Despite the fact that the series finale aired 11 years ago, Friends remains hugely prevalent in modern culture. This is a testament to the show’s writers and cast, who did a phenomenal job in creating relatable and entertaining characters that evolved over a lengthy, engaging, emotional and hilarious plot. Over the years, Rachel, Phoebe, Monica, Joey, Chandler and Ross came to feel like our own friends, and we cared for them through the highs and lows that they all experienced. It is one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, and these episodes are a great example of why this is.
10. “The One with the Morning After” (Season 3, Episode 16)
Whilst the show is primarily a comedy, it does not shy away from replacing this with drama. This is most evident through this heartwrenching episode, which sees Rachel break up with Ross in a brilliantly acted and agonizing scene. The episode begins with Ross waking up next to Chloe, before discovering that Rachel is on her way over. He manages to hide Chloe whilst he and Rachel reconnect, and after confiding in Joey and Chandler, he attempts to find out “the trail,” which is the list of people between the girl he slept with and who he doesn’t want to find out. The trail ends with Gunther, who told Rachel everything. This sees them begin an explosive argument, causing the other four to hide in a bedroom. This provides comedic relief, but the tense and lengthy break up is one of the most powerful scenes in the entire series.
9. “The One Where Everybody Finds Out” (Season 5, Episode 14)
This episode provided one of the most memorable scenes of the entire series. During Chandler and Phoebe’s “date,” which is essentially a game of chicken, Phoebe and Rachel try and get Chandler to admit that he is seeing Monica. Phoebe discovers this whilst looking at Ugly Naked Guy’s apartment with Ross as he is moving out, and she and Rachel decide to mess with Chandler and Monica, much to the dismay of Joey who doesn’t like secrets. After Phoebe flirts with Chandler, Monica realizes what they are doing and decides to mess with Rachel and Phoebe (seeing Joey brilliantly stuck in the middle again). The date at Chandler’s escalates and leaves both Chandler and Phoebe extremely uncomfortable, before Chandler finally backs down and proclaims his love for Monica. They then kiss, which Ross sees through his window and causes him to scream furiously in front of his boss.
8. “The One Where Ross Finds Out” (Season 2, Episode 7)
The Rachel and Ross saga is the central plotline, and this is a crucial episode in which they kiss for the first time. With Ross and his current girlfriend, Julie, planning on getting a cat, Rachel is finding it hard to move on and is set up on a date by Monica. Here she gets embarrassingly drunk and constantly talks to her date about Ross, which leads him to suggest she gets closure, seeing her call Ross during the date and state that she was over him. The next day, Ross goes to Rachel and Monica’s apartment where he decides to check his messages. A hungover Rachel then suddenly remembers, and jumps on his back to try and stop him (a famous scene). He hears the message, and leaves feeling very confused. When locking up the coffee house, Ross comes in and the two argue before sharing a passionate kiss.
7. “The One with All the Thanksgivings” (Season 5, Episode 8)
Friends has always done Thanksgiving episodes well, particularly this one where each character tells the story of their worst experiences with the holiday. This includes Joey’s hilarious experience of getting a turkey stuck on his head, but the main story is of Monica’s 1988 Thanksgiving, which allows for a fan favorite flashback to the ’80s. In 1987, Chandler (sporting a questionable haircut) says to Ross that he does not want to be stuck with “your fat sister,” which Monica overhears and is devastated. We then learn that this was not the Thanksgiving Rachel was referring to, and we see another flashback to 1988. Monica wants revenge and, having slimmed down, she tries to seduce Chandler but accidentally drops a knife and severs his toe. In present day, this angers Chandler, but he then forgives Monica in a classic scene which sees her put a turkey on her head.
6. “The One Where No One’s Ready” (Season 3, Episode 2)
Bottle episodes (set in one room) can be challenging, and in order to keep the audience engaged, the writing and performances must be of the highest standard. This was certainly the case for this episode, which takes place almost entirely in Monica and Rachel’s living room. The story sees Ross desperately trying to get his friends ready for a function that evening, but his anxiety levels rise as there are numerous hurdles along the way. Working as the excellent comedy duo they are, Chandler and Joey are behaving like kids after Joey steals Chandler’s seat. Instead of getting ready, this sees Joey go next door and put on every item of clothing that Chandler owns. Meanwhile, Monica re-records a humiliating outgoing message, and Rachel can’t decide what to wear, which infuriates Ross. Unfolding in real time, it is tense, funny and each character has their moment to shine.
