Friends Seasons Ranked from Worst to Best

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If you do not wish to read the entire post, here is the ranking as a tier list (made using TierMaker).

EXCELLENT: Season 5, Season 4

GREAT: Season 3, Season 2

GOOD: Season 10, Season 1, Season 8

OKAY: Season 6, Season 7

BAD: Season 9

“How You Doin’?”

Ah, Friends.  You just can’t talk about 90s sitcoms without referencing one of the most popular and highly acclaimed television series of all time.

From 1994 to 2004, audiences from around the world were treated to new stories of six friends (or more precisely, a pair of siblings and their four friends) in their 20s and 30s in New York City.  After its finale, the series managed to maintain its popularity and relevance through syndication and availability on streaming services, allowing younger generations like mine to take part in its impact.

Friends gives insight into the lives of young adults who deal with matters such as independence, serious relationships, parenthood, and career development.  Even though, as someone in his mid-20s, I did find some of its ideas and situations relatable, this insight is by no means comprehensive or profound.  That is perfectly fine since the series’ biggest draw is its humor, a key element that prevents the show from being a dull, young adult drama.

Keep in mind, though, that Friends does not have an original concept.  In fact, everything that I just said in that last paragraph applies to other 90s sitcoms such as Seinfeld and more notably, Living Single (more on that in a bit).

Overall, I would say that Friends is a good show. It’s definitely not the best or my favorite 90s sitcom (I’d probably say that Seinfeld is the best, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is my favorite), and that became quite apparent, especially in the series’ second half, where it became a 00s sitcom.

Here Comes a Tangent!

Left: Living Single characters (Clockwise from top: Overton (John Henton), Synclaire (Kim Coles), Maxine (Erika Alexander), Regine (Kim Fields), Kyle (TC Carson), Khadijah (Queen Latifah)
Right: Friends characters (Clockwise from top: Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), Ross (David Schwimmer), Joey (Matt LeBlanc), Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), Monica (Courteney Cox), Chandler (Matthew Perry)

As someone who watched Living Single years before watching Friends, I’ve been quite aware of the similarity between these two series, and I’ve declared to my friends numerous times that Friends is a “whitewashed rip-off” of Living Single, a series about six Black friends (or more precisely, a pair of cousins and their four friends) in their 20s and 30s in New York City.  However, now that I’ve watched both series at least twice through, and as someone who likes both shows, I want to spend a little bit of time explaining my thoughts on this, and I think it’ll be helpful if I frame it by answering some questions:

  • How are Friends and Living Single similar?
    • Again, both series are about six single friends (two of whom from each group are relatives) in their 20s and 30s in New York City in the 1990s.  Additionally, both series end with two couples from within the friend group (Friends: Monica/Chandler and Rachel/Ross; Living Single: Synclaire/Overton and Maxine/Kyle).
    • Also, here’s how I’d compare the characters between the shows:
      • Backstories aside, Phoebe and Synclaire have similar personalities.  They’re both pleasantly weird.
      • Joey, like Synclaire, is an aspiring actor.
      • For the first few seasons, Monica, like Khadijah for all of Living Single, comes across as the “leader” of the friend group.
      • If Rachel hadn’t grown out of her spoiled personality, she would have been a lot more like Regine.
      • Hear me out – Kyle is who Chandler wishes he were.  I’m saying this because they both make sarcastic remarks and work in upper-level corporate jobs, but unlike Chandler, Kyle is confident, suave, and a “Ladies Man”, the opposite of “hopeless and awkward and desperate for love”.
  • How are the series different?
    • Aside from obvious racial differences, Living Single, unlike Friends, has clear main characters – the women, especially Khadijah and Synclaire.  The episodes of Living Single tend to revolve around any of the four female characters, with the two male characters mainly in supporting roles, whereas Friends aims to give each of their three women and three men equal focus (which works most of the time).
    • Friends transformed its six leads from “nobodies” into stars, but Living Single already had some notable celebrities in its main cast, especially Queen Latifah and Kim Fields.
  • Why is Friends the “rip-off”?  What’s the problem here?
    • Living Single premiered on FOX in August 1993, 13 months before Friends’ premiere on NBC.  Friends was in development in late 1993, and while it could be possible (but unlikely) that the creators were not aware of Living Single, both shows were produced and distributed by the same studio – Warner Bros. 
    • I keep putting “rip-off” in quotations because the idea of a television series’ sharing similar premises to other ones is not a new concept.  
    • Okay, so here’s the problem: this is a situation where the “rip-off” became more successful than the original.  From what I’ve heard from different sources (that I’m too lazy to cite right now), Friends had a higher budget and more promotion than Living Single.  Additionally, Living Single’s timeslot was moved to Friends’, which UNNECESSARILY pitted these shows against each other, a competition in which Friends had an unfair advantage.  The optics of this situation also added a great deal of fuel to the fire, as the series with the Black cast ultimately ended up with the shorter end of the stick.
      • This is why David Schwimmer’s desire for an all-Black or all-Asian Friends reboot drew controversy.  This is because in a way, Friends itself was an all-white reboot of Living Single.
  • Hmm…okay.  So what?
    • So really, my takeaway for everyone is to watch Living Single.  If you don’t like it, that’s totally fine, but I would love to see more discussions about the impact of that show without having to compare it to Friends.
    • Nobody needs to “cancel” Friends or anything like that.  Again, rip-offs have always been a part of American television, and it’s totally understandable if many of you have never even heard of Living Single.
    • I also don’t mind that Living Single was not acknowledged in that mediocre Friends reunion special on HBO Max.  It would have been either an awkward apology or an unnecessarily controversial defense from the wrong people (i.e. – the cast and creators; if anyone is to blame, it’s probably the executives who moved Living Single’s timeslot so that it could rival Friends).
    • I can’t really say that one show is “better” than the other, and that’s because I do not expect the same thing from each show. I think Living Single is funnier, has greater cast chemistry, and handles serious issues and social commentary better, but because Friends did have more episodes and higher production value, it was able to flesh out their characters and stories more effectively. Perhaps if Living Single had the budget and promotion of Friends, then I’d be willing to make a full comparison.

