How many times have you watched the TV show Friends? I can still remember when I would watch it live on Nickelodeon cable. Not to age myself, but that means I’ve probably seen the show 20+ times all the way through. Does that make me an expert? I think so. Or, at least, an expert in fan-favorites.
Friends is one of the most well-known and beloved sitcoms. In its 10 seasons, it shows us everything from friendship spats to break ups to falling in love. The part of this show that always seems to fascinate me is the core group of six friends that live close to each other in New York City. In a place that is so busy, it’s rare to have such a true friend group who just hang out and chat wherever they are. It seems like nothing can break their strong bond. By the end of the show, two couples emerge and all are still best friends.
I hope that wasn’t a spoiler for anyone. If you haven’t seen the show yet, what are you waiting for?
Without further ado, here are our rankings for the 15 best Friends characters. My only disclaimer: you may not agree with our very subjective ranking, but check out our reasoning why.
Coming in at number 15 is Kathy, a character that many people forget about. She first appears in season four when she dates Joey. However, she instantly steals our hearts by falling in love with the always witty Chandler. Up until this point, Chandler has only ever been in a serious relationship with Janice. Kathy really seems to change him and get him ready for commitment. Her chill girl attitude makes her an easy addition to the cast. While the couple eventual breaks up to avoid ruining Chandler and Joey’s friendship, it’s hard to think of her as the enemy. In fact, you could argue that Kathy got Chandler that much closer to his relationship with Monica.
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Emily, Ross’ second wife, is in Friends for a brief period of time that no one saw coming. While most of us root for Ross and Rachel, Emily seems pretty cool. She fits right in with the group and brings the core friends to London for some hilarious episodes. While she turns out to be very jealous of Rachel and hurts Ross badly, fans have to thank her and remember her as one of the best Friends characters. Not only does she lead Rachel to uncover her suppressed feelings for Ross, but if she and Ross never got married, Monica and Chandler may not have ever hooked up. So, I ultimately love Emily and the luck she brought this group.
Played by Tom Selleck, Richard is our favorite ex of Monica’s. While they met under untraditional circumstances, you can tell they truly love each other. There’s no petty break up that makes you hate him afterwards. In fact, they have arguably the most mature break up of any couple in the show. It shows that Monica does not give up on her values of wanting a family, which is a harsh reality of dating in the adult world. Richard’s time in the show was full of fun and games, as you can see from the featured image, which explains why he makes a dramatic reappearance in the sixth season.
12. Carol and Susan
Next, we have Ross’ favorite couple, Carol and Susan. True fans will know that’s a joke.
Carol and Susan both have their own purpose in the show, but I’ve grouped them as one of the best Friends characters because to know them is to know them together. Their relationship is actually a very happy one, much to Ross’ distress. They are sweet parents to Ben and represent being open and true to yourself. One of my favorite moments is when Carol is having the baby in “The One with the Birth” and Susan and Ross bond as co-parents for the very first time. This sets the scene for their modern, blended family dynamic to come in the rest of the show.
11. Mr. Geller
Jack Geller is an iconic character as seen by the fact that he was a guest in 20+ episodes. As Ross and Monica’s dad, he is certainly not perfect. The running joke is that the Gellers favor Ross over Monica. However, Mr. Geller always seems to have a sweet spot in him like when he gave Monica the Porsche or visited Rachel in the hospital when she’s having Emma. He is also full of great one liners that have become famous memes or jokes. For example, the hilarious “you can’t ask us son, that’s cheating” when Ross is looking for Chandler on his wedding day, not playing hide-and-seek.
It may be surprising that Ross fell so low on our list even though he is one of the core six characters. Hear me out because while everyone loves Ross, he objectively complains a lot. He also can’t help himself and makes certain situations worse. For example, when he became very jealous of Mark from Rachel’s work. His overthinking led to the downfall of their first relationship, which is something he wanted since he was 16. And then, he slept with “the girl from the copy place” and ends up almost losing out on the chance to be with Rachel. He can be quite funny, though, and fajitas will never sound the same.
Everyone’s favorite returning character is Rachel’s sister, Amy. She’s so offensive that it’s actually funny and you can’t wait to see what she does next. Whether she’s mistaking Ross for the “falafel guy,” being dramatic about a married man, or stealing Rachel’s jewelry, she is definitely a clear picture of what Rachel’s life looked like growing up. Christina Applegate has had a great acting career since Friends and is currently struggling with Multiple Sclerosis. I always look forward to Amy’s ridiculous behavior as do many fans.
