The bad friend – everyone has had at least one. They might a relic from days gone by, embarrassing you in front of a newer, cooler crowd. They might be hangers-on, taking more than they give. You know, the friends who get you into trouble. The friends you can’t rely on to get you out of trouble. But the friends who are friends, for better or worse. (Emphasis on the worse.)
This list explores the worst friends in movies and television. These are the toxic friends, the takers, the narcissists, the selfish friends, the irresponsible, and the unreliable. The only requirement here is that these characters are still considered a friend, albeit often begrudgingly. Traitors and backstabbers are for a different, more extreme list. These are characters who treat their “friends” poorly, but somehow still manage to remain friends nonetheless.
These are The 20 Worst Friends in Movie and TV History.
20. Steff Mckee – Pretty in Pink
James Spader was perfect as Steff, the sniveling rich-kid antagonist in Pretty in Pink. Steff is a peripheral character in the film – he is a friend to Blane (Andrew Mccarthy), who courts the working-class Andie (Molly Ringwald) throughout the film. Steff dismisses Andie and ostracizes her, ostensibly because Andie is poor and Steff and Blane are quite rich. Plot twist, though – Steff was only acting out because he too was infatuated with Andie.
Steff is the perfect snake-in-the-grass friend, someone operating solely for their own interests. But he’s more than that. Steff is a sad, scared bully, lashing out to cover up his feelings of inadequacy. He is a horrible communicator with shoddy morals, and a generally unlikable person to be around. He is directly rude to Andie and her friend Duckie at a party, and constantly urges Blane to ditch Andie, deeming her less-than. Steff was a great frenemy.
19. Ed – Shaun of the Dead
Sure, Ed comes around. If you consider becoming an undead, flesh eating monster with a mild temperament and a knack for video games “coming around”.
Ed is the best friend of Shaun of the Dead’s protagonist, Shaun. We can surmise, based on the film’s portrayal of the pre-zombie world, that Ed is not a very good best friend. Loyal, sure. But loyalty is literally the minimum requirement of friendship. It is the quality that allows all other poor attributes to go unchecked. “Well… he’s loyal” is the exact equivalent of saying “yes, I know he sucks… but at least he wants to be my friend.” Ed is slovenly, irresponsible, and regularly creates friction between Shaun and the other, more responsible folks in Shaun’s life. He is somewhat lovable, in the way that sad-sack drunks can be lovable.
Ed is the friend you call when you want to be the lesser version of yourself – eating junk foods, couch surfing for hours, wasting away at the pub. He’s not necessarily a bad person, and he doesn’t seem to be ill-intentioned. If that’s the best you can say of someone, though, then they most likely are not enriching your life.
18. Trent – Swingers
One hallmark of a bad friend is that they’re often able to package their interests within what they believe should be your interests, so they can be self-serving behind a guise of helpfulness. That is Trent from Swingers to a tee.
Trent (Vince Vaughn) is the best friend of Mike (Jon Favreau), a struggling actor who toils away in Los Angeles under the depressing shadow of a recently-ended romantic relationship. Mike is heartbroken, and grieves mostly by hanging around his house in an undershirt, looking at pictures and leaving sad phone messages for his ex-girlfriend. Who hasn’t been there?
Trent refuses to let Mike cope in his own way, because Trent needs people to go with him to parties and bars. He disguises his own self-interest by aggressively suggesting that fleeting connections with single women in bad bars will somehow help Mike move forward with his life. He is quite pushy in doing so. When they get to those bars, Trent generally leaves Mike alone, peeling off to talk to women by himself.
17. Nancy Wheeler – Stranger Things
Stranger Things, like many of the films and shows that blatantly inform its 1980s sensibilities, romanticizes the relationships forged in the innocence of childhood. The series’ kid protagonists are unfailingly good friends to one another, even if they can occasionally be dramatic. If the kids are representative of the purity of childhood friendship, Nancy Wheeler is representative of the breakdown that takes place during puberty.
Nancy is big sister to one of the show’s young ones, a pre-teen named Mike. Mike and his friends concern themselves with board games, imagination, bike-riding, and mysteries. They would do anything for each other. Nancy is more concerned herself with her hot new love interest than her long-standing friend. Nancy is sort of the worst, in the way that many teenagers are sort of the worst.
