I Have Ranked The Top 50 "Friends" Episodes

    Everyone should watch "The One With the Videotape" every day.

    Though not without its faults, which I will mention in more depth later, Friends is a stellar sitcom. I love it. In fact, I love it so much that I have decided to rank the 50 best Friends episodes.

    50. "The One With the Holiday Armadillo" (Season 7, Episode 10)

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    I am a firm believer that one great scene, or even one outstanding storyline, doesn't inherently make an episode worthy of a spot in a "best episodes" ranking, but as you'll see, Friends supplies me with a few exceptions to that rule, which start here, right off the bat. Ross in that "holiday armadillo" outfit trying to teach Ben about Hanukkah is so bizarre and genius and amazing. It's a popular stellar part in a very underrated season.

    49. "The One Where Rachel Has a Baby" (Season 8, Episodes 23 & 24)

    I forget about this episode, and then I remember the parade of pregnant women giving birth before an increasingly angry Rachel, and I am filled with the kind of joy that only an exceptionally funny 20-plus minutes of television can give you. Phoebe's storyline in this two-parter is a bit off, but Monica and Chandler deciding to have a baby and attempting to conceive in an empty hospital room (everything about that screams pre-COVID America) is lovely. If only this season finale didn't finish with a misunderstood proposal — which, come on, is lame.

    48. "The One With the East German Laundry Detergent" (Season 1, Episode 5)

    While Rachel and Ross's rightfully famous Central Perk kiss in Season 2, which we'll get to, is really the first kiss in their will-they-won't-they arc, the pair's actual first kiss happens in a laundromat, after Rachel stands up for herself thanks to Ross's encouragement. She pulls him down to her, spontaneously, not getting his consent (something for us all to grapple with), and he cannot believe his luck, leading to a perfect prat fall from the one and only David "I Eat Physical Comedy for Lunch" Schwimmer. In addition to Rachel's wonderful storyline of doing laundry for the first time, this episode also gives us a rare Phoebe-and-Chandler gem, and a hijinks-y-but-a-bit-icky Monica and Joey plot.

    47. "The One With Ross's Wedding" (Season 5, Episodes 23 & 24)

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    Though the following episode — spoiler alert — is top five stuff, it's important for us all collectively as a people to celebrate the lead-up to Ross's wedding, and, of course, the climactic "take thee, Rachel." There's so much magic in this one. Monica and Chandler hooking up for the first time! Rachel rushing to the wedding! Hugh Laurie on the plane! And Jennifer Saunders for the first time! Joey going in to the map! Now, Emily and Ross's fight in the first part of the finale is clearly filler, but I forgive it because it successfully shows us how wrong for each other they are.

    46. "The One With the Football" (Season 3, Episode 9)

    Ah yes, our first Thanksgiving episode to discuss. I'll be honest: "Football" might be better than I'm giving it credit for, but it's the kind of episode where if you see it too much, it looses some of its shine. (I cannot explain why I've seen it so much, so I won't even try.) Everybody playing football, with Monica and Ross's awesome sibling competitiveness, Joey and Chandler's pettiness, and Rachel and Phoebe's excitement or lack thereof, absolutely lands. Look, the whole thing is full of very good and fun choices. It's a light, silly, pleasing watch, even if it's not the most riveting.

    45. "The One With All the Cheesecakes” (Season 7, Episode 11)

    I understand why Rachel and Chandler don’t have many storylines together; their vibe is a bit off, like they’re both uncomfortable being alone with the other, like they’re only friends because their friends are friends — which, I mean, is true. But their famous cheesecake escapade, which gives the episode its name, is an outstanding string in the “Rachel and Chandler are an underrated pair” bow. Phoebe and Joey, a duo with many more stories, rightfully, get one of their best in this episode, and Monica and Ross, one of the most prevalent partnerships, get an eh one.

