Friends binge-watching is ironically at an all-time high. The classic sitcom got Netflix's dreaded expiration date on Saturday, however after a storm of fan outcry, the platform renewed its license after all. All this increased attention has fans and critics of Friends alike revisiting its best moments.
Friends is a classic sitcom of the highest order. It ruled the 1990s and early 2000s in a way that is only comparable to Seinfeld. Friends is emblematic of NBC's golden age, when the network rode a wave of financial and cultural success it has never been able to match since.
A big part of the fondness for Friends is for the characters themselves. It is a character driven show, with an amazing ensemble of actors that could all have carried a sitcom by themselves if they had had to. Instead, they join forces to create heartfelt stories and intricate dynamics that fans get to feel like they are a part of.
For this reason and many more, Friends is a common re-watch among fans. When Netflix saw the outcry to the possibility of it leaving, the company reportedly paid $100 million to keep it through the end of 2019. In all likelihood, this hefty license will not last forever, as Warner Media is rumored to be cooking up its own streaming service to launch at the beginning of 2020. When that happens, Friends will probably migrate over there.
Friends is a one-of-a-kind show. It had its good years and its bad, but in 10 seasons, there are still too many good episodes to choose from. With that in mind, here is a look at some of the best episodes of Friends, which you can stream on Netflix for at least one more year.
9. 'The One Where No One's Ready'
You can tell a lot about a show by how good its bottle episodes are, and with Friends there are none better. The third season finds Ross at his wit's end as his friends are too preoccupied to get dressed for his formal event at work. However, he ends up humbled as everyone pulls it together in the end, and he is left looking like a petulant little boy.
This episode also features one of the best physical gags of the entire series when Joey puts on every single article of Chandler's clothing. It was such a beloved moment that a behind-the-scenes extra in the DVD release later showed how it was done.
8. 'The One With All The Thanksgivings'
In season 5, Friends pulled off a difficult maneuver by fleshing out its narrative backwards rather than forwards in time. While it was always clear that Ross, Rachel, Chandler and Monica had a lot of back story, the specifics were always vague and undefined.
"The One With All The Thanksgivings" cleared that up a little by taking fans back to holidays past, when Chandler joined his college roommate Ross for Thanksgiving, and Rachel visited her friend Monica. The short vignettes were an impressive display of writing exposition after the fact, and plugged in perfectly to the stories established in earlier seasons.
Plus, there are a lot of turkeys crammed onto a lot of heads.
7. 'The One In Vegas'
When Friends first aired, the romance between Ross and Rachel was the central conceit of the show, and the main focus for many fans. In hindsight, however, many binge-watchers find it to be the least compelling plot. Ross and Rachel's relationship is often decried as dysfunctional, and actually gets very little screen time compared to others.
Still, if one Ross and Rachel moment belongs on this list, it is their drunken tryst in Las Vegas. This episode perfectly exemplifies them at their best and their worst, and why they belong together... or, as some see it, deserve each other. It was a bold and ironic choice for the writers to marry their main couple in a flippant Las Vegas ceremony, but the gambit paid off.
6. 'The One With The Football'
Friends is famous for its holiday episodes, and in season 3 they put on one of the most iconic Thanksgiving shows of all time. The forces that drive the group's friendships are never more clear than during their innocent pick-up football game as Monica waits for her turkey to roast in the oven upstairs.
The episode really established Monica and Ross's sibling rivalry, as well as the insecurity and tension between Joey and Chandler. Through it all, however, it becomes more clear than ever why this group sticks together, and how they buoy Rachel through her leap of faith into independence and confidence.
5. 'The One Where Chandler Crosses The Line'
In the early seasons of the show, Joey and Chandler often embody the opposite ends of the spectrum of bachelor life. It was inevitable that they would butt heads eventually in their tiny apartment, but when it happens it is remarkably well done.
Even though this love triangle with Cathy (Paget Brewster) is one of the most dramatic story lines in the show, there is no shortage of laughter. Fans who have seen Chandler and Joey as punch lines for over four seasons suddenly realize all at once that they are deeply emotional characters that have just been waiting for a chance to show it.
4. 'The One With Monica and Chandler's Wedding'
While Ross and Rachel may have seemed like the central couple of Friends when it was on, the romance between Monica and Chandler actually got quite a bit more time on screen. The two were a delightful surprise for fans who never expected them to get together in earlier seasons, and yet they somehow fit together immediately.
Their wedding is the perfect summation of years of work. This two-part episode revisits all the flaws each of them has encountered in their love lives and how they have overcome them through the unique bond they share. At the same time, it amps up the drama around Rachel's pregnancy, showing that there are still years to go on this story.
3. 'The One With The Blackout'
There had to be at least one more bottle episode on this list, and why not draw it from the first season. The early days of Friends were a simpler time — more natural dialogue, more to discover about each character, and the palpable tension of Ross loving Rachel without knowing how to tell her.
"The One With The Blackout" is not technically a bottle episode. Not only is Chandler absent — locked in an ATM vestibule with model Jill Goodacre — but Ross's foil, Paolo, enters the scene for the first time. The dreamy scene of a New York City blackout mixed with the mounting desperation in Ross makes for a compelling story that sets the foundation for the show for years to come.
2. 'The One Where Everyone Finds Out'
Another moment that says a lot about the series as a whole is season 5, episode 14 — "The One Where Everyone Finds Out." In this one, Rachel and Phoebe learn about Chandler and Monica's romance, which has been a secret to everyone but Joey up until this point. In the process, they pull pranks, play mind games and wind up making impassioned declarations of love.
1. 'The One With The Embryos'
Finally, the best episode of Friends is indisputably season 4, episode 12: "The One With The Embryos." It merges drama and comedy as Phoebe undergoes in vitro fertilization in the hopes of becoming a surrogate mother to her brother's children. This insane task soon becomes a massive stress, as she leans that the procedure is expensive, and the success rate is low.
Meanwhile, undercutting this drama is the B plot — a trivia competition pitting Monica and Rachel against Chandler and Joey. The importance of these two groups as neighbors is never more clear, as the stakes of the contest could force them to switch apartments.
That is just what happens. Ross provides a series of questions about each pair, and Chandler and Joey are able to name Rachel's favorite movie(s), Monica's high school nickname and the number of categories she folds her towels in.
Likewise, Rachel and Monica can name Joey's favorite food and his childhood imaginary friend, yet neither of them could remember what his job was. As a result, they were forced to move across the hall, switching apartments with the guys.0comments
This zany, yet high-stakes story is exactly what has made Friends an institution in sticoms and binge-watching. The feeling of familiarity and stability within the group is contagious, and makes viewers feel like they are a part of it. "The One With The Embryos," and the rest of the series, will be a TV classic for many years to come, regardless of how fans are watching it.