When you think about the list of the best TV shows ever made, and the most popular TV shows ever on television, Friends is likely on that list. The iconic sitcom aired for 10 seasons on NBC from 1994 through 2004. It told the story of six single, 20-something-year-old friends living in New York City and navigating their personal and professional lives.
- The One Where Ross Finds Out (season 2, episode 7)
- The One With the Prom Video (season 2, episode 14)
- The One Where No One’s Ready (season 3, episode 2)
- The One With All the Wedding Dresses (season 4, episode 20)
- The One After Ross Says Rachel (season 5, episode 1)
- The One With the Cop (season 5, episode 16)
- The One with the Proposal (season 6, episodes 24 & 25)
- The One With the Red Sweater (season 8, episode 2)
- The One With the Rumor (season 8, episode 9)
- The Last One (season 10, episodes 17 & 18)
With countless memorable moments, quotable lines, copied hairdos, comparisons to one’s own groups of friends and experiences, and an endless list of guest stars, Friends continues to speak to a generation today, aired through reruns and streaming on Max (formerly HBO Max). With a total of 236 episodes, it’s difficult to pinpoint the best ones. But these ones rank up there as being among the best-ever episodes of Friends, for varying reasons.
It was all about the kiss. Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel’s (Murder Mystery 2‘s Jennifer Aniston) on-again-off-again romance was crucial to the plot of Friends and remains one of the most iconic “will they, won’t they” love stories ever on television. But this particular moment had viewers literally up from their couches cheering. Rachel leaves Ross a drunken voice message claiming that she’s finally over him, admitting in the process that she had feelings for him to begin with.
Ross hears the message and visits Central Perk at closing time to confront her. After a big fight, Rachel locks him out only to rush to the door when she changes her mind and is stunned to see him standing there, like a lost puppy. She slowly unlocks the door and he bursts inside, kissing her passionately. It doesn’t really matter what else happened in the episode because this moment took the cake.
A few episodes of Friends showed flashbacks of high school, but this episode showed the first and led to one of the many quotable lines from the show: “the lobster.” Hear someone refer to a soulmate as a “lobster?” They are recalling Phoebe’s (Lisa Kudrow) mention that “lobsters fall in love and mate for life.” (For the record, this is reportedly not actually true, but fits with Phoebe’s abundance of incorrect facts). Nonetheless, she believed, in good faith, that Ross and Rachel were one another’s lobsters.
Later, a moment on an old videotape suggests that Phoebe might be right and that they were destined to be together. Monica sees Rachel being stood up by her date Chip (Dan Gauthier) and catches a glimpse of Ross getting all dressed up to step in and take Rachel to prom. But Chip shows up in the nick of time, and Ross is left looking sad, holding a bouquet of flowers. This is the first time Rachel sees this part of the footage and passionately kisses Ross (once again), forgiving him for a big fight they had earlier. It beautifully set up the final episode of the show.
While the Ross and Rachel romance was central to the show, it wasn’t all about them. Many episodes were pure, silly fun, like this one. It’s all about Ross getting anxious and stressed because everyone is taking their time getting ready for a big event. During one of their typically silly roommate fights, Chandler (Matthew Perry) hides Joey’s (Matt LeBlanc) underwear. So, in retaliation, Joey raids Chandler’s closet and puts on every piece of his clothing he can get onto his body. He then imitates Chandler’s voice and syntax, stating “Could I be wearing any more clothes?”
The episode drew comparisons to Seinfeld because there was no real plot and the events were simply mundane, daily doings among friends. This was topped off with fun gags, like Monica (Scream 6‘s Courteney Cox) leaving embarrassing messages on her ex-boyfriend Richard’s (Tom Selleck) phone, it was a light-hearted episode that’s guaranteed to make you laugh.
A lovely episode to watch with girlfriends, this one is all about young women in their 20s dealing with relationships, lost love, and longing to find “the one.” Monica is tasked with picking up a wedding dress for her sister-in-law-to-be Emily (Helen Baxendale), but she gets excited and tries the beautiful gown on. From there, Monica can’t seem to bring herself to take it off.
Phoebe arrives also wearing a wedding dress, and when Rachel arrives home, distraught that Ross is actually going to get married, the ladies cheer her up by convincing her to don a wedding dress, too. The scene with the three ladies on the couch in wedding dresses, drinking beer, and eating popcorn, is a perfect example of strong female friendship.
The season 4 finale was a massive cliffhanger when, at his wedding to Emily, Ross actually blurts out “Rachel” during his vows. Fans couldn’t wait to see what would happen. But they had to wait until the anticipated fifth season premiere, which picked up right where season 4 left off. They got married anyway, but Emily is visibly (and understandably) angered.
