Over 236 episodes and a whole decade, we laughed, we cried, we loved, and we lost. In 1994, when a relatively unknown group of six actors splashed around in a fountain, no one knew what a phenomenon Friends would become. The actors all went on to huge careers – one even had a haircut named after their character – and Friends is said to always be playing somewhere in the world.
Few shows have as much of a fuzzy nostalgia factor than NBC’s zany comedy, and there are some truly golden episodes to watch over and over again. Whether it be hopping into the map in London, Ross’ obsession with sandwiches, or poking ugly naked men, everyone has their favorite episode from the 236.
However, what happens when things don’t go quite to plan? Friends never really had a truly awful episode (unlike the majority of Joey), but there are those that have aged badly, are a little too risque, or are just plain skippable.
If Friends ever did crawl out of the graveyard for a revival – here’s hoping it doesn’t – you can almost assure yourself a few more entries would make the list, but in the meantime, here are the 16 Worst Episodes Of Friends, Ranked.
16. The One With The Secret Closet – S8E14
Shock horror, Monica isn’t actually perfect? Why it took the show eight years to establish this fact is a little strange, but a plot about a messy cupboard? Not exactly comedy gold!
Elsewhere, there is another awkward massage plot including both Monica and Phoebe making uncomfortable sex noises. Sorry Friends, but nothing will ever beat Ross massaging old Arthur with Tonka trucks and salad spoons, so you probably should’ve stopped trying.
We get Jennifer Aniston sporting that dodgy pregnancy belly and the Joey/Rachel relationship continue at a snail’s pace. To top it off, there was Joey’s creepy dream about Rachel giving birth to a baby that turns out to be Ross – it was all a little schticky to be honest.
At least we finally got to see the fourth wall of Monica’s apartment, but all in all, “The One with the Secret Closet” is nothing more than a filler episode where Chandler is actually a bit of a jerk to his wife.
15. The One With Chandler In A Box – S4E8
An episode that is largely sans Chandler? How could you?
Given the silent movie treatment, Matthew Perry just isn’t as funny when he is reduced to a finger poking out of a hole in a box. “The One with Chandler in a Box” may be a funny nod back to the time Joey was locked in the entertainment center, but it just seems a bit ridiculous that the two best buds are pulled apart by the fairer sex.
The show again treads that fine line of taste as Monica gets jiggy with the other Dr. Burke (sorry, Tom Selleck), and she also opts for the Pirates of the Caribbean look. The episode itself may be quite memorable, but is easy to forget that this is actually a Thanksgiving episode, especially when Friends is so renowned for them.
Annoyingly, we couldn’t even get rid of Paget Brewster as Kathy, and it was just the start of her relationship with Chandler. Some people love the episode, whereas others feel that there is something about Joey and Chandler being at odds with each other that just doesn’t feel right.
14. The One Where Ross Can’t Flirt – S5e19
David Schwimmer had always excelled at making the geeky Ross awkward around women – it was what made him endearing – but did we really need a whole episode that centers around this? The simple answer is no!
Enter the easily skippable “The One Where Ross Can’t Flirt”, an episode that promoted the gluttony of how much pizza the gang ordered and some side story about Joey tricking his elderly grandma into thinking he was in Law & Order. Fart jokes are about as low-brow in the humor stakes as you can get, but we never expected Friends to go there with its “gas” scene.
Dr. Geller again shows that he may be good in the classroom, but not so good at seducing women. There was always a sense of “the girl next door” when Ross bagged Rachel, and his seduction of delivery girl Caitlyn showed that it must’ve been sheer dumb luck. What’s more, the pixie-haired actress doesn’t even rank anywhere near memorable cameos; given the celebrity talent that popped by, at least stick someone famous in the role.
13. The One In Barbados Part 1 and 2 – S9E23 & 24
There is no way to separate the Barbados trip into two episodes, so instead, let’s lump it together as one big romantic car crash. Friends always had a solid end to its seasons, but Joey and Rachel teetering on the edge of a relationship is one that we would all probably rather forget.
