On this day back in 1994, “The First One” of the acclaimed sitcom Friends premiered, unaware of the momentous cultural impact the show would have in the years following. Now, on the 20th anniversary of the Pilot, we’re celebrating the series’ continuing flight of fandom as we countdown the top 20 most memorable episodes.
20. “The Last One” (Season 10, Episodes 17 & 18)
It’s only fitting for the numerically last on our list to be “The Last One”.
A perfect finale to a pretty perfect show, this two-part episode clears up any loose ends in such a satisfactory way that no Friends fan could trip and question what was left behind. Though Monica and Chandler’s adoption and Ross and Rachel’s romance looms largest when remembering this final chapter, Phoebe and likeable Mike (Paul Rudd) decide their musical future, and Joey and Chandler’s bromance is rekindled after being relatively absent in the series’ later seasons. Even The Chick and The Duck are given some resolution.
“The Last One” was unpredictable, it had heart, humour and best of all, it left audiences so fulfilled with Friends as a whole, concluding the series at the right time that we can now look back and appreciate how well its 236 overall episodes are always there for us and never became tired, but remained consistently excellent.
Best Bit: The last bit.
Quote: Rachel: “I got off the plane.”
19. “The One With the Stoned Guy” (Season 1, Episode 15)
SNL legend Jon Lovitz guest stars in this early ep and helps secure it as a flagship for the seasons to come. Chandler struggles to quit his job after he’s offered a promotion fearing he’ll be there for the rest of his life, and Joey tries to help Ross talk dirty with his date for the first time. Meanwhile, Monica hosts Steve (Lovitz) in an audition to become the head chef at his restaurant, however, things quickly get out of hand when she realises he’s very stoned and has the munchies.
Lovitz’s comic timing is immaculate, making his rampage around Monica’s kitchen almost too painful to watch. This episode features some great scenes and for only the first season, it’s warming to see how well formed the atmosphere of unity and comradely is between the main six cast members.
Best Bit: Lovitz tries to save the gummy bears in the punch bowl with “Sugar O’s”.
Quote: Ross: [panicking during dirty talk] ”Umm…mmm…Vulva.”
18. “The One With the Male Nanny” (Season 9, Episode 6)
An episode that epitomises and emphasises Friends‘ comedic measurements of modern masculinity, present throughout its 10-year run, “The One With the Male Nanny” sees both Ross and Chandler threatened by the imposition of another male character.
Rachel hires a perfectly sweet, sensitive and caring male nanny Sandy (Freddie Prinze, Jr. as one of the series’ best guest stars) for Emma, though Ross isn’t too pleased by the prospect, finding it an unsuitable and “weird” profession for a man due to his notions of gender roles and practices instilled by his father. This is made comical as Ross is questioned of the role reversal and asked what job would be unsuitable for a woman, in addition to Rachel’s observations that Ross fails to fit the stereotypical model of rugged masculinity.
Meanwhile, Chandler feels his manhood equally endangered, as Monica tells him her new co-worker is the funniest person she’s ever met, meaning his self-perceived source of male superiority (humour), is greatly questioned, overall making for a fantastic episode that is as entertaining as it is unlikely profound.
Best Bit: Joey’s pity laugh.
Quote: Chandler: “Waiter excuse me, I’ll have the fricken.”
17. “The One Where Heckles Dies” (Season 2, Episode 3)
This episode sees the demise of the memorable Mr. Heckles (Larry Hankin) who, y’know, could have cats. Monica and Rachel are surprised (and mildly horrified) to be left with all of their irritable downstairs neighbour’s remaining possessions, whilst Ross finds it difficult to accept Phoebe’s subjective stance on the validity of established science. The gang cleans out Heckles’ apartment, and Chandler is panicked to discover the similarities between himself and a young Heckles.
This episode deserves its place here because it features the passing of one of the series’ most iconic supporting characters. There are some greatly amusing moments throughout “The One Where Heckles Dies”, but what really stands out is the emotional depth reached by the cast, particularly Matthew Perry. An episode that reaches this level of both comedic and dramatic merit is a prime example of the brilliance of the writing, direction and performances that allow Friends to be an ongoing cultural phenomenon.
