The six main characters of 'Friends' definitively ranked 5 years ago

The six main characters of 'Friends' definitively ranked

They were there for us for 10 years, and likely will be for the rest of our lives thanks to TV repeats and Netflix.

But let's get real. None of us love the six principle Friends characters equally. We have a favourite or favourites, and in such a long-running series, the level of affection for a character can deepen - or rupture - at several points.

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With that in mind, I'm approaching this ranking of the protagonists by viewing the series as a whole, taking into consideration their best times and their worst, and trying to fairly represent that in descending order.

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I should preface all this by saying that I'm a huge fan of the show, and have been from episode one. I, quite literally, liked Friends before it was cool. It started on Channel 4 on Friday nights in 1995 when I was 13, and I vividly remember watching it from around the second or third episode onwards.

So I've been a fan of the show for 22 years, basically, so hear me out!

You will disagree, no doubt, so we're giving you the option of ranking your favourites as you see fit.

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And so begins 'The One Where We Rank All The Friends'.

 

6. Ross

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Look, like in a marathon or a sexual encounter, someone has to come last, and of the six, Ross gets my vote for worst Friend.

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He definitely had his moments, especially in the earlier phase of the show's epic run.

But around the fourth or fifth seasons, Ross transformed from a sensitive, thoughtful, loveable nerd-goofball - one half of a generation-defining on-off romance with Jennifer Aniston's Rachel - into something approaching a sociopath.

His comedy storylines often were borne out of outright creepiness, and it didn't help matters that actor David Schwimmer at some point decided to play the character as a whiney, irrational, unlikeable weirdo.

Character high-point: 'The One With The Prom Video'. The zenith of Ross' arc as the show's romantic hero.

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Via YouTube

Character low-point: When Ross wanted to shift his cousin Cassie (played by Denise Richards). Oh, we learn that he and his sister Monica accidentally shifted at one point too. Just ugh.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xg0Q-eOXmg

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5. Monica

Like Ross, Monica is a character that went from sympathetic and likeable to outright weird and annoying in the space of a few seasons.

We expect characters to change and evolve over the years, but Monica underwent a dramatic personality transplant right around the time she got together with Chandler in the fourth and fifth series.

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Up until then, Monica was neurotic but deeply relatable; her storyline with her older boyfriend Richard (Tom Selleck) was genuinely warm and touching, and ultimately heartbreaking.

But around the fifth and sixth seasons, Courteney Cox started playing the character as a shrieking, anal, over-competitive control freak that was really off-putting.

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So whiplash-inducing was the personality change, that it seemed at times like the Friends creators could have replaced Cox with an entirely new actress and nobody would have noticed.

Personal opinion: I think the Monica-Chandler relationship was a total disaster for the series - though it initially had potential, I suppose - and it's a plot twist from which Friends never fully recovered.

Character high-point: Really, any of the moments where we flashback to "Fat Monica". But, again, 'The One With The Prom Video', is a real classic Monica moment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iU39sqEQOms

Character low-point: The one where Monica thinks husband Chandler masturbates to "shark porn". Please don't make me relive it.

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Via Favim.

 

4. Joey

Joey is a tricky one for me. I originally had him at No 2 in this ranking, but then switched him back. He undoubtedly had some great, funny, sweet, quotable moments throughout the series, especially in the early years - there doesn't a day go by when I don't deploy his "Joey doesn't share food!" line.

And his hug-happy, genuinely loving bromance with Chandler in the first few series was adorable - and, I would argue, genuinely groundbreaking at the time.

But the writers' decision to dumb him down for the latter years of Friends is a big black mark.

Honestly, so many of the weaker episodes and storylines have revolved around Joey's stupidity. The "hand twins" moment is especially dire, while the one where he tries to learn French is possibly the worst episode in the entire decade-long run of the show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43wkqM27z2E

Matt LeBlanc is a good comic actor, but not even he could save Joey from becoming a one-note, one-catchphrase ("How you doin'?") dud.