Monica’s competitive streak had got a little stale by season 9, so couple this with her Hagrid hair and the resigning of Phoebe to “the other one in the corner” and we were onto a loser. Also, so much more could’ve been done with the return of Hank Azaria as David.
The whole dynamic of the characters outside the usual six in Barbados made everything a little crowded. We also had Joey and Rachel laughing at the likes of “Homo Erectus,” and the pure snoozefest that was Charlie. We entered the final season leaving behind a damp vacation in Barbados but a storyline that would roll over from the finale.
12. The One With The Breast Milk – S2E2
Oh come on, it’s just a boob. Do breasts really warrant Joey and Chandler’s “Awoogah” sounds? Showing strange gender stereotypes and possibly one of the most dated Friends episodes ever, rewatching “The One with the Breast Milk” is a little tough these days.
Joey pimps himself out as some sort of Midnight Cowboy homage by selling perfume, Phoebe may as well be invisible (again), and Monica sides with Julie. That might actually be a little harsh of Monica to betray her best friend – well, that would be if Rachel wasn’t being so ridiculous about the Ross and Julie situation. Perhaps the only adults here are Carol and Susan, appearing before the days when they vanished into nothingness.
It may have been the relatively early days of the show, but every character just comes across as a little immature here. Case in point, Ross literally having to gobble down cookies just to remove the taste of breast milk from his mouth – real mature, guys!
11. The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion – S3E24
These days, Jon Favreau would be an A-list Hollywood addition to any show. Back in the ‘90s, before he was guarding (and directing) Tony Stark, Fav was just chubby Pete, Monica’s millionaire boyfriend in season 3 of Friends. The whole problem with the Pete situation was that Monica was never really that into him. Admittedly, the show didn’t take her down the easy route of being with him for his money, however, it still strung out the lackluster romance plot for longer that it should’ve.
In one of TV’s most bizarre exit plots, things came to a head with the insane idea that Pete was going to become the Ultimate Fighting Champion. Blinded by his own business sense to be the alpha male, Pete cast aside his love with Monica to become a pro-wrestler and she abandoned him too – it just wouldn’t happen like that!
Pete’s brutal exit aside, this was also the episode with Chandler’s boss and Doug’s uncomfortable “butt-slap” storyline – can anyone else see a workplace harassment case? We did have the superb Billy Crystal and Robin Williams cameoing pre-intro, but even that isn’t enough to save this episode.
10. The One With Ross And Monica’s Cousin – S7E19
Friends was always a little on the kooky side, whether it be having a turkey shoved on your head or shark porn, but surely someone should draw the line at incest. Game of Thrones this is not, so quite how “The One with Ross and Monica’s Cousin” made it to air is a little confusing.
Putting aside Monica crafting a foreskin from cold meats and silly putty, the episode is remembered for Denise Richards and all the wrong reasons. Admittedly, Ross and Monica didn’t hook up (that was in the episode “The One Where the Stripper Cries”), but the whole plot was an incestuous story about David Schwimmer’s character trying to seduce his own cousin – played by Richards. Sure, the blossomed Cousin Cathy is now super hot (duh, it’s Denise Richards), however, can this excuse 25 years of being related to each other?
The episode also goes over that tried-and-tested fail formula of Ross flirting. It was bad enough with pizza girl, but when there is a family tie, it just gets a little icky. All for what, a cheap laugh and another flat episode? That’s a big no-no from us.
9. The One With Chandler’s Work Laugh – S5E12
More lame workplace drama from the Bings in Season 5, and Chandler shows himself to be nothing more than a spineless suck-up. While we may have got the triumphant return of Sam McMurray as Doug, who else found “The One with Chandler’s Work Laugh” as grating as Matthew Perry’s chuckle? However, the real clincher for why this episode makes the list is once again down to Dr. Geller – Ross dating Janice, who’da thunk it?