Best Bit: Ross explains evolution with the aid of Heckles’ ornaments.
Quote: Chandler: “Goodbye Mr. Heckles, we’ll try to keep it down.”
16. “The One With the Free Porn” (Season 4, Episode 13)
The least viewed episode in the UK due to E4’s refusal to broadcast its supposedly explicit content during the daytime slot for the show, “The One With the Free Porn” has only recently returned to syndication as Friends migrated to Comedy Central in 2011.
A lot happens here that would shape the arcs for the rest of the season and series, as Phoebe learns her uterus is thrice as occupied as previously thought, while Ross decides to chase Emily to London after declaring his love for her, due to receiving only gratitude for the gesture.
Despite these two important plots, the episode’s best is the one-off walk down the never ending pornography lane with Joey and Chandler, finding themselves unable to resist the temptation of ‘Good Will Humping’, ‘In and Out, and In Again’ and more. Um, I think we’ve been watching too much Friends.
Best Bit: Joey and Chandler switch off the porn after becoming disillusioned by it, only to be overjoyed that it hasn’t disappeared moments later.
Quote: Rachel: “It’s a relaxi-taxi!”
15. “The One With the Screamer” (Season 3, Episode 22)
Ben Stiller appears as Rachel’s explosive new boyfriend Tommy, who Ross desperately tries to expose whilst being disregarded as a jealous ex. Meanwhile, Joey’s relationship with his theatre co-star steps up a notch until their play gets trashed in the reviews and she takes steps to save her career. Phoebe is left in Monica’s apartment for the entire episode as she waits on hold to ensure her phone is replaced before the warranty expires.
Tommy’s outbursts and Ross’s desperation to prove it play off each other perfectly with great comedic chemistry. It’s also an episode that explores Joey’s character on a deeper level, exposing his sensitivity and vulnerability that contributes to the sweet and immensely loveable character that he develops into as the series progresses.
Best Bit: Ross knocks on the window trying to attract the attention of the others in Central Perk while Tommy screams at him outside for almost spilling hot coffee.
Quote: Monica: “Phoebe?” Phoebe: [tangled in a sweater] “What? Monica I’m scared!”
14. “The One With the Baby Shower” (Season 8, Episode 20)
This episode highlights Rachel’s endearing naïveté as she prepares to take on the immense role that is motherhood, without realising how frighteningly little she actually knows about babies.
Marlo Thomas’ award-winning appearance as Sandra Green, Rachel’s snobby and quick-witted mother, hilariously plays to Monica’s incessant need to please people, as she unintentionally angers the Green matriarch from the get-go.
“The One With the Baby Shower” not only introduced the world to Bamboozled, but has left us all questioning why no one has turned it into a real game show already. As Ross and Chandler help Joey prepare for his audition as a game show host, Bamboozled intensifies into a hysterical fight to spin the Wheel of Mayhem, go up the Ladder of Chance, then past the Mud Hut, through the Rainbow Ring to get to the Golden Monkey; yank his tail and boom, you’re in Paradise Pond!
The contrast of Rachel unwittingly preparing to enter a new chapter of adulthood and the guys becoming engrossed with the enthralling game that is Bamboozled, comically demonstrates the many levels of adulthood we will all inevitably go through in our lifetimes.
Best Bit: Ross, Joey and Chandler get really into Bamboozled.
Quote: Chandler: “THIS IS THE BEST GAME EVER!”
13. “The One Where Ross Got High” (Season 6, Episode 9)
Despite being mature adults, Ross and Monica’s childish sibling rivalry sets the playful tone for “The One Where Ross Got High”. Setting the episode around Thanksgiving is the perfect excuse to bring Jack and Judy Geller back into the mix, for an ultimate Geller frenzy.
For someone who usually hates Thanksgiving, the episode takes a turn for the better for Chandler, as Jack and Judy’s perceptions of him drastically alter from alleged pot-smoking college roommate, to “wonderful human being”. This transition allows for many funny quips from Chandler as he tries to win favour with his potential in-laws.
