Entertainment TV Friends turns 20: here are the top 20 best moments

Friends turns 20: here are the top 20 best moments

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Twenty years ago this week, Friends – a sitcom centring on a group of six 20-something friends living in Manhattan – debuted on NBC. The six little-known actors developed the characters of Ross, Chandler, Joey, Monica, Rachel and Phoebe into some of the best-loved in television history, turning Friends into a worldwide phenomenon.

Ranked No.21 by TV Guide and No.7 by Empire in greatest TV shows of all-time lists, Friends was nominated for 62 Emmys, and pulled at the heartstrings and funny-bones in equal measure. Few shows have been as universally popular before or since.

The early episodes may be hard to watch these days, but the majority hold up remarkably well – especially when compared to the primetime sitcom fodder we have been subjected to in the decade since the show wrapped up.

We’ve sifted through literally hundreds of classic Friends moments to bring you the greatest 20 – from the poignant to the hilarious, the heart-warming and the side-splitting, there’s something for every fan.

20 best Friends episodes

20. Ross’s sandwich (season 5, episode 9)

When his delicious Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich goes missing from the museum staffroom fridge, down-on-his-luck Ross is distraught. After leaving an aggressive note on his lunch the next day (and garnering the nickname ‘Mental Geller’), Ross is called in to explain by his boss, who reveals he was the careless culprit in the sandwich mystery. Ross’s epic meltdown results in a forced sabbatical due to his ‘rage’, but it also signalled his transformation from goofy and lovable scientist to Friends’ resident nut-bar. Subsequent storylines involving Ross were the show’s most hilarious – and most embarrassing – with Dr. Geller’s behaviour becoming increasingly erratic.

19. Ross and Rachel’s first date (season 2, episode 15)

After what seemed like an eternity following several false starts, Ross and Rachel finally had their first date at the museum. But Friends didn’t lay it on too thick with the mushy romance, instead bringing premature ejaculation into the mainstream well over a decade before we would be bombarded with it via TV and radio ads.

18. The apartment bet (season 4, episode 12)

What begins as an argument about Joey and Chandler’s noisy birds descends into a high-stakes Boys v Girls wager, hinging on a quiz (arbitrated by Ross) to see which pair knows more about the other. The girls’ fate is sealed when Rachel guesses Chandler’s occupation is ‘transpondster’; the boys’ prize is switching apartments with their vanquished opponents – an arrangement that lasts seven episodes.

17. Ross says Rachel’s name (season 4, episode 24)

Ross’s whirlwind romance with Emily and their hastily-organised London wedding sparks Rachel into action, realising she is still in love with Ross. She ultimately decides against telling him how she feels before the ceremony, but bumbling Ross accidentally says Rachel’s name instead of Emily’s in his wedding vows. Emily was nice enough (in a terse British kind of way), but we were all holding out for Ross and Rachel to get back together; Ross’s gaffe kept the dream alive.

16. Monica and Chandler get together in London (season 4, episodes 23/24)

It’s the hook-up we didn’t see coming, but it developed into Friends’ most enduring romance. After being mistaken for Ross’s mum at his London wedding, Monica seeks comfort in the wise-cracking Chandler. The seemingly unlikely couple hide their relationship for several months – forming the basis of many classic episodes.

15. Ross and Rachel’s Vegas wedding (season 5, episode 24)

During the gang’s trip to Las Vegas, Monica and Chandler – only one year dating – impulsively decide to get married. But while waiting at the chapel, they see super-drunk Ross and Rachel stumble out as husband and wife instead. The season-ending shocker led to a string of hilarious episodes as Ross desperately tried to avoid becoming a three-time divorcee.

14. Monica proposes to Chandler (season 6, episode 24)

Chandler’s original proposal to Monica is foiled by running into her ex-boyfriend Richard (played by Magnum P.I. himself, Tom Selleck), after which Chandler tries to throw Monica off the scent by pretending to be uninterested in marriage. The plan works too well, driving Monica to Richard – who declares he still loves her. It all works out, of course, with Monica turning the tables on Chandler and proposing to him in this tear-jerking scene.

13. Ross’s spray-tan (season 10, episode 3)

After admiring Monica’s spray-tan, Ross decides to head down to the salon to bronze up himself. But his ill-fated adventure into the world of beauty therapy began with a racial faux pas and ended with Ross getting a tan four times the desired strength. Seinfeld fans may claim the storyline was a rip-off of Kramer’s tanning-bed fiasco, but hapless Ross’s misfortune was just as funny.