    44. "The One Where Rosita Dies" (Season 7, Episode 13)

    Rachel is sitting in an armchair and says, Wow, you know that this thing has speakers in the headrest; Joey says, No really; Rachel says, Yeah, You can hook it up to your TV and you get radio; Joey says, My chair heals itself

    43. "The One With Phoebe's Birthday Dinner" (Season 9, Episode 5)

    If this episode didn't have a storyline that hinged on Monica tricking Chandler into sleeping with her, it'd rank a lot higher. I'm not going to talk about that plot, other than to say their fighting at Phoebe's birthday dinner is a necessary source of tension. Instead, I'm going to talk about Phoebe and Joey sitting in a nice restaurant, waiting over an hour for their other friends to arrive at Phoebe's birthday celebration, and Rachel and Ross accidentally locking Emma in their apartment, making them very late. Both of these storylines — especially Phoebe and Joey's understandable deterioration of patience — are great, as is the episode's climax, which has Phoebe expressing her anger at her non-Joey friends (while Judy Geller sits at the bar with Emma), before she leaves to go spend time with Mike. Joey is left to pick up the pieces of everyone's abandoned meals, and boy does he.

    42. "The One With the Cake" (Season 10, Episode 4)

    Joey says, "The other day, she laughed for like an hour at a cup, just a cup with a picture of Elmo on it dressed as a farmer, and he's standing next to this cow, and the cow says, 'El-moo,'" then Joey laughs and says, "Man, that's a funny cup"

    41. Pilot / "The One Where Monica Gets a Roommate" (Season 1, Episode 1)

    I am reluctant to give any television pilot points solely for fulfilling its traditional brief of looking you dead in the eyes and saying, “Here are our characters. Here is their world. Here is why you should care.” However, when the brief is fulfilled this well, when we know exactly who Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey, and Ross are and what they mean to each other, when the tone is right there from the first line, when the episode ends with Ross turning around to his sister and saying, “I just grabbed a spoon,” followed by applause from a raptured audience, it’s too close to magic for me to let it go.

    40. "The One With the Dozen Lasagnas" (Season 1, Episode 12)

    Ross says, "Paolo, I just want to tell you, and I think I speak for everyone when I say..." and slams the door in Paolo's face

    39. "The One Where They're Up All Night" (Season 7, Episode 12)

    Joey is using a pipe as a telescope and Ross says, "Joey, where's the pipe that was holding the door open," Joey says, "I don't know," and then he says, "Yeah I do"

    38. "The One With Phoebe's Wedding" (Season 10, Episode 12)

    Mike's vows are right, Phoebe is wonderfully weird. It's only fitting that her wedding would end up taking place at night outside Central Perk in the middle of a winter storm, with Joey officiating and Ross holding a smelly dog groomsman. Rachel and Monica act as bridesmaid and bonkers intense maid of honor, respectively, and Chandler walks Phoebe down the aisle, which is a lovely moment that I don't think gets enough credit. Marriage is never really something that Phoebe is heading toward for the first nine years of Friends, but the show makes you forget that with a groom and ceremony this sweet. 

    37. "The One on the Last Night" (Season 6, Episode 6)

    Like most sitcom characters, none of the Friends friends are great at change. It's OK; it's the antithesis of their nature, which is to stay the same as they were in the show's original premise, living the same lives the audience agreed to give their time to in an emotional contract around, say, Episode 5. In Friends' case, large parts of those lives are that Monica and Rachel live together and Chandler and Joey live across the hall. Six seasons pass before anybody moves from these positions for a substantial amount of time. When they do, in "The One on the Last Night," it is a wonderful, loving look at dynamics and histories, fully aware of how big of a deal this episode is for the show. It is, as they literally say, "The end of an era."

    36. "The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS" (Season 5, Episode 4)

    Ross is on the phone and says Emily, Emil oh my god, Oh my god, it's Emily, everyone, it's Emily, everyone, Shh, Shh, shh, meanwhile he hands Chandler a lamp and Chandler's confused

    35. "The One With All the Kissing" (Season 5, Episode 2)

    Sure, one of the best choices Friends makes is turning Chandler and Monica's night in London into a relationship, but the real masterstroke is the choice to keep that a secret. It quickens the heart rate of the first half of Season 5, like the show is dancing though a heist, elevating an already stellar era of storylines. "The One With All the Kissing" is the first time Friends has this thump, thump, thump in its normal environment, and it is glorious. Also, Ross is struggling because, you know, he just said another woman's name at the altar, the woman in question is in love with him, and Phoebe is envious of the non-pregnant friends' trip to London. It's all great stuff.

    Note: While it's very fun, Chandler kisses Rachel and Phoebe, and possibly Monica, without their consent in this episode.