The episode bounces around many entertaining storylines such as Phoebe’s infatuation for Jack Geller – which thankfully transforms into a love for Jacques Cousteau – and Rachel’s infamous beef trifle, which sounds both horrifying and yet strangely appetising. The string of confessions blurted out by the gang at the end of the episode fantastically ties all their storylines together as Judy processes all the information.
Best Bit: All the confessions.
Quote: Rachel: “I wasn’t supposed to put beef in the trifle.”
12. “The One With Ross’s Teeth” (Season 6, Episode 8)
In this stellar episode, Ross bleaches his teeth “insanely white” for his date, but succeeds in frightening the rest of the gang, finding himself in an awkward situation when his date turns on her black light. Elsewhere, Chandler worries that Joey’s new roommate Janine (Elle Macpherson) is turning his best friend into a woman, and at Ralph Lauren, Rachel panics after falsely revealing to her boss that Phoebe slept with Mr. Lauren himself.
This episode shows off the skillful physical comedy that is a strength of David Schwimmer, blending it with strong dialogue from the other storylines to create a memorably funny episode. If there’s one thing Friends never fails to masterfully deliver, it’s fun, lighthearted and harmless humour, and this episode is a great testament to that.
Best Bit: Ross’s various methods used to cover his mouth on his date.
Quote: Chandler: “What was wrong with your old, human teeth?”
11. “The One Where Emma Cries” (Season 9, Episode 2)
Following an unfortunate misunderstanding as Joey accidentally, sort of, maybe, not really proposes to Rachel after she gives birth to Emma, Ross’s reaction to the whole situation throws it out way out of proportion, leading to an eventful and awkward situation between the three (Emma excluded).
The scenes between Joey and Ross alone make this an unforgettable outing, as Joey’s inability to successfully pull off “air quotes” is ably pulled off by Matt LeBlanc’s vulnerable yet uproarious performance. Central Perk is the setting for one of Friends‘ funniest moments ever, as the confrontation between Joey and Ross escalates in tension on their part, and hysterics on ours.
Best Bit: Gunther’s ecstatic reaction to Ross’s injured hand.
Quote: Joey: “”Ooops.””
10. “The One Where Everybody Finds Out” (Season 5, Episode 14)
“The One Where Everybody Finds Out”, an episode wrought with mischief and cheek, ends with one of the show’s most heartfelt moments. The secret-keeping, scheming and seducing lead to Chandler and Monica confessing their love for one another, becoming one of the most beloved ‘friends-fall-in-love’ couples in TV history.
Phoebe’s quirky and flirty role in this episode is one of the reasons why it is so unforgettable. Her initial reaction to Chandler and Monica (“THEY’RE DOING IT!”), and masterful seduction techniques including her iconic dance are only a few of the reasons why we love her so much.
Ross’s storyline provides some welcome comic relief for him, having recently suffered through divorce, sandwich theft and sabbatical. He embraces the nude with Ugly Naked Guy, winning his favour and his apartment.
As a whole, “The One Where Everybody Finds Out” is full of extraordinary laughs with outlandish storylines, both fantastically conceived and hilariously executed.
Best Bit: Phoebe’s seduction dance.
Quote: Pheobe: “My eyes! MY EYES!”
9. “The One With the Two Parties” (Season 2, Episode 22)
Friends‘ most hip and happening episode in memory, Rachel’s recently divorced parents show up at a birthday bash hosted by Monica, forcing a second shindig to take place across the hall to separate her Mum and Dad and prevent a scene taking place.
What makes the “The One With the Two Parties” so great is its liveliness. Contrasting Monica’s typical organisational attributes she enforces at her dull party, with the more laid back attitude of the rest of the gang vibrantly expressed in the more bouncy atmosphere in Joey and Chandler’s apartment, we are treated to a phenomenally conceived energy between the two parties, merely serving as a distracting backdrop to Rachel’s difficulties in dealing with her parents’ separation.