12. Bruce Willis as Paul, ‘The Man’ (season 6, episode 21)

Friends frequently enlisted big-name actors for cameos as the show became successful, but few were bigger – or hung around for more episodes – than Bruce Willis. The action-movie legend played Paul, father of Ross’s young girlfriend Emily. After starting to date Rachel, the seemingly unflappable Paul revealed his insecurities in this classic scene, and after blackmailing Ross to stop him dating Emily, Ross turns the tables.

11. Joey and Rachel finally kiss  (season 9, episode 24)

One of Friends’ fortes was remaining genuinely funny while also creating goosebump-inducing moments. Joey and Rachel had sporadically pursued each other for a couple of years, but when Joey spots Ross kissing his ex-girlfriend Charlie while the group are at a resort in Barbados, he marches to Rachel’s room and plants one on her to conclude the show’s penultimate season. The flawless song choice – then-emerging New York indie band Interpol’s searing Untitled – helped craft one of Friends’ most spine-tingling scenes.

10. Ross buys a new couch (season 5, episode 16)

Ross’s neurosis was near its peak when he bought a new couch. Following a typically awkward encounter at the furniture store, Ross enlists Chandler and Rachel to help him move the couch up the staircase to his apartment – but his repeated instructions to “pivot” aren’t quite sufficient. His attempts to return the couch are similarly unsuccessful.

9. Joey does lunges in Chandler’s underwear (season 3, episode 2)

An argument over a chair between Joey and Chandler escalates, frustrating Ross’s attempts to get everyone ready for an important museum function. Joey takes the chair cushions, so Chandler retaliates by hiding Joey’s underwear. But Joey trumps his best bud by returning wearing all of Chandler’s clothes – then compounding the affront by doing lunges while going ‘commando’.

8. Ross the masseur (season 6, episode 2)

Phoebe moves in with Ross temporarily, but infuriates him by massaging clients in his apartment. Things go further downhill for Ross when he pretends to be a masseur, thinking that he is going to get to massage an attractive woman – but instead ends up rubbing down her elderly father. Phoebe is less than impressed by Ross costing her a client due to his unorthodox massage techniques.

7. Chandler visits Joey’s tailor (season 2, episode 1)

In one of the best moments of Friends’ early seasons, Chandler visits Joey’s tailor of many years to get measured up for pants – but is disturbed by his unconventional methods. Chandler confronts Joey about the tailor and his penchant for ‘cupping’.

6. Ross’s leather pants (season 5, episode 11)

Ross’s evolution into Friends’ resident fall-guy reached its zenith when he opted to wear a questionable pair of leather pants to a date’s apartment. Sweltering while watching a movie on the couch, Ross excuses himself to the bathroom to cool down … but then he can’t get his pants back on. Calling Joey for advice only makes matters worse. Hysterically worse.

5. Ben Stiller as Tommy, ‘The Screamer’ (season 3, episode 22)

With his There’s Something About Mary breakthrough still a couple of years away, Ben Stiller appeared in an episode as Tommy, Rachel’s short-tempered boyfriend. Ross witnesses multiple radical outbursts by Tommy, but no one believes him, while Rachel accuses Ross of being jealous and attempting to sabotage their fledgling relationship. Tommy has one meltdown too many, though, finally vindicating Ross’s pleas.

4. Joey and Ross become nap partners (season 7, episode 6)

When Joey and Ross inadvertently fall asleep on the couch together, they are embarrassed and try to forget it ever happened. But both admit it was the best nap they’ve ever had – and Joey wants to do it again. Ross eventually relents, but they are eventually busted taking their friendship to strange new levels by the rest of the gang.

3. Joey ‘Soapy’ award (season 7, episode 18)

Nominated for a ‘Soapy’ for his role on Days of Our Lives, Joey takes Rachel as his date to the awards ceremony. But Joey proves to be a less than gracious loser, blowing up when a Young & the Restless rival wins the gong instead, before angrily presenting another award. His mood improves when he accepts an award on behalf of a co-star.

2. The red sweater (season 8, episode 2)

After Rachel falls pregnant, the others rabidly speculate as to the identity of the father. Rachel refuses to tell until she’s had a chance to talk to the father himself, who unwittingly reveals himself by claiming ownership of a red sweater.

1. The last episode (season 10, episodes 17 and 18)

Although it seemed inevitable Ross and Rachel would wind up together and some viewed it as a by-the-numbers finish (particularly if you’re from the Seinfeld school of last episodes, where the main characters all ended up in jail), but Friends’ conclusion still contained plenty of twists and turns, giving us the ending we all craved.

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