Which makes it all the stranger then that the writers felt the character had enough depth to not only be temporarily thrust forward as the show's romantic leading man (in that piss-poor "will he and Rachel get together?" storyline), but also a Friends spin-off series (don't tell us you'd forgotten about the short-lived, not-at-all-missed Joey?)

Character high-point: The One Where Nobody Is Ready.

"Could I BE wearing any more clothes? Maybe if I wasn't going commando!"

Character low-point: The French.... I just can't.

 

3. Phoebe

Phoebe is arguably the most divisive of all the Friends characters. Some fans love her, but, boy, the fans who don't like her really don't like her.

Personally, I've always been a Phoebe supporter, and knowing that might be enough for the anti-Phoebe crowd to dismiss this whole section. Fine, skip on to No 2 in that case.

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But whatever you say about Phoebe - wacky, weird, 'Smelly Cat'-singing hippie Phoebe - the characterisation was mostly consistent throughout the 10-year run, but she still showed enough growth so that by the time of her wedding to Mike (Paul Rudd), we as viewers understood what an important milestone it was in her dysfunctional life.

It helps that Lisa Kudrow is probably the most talented actor on the show - and anyone who doubts that should check out her genuinely astonishing work in The Comeback.

Character high-point: Undoubtedly, when Phoebe gave birth to the triplets. Kudrow played it beautifully, as she did throughout the whole pregnancy storyline (the actress won an Emmy award in 1998 for her performance).

Though the "they don't know that we know they know we know" episode comes a close second.

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Character low-point: That hen party episode where Danny De Vito played the stripper. A low-point for all concerned.

 

2. Rachel

Friends was always an ensemble series. No one character was supposed to take precedence.

But from very early on, it was clear that Rachel was the main character of the show.

She's the one whose growth as a character is the starting point - and end point - of the whole series: Rachel moves to Manhattan to find herself and assert her independence from her family.

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Rachel's character arc was the most organically-developed of them all. She grew from a spoilt princess, to a career woman, to a single mother.

We saw her fall in love, get her heart broken, try to start again, and navigate the professional and dating worlds with very mixed - and very funny - results, as almost the entire target audience of Friends was also doing IRL.

It took quite a while for Jennifer Aniston to really be appreciated for her comic chops. Admittedly, she was a little ropey in the first series, but you can see Aniston growing into her own at the same time as Rachel.

And through it all, she was consistently funny, and played with a goofy vulnerability by the game Aniston, which further sealed the deal for arguing that Rachel is among the best of Friends.

Character high-point: There are many, but this beautifully-acted moment is a particular favourite.

"That's a risky little game!"

 

Character low-point: Her stilted romance with Joey was just icky, and did Rachel no favours. You could almost sense Aniston's discomfort playing those scenes.

 

1. Chandler

That's Miss Chanandler Bong to you. Look, I'm not blind to Chandler's flaws as a character throughout the Friends run, especially in the final few seasons. I've already stated my belief that his relationship with Monica from the half-way point was not a great turn for Chandler.

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Via Headoverheels

And yes, Matthew Perry's personal and health problems were a sad distraction from the fictional delight of Chandler, and it was probably always going to be difficult to plot an arc for a character like him that saved him from turning into a bitter, lonely old smart-arse.

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But, man, in those earlier years, Chandler's sarcasm reigned supreme on Friends. He was everyone's favourite - he was certainly mine. There was something about this emotionally-stunted man-child who uses humour as a defence mechanism that really spoke to this repressed, sexually confused Catholic boy.

Chandler's eye-rolling, diffident approach to life, his job and just about everything was very in keeping with the times, and his quick-witted, smart alec quips are probably responsible for forging an entire generation of cutting, sarcastic bastards.

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Via Headoverheels

In those first, say, four-to-five seasons of Friends, every episode is packed with verbal and physical Chandler gems, and Perry's delivery of them was just flawless.

Could he BE any better a character?

Character high-point: So, so many. But I'm a big fan of when Chandler gives up on a bet not to insult the others and just lets loose.

Character low-point: The aforementioned shark porn. In fact, that whole storyline where Chandler had to move to Tulsa.

So there you have it. If you're outraged by this ranking, then you can arrange the six Friends in the order you think below.

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