One of the most fun 20-minute tales of Friends, this episode also gave Rachel some development in character and a craftsmanship in comedic construction, with awkward moments and spatially close calls with the Greens that truly define situational comedy.
Best Bit: Ross prepares for the waterskiing.
Quote: Monica: “I do ask that when you’re not using your markers, you put the caps back on them, because they will dry out.”
8. “The One Where Ross and Rachel… You Know” (Season 2, Episode 15)
Introducing Friends‘ most memorable recurring character Dr. Richard Burke, played by the absurdly suave Tom Selleck, this season two instalment has the three strongest plots of any one episode that saw the sextet split up. Ross and Rachel finally get together in a night at the museum, while Joey and Chandler chill in their newly purchased recliners in the episode’s most boisterous and enjoyable story despite the inanimate staticity of the duo.
Written with such a sophisticated fluidity to balance its three distinct narratives, this one has the sharpest, wittiest and best nonstop turnover of superb jokes in the series. Selleck complements this with his iconic moustache and agreeable integration with the main cast members, being a standout in season two and particularly his introduction in this episode, without taking anything away from the others.
Plus, watching Joey and Chandler just sit and watch TV while we’re doing the exact same thing is just brilliant.
Best Bit: La-Z-boys Joey and Chandler dare to recline.
Quote: Phoebe: [meeting Richard] “It’s James Bond.”
7. “The One With Ross’s Tan” (Season 10, Episode 3)
Another titular ep for The Divorce Force, Ross tries out spray tanning, but it goes wrong when he doesn’t count Mississippilessly and ends up looking like “Miss Hawaiian Tropic”. Here we see Rachel and Joey struggling to transition from friends to lovers, with some painful results for the latter. Phoebe and Monica fail to avoid their obnoxious and egocentric ex-roommate Amanda (Jennifer Coolidge) and her fake British accent. Oh, and Chandler gets pedicures.
This episode yet again shows the great combination of regulars and guests stars who may only appear for a single instalment, but remain highlights of the entire 20 minutes. Ross fans no doubt think of this episode when remembering his funniest moments, and the focus on Rachel and Joey’s relationship balances the drama superbly.
Best Bit: Amanda’s dancing.
Quote: Ross: “I went to that tanning place your wife suggested.” Chandler: “Was that place, the sun?”
6. “The One With the Routine” (Season 6, Episode 10)
Monica and Ross are overjoyed to be able to attend their favourite New Year’s show as background dancers. After they fail to attract the attention of the cameras and director, they resort to their old childhood dance routine. At the same event, Joey desperately tries to ensure he’s dancing with Janine at midnight so he can kiss her. Back home, Rachel and Phoebe convince Chandler to help them look for their Christmas gifts from Monica.
“The One With the Routine” features the Geller siblings at their goofiest, which is resolutely their best. Schimmer and Cox’s dance moves are inspired, and reinforce the legend of this episode as one of the funniest and most classic of the entire sitcom. More needn’t be said, just watch the Gellers’ groove.
Best Bit: The Routine.
Quote: Monica: “Ross, we better just stick to the routine, we don’t want to look stupid.”
5. “The One With the Late Thanksgiving” (Season 10, Episode 8)
Another thanksgiving episode of Friends, but this one has four floating heads in it. This episode really gets going half way through, as when trying to apologise to Monica and Chandler for being late to dinner, Joey gets his head stuck in the door. Combine this image with his magical bulging eyes and you’ve got yourself a hilarious episode.
There is also a very touching moment at the end; one shouldn’t be ashamed to admit that a few tears were shed when Monica and Chandler were told that they were finally going to get a baby.
Best Bit: Like so many episodes before, the group come together to forget their petty worries and celebrate the news from Monica with a congratulatory hug, topped off by Joey’s delicious detachment from the other five.
Quote: Joey: “Don’t you put words in people’s mouths; you put turkey in people’s mouths!”