    34. "The One With All the Thanksgivings" (Season 5, Episode 8)

    It's a testament to Friends' creativity that the flashback-centered Thanksgiving episode happens as late as Season 5, because it's such an easy win. Most of the stories focus on Monica and Chandler's past (and how he fat-shamed her and then she tried to trick him into getting naked, fun stuff), but we also get Rachel and Ross's deliciously '80s selves, Phoebe's previous lives, and Joey getting a turkey stuck on his head. Monica, too, wears a turkey on her head near the episode's end, though it's a voluntary act of apology that leads to Chandler telling her he loves her for the first time. 

    33. "The One With the Boobies" (Season 1, Episode 13)

    Ross says to Chandler, Since you saw her boobies, I think youre going go have to show her your peepee, Rachel says, Come on, Hes right, tit for tat, and Chandler says, Well, Im not showing you my tat

    32. "The One Without the Ski Trip" (Season 3, Episode 17)

    Chandler's reading a newspaper and Joey says, Can I see the comics, Chandler says, This is the New York Times, and Joey says, Okay, may I see the comics

    31. "The One with Phoebe's Husband" (Season 2, Episode 4)

    Chandler yells, Joey was in a porno movie, everybody gasps, and Chandler says, If Im going down, Im taking everybody with me

    30. "The One Where Chandler Crosses the Line" (Season 4, Episode 7)

    While she's cutting Chandler's hair, Kathy says You have really great hair, and Chandler says, Well thanks, I grow it myself

    29. "The One With the Birthing Video" (Season 8, Episode 15)

    Joey is playing with a dog and says, Get the ball, but he pretends to throw the ball and when the dog chases it says, You're cute but you're not too smart. then the dog comes back with identical ball, Joey holds them both and says, Did I just throw this

    28. "The One With the Lottery" (Season 9, Episode 18)

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    One thing Friends does not crush is Monica's character development; from Season 4 on, she becomes a less interesting character, less nuanced, less real (so does Joey, and somewhat Ross and Phoebe). But "The One With the Lottery" uses the simplification of Monica to its advantage, making her selfish rigidity the catalyst of a Lord-of-the-Flies-esque battle for possible money in spite of friendship. If there's a protagonist in this everyone-heavy episode, it's Chandler, who is waiting to find out if he got a job, but, "It doesn't look like I'm gonna get this job, so I can't afford to have principals, so screw you, the tickets are ours!"

    27. "The One With the Ball" (Season 5, Episode 21)

    Arriving in the late-season 5-through-season 6 Friends era, my least favorite, probably increases the quality of "The One With the Ball" to my brain, but I think it would land on this list even if the episode's main premise were set in Season 1. I love how much it's just about some friends playing catch for as long as they can. Well, it's also about Phoebe moving in with her boyfriend and then ending it and Rachel adopting a sphynx cat — "Why is it inside-out?" — and then giving it away, both of which are very, very great, but the ball is so perfectly simple that I can't believe the show didn't do it sooner, and I can't believe anyone thought of it at all.

    26. "The One With the Monkey" (Season 1, Episode 10)

    Ross says, "I think you reach a certain age having a roommate is just kind of pathe..." Rachel and Monica look at each other and Joey and Chandler look at each other, and Ross says, "that's pathet, which is Sanskrit for 'really cool way to live'"

    25. "The One With the Birth" (Season 1, Episode 23)

    Phoebe plays guitar and sings, They're tiny and chubby and so sweet to touch, but soon they'lll grow up and resent you so much

    24. "The Last One" (Season 10, Episodes 17 & 18)

    I'm not here to argue over whether Rachel should have gotten off the plane. She had to because that's Friends: warm, optimistic, and reverential to love above all else. Some of that love lives in romance, like Chandler and Monica, whose twins are born in this episode, but, as the finale celebrates, Friends is really about the kind of love that only exists in deep adult friendships. It's about Phoebe driving Ross to the airport in her grandmother's cab so he can tell Rachel he loves her. It's about Chandler and Joey breaking open the foosball table to find a chick and a duck trapped inside. It's about walking away from your youth, from your last 10 years, and starting a new chapter with your friends by your side, even if the audience won't be anymore.

    23. "The One With the Lesbian Wedding" (Season 2, Episode 11)

    Joey says, She taught me smell the fart acting, Rachel, Ross, Monica, and Chandler say, What, Joey says, You have so many lines to learn so fast sometimes you need a minute to remember the next one, so you pause and look all intense, and he makes the face

    22. "The One Where They All Turn Thirty" (Season 7, Episode 14)

    For a show that delays the aging of its characters long past what's logical, "The One Where They All Turn Thirty" sure does jump head-first into, "Well, here we are, just a bunch of 30-year-olds" and nail it. The unique flashback-heavy format tackles four great storylines, four 30th birthdays, with Rachel's present-day celebration as the grounded focal point. The two birthdays that don't get plots, Chandler's and Joey's, are hit quickly early on and highlight Joey's sobbing response to the milestone, the extreme version of Rachel's discontent. She may not be pleased about turning 30, but we wouldn't have this gem without her.