That might make her completely unoriginal as a bad friend, were it not for Barb. Barb is Nancy’s friend from childhood (we can presume), but as they have aged, Nancy has become cute and desirable, and Barb has become awkward and bookish. Anyways – big spoilers – at one point, Nancy drags Barb to a house party so that Nancy can get face time with a cool guy, then abandons Barb at said party. Barb is then abducted by a monster and dragged into an underworld to die.
16. Seth – Superbad
Seth is not unlike Nancy from Stranger Things. Both are, in some ways, awful teenagers. While Nancy is distracted by a romance with a popular boy, Seth is plagued by the singular motivation that plagues many high school-aged guys – sex. This, and other personality traits that Seth unfortunately exhibits, makes him a less than desirable friend. Seth is, much like Trent before him, willing to go to great lengths for female attention. He drags his friends all over town, in and out of dangerous situations, all to get alcohol for a party so that he can endear himself to a girl. He’s volatile, petulant, crude, and self-centered.
It’s true that Evan (Michael Cera), lies to Seth about rooming with McLovin in college (note: if you haven’t seen the film this might feel like reading Sanskrit.) You might think that makes Evan a bad friend as well. But it’s clear that Evan is only scared, knowing that Seth is prone to temper tantrums and outbursts. The film does a good job of rolling each character’s flaws into a warm, coming-of-age narrative. Yet, if your son was best friends with Seth, you might feel like questioning your son’s judgement. And you might be right.
We’ve already listed the many times Batman was a complete jerk, although that mostly concerned Batman from the comics. The most compelling entry concerns the way Batman has continually adopted traumatized children, ostensibly giving them shelter and safety, but truly enlisting them into his dangerous violent conflicts. Ask Jason Todd if being Batman’s friend worked out happily.
Let’s focus on the movies, though. Batman’s closest friend is probably Alfred, or maybe Jim Gordon. Alfred is Batman’s butler, doting on him and supporting him even as Batman tilts at windmills that might spell his demise. The most heart wrenching moment of the entire Christopher Nolan trilogy comes when Alfred, completely exhausted with Batman’s selfish crusades, leaves for the last time.
Batman is sort of like your friend who is always the first to offer help, and also always the first to remind you that he did. He lacks basic manners, often leaving conversations with so-called friend Jim Gordon without any notice. He’s not very fun to be around. In fact, he’s downright dangerous. The case has been made time and time again that his presence begets more danger than would exist without him (and other superheroes). If Batman asks to be your friend, kindly decline.
14. Ferris Bueller – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Let’s make this entry about rationalization – as in, can you rationalize away being an awful friend?
In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the titular trouble maker, framed and largely remembered as a wise hero, spends most of his day off in question terrorizing his friend Cameron. Bueller fakes sick to skip school, drags his actually sick friend from bed, makes his girlfriend skip school too, and brings them on an escapade. Said escapade involved stealing Cameron’s father’s prized sports car (rationalized because the garage door was unlocked, as if parents expect their friend’s kids to steal their things), joy riding it around the city, and eventually wrecking it.
Cameron and Ferris have what is clearly a one-way relationship. Cameron is coerced into following Ferris on this big day off, and it doesn’t seem like the first time Ferris has talked Cameron into bad ideas. The faulty rationalization comes toward the end of the film, when the audience is made to believe Ferris is really just helping Cameron to overcome his confidence issues and live a fuller life. Like with Trent from Swingers, this idea can only be half-believed. Unless you believe that turning a person into a complete stress case and abusing their family heirlooms can help them out of their shell, it’s a faulty rationalization at best.
13. Rachel – Friends
There was much debate about which Friend would be the worst friend to have in real life. Unlike other, darker sitcoms, the friends on Friends were at least framed as good people, but ultimately: Rachel is the answer. She is the worst friend on Friends.
At the start of the series, Rachel hasn’t spoken to Monica in years (some friend!). She happens to run into Monica in New York City, and wastes no time inserting herself into Monica’s life, using Monica’s apartment as a place to crash. Now, Monica is famously a clean-freak on the show, but Rachel lifts zero fingers to help maintain the order of the place. Just to recap the beginning of this reunion: the two haven’t spoken in years, Rachel needs to stay in Monica’s place, and she refuses to help clean.