The whole catalyst is actually the grim specter of Helen Baxendale’s Emily returning to ruin more of the show. With Ross’ ex remarrying, he goes out on the rebound and ironically has a fling with Janice, of all people. Maggie Wheeler was obviously on top form in one of her brief Janice cameos, but she is right, Ross is incredibly whiny through the entire episode.
It also serves as another in between episode where the Chandler and Monica relationship is still a secret. You would think that the two were having some scandalous affair the way in which they lied to those closest to them, however, the constant sneaking around and “will they tell Ross” had gotten a little dull at this point.
8. The One With The Evil Orthodontist – S1E20
How Barry Farber ever got himself Rachel is beyond us. Toward the end of the first season, Barry reared his head and was up there with the biggest jerks on TV.
“The One with the Evil Orthodontist” manages to undo the entire arc of what Rachel had accomplished in the first season and made her seem like a helpless bimbo. As Rach’s mom would say, “once a cheater, always a cheater,” and this episode puts that into perspective.
There is the awkward rekindling of their relationship and the pair having sex in Barry’s exam chair, just before Mindy asks Rachel to be her maid of honor. The smug Barry gets exactly what he wants and it’s cringeworthy stuff that also doesn’t make Rach look particularly good either.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last time we were subjected to Mitchell Whitfield’s performance and Rachel was even forced to attend his wedding. Arguably her worst partner ever, it is impossible to look at Barry and not think of Mr. Potatohead – thanks, Rachel.
7. The One Where Chandler Can’t Remember Which Sister – S3E11
Stuffed with more Italian stereotypes than the Super Mario Bros. film, “The One Where Chandler Can’t Remember Which Sister” may as well have “bada bing, bada boom” stamped all over it. Friends managed to make each of Joey’s seven sisters louder and more obnoxious than the last – just imagine a room full of Janices.
There was another kick in the crotch for poor Rachel, who finds herself leaving a life of serving coffee at Central Perk to serving coffee at a fashion company. Ross is overly jealous of Mark, and Phoebe has loud sex with the charming man upstairs.
This time it is Chandler’s turn to be a jerk, which he does to perfection, and lands himself a well-deserved black eye. Anyone should be able to tell sisters apart – well, maybe not Phoebe and Ursula – so it is ridiculous that a clever transponster like Chandler could be so naive as to not recognize which sister he kissed. To weave a whole story out of Chandler’s drunken antics when pining for Janice was a bit of a stretch. We didn’t care back in 1997 and we certainly don’t care now.
6. The One With The Sharks – S9E4
Trouble in the bedroom shouldn’t really be funny, but when handled right, what goes on between the sheets can be hilarious. However, someone getting their rocks off to a copy of Jaws is not the way to do it. Enter the notorious “shark porn” episode of Friends and one of the weirdest subplots ever.
Monica wins the Joey Tribbiani Stupidity Award for believing that someone would actually find arousal in those toothy critters from the briny blue. It was clearly just another way to try and make the Tulsa storyline funny, but like most of that plot, it sank to the bottom of the ocean. That being said, congratulations to Kauffman and Crane for engraving the image of Chandler pulling it to sharks in our minds.
It is strange that Perry reportedly nixed a storyline of Chandler visiting a male strip bar for sandwiches but was okay with the implication of him Chandler touching himself to copies of Deep Blue Sea. =
5. The One With The Bullies – S2E21
In all the bad luck of the entire series, Monica having to take a secret job as a rollerblading waitress is the cruelest, and it just didn’t work. Flame-retardant breasts are never anything to joke about, and “The One with the Bullies” is just evil for the sake of it.
Ross and Chandler have always come across as this infallible (but unlikely) bromance, but to see them bullied out of their usual seat was just wrong. To be bested by an inferior version of themselves was the worst thing to happen to the show before Ross picked Emily.
