Over the course of its 10 seasons, Friends had more than a few notable guest appearances. Some of these cameos elevated the story, while others couldn't save a less than desirable storyline. For the most part, however, these guest spots were a delight. The actors brought the necessary tone for their storylines, even when that required them to be in both comedic and serious during certain moments.
These guest stars also worked well opposite the main cast. Sometimes that meant simply acting in support of the other characters. In a few cases, it meant stealing a scene (or episode) and being part of some of the funniest and best moments of the series. Some of the guest appearances were especially special because of how viewers knew the actors outside of Friends. Maybe they were simply a big name, maybe they starred on another favorite television show, or maybe even the smallest cameo signified a crossover with another show.
The best cameos had viewers laughing throughout an appearance and made them remember the shortest of scenes even years later. In some cases, an entertaining performance could even make viewers ignore the fact that the six friends mentioned some actors by name or should have recognized them.
Here are the 4 Cameos That Hurt Friends (And 21 That Saved It).
25 Saved: Jason Alexander
Jason Alexander guest starred as Earl in "The One Where Rosita Dies". Phoebe encountered the office manager when she had a temporary job selling toner over the phone. He told her he was going to end his own life, and she went down to his office to stop him.
Bringing on Alexander was a treat to sitcom viewers because he played George on Seinfeld and Friends' Courteney Cox appeared on that show. It was a treat for fans of both shows without making it some convoluted crossover that wouldn't have made any sense.
24 Saved: Jane Lynch
Jane Lynch appeared as a realtor, Ellen, in "The One Where Estelle Dies". Monica and Chandler checked out the house next to their new one and ended up running into Janice.
Lynch's guest spot wasn't that big of a deal. Neither she nor it were over the top. Instead, it was a fun cameo, one that allowed fans to recognize the person in the scene without taking away from the actual plot. That was what was needed for the scene since it was one of the final episodes of the series.
23 Saved: Gary Oldman
Gary Oldman appeared as actor Richard Crosby opposite Joey in "The One With Monica and Chandler's Wedding". Joey had to contend with the other man's habit of spitting when he enunciated. By the end of their time together, they both needed towels to dry off after each take.
It was an amusing side plot to the wedding and its hijinks. Oldman was fun to watch in the role acting opposite Matt LeBlanc, not just when they were filming for their movie, but also when Richard had consumed too much alcohol to work.
22 Saved: Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson appeared in "The One With Princess Consuela". He played a clerk when Phoebe went to change her name following her and Mike's wedding. His rapport with Lisa Kudrow's Phoebe was on point.
His guest spot was brief, but memorable, especially considering the episode was a busy one. Furthermore, the importance of his scene was for Phoebe to realize she could change her name to anything. That plot's focus was on Phoebe's name changes (and then Mike's). The episode also included Monica and Chandler showing Joey their new house and Rachel getting fired and then offered a job in Paris.
21 Saved: Christina Applegate
Christina Applegate guest starred as one of Rachel's sisters in multiple episodes of Friends. The character was pretty awful (even compared to season 1's Rachel and their other sister Jill) and didn't change between appearances. However, Applegate was fun to watch in the role and opposite the main cast.
That was why, even though the character didn't need to return when she did, it wasn't that bad. She worked well with the cast, especially Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer, which was important since her most memorable moments were with their characters.
20 Hurt: Jean-Claude Van Damme
Van Damme guest starred as himself in "The One After the Superbowl, Part 2". Rachel asked him out for Monica, but he was interested in Rachel. Though Monica did end up going on a date with him, he only went because he thought he'd get more out of it than he did. She refused, but he still brought up the possibility of being with both her and Rachel together before he left.
Friends' version of Van Damme wasn't a good person, nor was there anything particularly funny about the plot. Both the character and cameo felt unnecessary.
19 Saved: Winona Ryder
Winona Ryder appeared in season 7 as Melissa, Rachel's sorority sister with whom she shared a kiss in college. Rachel used that experience as an example that she could do crazy things.
While seeking confirmation from Melissa that it happened, Rachel learned how much it had meant to her friend. Melissa hadn't moved on and had even hoped that something could happen between the two women. Rachel had to let her down. Ryder displayed just the right amount of eagerness after Rachel kissed Melissa again to remind her of their past.
18 Saved: David Arquette
David Arquette appeared as Ursula's stalker in "The One With the Jam". He mistook Phoebe for her twin, and then Phoebe tried to cure him of his obsession with her sister. Though she thought she was successful and even dated him, she soon learned he was still following Ursula.