4. “The One With the Embryos” (Season 4, Episode 12)
A personal favourite of Courtney Cox and Matt Le Blanc, this series highlight sees Monica and Rachel lose their apartment to Joey and Chandler in a ludicrously laugh-inducing trivia contest constructed by Ross. Meanwhile, Lisa Kudrow does a phenomenal job as Phoebe to carry an entire subplot, sharing a heartfelt moment with an animate Petri dish containing the embryos soon to be implanted within her.
The rapid fire responses, nonstop laughter and mirthful liveliness throughout makes “The One With the Embryos” one of the most memorable episode of Friends, birthing one of the series’ finest plots with the apartment switch, in addition to Phoebe’s pregnancy bringing the group together in a joyful climax, complemented by the relentlessly energetic performances of its core and supporting cast members.
Best Bit: The Lightening Round.
Quote: Chandler: “Actually, it’s Miss Chanandler Bong.”
3. “The One With Unagi” (Season 6, Episode 17)
Most of this episode is less than memorable, with largely mediocre subplots involving Joey’s quest to find an identical twin for a medical experiment, and Monica and Chandler’s inadequacy at producing homemade gifts. However, the titular plot paved the way for some unforgettable standout moments and phrases in the series, resulting in its bronze medal place on our list.
Ross has studied ‘Kara-tay’, and therefore thinks he is knowledgeable on the concept of “Unagi” (complete with hand gesture), a state of total awareness. His reluctance to be wrong is delightfully characteristic, though even more amusing than that is the scene in which Rachel and Phoebe get the better of him.
“Unagi”, this amazing word, will be in our vocabularies for many years to come.
Best Bit: Phoebe and Rachel return the danger to Ross’s woeful attempt to get back at them, proving the eel of Unagi may have slipped from his grasp, if he ever had it at all.
Quote: Rachel: “Ah, salmon skin roll.”
2. “The One Where No-One’s Ready” (Season 3, Episode 2)
Coming in at a noble 2nd, “The One Where No-One’s Ready” took place solely in Monica and Rachel’s apartment on one set in order to cut expenses and save money for future episodes. It was received so positively that the show’s creators decided to repeat the format of focusing solely on the core cast for at least one episode per season.
Chandler and Joey create many big laughs as their fight over a chair escalates, to the dismay of Ross as he urges them all to hurry for his function. Joey’s use of the term “commando”, as he reveals that he is wearing Chandler’s clothes sans underwear, further established it as the well-known catchphrase that it is today.
Some of the best Friends episodes are those with the simplest and most relaxed plots, as is the case with “The One Where No-One’s Ready”. The main cast have such a natural chemistry, that their interactions with one another in one confined spacial setting would be difficult to emulate for any other programme.
Best Bit: Joey enters wearing all of Chandler’s clothes.
Quote: Joey: “Could I BE wearing any more clothes?”
1. “The One With the Rumor” (Season 8, Episode 9)
Topping our list is one that should really be named “The One With Brad Pitt”.
Filmed during the time when Brad and Jen were still together (*sigh*), this is not only the greatest of the always amiable Thanksgiving episodes, it’s also the one we’ve chosen as the best in Friends history.
Ross’s old school friend Will comes to spend Thanksgiving with the gang. It helps that he is mega hot (*queue screaming from audience*), which encourages lots of amusing comments from Phoebe (“Come on Will, just take off your shirt and tell us.”) It’s also revealed that Will and Ross had an I Hate Rachel Green Club in high school, which subsequently started the rumour that Rachel had both male and female reproductive organs.
“The One With the Rumor” though wasn’t just focused on Rachel and Ross, as audiences learned that maternity pants were great for shoplifting melons, Thanksgiving without turkey is like Friday with no two pizzas, and that meat sweats are an actual thing. Truly enlightening.
Best Bit: Joey enters wearing his newly coined Thanksgiving pants.
Quote: Will: “Look at her standing there with those yams. My two greatest enemies Ross: Rachel Green and complex carbohydrates.”
On a final note, we’d just like to congratulate and thank Friends for its successful longevity in quality that keeps making us laugh even 10 years after it ended, and now 20 since it began. Here’s to another 20 years of watching, unless we’re on a break.
Sabrina Barr, Georgie Lack, Bharat Samra and Joseph Scanlon