    21. "The One With Chandler in a Box" (Season 4, Episode 8)

    Richard's son comes to Thanksgiving basically as Monica's date — "It's like inviting a Greek tragedy over for dinner." Ross is angry that Rachel returns every gift she ever gets — "Like 'em, like 'em? Or I'd like to get store credit for that amount like 'em?" But it's Chandler spending the day inside a box as penance for kissing Kathy, Joey's girlfriend, that moves this one into Classic territory. Chandler's finger peaking out of the air hole, waving goodbye after Kathy ends it because of the damage being caused to Chandler and Joey's friendship, is sadder and more romantic than it has any right to be.

    20. "The One With the Candy Hearts" (Season 1, Episode 14)

    Phoebe says, "Alright, now we need the semen of a righteous man," and Rachel says, "Okay, Pheebs, you know what, if we had that we wouldn't be doing the ritual in the first place"

    19. "The One With the Late Thanksgiving" (Season 10, Episode 8)

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    Potentially the silliest Friends episode, fundamentally centered on one brilliantly dumb physical joke — Joey's head trapped in the doorway, obviously — ends with Monica and Chandler learning they're going to adopt a baby, and it doesn't feel out of place. It's the kind of bold choice that only a major episode in a final season would feel confident making, that only lands because it's such a surprising move, and we've spent the whole episode being surprised by big jokes. What is not surprising is that Joey and Ross go to a hockey game and Rachel and Phoebe enter Emma in a beauty contest on Thanksgiving, making all of them late for the dinner made by Monica (and Chandler, with his "chanberries").

    18. "The One With George Stephanopoulos" (Season 1, Episode 4)

    Rachel gets her reckoning right on time. After a disappointingly small first paycheck, old friends from Rachel's old life, who are living their dreams, show up at Central Perk, hitting her with, "Look at you in the apron. You look like you're in a play." Rachel proceeds to mope her way through a girls' sleepover, bringing Monica and Phoebe down with her, the latter of whom not only doesn't have a life plan, but also doesn't even have a "pla." Ross isn't doing well either, despite Chandler and Joey's attempts to cheer him up and take him to a Rangers' game, because it's the anniversary of his and Carol's first time sleeping together (his first time ever). The boys' night takes an even worse turn when Ross is hit in the face with a hockey puck. But in the end, everyone comes together, and Rachel, like Jack and his beanstalk, will be fine because she has magic beans: the rest of these idiots.

    Note: Don't try to see people naked if they don't want you to.

    17. "The One With the Morning After" (Season 3, Episode 16)

    I don't want to dwell here long, because Ross and Rachel's first breakup is devastating. Regardless of their on-a-break status, Ross terribly tries to keep her from finding out he slept with someone else after their fight/breakup the night before, but Rachel finds out. Phoebe, Chandler, Joey, and Monica are trapped in the latter's bedroom, providing comic relief through the night of fighting that follows, which comes to its apex when Rachel tells Ross that he's a whole different person to her now. She tells him to leave, he tries a bit longer, but it's no use, and Friends changes forever. The only reason I don't watch this episode often is because it's so successful at breaking my heart.

    16. "The One With Five Steaks and an Eggplant" (Season 2, Episode 5)

    Ross says, "Well, um, I—I guess I just never think of money as an issue," and Rachel says, "That's 'cause you have it"

    15. "The One Where Ross Finds Out" (Season 2, Episode 7)

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    The will-they-won't-they finally does (something), but let's real quick touch on the non-Rachel-and-Ross parts of the episode, which are Phoebe sleeping with some jerk and Monica trying to help Chandler work out. The former is forgettable, and the latter is fine. Great, now to the good stuff. The scenes of Rachel drunkenly leaving Ross a message that she's over him, Ross hearing the message —  "You're, uh, you're— you're over me? When— when were you...under me?" — and the two fighting about it in Central Perk before passionately kissing, are some of the greatest moments in all 236 episodes of Friends.