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Monica needs no introduction. She’s the neat freak of the core six friends, but also one of the most loyal and generous characters in the show. Whether she is cooking Thanksgiving dinner for anyone without a place to go or just hosting people over for poker night, she’s a good friend who loves to do things for all of her friends. She’s also ultra competitive, which leads to many funny scenes. From the Geller cup to the ping pong show down in Barbados (shown above), Monica adds a level of humor to the show that just wouldn’t be the same without her.
Rachel is slightly higher than Monica for one reason: fashion. Rachel’s wardrobe throughout the entire show is absolutely eye-catching and embodies true 90s fashion. However, as a person, she is one of the best Friends characters because of her growth over 1o seasons. Starting out as a spoiled 20-something from Long Island, you’d never recognize the fashion executive single mother that she becomes by the end. Not to mention her relationship with Ross is one of the things that keeps everyone watching so intently.
Paul Rudd can do no wrong. However, Mike is one of his best roles and it also makes him one of the best Friends characters to-date. It’s a shame he didn’t appear on the scene sooner, but then we may not have seen all of Phoebe’s funny relationships. One of the best moments in the show is when Mike stands up and plays air piano for Phoebe, showing they are a true match in humor, passion, and unique personality. He is extremely kind to Phoebe and fits right in the with other 5 friends. Since Phoebe goes through several tough break ups and talks about her difficult childhood, it is clear that Mike is a gift to the show and Phoebe’s happily ever after.
If there wasn’t a Joey, Friends wouldn’t have half of the food, movie, or NYC-related jokes that it currently does. Joey is one of the most realistic characters living in New York City. He has every possible job while he struggles to become a successful actor. He shows what it’s like to struggle financially while not giving up on your dream. He’s also the character who can be the most ditsy and oblivious, making him the brunt of many jokes and one of the most beloved. My favorite thing about Joey is how much he cares for the people in his life. Whether he is helping Phoebe, Rachel, or his sisters, Joey is the ultimate protector.
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Number 4 in rank is the one-of-a-kind guest star, Janice. Her voice screeches at a nasally, loud volume, which is how everyone remembers her. She dates Chandler several times and even Ross for one night, making her a key part of the plot. One of the biggest questions in the show is if Chandler will end up with Janice (until Monica comes along). The running joke is that she is the person who you run into and can never seem to get rid of. We, as the audience, know that is because she is so hilarious and beloved that they kept bringing her back.
Gunther is underrated which is why I put him third on the list of the best Friends characters. He’s around so much he is practically the 7th friend in the group. The writers even joked about this in the show during many situations where Gunther is nearby, but not technically invited to hangout with the gang. From his wild fashion choices to his never ending crush on Rachel, he is a reliable character who adds humor to every scene in the Central Perk coffee shop.
The final two rankings were a toss up because they are both so funny and add so much value to the show. I had to put Chandler second because he is afraid of commitment and being true to himself for several of the early seasons. You want to just shake him and say “why do you not believe in yourself?!” But, like many other characters in Friends, he has tremendous character growth. When it looks like he might skip out on marrying Monica, the writers are just messing with fans because he is ultimately the perfect match for her and even becomes a caring father. His self-deprecating humor, hilarious relationship situations, and constant jokes are no match for his love and devotion to Ross, Joey, and of course, Monica.
Who is the winner of our ranking? None other than Phoebe Buffay. Friends would not be nearly as quirky or entertaining without Phoebe. She is a free spirit who pulls the other five friends out of their comfort zones. Not only that, but she also is the friend who is most likely to pull back and recognize when people are not being kind. She often calls out Monica, Ross, Rachel, Joey, and Chandler for their actions, making her the source of reason. She’s not at all serious, though, which makes it work. After all, how can we imagine a show without “Smelly Cat?” She has the most interesting back story of any character and it is easy to root for her to finally find a sense of home.
Ultimately, I can’t count how many times Friends made me laugh, cry, or feel better about being 20-something in New York City. It is a unique sitcom that teaches a lot of life lessons without trying to force it into the plot. From relationship advice to the meaning of friendship and loyalty, there are so many things to gain from watching Friends. Plus, the combination of these 15 best Friends characters create a comedic environment that everyone will love.
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