: The One with the Invitation (S4E21)
The episode that started the clip show trend, and it’s only in the fourth season! How could they have been that desperate for content so early?
There are other episodes that have stupider plots (See entries 20-6 above), but these clip show episodes are the ones that make me the angriest. A complete waste of everyone’s time!
1: The One Where Everybody Finds Out (S5E14)
An uproarious laugh-fest from start to finish, the characters learning one by one about Chandler and Monica’s relationship never fails to leave me in hysterics.
The plotting and counter-plotting of the two groups is the most fun this show ever had, and the conclusion with Chandler revealing his true feelings is the perfect, heart-warming way to cap it off. The perfect Friends episode.
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