Later, she would do shady things like trade names with Monica to use Monica’s insurance, lash out at Ross and Ross’s very nice girlfriend Julie, and sabotage Ross’s relationship with Bonnie. Depending on your sensibilities, any of the Friends might be the most grating or least desirable. But the show wants the audience to believe that they are all generally good people, and good friends. Rachel, though, is the worst friend of them all.
12. Sherlock Holmes – Sherlock
This entry is mostly about Sherlock, the BBC series. Sherlock himself is such a bad friend that he really only has one, the faithful Watson. Watson, obviously, is not as preternaturally gifted as Sherlock, and is rewarded for his loyalty with a never-ending series of slights, passive aggressive comments, thinly veiled frustration, and outright dismissal.
Sherlock Holmes is a friend who thinks that every single thing in the world – even the emotions of others – revolves around him. He is, of course, blessed with incredible intelligence – but he is cursed with a seeming utter lack of empathy.
And to be clear, we aren’t talking about somebody who is poorly socialized. When he needs something, Sherlock is capable of being convincing, charming even. The man is aware of common decency, and “normal” standards of politeness. He just chooses to ignore them most of the time, because he lives in a bubble all to himself.
By the third series, Sherlock is doing things like tricking Watson into thinking they are about to die so he can hear all the nice things Watson has to say about their relationship. Sherlock Holmes: great detective, bad friend.
11. Walter Sobchak – The Big Lebowski
Almost all the events of The Big Lebowski are driven by Walter Sobchak, The Dude’s volatile friend and bowling partner. Walter urges the Dude to confront the other Lebowski. Walter suggests the ransom switch. Walter wrecks the wrong car outside Larry’s house, causing the Dude’s car to be wrecked. Walter throws the other Lebowski from his wheelchair. Walter escalates the conflict with the Nihilists (resulting in Donny’s death!).
Walter is a proud Vietnam veteran with a rigid set of values that primarily serve him, but are still pretty in line with law and order. He values his relationship with bowling more than his relationship with people, generally. And he is incredibly verbally abusive of Donny, the weak and quiet friend in the group.
Here is where the crowd collectively reminds us that he is fiercely loyal and protective of Donny, and that he even gave the eulogy at Donny’s funeral. Well, doing the right thing ten percent of the time doesn’t allow you to be awful the other ninety. Walter Sobchak is a hilarious, quotable creation, but you wouldn’t want him for a friend.
10. The Heathers – Heathers
Heathers is sort of too ridiculous to include, as most of the friends in this film either end up murdered (and framed as suicidal), genuinely suicidal, or totally alienated. The film follows a popular clique called the Heathers, which is comprised (you guessed it!) of girls named Heather… and one girl named Veronica. Also present is J.D., an intriguing outsider who turns out to be a homicidal maniac and a criminal mastermind. J.D. would technically be the worst friend from the film, except he can hardly be called a friend when all is said and done.
The Heathers themselves are sort of proto-Mean Girls, wielding their social status like a weapon. They make and break reputations, ostracize other students, and are generally horrible people. One Heather, Heather McNamara, becomes a little more sympathetic as the film wears on, which allows for the clique’s inclusion on this list. But for the most part, this group is totally irredeemable.
9. Todd Packer – The Office
One of the saddest things about Michael Scott is that he, for the majority of his run on The Office, considers Todd Packer one of his best friends. He even has a pet name for Packer (“Pac-Man”), a man so offensive that literally no one else in the office can stand him. Indeed, Packer is the most universally reviled employee at Dunder Mifflin, but Michael Scott is only willing to condemn him once, admitting that Packer is “an ass” in an aside.
Here is a list of unrelated, but horrific things about Todd Packer, who was at one point Michael Scott’s emergency contact: as a prank, he once relieved himself (the worse way) on Michael’s rug. His license plate reads “WLHUNG”. He once ran from a fight at a bar, leaving Michael to get beaten by security. He says homophobic things such as, “what’s up Halpert, still queer?” He regularly derides Kevin for being heavy. He and Michael once absconded to their hotel room with two women – Todd slept with both of them.