5. “The One with the Blackout” (Season 1, Episode 7)
Whilst all of the characters have their moment in this episode, it is ultimately a vehicle for the best character, Chandler. A city-wide blackout sees the gang stuck at Monica and Rachel’s apartment, where Ross is trying to reveal his feelings for Rachel but finding himself unable to. Rachel and Phoebe are searching for the owner of a cat, and this turns out to be Italian hunk Paolo, who Rachel immediately falls for. Chandler finds himself trapped in an ATM vestibule with a Victoria’s Secret model, and he is desperately trying to play it cool but failing miserably (“on second thought, gum would be perfection”). What is particularly hilarious about this plotline is that we get to hear Chandler’s inner monologue as he tries to impress her. As the night wears on, Chandler relaxes and manages to charm her. We also are introduced to Mr. Heckles in this episode.
4. “The One Where Ross Got High” (Season 6, Episode 9)
Another classic Thanksgiving episode, the writers were really firing on all cylinders with this one. When Jack and Judy Gellar (always excellent characters) come around for Thanksgiving, Chandler attempts to charm them, but it is soon revealed that they have a grudge against him which goes back to his and Ross’ college days. It turns out that Ross had blamed Chandler for the smell of pot in their college dorm when his parents came, and now struggles to tell the truth. The writer’s manage to juggle this and a few other plotlines, including Joey wanting to leave to party with dancers, Phoebe developing feelings for Jack Gellar, Monica keeping her relationship a secret from her parents and, perhaps the funniest storyline, Rachel making what she thinks is a traditional English trifle but is actually half a trifle and half a shepherd’s pie. This all reaches a brilliant and hilarious climax.
3. “The One with All the Resolutions” (Season 5, Episode 11)
Many of the best episodes of the show are where all six characters are heavily involved and linked to the central plot, which is the case with this episode, where the gang all make New Year’s resolutions. Ross’s is to do something new every day, Joey wants to learn guitar, Rachel wants to stop gossiping, Monica aims to take more photos, and Chandler bets with Ross that he can go a whole week without making fun of his friends. The plot centers on Ross, who buys a pair of leather pants which, of course, Chandler struggles mightily with. Ross decided to wear these on a date, but finds himself unable to pull up the pants in the bathroom, resulting in a hilarious and classic scene. Rachel discovers that Chandler and Monica are seeing each other, but due to her resolution she cannot gossip and has a brilliant interaction with Joey.
2. “The One with the Embryos” (Season 4, Episode 12)
Whilst the title refers to Phoebe agreeing to be surrogate for her brother Frank (Giovanni Ribisi) and his wife Alice (Debra Jo Rupp), who are a fantastic couple, this episode is best remembered for the other characters playing a trivia game created by Ross. This all starts with a small bet, and eventually leads the girls to lose their apartment. The quiz reveals many hilarious facts about the characters, including Joey’s space-cowboy imaginary friend (Maurice), Monica’s former nickname (Big Fat Goalie), and what name appears on Chandler and Joey’s TV guide (“actually, it’s Miss Chanandler Bong”). The boys eventually win after nobody can answer what Chandler’s job is, seeing them lose their apartment. The enthusiasm that they all show during the fast-paced quiz, and particularly for “The Lightning Round” make this a standout episode, and one which is often cited as a favorite by the cast members and producers.
1. “The One with the Prom Video” (Season 2, Episode 14)
One of the strong points of the show was the flashbacks to their characters in the ’80s. This always saw comically bad hair and clothing, as well as Monica in her larger days. Not only does this episode offer this, but it also gave one of the most heartwarming moments of the show and re-sparked the relationship between Ross and Rachel. After telling Ross that they will never be together, Monica finds the home video of her and Rachel getting ready for the prom, which they all decide to watch despite Ross’s protests. The tape reveals that Ross (heavily mustached), was going to take Rachel to the prom himself after she was stood up, only to see at the last minute that her date had arrived. Rachel is touched to find this out, and kisses Ross while Phoebe proclaims “he’s her lobster!”