236 episodes over 10 seasons. 6 of the most well-known characters of all time. Trying to discern five essential episodes from one of the most iconic sitcoms was always going to be hard, but until I tried to do it, I did not know how hard. You are welcome to debate and question as to what should determine the top five, but I have chosen to go for the episodes that are the most memorable, and show off both the penchant for great comedy and the ability to hit us where it hurts too.
The One Where No-Ones Ready (Season Three, Episode Two)
A story which is set entirely in Monica and Rachel’s apartment. Ross is trying to get everyone ready for his museum fundraiser, with hilarious results. Joey takes Chandler’s seat, so Chandler takes his underwear. Joey’s retaliation? Wearing everything Chandler owns (which is so not the opposite of taking somebody’s underwear). Monica resets her ex-boyfriend Richard’s outgoing answering machine message, Phoebe’s dress gets ruined, and Rachel decides not to go when Ross shouts at her, prompting Ross to nearly drink fat to prove how much she means to him. A great episodes using just one set, and some great comedy acting.
The One With Chandler In A Box (Season 4, Episode 8)
More of a personal favourite of mine, this episode has some spectacular comedy and shows why Joey and Chandler are best friends. After kissing Joey’s girlfriend, Kathy, Chandler agrees to spend the afternoon of Thanksgiving in a box, which serves a threefold purpose. Monica, sporting an eye-patch, invited her ex-boyfriend Richard’s son over for Thanksgiving, culminating in a genuinely ‘ick’ moment on the balcony between the pair. Ross and Rachel share a poignant moment (again) when she shows that, despite exchanging some gifts, she keeps the things that matter. It’s the final reconciliation between Joey and Chandler that makes the episode, however.
The One With The Embryos (Season 4, Episode 12)
If ever an episode sets out the dynamic of the group, it is this one. A friendly game to see who knows each other better, Joey and Chandler or Rachel and Monica, turns into a competition to see who gets the girls apartment. The chick and the duck are in there too, as the annoying house-friends who drive Monica and Rachel up the wall. Cue hilarity for Rachel and Monica trying to guess Chandler’s job. It’s something to do with transponding, apparently. The other plot of the story see’s Phoebe get pregnant with her brother’s triplets, showing her compassion to help others.
The One Where Ross is Fine (Season 10, Episode 2)
After Ross finds out the Joey and Rachel are dating, he insists that he is fine, in a squeaky voice only too familiar to us students at our wits’ end. A particularly hilarious moment is where Ross spells out what ‘LOVE’ stands for, margarita in hand. The last few seasons definitely saw a reduction in the truly hilarious moments, but this one stands out in the final season as proof of just how good Friends could be when done right. Also, the theme of Ross and Rachel, and how seeing someone else with Rachel will never be okay to Ross, is proved as clearly as ever.
The One Where Ross and Rachel Take a Break (Season 3, Episode 15)
There are genuinely so many heart-wrenching moments in Friends, but this is among the most iconic. Ross and Rachel fight, leading them to take a break and plummeting Ross into sleeping with another woman.
After Ross’ jealousy over Mark plumbs new depths after Rachel spends all of her time at work, she decides that enough is enough and they should take a break from the relationship, causing Ross to storm out. Enter the hot Xerox girl, who has a crush on Ross, and a drunken mistake.
Whether you believe Ross was in the wrong or not (or have spent nights awake pondering at this), it is the start of a chain of events that leads to some of the most iconic quotes, one of the best running gags and is earth-shatteringly painful to watch. If that wasn’t enough, it is all set to ‘With or Without You’ by U2, known forever as Ross and Rachel’s song.
The One With the Prom Video – Ross’ perm, fat Monica, he’s her lobster.
The One Where Everybody Finds Out – They don’t know we know they know we know.
The One Where Chandler Crosses the Line – The line is a dot to him.
The One With the Cop – PIVOT!
The One Where Ross Finds Out – Ross doesn’t get a cat.
The One With Ross’ Sandwich – MY SANDWICH.
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Media courtesy of Warner Bros.