8. Worm – Rounders
Worm is the ultimate example of a bad friend from the past – someone who storms into their friends’ lives like a hurricane, disrupting the peace and endangering everyone in their path.
Rounders is about a retired gambler named Mike (Matt Damon), who left poker behind to study law. At one point, he had played regularly with a childhood friend named Worm (Ed Norton), before Worm was imprisoned for something Mike was involved with. Time has passed since then, though, and Mike is enjoying a drama-free life, a stable romantic relationship, and his law education.
Until the aptly named Worm is released from prison, that is. When Worm comes home, Mike has to go back to rounding (playing high-stakes poker) to help pay off Worm’s debt. This is at least explicable – Mike feels indebted to Worm after Worm went to prison, ostensibly for him. But Worm won’t even let poker go smoothly. The two make Worm’s money quickly, but Worm insists on pushing the envelope, eventually losing their entire bankroll after being caught cheating in a game with state troopers. Mike then has to either leave town and hide, or risk literally everything to clear his and Worm’s names. This is all Worm’s fault.
7. The Plastics – Mean Girls
All you should need to know about The Plastics is that they call themselves “The Plastics”. This is not a pejorative nickname given to them by classmates. They are proudly plastic.
What does that mean? Well, immediately it connotes Barbie Dolls. It is a hard, unforgiving material. It can shine. It is also synthetic, which is fitting – these girls act as though they were created in a lab, with the express purpose of being cool girls in some unfortunate high school. The Plastics are crafted in the model of the Heathers before them, only without all the heavy, dark suicidal elements.
In Mean Girls, the Plastics are led by Regina George, the school’s alpha female. The rest of the clique sort of follow Regina like pilot fish, rudely doing her bidding. The group as a whole is consumed by appearances. Wealth and beauty are the only currency in which they traffic. They are unyielding in their awfulness, and like other bullies from high school movies, are hopefully worse than any real life analogs.
6. Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer – Seinfeld
We considered leaving Kramer off this list. Of the Seinfeld friends, he seems to be the best intentioned, and most loyal. Then we realized that a friend who bursts into your house every day, eats from your fridge, interrupts your dates, and is generally a whirling dervish of chaos definitely belongs on this list.
Seinfeld is famously a show that aimed to avoid sentiment. “No Hugging, No Learning” was at one point the show’s ethos. This crass outlook comes to life with the show’s characters, each flawed and self-serving in your own way. Which of the four Seinfeld friends would you rather have as a friend?
Jerry, who can be counted on only for smug smiles and snappy remarks, following his own muse through life and not concerning himself with the welfare of others?
George, a one-man powder keg who will literally lie, cheat, and steal without second thought?
Elaine, who is largely the show’s female Jerry equivalent – obsessed with her own career and love life, largely cold and uncaring?
Or Kramer, who’s undesirable qualities are well-chronicled above?
5. Lando Calrissian – Star Wars
When we wrote about Ferris Bueller, we talked about rationalization. Let’s now discuss redemption.
If you do the worst thing you can possible do to a friend – betray them, probably killing them in the process – you are a horrible, horrible friend. But what if you were under duress? That would have to be somewhat less bad. After all, we can’t just expect everyone to be a hero. What if you totally redeemed yourself, by not only rescuing your friend, but helping save the galaxy, too? Would you and your friend be even? Han Solo seems to think so, even after he suffered the ultimate betrayal at the hands of Lando Calrissian.
Calrissian, who Solo defines as a character of mild disrepute from the beginning, lays a trap for Solo in The Empire Strikes Back, which results in Han being captured and frozen in carbonite. This is a very bad thing to do to your friend, obviously. Now, it’s doubtful that if you are reading this you don’t already know why Calrissian betrayed Han, but for the uninitiated: he was coerced into doing so by Darth Vader. So, for what it’s worth, Lando’s heart wasn’t really in it.
4. Stifler, American Pie
Steve Stifler is awful, and that is pretty much his whole character. Now, the other characters in the American Pie film aren’t great either (one has sex with Stifler’s mom), but they’re generally less defined by their awfulness and more by wanting to lose their virginity before graduation.