Uhh…that segue was a lot longer than I thought, so how about I spend the rest of this introduction ranking the Friends characters from worst to best.

*Clap* *Clap* *Clap* *Clap*

Here is my brief ranking of all Friends characters, based mainly on how they are written and likeablity as characters. This is not influenced by anyone’s acting ability or how much I “like” the actors. These are all great actors, and I don’t care about any of their personal lives.


I don’t know. I just wanted to give a shoutout to Russ, Mr. Heckles, Janice, and of course…

Christina Applegate played Amy, Rachel’s sister

6. Ross Geller, PhD

This video explains why Ross is the least likeable in the group.  I will say, though, I like a lot of the jokes made at his expense, and David Schwimmer does an excellent job portraying him.

5. Monica Geller

Flanderization (noun): (1) the process by which a single trait from a character is overstated and brandished to the point that it becomes the character’s only trait; (2) Monica Geller after Season 5

4. Joey Tribbiani

Flanderization (noun):…(3) Joey Tribbiani after Season 7

(Also, let’s just pretend that the Joey spinoff never happened.)

3. Rachel Green

She’s probably the closest to a “main character”, and possibly tied with Chandler, she has the best character development. If she were funnier (and maybe didn’t get into that relationship with Tag), then she’d be #1 for sure.

2. Chanandler Bong Chandler Bing

Could he BE any sassier? I think of him as an “anti-Ross” who, like his friend-turned-brother-in-law, is awkward, nerdy, and a “Beta Male” (this is not language I use), but unlike Ross, he is a geniunely nice person who doesn’t carry a lot of toxic traits.

1. Regina Phalange Phoebe Buffay

Instead of the Joey spinoff, we should have gotten a dark comedy film about Phoebe’s tragic backstory. If this happened, it would provide insight into how we ended up with a character so eccentric and benevolent.

“Smelly Cat, Smelly Cat…”

10. (THE WORST) Season 9 (2002-2003)

Image via Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, Warner Bros.

TL;DR Review: If executed properly, this season would have been a decent testament to the growth and maturity of the show’s characters, especially since they are well into their 30s and are more closely dealing with matters such as parenthood, career shifts, and serious relationships. Instead, that potential merit is severely hindered by lackluster comedy and poorly paced storytelling. To say that Friends is “running on fumes” at this point would be a gross understatement.

Alternate TL;DR Review:

Best Character Arc: Phoebe

Best Episode: “The One with Phoebe’s Birthday Dinner” (Episode 5)

Worst Episode: “The One with Christmas in Tulsa” (Episode 10)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 20%

9. Season 7 (2000-2001)

Image via Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, Warner Bros.

TL;DR Review: Season 7 is an overall weak season that does not do much outside of advancing the romance of Monica and Chandler, which is only done in the first and last couple of episodes.  Outside of that, the rest of the season continues the stale humor that plagued Season 6.