Malcolm wasn't a very sympathetic character, nor was this the best storyline. However, the way Arquette played him brought the proper amount of humor to the scenes even though stalking is a serious issue. Because Friends was a comedy, it wasn't going to be treated as such, but another actor could have made it worse.
17 Saved: Hugh Laurie
Hugh Laurie didn't have many lines, but his delivery of the ones he did was pretty much perfect in "The One With Ross' Wedding". He played the passenger next to Rachel on the plane to London. He had to listen to her detail her and Ross' history, as she planned to stop Ross' wedding.
From his request that she tell him if she planned to continue tapping so he could take a sedative or give her one, to him putting headphones on when she started talking about Ross to him telling her the truth about her actions, this was one of the best guest spots in the history of the series.
16 Saved: Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt's appearance was clearly a big deal, and the series didn't shy away from acknowledging that and why with his character. He appeared as Will, Ross' high school friend who hated Rachel in "The One With the Rumor". The Thanksgiving episodes are among Friends' best, so fans always remember them. Therefore, Pitt's guest spot in one had to be memorable for all the right reasons -- and it was.
Pitt was entertaining opposite the entire cast as Will joined everyone for Thanksgiving. His reaction to Phoebe's appreciation of his looks and his disdain for Rachel were his most memorable moments of the episode.
15 Saved: George Clooney and Noah Wyle
George Clooney and Noah Wyle played doctors in "The One With Two Parts". After Rachel hurt her ankle, she and Monica met them at the hospital and then dated them. The twist was that they pretended to be each other since Rachel used Monica's health insurance.
Clooney and Wyle played doctors on ER, but they appeared as new characters on Friends. It may not have been a true crossover, but it was still delightful for television viewers. Friends and ER couldn't have been part of the same world due to their locations. The former took place in New York and the latter in Chicago.
14 Hurt: Alec Baldwin
Alec Baldwin appeared as Phoebe's date, Parker, for Monica and Ross' parents' anniversary party. Parker was overly enthusiastic about everything, to the point that it was extremely annoying. Fortunately, even Phoebe saw what everyone disliked about him and ended their relationship at the end of that episode. He even got excited about their breakup.
Baldwin brought the right kind of energy to the role, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing. However, Parker was such an irritating character that it's impossible not to only associate the actor's time on Friends with that.
13 Saved: Bruce Willis
Bruce Willis guest starred in a few episodes as Elizabeth's father in season 6. He didn't like that Ross was dating his daughter. He even threatened his job as a professor since their relationship was against the rules. He also had a brief relationship with Rachel.
Willis' work opposite David Schwimmer's Ross produced some of the best comedic moments in those episodes. That was exactly what was needed from his character, even though Paul wasn't the best character. It wasn't an over-the-top performance, which would have brought the character and his scenes down.
12 Saved: Anna Faris
Anna Faris appeared as Erica, whose twins Monica and Chandler adopted in the final season. The role required someone who could excel in both comedic and serious scenes, and Faris fit that description.
In her first appearance, the adoption agency mixed up the files. Chandler then made a plea to Erica to pick them even though they went along with the error. After that, Erica's role was primarily comedic during a time when the series needed it. Though it was a sitcom, those final episodes were also preparing fans to say goodbye to their favorite characters. While the other characters were in the midst of sentimental moments, Faris' Erica provided levity.
11 Saved: Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon appeared as Rachel's sister Jill in "The One With Rachel's Sister" and "The One Where Chandler Can't Cry".
Jill will probably always be remembered best for going on a date with Ross, her sister's ex-boyfriend. However, the best part about the character, which Witherspoon was able to portray, was that Jill showed how much Rachel had grown over the years. Jill was very similar to what Rachel was like in the pilot. Witherspoon was fun to watch in the role, especially when she acted opposite Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, and Lisa Kudrow.
10 Saved: Ben Stiller
Ben Stiller guest starred as Tommy, whom Rachel dated in "The One With the Screamer". It was an unforgivable role, as Tommy was in contention with Ross. The other man was the only one who saw the less than agreeable side of Tommy -- and that included yelling at the people who were in his seat at the theater.
It takes an actor with comedic experience to get laughs when playing a character who has to scream at a baby chick and a duck. Stiller was able to do that in this role, which made his guest spot entertaining for viewers.
9 Saved: Jeff Goldblum
Jeff Goldblum guest starred as a famous actor, Leonard Hayes, with whom Joey had an audition. When Joey's first audition didn't go so well, Leonard offered him advice. Joey succeeded the second time, due to his need to use the bathroom.