Stifler gets away with being horrible because he is generally likeable, funny, and good looking. He also is occasionally caring and loyal, but as with many of the other characters on this list, that is not enough to redeem his negative qualities.
Here’s something Stifler does in American Pie: Finch, a “friend” of Stifler who is markedly less popular, who we can assume lives a less enjoyable life than Stifler, attempts to raise his social profile by disseminating positive lies about himself. One is that he once won a fight agains Stifler.
Stifler, upon learning of this, could choose to be magnanimous. He is a star athlete and ladies’ man, everything his friend openly wants to be. His profile would hardly be destroyed by this harmless lie. In fact, he could use his own status to positively impact Finch’s life. That is something a good friend would do.
Instead, Stifler tricks Finch into taking an absurd dose of laxatives, and tricks him once more into finding his monstrous relief in the women’s bathroom, thus assassinating Finch’s burgeoning reputation. That is something a bad friend would do.
3. Danny McBride – This Is The End
This is The End is a comedy about the rapture, starring the Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco, and their gang as extreme versions of themselves, all trapped in a house after the dawn of the apocalypse. The rapture begins during a party hosted by Franco, and leaves only a small group of survivors once the night is over.
The morning after the disaster, the group discovers that Danny McBride has also survived the events – he seems to have been passed out in a bathtub and is unaware of what happened. So, he starts his run of horrible friendship by wasting most of the food left in the house. And this is the least awful thing McBride does in the film.
Later, after the group finally bursts through the floor to find water in the basement, McBride again wastes most of the water – this time out of spite. In between those two events (the food waste and the water waste), it is revealed that McBride had been prolifically masturbating throughout the house the entire time. McBride then goes on to sow discontent among the other members of the group, before being exiled. He eventually finds himself leading a gang of cannibals, who end up devouring James Franco.
2. Eric Cartman – South Park
Anti-Semitic. Homophobic. Racist. Psychopathic. Amoral. Murderous. This entry could easily be a list of hundreds of horrible traits, steadily getting worse and worse, that all define Eric Cartman. Instead, here are two stories from South Park episodes.
In one, Cartman is bullied by an older child. Specifically, he is tricked into losing eighteen dollars and gets publicly embarrassed. This would be sad, if not for two things. First, by the time this episode aired, Cartman had already been established as a heinous person. He deserved whatever came his way. Second, the bullying, while pointed, was generally grounded in reality. So, again, eighteen dollars and an embarrassment. Cartman responds to this bullying by murdering the child’s parents and feeding them to the child, unbeknownst to the child.
That was story one. Here is story two: in a different South Park episode, Cartman becomes obsessed with the Mel Gibson film The Passion of The Christ. He acts on this obsession by starting a hate group, bent on carrying out another holocaust. We can assume that this is largely driven by Cartman’s hate for his Jewish “friend” Kyle.
Cartman is a horrible, horrible person and an even worse friend.
1. Dee, Dennis, and Frank Reynolds – It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
We are leaving Mac and Charlie out of this Always Sunny entry, even though they too are generally framed by the show as bad people and bad friends. First, they (especially Charlie) seem much less intelligent than the Reynolds family, making them extremely vulnerable to manipulation. Mac and Charlie consistently seem to have better intentions than the rest of the gang – their flaws are mostly stupidity and weakness.
The Reynolds, on the other hand, are bad through and through. In the case of Dennis, as the show has gone on, he has progressively become almost evil. It’s regularly hinted at that he is a serial sex offender, and possible serial killer. He is, at best, tragically vain and self-absorbed. At worst, he is – well, you read the thing about the serial killing.
Dee, twin sister to Dennis, shares his vanity and megalomania. She is obsessed with becoming famous, almost delusional in her quest. She has been addicted to countless substances throughout the series, and has assaulted numerous other characters on the show. Like the rest of the gang, she is prejudiced against a large segment of the population (despite fashioning herself as a progressive).
Frank is father to Dee and Dennis, although this is mostly just a title. He takes a copious amount of drugs, dangerously brandishes a gun on a regular basis, puts his children in harm’s way for his own benefit, and is verbally abusive toward everyone else in the gang.
There you have it: Dee, Dennis, and Frank – the worst friends in screen history.