Best Character Arc: Monica and Chandler (TIE)

Best Episode: “The One with Ross’s Library Book”

Worst Episode: “The One with Ross and Monica’s Cousin”

Rotten Tomatoes Score: N/A

8. Season 6 (1999-2000)

Image via Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, Warner Bros.

TL;DR Review: Unfortunately, the quality of comedy sharply declines between Seasons 5 and 6, and even though there are quite a few gems scattered about, especially towards the end, the season also boasts some of the worst episodes of Friends, a haunting sign of what would be yet to come (see above).

Best Character Arc: Joey

Best Episode: “The One Where Joey Loses His Insurance” (Episode 4)

Worst Episode: “The One with Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E.” (Episode 20)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

7. Season 8 (2001-2002)

Image via Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, Warner Bros.

TL;DR Review: This should have been the final season of Friends, and if it had a few more episodes to tie up some loose ends, each of the main characters, especially Rachel, could have had decent conclusions to their stories.  While it starts off as a narrative and comedic breath of fresh air compared to Season 7, Season 8 does fall apart in quality by the end, but it does not become as bad as the average Season 9 episode.

Best Character Arc: Rachel

Best Episode: “The One with Rachel’s Date” (Episode 5)

Worst Episode: “The One with Joey’s Interview” (Episode 19)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

6. Season 1 (1994-1995)

Image via Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, Warner Bros.

TL;DR Review: Friends kicks off decently, boasting strong cast chemistry and fast-paced comedy that make it easy to see how it quickly became a worldwide sensation, even though its dramatic moments come across as awkward and underdeveloped by sitcom standards.

Alternate TL;DR Review:

Shiny happy people holding hands
Shiny happy people holding hands
Shiny happy people laughing…

Even though this original opening effectively captures Season 1, I think a lot of people, including the members of R.E.M., are thankful we ended up with “I’ll Be There for You” instead.

Best Character Arc: Rachel

Best Episode: “The One with the Blackout” (Episode 7)

Worst Episode: “The One with the Ick Factor” (Episode 22)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%

5. Season 10 (2003-2004)

Image via Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, Warner Bros.

TL;DR Review: Season 10 comes across as both an apology for the atrocious Season 9 and a mostly suitable conclusion for the main characters.  There was clear attention to quality over quantity, as the fewer number of episodes likely allowed for better-written plots, giving the fans of Friends an ending they deserved.

Best Character Arc: Monica and Chandler (TIE)

Best Episode: “The Last One” (Episodes 17-18)

Worst Episode: “The One with the Late Thanksgiving” (Episode 8)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%

4. Season 2 (1995-1996)

Image via Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, Warner Bros.

TL;DR Review: No longer having to focus too strongly on exposition, Friends gives its humor more room to breathe in its second season.  On top of that, the character development is quite strong for Rachel and Ross.

Best Character Arc: Rachel and Ross (TIE)

Best Episode: “The One After the Superbowl” (Part 2; Episode 13)

Worst Episode: “The One with Five Steaks and an Eggplant” (Episode 5)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: N/A

3. Season 3 (1996-1997)

Image via Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, Warner Bros.

TL;DR Review: Yes, Ross and Rachel were on a break; however, Ross is still the “bad guy” here because of how quickly he slept with someone else and his refusal to own up to it. Perhaps the real problem was that the two had differing understandings of what a “break” is.

Best Character Arc: Chandler

Best Episode: “The One with the Morning After” (Episode 16)

Worst Episode: “The One with Phoebe’s Ex-Partner” (Episode 14)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: N/A

2. Season 4 (1997-1998)

Image via Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, Warner Bros.

TL;DR Review: This season fumbles at first, but then it picks itself up and strides until the end, amplifying its farcical elements and playing exceptionally well to the strengths and weaknesses of the main characters.

Alternate TL;DR Review: [Insert NSFW joke about the number 7 here.]

Best Character Arc: Phoebe

Best Episode: “The One with the Embryos” (Episode 12)

Worst Episode: “The One with the Ballroom Dancing” (Episode 4)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: N/A

1. Season 5 (1998-1999)

Image via Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions, Warner Bros.

TL;DR Review: Season 5 boasts quite a few notable plot points for Friends, and most importantly, it has a lot of fun doing it.  The falling out of Ross’s relationship with Emily and the start of Monica and Chandler’s romance could have easily lent themselves to tedious drama, but instead, they make for some of the best comedy in the entire series.  Friends is most effective at this point because it takes itself the least seriously.

Best Character Arc: Monica, Chandler, and Ross (TIE)

Best Episode: “The One where Everybody Finds Out” (Episode 14)

Worst Episode: “The One with the Girl who Hits Joey” (Episode 15)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Published by Miles N

Some guy with glasses.

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