Through the episode, however, Chandler and Monica have now already gotten together once and are trying to keep their budding mutual attraction a secret. But at every turn, they are stopped by someone and can’t get any time alone. They finally, however, share the first on-camera kiss. Meanwhile, Rachel ends up deciding to go to Greece with Ross for his honeymoon which doesn’t seem to be happening, but Emily shows up at the last minute, and Ross rushes to her side trying to explain, leaving Rachel on the plane by herself.
“Pivot!” The word has become a running gag for movers, uttered by any fan of the show. It’s a simple scene but one that became iconic thanks to these simple five letters. While trying to move a couch into his apartment, Ross is too cheap to pay for delivery so he enlists Rachel’s help. They get stuck trying to bring it up the stairs, so Chandler arrives to help as well. Soon, the three are moving the couch every which way except the right way to make it fit in the stairwell. Ross yells “Pivot!” in a desperate attempt to get them to work together and move it properly.
The rest of the episode is filled with typical hijinks, including Phoebe finding a lost wallet with an NYPD badge in it that she uses to try and intimidate people (this introduces the character of Gary, played by Michael Rapaport, as an eventual love interest). Joey, meanwhile, tries to hit on all his female friends, hoping to find the same love that Monica and Chandler have found with one another.
One of the most heartwarming episodes of the show, this one was spread across two episodes. After dating for some time and realizing they were meant to be together, Chandler decides that he is ready to propose. But at the perfectly timed wrong moment, Monica’s ex-Richard walks into the restaurant with a date and ruins his chance. Worried the secret might be revealed before he can plan another surprise, Chandler goes out of his way to make it seem like he never wants to get married. Unbeknownst to him, however, Richard shows up again and tells Monica he still loves her.
It’s the second episode of the two-part finale, however, that had fans sobbing. Chandler confronts Richard, and when he rushes home to propose, he thinks Monica has left in a huff. In reality, it’s she who has planned a big surprise and gets down on one knee, trying to propose to Chandler. The tears become too much, however, and Chandler finally gets his moment.
Back on the Ross and Rachel train, the two have been on again, off again, but off for some time. Meanwhile, Rachel is pregnant and Monica and Phoebe, the only ones who initially know, don’t know who the father is. The ladies are trying everything they can to get her to confess his identity, but she won’t budge. When they tell Joey, he remembers seeing a man’s red sweater in the apartment he shares with Rachel that wasn’t his. It has been there for months and he suspects it could belong to the father.
It’s initially expected to belong to Tag (Eddie Cahill), Rachel’s young and attractive assistant at Ralph Lauren, who does indeed own a sweater just like it. But the typical audience “woos” are heard when Ross walks by and nonchalantly declares in excitement that they found his sweater and he has been looking all over for it, finally revealing the big secret to not only the characters but the audience, too. Meanwhile, Ross walks away and runs into Tag (wearing the same shirt), still completely unaware that Rachel is pregnant, with his baby, no less.
Through its 10 seasons, Friends saw a long list of guest stars, including Reese Witherspoon, Christina Applegate, Tom Selleck, Paul Rudd (before he was Ant-Man), Alec Baldwin, and Danny DeVito. But the one fans most remember is a frosted-tip Brad Pitt. Married to Aniston at the time, Pitt appeared as an old friend of Ross’ who started an “I hate Rachel Greene” club with him back in high school. A former nerd who has turned into a chiseled, handsome man, Will (Pitt) talks about how he used to be overweight and enthuses about how his weight loss might lead him to being on “one of them Subway commercials.”
Visiting for a Thanksgiving episode, Will looks at Rachel with such disdain, going on to reveal that he also started a rumor that she was a hermaphrodite, which sparks a big argument between the two. The awkward conversation and reveals about the terrible things they did in high school make Will a loveable, albeit awkward, character. As the only time the pair ever worked together on screen, it’s also one of Pitt’s few television, and more specifically sitcom, appearances.
Not surprisingly, the series finale of Friends, delivered in two parts, remains one of the best-ever of the show. It beautifully wraps up all the storylines, including Chandler and Monica welcoming their twins and finally moving to the suburbs, Mike and Phoebe getting ready to start a family of their own, and Rachel preparing to say her final goodbye to Ross before she travels to Paris.
In the second half, Ross decides to try and stop Rachel, leading to one of those iconic airline chase scenes. But Ross doesn’t find her and goes back home, feeling hopeless. “Did she get off the plane?” he asks himself, and he hears behind him “I got off the plane” as Rachel opens the door. They kiss, solidifying the fact that the two will indeed finally stay together. The episode also features a final goodbye to Monica’s grandmother’s rent-controlled apartment that was central to the entire show. The final scene sees the group suggesting they all go for coffee one last time before everyone moves on. In one final sarcastic joke, Chandler asks, “Where?”
All 10 seasons of Friends are streaming on Max.
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