    14. "The One With the Jellyfish" (Season 4, Episode 1)

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    As I write this while watching a clip from "The One With the Jellyfish," moments ago laughing loudly enough to cover my mouth in this fast-casual cafe, I'm going to hazard a guess that few Friends episodes are funnier, if any. Yes, Phoebe has a very big storyline with her biological mother, who she just learned existed, but that becomes the least memorable plot when we're dealing with Rachel and Ross getting back together and promptly, magically breaking up, and Chandler, Monica, and Joey being haunted by their secret jellyfish-sting aftermath. When all is said and done — and a lot is said and done in this episode — the reveals of the ill-advised secrets are better than the secrets themselves, but that's totally OK when they're revealed like this.

    13. "The One Where Ross Got High" (Season 6, Episode 9)

    "That's a lot of information to get in 30 seconds," delivered calmly, surprised, confused, and tried, is the perfect response to the cacophony of confessions Judy Geller has just heard, chiefly from her warring children Monica and Ross, but also from Phoebe, Joey, and Rachel. I guess Rachel's "I wasn't supposed to put beef in the trifle!" is a realization rather than a confession, but this moment we've spent 20 minutes waiting for belongs right there in the scene, at the climax of a sibling-fight-filled, sacrifices-for-friendship-filled episode that knows its the star of the Friends Thanksgiving saga. 

    12. "The One With the Red Sweater" (Season 8, Episode 2)

    As Monica opens all of the wedding presents without Chandler and he and Ross try to fabricate some wedding photos, a pregnant Rachel freaks out over telling "the father," who remains unknown to everyone, until he doesn't. It seems silly to think that there ever could have been any question over his identity — because story-wise, oh my god, it has to be Ross — but "The One With the Red Sweater" not only makes the identification quest riveting, but the episode's end lands flawlessly with that big reveal zing each time you watch. That Friends got three episodes out of people finding out Rachel is pregnant is nothing short of admirable genius.

    11. "The One With All the Resolutions" (Season 5, Episode 11)

    Six episodes after Joey finds out about Monica and Chandler's clandestine relationship, it's time for a second friend to discover the truth. They can't figure it out, because Joey did, and they can't tell everyone else, because this secret needs to last longer, so why not have Rachel overhear a phone call filled with some very sexual flirting while her New Year's resolution is not to gossip? The other resolutions give us Chandler holding in a million roasts, Joey taking guitar lessons behind Phoebe's back, and Ross's leather pants – Jesus Christ, David Schwimmer, you were born for physical comedy.

    10. "The One With the Two Parties" (Season 2, Episode 22)

    Rachel and Chandler are hugging, Ross comes out and Chandler hands Rachel to Ross to hug

    9. "The One With Monica's Thunder" (Season 7, Episode 1)

    Monica opens the door and sees Rachel and Ross kissing and says, "I'm sorry, apparently I've opened the door to the past"

    8. "The One With the Prom Video" (Season 2, Episode 14)

    College Ross, in a tux and holding a bouquet, is crestfallen

    7. "The One Where No One's Ready" (Season 3, Episode 2)

    Ross stands between a fighting Chandler and Joey, the latter of whom is wearing all of Chandler's clothes

    6. "The One Hundredth" (Season 5, Episode 3)

    Phoebe lays in her hospital bed, holding the three newborn triplets

    5. "The One With the Videotape" (Season 8, Episode 4)

    In a videotape, Rachel says to Ross, Ross, did I ever tell you about the time that I went backpacking through Western Europe, and the friends watching it gasp and smile

    4. "The One With the Blackout" (Season 1, Episode 7)

    Chandler and Jill Goodacre sit on the ATM vestibule floor, playing with the ATM pens

    3. "The One After Ross Says Rachel" (Season 5, Episode 1)

    The officiant says, I think we better start again, Ross, repeat after me, I, Ross, Ross says, I, Ross, and the officiant says Take thee EMILY

    2. "The One With the Embryos" (Season 4, Episode 12)

    Joey, Chandler, Rachel and Monica sit on the apartment couch, all looking up

    1. "The One Where Everybody Finds Out" (Season 5, Episode 14)

    Phoebe sees Monica and Chandler in the window and says, "Hey you guys," they start hooking up and Phoebe screams, Rachel asks, 'What," Phoebe says, "Chandler and Monica, Chandler and MONICA," Rachel says, "Oh my god," and Phoebe says, "My eyes, my eyes"