The role needed someone who could act calmly and slow things down as the counterpoint to Joey's urgency. Goldblum was the perfect person to do just that. He provided a laid-back quality opposite Matt LeBlanc in those scenes. That helped drive home the humor throughout. It started from the moment Joey recognized him for his telephone commercial and ended when Joey got the part.
8 Saved: Billy Crystal and Robin Williams
Billy Crystal and Robin Williams were easily part of one of the funniest moments of the entire series. Their characters sat down on the couch with the six friends.
Williams' Thomas said he thought his wife had been with someone else, and Crystal's Tim admitted that he had been with her. The six friends didn't bother trying to continue their own conversation and decided to eavesdrop instead. Both Williams and Crystal were hilarious in the scene, especially when it came to the former's reaction to learning the truth. No cameo on Friends came close to being as entertaining or funny.
7 Hurt: Brooke Shields
Brooke Shields guest starred in "The One After the Superbowl" as Erika, a woman who was interested in Joey. She was an extreme fan of his character on Days of Our Lives. In fact, she even believed he was his character. The only way he got rid of her was by pretending to be his character's evil twin.
It was a ridiculous storyline, and was one that didn't make either party look good. It wasn't that Shields wasn't good in the role and didn't do what it required (i.e., act obsessed with Joey). However, there was nothing spectacular about the scene either. The series would've been better off skipping her appearance or casting her in a different role.
6 Saved: Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts appeared as Susie, a classmate of Chandler's from the fourth grade in "The One After the Superbowl". He embarrassed her when they were kids, which led to her getting stuck with a nickname throughput her teenage years. She, in turn, decided to embarrass him when they went out on a date by taking all of his clothes.
Friends spent a decent amount of time setting up the plot using Roberts, and it was done properly. The build-up made the pay-off even more entertaining, and it was a way for someone to get back at Chandler for his jokes.
5 Saved: Dakota Fanning
Dakota Fanning appeared as Mackenzie, a little girl who lived in the house Monica and Chandler bought in the final season. Just like Joey didn't want his friends to move into the house, she didn't want her parents to sell it. She and Joey bonded — until he learned she liked to read.
Mackenzie's sarcasm was perfect for her interactions with Joey. Fanning also successfully portrayed her character an extremely intelligent kid, which worked perfectly opposite Joey. Plus, who could forget how Joey turned to the seven-year-old for advice at the end of the episode?
4 Saved: Charlton Heston
Charlton Heston appeared as himself in "The One With Joey's Dirty Day". After Joey went on a fishing trip with his father, he didn't have time to shower before work. Because he smelled, Joey decided to go into Heston's dressing room to use his shower.
When Heston caught him, Joey tried to explain that he was only there because he stunk. The other man thought he meant his acting and offered him advice. It was a silly misunderstanding and wouldn't have been nearly as amusing with a lesser actor. However, Heston pulled it off, especially when he warned Joey not to use his shower again.
3 Saved: Helen Hunt
Helen Hunt's guest spot was brief, but it was a treat for fans of two comedies: Friends and Mad About You. She appeared in "The One With Two Parts, Part 1" as her Mad About You character.
Jamie Buchman showed up at Central Perk and, mistaking Phoebe for her twin, tried to order lattes and pastries. Phoebe's brush-off made her even more certain that she was Ursula. Lisa Kudrow appeared on the other sitcom as Ursula, a waitress. Hunt's cameo made for a mini-crossover, one that put the two shows in the same universe without making Friends beholden to the other.
2 Saved: Danny DeVito
Danny DeVito guest starred as Officer "Goodbody," the entertainment for Phoebe's bachelorette party. Roy clearly should have retired, but Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe comforted him in "The One Where the Stripper Cries". They even had him do one last performance and cheered him on.
It was meant to be hilarious, and it was. This was due to DeVito's performance. If he had been over the top, it would've been cringe-worthy instead of funny. Friends needed the guest spots in the final season to be spectacular because people would look back on how the show ended to judge it. Thankfully, this cameo made Friends even more memorable.
1 Hurt: Charlie Sheen
Charlie Sheen guest starred as Ryan, a Navy Lieutenant Commander and Phoebe's old boyfriend. In "The One With the Chicken Pox", his visit overlapped with her having the chicken pox. Though they tried to resist, they gave in to their attraction. He then caught the pox, and the two had to be stopped from scratching.
Ryan supposedly visited her regularly, yet this was the only time he appeared. It felt like an odd choice to make for Phoebe's love life. Also, Sheen didn't really do anything outstanding to make it a particularly memorable guest appearance.
Which Friends cameo is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!