What do the other three “friends” do this week? Well, not a lot. It is a pretty sombre episode where Ross and Chandler face some bullies, Monica faces poverty, and Phoebe faces her deadbeat dad while running over a dog. Way to bring the cheer, guys!
4. The One With Christmas In Tulsa – S9E10
Monica and Chandler are getting a little boring, so let’s separate them and try to make it seem funny. Thankfully, the ongoing Tulsa storyline came to an end here in “The One with Chrismas in Tulsa”, but is it a case of too little, too late?
How you can get a Christmas episode wrong is a mystery, but Friends in 2002 certainly managed it. Alongside the likes of The Simpsons, Friends clip-shows were notoriously lazy and an easy skip on the Netflix category; however, this time they took the cake.
The positives: Chandler leaves the smoky backdrop of Tulsa. The negatives: Everything else. If you are looking at fake snow from a fake window, why would you assume that the other half must be sleeping with someone else? Even Selma Blair as runner-up Miss Oklahoma couldn’t spare this from the list of fails.
3. The One After Joey And Rachel Kiss – S10E1
Brave creative decisions are to be applauded on any TV show, but to shoehorn two main characters together romantically just for the sake of some watercooler chatter is a cheap trick. Heading into the final season, the pairing of Joey and Rachel bombed, which wasn’t really helped by the lack of chemistry between Aniston and LeBlanc.
Sure, both characters were a hit with the opposite sex and weren’t quite as intellectual as the rest of the group, but their matching always felt a little off. It would’ve actually made more sense to pair Joey off with Phoebe and tie the group together in three couples. Rolling over that “will they, won’t they” from that disastrous Barbados trip, we opened season 10 with a vomit-inducing smooch-fest.
Perhaps the only redeeming feature? At least there wasn’t another secret relationship storyline, and thankfully Ross caught them kissing straight away. As Rachel told Monica that it was like being in sixth grade, that’s exactly what it felt like for the audience – nothing more than childish flirting.
2. The One With Phoebe’s Husband – S2E4
Lisa Kudrow always excelled at being the kooky Phoebe Buffay, and you can’t deny that the dizzy blonde had led the most interesting life out of any of the friends– from mugging Ross to catching hepatitis from a pimp. But do you remember her gay husband?
Season 2 can’t have been running low on ideas, however, one Phoebe-centric episode saw a mysterious blond from her past turn up looking for her. As “The One with Phoebe’s Husband” unravelled, we realize that she had married Duncan just so he could get his green card. Elsewhere, Chandler has three nipples, Joey was in a porno, and Rachel is her most jealous in her campaign against Julie.
No one ever thought to mention nipples, porn careers, or secret husbands, even in passing? To add just another stereotypical cliche into the mix, of course he is a gay ice dancer. Duncan comes out as straight and it is a tough watch as Phoebe clearly had feelings for him as more than a sham. The whole episode was a confusing downer that just didn’t land.
1. The One With Five Steaks And An Eggplant – S2E5
Before Chandler Bing was a happily married bumbler, we forget that he was arguably the worst of the guys toward women. Yes, Joey was a womanizer, but Chandler treated the opposite sex like dirt. Stringing Janice along, kissing Kathy, and ignoring Joanna are just a few mistakes in a long line of him being a jerk.
He was still admittedly depressed from the revelation he was turning into Mr. Heckles, but is that any reason to pretend you are “Bob”to seduce a hot blonde? To make it even worse, he then devises a manic plot to stand her up and swoop in when she is most vulnerable. It is also the episode that splits the main six into rich and poor, then pits them against each other.
Friends had a habit of being overly nice or overly cruel, so adding the malicious sacking of Monica, “The One with Five Steaks and an Eggplant” is perhaps the best example. As Chandler comes across as a creepy sexual predator who willing to catfish someone just to get them into bed, no one episode is as singularly uncomfortable to watch. Where are MTV and Nev when you need them?
Which is your least favorite episode of Friends? Sound off in the comments below!